Thursday, July 30, 2020

What's Coming in August?

If you thought July was fun, wait until you see what August has coming...especially on the middle grade front. I might have slacked off a bit so far this year for this age group, but I'm catching up with a bang! I'm honestly excited about all that this month holds. It promises to be packed to the gills with imagination and adventure!


Just like in July, I'm starting this month off with a romantic comedy. The idea of two 'tech' girls from Thailand trying to satisfy their parents' desire to date, while they have no interest, sounded super cute. Plus, I'm a fan of Pintip Dunn. This one releases on August 18th, but you can see my thoughts tomorrow!

Young Adult Romance Comedy


Taking a dive into the life of an 'army kid', who's constantly moving around, these pages explore the events of 9/11, loss, fear, and how a child wishes to understand what was going on. Emotion should run high. Releases on August 18th, and I'll be sharing my thoughts on the 10th. 

Middle Grade Historical


This one involves trees, monsters, siblings, fitting in and should be packed with action and edge of the seat moments. I'm curious to see how this fantasy evolves and what secrets it has in store. I'll be reviewing this one on August 13th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


This one actually was the base for a movie which ran on The Disney Channel in 1996 (some of you might remember it.) Jessica is now bringing her manuscript out in novel form. It's only around 130 pages, and I think the cover is amazing! You can read my thoughts on the 15th.

Upper Middle Grade Magical Realism


Sometimes it's nice to pick up something a little different, and this book appears to fit that bill. The main character is a fiery Spanish cow, who dreams of running with the bulls in Pamplona. It's been gaining good reviews and releases on September 17th. I'll be sharing my thoughts on August 17th.

Middle Grade Animal Fantasy


I have a soft spot for tales of magic with a slightly dark twist...and especially when they take place in a circus setting. This one releases on August 25th, but you can see if it lives up to my hopes already on the 20th.

Young Adult Fantasy/Romance


I'm super-excited about this one! It was inspired by the children the author met during her travels while working with UNICEF and Save the Children, and talks about all the various things one can find on our planet. And after a very quick glimpse at an illustration or two, it appears to be a neat collection. It's release date is September 15th, and my thoughts will be presented on the 21st.

Picture Book


This is the sequel to New York Bestseller and Calddcott Honor winning Kenny and the Dragon. Did I read this 1st book? Nope. A mistake I really should fix (if time ever allows), but at least, I bounding into this one! Rabbits...dragons...adventure. Sounds interesting to me. I'm giving my thoughts on the 22nd, but the release isn't scheduled until September 22nd.

Middle Grade Fantasy


It's been awhile since I've heard a tale with a big bad wolf in it. So, this book caught my attention immediately. Throw in sibling relations and the cute exploration of whether or not stories can only have good things, and I can't wait to see what this one holds. It is scheduled for release on September 1st, but I'll be jotting down my thoughts on the 29th.

Picture Book

As with every month, this list is only a small glimpse at the 24 books I'll be presenting and reviewing during August. I wish I could share them all, but I have to leave some surprises for everyone.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review: The Amazing Livy Loo and the Things She Can Do by Jenna Rector

by Jenna Rector
Illustrated by Millie Bicknelle
Picture Book
24 pages


Young Livy Loo faces her fears and doubts about herself and learns to see her strengths while realizing how amazing she already is, and all that she can do. With sweet rhyming verses that touch on kindness, caring, and reaching for the stars The Amazing Livy Loo and the Things She Can Do delivers a message of acceptance and encouragement for children and helps them recognize that everyone can have doubts and fears, but still be amazing and capable of reaching all their dreams to be the person they dream to be.


With words of encouragement, an inspiring message is brought across.

Livy Loo is a little girl, who doubts her own worth and fears she isn't good enough. With the help of her parents, she's shown exactly how wonderful she is in her own way.

This is a book with a very specific message and intention: to help young listeners see how great they are. Livy Loo immediately casts doubt about her own self-worth on the very first page and her loving family steps up right away. It would have been nice to see a little more as to why she doubted herself so much, but young readers can identify with the situation, since everyone has fears like this at one time or another. And her the way her problem is solved is also gentle, warm and inspiring. I love how her own family steps into help her, giving the entire book a very wholesome feel.

The tale is written in rhyme, which flows pretty well. The font is whimsical, too, inviting joy with every word. The illustrations are drawn with love and not so perfect, but still wonderful in their own way...much like the message of the book itself.

This is a lovely way to bring across the message to young listeners that even they are terrific if they just take the time to look at their own strengths.

And here she is...

Jenna Rector is a wife and mother to two grown sons, as well as grandmother to two. A lifelong storyteller, Jenna has always loved to make people laugh and work to help people see and reach their best selves.
This is Jenna's first published children's book. Her educational background includes degrees in both psychology and professional counseling. Jenna has worked as a counselor with children, within community mental health, as well as in private practice, which prompted the desire to write stories encouraging children to feel more empowered, build their self-acceptance and confidence.

Jenna loves to read, travel and spend time with her family and friends and currently lives in Arizona with her husband.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Review: Trust the Grind by Jeremy Bhandari

How World-Class Athletes Got to the Top
by Jeremy Bhandari

#1 New Release in Teen Sports & Outdoors and Fitness & Exercise ─ A Champion State of Grind

Exclusive interviews with the top athletes in sports today. Trust the Grind: How World-Class Athletes Got To The Top reveals how these men and women reached the heights of their profession so that you can too.
Sixteen athletes from eleven sports arenas. Each chapter tells a different story, as each superstar shares the habit that helped them accomplish their goals and reach the pinnacle of their profession.
Sports fanatic or not. Guaranteed to tap into your athletic edge, Trust the Grind, is made for sports fans and nonfans alike. Fans of professional athletes get an in-depth look at their heroes’ climb to the top; those less passionate about sports have the chance to read the secrets of success from some of the most talented people in the world. Both learn pivotal life lessons, and can immediately instill these particular traits and habits into their own lifestyle.
A ‘success habit’ point of view. Learn the secrets behind success, and what it takes to remain on top. With Trust The Grind, you will learn about the value that comes with becoming disciplined, staying driven, setting goals, identifying your “why”, staying active and eating right, making sacrifices, obsessing over your passion, and more. Rather than harping on the remarkable accolades and astonishing statistics, this story is formulated to teach individuals what it takes to be great in any desired field. It includes interviews with the following athletes:
  • Jason Kidd
  • Chipper Jones 
  • Terrell Owens
  • Paige VanZant
  • Manny Pacquiao
  • Mike Modano
  • Jimmie Johnson
  • Gary Player
  • Deena Kastor
  • Ryan Sheckler
  • Georges St-Pierre
  • Ryan Lochte
  • Devin Hester
  • Andruw Jones
  • Luis Gonzalez
  • Tim Hudson
Fans of books like RelentlessRising AboveThe Cost of These Dreams, and The Young Champion's Mind, will enjoy Trust the Grind: Motivational Messages from Ambitious Athletes.


These pages are packed full of athletes' success stories as well as inspiring messages and tips for those who want to chase their own dreams.

This book is made to inspire, and using athletes' stories not only resonates with sports fans, but is a great example of how hard work is required to reach a goal. After all, athletes are known to have to train endless hours. And sports is a topic especially youth can often connect with. In other words, I the connection is something the intended audience will grab up and not immediately groan at the idea of being coached about something.

Every chapter centers around an idea: goals, health, discipline, sacrifices, and more. Each one explains the concept and why it's important and also holds real life examples from well-known athletes, who had to do exactly these things. Not only is the information interesting, but it does present the intended message in an understandable way. At the end of each chapter, the main points are addressed in short-form as an easy guide and quick reminder. In other words, the book is written in a very planned way. And it still has heart, so it never comes across too preachy.

At the end of the book, the author invites readers to reach out to him and share their own goals. This adds a very personal touch and shows readers that their goals count—something so important when offering advice and support. In other words, this book is well done and is sure to, if nothing else, offer all sorts of interesting tidbits to sports fans and leaves off with a sense of encouragement.

And here he is...

Jeremy Bhandari was born in Ashland, Massachusetts on June 19, 1996. Unlike the plurality of babies born in the 20th century, Jeremy wriggled into the world in his mother's bedroom, rather than a hospital. His rare arrival on Earth is ironically symbolic with his life story. 
Before dropping him off to preschool, Jeremy's mother would spread out the sports section in the Boston Globe for her son to examine while he ate his breakfast. Jeremy, at just 4-years-old, would study the MLB standings and league leaders. At this point, circa 2001, all the Massachusetts baseball fanatics obsessed over Pedro Martinez and Nomar Garciaparra, two stars on the Boston Red Sox. When it was time for Jeremy to select his favorite player for the back of his Tee Ball card, the calculated cherub demanded that Alex Rodriguez, a shortstop for the Texas Rangers, be labeled on his individualized square. While Jeremy probably couldn't locate Texas on a map, he knew that Rodriguez was leading the American League in home runs, so why not classify him as his front-runner?
Jeremy's love for sports continued to maturate as he grew older. In elementary school, he started writing fictionalized stories of baseball games, where one team would always make an epic comeback in the late-innings. Fast forward to his junior year at UMass Amherst, and Jeremy was still scripting about sports. After handing in a paper on the relationship between spending and winning in the MLB, Jeremy decided to take writing more seriously. At 23-years-old, Jeremy signed a contract with Mango Publishing and wrote Trust The Grind, which reached #1 on Amazon’s Teen/YA Fitness & Exercise bestseller list, and was most notably endorsed by NBA legend, Jason Kidd. In addition, Trust The Grind was added to the list of Summer Reading options for the students at Ashland High School (Ashland, MA). 
Aside from writing, Jeremy puts a strong emphasis on physical fitness, and spreading love to all those around him.


 Amazon Link: Amazon Link

Monday, July 27, 2020

Review: Tweedledee and Tweedledum by Anders Roseberg

by Anders Roseberg
Illustrated by Alex Preyzner
Picture Book
21 pages

Tweedledee and Tweedledum look so much alike that it really is hard to tell them apart. They look the same and dress the same, but are they really? We now get to dive into the private lives of our beloved twins to find out how different they really are!

"Erin Nicole Cochran for Readers’ Favorite

Anders Roseberg’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum: Other Wonderland Tales is a children’s picture book that takes readers into the daily lives of two brothers from the beloved children’s tale, Alice in Wonderland. The two brothers may look alike, but as the book describes, they have vastly different tastes and personalities. Roseberg puts to the page a lovely sing-song narrative that doesn’t disappoint its readers and is sure to gain a smile or laugh from children as well as adults. Alex Preyzner engages readers with colorful whimsical illustrations that peek up at the booklover, inviting them in to gaze at silly situations and spectacles. A certain feline was one of my particular favorite characters that appeared in the book.

Anders Roseberg’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum reminded me why I love children’s books and always will. There is something intrinsic that stirs within the pages of Tweedledee and Tweedledum that has the ability to restore our own childhoods. Perhaps, it is the connection to Alice in Wonderland, a book and a movie we’ve all grown up to love. But there is something outside of even that, something that is uniquely Roseberg’s and Preyzner’s. A voice and a picture that pushes all who read it to feel childlike themselves. The ability to rewind the years of adulthood and bring back happiness and laughter at something that may at first appear simplistic, but is much, much more. Roseberg’s Tweedledee and Tweedledum would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s virtual or physical bookshelf, and would also be perfectly placed in a children’s school library.


Giggles are sure to come when reading this delightful picture book, which takes two wonderful characters from Alice in Wonderland and gives them new life.

The cover and surmise drew me to this one, and I was not disappointed. Firstly, the illustrations make these two, fun characters come to life with tons of personality. The two may appear to be exactly the same, but they have very different personalities, and the illustrator manages to weave this aspect in masterfully and still hold the 'likeness' which makes the two hard to forget.

Written in various rhymes, this book isn't only about silly fun, but allows readers to peek into the relationship between the two characters. One is serious; one tends to be playful. While they are always together, they don't always agree and sticky situations can ensue. But the love between them holds through at the end, making them a great pair.

It's a cute read with lots of heart not only for children, but adults are sure to enjoy this one, too.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Review: Pictures of Dorianna by Catherine Stine

by Catherine Stine
Konjur Road Press
YA Paranormal/Horror

Internet followers, beauty, power. It all sounded good.
Until it transformed into a terrifying reality she couldn’t stop

When her father is jailed, her mother ships lonely, plain Dorianna to her aunt’s in Brooklyn, NY. There, Dorianna yearns to build a new identity, but the popular Lacey bullies her—mostly for getting attention from her ex, Ander.

Ander takes Dorianna to Coney Island where Wilson, a videographer, creates a stunning compilation of her. She dreams of being an online sensation, as she’s never even had a birthday party, and vows she’d give anything to go viral. Wilson claims he’s the Prince of Darkness and offers her the beauty and fame, even love she’s dreamed of—warning her that a pledge has its downsides. Dorianna has no idea of how dire those consequences might be.

She’s thrust into the spotlight, and an incomprehensible nightmare. Not only is she prettier, she’s gaining harmful powers of manipulation. When her dark forces grow beyond anything she can control, she’s desperate but clueless as to how to stop them.

Also available through:
Book Depository
And more.


I was excited to see a twist on The Picture of Dorian Gray and happy to dive into this read.

After watching her father land in prison, Dorianna's mother sends her to live with her aunt for awhile. Dorianna isn't certain things will go well but is ready for a fresh start where no one knows of her father's horrible past. Determined to make life better, she hits the new high school and tries to remake herself into what she thinks she should be. Of course, things don't run as planned, but she discovers help in a cute guy and his very eccentric, video-making-master friend. Agreeing to give up anything to become popular, the dark new friend transforms her into an internet star. But the more popular she becomes, the more she turns into something she definitely doesn't like.

This is definitely an original, exciting twist on one of my more favorite classics. The author uses modern day internet/social media platform craziness as the base and lets it lure in and transform. Dorianna's desire to become beautiful and popular are understandable, and especially teens will easily identify with this wish. Unfortunately, I found Dorianna hard to like most of the time, even before she 'transformed', which already broke off the needed sympathy for me. Her past was harsh, her hopes understandable, but her behavior was often selfish, especially when it came to her aunt. The other characters fit well into their cliches—hot popular guy, jerky popular girl and such. Bailey, a friend of Miss Not-nice-popular, was a treat and by far my favorite character. Also the evil, dark Wilson, who lures Dorianna in, was well done and interesting.

The plot runs along at a nice pace and does a pretty good job at keeping the tension high. Dorianna's changes demonstrate that popularity and the desire to be liked aren't always a wonderful thing, and can do more harm than good. It is a nice message woven into an original tale, which is sure to interest audiences of darker fiction with a few thrilling moments thrown in.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Review: Loblolly, Loblolly, You're So Tall by Mommy Moo Moo

by Mommy Moo Moo
Illustrated by Dave Hill
Damara Publishing
Picture Book
19 pages
ages 4 to 8

Loblolly pine trees fill Mommy Moo Moo's magical backyard. "Loblolly, Loblolly, you're so tall. You reach to the sky, up so high." These giant pines native to the American Southeast have never been so celebrated for their grace, their strength, and their beauty as in this enchanting picture book. Written in a lyrical style perfect for bedtime, "Loblolly, Loblolly, You're So Tall" captures the whimsy of a child's imagination and the majesty of the outdoors.



In this pure celebration of nature, Loblolly trees take center stage and introduce young listeners to them in a fascinating way.

Every page takes a beautifully done illustration and mixes it with a text nearing poetry. It's not written in rhyme but still takes on an almost musical flare. Loblolly trees cover each page, stretching majestically into the blue sky as various aspects about them are revealed. Sometimes, it's pure beauty. Others, there's a hint a humor and fun. There's even a bit of fantastical magic as a couple fairies appear in the mix... guaranteeing young listeners have something to point out and wonder about.

This book is a wonderful tribute to Loblolly trees and will interest those who have seen them...or those who simply love tales about nature. There were a couple moments, which surprised me—a suddenly repeated line on the end of two pages, and the direct description of what two funnier objects were (which kind of took away the fun, in my opinion). But this read put a smile on my face and leaves a warmth behind, which brings around the desire to simply lean back and watch the profoundness of trees.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Review: The Jade Rebellion by Alanna Mackenzie

The Jade Rebellion banner


The Jade Chronicles #1
by Alanna Mackenzie
YA Science Fiction/ Fantasy
1 May, 2018

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


Science fiction with AI, magic, and all of that mixed into a rebellion...this one was a definite 'read-me-please'.

AI Masters have taken over, leaving humans to exist either on the pitiful side of society or under constant, close watch in the sparkling city. Walter has a special knack for coding and has earned the right to work in a good job. But when his own mistake has the girl he likes captured and placed on a ship to an island, which, according to rumor, is barely better than a prison, he's determined to save her. Although this endeavor alone is already enough for a huge adventure, it's only the first small pebble in what fate really holds for him.

The world in this book is rich. The author has set up a future, which is not only intriguing, but also done a terrific job at describing it and letting it come to life. The misery and fear is tangible, but yet, the amazing scifi end and magic give it a fantastical flair. Myth, spirits and simply magic mix in seamlessly with the 'evil' AI intelligence, futuristic technology, and dystopian environment. It made my scifi/fantasy heart beat faster and was a treat to discover.

The tale itself is well woven with tons of twists and turns. Walter is in for quite the ride just as such a rich world demands. There are subplots and secrets upon secrets. It's impossible to guess what will happen next, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat until the end.

With so much goodness, this book promises to be a wonderful read. Unfortunately, the characters fell more than short. While potentially more than interesting, they are stuck an arm length's away thanks to the writing style. The dialogue, especially in the earlier part of the book, is almost non-existent, allowing everything to unfold as if watching it but not being there. I wanted to love them but never got to get close to any of them. Also, this is sold as a young adult novel, but Walter didn't give me the impression of being a teenager. He'd already passed tests to enter a profession and his actions, while risky, were too mature. Not that this would have mattered, since adults (and YA) would have loved the story if the characters had been easier to connect with.

Summed up, there is tons and tons of awesomeness in these pages. The world building and basic well as the plot...promise so much and deliver. If the characters had been more 'real', it would have blown me away.

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Happy Book Birthday, The Blameless by E.S. Christison!

Book One
by E.S. Christison
Belle Isle Books
Upper Middle Grade/Tween Fantasy
298 pages
ages 10 to 16

Briana, Princess of Predonia, has lived a happy and sheltered life. Then, in a single night, her father's kingdom is overthrown, her family is murdered, and centuries of peace are violently shattered. Fleeing for her life, Brie is rescued by Flinton, Derek, and Kove, three powerful protectors who take her under their wing and bring her to their secret stronghold deep in the mountains. There, Brie learns about the Blameless, people who receive magical gifts from the gods after performing acts of supreme selflessness. Among the Blameless, Brie discovers an amazing new world, gaining witty and resourceful companions as she strives to master the mysterious power within her. She determines to seek justice for her family, and, one day, to take back her people's freedom. 


Thrilling and packed with action from beginning to end, this book still maintained a wholesome tale with tons of feel-good moments while keeping the reader on the edge of the seat the entire time.

Brie is almost fourteen and a princess, but when her kingdom is attacked, and her family murdered in front of her, her life flips upside down. Managing to escape, she is discovered by men, who worked for her father. They promise to protect her and escort her back to their own town, where they will then decide what to do next. But these men are not as simple as Brie suspects; they are Blameless, which means that they hold magical powers. And that is only the beginning of the secrets which have been kept for her.

This book was so much better than I thought it might be. The first pages start with a very gripping scene as Brie flees from the castle, while her kingdom is being attack around her. Her panic and fears are understandable as well as her decision to trust three men, which she really knows nothing about. She has a lot to learn, but is determined to do her best. It's her spirit, which makes her easy to root for, as she's thrust from one difficult situation into the next. The entire time, she has to come to terms with the horror of her family's death, her own unexpected past, and the dangers she must face in order to get her kingdom back...and she is determined to do that.

There is definitely a ton of action in this book, but there's also quite a bit of heart. Brie meets friends and even has the chance to sink into a make-shift family and have some commotion with a few teens her age. But then, there are quite a few characters in the book, which give the tale a lovely richness and promise so much to come during the series. I appreciated the author's ability to keep Brie fairly true to her age, while still giving her just the right amount of maturity to make her a future ruler to root for. It's a difficult balance and the author makes it work.

Another bonus in these pages is that romance isn't there as far as Brie is concerned. As a young teen, she already has more than enough on her plate. This might change during the series (who knows?), but for now, she has enough to deal with...including a attacker to hate.

The friendships formed are inspiring, and the loyalty, trust and love on this front already touches the heart. It makes for a wonderful read to get lost in, and I can't wait to see what happens in the rest of the series.

And here she is...

Elisabeth S. Christison’s very first job was as a scribe in a library. She was raised by her father, and he passed a love of reading to her, especially fantasy. Elisabeth has passed this same love on to her seven children, and as a result, much of her adult life has been spent in the realms of their make-believe kingdoms, giving her firsthand experience with the whimsical workings of their young minds. She shared her own stories with them at bedtime, but never chose to write them down until an idea she couldn’t ignore blazed into her mind. Elisabeth lives with her family in Ohio, and when she isn’t busy navigating the seas of motherhood, working as a nurse, or castle-hopping and enjoying wine and chocolate with her husband, she can be found writing the sequel to the Blameless or dreaming up other tales.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: Believe by Julie Mathison

by Julie Mathison
Starr Creek Press
Middle Grade Historical
156 pages

AUGUST 4th!!!

Full of humor and wonder, BELIEVE explores the power and limits of the imagination – and how love both breaks and heals our hearts.

Eleven-year-old Melanie knows she's special. She's never been bored. She understands the secret language of old houses and makes jewels out of broken glass. Her imagination can do anything -- except make friends. It's 1980, and life as a fifth grader at Buckminster Experimental School is lonely at best, when she's not dodging Karen, the school bully. Then, Melanie meets Sabrina, who looks like a TV star and acts like a spy, and who doesn't care what anyone thinks. She teaches Melanie how to believe in herself, and soon Melanie starts living her dreams. She even lands the lead in Peter Pan!

If only she could share it all with Mom. Missing her mom is like trying to breathe with one lung. It's bad. Sabrina thinks they can track her down, and Melanie wants to believe, but sometimes it's easier to pretend. Her new life feels like a house of cards, until one day it all comes crashing down and she finds herself with no choice but to face the truth… and let go.

This quirky, heartfelt middle-grade novel about grief and the resilience of the human spirit will keep you guessing until the end.


With tons of heart, thought and emotion, this is a journey of a girl finding herself.

Melanie is a fifth grader, who keeps to herself and doesn't fit in with the rest of the kids. During one of the regular bullying sessions, she finds a new friend at her side. This friend is exactly the push she needs to gain courage not only to stand up for herself but also to learn who she is and what she even wants. Melanie also begins the journey of healing as she takes the hunt for her missing mother into her own that leads to a few surprises along the way.

Melanie is a lovely girl, who has shielded herself off from others. Her awkwardness is endearing but not as much as her heart of gold. Her very active imagination is what will capture readers as she tries to fiddle her way and find her place in the world. But then, fifth graders will easily relate to how awkward fitting in or standing out can be.

The story shines thanks to two main twists. The first one is already clear in the first pages, but young readers probably won't pick up on it for quite some time. It adds a nice touch which had me smiling. The second is also a bit predictable, but it definitely adds the intriguing punch. Especially the ending picked up pace and edged this closer to a four star review, but it wasn't quite enough.

This read is short and entertaining. Young readers will find quite a bit to sympathize with and feel connected to. The ideas of bullying, learning who you are, friendship, loss, overcoming certain fears, and embracing family are all wonderful messages and perfect for the intended age group. While so much is included, I found myself skipping paragraphs again and again...and still, had no trouble keeping up with the tale. Also, this is placed in the 1980's. The author brings in quite a bit of pop-culture from that time, and while she does take the time to explain the important references, I'm not sure it will interest this age group or resonate with them.

All in all, this is a lovely tale with tons of goodness. I'm sure the right reader will enjoy it quite a bit.

Cover Reveal: Talk Derby to Me by R.H. Tucker

Talk Derby to Me
by R.H. Tucker
YA Contemporary, Romance

AUGUST 2020!!!

As the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, Evan Maldonado is right on track for college next year and pursuing his dream of being a journalist. To put the finishing touch on his college applications, he’s taking an intern position with a well-known newspaper where he’ll receive a letter of recommendation from the editor. There’s just one little problem. The business intern spot he was expecting to get is taken. The only other position they have available is covering the local roller derby league.
Mari Valdez isn’t worried about getting into college. All she’s concerned with is getting through the repulsive world of high school. Sure, she has her best friend, but she still has to put up with teasing because of her multi-colored hair or bruises. The bruises are from roller derby, by the way, the only thing that Mari looks forward to. It’s been her safe haven since her world imploded.
In order to get more information on the derby league, Evan follows Mari to her practices and games. To call their friendship rocky would be an understatement, but the more Evan and Mari are together, the more they seem to connect. When Mari’s personal life boils over, she finds herself confiding in Evan. And just when everything seems to be coming together for the two, a horrible mistake may separate them for good.
Talk Derby to Me is a stand-alone, YA romance novel.

And here he is...

RH Tucker writes cute & edgy YA romance. He also lives in Southern California, consumes too much caffeine, eats too much pizza, and firmly believes Rocky Road is the best flavor of ice cream.
You can sign up for my newsletter for previews, excerpts, and short stories at:
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Monday, July 20, 2020

Review: The Ukinhan Wilds by Eldon Thompson

Warder, Book One
by Eldon Thompson
Young Adult Fantasy
334 pages

(Note: The battles in this book are vicious and the monsters terrifying. So, it isn't for more sensitive readers)

Assassin. Rogue. Demon’s bane. Dragon-slayer. Kylac Kronus has been called many names, and earned every one of them. Months shy of his seventeenth spring, he is already the deadliest man alive. Nothing—be it man or beast—has been able to prove otherwise.

Uncomfortable with his newfound fame following the War of the Demon Queen, Kylac seeks fresh adventure overseas, recruited by a band of outlanders under royal commission to escort a kidnapped princess back to her father, King Kendarrion, ruler of the Sundered Isle. They warn him that, to do so, he will brave tempest seas full of raging leviathans while seeking to evade those responsible for the princess’s abduction—including a terrifying mutant left over from the days of the Mage Wars.

Kylac readily agrees.

But when the mutant proves as cunning as it is savage, the perilous voyage gives way to an even deadlier trek across a poisoned wilderness once home to the ancient Gorrethrehn—“Breeders”—a sect of magi known for their foul creation practices. Stalked by bestial denizens, treacherous companions, and horrors that his blades cannot touch, Kylac finds himself embattled as never before. For the mutant is relentless in its hunt, the island’s terrors do not rest, and not even the deadliest man alive can hope to emerge unscathed.


Talk about starting off with a bang! The first chapter begins with very terrifying monsters and an extremely hard fought battle. And the book doesn't stop after that. Every twist and every turn bring more adventures and edge-of-the-seat moments. The title says 'Wilds' and that is exactly what this read is—wild.

I wasn't quite prepared to dive so forcefully into a horrific, monsterly battle. There are characters many more than I could ever remember or keep up with...but each one is to love or to hate. Boredom doesn't seep in easily, which is good. I did, however, have trouble connecting to the main character, Kylac, which put a bit of a damper on the fun.

Kylac is sixteen, and while he comes across about his age during the first pages, this switches drastically as the story goes on. I believe there is another series written by this author, which already centers around Kylac's earlier adventures. Reading this series first might have brought more insight into his personality. But so, he comes across as anything but sixteen. He's very powerful, an awesome fighter which puts seasoned ones to shame, and often knows more than the other characters. Plus, it always feels like he's kept an arm's length away, making it hard to every really empathize with him.

I was impressed with what appears to be an underlying plot, which I'm assuming will come to light as the series continues. There was already a lot going on in this book, and despite all of the craziness, it seems to be lying on much more. It definitely tickled my curiosity, and considering how fast-paced the book is, I will be watching for the release of the next in the series to see what happens next.

I received an ARC through Netgalley and found this book to be so much more than I thought it'd be.

More Than Alive: Death of an Idol by Fernando Torres with Giveaway!

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: Gridiron: Stories from 100 Years of the National Football League

by Fred Bowen
Illustrated by James E Ransome
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Picture Book/Non-Fiction/Sports
112 pages
ages 8 to 12

This accessible, informative, and beautifully illustrated book celebrates the 100th anniversary of the NFL and is the perfect keepsake for football fans of all ages.

The National Football League is the most popular sports league in the United States. Its championship game, the Super Bowl, is watched by millions of people every year. But it wasn’t always like this. In the last one hundred years, football has changed from a poorly organized, often overlooked sport to America’s favorite pastime. Here are the stories of that remarkable transformation. The stories of the greatest players, the most successful coaches, the most memorable games—and the amazing plays that made us gasp as we watched them in stadiums and on televisions all over America.

Discover the league’s scrappy beginnings in an automobile showroom, and early players like Red Grange, the Galloping Ghost. Relive the very first championship game, played indoors after a circus had visited, and famous games like the Ice Bowl. See the NFL at war, and meet some of the remarkable athletes who helped desegregate the league. Learn how the draft came into existence, and about the teams that strove for that almost impossible goal—a perfect season.

Veteran sportswriter Fred Bowen brings his in-depth knowledge and lively prose to these fascinating stories, and award-winning artist James E. Ransome has created stunning full-page illustrations that bring the sport of football to life like never before



Note: I received the first third of this book as an ARC copy and am writing my review concerning these first pages.

NFL is a part of every American's life, I believe, in minor or major ways. While Super Bowls, star players, and fan articles are part of every day life during football season, few probably stop to think much about the origins of football or how it's changed...along with its players...over the last 100 years. In celebration of National Football Month (August), this book takes a dive into football history in a way middle graders and even older fans can understand and enjoy.

First off, I am not a huge football fan. I attended a few games at the Bronco stadium while growing up and bought one stadium blanket, which I still have until this day and used to bundle up all four of my children on cold days (talk about a high-quality blanket!!!), but that's the extent of my football'ness'. Still, I really enjoyed this book and believe that it will make especially football fans' hearts beat faster.

Illustrations brighten and take a bold stance on every single page. This is such a plus, especially since the text is more fact ridden. The pictures not only help readers 'see' the physical changes to football during the past 100 years, but offer a wonderful break to the heavier text. Even more reluctant readers will enjoy this one, since they can flip through the pages and enjoy it as much visually as literally.

The text is historical and holds facts such as names, dates, and events. The author, however, did a nice job at keeping it pretty lively, so that the information doesn't bog down. Especially football fans will be able to sink into the scenes and enjoy the pure sport atmosphere while learning much more about football's history. The text is heavier and I'd personally recommend it more for ages ten and up. Even adults are sure to enjoy this one...which makes it an especially great book to pick up and enjoy cross-generationally.

Considering how much middle graders enjoy sport books (these appear to be one of their favorites to check out of school libraries), I can recommend this one and give it two big thumbs up.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Review: The Invention of Sophie Carter by Samantha Hastings with Giveaway!

The Invention of Sophie Carter
by Samantha Hastings
Swoon Reads
July 14th 2020
YA Historical Romance

Identical twin sisters take turns swapping places over the course of a summer in order to pursue their secret ambitions in Samantha Hastings’ Victorian YA romance.
1851. Bounced from one begrudging relative to another their whole lives, orphaned identical twins Sophie and Mariah Carter have always relied on each other for love and support, even though the sisters couldn’t be more different.
Brash Sophie wants to be an inventor, and demure Mariah wants to be an artist. Both long to visit London for the summer—Sophie to see the Queen’s Great Exhibition and Mariah to study the world’s finest collection of paintings. But when their cantankerous aunt answers their letter pleading for a place to stay, she insists she only has time and room to spare for one of them.
So, Mariah and Sophie hatch a clever scheme: They will travel to London together and take turns playing the part of “Sophie”.
At first the plan runs like clockwork. But as the girls avoid getting caught by increasingly narrow margins and two handsome gentlemen—both of whom think they’re falling in love with the real Sophie Carter—enter the equation, the sisters find they don’t have the situation quite as under control as they thought.
With all sorts of delightful Parent Trap-style identical twin hijinks, The Invention of Sophie Carter is the perfect light-and-sweet palate cleanser.


Identical twins, hiding true identity, romance, a desire to become more than what society deems—delightful doesn't even begin to describe this fun tale about two very adventurous girls.

Sophie and Mariah are identical twins, who have had a rough start in life. Their parents died when they were very young, and the foster parents they were given to sent them away when a son was born. The two girls then spent many years working for a unkind couple. So, when their only existing relative, an aunt who hated their mother, invites Sophie to London with the hopes of bringing at least her into a solid marriage, Sophie can't leave Mariah behind. Secretly, they live in their aunt's bedroom, acting as Sophie as they switch places, and Sophie heads out into London to follow her true dream—to become an apprentice and later an inventor. She's sure that with income, she can support both her and Mariah, but society isn't nearly as progressive as she wishes. Unfortunately, many other things keep popping up, which even makes it questionable how long the two can even keep up the scherade.

The minute I read the first page, I knew I was going to like this one. The writing style is easy to read and yet holds a nice, historic flare. But then, the author has not only placed this tale in an historical time period, she's also added true historical figures and tried to build in a few facts, while weaving these into the story. It creates a world, which comes to life and invites to get lost in. These girls are easy to get swept away with, anyway.

Sophie is risk friendly, shares her opinions fairly openly, and works to achieve her dreams. Mariah, on the other hand, is quieter, polite, and not nearly as out-spoken. The two stick together no matter what, and even when they do disagree, find ways to iron things out again. It's a wonderful sibling relationship, but one with enough pricks and pokes to make it fun.

The pacing is smooth and fast enough to keep me from laying the book down. Not only do Sophie and Mariah have to go up against a very unpleasant aunt, but they thread interesting relationships with those around them. The side characters are packed with personality, and add quite a bit of tension as well as humor. Of course, all of this is made more difficult as the two girls try to keep their secret from being discovered. It's simply fun to watch how things slip and twist, and emotions flip in all directions along the way...especially on the romance end.

It's simply a sweet, historical tale, which not only demonstrates how women were scene at that time, but inspires with sisterly love.

And here she is...

Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. She is the author of THE LAST WORD, THE INVENTION OF SOPHIE CARTER, and A ROYAL CHRISTMAS QUANDARY.