Friday, January 31, 2020

Review: Old Mummy Card Game by Abigail Samoun

by Abigail Samoun
Illustrated by Archana Sreenivasan
Chronicle Books
ages 6 to 8

It's a monster mash-up of the classic Old Maid card game! Goblins, ghosts, and ghouls are lurking, and so is one Old Mummy. Ward off the chilling creatures by playing this new twist on a favorite game where players compete for the most pairs of monsters while keeping the Old Mummy at bay. Packaged in a sarcophagus-shaped box and featuring a deck of werewolves, zombies, vampires, and more, this monstrous card game is frighteningly fun for all ages.


I can't remember the last time I'd played Old Maid, let alone introduced it to my kids. This version changed that and is now one we'll grab up more often.

Anyone who's played Old Maid knows it's a pretty simple game, which one can dive right into. This more monstery version is just as easy to play, since it uses the same rules, and for those who are new to the game, the instructions are found on a single card inside. These are written in a concise, fun and still, easy to understand way.

The cards are so creepy and fun. The monsters depicted are mostly familiar (witches, Frankenstein's monster, werewolf, etc), and recognizable. They're dark, slightly sinister and perfect for little monster fans. Actually, we enjoyed flipping through them just to get a glimpse at each monster before we played. While they don't change the game really, it's definitely more exciting to see who can keep away from an old mummy than an old maid.

We played with four people, although it would work for two. It's just more fun when no one is sure where that mummy is hiding.

We enjoyed playing this one quite a bit and will be picking it up for a quick game often.

Abigail Samoun is an author and literary agent living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Find out more directly at Chronicle Books here!

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Let Me Fly by Yadi

by Yadi
Austin MacAuley
Picture Book
32 pages 
ages 4 to 8

With the help of his father, 7-year-old Matthew acquires a parrot, which he names “Lou.” Before long, Matthew teaches Lou how to talk and they establish a great friendship. But when Lou asks to fly away, Matthew must learn how to let go.

An owner of a parrot himself, Yadi was both enthralled and inspired upon watching his then 4-year-old nephew interact with the bird. Given his nephew’s speech delay, Yadi couldn’t help but imagine what the conversation between the young child and bird may have been like if both could talk.

A warm-hearted story sure to put a smile on the face of every reader, Let Me Fly is a beautifully illustrated piece of art that will tickle the fancy of child and adult alike.

Currently available:

 Austin MacauleyAmazon, and Barnes & Noble

And here he is...

Yadi was born in Brooklyn, New York, and graduated from Brooklyn College. While he has traveled the world, he has always referred to Brooklyn as home. It is where he creates and fulfills his passion for storytelling. Yadi is the 5th of 6 children. The story, Let Me Fly was inspired by his oldest nephew, Matthew.

Review: Lincoln by Christina Bauer with Giveaway!

by Christina Bauer
Angelbound Origins #1.5
May 28th 2019
YA Fantasy, Paranormal

***Experience the events of Angelbound from Lincoln’s perspective!!!*** 
When it comes to fighting demons, Prince Lincoln is the greatest warrior in the history of his people, the thrax. Now Lincoln faces his hardest fight yet…and it’s not on a traditional battlefield.
Lincoln is falling in love. And the girl is part demon.
Between a fated dance at the Ryder mansion…a life-changing walk through a hedgerow maze…and a massive battle with none other than the King of Hell…Lincoln realizes that he wants to share his life with Myla Lewis, the part-demon girl who has captured his heart. However, an evil thrax noble—the powerful Earl of Acca—is prepared to do anything to stop Lincoln and Myla from having a future.
But Lincoln won’t give up on his Myla. Ever.
To fight Aldred, Lincoln works to create a different kind of marriage—an Alliance of the lesser thrax houses against Acca. Sadly, just as Lincoln starts to makes some progress, the nobles who’ve joined his Alliance begin to vanish. Is Aldred behind the disappearances, or is someone else vying for power? When Lincoln discovers the truth, it upends his entire world, threatening his future with Myla in ways no one could ever have imagined.
“I absolutely love Christina Bauer’s style, full of action, intense scenes, and characters that will test one’s imaginations to the max!”Tome Tender Book Blog
$3.99 for a limited time!


An hour later, I stand in an ornate ballroom at the Ryder mansion.
In a tux.
And my world has stopped spinning. Or perhaps it’s simply whirling too fast. At this point, it’s hard to know.
Myla Lewis is here.
Father steps up beside me. “How was the chat with Silvinio, my son?”
“Not too productive. He volunteered that he’s no longer gambling.” I leave out the tidbits about the Tithe and Aldred, since Father thinks those two can do no wrong.
“Is he gambling the demon fighting circuit again?” asks Father.
“Most likely.”
Father then launches into a recap on the latest winners and losers on the circuit. At least, I think that’s what he’s talking about. It’s hard to pay attention.
Myla is crossing the room.
And she’s heading in my direction.
At some point, Father stops talking. Myla pauses a few yards away. Her back is toward me, but even so, I’m a hunter. There’s no missing the slightest twitch in her ears. No one else stands near Myla. Only me and my father.
Myla must be listening to us.
My thoughts race. What did Walker say before? Myla might find me intriguing, and Walker didn’t want Myla to turn heartsick. And now, she seems to be paying attention. This is bad. True, I could be imagining her interest. But even if it’s one chance on a thousand that I could hurt her, I simply can’t risk it. Having Myla in my life will cause her nothing but pain, one way or another.
That leaves only one thing to do. Follow Walker’s instructions. His words echo through my mind.
If you ever encounter Miss Lewis, you should play the haughty thrax. Look down on her demonic side. She’ll hate it—and you—forever.
As Father walks off, I keep my gaze locked in Myla’s outline. She still seems alert, but isn’t fidgeting or clenching her fists. A wave of relief moves through me. Maybe I was imagining the connection between us. Every hunter makes mistakes.
Clang. Myla knocks over a can onto the floor.
Now I could leave, but my feet move toward Myla on their own. “Are you alright, Miss?”
She turns to face me and I could cheer for joy. Up close, she’s lovelier than I imagined. Life and light glitters in her brown eyes. My arms ache to envelop her. She smells of cinnamon and sunshine.
“I’m fine,” she says simply. “I dropped an empty can, that’s all.”
We pause. Lines of energy and interest flow between us, connecting our hearts. No, no, no. This isn’t supposed to happen. And it means I should definitely leave.
And I want to.
Yet I can’t.


Lincoln dives into a tale, which anyone who has been following this series, already knows. But don't expect this to be a rehash from another character's perspective because that's not what this is. It's so much better than that.

With the same easy read feel and plunge into action at every bend, the author again delivers a read which is hard to put down. Lincoln is a prince as well-raised and well-balanced as any prince should be. He knows right from wrong and will lead his people gloriously one day, but right now, he needs to stand by his people and parents as they fulfill the time they have been sent to spend in the world of demons and purgatory. As demon hunters, this isn't an easy feat. Worse, Lincoln is horribly attracted to the one female, he needs to stay away from...not only because of who he is, but being near her endangers her life.

I enjoy the easy-writing style of this author as she dives into Lincoln's head and lets the world open up from his perspective. He has tough choices to make, needs to weave around difficult situations, and save everyone he's sworn to and loves. It's fun to root for him, especially as things only get more dangerous and twisted as the pages turn. There's enough details to sink into the world and understand it without ever killing the flow. And there are other great characters to root for (and some to mistrust or simply despise) at his side.

There's romance. Of course. And this is well-done. The reader already knows where it's going, but that doesn't diminish the tension (which is saying a lot to the author). Lincoln's view point has cleared up several mysteries, brought tons more depth, and made the relationship between the two even more exciting. It will be a treat to see where all of this goes next.

And here she is...
Christina Bauer knows how to tell stories about kick-ass women. In her best selling Angelbound series, the heroine is a part-demon girl who loves to fight in Purgatory’s Arena and falls in love with a part-angel prince. This young adult best seller has driven more than 500,000 ebook downloads and 9,000 reviews on Goodreads and retailers. The first three books in the series are now available as audiobooks on Audible and iTunes.
Bauer has also told the story of the Women’s March on Washington by leading PR efforts for the Massachusetts Chapter. Her pre-event press release—the only one sent out on a major wire service—resulted in more than 19,000 global impressions and redistribution by over 350 different media entities including the Associated Press.
Christina graduated from Syracuse University’s Newhouse School with BA’s in English along with Television, Radio, and Film Production. She lives in Newton, MA with her husband, son, and semi-insane golden retriever, Ruby.


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Review: Old MacDonald Had A Truck by Steve Goetz

by Steve Goetz
Illustrated by Eda Kaban
Chronicle Books
Picture Book
44 pages
ages 4 to 6

"A new twist on a classic story and song, this book is just pure fun." — School Library Journal

Old MacDonald has some new friends on the farm: Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O. And on that farm he had a...TRUCK?! With a DIG DIG here and a SCOOP SCOOP there, this classic folk song just got revved up! Beloved machines—the excavator, dump truck, bulldozer, and more—will have vehicle enthusiasts of all ages reading and singing along.

• With colorful, fun illustrations, and subtle themes of gender equality, both parents and kids will enjoy this story over and over again
• Ideal for family and elementary school story time
• Steve Goetz was inspired to write his debut picture book, Old MacDonald Had a Truck, after his son began to sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" with alternative lyrics

Fans of Old MacDonald Had a Boat and Old MacDonald's Things That Go will love this entertaining read (and sing-aloud book) with a surprise ending.


This is one kids are going to enjoy. Although taking a twist on the well-known children's song is nothing new, this book does it with twists and turns, which surprise and create giggles and smiles. Plus, there's a little bit of a learn effect as well.

The text is extremely simple and invites for kids to 'read' or sing along. Then, every other page or so, the thing Old MacDonald has on his farm is introduced...and it's something which will make especially construction and truck fans' hearts beat faster. Old MacDonald might have a farm, but he's on a mission to build something much more glorious. It's hard not to cheer with him and the super sweet animals as they work and work to make a huge dream come true. Add the nice, large letters, E-I-E-I-O, which appear over and over again, and kids are on their way to learning a few vowels too.

The illustrations make this book shine as much as the construction fun. Each page is bright and packed with life. The animals alone draw smiles as they run around and do different tasks, which adds to the humor. Plus, it turns a bit into a guessing game as to what Old MacDonald is really up to. The end is definitely a surprise, one that puts Mrs. Old MacDonald in a wonderful light.

We thoroughly enjoyed diving into this one and believe it will be a hit, especially among groups of kids as a read-aloud.

And here he is...

Steve Goetz was inspired to write his debut picture book after his son began to sing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" with alternative lyrics. He lives with his family in San Francisco.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Sneak Peek: The Wolf of the Baskervilles by Majanka Verstraete with Giveaway

Wolf of Baskervilles
by Majanka Verstraete
Adventures of Marisol Holmes, #3
 Firefly Hill Press
January 21st 2020
YA Paranormal, Young Adult

Who is Marisol Holmes?
She’s a teenager.
Jaguar shifter.
And don’t forget, she’s also the descendant of the great Sherlock Holmes.
Our heroine had been in some pretty tight spots before, but now? She’s about to face her biggest challenge yet: a powerful shifter with a taste for blood. No one has faced down the deadly wolf of the Baskervilles and lived to tell the tale.
Even so, Marisol Holmes plans to do just that.


The next frame showed Roan. He too looked like he hadn’t slept in days, but to me, he was still… Handsome. Amazing. Strong. Everything I’d ever dreamt of. Roan, my Roan. 
A hand that wasn’t mine but looked like mine, complete with Serpent Sigil and all, lifted and caressed Roan’s face. The pain that rocketed through me was horrible, sharp like a knife. 
“Stop it,” I said to Melinda, even though I knew she wouldn’t end the torment. “I don’t want to see this.”
“For a moment there, I thought I’d lost you,” Roan said to my impostor. “I thought that…” He stopped mid-sentence, his eyes glazing over. “You shouldn’t have gone in there alone. It was too risky.” He grabbed Indra’s hand. “Promise me you won’t do it again. That from now on, we’re in this together.” 
“Together,” Indra said in a voice eerily similar to mine. “Always.” 

And here she is...

Author Majanka Verstraete has written more than twenty unique works of fiction. A native of Belgium, Majanka’s novels explore the true nature of monsters: the good, the bad, and just about every species in between. Her young adult books include the acclaimed Mirrorland (YA Dark Fantasy) and Angel of Death (YA Paranormal) series of novels. At MHB, Majanka is currently developing a new YA shifter series with a fresh take on fierce female detectives called THE ADVENTURES OF MARISOL HOLMES.
When she’s not writing, Majanka is probably playing World of Warcraft or catching up with the dozens of TV series she’s addicted to.
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Monday, January 27, 2020

Review: Baby Sloth and Baby Llama, both by Yu-Hsuan Huang

Finger Puppet Book
Illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books
Board Books
12 pages 
ages 0 to 3

Where does Baby Sloth like to nap? Follow along with this cute baby animal as it experiences its world, from playtime to bedtime. The simple, comforting story in this go-to baby gift series have made it a multimillion seller. Featuring a permanently attached plush finger puppet, this volume offers parents and children a fun, interactive way to play and read as they build a lifelong love of books together.

Finger Puppet Book
by Yu-Hsuan Huang
Chronicle Books
Board Book
12 pages
ages 0 to 3

What is Baby Llama's favorite food? Follow along with this cute baby animal as it experiences its world, from playtime to bedtime. The simple, comforting story in this go-to baby gift series have made it a multimillion seller. Featuring a permanently attached plush finger puppet, this volume offers parents and children a fun, interactive way to play and read as they build a lifelong love of books together.


My daughter flipped when she saw these two books, although she is older than the suggested age group, immediately laid claim to both. And they are cute.

Created for the youngest reader, these books add a fun embellishment to the usual story-telling fun. The books themselves are sturdy with thick pages to suit small hands. The finger puppet is so soft and cuddly and invites to touch and play. I was happy to see that the puppets' necks are quite long and poke through with enough room to easily move the head around in all directions on every page. The head is fastened nicely to the back page, ensuring hours of fun without fear of instant breakage. And the hole as well as the puppet are spacious for even thicker fingers. In other words, it's practically made/

The book itself is cute. Each page is bright and colorful, which fits to the huge smile on the puppets' faces. While the illustrations are relatively simple, there's still enough details to make it clear what's going on...and they create a lovely background for the puppets to 'play'. The purpose of these books is to also let young listeners learn just a little bit more about the animals presented. These aren't  tough facts but simply a light, general glimpse at things such as what the animals eats or where they sleep. Each 'fact' is presented in a very simple sentence, perfect for the intended age group. I found the combination sweet and loved how a tiny, itsy bit of knowledge is delivered in such a fun, playful way.

These two are definitely getting big thumbs up from us.

More about...

Yu-Hsuan Huang, also known as Smallx2, is an illustrator and artist from Taichung City, Taiwan, where she lives with her family and cats.

Happy Book Birthday, The Apatura Iris by Jon Messenger

Jon Messenger's fourth novel in his MAGIC & MACHINERY series is finally available in print! Today, we're excited to share the official paperback release of THE APATURA IRIS, the fourth MAGIC & MACHINERY NOVEL. Readers are devouring this series and begging for more.

by Jon Messenger!!!

Magic is an abomination—one that has grown tired of being hunted.

The Inquisitors have hunted magical creatures for a dozen years, striking fear into the monsters that dare to escape the Rift. In the swamps in Northern Ocker, however, a new evil arises—one that's not afraid of Inquisitors. One that's hunting Inquisitors.

One that's killing Inquisitors.

Still reeling from the pain of recent events, Simon is more than willing to walk into danger. But now he and Luthor must hunt this new evil into the very house of madness: The Sanitarium. And the madness seems to be catching…

Apatura Iris is the fourth book in the Magic and Machinery series by Jon Messenger.



If you've somehow missed hearing about the first three books in Messenger's series, now's the time to dive right into the first novel in the Magic & Machinery Series— Wolves of the Northern Rift! Not sure if this series is right for you? Fans are calling this series, "Sherlock Holmes meets Steampunk."

And here he is...

Jon Messenger (Born 1979 in London, England) serves as an United States Army Major in the Medical Service Corps.  Since graduating from the University of Southern California in 2002, writing Science Fiction has remained his passion, a passion that has continued through two deployments to Iraq and a humanitarian relief mission to Haiti.  Jon wrote the "Brink of Distinction" trilogy, of which "Burden of Sisyphus" is the first book, while serving a 16-month deployment in Baghdad, Iraq.

Jon Messenger is the author of The World Aflame Series, The Brink of Distinction Series and The Magic & Machinery Series.

Cover Reveal: Sticks and Stones by Dianne Beck

Sticks & Stones
Dianne Beck
Acorn Publishing
YA Contemporary

MARCH 18th, 2020!!!

When fifteen-year-old Emily Greene wakes up to police banging on her door, she is shocked to see her mother arrested on drug charges.
Uprooted and in disbelief, Emily moves to a new town to stay with her grandmother, known as Crazy Carol for her outspoken faith and quirky behaviors. As if the arrest isn’t enough, kids at her new school immediately begin to stereotype and judge her based on the news they’ve heard about her mom.
Emily is sure her mother’s fiancé is to blame for the crime. He has conveniently disappeared since the day of the arrest. She’s determined to find him, and prove he’s at fault. But something awful happens, shaking her world yet again.
After this string of tragedies, Emily starts to question God, but is gently and consistently reminded by her grandmother, through stories she tells of all the sticks, leaves, and stones she collects, that God is her good and faithful parent.
Emily must learn that the words others say about her don’t matter, that her mom’s mistakes don’t define her, and she is always deeply loved by her heavenly father. If only she can learn to forgive herself.

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And here she is... 

Dianne Beck has spent the majority of her career teaching students ranging from Kindergarten through adult. No matter what age, her biggest goal is to encourage her students to be their own unique selves, to have confidence in who they are, and to follow their passions.
Dianne’s debut young adult novel, Sticks and Stones, was inspired by her years of teaching, where she saw so many students struggle with varying issues, and also experienced how an understanding ear and relevant literature could make a significant impact on their lives. She hopes young people as well as adults can find faith and strength, like her main character Emily does, even when things seem to be falling apart.
Dianne is motivated daily by her faith in God, her husband, and her four adult children. When she’s not writing, she can be found reading, sipping coffee, browsing a bookstore, or pursuing a part-time faith and fitness ministry at www,


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Review: In Restless Dreams by Wren Handman

The Phantasmer Cycle, Book One
by Wren Handman
Parliament Press
YA Fantasy
293 pages

JANUARY 28th, 2020!!!

Sylvia is just a normal girl with huge, normal problems – her mother’s attempted suicide; how to adjust to life on the Upper East Side; trying to make friends in a rich prep school where she doesn’t belong; whether or not to trust the cute boy with the dangerous eyes. She thinks that’s more than she can handle, but she tests the limits of her endurance when she learns that she is the long awaited Phantasmer, a human who can change the fabric of Fairy simply by believing in a new story. Sylvia’s life is thrown off course as two warring Courts, the Seelie and Unseelie, both attempt to co-opt her gift to fight the other Court, which she has to deal with while trying not to get kicked out of school for fighting. And it doesn’t help matters that the fairies begging for her help are both attractive young men – with their own agendas.


Fans of Fairy, the Unseelie and Seelie Courts, and those who love a bit of unsure romance will enjoy this one.

Sylvia is a very usual high school student with a normal life in a small town out West. That is, until her mother tries to commit suicide. While her mother undergoes very necessary therapy, Sylvia and her younger brother move to their father in New York, who happens to be one of the richest and most well-known men in the city. The culture shock isn't an easy one to master as Sylvia is suddenly thrust into a private school with the elite's of the high class, especially when they decide to bully her. Tricked into taking drugs, Sylvia is meets two very strange men while she's high, ones no one but her can see...and even afterwards, she still sees them. Just as she's sure she's going crazy, she stumbles into Fairy and discovers that so much more awaits her. And most of those things are anything but nice and safe. They're down right deadly.

I could give two very separate reviews on this book if it were divided somewhere about a third of the way through. In the first third, we meet sixteen-year-old Sylvia as she's dumped by her boyfriend and immediately are drawn in as her life flips upside down. The writing is pretty well done (with only a few stumbles here and there), and it was fairly easy to fall into the scenes. I was a bit thrown by Sylvia's snark and found her a little unkind at times. The side characters also didn't have the depth I would have hoped for, but still, the entire thing was interesting enough to keep me reading. So, I'd give that section three stars.

It takes over one third of the book before the fantasy really gets going. During the first pages, the Stranger does pop in with his own section every now and then, but it's always very short and doesn't meld into the happenings with Sylvia...making it almost possible to forget magic is supposed to be involved at all. When Sylvia finally does see Fairy, her talents hit suddenly and without a real explanation (unless the accidental drug use was the cause?). The reasoning behind her being born with such powers is never neared upon, which I found a little disappointing.

Once Sylvia is hooked in with the Fairy, the adventure truly begins. Everything she faced with her private school fades away, making the entire drama between new friends and such meaningless...and made me wonder why much of it was necessary.

Anyway, the fairy side is simply a fun read. The author develops the two fae men well done as their two very different personalities add amazing tension and bring even more secrets into play. Sylvia has a lot to figure out and deal with, and none of it is crystal clear. This kept me guessing until the last pages and made every twist and turn fun.

The scenes and imagery are a treat. The world is packed with fantastical details and each set is vivid. The emotions run high in a mix of black and white as the two opposing worlds of Fairy collide. Even the background history, which the author has created, melds in wonderfully and makes for an exciting  and unique predicament. So much happens during this latter section of the book, and it's packed with danger, action, mystery and adventure. The romance adds even extra spice.

All in all, I enjoyed the read and will meld the rating together to form four stars.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review: Gone by Nightfall by Dee Garretson with Giveaway

Gone by Nightfall
by Dee Garretson
Swoon Reads
January 21st 2020
YA Historical

A young woman is torn between her home and her dreams during the Russian Revolution.
It’s 1916, and Charlotte Mason is determined to make a life for herself in czarist Russia. When her mother dies, Charlotte is forced to put her plans to go to medical school aside to care for her unruly siblings. Then a handsome new tutor arrives. Charlotte has high hopes that he’ll stay, freeing her up to follow her dreams of becoming a doctor. But there’s more to Dmitri that meets the eye.
Just when she thinks she can get her life back, Russia descends into revolution and chaos. Now, not only does Charlotte need to leave Russia, she needs to get her siblings out too–and fast.
Can Charlotte flee Russia, keep her siblings safe, and uncover Dmitri’s many secrets before she runs out of time?


This is one of the most richly written historical novels for young adults that I've run across, one that truly brings the time frame to life.

Charlotte Mason is a young girl living in Russia in 1916. Since her mother passed away, it's her dream to continue the dream of helping others, and she's determined to go to medical school. But with the world around her revolting, chaos is found around every corner. She's told to leave and return to her relatives in America, but with her siblings, her mother's hospital and a man, who isn't what he seems, she's determined to do what she thinks is right.

This one surprised me. While many young adult historical novels tend to feel a bit 'light', this one dives in with a very rich and vivid world. Charlotte does have a lot to learn and makes usual mistakes for girls that age. It's easy to connect with her and makes her believable, but never is the atmosphere of the time frame scratched. The tension and the danger growing coming from the world falling apart around her hits from the very first page and holds through the entire read. And while a few handful of moments, especially in the romance end, weren't as smooth as they might have been, these didn't hurt the story by any means. 

It's an exciting read which not only historical fiction fans are sure to enjoy.

And here she is...
Dee Garretson spent her childhood helping her father build his offbeat inventions and playing adventure games in the woods. After working as a landscape designer and teaching landscape horticulture classes for several years, Dee returned to writing. Her debut novel, Wildfire Run, has been praised for its suspense and its hero, Luke, who “with his companions, displays generous measures of courage and ingenuity in rising to the occasion” (ALA Booklist). She lives with her family in Cincinnati, Ohio. 


Thursday, January 23, 2020

Review: Twisting Minds by Tessonja Odette

by Tessonja Odette
Crystal Moon Press
YA Dystopian

For fans of The Hunger Games, Black Mirror, and Divergent comes a mind-bending love story you won't want to put down.
In a future where social status is determined by wealth, debt is punishable by law. Seventeen-year-old Claire Harper lives on the lowest rungs of society. Once an Elite, she’s now a probationary citizen who’s lost everything—her rights, her family, her privacy.
She has one goal. Work her way back to the top. Even if it kills her.
Then she meets Darren.
Darren turns her world upside down. He shows her there’s more to life than working herself to the bone. And she’s falling for him. Hard.
But what good is losing her heart if her sanity goes with it?
When tragedy strikes, her reality shifts. She can no longer tell what’s real and what’s not. Is Darren who she thinks he is? Is she who she thinks she is?
In a dangerous game she doesn’t know she’s playing, her only hope is to make it out alive.
One part futuristic thriller, one part dystopian romance, Twisting Minds is a psychological thrill ride that will leave you questioning the power of love, technology, and the human mind. 
"If Suzanne Collins and Blake Crouch had a teen baby while watching Black Mirror, it would be Twisitng Minds."


I hadn't picked up a dystopian for awhile, and whilthis one does start out with a familiar feel as many other dystopian novels, it definitely branches off in a refreshing direction quickly.

After WWIII, Seattle has turned into a society with very clear social levels, but these levels can change for any individual according to their efforts or failures. The main character's parents were able to make it all the way up to the lower level elites, which meant she had a life of privilege...for awhile. An accident at work takes away her father, and her mother dies of a disease. In order to pay for medical attention, the mother takes out a tithe, which leaves the main character owing the amount back to society after her mother's death. But paying back debt is not an easy thing.

The writing flows nicely in this story, making it simple and engaging to read. And still, the author effortlessly drops in grabbing, meaningful phrases along the way and leads the reader to thought without sliding into the atmosphere of being 'literary'. It's a laid back and still, gripping style.

There is a sense of familiarity during the first chapter, but it's exactly this which allows the reader to settle into the world without much trouble. As the main character works hard to help her situation, the tension builds little by little. It's as if something evil is there but not close enough to understand what it might be. The ending, though, hits hard and unexpected, throwing this into a thriller category.

Romance touches as a light of hope and adds the needed warmth and emotion. It's a bit of love-at-first-sight but not from the main character's side. She's dealing with quite a bit, and allows the romance to build bit by bit. And this fits horribly well into the rest of the plot as the entire thing molds together in the last pages.

If you like psychological thrillers with romance and a dystopian setting, this is definitely a great read to pick up. It's an intriguing twist, which I can't wait to see more of.

Review: Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee

by Lyla Lee
Aladdin Books
Children's Chapter Book
77 pages
ages 6 to 9

Alyson Heller at Aladdin has acquired at auction, Lyla Lee’s debut chapter book series, pitched as FRESH OFF THE BOAT meets JUNIE B. JONES, the first book entitled MINDY KIM AND THE YUMMY SEAWEED BUSINESS, in which a Korean American second grader moves to a mostly Caucasian Florida community. In an effort to adjust to her new school, she starts a snack trading ring with the Korean food from her lunch to make new friends. Publication is set for Spring 2020, Summer 2020, & Fall 2020; Penny Moore at Empire Literary negotiated the deal for World Rights.


Mindy Kim is a sweet girl, who deals with a situation almost any kid can relate to, while presenting a bit of cultural diversity along the way.

After the passing of her mother, Mindy and her father have moved from California to Florida, and that means they finally have a house with a yard. That makes Mindy one step closer to reaching one of her dreams: having a puppy to call her own. But that's going to have to wait thanks to other challenges. She's going to start a new school with the problem of finding new friends, and her father is still very sad about the loss of their mother. Mindy might have a way to solve both problems...maybe.

This is such a lovely story, and so easy to sink into. Mindy is a girl, who's hard not to like from the very first moment. She's kind, a little shy, wants to help where she can, but still faces the same problems of an average seven-year-old and doesn't always know how to deal with them. When she steps into the school for the first time, it's easy to understand her insecurity and feel for her as she sits at the lunch table by herself. Her attempts to make things work bring a smile to the face, and the stumbling blocks as well as her mistakes, make her into the kind of person most kids would want as a best friend.

The story rolls along in such a smooth way that it's hard to put down. And not only is the story one kids can sink into, but there's an important message as Mindy works through whatever she faces. The author also slides in aspects of Mindy's heritage, letting the reader learn a little bit more about an Asian culture along the way.

Summed up, this is a wonderful read I can see many kids really enjoying and can't wait to see where the rest of Mindy Kim's adventures will take her...and catch up on the ones, which have already are out there. This one gets a two thumbs up from me!

And here they are...

The Author...
Lyla Lee is a writer of many things. After working various jobs in Hollywood and studying psychology and cinematic arts at USC, she now lives in Dallas, Texas. When she is not writing, she is teaching watching Korean dramas and other TV shows, and eating all kinds of good food. Visit her online at and on Twitter and Instagram at @literarylyla

The Illustrator...
Dung Ho was born and raised in Hue, Vietnam, where she studied graphic design at the Hue University College of Arts. After graduating, she worked in the design and advertising industries before discovering a great passion for illustration and picture books and becoming a freelance illustrator. Currently, she lives and works in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Ho draws inspiration from mature and the interaction between people and nature and especially loves to draw children. When not drawing, she enjoys cooking and watching movies. Visit her online at and on Instagram @dunghanhho.

Also coming out on January 14th...

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review: Reynard's Dream by Geoffrey Simpson

The Three Hares, Book 2
by Geoffrey Simpson
Upper Middle Grade Adventure/Mystery
263 pages

Ethan, Jacob, and Liz are back in this explosive follow-up to The Three Hares: Bloodline, which was described as “A smart, twisty adventure mystery that will keep young readers simply spellbound until the remarkably unpredictable conclusion” by Midwest Book Review.

Ezra Reynard returns with rage, reinforcements, and a dream. As the school year wraps up, an unexpected announcement echoes through the halls. Students are dismissed early, and a new school system is to be introduced after the summer. But first, they must take a test… one which will define their entire futures.

Winslow Falls is teetering on the brink of disaster, and their only hope is lurking within a three-hundred-year-old cypher.


Packed full of adventure, mystery and never ending excitement, this is book is tons of fun to read.

Ethan, Jacob and Liz just got through their first adventure in book one and are met with an even more dangerous one just as the school year closes. If they thought the one in their classrooms and halls was tough, there's even something worse awaiting in Winslow Falls. If they want to stop the evil from lurking in, they'll need to decipher an ancient text and, even then, stay on their toes if they even want to have a whispers chance of making it through.

Often times, the second book in a series doesn't quite meet the expectations that the first one left off. That's not true of this series. The author has managed to notch things up a bit and pack in even more adventure and tension as the three heroes go up against a very sinister adversary.  The plot thickens with every page, and the never-ending twists and turns make it hard to see what's coming next. Add in a few historical tidbits, and this is an exciting read...especially for those who enjoyed book one.

And here he is...

Geoffrey Simpson was born and raised in Avon Lake, just outside Cleveland, Ohio. From an early age, he connected with nature through camping, building forts, fishing, and treasure hunts.

After graduating from Kent State University, building a career in program management, and growing a family of two boys, Jonathan and Henry, with his beloved wife Lili, he took a breath. A breath to recapture the spirit of adventure so that it may never be lost. An adventure which can be passed down for generations, including to his own sons. Now living in Minden, Germany, with his family, he became a writer.
Geoffrey is the author of the young adult adventure-mystery series, The Three Hares. He specializes in nature-themed, puzzle-solving stories driven by a pulsating grip of good versus evil. The Three Hares is his debut series.