Sunday, July 3, 2022

Review: Beware the Burmese Pythons by Etta Kaner

 I'm super excited about today's read! I stumbled across this one, while taking a peek at all the upcoming kidlit this Fall (of course, I always have my eyes open!), and discovered this little gem. It's a non-fiction read, holds a bit of a graphic novel form, and promises to introduce readers to all sorts of lesser known, invasive species. Doesn't that sound amazing? I know my kids (and I as a kid) especially loved nonfiction with lesser known and interesting facts.

So, ready to take a plunge? (Okay, you'll have to wait until later in October to get your hands on a copy yourself, but trust me, this one is worth the wait....woops! I'm not suppose to say that yet, am I?

by Etta Kaner
Illustrated by Phil Nicholls
Kids Can Press
48 pages
ages 4 to 12

OCTOBER 22nd!!!

A kid-friendly introduction to invasive animal species that explores how they got into new ecosystems and the damage they've caused.

It might not seem like a big deal when a non-native animal species finds its way to another environment. But it can be! Invasive species reproduce quickly and often have no natural predators, allowing them to overtake native species, and even destroy the ecosystem of their new home. Here's an intriguing look at 10 of these species from around the world --- from tiny cactus moths to mighty Burmese pythons --- and the problems they're causing. As each section explains, humans were responsible for bringing all these animals to their new locations. And now it's up to humans to do something about it!

In this unique, highly visual book, Etta Kaner's accessible text and Phil Nicholls's vibrant art reveal a fascinating world of “aliens” that invade new habitats. With two spreads for each animal, the book is chock-full of information, including the animal's features, habitat and invasion route; a narrative describing how it became invasive and why it's become a problem; and a list of ideas for what can be done, ending with the question, “If you were a scientist or conservation officer, what would you do?” The text is presented in fun, eye-catching formats, ranging from comic strips to posters to newspaper articles, keeping the engagement level high and highlighting what scientists are currently doing to solve the problems. There are strong life-science connections here on characteristics of living things, ecosystems and habitats. Contains a glossary, sources, further reading and how to help.


Non-fiction with interesting, lesser-known facts is always a treat, but slide in a bit of graphic novel atmosphere, and this one is a definite winner.

What is an invasive species? These pages dive right into that question before taking off with examples of lesser known ones and troublesome ones. There are ten species presented, including nutria, cane toads, killer shrimp, and more. Each one is introduced with its common name, scientific name, and a cartoon-like but still detailed illustration, where little lines and phrases point out its unique characteristics. The size and habitat as well as a global map, showing the general area where the animal is native and where its wandered to, is also presented. There's a fun introduction as to how the animal was taken to the 'new' area, a page presenting the problems it has caused, and then, another section which explains how scientists are trying to deal with the problem. This last section ends with the question of what the reader thinks could be done to stop the animals' destruction.

While all of the information is very well done, laid out, and does teach all sorts of things from animal facts to ecological problems and connections, the fun is never forgotten. I do enjoy the variety given in the ways the animals were inadvertently 'spread', since this does show that even scientists make mistakes...and how many are stupid or even an unknown side product. And the lists of things being done are just as broad in variety, and illustrate how much ingenuity is used. Since kids are then asked for their thoughts, the entire thing gains clout, exercises the brain gears, and is even great for group or homeschooling situations. And, of course, an awareness for the environment and balance of life is strengthened.

But what really makes this one fun is the writing style and illustrations. The author keeps the information light and entertaining. There's a spark of humor without really being silly. The illustrations and their comic flair make everything digestible, also hinted with humor, and keep boredom away. It creates an atmosphere, which will drawn in even reluctant readers, and marks information in a manner, which sticks in the mind better than dry numbers, terms, and facts. 

I do see kids really enjoying this one and know my own would grab it off the shelf without a second's thought.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Review: The Twin Stars by Bridgette Dutta Portman

It's been awhile since I've had a rich fantasy to present here. Today's read is sold as a Wizard of Oz meets The Neverending Story meets Chronicles of Narnia. So what does that mean? I'm assuming it will be a gentler fantasy with more depth and richness. This one does deal with a main character, who has OCD, too. Oh, and it's the first in a series (yay!). 

Ready to take a peek?

The Coseema Saga, Book One
by Bridgette Dutta Portman
YA Fantasy

A magical journal. A world savaged by its own suns. An evil prince. A princess in hiding. And a teenage girl who learns to be the hero of her own story.

Sixteen-year-old Olive Joshi has obsessive-compulsive disorder, and can't stop worrying about hurting the people she loves. She finds refuge in writing about Coseema, a magical princess on a distant planet. Coseema is fearless, confident, and perfect - everything Olive thinks she’ll never be. When she falls through a portal into her own unfinished story, Olive finds herself in a world in peril: double suns scorch the land, the brutal Prince Burnash seeks supreme power, and Coseema is nowhere to be found. Together with her friends - a bold poet, a cursed musician, a renegade soldier, and an adventurous girl from the desert - Olive will have to face her deepest fears to find the hero in herself.

An engrossing new portal fantasy in the spirit of the Wizard of Oz, the Neverending Story, and the Chronicles of Narnia.​



With the flow of a dream, this fantasy takes a girl with OCD on a journey to face her fears, discover her strengths, and find friendship.

Olive is on the way to the funeral of her recently deceased grandmother. She finds solace, as always, by scribbling in her notebook, where she tries to fight her fears thanks to OCD, but carries a story she's been working on for a long time. When a frantic visit to the bathroom on the airplane ends with her passing out, little does she know she's gone through a portal and, now, finds herself in the world her tale centers around. The characters she created become flesh and blood, and mistake her for the heroine, Coseema. But Olive knows she could never replace Coseema, even if she looks like her. Not only was Coseema perfect and powerful, but she's the only one who can save the world...unfortunately, the real Coseema is no where to be found.

The world building in this tale is very well done. The author spends just enough time in Olive's 'real' world to ground her before zipping her off into the fantasy realm. There, details let the surroundings come to life until the reader can almost see, feel and hear the world around them.

The characters are well done, and even the side ones have personality and enough background to give them depth. Each one is different and brings richness to plot. It's entertaining and interesting to see how Olive interacts and tries to wrap her brain around the characters she created...only to learn that she might not know them as well as she thought. But at the same time, she learns more about herself.

Everything flows well, making this an easy read to get lost in. Thanks to the rich descriptions, the pacing is a little gentler than I prefer, and I did find myself skipping over paragraphs now and then. But for those who prefer characters and worlds, this is a lovely read. And it does set the stage for the beginning of what promises to be an interesting series.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Review: Grounded for All Eternity by Darcy Marks

 We're starting off the month as hot as the weather...well, at least, the theme is warmer than warm. This one centers around a boy and his team, who were born and live in the Underworld. When they accidentally find themselves on Earth, their biggest concern is getting back before their parents notice they're gone. Which with a little thought, makes total sense to me because who would want to go against parents who guard evil souls? 

Now, I thought this one might head in a direction of mischief, but I'll already say that I was more than a little surprised at where the plot flies...or rather walks, since wings aren't allowed to leave that realm. See, that's already a hint at the fun!

by Darcy Marks
Middle Grade Paranormal
384 pages
ages 8 to 12

JULY 26th!!!

A group of kids from hell come to Earth on one of the craziest nights of the year—Halloween—in this snarky, witty middle grade adventure about teamwork, friendship, shattering expectations, and understanding the world (or otherworld) around us.

Mal and his friends are just your regular average kids from hell. The suburbs that is, not the fiery pit part. But when Hell’s Bells ring out—signaling that a soul has escaped from one of the eternal circles, Mal and his friends can’t help but take the opportunity for a little adventure.

Before they know it, they’ve somehow slipped through the veil and found themselves in the middle of Salem, Massachusetts, on Halloween night. And what’s even worse, they’ve managed to bring the escaped soul with them! As the essence of one of history’s greatest manipulators gains power by shifting the balance on Earth, Mal and his squad-mates—along with some new friends that they meet along the way—work desperately to trap the escapee, save the people of Earth from the forces of evil, and find the portal back to their own dimension.

If they can’t manage it before their parents realize they’re gone, they’ll be grounded for an eternity. And an eternity in hell is a very, very long time.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N 


It's not Halloween, yet. Not even close. But I'm still going to already shout this one out as a must-read for that upcoming holiday. 

Mal is an average kid. Well, for Hell that is. He lives with his parents, goes to school, and has pretty much the same problems as any kid on Earth. Go figure. When a soul escapes one of Hell's levels, the entire town goes on high alert with fire-shield-dome and everything. His parents are on call and need to find him a babysitter because it's school break. Just when Mal's convinced his vacation's ruined, his friends come to the rescue, but their secret fun out doesn't end exactly the way they hoped it would. Accidentally slipping through a gateway, they find themselves on Earth. Not only do they have no clue how to return home before their parents notice that they're missing, but they see all sorts of evil creatures which shouldn't be on Earth. Now, they not only have to find the way home, but they'll have to deal with the escaped evil themselves.

This was so much more fun than I thought it might be. Although Mal has wings and lives in the Underworld, it's not much different than life on a town on Earth. The author allows several chapters for the reader to sink into Mal's life and really get to know him, where he comes from, and all the details living in the realm of death entails. And it isn't boring, in the least. Mal's easy to identify with, laid back, and faces many of the same issues that many middle graders do. By letting the reader to get to know his reality first, it makes the adventure on Earth that much more enjoyable...and relatable.

The writing flows very well and naturally, never letting anything feel choppy or forced. The friends interact as any would and could be the kids down the street. There are enough oddities to keep the reader in the pages, and as the story progresses, this slips over to surprising twists and tension. Some situations have the reader wondering what the friends will do, while others will cause a smirk or a snort. It's a nice balance of adventure and fun.

Along with a fun tale, the author has woven in well-known literature, historic figures and myths. Dante's levels of Hell, Faust, Methuselah, and more give a nod at all those history and literature buffs. I found it a nice twist, although I'm sure some of these will go over readers' heads. But having them mentioned and playing a role is a nice bonus.

This is an easy read with tons to like. The plot and setting are original, and the characters are easy to root for. I do see this one as being a winner with more than just a couple readers.

And here she is...

Darcy Marks is a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Kempo-JuJitsu, as well as a Black Belt in Arnis, the Filipino art of stick-fighting. She teaches women’s self-defense and works as a forensic toxicologist. Darcy is a mother of three is and an avid fangirl living in northern Vermont. Visit her online at

Thursday, June 30, 2022

What's Coming in July?

 Enjoying the sun and having fun? We're definitely keeping busy here. I have all sorts of goodness on the reading end the next weeks, including Young Explorers Natural Journal, which inspires all sorts of outdoor adventures for kids, but the cover is quite available yet, so although I wanted to include it below, I couldn't (told you the publishing world is tricky). 

As usual, I try to keep a pretty broad spectrum of reads and have everything from paranormal to science fiction to contemporary to humor as well as nonfiction and more scheduled. It's going to be a pretty even balance between the age groups, too. So, keep an eye out and see if any of these might hit the summer reading list in your household, too.


The title made me smile, but I didn't realize how literal it is until I read the blurb. This one hits a group of teens from Underworld, who venture out and make their way through 'our' world. I'm thinking it will have some humor, hit upon friendship, and...well, who knows what else. Anyway, I'm taking a peek at this one on the 1st.

Middle Grade Paranormal


A girl accidentally runs over someone to find him uninjured and begging for help because he's being hunted. That sounds like the beginning of a thriller to me, one with chase scenes, and according to the blurb, romance. There's more than a few hints of sci-fi making me wonder if gene-editing, cloning or something similar is involved. Or maybe aliens? Find out on the 4th.

Young Adult Science Fiction


This is the first in a spin-off series from the best-selling Mackenzie Blue books...which I've never read, so I'm pretty free-minded on hitting this one. It's about a girl, who heads to London for the first time and all the adventures she experiences. I'm thinking there will be some humor, some heart, and tons of quirky moments. Let's travel together on the 9th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


This one comes from an earlier critique partner of mine, who has definitely found her voice and brought out several wonderful titles. It promises mystery, a few dark secrets, friendship, and finding courage. I'll be looking at the one on the 12th.

Middle Grade Mystery


I've always been fascinated by sea life and have a weak spot for non-fiction. So, it was a given that I wanted to take a peek into this one. It's the third in a series of books (Planetary Solutions) and should hold all sorts of information about Ocras, including facts, history, tales, and problems. I'm looking forward to seeing what this one holds, so join me on the 11th to learn more!

Children's Non-Fiction 

I was hooked the moment I read the blurb on this one. It includes TikTok, two very different girls, murder, accusations, and a hunt for the truth. I'm expecting chills, thrills, tons of mystery, and who knows what else, but I'm hoping it's good. Find out with me on the 20th.

Young Adult Mystery/Thriller


Sold as a mixture between Hunger Games and Fable, this was swims around deadly, ocean beasts. A poor family...or rather, a girl and her brother, must catch them in order to keep their family from starving to death. It sounds dark and promises tons of action, and finds its roots in South-Asian myths. Find out more with me on the 18th.

Young Adult Fantasy


When I was asked if I was interested in taking a peek at this collection (coming in October) of Shakespeare's works adapted for younger readers, I wasn't about to turn it down. My own daughter will be taking her 1st glance in this direction this coming school year, so I'm definitely curious what this collection does. Explore it with me on the 22nd.

Middle Grade Fiction


A princess, who acts like anything but? And that as a chapter book! Yep, I wanted to get my hands on this one and take a peek. This princess isn't only not frilly but packs tons of trouble and not-so-nice intentions. I'm expecting laughs and giggles, and a perfect mix for those beginning readers out there. Let's jump into royalty on the 28th!

Chapter Book Fantasy


This one greets from an author in South Africa and embraces the love between a child and their father. I'm looking forward to the scenes and atmosphere. Find out more on the 30th.

Picture Book

Every month, my reading list stands higher than I can reach (okay, maybe not quite). There's definitely more reads than I have time for, which means that I always have a few on the bench just waiting to join in. The book I will find time to squeeze in matter what is:


This one is co-authored by the very-well-known James Patterson, but that's not why I'm excited about it (although it does catch attention because of that). This tale centers around a girl and her relationship to an elephant. It's supposed to hold tons and tons of heart as well as take a peek at Africa. But when will I get to it? We'll find out! (Shh...but I am hoping for the 25th, since it's release day) 

Tween Fiction

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noel!

Today's read actually had it's book birthday yesterday...but I'm all for celebrating as long as possible! The moment I saw the cover, I had to get my hands on this book. Plus, time travel can be intriguing if well done. The main character also promises tons of spunk...if she can keep a logical thinking process, that is. Yep, I do have high expectations with this one. So, let's take a peek and see if it's worth the hype.

Stolen Beauty, #1
by Alyson Noel
Entangled Teen Publishing
YA Time Travel / Fantasy
400 pages

These days, I’ve been killing it when it comes to letting people down. Now I’ve been kicked out of high school, arrested, and accepted into a remote, off-the-grid school owned and operated by an inscrutable billionaire tech guru.

Gray Wolf Academy is looking for a certain kind of student. Ones that no one will miss. Like me.

Then there’s Braxton. The beautiful, oddly anachronistic guy who showed up right when the trouble started. And he’s a total enigma—which means that I definitely can’t trust him, even if there’s something about him that makes me want to.
They all tell me I have a gift. A very rare gift. And Gray Wolf Academy wants me to learn it. To use it. Because if what they say is true, I have all the time in the world.
And that makes me the most dangerous high school student you’ll never know…



Action, intrigue and a touch of romance intermingle with time travel to make an exciting read, which is hard to put down.

Nat's got a tough life, trying to help her mother pay bills while attending school. When a friend convinces her to skip class and go to a club, things race out of control. Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Nat finds herself at the Gray Wolf Academy, where secrets flood every hallway. She's unable to make friends except with one guy, who's not telling more than he wants to. She knows something's up but has larger problems to deal with as she suspects that there's more to the school than meets the eye.

If you're a fan of academy settings (especially mysterious, secretive ones), time travel, tough girls, and dangerous plots, this will be right down your lane. It starts out with a thrust into Nat's life, who gains sympathy as she does her best to make everything work. Her bad decision is irritating, but everything else about her makes her hard not to root for as she struggles against so much garbage. When the book swings into the academy, there's an interesting twist, which keeps it from growing cliche. Also, Nat has a head and tries to use it as she's navigating the academy and tries to figure out what's going on. There's a quick pace the entire way through and unexpected moments to keep those pages turning.

Then, there's the relationships and characters. Nat is interesting and while she stumbles here and there, she remains a gripping character until the end. The others are touch and go. Some have a bit of depth but others don't. So, if you're into character driven reads, this has some of that but leans much more toward the action.

Even the romance isn't smooth...but it just might be that way intentionally. The love interest keeps a lot of his intentions and goals hidden, and the chemistry suffers because of that. But there are other possibilities in the starting lines on that front. It just depends on where this series goes.

This is an exciting read with tons of mystery and interesting directions. It definitely entertains and does set things up nicely for the rest of the series.