Wednesday, November 30, 2022

What's Coming in December?

Hear those jingle-bells and carols floating through the air? Or smell the aroma of cookies and hot chocolate? 

This month, I have quite a few reads to match the lovely, holiday season. Last month, I was heavier on the longer novels, intended for middle grade and young adult audiences. This month, it leans much more heavily toward picture books...oh, but I made sure to add some goodies in there for the older readers, too. Especially the end of December is going to swing toward middle grade and young adult readers as I jump into an entire week of graphic novels before ringing in the New Year. I do enjoy graphic novels...and I might also need some lighter readers to get everything else in life done during those days (graphic novels are awesome for that).

Grab up a snuggly blanket and your favorite, young reader because this month is all about cuddling up in a chair together and enjoying warming tale after tale after tale...


FIVE LITTLE DREIDELS

Chanukah is right around the corner, and, of course, there are perfect books to ring in that celebration for even the youngest readers out there. This is a board book, which promises a new twist on the well-known rhyme, Five Little Monkeys. We're hitting this one right away on the 1st.

Board Book Holiday 


SNOWLANDS: A BLOOD MOON

This is the first in a brand-new, graphic novel series for middle graders. I'm all about snow right now (maybe because we don't see it very often here...). Adventure is great, too...and this one promises tons of that. Find out more with me on the 2nd because I'm betting it will be quite the fun read.

Middle Grade Fantasy  /   Graphic Novel






ALL-NEW 20 TO MAKE FESTIVE FELT DECORATIONS

One of my favorite things about the Holidays is the time for crafting, especially since easy ones are great to get the kids to make gifts for others themselves. I'm hoping this book holds ideas readers 8+ can create with a little help or by themselves. So let's take a peek on the 5th to see if it does just that.


Crafting Non-Fiction



FORTRESS OF SNOW

We're jumping into the historical past and joining a young girl as she travels to London and learns to fend for herself before heading to a castle to work out a mystery. It promises heart, tension, romance, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns with knights, titles...and who knows what else. Find out more with me on the 8th.

Young Adult Historical Fiction

THE BIG CHRISTMAS BAKE

Our oven is working overtime during December, so this book caught my eye. It twirls around the 12 Days of Christmas with an original spin, which...I'm guessing...has something to do with baking. And a lot of nonsense. Get your sweet tooth ready because I'm visiting this one on the 16th.

Picture Book




STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING

I love getting lost in beautiful, picture book illustrations, and this one promises just that. Taking the well-known poem from Robert Frost, a well-known illustrator creates, what is sure to be, a keeper and treat. I'm going to brew myself a lovely drink and sit down to enjoy this one on the 18th.

Picture Book



WHAT IS A REINDEER GOING TO DO?

Can't have Christmas without reindeer! This is another book for the youngest readers out there and has....I love this part...flaps! I'm very excited to swing open the doors, here and there, and see what surprises might be inside. (And no, I'm not to old for that). Let's prance and play on the 21st.

Board Book



SHY GIRLS CAN'T DATE AT CHRISTMAS

I read one book in this series a few months ago and found it cute. So, when I was offered another one...and one for the Holidays...of course, I wanted to take a peek. We'll see how sweet this one gets on the 23rd.


Young Adult Romance

THUNDERBOOM

I wanted to stomp my foot right along with this character, when I saw the cover. I have no idea what this hero will do in these pages, but I'm ready to take on trouble with him and his bright red high-tops. And elbow and knee pads? Am I sensing some humor, maybe? I'm curious what this graphic novel will hold, but I'm betting middle grade boys will be perking their ears on this one. Join me on the 30th to find out.

Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
ASCENDANCE OF A BOOKWORM

The title caught my attention on this one...um, maybe because of this blog? Anyway, the cover and the blurb sounded intriguing, too, and as a Royal Academy book, it fit right into my week's theme of princes, princesses, and royalty. Take a look at it with me on the 28th.

Young Adult Fantasy / Graphic Novel




Do you know how many books come out each month? According to Wordsrated.com, in 2019 alone, over 4.5 million books were published in the US. And now, in 2022????? Well, let's just say that my reading list is always HUGE!  Since there are always a few books I really want to wiggle into my schedule but have no idea when, I have this wonderful Joker Read spot. This month's is...


THE AFTERLIFE OF HOLLY CHASE

This read came out in 2017 and nods toward A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and a nod is about as close as this one gets. At least, that's the vibe I'm getting from the blurb. Holly misses her 'ghostly' chance and ends up working in the Afterlife on Project Scrooge. I'm expecting quite the ride in these pages and am really looking forward to presenting it to everyone. (And I got this one through the library...which I'm now using as a hint to visit your local one, too)

Young Adult Paranormal


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Today's read... Green Mountain Academy by Francis Greenslade

After the whirlwind of academy books to hit the young adult audience these last years, I'll admit that my mind immediately heads for bullying, mean girls, teachers, romance, and...well, anyone who has read even one of these knows what I mean. So, when I read the title on today's read, my thoughts did hit that direction...and then, they stopped. Mountains? Snow? The girl on the cover is, obviously, not magical. So yeah, something different! 

According to the blurb, this one is going to take academy in an original direction. Survival techniques and outdoor will-power are going to be key. 

And I'm ready to see where this will head...are you?


GREEN MOUNTAIN ACADEMY
by Frances Greenslade
Tundra Books
Upper Middle Grade / Tween Adventure
240 pages
ages 10 to 14











A daring rescue in the middle of a snowstorm in this compelling Red Fox Road companion survival story for ages 10 to 14, for fans of Hatchet and The Skeleton Tree.

After a family trip turned disastrous when their truck broke down in the middle of an old logging road in Oregon, Francie is now back in British Columbia. People try to make things as normal as possible for her, but they don't understand that trying to be normal in your old life that's exploded is the worst feeling in the world. Luckily for Francie, the wilderness is still soothing, and an opportunity to attend the Green Mountain Academy, a tiny boarding school perched on the side of a mountain, seems perfect. It's a new start, with new friends and a chance at a new family. But when a winter storm hits, knocking out all the power, news that a small plane has gone missing unsettles Francie. Knowing that the chance of survival in the middle of a wild nighttime snowstorm diminishes over time, Francie is compelled to leave the cozy school and set out into the icy cold, swirling snowstorm . .
.


GOODREADS : https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60013116-green-mountain-academy
B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/green-mountain-academy-frances-greenslade/1140824873   
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09P9NYBYK


MY TIDBITS

Well, this one wasn't what I expected. We have Francie, a thirteen-year-old girl, who has suffered quite a bit of family tragedy thanks to the earlier death of her sister, and shortly before this tale begins, the disappearance and assumed death, of her father as he sought help for them and got lost in the wilderness. So, to help her life return to 'normal', she's sent to a secluded boarding school in the mountains, where only eight students study while learning to survive the great outdoors. While Francie and her new best friend are exploring nearby caves, a odd noise roars somewhere nearby, but with a snow storm moving in, they don't have time to investigate. Just before the storm knocks the power out, the news announces the disappearance of a private plane in their area...and Francie is sure that was the noise. But nobody believes her. Plus, with the massive storm raging outside, it's not even safe to start a search party.

While this one has academy in the title and the school plays a side role in the plot as well as lays the setting, the rest of the story hangs on Francie and her past as well as the attempt to rescue the plane's passengers. There are some other side-plots weaving around a few of the other girls, which does give this depth and life, while tension and action slide in from the storm and survival end. It does create a nice balance between characters and plot, and makes for a well-rounded story.

The scenes and characters come to life thanks to well-developed descriptions and a natural flow. The mountains and outdoors hits with a richness, which draws in until one can almost smell the pines. And it's hard not to want to climb the fire-tower, sleep in front of the fireplace, or stomp through new-fallen snow right along with Francie. The academy seemed to be a wonderful place, especially since most of the girls were very likeable. There were some aspects of the academy's rules (or lack of), which surprised me, though. Francie is never really punished for breaking the few rules, which exist, and comes out without any (or very slight) consequences every time. Even her rescue attempt, while brave, goes against many important survival guidelines and common sense. For a book, which promotes and describes some helpful techniques and the love for the outdoors, I found this a little odd. But it does make for a more tense story and more excitement.

Francie has quite a few problems from her past to deal with, and the reader learns about these little-by-little as the story goes along. These come in sudden flashbacks, which not only slowly expose Francie's past but also add to her personality. Since these blend right into the story, I did find them a little confusing at times, but in general, it was a nice way to get to know Francie better. These did, however, slow down the pacing, at times, which, for an action girl like me, isn't always happily seen. But character fans will eat it up.

This is an enjoyable read, which swings toward survival fiction and reminds a bit of books like My Side of the Mountain. True outdoor tidbits are described, for those who love such things. So, it is an enjoyable read and is sure to grab the interest of many readers.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Today's read... It's A Squirrely Life by JP Cawood

Today's read is a playful twist on the ever-loved  movie, It's A Wonderful Life. I do find the cover cute and with squirrels, it promises to be tons of fun.



IT'S A SQUIRRELY LIFE
by J.P. Cawood
HEROmation
Children's Fiction / Animal / Holiday
90 pages
ages 6 to 10












A wild holiday adventure that teaches the value of friendship, community, and responsibility.

When all the nuts are stolen from the Oak Creek bank, George the squirrel feels guilty for leaving the vault open. If he doesn’t find the nuts, Christmas will be ruined. He goes on a journey to learn what forest life would be like without him and gets the courage to face the thief. It’s a nutty spin on the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, great for kids ages 7+

This children’s book comes to you from HEROmation, a content studio that specializes in imaginative characters and worlds. Our short animated film, The Wrong Rock, was recognized by the Oscars Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. JP Cawood wrote the accompanying book, as well as the sci-fi kids adventure, Sam & The Secrets of the Universe.


GOODREADS: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59684019-it-s-a-squirrely-life
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Its-Squirrely-Life-JP-Cawood-ebook/dp/B09M7PD36W


And here she is...

JP Cawood is an author who has also worked in live-action TV and film, animation, and comics. The screen adaptation of her novel, Love from Mars, was a recent Semi-finalist in both Screencraft and Stage32 screenplay competitions. She was also named Top 50 Screenwriter by the International Screenwriters' Association in 2021. Both a teacher and student of meditation, she strongly believes in the untapped potential of the human mind. Her books question the nature of reality in unexpected and entertaining ways.

Website: www.jpcawood.com

Amazon page: www.amazon.com/author/jpcawood

Facebook: www.facebook.com/jpcawoodbooks

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jpcawoodbooks

Instagram: www.instagram.com/heromationstudios

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@jpcawood

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Today's read... Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

Today's read plunges into the world of vampires and magic with a very unique twist. It hit the shelves at the beginning of this month...and I just love the cover! 
Ready to dance on the side of danger, magic, and mayhem (or I think that's what this one is about)?



CRUEL ILLUSIONS
by Margie Fuston
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Young Adult Fantasy 
499 pages














Caraval meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this deliciously dark young adult fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a magical secret society to enter a potentially deadly competition for the chance to avenge her mother’s death.

Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.

But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.

But they’ve been waiting for her.

The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.

GOODREADShttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/58646000-cruel-illusions
AMAZONhttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09RX47CMK
B&Nhttps://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/?ean=9781665902106
INDIE BOUNDhttps://www.indiebound.org/book/9781665902106



MY TIDBITS

Magic, revenge, immortality, and romance weave among bloody thorns and a very dangerous game.

Ava will never forgive the vampire, who took her mother's life. Nor can she forget her parents' love of performing magic shows on the stage. Now that her brother and her have shifted from one foster home to the other, he, at least, has found a place he can call home. She, however, is eighteen and needs to deal with the revenge she's planned for the last years. When she runs across a magic show, which not only impresses but seems to call to her in a strange way, she wonders if she's found what she's looking for. But it's the hunt for vampires the magicians do after the show, which completely wins her over. Convinced she can finally find her revenge, she agrees to become the troupe's apprentice...but she's no where near ready for everything that means. Especially when she's forced to take part in a dangerous competition, where only one of the new apprentices is allowed to keep their magic and continue the hunt.

This book packs a lot...which also explains the almost 500 pages found in the hardcopy. It starts out with Ava and her brother somewhat settled into their latest foster home, explaining a bit of past but mostly allowing the reader to get to know her situation and sink into her character a little, first. She comes across as sharp-edged but not as cold as she'd like to be. Her love for her younger brother is golden, and although she's untrusting of the rest of the world, she doesn't completely spit in kindness' face. It gives her just the right amount of warmth to gain a little sympathy, while showing how her past has hardened her, too. It sets up the perfect stage for the rest of the wild ride...because it does shift into high-gear from there.

The author does a fantastic job at opening up a world of amazing magic and scenes. The descriptions allow for wonder, letting the darkness mix with beauty. It was fun to watch the magic happen through Ava's eyes and almost see the impossibility unfold. The manor, the fight scenes, and everything else comes to clear life, and that without overly wordy or drudging description blocks. 

Plots weave with secrets and sub-plots to make quite the intricate tale. While some aspects are predictable, there are quite a few which hit with unexpected twists and turns. Every truth is hard-won and comes at a price, and each one holds a darker secret behind it. It gave the read richness and felt as if there were more than the pages should be able to hold...but it all fits into a great story. The ending does leave enough open to let imagination flow, while securing the loose ends to form a solid finish.

There are tons of characters, many of which fall clearly into a gray zone. It's a complex world with shadows and forced survival, making each character hold their own goals and rules dear. It's hard to see who is worthy of friendship, and who is hiding their hand. But many have very individual story arcs...although Ava's didn't progress or change as much as it could have. Still, it was easy to root for her and the others, and hope they came through.

And there is romance. This wasn't quite my thing since it involved a lot of instant attraction and that with a love triangle... of sorts. I did root for one side, and Ava is in a hard spot. I just had a little trouble accepting the triangle with all of the other things going on too. But that's a personal thing, and the romance did flow with all the delicious tension and excitement that it should

I did enjoy this read quite a bit and found it extremely well done. I read it in one sitting and let myself happily get lost in this dangerous but magical world.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Today's read... My Very Rocky Christmas by Jackson Murphy

Today's read came out the beginning of this month and caught my attention right away. Firstly, I don't remember ever seeing a Christmas story surrounding trees and rocks. Second, some of the proceeds go to 'Plant a Billion Trees'. And after reading this...well, let's just say that I wasn't disappointed.



MY VERY ROCKY CHRISTMAS
A Rocky the Rock Quarry
by Jackson Murphy
Illustrated by Rebecca Rem
Picture Book
34 pages
ages 3 to 8







While on an annual December outing with his father to a local tree farm to cut down the family Christmas tree, a young boy encounters an unusual resident who changes his life forever. “My Very Rocky Christmas” is the heartwarming, “based-on-a-true story” memoir of a very unlikely friendship. Destined to become a new yuletide tradition, adults will want to share this amazing adventure — and the important lessons it teaches — with the young ones in their lives each and every holiday season.

Author Jackson Murphy was 6 years old when he first met Rocky (who was over a million years old at the time). Their relationship got off to a bit of a rough start (as you’ll find out), but today it’s as solid as a…well, you know.

"My Very Rocky Christmas" also includes fascinating and educational information on all the varieties and traditions of Christmas trees grown around the world, along with some fun holiday trivia.

BUY THIS BOOK HELP PLANT A TREE! Partial proceeds from every book sold go to The Nature Conservancy’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ Campaign.

GOODREADS  /   TBM BOOKS  


MY TIDBITS

Based on a real experience from the author, this Christmas tale takes a very original direction, which ends with warm feelings and unique inspiration.

Every year, a boy and his father head to a tree farm to find their Christmas tree, something the boy enjoys. One year, after cutting down their perfect tree, the boy discovers a rock by the now cut truck. Concerned that the rock will no longer be happy to be lying in the open, the boy finds a new spot, which should work well. The next years, he visits the rock to make sure it's still fine...until one year, the tree it was under is gone right along with the stone. Finding the stone a few yards away buried in the snow by itself, the boy comes up with a new plan to make sure the rock is always protected.

This is a sweet, Christmas story, which is very easy for kids to relate to (and for adults to remember when they might have done similar things themselves). It's told with a gentle flow, starting with the wonderful atmosphere of finding a perfect tree with a parent, before meeting the stone. The entire thing is done in first person from the child's perspective and with a natural feel. It does make a great read-aloud for quieter moments to settle listeners down and simply enjoy a story.

The illustrations are well done and bring atmosphere to the experiences and happenings. The snowy landscapes and Christmas details invite to the season. These are placed, here and there, around the text at the right moments. The pages are full-sized (A4) with the text in a slightly larger font and always on white, which also makes reading much easier.

I can see kids wanting to meet their own rock friends after this and developing a new hobby for awhile. Plus, there are two sections at the end of the book, which give more insight on the various types of Christmas trees as well as a bunch of Christmas tree facts. 

As a super bonus, this book was created with the intention of giving some of the proceeds to The Nature Conservancy's 'Plant a Billion Trees' campaign. 


You can learn more about Jackson Murphy and his wonderful endeavors...
https://lights-camera-jackson.com/