Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: The Becket List by Adele Griffin

A Blackberry Farm Story
by Adele Griffin
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Algonquin Young Readers
Middle Grade 
208 pages

APRIL 2nd, 2019!!!

Adventure and discover with the bold and intrepid Becket Branch when her family’s move from city to a country farm means big changes!

Everything is changing for Becket Branch. From subways to sidewalks to safety rules, Becket is a city kid born and raised. Now the Branch family is trading urban bustle for big green fields and moving to Gran’s farm, where Becket has to make sense of new routines from feeding animals to baling hay. And as much as Becket loves to yell “Beautiful Alert!” there’s a lot about the countryside that is just plain odd.

But Becket is ready to put her own spin on country life. Whether selling her mouth-puckering lemonade, feeding hostile hens, or trying to make a best friend of her new neighbor Frieda Franca, Becket is determined to use her city smarts to get a grip on farm living. Laugh and learn with Becket as she mucks through the messy, exuberant human experience of change she didn’t ask for, in a story that sparkles with quirky characters and lasting connections.


Life on a farm flips into a whole new light with never ending energy and silly insights.

Rebecca's family is leaving the city apartment and heading out to a farm, and she's got the perfect list on the amazement of farm life. So far, her list only has one item, leave the city. But changing her name to something more farm fitting only begins her increasing list. Now know as Becket, she's ready to become the true farm girl with so much enthusiasm that it leaks off the pages as she explores what life in the country really is like.

Becket is a ball of energy pure. Everything she does, even eating dinner with her family, turns into excitement with a twist of thoughts, which border on ridiculousness without ever stepping over the line. The story, while an easy read, holds a very quick pace thanks to her bubbliness. As to real adventure in the traditional sense, there isn't much beyond every day life and situations. But it's exactly these moments that portray life in the country, which Becket molds with a sense of excitement and exploration.

The authors manage to bring across a fairly real impression of what life on the farm is like, something city kids will find intriguing. Still, the simpleness of this life (or not always as simple as it appears with Becket) is exactly the adventure in these pages. It's Becket's rambling, constant, can't-be-turned-off enthusiasm which makes this a fun read, one that even more reluctant readers will be willing to grab up.

And here she is...

Adele Griffin
 is the acclaimed author of Tell Me No Lies and Be True to Me, as well as Sons of Liberty and Where I Want to Be, both finalists for the National Book Award. She lives with her husband and children in Brooklyn, New York. You can find her online at or on Twitter: @adelegriffin.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Sneak Peek: The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie with Giveaway!

The Jade Rebellion

The Jade Rebellion banner

The Jade Rebellion

The Jade Chronicles #1
by Alanna Mackenzie
YA Science Fiction/ Fantasy

A reckoning. A rebellion. The worlds of artificial intelligence and ancient magic collide.

Crystal City glistens with diamonds, but its dazzling beauty comes at a deadly price. The capital of Khalendar thrives on a steady supply of gemstones from the neighboring Barrens, a colony of the Empire.

Walter Saltanetska translates AI code for the Khalendar government, helping to breathe life into the ambitious vision of the AI Masters. When Walter discovers a terrible secret which could destroy the life of his lover, Elaine, he decides to tell her despite strict orders to keep what he translates confidential.

What begins as a catastrophe eventually grows into a rebellion. Elaine is taken captive by the AI Masters, and Walter must do everything in his power to rescue her. He starts his quest with a single goal in mind, finding Elaine, but along the way Walter discovers that saving her is only a small part of his destiny. During his travels, he encounters a long-lost relative, a warrior matriarch, and a mystical kingdom forgotten to time. Yet Walter's true journey occurs not in physical space, but the captivating depths of his mind.

An inventive blend of dystopian science-fiction and fantasy, the Jade Rebellion explores whether we can overcome technological determinism by preserving history, nature, spirituality, and ultimately, our humanity.

You can find The Jade Rebellion on Goodreads

You can buy The Jade Rebellion here:
- Amazon
- B&N
- Booktopia

This blog tour is organized by Lola's Blog Tours. The blog tour runs from 18 February till 3 March. See the tour schedule here.


Mariner’s Cove was a pristine beach surrounded by high limestone cliffs, and its unspoiled natural beauty contrasted starkly with the concrete towers of Crystal City. In the summertime, it was filled with people from all walks of life. Situated at the southern border between Crystal City and the Stockyards, the cove was one of the few places in Khalendar where elites and working-class folk mingled freely without any conflict. Between late fall and early spring, the beach was generally deserted, frequented only by cormorants, gulls, and the occasional albatross. It was the perfect place for meditation and reflection, if you didn’t mind the biting cold of the westerly winds and the crashing sound of the waves as they collided violently with the shore.
As soon as Walter’s interview was over he went to Mariner’s Cove, eager to soothe the fierce pounding in his head and to bring his rapid heart rate back down to normal levels. He sat down against a log near the water’s edge, and only after he had settled in did he realize that he was not alone; a girl was sitting on the other side of his log, reading quietly. Walter surveyed the silvery blue expanse of ocean stretched out beneath the horizon. In clear weather, it was possible to spot the northern tip of Scarlet Isle from Mariner’s Cove, but on that day the island was blanketed in an impenetrable shroud of mist.
Walter had made a game out of counting ships in the harbor, and it was one of his favorite beach pastimes. Identifying ships was more complicated in unruly weather, however, and on days when a dense shroud of mist and fog blanketed the harbor. The vessels were partially hidden beneath the shroud, their prows and masts modestly exposing themselves like timid maidens peeking through their wedding veils. Walter struggled to count the ships accurately, and his failure irritated him. He had always been proud of his own precision, but that quality also made him slightly obsessive and hard on himself.
The fog was growing heavier, and several ominous-looking clouds were rolling in toward the shore. Walter recalled their name from science class: cumulus. It sounded thick and heavy, like sludge. He gazed at them indifferently, confident that the clouds would not reach him and that he could relax at the beach for a few more hours, lazily curing his exhaustion. Yet he also knew how terrible thunderstorms at Mariner’s Cove could become; they had acquired a sort of legendary status throughout Khalendar. During a storm, waves would climb higher and higher as towering sheets of water assaulted the shore. When the waves broke, they would crash ferociously upon the rocky beach, erupting into dazzling geysers of foam and froth. The thunder would echo and bounce off of the limestone cliffs of the cove, saturating the beach with sound and fury. While it was a beautiful sight to behold, it was also quite dangerous. Many lives had been claimed through such thunderstorms, and Crystal City’s law enforcement agents had taken to reprimanding anyone who stayed at the cove during the storms.
After the immense challenge Walter had recently undergone, however, it seemed as though he could conquer anything; nothing appeared dangerous or daunting to him anymore. Adrenaline pumped through his veins still, even though its force was waning and was gradually being replaced by the desire to sleep. A vague thought nonetheless stirred within him: that the girl sitting behind him was facing the opposite direction of the oncoming storm, and was likely completely unaware of its approach.

And here she is...
Alanna Mackenzie
Alanna Mackenzie lives in Vancouver, Canada. She holds degrees in History, French studies, and Law from the University of British Columbia. An environmentalist at heart, she believes in using the law as a tool for social and environmental change. When she is not pursuing that passion, she can be found brainstorming the next chapter in her novels, playing Irish fiddle tunes on the violin, and hiking West Coast trails.

You can find and contact Alanna Mackenzie here:
- Website
- Twitter
- Goodreads
- Amazon

There is a tour wide giveaway for the blog tour of The Jade Rebellion. One winner will win a physical copy of The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie (US Only).

For a chance to win, enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Review: Sophie Johnson, Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood

by Morag Hood
Illustrated by Ella Okstad
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Meet the master of magical creatures: Sophie Johnson! She’s an expert on unicorns…or so she thinks!

Sophie is a unicorn expert. She dresses up her toys, stuffed animals, and even her baby brother as unicorns! But living with enchanted animals can be tricky business. And Sophie is so caught up in teaching others that she fails to notice the magic right under her nose.

This funny and fresh picture book tells the story of a unicorn hiding in plain sight and a little girl who is totally oblivious to his presence!


With a quirky girl, tons of imagination and piles of humor, this is a cute read which is sure to cause giggles too.

Sophie Johnson is a self-declared unicorn expert. Her room is packed full of them, and she spends most of her time caring for them. She teaches them to hunt. She fixes their horns. She even discusses magic with them. When a real unicorn decides to join in, it should be the best day of her life. Except there is a problem. Sophie might be a unicorn expert, but she can't see them.

With a sparkly cover and lots of unicorn bliss, the cover already draws in. Sophie herself is quite the handful. She's a bit bossy, ready to proclaim every bit of knowledge she does and does not have, and lets imagination flow to the extreme. She's exactly the type of mess kids will find fun and silly, but also recognize Sophie's mistakes (even when she doesn't). The unicorn's appearance and Sophie's inability to recognize he's even there, bring even more humor along.

The illustrations are colorful and full of as much fun as the text itself. It's the illustrations which let the unicorn's role happen and shine. The illustrations are done in a frivolous, shift-with-the-wind fashion, which completely fits Sophie's attitude.

This is a cute book, which makes a very easy read for even younger listeners and is sure to harvest more than a couple of snickers and giggles along the way.

And here they are...

The Author...
Morag Hood is an author and illustrator who lives in Edinburgh with her husband, Snorri. After working backstage in theaters for a few years she went back to school to study children’s book illustration and has been making picture books ever since.

The Illustrator...
Ella Okstad loves to draw ghosts, vampires, humans, cats, and all sorts of creatures. She lives and works as an illustrator in Trondheim, Norway. When she’s not in her office creating scary, cute, or peculiar creatures for books, she enjoys spending time with her husband, three boys, and a cat. Visit her at

Happy Book Birthday, The Winnowing by Jo Schaffer with Giveaway!

The Winnowing 
by Jo Schaffer 
Stanley & Hazel, #2
YA Historical

Darkness descends over St. Louis, a city already rocked by the Great Depression. More and more people are disappearing, and some have turned up dead. A sinister secret society is putting forward their plan known as “The Winnowing,” designed to wipe out those they consider “undesirable.”
After Stanley and Hazel foil the diabolical plans of Charles Chouteau, they become instant celebrities. Hazel is thrust into the role of debutante, and risks loses herself in it. Meanwhile, Stanley must deal with the horrific tragedy of his best friend’s death while being threatened by the unseen forces of the Veiled Prophet.
With things spiraling out of control, Stanley and Hazel’s relationship is tested, possibly beyond repair. As bodies pile up, people become more desperate. The divide between wealthy and poor grows ever wider, threatening to tear their worlds apart. Now, the two must find a way to work together if there is any hope at all of saving their relationship and their futures.


“Where do you go, Hazel Malloy?” Gabriel said in her ear.
“I can feel you thinking hard.” He chuckled.
Hazel smiled. “I like this song,” she said, embarrassed as though he could actually tell that he’d caught her thinking about him.
“I do too.” He pressed his cheek to hers, and she let him.
As the song ended, there was a slight disturbance from the far end of the room. Hazel glanced up, and her heart paused.
Stanley stood in the entrance of the conservatory, tall and suited up, a hard look on his face, one eye almost swollen shut. He was flanked by some of his Knights, looking rough and out of place in suits, smirks on their faces as they scanned the room. It was like Eliot Ness and his Untouchables about to raid.
The “good people” of St. Louis stared uneasily and made way as the boys stalked into the room. Hazel sometimes forgot what they must look like to everyone else. They were a tough looking lot, battle scarred, and imposing.
The song ended and in the pause before the next one began, Stanley took long strides across the room, toward where Hazel and Gabriel stood, still holding hands.
Stanley’s eye twitched. “Heya, Haze.” He tilted his head toward Gabriel. “If it isn’t soft slugger trying to get to first base.” His jaw flexed, and he breathed in through his nose, and Hazel knew he was counting to ten.
Gabriel released Hazel’s hand and calmly replied, “Good to see you, Fields. You clean up nice.”

And here she is...

Jo Schaffer was born and raised in the California Bay Area in a huge, creative family. She is a YA novelist, speaker, writer at, works in film production and is a Taekwondo black belt.
She's a founding member of Writers Cubed and co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, one of the largest conferences in the nation for youth ages 13-19. She and a crew of local and international bestselling authors present writing workshops to hundreds of attendees at the Utah-based conference as well as hundreds of others worldwide who view the conference online.
Jo loves being involved in anything that promotes literacy and family. She is passionate about community, travel, books, music, healthy eating, classic films and martial arts. Her brain is always spinning new ideas for books and sometimes she even gets around to blogging.
Jo is mom to three strapping sons and lives in the beautiful mountains of Utah.


Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Murderous Mosquitoes by Meish Goldish

Bugged Out!
by Meish Goldish
Bearport Publishing
Picture Book Non-Fiction
24 pages
ages 4 to 8

The whiny buzz of a mosquito is a familiar sound, as is the insect's red, itchy bite. However, did you know that a mosquito bite can be deadly? A young nurse named Dawn Dubsky became deathly ill after a mosquito bit her. She was so sick, doctors had to take drastic measures to save her. Read Dawn's harrowing tale of survival, and learn all about mosquitoes and the deadly diseases they carry in this engrossing new narrative nonfiction book for young readers. 


Bug fans and biology aces are going to be thrilled by these pages and gain a little more respect for a very tiny insect.

Mosquitoes rule in this book, but it's not their harmless biology which takes the spotlight. Mosquitoes can be very dangerous and should not be underestimated. After a quick Table of Contents to help young researchers find sought after information more quickly, the first pages dive into the story of a woman, who was bitten by a mosquito and soon fought for her life as she battled malaria. The book grabs attention right away, and not the kind which more sensitive readers will appreciate. But then, malaria is not a nice disease.

While a mosquitoes' habitat, basic biology and living facts are explained, it's the diseases which they carry and the dangers that come with it, which keeps these pages turning. Each page holds about one paragraph of text, which is laid out for readers who have a pretty good handle on reading (ages 7 and up). It's written in an interesting way, keeping boredom at bay while bringing across very interesting facts. Colorful and clear photographs accompany every page, allowing readers to get a glimpse at the reality and helping the information gain more clarity. To spruce things up, explanations as well as extra tidbits are sprinkled among the photos.

At the end of the book, a few more diseases not explored more closely are mentioned, followed by a more detailed glossary of the terminology, and ending with an index, bibliography, hints of where to find more information, and a website which discusses mosquitoes.

Creepy, crawly, and downright deadly! This new narrative nonfiction series introduces young readers to mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, and other creatures that carry or cause horrifying diseases. Each book is packed with interesting information about the organism's life cycle, how it transmits diseases, and how to protect yourself from becoming its victim. This series also includes captivating real-life stories about people who were attacked by the world's most dangerous bugs--and lived to tell the terrifying tale.

Includes the Titles:

Filthy Flies
Frightening Fleas
Killer Kissing Bugs
Murderous Mosquitos
Terrifying Ticks
Wretched Worms

See more HERE!

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Review: Laith the Lion Goes to Palestine by Jameeleh Shelo

by Jameeleh Shelo
Illustrated by Sara Mcmullin
Picture Book

Little lions of any age can join Laith in his flying crib and make new friends in sunny Palestine.  Inspired by the author’s son, Laith the Lion encapsulates the spirit and connection many Palestinians feel towards their culture, ancestry and homeland. It’s a journey of discovery, pride, and warmth that your child will want to experience over and over again.

Or purchase from the website...
which I noticed, isn't only cheaper than Amazon, but also has a bundle with a Keffiyeh (bib)


This is a night time adventure which flies beyond the crib and into a wonderful land with many friends and family to meet along the way.

Laith needs to go to bed, which maybe isn't the most fun thing to do...unless the crib flies into adventure. Soon, Laith travels to his relatives, but none of them really are up to playing with him. So he continues on until he reaches Palestine. There, he meets many friends, warmth, and fun.

Laith is a lively lion cub, and it's fun to watch him as he heads to bed. It's something young listeners will easily connect with and share some of the feelings as Laith does. His very loving family creates a wonderful scene. But then, the entire story is wholesome in this way. Every relative and friend Laith meets, embraces him with friendship and joy, creating the perfect atmosphere for not only a bedtime read. The addition of Palestine adds a nice touch and allows young readers to learn a tiny bit about a country they may have not heard of before. This section of the story doesn't go too deep, but rather hits with very age appropriate scenes and moments. It leaves an impression without overwhelming with information—a nice balance.

The illustrations are bright, warm and cheerful to fit right along with the text. Laith is an easy lion cub to love, and the fun of his adventures radiates from the accompanying, colorful scenes. My children were a little curious why Laith, his relatives and friends were depicted as animals, while the wonderful people he met in Palestine were human. They also wondered at his parents who were a giraffe and a bird. But the wealth of animals didn't hinder their interest in the story and created a nice guessing game as to which animal each upcoming character was.

This is a fun journey which gives young readers a glimpse at another country in a warm and delightful way.

And here they are...

The Author...
Jameeleh Shelo  is a native Chicagoan and proud Southsider. Jameeleh wrote Laith the Lion because she wanted her son to have a positive representation of his culture.

Jameeleh is an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and performer. She attended Columbia College (Chicago) where she earned a B.A. in Television Writing and Production. This degree gave her the skills necessary to become a waitress. Since no one would trust her to handle food she became a TV producer. As a creative outlet she began doing improv, sketch and stand-up. She has performed with Second City's Brown Co., improvised at iO and Annoyance theater, and performed her one woman show, My American Cousin at UCB, Magnet and PIT in New York City and at Silk Road Theater, iO, and Second City in Chicago. She is also a regular at the New York Arab-American Comedy Festival. 

Jameeleh is very lucky to have interned and worked for some very funny people in her career. She interned at Late Night with Conan O'Brien and worked for Stephen Colbert, Lisa Lampanelli and Cedric the Entertainer. If you ask any of these people about her they will pretend to remember her. In addition to that, she has produced for TBS, Comedy Central, HGTV and DIY Network, Harpo, TLC. 

Jameeleh is the former Executive Director of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival and believes that all people have a right to share their narrative in any media they see fit. She wants to thank you all for taking time to read this and will now go back to sharing her narrative via macaroni necklaces.
The Illustrator...
Sara McMullin is an illustrator and writer who has written for PBSkids. She is also the creator of The Center TownThe Misadventures of Sea Cucumber ManWillow, and the Stupid Pillow comic. As a child Sara’s mother gave her the option of either theater and art classes or a Bat Mitzvah. She chose the former and a love of storytelling was born (along with a few unexpected bedroom wall murals to her mother’s dismay.) With the aide of her big family she develop her talent for storytelling and her visual style.  She honed her craft during college as a part time camp counselor, using her skill at storytelling and art to entertain her campers. Sara also took Arabic as a second language in college and discovered her artistic sensibilities helped her master arabic calligraphy. After college Sara developed an interest in performing comedy, improv, and sketch. This led her to Second City Chicago, where she studied, performed and worked. It was there she met Jameeleh.

Sara believes every kid should have a storybook they can relate to. Laith not only tells a great story about imagination and far away places, it teaches kids and adults about the Palestinian Culture.

Sara’s favorite kids' books are Calvin and HobbesThe Carp in the Bathtub, and the Ramona series. She still loves creating fantastic visual tales for her nieces and nephew and is always ready with a pencil and paper.

Sara also mixes her comedy background and love of art for the adult world, under the name Stupid Pillow.  A name that stems from a think tank exercise where someone asked “What else can you use a brick for?”. Sara said “ A stupid pillow.” To which the director smiled and said: “I like the way you think.”

Stupid Pillow/Sara enjoys creating “lifestyle” comics, humorous “Reject Greeting Cards,” Branding art for small businesses, and more. You can see her work on Instagram and Facebook.

You can discover more about Laith the Lion at the website:

Thoughts from the author...
Once upon a time there was a tiny baby named Laith who really hated to sleep, and enjoyed crying instead. In fact, his VERY cool parents often joked that he had FOMO (“fear of missing out” for the non-millennials) and wanted to see EVERYTHING. Normally the parents would applaud Laith’s curiosity and thirst for knowledge. However, Laith was a baby and since he wasn’t quite mobile yet, this particular personality trait was exhausting to his parents. They tried everything to get him to sleep - rocking, singing, bribery (does baby want a Tesla? No. Ok.). Nothing worked. Finally they tried reading books. The books worked! Laith loved the books. The parents loved Laith. Everyone was happy.

Except one thing - there seemed to be an abundance of books about balls and moons and trucks. There were books with kids named Johnny and Susie and Tommy and Bob. There were books about wolves and wild things, books explaining rocket science to babies and mischievous cats in hats. There were princes and princesses galore and they fought dragons and witches. Mermaids swam and fish forgot, Disney made billions and Mr. Seuss got his medical degree… but there were no books about Palestine. ​

Laith’s mom realized that her son would eventually be able to tell the difference between a red and blue ball (not that this isn’t a handy skill) but his identity is something he might struggle with. Laith’s mom wanted his first images of Palestine to be positive. She wanted him to see himself in a story and appreciate his culture.

Luckily Laith’s mom decided to write a children’s book. Children’s books need pictures. Since Laith’s mom has trouble drawing even simple stick figures, she asked her talented friend Sara to illustrate the book. After several discussions revolving around spirit animals and aspect ratio, Laith the Lion Goes to Palestine was born.

Laith the Lion Goes to Palestine is inspired by real images of Palestine and infuses a whimsical tale with real location, culture and feeling. The characters and story are inspired by real people and events. It’s a book for anyone who wants to give their child a heartwarming glimpse into a land so often misunderstood.

Laith’s mom wants all the little lions out there to know that they are the authors of their own story and hopes this book inspires them to soar.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Review: A Soldier and a Liar by Caitlin Lochner with Giveaway!

A Soldier and a Liar 

by Caitlin Lochner 
Swoon Reads
February 19th 2019 
YA Dystopian / Science Fiction

In a world on the brink of war, four superpowered teens must learn to work together for peace in Caitlin Lochner’s action-packed debut novel, A Soldier and A Liar.
Lai Cathwell is good at keeping secrets. As a Nyte, a supernaturally gifted teenager who is feared and shunned by the ungifted, this skill is essential to survival. Orchestrating her own imprisonment to escape military duty has only honed her ability to deceive others. But when rebels start attacking the city, Lai is dragged back into the fight with a new team of Nytes.
Thrown together with Jay, a self-conscious perfectionist consumed by the desire to be accepted; Al, a short-tempered fighter lying for the sake of revenge; and Erik, an amnesiac hell-bent on finding his memories and his place in the world, Lai realizes she’s facing an entirely different kind of challenge–one that might just be impossible. But if this team can’t learn to work together, the entire sector will be plunged into war.


After reading the blurb, I knew I had to get my hands on this book, and I was not disappointed.

Lai's world is broken into two sorts of humans, those with powers and those without. Those with powers, the Nytes, are shunned, mistreated and mistrusted. Although Lai, a Nyte who is a telepath, was a top solider in the military of the normal humans, she was thrown into prison thanks to a small crime. She sneaks out and secretly works for the Order, a growing underground society which strives for a peaceful life for both types of humans. When the military comes and asks her to return in exchange for her release, she's not sure she wants to, but realizing it's a chance to gather more valuable information for the Order, agrees. But after begin back in uniform, she soon discloses secrets more dangerous than she suspected.

In some ways, this book reminded me of the X-Men but placed in a futuristic world with a heavily split society. And it worked. Lai is an easy character to root for. She's tough, she carries loads of secrets, she's clever, she carries doubt of her own skills at times, and she has a good compass for knowing right from wrong. Her dedication to her friends is inspiring, and her ability to win people over...although not always through the best means...makes her hard not to like even with a few sharp personality corners. It's easy to root for her and those around her, especially with the situation of the Nytes pulls at the sense of needed justice.

The pacing in these pages is pretty fast, guaranteeing a grabbing read with lots of surprises. There are levels of intrigue, some just dabbed upon and leaving the promise of excitement to come in the rest of the series, and secrets around every corner. Everyone has a history, and everyone has an agenda. It makes for interesting characters and a plot which is hard to decipher at times. 

While there is a little romance, it by no means carries the plot but rather lays in very slight dabs with the rest of the story. In these pages, friendship is golden and team work is not simple, but inspiring all on its own. Fans of super humans, fast paced action, intrigue and fighting for justice in an imbalanced society...and girl power...are going to enjoy this tale.

And here she is...

(Um, so, wow bios are hard.) I studied creative writing at the University of South Florida and used my BA in words to become an English teaching assistant in Tokyo. I’m in love with storytelling of any kind, but especially in the form of books, manga, and video games. If you ever want to talk nerdy, I am VERY down. 


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Hedy Lamarr's Double Life by Laurie Wallmark

by Laurie Wallmark
Illustrated by Katy Wu
Sterling Children's Books
ages 4 and up
48 pages

Movie star by day, ace inventor at night: learn about the hidden life of actress Hedy Lamarr!
To her adoring public, Hedy Lamarr was a glamorous movie star, widely considered the most beautiful woman in the world. But in private, she was something more: a brilliant inventor. And for many years only her closest friends knew her secret. Now Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu, who collaborated on Sterling’s critically acclaimed picture-book biography Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code, tell the inspiring story of how, during World War Two, Lamarr developed a groundbreaking communications system that still remains essential to the security of today’s technology.

“Revelatory to young audiences in more ways than one.” —Kirkus

“Many STEM-for-girls biographies fan excitement over women’s achievements, but this title actually brings the central scientific concept within middle-grade reach.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books


Hollywood glamour meets scientific brains in a way to inspire kids that even more interesting dreams can come true.

Hedy Lamarr was a famous actress, known for her films with the biggest stars, but she had a lesser known side to her life too. Hedy was a curious person with an inventive touch. Noticing things which could be improved around her, she created various inventions in her free time. Most were never patented. But one invention of hers was quite ingenious and is now used in daily life today.

While many young readers might not know who Hedy Lamarr is, this read still is an inspiring read which is sure to grab their interest. It begins with the Hedy Lamarr as a star in Hollywood, allowing young readers to see how successful and glamorous she was. Even if the actors and actresses don't ring a bell with every young reader, the message comes across loud and clear. After this, the book turns to Hedy's past and childhood in Austria. It shows her as a young girl doing average things, but with the twist of the interests she held. Young listeners can easily identify with her and see that she might not be so different than them. Then, the book turns to Hedy the inventor and explains how she came up with an invention which is still used today.

All of this is told in a interesting way and never runs into the danger of growing boring. When the second half of the book dives into her 'important' invention, time and care are taken to make sure the reader understands the theory behind her discovery. It covers frequencies, a concept which might seem high for young listeners, but the author does an amazing job at bringing the concept across in an easy and understandable way.

The illustrations have a nice flair, fitting to Hedy's time period but still holding enough similarity to modern illustrations to keep readers' interest. The illustrations also hold extra information next to the text, making the two work hand in hand as Hedy's life is explained. Hedy's own sayings from during her life are also mixed in with a more colorful text form, adding more of her personality. 

At the end of the book, there is a timeline which outlines the more important moments of Hedy's life; a couple of pages summarizes the Secrets of the Secret Communications System; a Bibliography; additional sources to learn about other woman who centered toward STEM; and a list and timeline of the films Hedy was in. 

And they are...

The Author...
Laurie Wallmark has degrees in Biochemistry from Princeton University, Information Systems from Goddard College, and Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She's the author of Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (Creston Books) and Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (Sterling Children's Books). Laurie lives in New Jersey and is available for interview. For more information, follow her on Twitter @lauriewallmark.

The Illustrator...
Katy Wu has a BFA in Illustration and Entertainment Arts from Pasadena Art Center College of Design and has worked for Google, Laika, Pixar, CinderBiter, and Simon & Schuster. Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code was her first picture book. Katy lives in New York City and is available for interview. Follow her online at

Sneak Snippet from the Five Gems Series by E. Kaiser Writes with Giveaway!

Jeweler's Apprentice
Five Gems Book 1
by E. Kaiser Writes
YA Fantasy Adventure

On her first visit to the palace, sixteen-year-old Fia stumbles upon a court intrigue. To keep the secret safe, the Chancellor sends her off as apprentice to a famous, reclusive, mountain jeweler...

...And straight into adventure.
Discovering gems with deep secrets and new friends with the same, Fia learns a whole lot more than just making jewelry: when to trust a stranger, and when not to, why not to try stealing from gem thieves; what heroism is; what royalty ought to be; and that the mountains themselves can sometimes be the greatest danger of all.
Is the legend of the Sunlight Stone true?
Will peace ever come to the war-torn neighboring kingdom?
And what is the stable boy hiding...?


The Princess Illyria stood wrapped in her green cloak, a stern look upon her face.
This girl was in the tree beyond the vineyard.” the hooded one said quietly. “I saw her jump down after you left, and so I caught her. Perhaps you would know better who would send her as a spy.”
I'm not!” Fia said desperately. All her bravery was swept away by the presence of the king's daughter. “I lost.”

Got lost into an oak tree?”

Traitor's Knife
Five Gems Book 2

Secrets. Sabotage. Murder. With Olayin House temporarily turned into a weapons factory, Fia is confronted with the care of three refugee children, an ill-timed visitor, a perplexingly brash messenger that she isn't quite sure what to think of, all while trying to keep her friend’s secrets safe. But when dangerous accidents start to happen, the young apprentice begins to tread a fine line of suspicion. Are saboteurs out to nix the weapons works... and is the incognito crown prince in mortal peril? Winter in the mountain house isn’t as cozy as her apprenticeship was expected to be. 

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King's Ward
Five Gems Book 3

With her wealth of loyalist secrets, Fia’s position at Olayin House is compromised. Now a potential danger to two countries, she is made a ward of the king and sent away yet again; this time into the grassland kingdom of Erlandia, but her journey amongst the horse folk takes unexpected turns.
Trapped under siege, she faces two men from her past... one she fears might murder her, and the other may die of plague unless she wins the battle for his life.
And with the Sunlight Stone traded for troops, how long will Erlandia’s peace last?

E. Kaiser Writes was born into a family of readers, and got started on storytelling around the age of four when her older siblings prompted her into recounting an absolutely ridiculous account of a parallel childhood. It was good for the family's general entertainment, and she discovered the thrill of making people laugh.

At the age of seven her mother read the Hobbit aloud, and a fascination with beautiful fantasy was born. At nine she came to the decision that she wanted to be a writer, and set to reading rabidly to learn the art. At thirteen she attempted her first novel, and it was eaten in a computer's demise.
Afterward, during her teenage years she tried very hard at various times to stop writing all together.

Not succeeding, she at last gave in to her addiction, and wrote "for fun".

Her first novel, Jeweler's Apprentice, is a light-fantasy adventure for teens. The shy, bookish heroine is thrust out on the first step toward the adventure that awaits, and growing up. More books in this series are expected.

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