Wednesday, September 30, 2020

What's Coming in October?

I love October! Not only have those cooler evenings and days finally moved in, but pumpkins, apple cider, colorful leaves, and tons of warm tea are finally back and brightening my days. Of course, this is also the month for Halloween, and I have quite the reading list set up to ring in the spooky, dark and ghostly atmosphere. I'm torn, though. Should I just show you my 'creepy' ones for this month, or should I mix them up with the not-so-creepy side? Because I'm going to have a good batch of both. I'm talking about a HUGE stack of books. So, be prepared to love this month, too.


What better way to start the month of spooks and chills then with a tale like this one? I don't think it will help you break a curse (if you are unfortunate enough to be under one), but it promises to be an exciting read with high-sea adventure, a princess under a curse, and an evil wizard, who...if I understand this right... just happens to be the king, her father. I'm sharing my opinion on the 2nd, but you can pick this one up yourself up the 13th (no, that's not a Friday. Such a shame.)

Young Adult Fantasy


This one isn't spooky but does hold many a dangerous moment on the adventure side of things. The cover already has me suspecting that this one will be a fun read...and it will interest boy readers! So, I'm just going to mention it, while I close my eyes and pretend it fits into the spooky category even if it doesn't. It releases on the 20th, but you'll see my thoughts on the 8th.

Middle Grade Mystery/Fantasy/Adventure


This one is for ADULTS. Yep, I'm going to throw in a spooky, mystery for a special 'Mommy and Daddy's Day' because it's been a long time since I've done one, and asylum thrills have to happen for Halloween. I'll be reviewing this one the 10th, but it's already out in the world if you want to grab it up before then.

Mystery Thriller (Adults)


This is the second book in the A Touch of Gold series (as usual, I'm hitting the 1st book at one point, too). It holds curses, queens, pirates, gods and tons of revenge. Maybe it won't be especially creepy, but it appears to lean toward the darker side of things. So, I'll include it. I'm giving my thoughts on the 15th.

Young Adult Fantasy


     This one is sold as a mixture between Sabrina and The Craft. Doesn't that sound exciting? It's about witches and demons and black books and spells and secrets and magic disasters. In other words, all sorts of things which scream 'Halloween'. I'll be reviewing this one on the 13th, and nope, that's not a Friday. Oh well.

YA Paranormal


Isn't the cover so cute? Not only is it Halloween-y, but it heads more toward the educational side of literature. These bats introduce young readers to collective nouns. I'm curious how this Halloween theme slides into teaching English.

Picture Book


Witches, murder, revenge and hell...yeah, that screams Halloween. This one comes from a New York Times and USA bestselling author, who wrote the well-known Stalking Jack the Ripper series. Sounds dark and wonderful! It releases on the 27th, but I'll be sneaking a peek on the 20th.

Young Adult Fantasy


Fairies get a new twist in this one, by the looks of it. Not only does it promise to be a bit quirky, but it hits touches topics such as fitting a creepy, humorous and oddball way? I'm more than curious to see what this graphic novel and its spunky girl character is all about. I"ll be revealing my thoughts on the 28th.

Children's Fantasy/Graphic Novel


Oh, Paris! Got to love Paris. You have no idea how thrilled I was to discover that this one isn't about the romantic side of the famous city, nor does it remind of those wonderful cafes surrounded by lovely architecture. Rather, it takes to the dark catacombs! Yep, I'm all for that. Add a cave-in, people stuck without supplies, and all of that with the promise of chills an thrills...(Le sigh). It might be an amazing read, but you'll have to wait until the 29th to find out!

Young Adult Thriller

And there are many more! But unlike last month, I'm not going to cheat this time and reveal more. I will tell you that there are going to be almost 30 reviews this month. Everything from sweet to sour to mysterious to adventurous to simply funny. It will be an entire month of treats...

without the tricks.

Or maybe?

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Review: The Adventures of Veggieman: Food Fight by Karla Farach


The Adventures of Veggieman
by Karla Farach
Illustrated by Rob Foote
Mascot Books
Children's Fiction
38 pages
ages 5 to 8

When Niko starts a new school, he has no idea that he's going to find himself in the middle of an epic battle between the forces of good and evil. Good, nourishing food and evil junk food, that is.

Things are looking chaotic until Niko gets help from Veggieman, a super-cool superhero. Together with his awesome army of fruits and veggies, he helps save the school and all the kids in it. But the most important thing he does is show kids that they each have their own superpower one we all have and can all use.



This is a book with a message—eat healthy food. And it packs this into a fast-paced adventure, full with tension and superhero moments.

Niko walks into school to find a chaotic disaster! Everywhere, students and teachers aren't paying attention but stuffing their faces with chips, candy and such. Not sure what to do, he races to the principal's office, but instead of finding help, Niko runs right into the middle of a junk food takeover. Well, he can't let this stand. So, off he goes to try to save the school. But he can't do it alone and soon, discovers a superhero.

Food mixes with superhero action in these pages and definitely adds new excitement to a well-known theme. Junk food is evil and only superhero veggies and fruits can defeat them. It's a fun twist, and definitely packs a punch. The author, however, also weaves in information along the way to help young listeners/readers understand the reason healthy food is so important. It's a fun way to bring the topic across.

This is a bright and bold picture book, but I wouldn't recommend it to the youngest listeners/readers. There's quite a bit of text on every page and the vocabulary fits more the younger side of middle graders than early readers. It does make a good read aloud, though. And I think this is probably the best way to approach this book, since it's very clear that this book was written with a purpose. By reading it together, discussions can open up. I also see this one as a good insert for homeschooling or other groups, which want to hit upon the topic of healthy eating habits.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Review: Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

 With Summer heat sliding farther and farther away, thoughts of winter and snow are beginning to poke at the horizon. Which works great for today's read! It's another animal fiction tale. Yeah, this has got to be a record for me. But I do have a secret fondness for polar bears. Add a musk ox... That's right. This one includes a musk ox! Considering the first book was a prize winner (although I haven't read that one quite yet), I was looking forward to reading and sharing this one.

by Dan Bar-el
Contributions from Kelley Pousette
Atheneum Books
272 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 6th!!!

The adventures of Duane the polar bear and his arctic friends continue in this charming sequel to the modern-day classic The Very, Very Far North, which Booklist compared to Winnie the Pooh in a starred review.

Past the place where icebergs shiver, you will find the Very, Very Far North, where Duane and his friends are sure to make you feel right at home. You might like to share a delicious Snow Delight with warmhearted Duane. While you’re slurping away, if C.C. suddenly asks you where you’ve come from, it’s not because she’s nosy; she is simply gathering scientific data. If Handsome, the musk ox, pays a visit, a quick hair combing is highly recommended. Should you notice a quiet caribou grazing nearby, well, that’s just Boo’s way of saying hello.

And if a less-than-friendly visitor arrives to sneak, shove, and shake things up, Duane and the others might discover that life isn’t always as peaceful as mid-late-afternoon nap. Fortunately, they know that change is as much a part of life as picnics and Tuesdays and cozy stories shared among friends.



This tale between ice and snow is anything but cold as friendship and adventure offer tons of warmth.

First off, this is the following book to another one. I did not read the first one before reading this one, and that was not a problem. The story takes off and immediately becomes familiar right along with the characters. It's no trouble to sink right in with Duane, the polar bear, as he sleeps in his cave and dreams of his friends...later awaking into 'real life'. These are characters, which aren't even difficult not to like, each one carries a very distinct personality and quirks. It's not hard to pick out each one simply through their dialogue and actions. 

The story is written with heart but also with humor and plenty of lessons for young readers. While Duane and his friends are quite the sweet and fun bunch, they are forced to figure out how to deal with a not-so-nice character, which causes all sorts of troubles. There were a few slower moments, where I did find myself skipping over things. But I'm sure this won't be the case for every reader, since I tend to like a little more action.

That's also why I'd recommend this one more for the younger end of middle grade readers. The theme and story flow is rather gentle, and I can see 7 to 10-year-olds enjoying this more than the slightly older age group. While the page amount might seem a little heavy for the younger side, the text is well placed, and there are more than several simple illustrations to break things up and keep the tale even more interesting. The story is told with heavy input from an unknown narrator, which adds extra zest to the tale. And while it walked the border of being almost too potent, at times, it made for a fun read. I'm looking forward to grabbing up the first book and seeing what I missed because I'm sure it was an enjoyable read as well.

And here they are...

Dan Bar-el  is an award-winning children's author, educator, and storyteller whose books include Audrey (cow), Not Your Typical Dragon, and The Very, Very Far North. Dan has worked with children ages three to thirteen as a school-age childcare provider, a preschool teacher, a creative drama teacher, and a creative writing teacher. He also teachers with the Creative Writing for Children Society. Dan lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with artist and goldsmith Dominique Brechault, and Sasha, the most adorable cat in the known universe. Visit him at

Kelly Pousette is an illustrator and storyteller, originally from the west coast of British Columbia. She loves to create things, especially pictures. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post Paris, The Brown Paper Bag blog, and Brightness magazine. She currently resides in northern British Columbia with her husband and very large dog Clovis/ The Very, Very far North series are her first books.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Review: The Afterlife of the Party by Marlene Perez


by Marlene Perez
Entangled Teen
YA Paranormal
352 pages

FEBRUARY 2nd, 2021!!!!

The bestselling author of the Dead Is… series is back with a snarky, hilarious take on the vampire romance novel.

When my best friend Skyler told me about this party in the Hollywood Hills, I was less than enthused. As it turned out, my feelings were more than justified. That party ruined my life.

Tansy didn’t even want to go to the party. It’s hard enough living in one of your best friend’s shadows and secretly in love with your other best friend.

And now she’s leaving it a vampire.

Now her best friend Skyler is stuck on the road trip from hell, on tour as a groupie with a literal band of vamps. Tansy sets out with Vaughn, her other BFF turned maybe more, to save Skylar’s life and take down the band. But when they find themselves in the middle of a vampire war, will Tansy be able to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her friends?


With a fun dance between magic, vampires, bffs, romance, and a pinch of quirkiness, this is a light read with a dark beat.

After being dragged to a party she never wanted to go to in the first place, this teenage girl finds herself heading against a band of vampires, who leave death and blood in their wake. Unfortunately, her best friend is on her way to become their super-groupie with more than a few bite marks to show for it. Add a strange past, a witch grandmother, a hot guy, and a pair of very strange paranormal agents, and this girl is in for the strangest moments the afterlife can offer.

If you're looking for a refreshing story which packs tons of subtle humor into a furious vampire hunt, this might be what you're looking for. I'd shove this one into the direction of a 'wild and crazy ride' category. The mix is quite original as it take very violent scenes, hits upon sexual abuse, slams groupies and cliches, nests with hot guys and romance, and weaves in a wild chase which borders on the edge of humor. And it was fun.

I did read this one in one sitting simply because it was an easy read and did have me wondering what in the world would happen next. And yet, the writing wasn't nearly as tight or smooth or flowing as it could have been. There are tons of sudden revelations, scenes which are raced over without depth or enough set-up time, and beats in the plot which just drop away and leave gaping holes. It many ways, it resembled the vampire band's music—not the best but for some reason, still hypnotizing. For all of the technical issues, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the read.

So, I'm finding this one very hard to rate and will simply go at it as fast and furious and ridiculous as the read itself. Because sometimes this is exactly the kind of read a person needs.

And here she is...

Marlene Perez is the author of paranormal and urban fantasy books, including the best-selling DEAD IS series for teens. The first book in the series, DEAD IS THE NEW BLACK, was named an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers as well as an ALA Popular Paperback. The first three books in the series have been optioned by Disney for television. She lives in Orange County, California with her husband and children.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Review: Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft

by Allison Saft
Wednesday Books
YA Fantasy
400 pages

MARCH 2nd, 2021!!!

A gorgeously gothic, deeply romantic YA debut fantasy about two enemies trapped inside a crumbling mansion, with no escape from the monsters within.

Honor your oath, destroy your country.

Wren Southerland is the most talented healer in the Queen’s Guard, but her reckless actions have repeatedly put her on thin ice with her superiors. So when a letter arrives from a reclusive lord, asking Wren to come to his estate to cure his servant from a mysterious disease, she seizes the chance to prove herself.

When she arrives at Colwick Hall, Wren realizes that nothing is what it seems. Particularly when she discovers her patient is actually Hal Cavendish, the sworn enemy of her kingdom.

As the snowy mountains make it impossible to leave the estate, Wren and Hal grow closer as they uncover a sinister plot that could destroy everything they hold dear. But choosing love could doom both their kingdoms.

Allison Saft’s Down Comes the Night is a snow-drenched, gothic, romantic fantasy that keeps you racing through the pages long into the night.


After reading the blurb on this one, I had to give it a go...especially with the colder, darker months approaching. And as it promised, this book did hold me in the pages pretty well.

Wren is supposed to be a princess, but after her mother's death, her aunt, and now queen, has put Wren's talents to use as one of the most amazing healers in the country. Unfortunately, Wren's empathy causes her to defy her orders, and she winds up in the worst position possible. Until an unexpected letter arrives. While she's ordered to ignore the letter, she can't, since it offers her not only the chance to redeem herself but also hope to give her country an edge in the approaching war. But when she sneaks away in hope of finding a way to save her country, she runs into the one thing she never expected—the bedside of her enemy and a prison guarded by unseen monsters.

Sounds amazing, right? And it is quite the woven tale. Wren is a girl with awesome healing powers and kind of a mess thanks to her tragic upbringing. But she does have a heart of gold, and that's what drives this tale onward and beyond. The book starts right in the middle of action and immediately draws in. It also quickly becomes clear that Wren isn't always the sharpest knife in the drawer. She makes stupid mistakes, but somehow, it fit to her personality. She has a lot to learn, and this book takes her down the hard path to do it. In some ways, it made her easy to cheer for and others, I wanted to flick her. But it worked and I still rooted for her.

This is a dark tale but not in the way I thought. There are two rivalry countries engaged in bloody skirmishes and on the brink of war. There is a nasty queen, very loyal soldiers, and a war based on magic and religious differences. While there is a mansion in the snow, which locks Wren up with strange happenings surrounding her, it wasn't what I expected. A bit of a mystery unfolds as she tries to figure out what's behind the moaning and secret East Wing. There's a blooming romance. There's uncertainty about loyalty and trust. But monsters aren't in the form I expected. Which isn't bad. This is quite the tangled story of intrigue, secrets, lies, lunatic-like desires, and all sorts of dark things. The weave (and constant growing romance tension) did keep me in the pages chapter after chapter. It could have been a masterpiece of a book. 

'Could' because there were a few, tiny stumbles. My biggest problem was simply the very, very, very obvious clues, which Wren just constantly overlooked. These should have been more carefully woven in because it was clear what was happening, and it made her look more stupid than she already did (which doesn't help her case). Then, there were a few logic holes in the plot and the supposed 'genius' ideas of the evil-doer. While everything looked great on the surface, deeper thought unravels a few things. Still, it was an enjoyable read, and I can't say I regretted diving into this one. Because I didn't. It did keep me in the pages for hours, and I did fever for Wren most of the time. Plus, there were several well laid secrets and surprises, which definitely made for several exciting chills and thrills. And by the end, I was a fan again.

Lovers of darker young adult fantasy who love enemy-to-lovers romances, evil plots, gothic gore...and are ready to forgive a few dumb moves on the main character's part, are going to love this one. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Review: The Curse of the Spider-riders by M. Dane


Volume One
by M. Dane
MG Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy
118 pages
ages 7 to 12

Spider-riding monsters, pesky faeries and a boy far from home; this story is a magical adventure from the very first page!

In a hive nestled amongst the treetops of a wooded mountain, a colony of faeries lead a life of peace. Unbeknown to them, an army of bloodthirsty monsters gather in the tunnels below. Monsters molded by darkness and forged into savage warriors. Consumed by hatred, they prepare to launch an attack on the hive. Battle-hardened creatures all, they have little fear for their future…

But they should. For in the gloom, Jakoby, an eleven-year-old boy, stumbles across their plan. He will do anything to stop the slaughter, even if it means laying down his own life.

But the burrows whisper truths long since buried. Truths which expose a different side to the faeries.

A darker side.


I'd seen this one earlier this year popping up all over the middle grade world with whispers of excitement and simply a good story. So when the author asked me if I wanted to take a look at it, there was no way I'd say 'no'.  And it was as much fun as I'd hoped it be.

This is the tale, which allows imagination and fantasy to flow. In other words, just right for middle graders (and those, like me, who never really grew-up anyway). The main character, eleven-year-old Jakoby, is homeless and stays with his 'gang' of kids, who are doing their best to survive. It's a dangerous life from the very first page, and this alone draws in and promises tons of tension and action. 

The author doesn't waste time with passages concerning scenery details and deep, emotional explorations, but rather, lets the story fly while unfolding a rich world at the same time. The characters quickly become like good friends...the kind a reader wants to go on an adventure with. And that's great because this story tumbles head first into non-stop action, more than a couple surprises, and a journey, which can only be founded in fairy dust, spider webs and dreams. It's a contagious mixture, which is sure to excite young fantasy fans...and those, who simply love a fun tale.

The writing is always poetic and might have been polished a bit more, but that by no means ruins this adventure. And I doubt readers will even notice. I especially see this one as a terrific read-aloud for parents to share moments with their kids. It's one of those books, which will definitely have listeners asking if it's finally time to hit the next chapter. Even for those who want to hit it on their own, it's a fun read. There is definitely violence, moments of courage, friendship, dark evil, tension, a character who tests their limits...and so much more. And that is all packed in around 110 pages, which makes it great for reluctant readers as well. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Review: The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay


by Hilary McKay
Middle Grade Fantasy
ages 8 to 12

From acclaimed author and Costa winner Hilary McKay comes The Time of Green Magic: a beautiful, spell-binding novel about a new families, a magical old house and a mysterious cat . . .

When Tom and Polly marry, blending their single parent families together, their children find it hard to relinquish their old lives. Max realizes his birth dad will never come home now, while Abi suddenly finds herself a middle child, expected to share far too much – especially with grubby little Louis. The family start over together, stretching their finances to the limit and renting an eerie, ivy-covered house, big enough for all of them.

But when the children are alone there, strange things start to happen. Worried, Louis summons comfort from outdoors, and a startling guest arrives – is it a cat, or an owl, or something else? Abi reads alone, tumbling deep into books. Max loses his best friend and falls in love.

Meanwhile, Louis' secret visitor is becoming much too real. And when Max and Abi too start to see the great spotted cat-thing that arrives in the night, it becomes a problem the three of them must find a way to solve – together. But where has the creature come from, and how will he get back?



With lots of care, warmth and heart, this book dives into the problems of a family learning to become one.

This book was not what I expected. After reading the blurb and seeing the cute cover, I was ready for a magical world to unfold in perhaps a gentle way with characters to snuggle up to. This story instead heads more in a contemporary direction with magic as a yummy side dish. 

The tale swirls around a patchwork family with three kids trying to find how they fit in together after their parents have married. Abi, the single daughter of the father, isn't sure how to link with her new step-brothers, the two sons of her nurse-step-mother, and finds comfort in books. When they move into an old, ivy covered house, strange things happen and the magic begins. 

While emotions and thoughts run deep, the story centers more on Abi and the others coming to grips with their new situations and each other than any real fantastical elements. So, I'd shove this one on the magical realism side more than true fantasy. (which was a big bend to what I expected and disappointing). Still, there is magic. It's just not extremely strong, not well-defined, and doesn't really do much until the last part of the book. 

The characters are well done and fit their age groups nicely. The exchanges, decisions and dialogue are realistic and come across very well. There are moments to smile and sigh. And there are even some creepy situations, which do raise the tension and make one wonder what will happen next. For the most part, though, there was a slower pacing through much of the book. Near the end, though, it suddenly jumps into high gear at the end of the book. For action fans like me, it was a bit...well, slow. For those who love inner-workings and drama and feelings, this is well woven and touches upon things such as first love as well.

Summed up, this is a lovely read for anyone who wants to delve into the contemporary dynamics of a family trying to weave together and characters who are finding their way. To add to the fun, there is a dusting of magic,  a short gasp of creepiness, and an exciting end.

Sneak Peek: A Misplaced Child by Heather Michelle with Giveaway!

A Misplaced Child
The Misplaced Children Book 1
by Heather Michelle
YA Fantasy

Torn between two worlds, which will she embrace?
Elodie Harper is heir to the magical kingdom of Aluna. Trapped by an evil wizard in an illusion; Elodie grows up caught between two worlds, one of magic, and one of technology.
As the facade of her mundane life of lies and fake smiles cracks, her kingdom crumbles in the absence of its ruler. Join Elodie as she navigates both lives not knowing which to embrace, and which to push into the back of her mind and forget as a bad dream.


Elodie ripped a small tab off the flyer with the competition’s web address and something glittering and shimmering caught her attention from the corner of her eye. Turning, she saw Jackson and a few of his gang rounding the corner toward her. They were joking and shoving each other, one of them dribbling a basketball, and didn’t seem to have noticed her.

The boys were not what had caught her attention. Her eyes refocused and all at once she saw the shimmer rise up, swirling in front of her, between her and the boys. She didn’t have a moment to do anything but inhale with a gasp, before the ruakh was around her.

There was a sharp rich odor of freshly tilled earth, and the skin over her whole body tingled. A wind picked up, and she felt a pressure on her bones like something held her tight. She was pulled hard to the left and tumbled through nothing. The nothing moved around her like a raging storm and a gentle breeze. After an extended moment of empty chaos Elodie landed hard on her back. Dirt kicked up around her and she choked on the dust.

With a cough, Elodie said a bad word.

Heather Michelle is an emerging author of young adult fantasy. She lives in Acworth, GA with her cat Mister Bingley and a slew of unique roommates.
Growing up, Heather Michelle spent more time living in her imagination than outside of it. Small town life sandwiched between the redwood forests and the Pacific ocean provided a rich scope for the imagination. Before the age of twelve, Heather Michelle was not a reader, but a chance encounter with a rented audiobook launched her into the vast world of the printed word, and she never looked back.

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$20 Amazon gift card – 1 winner, Bookmarks – 5 winners!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Review: A Rainforest Adventure by Sharon C. Williams

I usually claim that I'm not a huge fan of animal adventures, but recently, I've been having to take a second thought about this opinion.! Recently, I've been hit with a few animal tales, which really are quite enjoyable and fun to read. But one thing life has taught me is to never say never. It will always come back to haunt you.

Anyway, today's review not only has a gorgeous cover but holds quite the adventurous story. And best of all...

It's short! (Yep, I'm thinking of those more reluctant readers out there.)


Jasper, Amazon Parrot, Book 1
by Sharon C. Williams
Peculiar Possum Books
Chapter Book
48 pages
ages 7 to 10

Jasper is no ordinary parrot. He lives in the rainforest, which secrets he’s eager to explore. Jasper loves his home and his family, and he's also in charge of his younger brother Willie - a responsibility Jasper takes very seriously.

When he meets Charlie - a spider monkey with a penchant for food and a laid back attitude - he realizes he’s in for an adventure he never thought possible.   Even if this means getting into danger and worrying his mother to no end.

Exploring the boundaries of the forest, Jasper understands that there is more to the world around him. Who are the strange new creatures that have come there? With Willie and Charlie by his side, he will soon find out.



From beginning to end, this tale takes flight on the wings of an exciting adventure in one of the most mysterious and exciting places in the world.

After hatching, Jasper waits to see if the last egg might bring a sibling for him, and sure enough, he gets exactly that what he wished for! His brother is quite the adventurer, and after the two decide they're going to learn how to fly, the fun begins...and the worries for their mother. But Jasper has everything in grip. Sort of. With the friendship of a spider monkey, the group explores the forest around them. And while Jasper tries his best to be an awesome big, responsible brother, there are many things in store for them. 

Jasper is a wonderful parrot. He's got heart, determination, and a bit of curiosity. In other words, he's the perfect bird to set out and discover the world around him...and some very unexpected other things as well. From the very first page, the story grabs and keeps the reader engaged all the way through. The other characters carry quite a bit of personality and make sure there's never a boring moment. But then, with Jasper, his brother and their friend, they do have their hands full. The are moments of tension, a pinch of mystery, and giggles too. It's a lovely mix.

The rainforest setting and it's creatures make for a wonderful setting. The author does a nice job of letting the scenery open up without falling into the danger of offering too many, dragging details. Readers are brought into the exotic world and even learn a little along the way. But the main theme still stays with Jasper and whatever he runs into next. There's also a wonderful sense of friendship, learning about the world and, above all, sibling/family relationships. And these are very nicely woven in.

When I saw this was sold as a chapter book, I was expecting...well...a chapter book. But this one is formatted more like a middle grade read. The text and longer chapter lengths are also a bit heavy for beginner readers and suit more sure readers. So, I wouldn't call this a chapter book. However, this does make for a terrific read-aloud for kids up 4 years of age and more reluctant readers will love the short length. Still, I'd recommend this one to 7-9 year olds, since older readers might not be as intrigued with the gentler themes and plot. 

Oh, and I should add that I love the cover! Also, this would have been a super read to add a few illustrations to.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Review: Aah! Blown Away, Crash! by Brigitte Brulz


An Alphabet Misadventure
by Brigitte Brulz
Illustrated by Alyssa Brulz
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 2 to 5

Aah! A bird is blown away and crashes on a deserted island. Will he figure out how to get off the island? And who - or what - is following him? Find out in this comical alphabet misadventure that has only one to three words per page.

"Very cleverly done and beautifully illustrated. Lots of fun in this gem of an alphabet book." - Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

A free teacher's guide, shadow puppet printables, and more activity pages to go along with this book are available on Brigitte Brulz's website.



This is a super cute way to explore the ABC's...and definitely with a big twist of originality.

The main character of this book is a very simple, somewhat flighty, and maybe not always the brightest, red bird. Each page follows its adventure as it has a small accident and plunges from the sky. That's where the story begins, and its by no means the end. Each step is a mixture of silliness and a tiny bit of 'not sure what's going to happen next' tension. While them bird is ridiculous, it's impossible not to want to continue to see what it does.

The illustrations are simple yet bring exactly that across which needs to be there. The colors are bright and the images very recognizable. While there are enough details to build each scene and help create the atmosphere, the illustrations make sure not to draw too mention attention, either. They accompany, offer something to look at, but don't overpower the main theme—visiting the alphabet.

Each word sits in this book, and considering there's only (at the most) a couple on each page, that's necessary. Starting with Aah!, the words follow the alphabet...and that without being obvious. It's cleverly crafted and draws listeners in, letting them learn in a very fun, easy way. The additional materials, which are available, make this a great way to help young listeners learn those first letters as well. Plus, they get to know a very quirky, somewhat ditzy, but still super cute bird.

And here she is...

Brigitte Brulz is a homeschooling mom, author, journal creator, and freelance writer. Her book Pickles, Pickles, I Like Pickles was chosen for the 2019 Read Across Connecticut program. She offers free coloring pages, teacher's guides, activity ideas, and more information about her writings on her website at

Sneak Peek: Mistress of Death by Kathryn Trattner with Giveaway!

Mistress of Death
by Kathryn Trattner
August 22nd 2020
YA/NA Fantasy/Romance

Love. Death. Revenge.

In the city of Telum, at the edge of a dying empire and divided by superstition, anything can be had for the right price.

Gabriel Mercer, raised in the shadow of the most famous assassin the city has ever known, wants nothing more than to make a name for herself. Taking a solo contract from an up and coming politician seems like the best way to make it happen.

The night Matthew, a police officer with a spotless record, discovers Gabriel unconscious his world changes. On opposite sides of the law the pair strike up a bargain that becomes harder and harder to keep as their attraction grows.

When the city starts to burn Gabriel will put everything she’s gained at risk for a chance at revenge. Even if it means her future going up in smoke.

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The curtain dropped, intermission bell ringing. A storm of rustling fabric filled the cavernous room. Men and women stood, talking and laughing, in imitation of the performance.

A waiter knocked and entered the box. “Would you like champagne?”

“Yes, we’ll take it here. A bottle of the ’84.”

“Of course, sir. I also have a message for the young lady.” The man paused, waiting for Mercer’s approval. A nod and then a cream envelope was produced, pulled from a pocket with a twist of the wrist. The server held it in Gabriel’s direction.

“Thank you.” Gabriel took it, running a gloved hand over the surface; warm, soft the way only expensive paper could be.

“I’ll be just a moment, sir.”

Gabriel waited until the door shut before looking at Mercer. He smiled.

“I warned you he’d be here.”

“He wasn’t when the curtain went up.”

“No,” Mercer sighed, crossing his legs as he turned to face her. “Open it, see what the man of the moment has to say to the woman of tomorrow.”

She smiled, meeting his gaze, but it faded when she saw his expression. “What is it?”

He shook his head. “Open it before he returns to his box. It’s better not to have him see your reaction.”

Gabriel shot a look across the room. Royce’s box stood empty, the little golden door open. Hesitating over the envelope, she felt the weight of it in her heart. It was a line, and once crossed she would not be able to return.

“I know you don’t like him,” Gabriel began, turning the paper over in her hands, “but he’s very powerful. If you want me to be someone of consequence, I could make a worse choice.”

“This said by the woman he drugged and tried to keep against her will.” Mercer snorted, leaning back in his chair.

“I could have handled—”

“You would have become a pawn overnight, a puppet on silk strings. He is flame, you are moth. This cannot end well for you.”

The constant argument between them warmed, heating to spill over into the box. Since that night, one of failure in his eyes, all roads led here. Nothing had been settled and both tried to pretend their world remained unchanged; their relationship, not quite father and daughter, not Master and apprentice, teetered, ready to fall into some unplumbed depth.

The champagne came, nestled in a bucket of ice with glasses so thin they could cut air. The waiter uncorked the bottle, all quiet professionalism, and poured before leaving. The theater around them buzzed as people came back from the reception area and the bar. The boxes on either side remained empty; the most important one, across the room, waited for its occupant.

Sipping champagne, rolling it around in her mouth, Gabriel bit words back. There was anger, resentment. After all this time, all the training, she expected his trust. He should trust her to do the right thing. But every move she made he questioned, each thought and action policed.

She watched him pull his cigar case out, a gift from her several years before. No engraving, no words of love, just the solid gold, heavy in his hand, and kept close to his heart. He pulled a lighter from his pocket, putting flame to the slim cigar.

“May I?” Gabriel extended a hand. He raised an eyebrow but passed it without a word.

Minutes passed, the room filling, and Gabriel drank one, then two glasses of champagne, the conversation between herself and Arno Mercer over. The letter lay in her lap, the lighter balled in a fist against her thigh. She tapped a foot, waiting.

Royce returned to his box; she saw movement out of the corner of her eye. The final bell for the attendees to take their seats echoed, voices hushing.

Gabriel set the glass down, eyes on her hands, refusing to look across the room. Flicking the lighter open, watching the flame jump to life, she lit the edge of the cream envelope. The fire caught, eating heavy paper. A burst of warmth against her skin, the feeling of power as the little blaze grew. She felt watched, the hair on the back of her neck standing on end.

“You’ve caught his attention,” Mercer said, pouring himself another glass. “What do you plan to do with it? Let it burn your fingers?”

“I won’t be a puppet.”

Watching the paper turn to black ash, Gabriel dropped the remnant in the ice bucket. She focused on the curtain; the orchestra tuned, the first strings of music coming from the pit. The lights dimming, she could feel Royce like a hole in her cheek. “But in a year, I want the Left Bank to recognize me as the Mistress of Death. If you don’t want me to go to him, you must help me. Or why else have you spent your life training me?”

Mercer nodded, reaching out to grasp Gabriel’s hand. He’d never touched her growing up, never hugged or kissed her cheek. He had not even held her hand until last week, when he’d pulled her from Royce’s house.

“Gabriel, Mistress of Death. In a year, the entire city will know you.”

Author Bio:

Kathryn Trattner has loved fairy tales, folk stories, and mythology all of her life. Her hands down favorites have always been East of the Sun, West of the Moon and the story of Persephone and Hades. When not writing or reading she's traveling as much as possible and taking thousands of photos that probably won't get edited later. She lives in Oklahoma with her wonderful partner, two very busy children, one of the friendliest dogs ever, and an extremely grumpy cat who doesn't like anyone at all.

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