Saturday, May 30, 2020

Review: Chaos Theory by Susan Harris

The Sanguine Crown, Book One
by Susan Harris
Clean Teen Publishing
YA Paranormal

Everything you thought you knew about vampires is wrong… 
Chaos Theory brings vampires back in popular form. This new series pays homage to the classics, while breathing fresh and revitalized life back into the genre. 
“Finally, a new series for fans of Vampire Academy to sink their teeth into.”
-Melanie’s Muses

The vampire race is on the brink of extinction, and their fate now rests on the shoulders of an unlikely pair. Ryan Callan might be a badass seventeen-year-old with a mouth as sharp as her sai, but surviving the loss of her parents has come at the cost of isolating herself from everyone—even her best friend, Crowned Prince Nickolai.
When Nickolai is sent to integrate with the humans, Ryan is tasked with watching over him and ensuring his safety. But when a rogue vampire threatens to reveal the existence of vampires to the world, Ryan and Nickolai must put aside their differences to keep their world a secret. 
Now, thousands of human lives are at stake… and so is the entirety of vampire kind.
 Perfect for fans of Vampire Academy by Richelle Meade and Slayer by Kiersten White, Susan Harris’s young adult vampire romance is here to prove that vampires are back, and they’re more enticing than ever. 
 Future installments in The Sanguine Crown series by Susan Harris include: 
Chaos Theory (Book One—May 20, 2020) Butterfly Effect (Book Two—Fall 2020) Additional novels in the series to be announced soon. 



All vampire legends are turned on their heads as this heroine takes her broken life and heart, and learns to wield them as deadly weapons.

Ryan is a seventeen-year-old vampire, who is as determined and deadly as they come. Her mother and father died as personal guards of the King and Queen, and she will continue to fulfill their responsibilities and join the Royal Guard...even if she's only the second female vampire ever to accomplish this feat (her mother being the first). But as tough as her exterior is, she's shattered beyond repair inside. When the Crown Prince is sent on a mission among the humans in hopes of finding a way to save the slowly dying vampire race, Ryan is forced to watch over him. But what she saw as simple guard duty suddenly turns into not only a battle for life and death, but hidden secrets unfold, which might be enough to end them all.

The minute I saw the cover, I wanted to get my hands on this book, and I'm glad I did. It's been awhile since I've hit a vampire read, and this one wasn't only refreshing but held me in the pages from beginning to end.

Ryan has a very troubled past and carries the baggage around to the point where her personality is so harsh, she borders are being annoying . But there's a spark of justice and longing in her, which make her hard not to root for...and eventually like quite a bit. She is a tough, kick-butt heroine, who can more than hold her own in any fight. While this isn't usually my favorite character type, the fact that she's a vampire with super strength made it, at least, easier to swallow. But then, it is fun to have her fly through those action scenes, and there are plenty of those.

While Ryan's big problem lies in trying to accept her past and find away to live again, the plot rushes along on its own, quick-paced path. There are vampire attacks, murder, mystery and tons of secrets waiting in the shadows—all those things a vampire novel should have. But this one also packs a bit of royal drama, beginning romance, and a little college drama, making it a nice fit for the young adult audience, who likes a building, teenage romance to flow along with the harder action. (Also, trigger warning: there is also the beginnings of a possible rape scene, but only the start, and there aren't any graphic moments.)

While the entire book builds and hints at an exciting and deep evil intrigue in the future series, the ending seals it with a bang. This part came very unexpected, and if I had thought that the drama aspects might be getting a little thick, the last scenes made it clear that there is much more excitement to come. And not a subtle kind.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Review: You Matter by Christian Robinson!

by Christian Robinson
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 3 to 8

JUNE 2nd!!!

They All Saw a Cat meets The Important Book in this sensitive and impactful picture book about seeing the world from different points of view by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honoree Christian Robinson.

In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.



Word of encouragement hit at just the right time in this celebration of self-worth.

The title already says it all—you matter. Hitting examples out of life, which illustrate how small or slow or first or old things can be in everyday life, the message then rings clear that none of that is important because you matter. The scenes are mostly taken from nature and outdoor activities and range from dinosaurs to space travel to a quite day in the park.

There's no way to ignore the message when reading through these pages, and it's one that young listeners can never hear enough. Of course, just a message would be boring, and the author makes sure this book is anything but. He builds in a variety of scenes, making sure that almost every listener will see something that sparks their interest or that they can relate to. While some pages show science, others hit more day to day events. It's a lovely mixture, especially since there's also a bit of humor thrown in now and then.

The phrases on each page are kept very short and come directly to the point. The illustrations then expand on these words, allowing the visual scenes to carry just as much of the book as the text. The vocabulary is simple, making it a nice read for even the younger end of the read-aloud audience. And some depictions are sure to grab a few passing comments from young listeners, too.

This is a lovely read-aloud which spreads an uplifting message, while not forgetting that young listeners enjoy the illustrations just as much if not more than the text. In other words, it gets a big thumbs up.

And here he is...

Christian Robinson was born in Holly wood, California, in 1986. Drawing became a way to make space for himself and to create the kind of world he wanted to see. He studied animation at the California Institute of the Arts and would later work with the Sesame Street Workshop and Pixar Animation studios before becoming an illustrator of books for children. His books include Gaston and Antoinette, written by Kelly DiPucchio, and the 31 New York Times bestseller, Last Stop on Market Street, written by Matt de la Peria, which was awarded the Caldecott Honor, the Coretta Scott King illustrator Honor and the Newbery Medal. Visit him online at

Title Reveal: Things that Should Stay Buried by Casey L Bond

Things That Should 
Stay Buried
by Casey L. Bond
YA Epic Fantasy/Mythology
Editor: Stacy Sanford/ The Girl with the Red Pen
Cover & Trailer Designer: Melissa Stevens/ The Illustrated Author Design Services
Hosted by: Lady Amber’s PR

AUGUST 28th!!!

 Some destinies are written in the stars. Others must be bought with blood…
The Zodia are real. Clawing their way from a long-forgotten tomb, they emerge, ravenous to claim everyone born under their star signs. Plotting to resurrect kingdoms no human knew existed, they are driven by a hunger for vengeance against the one who buried them: Aries.
Larken is a natural born sprinter, but even she can’t outrun the darkness closing in. A shelter-in-place order has been issued, causing widespread panic. Some brush the alarm off as a drill, until people begin to disappear... vanishing without a trace. Left with only one option, Larken’s brother does what he must to save her life... and calls forth Aries.
Considered a traitor by his own kind, only Aries has the power to stand against the Zodia. But he can’t do it alone. Mystically bonded to Larken, the pair must band together for the fight to come if either hope to make it out alive. Neither anticipated the passion that would ignite between them. Yet, in a world suddenly thrust into chaos, it may be the key to their survival.
The Zodia are out for blood with their attentions inexplicably focused on Larken. When long buried truths finally come to light, will their love be their salvation or their curse?
“A mesmerizing and haunting twist on a familiar tale you don’t want to miss. “ - Cameo Renae, USA Today bestselling author of the Hidden Wings Series
“Casey L. Bond reaches for the stars to bring us Things That Should Stay Buried. The Zodia are beautiful, dangerous and to die for.”- New York Times Bestselling Author Chanda Hahn
Casey Bond lives in West Virginia with her husband and their two beautiful daughters. She likes goats and yoga, but hasn't tried goat yoga because the family goat is so big he might break her back. Seriously, he's the size of a pony. Her favorite books are the ones that contain magical worlds and flawed characters she would want to hang out with. Most days of the week, she writes young adult fantasy books, letting her imaginary friends spill onto the blank page.
Casey is the award-winning author of When Wishes Bleed, the Frenzy series, and fairy tale retellings such as Riches to Rags, Savage Beauty, Unlocked and Brutal Curse. Learn more about her work at

Author Links

Only inches separated us. He leaned in and let the tip of his horn rake into my hair. I shouldn’t have liked it. I should’ve turned away from him. But his hand was warm and rough on my side, and for whatever reason – whether it was the pledge or not – Aries wanted to touch me. And I needed to feel something other than fear.
I liked the feel of his hand on my hip as it slid down and pulled me closer. Closer. Closer.
Until my chest bumped against his and he inhaled loudly. A strangled sound escaped his parted lips.
I reached up and brushed my fingertips over his horn and watched him shudder. His eyes, when they weren’t focused on my lips, tracked my every movement.
He closed them as I let my fingertips graze his horn again, drifting over every obsidian bump and ridge. His hand tightened against my side, the tips of his claws digging in ever so slightly. His free hand cupped my jaw as a rumble tore from his chest.
“You tempt me,” he said. There was tension, accusation, and something more profound in his voice.
The dark slashes that were his eyebrows furrowed as I lowered my hand, taking it away from his horn and brushing it down his chest, over his black tunic. His breath hitched as I slid it back up to toy with the hair at the nape of his neck. I didn’t know what came over me.
Maybe it was the fact that he was so close, or the gravity of the situation in which we’d found ourselves. Or the brazen but reverent way he held his hand against my skin, against the mark. Maybe it was the look in his eyes that told me he wanted me to touch him back.
Whatever it was, something had shifted between me and Aries… something dangerous. Because if I was going to survive him, I couldn’t allow myself to fall for him.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Mommy and Daddy's Day with a cover reveal: Eagles in Flight by Ramcy Diek

 Every so often on Bookworm for Kids, I have a Mommy and Daddy's Day post because let's face it, parents read, too. Thanks to the COVID-19 restrictions, I've upped the frequency of these just a tad bit to make life more exciting for kids and their parents...happy parents, happy kids (and visa versa!) Here's simply a glimpse at one coming out in August to all those who love to plan their reads.

Eagles in Flight
by Ramcy Diek
Acorn Publishing
Contemporary, Romance

AUGUST 25th!!!

Emma’s life changes the day Ruben Templeton walks in and asks her out on a date. Over dinner, she’s a little disappointed when his best friend, Jesse Kimball, joins them. Jesse is a senator’s son who just announced his candidacy for mayor.
Twenty-seven-year-old Emma is surprised, but excited when it’s Jesse who calls her the next day instead of Ruben.
Jesse introduces Emma to a life with mansions, expensive cars, cocktail dresses, and status. It doesn’t take long for him to sweep her off her feet. He’s handsome and charming, making her feel like the center of his universe.
When Emma receives devastating news, Jesse asks her to marry him. From the moment she agrees, their relationship starts to deteriorate. Desperate to understand why her new husband is so cold and distant, she reaches out to him, only to be met by anger.
Hurt and confused, Emma turns to Ruben for advice.
Ruben suggests they give each other space for a few weeks. Weeks she can use to help him locate his younger brother Axel, who has gone missing. Emma agrees, and soon finds herself on a road trip across the country.
Will Emma and Jesse’s temporary separation clear the distance between them, or will she find love in the arms of another man?

And here she is...
A long time ago, I fell in love with the United States while traveling around in an Oldsmobile station-wagon with my husband. We are both born and raised in the Netherlands.
Together, we eventually found our way to the Pacific Northwest, built up a business, and raised our two boys into amazing young adults with their own careers. During this time, I also made a slow transition from reader to writer of many different stories.
My multiple award winning debut novel "Storm at Keizer Manor" sets the bar high for my second novel, Eagles in Flight.
All my books are stand alone novels in different genres. You might be in for a surprise, or a disappointment.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Review: Little Creeping Things by Chelsea Ichaso

by Chelsea Ichaso
Sourcebooks Fire
YA Thriller / Horror
336 pages

JUNE 2nd!!!

When she was a child, Cassidy Pratt accidentally started a fire that killed her neighbor. At least, that’s what she’s been told. She can’t remember anything from that day, and her town’s bullies, particularly the cruel and beautiful Melody Davenport, have never let her live it down.

But then Melody goes missing, and Cassidy thinks she may have information. She knows she should go to the cops, but she recently joked about how much she’d like to get rid of Melody. She even planned out the perfect way to do it. And then she gets a chilling text from an unknown number: I’m so glad we’re in this together.

Now it’s up to Cassidy to figure out what really happened before the truth behind Melody’s disappearance sets the whole town ablaze.



Holding twists, which shoot out of the most overlooked shadows, this is a psycho-thriller which hooks right away and ends with an eerie treat.

Despite being an ace at volleyball if it wasn't for her soul mate, Cassidy would have been broken by the never-ending subtle bullying awaiting her every day at school. Although she accidentally started a fire, which killed her best friend, when she was a very young girl, no one has ever forgotten it. The incident still haunts her, especially since she can't clearly remember what happened. When another bullying scene has her leaving school early, her soul mate tries to comfort her in a secret spot in the woods they built as children. But while there, Cassidy hears the voice of one of her classmates...the last time anyone ever hears the girl again. Soon, Cassidy finds herself at the center of a murder, and the killer is playing a game with her.

Be ready for a well-woven plot with tons of surprises because this book packs them tight and full. The entire ride starts with a bang and lets tension and mystery sail the whole way through. Every time I thought it seemed like the identity of the killer was being revealed or a hint at what was really going on about to be dropped, the next surprise appeared, throwing everything into a doubtful spin all over again. This author knows how to lay out a thriller and keep the reader on their toes until the very last page.

Although over three-hundred-pages, I read this one within a couple hours. It flows that fast and furious. The dialogue sits, and the scenes slide through to keep the pace going. The beginning grabs and immediately throws the tension into high-gear. The ending definitely packs the most unexpected flip. It could have easily hit five stars from me, but there were some things missing due to this high speed of twists and turns.

While the first scenes grab, there were holes left to Cassidy's background. She constantly worries about what everyone thinks of her and sees herself as the Fire Girl, and while there are hints at what she did in the past, there isn't quite enough to have made me quite understand what was going on. But then, her character is always kept an arm's distance away, making it hard to really be concerned about her or feel for her. Even with her soul mate, her Giddy, she never comes across as being kind to him, but he constantly is bending to meet her. The other characters are never built out much, either, and the emotional bonds or reasons to really care are never established.

The complexity of the hidden mystery was exciting and while holding so many wonderful surprises, there were moments where logic fell a little short. For example, in the opening scene, Cassidy runs out of volleyball practice...right during the match...and leaves the high school building without a single coach or teacher noticing or even mentioned. I was also surprised to learn that she set a fire when she was a young girl and was still being bullied about it in the last years of high school as if it just happened. Even her own constant phobia about it, while making some sense, was over the top and made me wonder why she wasn't in psychological care. But on the other hand, it definitely added to the psycho end of the tale and made the creepiness in her head really set in.

In any case, this is definitely an exciting read, which had me wanting to know what the truth was until the end. So, it gets a thumbs up from me.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

The Crowns of Croswald, Book #1
by D.E. Night
Stories Untold
Upper Middle Grade Fantasy
314 pages
ages 10 to 16
(This age group reflects my own thoughts as in some places it's advertised as a YA novel and others as a MG)

JULY 27th!!!

In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret...

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic—and her life—is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever.



Packed with fantasy, adventure and imagination, this is a tale which will make young fantasy fans' hearts beat faster.

Ivy is a kitchen maid at the castle, lives in a cupboard, and loves to sneak outside to sketch. When an accident with the dragons under the stove occurs, she's forced to run until a huge creature with a rider stops her and tells her that he's taking her to a school for those with powers. She doesn't believe she has any but is convinced to sign up. At the school, she not only learns more about magic, meets interesting students including royals, but also learns about the Dark Queen. But things aren't all wonderful. The Dark Queen is more than a threat to Ivy and her powers, she's a threat to her life.

After reading the blurb on this one and seeing the lovely cover, I was excited to get my hands on an ARC. The tale and world are quite imaginative and will have young readers hooked by all of the wonderful details and creatures—it's the stuff dreams are made of. Ivy is also a lovely character, who is easy to like and root for as she learns about her own past, meets amazing characters and faces obstacles, which will keep the reader at the edge of their seat. It's a fun start to what promises to be an exciting series.

I especially loved the details and way the author weaves in the world building with little glimpses and not word-avalanches. This along with the whimsical touches create a world perfect for middle grade readers. Even Ivy fits the middle grade roll nicely with her innocence, behavior and thought processes. And this is also where a little problem comes in. According to the story, Ivy is sixteen, but never during the read did I have this impression. She comes across as a very solid 11 to 12 year-old more than most of the time. Normally, this would throw the book into the young adult category and their are brief moments which would suggest this book should be there, but as said, the writing style, world building and most happenings are too young for many teens.

All in all, this is a very fun and imaginative read. There are more than a few obvious parallels to the Harry Potter series, but that doesn't hurt the general flow of this read. It's an enjoyable tale and great for fantasy fans.

Trailer: Blood Numbers by C.F. Kreitzer with Giveaway

Blood Numbers 
by C.F. Kreitzer 
YA Dystopian 

There are only two kinds of people left on the earth: Donors and Recipients.

Sixteen-year-old Aston Vazeto hates the idea of selling her blood for money and is determined to be the first Donor in New World history to never donate.

But after a suspicious accident at her father's power plant leaves her family diving deeper into poverty, Aston has no other choice except to enter the annual blood auctions, where Recipients bid on the richest blood. With the highest test results ever seen, Aston’s blood becomes the most sought-after in history, and will likely bring a large price at auctions.

When her friends are caught tampering with their donations, they are arrested and tortured. Knowing she puts her family's safety and income at risk Aston takes advantage of an opportunity to escape donation facility drugs meant to keep Donors complacent. Free to feel and free to love she is caught between Gannet, a kind facility technician, and Marcus, a sarcastic rebel like herself. Dancing at Blood Auction Balls and kissing a donor in coat closets under the stairs has Aston confused between joining the uprising she hears rumors about or merely following the life her blood was meant to lead. 

And here she is...

I grew up with a pretty normal childhood, running barefoot in the Appalachian mountains, playing with turtles and innocently killing them by leaving them on their backs so I could play house with them again the next day. I don't think I always dreamed of being an author. It was just something I did. I made up stories about my dead turtles. I named my fingers and let them battle out family feuds. I wrote about myself in my journal when what I wished would happen was better than what actually did (sorry, Mom for the scare. I still promise I never really snuck over to a party and kissed my brothers friend). What a wonderful surprise when something "I just did" suddenly became something others enjoyed. I'm so forever grateful to my publisher for giving me a chance to share my not-so-normal stories with the whole world. 

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

Monday, May 25, 2020

Review: Beyond Awkward Side Hugs by Bronwyn Lea

by Bronwyn Lea
Foreword by Christine Caine
Thomas Nelson
Non-Fiction / Religious / Self-Help
224 pages

It Doesn’t Have to Be This Weird
When it comes to relationships between men and women, we have more questions than answers:
  • How do we keep relationships with the opposite sex healthy—and still hug each other after small group?
  • Is it possible for married men and women to be friends with people of the opposite sex?
  • What does it mean to be a woman if you’re not a wife, or a man if you’re not a husband?
Jesus’ pattern for church living was one of family—of brothers and sisters living in intimate, life-giving community with each other. With story, sensitivity, and hope, Beyond Awkward Side Hugs invites us to leave behind eroticized, fear-based patterns and move toward gendered, generous relationships between men and women of character as we love one another as Jesus did.
Beyond Awkward Side Hugs is a deep well of biblical wisdom, and Lea has written with nuance and clarity, humor and grace.” –Jen Pollock Michel, author of Surprised by Paradox and Keeping Place
“The church desperately needs a bigger vision for how men and women can flourish together in ministry and friendship, and Bronwyn Lea paints a vivid picture for how we’ll get there.” –Steve Wiens, author of Shining Like the SunBeginnings, and Whole 

Amazon /  Books-A-Million / Barnes & Noble  Thomas Nelson


Note: This book addresses the issue of men and women relationships, and how they can work in a Christian setting. It hits not only upon situations relating to married adults but also addresses the entire issues of dating and relationships outside of this entire 'sexual' sphere. It is appropriate for older teens.

While traditional Christians are brought up with the idea that certain activities are only allowed after marriage, the author of this book takes a look beyond that narrow definition of relationships between male and females and recognizes that marriage is not the only, tight box of life. Men and women engage in other ways as well.

She starts by describing the various forms of relationships and love before discussing the various situations in which men and women interact...many of these having nothing to do with the more sensual relationships, which first pop into the head when a man, women relationship is mentioned. She continues to slide through dating, marriage, being single, friendship, neighbor relationships, work relationships, and so on, using scripture as well as true experiences to make her point.

I'm not a huge fan of relationship literature and was a bit skeptical when I received this one, but the author does a lovely job of discussing an often overseen theme. The book does take the stance that intimacy before marriage is not appropriate, but that's the only 'rule' it sticks to and isn't the main theme, anyway. The intentions of this book are to open up the notion that there is more to men and women than physical intimacy. This isn't a book about wrong or right or even trying to preach about how life should be lived. Rather, it takes apart the narrow views of gender relationships in general. The use of Bible verses grounds the religious aspects, but most of the thoughts are explained through usual life situations.

The themes and points are delivered in a laid back manner, but this still isn't a read to breeze through. Each point is thoroughly discussed and explained using several directions. In other words, readers will need to put on their thinking caps and following the arguments. But these aren't difficult to understand. The entire thing comes across logically and without pressure, making it a well-done read.

And here she is...

Bronwyn Lea is a writer, bible teacher, lawyer and ice-cream addict with twenty years of pastoral ministry experience. She heads up Propel Sophia, the Christian living wisdom resource for Propel Women, and is on the pastoral staff of her local church. Bronwyn is mom to three school-aged kids, who keep her somewhere between hilarious laughter and desperate prayer on any given day. She and her fellow South African husband live in Northern California, where they count the men and women in their church as not just friends, but family.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Review: Nevertell by Katharine Orton

by Katharine Orton
Walker Books US
Middle Grade Fantasy
336 pages
ages 8 to 12

After escaping a Soviet prison camp, Lina is pursued by a powerful witch and her shadow wolves in a riveting debut that imbues frozen wilderness with fairy-tale magic.
All that twelve-year-old Lina knows of the world is the Stalinist labor camp where she was born, a place of hunger, cruelty, and deprivation. After a daring escape into the frigid Siberian wilds with her best friend, Bogdan, Lina vows to reach Moscow and find her long-lost grandmother, whom she hopes will help her return to the camp to rescue her mother. But out in the dark forests and haunted tundras, Lina and Bogdan catch the eye of a vengeful witch, a refugee of oppressive new laws about magic, who commands an army of shadow wolves. She seems drawn to some mysterious power within Lina herself. Pursued by the witch and in fear of recapture, Lina will need every ounce of courage she has — and a whisper of her own magic — if she and Bogdan are to survive the journey and bring hope to a dark place. An enthralling debut that weaves Russian fairy tales through fast-paced adventure.


With dark tones, hope, a little history and even more magic, this is a read which surprises in many ways.

Lina and her friend, Bogdan, are held captive in a Siberia labor camp. When they have the chance to escape, things run amok. To save themselves, they venture off on their own and happen across a witch, who turns evil men into wolves to form her own shadow army. The witch harbors tons of hate, and when she senses the magic in Lina, she wants to use her for her own evil purposes. Lina not only has to escape the witch but avoid being recaptured. And on top of all of this, she hopes to reunite with her mom.

While first chapters in books often drag, the ones in this story not only grab but are probably my favorite part of the tale. The author allows Lina's life in the labor camp to hit full force with all of its darkness and problems. This part is raw and harsh, but isn't more than most middle grade readers can handle.

The details draw in and give a vivid image to this more historical setting before Lina escapes and the fantasy part settles in. Here, it reminds a bit of Narnia. The evil witch is a little hard to grasp at times, but creates a lovely villain. The added mystery of Lina's own magic and the wonderful creatures she meets, make this a novel which invites to dreams and dives into the imagination. The match between the realistic side and the fantasy could have been a bit better woven, but it was still fun to read and get lost in Lina's world.

As to Lina, she is a character to life and cheer for until the last page. She carries a nice balance of spunk and determination, but at the same time, harbors uncertainty, mildness and kindness. Her actions are understandable and she definitely reels in the sympathy.

Young fans of fantasy worlds with forests, creatures and witches are sure to enjoy this delightful tale.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Review: Prairie Days by Patricia MacLachlan

by Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Micha Archer
Margaret K McElderry Books
Picture Books
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

MAY 26th!!!

A delicate, stunning account of life on the prairie from Newbery medalist Patricia MacLachlan.

Cool summer mornings begin with the rose orange sun and the smell of earth, and fade into hot summer nights with a yellow moon, covered in a quilt of stars. There are wagon rides, farm dogs, trips into town, and games of kick the can. These are prairie days.

Patricia MacLachlan applies her lyrical, sparse voice and vibrant, tender art from Micha Archer to transport readers to the prairie of her youth in this stunning celebration of the beauty in the world.

If th


The comforting past of growing up on a farm delivers a sense of warmth, comfort and relaxation.

This book is told from a narrator's perspective, one who grew up on a farm and reflects on how life was as a child during that time. While starting at the farmhouse and flower-filled setting, the tale glides through what a day might have looked like for a child in the summer months (away from school) and offers a glimpse at those experiences in an inviting way.

The writing is almost poetic as the book follows the summer life of a farm child. The atmosphere is calm and displays the simple life, which is mostly brought outdoors until the end of the day. It is a lovely way to introduce listeners to growing up on a farm and give a peek at what life was like without falling into a heavier history lesson. This book will especially have an impact if read by an adult who had these are similar experiences themselves, since it will create a special bond and also allows the chance to open discussions on how things were.

The illustrations are my favorite part of this book. The mood comes across wonderfully, while allowing important details not to be forgotten. It is artistic and yet, portrays reality nicely, so listeners have the chance to visualize the life being portrayed. I was a bit disappointed that some terms mentioned in the text weren't identified with some sort of tags in the illustrations, since several items will not be familiar to listeners or necessarily, the readers (flower types, birds, etc).

For anyone wanting to expose the younger generation to the experiences of growing up on a farm in years past, this is a lovely book to grab up. It is nicely written, a joy to flip through, and simply a comforting read.

And here they are...

The Author...
Patricia MacLachlan is the author of many well-loved novels and picture books, including Sarah, Plain and Tall, winner of the Newbery Medal; its sequels, Skylark and Caleb’s StoryEdward’s EyesThe True GiftWaiting for the MagicWhite Fur Flying; and Fly Away. She lives in western Massachusetts.

The Illustrator...
Micha Archer illustrated The Wise FoolLola’s Fandango, and Prairie Days, and wrote and illustrated Daniel Finds a Poem. Working in collage and oil, her use of color and pattern is influenced by the folk art, crafts, and architecture of the countries she has visited and lived in. She realized the importance of the book as a teaching tool after teaching kindergarten and raising two children. Micha divides her time between Costa Rica and western Massachusetts, where she lives in the house she and her husband built, surrounded by gardens and forest to roam in.

Sneak Peek: Elephant by Natalie Rodriguez with Giveaway!

by Natalie Rodriguez
YA Contemporary

MAY 29th!!!!
Summer of 2006. Four childhood best friends. A family secret.
After a strange encounter leaves him hospitalized, a timid teenage boy named Matt “Matty” Smith comes home to a continuous series of events met with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Under the guardianship of his grandma, Lucia, Matt lives with unspoken questions about his grandfather and parents. The elephant in the room. As Matt develops over the summer, the secrets only grow more profound and complex. Will the answers ever come? While searching for answers, Matt and his three childhood best friends encounter the meanings of love, forgiveness, and fate.


Derek stuffed another soy sauce-loaded Italian meatball into his mouth.
“Shut up, midget!” Jamie retorted and set another pepperoni sausage olive pizza slice onto her plate.
“That’s so rude.” Lisa shoved a spoonful of chicken manicotti into her mouth. “You’re like calling her fat.”
She’s the one who’s always saying, ‘I’m so fat! I’m so fat! Guys do I look fat or phat?!”
“Oh,” Lucia chuckled, “neither one of you needs to lose weight. In all honesty, you can all gain a few pounds.”
She peered at Jamie, who smiled. “Thanks.” It was in the eyes.
“Well.” Matt chewed off his last bite of a sweet and spicy boneless chicken wing from the sticky orange sauce on his< fingers. “Who’s next?”
“Mine.” Jamie handed over a sealed envelope. On the front, “MATTY” was handwritten in bold navy-blue ink.
“Thanks.” As soon as their hands brushed, a shock of electricity ran through his body. “Uh, thanks.” It was all he had thought of—that spark between them and taking an extra look at Jamie; her eyes were still on him like a hawk’s.
Everyone sat at the edge of their dining chairs. Lucia took a sip from her glass of red wine, as she leveled up the digital camera in the other hand (mad pro skills). Matt glanced at their eager faces, although Derek’s big ol’ goofy grin held his attention for a moment longer. The boy sure had some crooked ass teeth, to be truthful. It was also unsettling that Derek’s grin grew wider like a mannequin in a window display and not the pretty looking ones either; more of the Stepford wives with clown makeup and pumped lips and cheekbones.
Matt opened the envelope and into his hands spilled two gift cards: Tillys, and iTunes. For some reason, he sighed with relief.
“See.” Jamie leaned back in her chair. “I can follow your crazy, ‘Only gift cards’ rule. We all remember last year.”
Lucia snorted and covered her mouth to prevent the wine from spilling out. But a few splashes sputtered through her nostrils.
“Yeah,” Lisa added on, “those clothes were all baggy in the wrong places.”
“You looked like a damn hobo!” Derek cackled.
“Thanks, Jam,” Matt said with a bit overzealous smile.
Shit, he thought to himself. Motherfuckin’ shit.
He turned away and placed her gift on the small pile: gift cards Derek got him for Chick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy with Target and Starbucks gift cards Lisa got him.
“Thank you…”
“Anytime, Matty.” And that time, Jamie smiled back. Holy, moly! She had pretty little teeth too.
“I’m done!” Derek backed up his chair and unbuttoned his Levis to air out his potbelly. That was when Jamie broke focus with Matt.
“Derek—put that thing away!” she screeched.
“Mini Buddha’s belly!” Lisa chanted and wiggled her arms over her head like a gorilla.
“Sorry, Lucia.” He scooted his chair back in, which gave the floor a few squeaks, so the red tablecloth concealed his stomach—his VERY pale, sole patched, Buddha’s belly.
“Well, I don’t know about you four but I’m tired.” Lucia swayed to her feet; her fingers went white as she clutched a hold of her glass. Matt eyed that second empty wine glass like it would come alive. “I’ll see you all.”
“Wait,” Derek interjected. “Aren’t we supposed to—”
They had their fingers pressed to their lips. Jamie and Lisa even glowered his way. Matt’s eyes broadened with horror, as his head drooped closer to the table. It was done, all over.
Clueless at first, Derek’s eyes shot wide open as though struck by lightning. “OH—”
“Matt,” Lucia said, her speech troublesome. “is this…”
The pieces of confetti on the table were shinier than ever. Matt rolled one of them between his thumb and middle finger. The confetti was a lustrous blue circle, although it felt like blazing hot fire. The creators of confetti had it all wrong. They should have been red—a mighty, burning passionless red.
“I want you to…” On that last deep breath, he looked up at his grandma. “We’re going to the cemetery—”
“Goodnight, Matt—”
“Why don’t you ever want to talk about it?!”
Jamie, Derek, and Lisa moved robotically. The lower halves of their bodies went paralyzed, as their eyes rolled side to side to catch glimpses of each other and the Smiths. By now, Matt was on his feet, his fists planted on the table. The tablecloth was scrunched up as he leaned forward, steadying his balance on his elbows. His pulse raced throughout his body, rigid as stone and hot as lava.
“Why can’t you let it go,” he pled unintentionally. “I did.”
“Matt, I’m very…” Her back was to them. Lucia lingered in the dining room archway, but by the sniffles and refusal to turn around, it was obvious. She did everything she could to cover up the waterworks; she even tugged at her sleeve (long sleeves shirts were all she ever wore). “I’m very tired. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Off her glance, she was gone. Her red sea of swimming pool-eyes was no longer in their sight. His sight.
Jamie, Derek, and Lisa averted their attention away from Matt. Suddenly, he felt…funny. Something seemed to boil at the pit of his stomach. Whatever it was, it shot up to his chest and formed a sour taste in the back of his mouth, like he had just eaten something spoiled, weeks after its expiration date.
Her fingers drifted over his fist like a cloak. Matt’s fingers unfolded, but he refused to look at her. It was obvious—the strain and worry look in her eyes, as she caressed his hand. His shoulders shot up, about an inch from touching his earlobes. The twinge of sorrow prolonged in his eyes and strengthened the veins to pop right out; red, so very red from the haggardness and stress, all from another wasted amount of energy from a big waste of time. Every year, he thought to himself. Every year on my birthday.

And here she is...

Natalie Rodriguez is an award-winning writer, director, and mental health and anti-violence/trauma advocate based in Los Angeles, CA. In 2014, she graduated from California State University, Fullerton with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio-Television-Film. Her first experience in entertainment was an internship at the Conan O'Brien show and Peter Guber's Mandalay Pictures, where she worked at the offices of producers, Matthew Rhodes ("Cherry," "Men in Black: International") and Academy Award-winner, Cathy Schulman ("Sharp Objects," "Crash").
Natalie was also a panelist at events, including Google, Hispanicize, and YouTube, where she has shared her story as a writer, filmmaker, and a female working in the entertainment industry. Some of her previous writing work can be found in publications such as the HuffPost Blog, Thrive Global, Anxiety Resource Center, Opposing Views, NowThis News, Zooey Deschanel's Hello Giggles, The Mighty, and more.
In 2017, she founded her production company, Extraordinary Pictures, focusing on both films, television, digital series, and social issue projects. The company has a list of projects in its roaster, including development on a TV sitcom, "The D," which placed in top-ten for best comedy screenplays at Stage 32. At the moment, Natalie's second directorial feature film, "Howard Original," is in post-production and set for an August 2020 release date on YouTube Premium. The film is based on the award-winning short film about a washed-up screenwriter named Howard, who encounters more than just selling a story, a studio rejection, and writer's block when his pet cat comes to life.
Natalie's directorial feature film, "The Extraordinary Ordinary," which she also wrote, produced, and was the executive producer on, is making its round through the festival circuit. The film deals with young adults, mental health awareness, and the aftermath of trauma. The film won 'Best Film About Women's Empowerment' at the Glendale International Film Festival and scored nominations in Best Director, Best Female Director, and Best Picture. The film also had a sold-out world premiere screening at the Los Angeles Diversity Film Festival (LADFF), winning 'Best Performance' by the leading actress, Maddison Bullock. Further details on the project can be found @theextraordfilm, including recent film festival awards and nominations.
Her other screenplays and films have also been featured and placed in the final rounds at HollyShorts Film Festival, NALIP: Latino Lens Film Festival, ShortsTV, Stage 32: Comedy Screenplay, Beverly Hills Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, Indie Night Film Festival, Hollywood Screenplay Contest, Table Read My Screenplay - Austin Film Festival, and others.
Natalie was most recently an ambassador for Jen Zeano Designs (JZD), a clothing company in association with USA Networks. While she continues to build her creative background, Natalie is always open to collaborating with other artists and advocates. Currently, she awaits the publication of her first young adult novel this April 2020, "Elephant," a story about four childhood best friends who uncover a family secret. The book was also a finalist at Clare Books' the Binge-Watching Cure II contest for 'Best Novel.'.