Saturday, October 31, 2020

Review: Night Night, Pumpkin by Amy Parker


by Amy Parker
Illustrated by Virginia Allyn
Thomas Nelson
Board Book
20 pages
ages 2 to 4

Preschoolers will be ready to say "night night!" to a fall day after reading this rhyming bedtime story about a puppy's autumn adventure at a pumpkin farm.

Night Night, Pumpkin from bestselling and award-winning author-illustrator team Amy Parker and Virginia Allyn is the second seasonal addition to the popular Night Night line of storybooks. 

This read-aloud board book for 0 to 4 year olds

follows a puppy in a pumpkin costume as he says goodnight to the things he encounters on a fall day
features rhyming text, charming artwork, and fun scenes of animals enjoying the wonders of autumn
fosters gratitude for all God's fall blessings
Night Night, Pumpkin could be a fun back-to-school gift for preschoolers and kindergarteners, a sweet Halloween or Thanksgiving reading treat, or simply a new bedtime book to enjoy as the leaves change. Little ones will love snuggling into a fall evening as they say "night night" to a day of colorful adventures.


This book is a complete and super sweet, Autumn celebration, and also makes the perfect night time story to lead to calm sleep and dreams.

Every page packs bright, joyful and colorful illustrations. The main characters are animals, who not only bright across a gentle atmosphere but radiate happiness. Every page gives thanks for something which has to do with Fall: leaves, pumpkins, apples, etc. The presented situations are ones that young listeners will be able to identify with.

Each scene is presented with four lines of text in gentle, poem form. The words are age appropriate and swing right along with the illustrations. At the end, there is a thanks to God for everything. It's a wholesome read which young listeners can flip through on their own. The illustrations also hold details, so that there something new to discover.

What's Coming in November?

 With the chilling temperatures slowly moving in, it's reading and writing time in our household. Luckily, I have a big stack of books waiting to be reviewed. And what a pile it is! Unlike last month's darker theme, this month is really a mix-and-mash-all-over-the-place-toss-up. In other words, it's a chaotic, gombobbled, genre and audience explosion. I've got mystery, science fiction, humor, diverse books, emotional, magical, dark...picture books, board books, young adult books, middle grade books...a little of almost everything. Here's a small peek!


This one screams 'snuggle in the chair with me and read me a book', doesn't it? I can't wait to see the illustrations, and I have no doubt this one radiates with warm, loving feelings...perfect for bedtime reads, too. I'll be sharing my thoughts on the 5th.

Picture Book


Advertised as a Stranger Things meets The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, I'm expecting a bit spooky with tons of mystery and a touch of magic? Science fiction? Who knows! I simply love the idea of mutant mushrooms and am curious to see where this one will lead. I'll be telling you all about it on the 6th.

Middle Grade Mystery


This takes a mouse's view on the historical voyage of the Mayflower. With Thanksgiving heading in at the end of the month, I thought this one would be a nice addition to my list. And I just happen to love mice...well, not real life ones, which sneak up on me. But this one appears to be super cute! I'll let you take a glimpse on the 10th.

Children's Historical Fiction


I enjoyed the first book in this series and can't wait to see what the second one has in store. It's such an odd pair! The illustrations in the first one were great as well as the tale. So, I'm expecting just as much from this one. You'll see if it's all I hoped on the 16th.

Picture Book


Ready for a unique twist on an old fairy tale? By taking a peek at the thin line between internet and reality, this one follows a teen boy as he masks himself with a fake identity on a dating service and runs smack dab into a girl stuck in an asylum. The mix sounds intriguing, and I'm curious where it will go. It's release date is December 1st, but I'm sharing my thoughts on the 17th.

Young Adult Fairy Tale retelling


Taking off from the award winning book, Amina's Voice, this second one follows her vacation in Pakistan, and her return to the U.S. It promises to be rich in culture and also hits on how a foreigner deals with misinformation and incorrect assumptions when they return to a classroom here in the US. Since my own kids have gone through this, I'm curious to see what the author does. You can see my opinion on the 18th.
Middle Grade Contemporary


Mountains, deadly secrets, unexplained deaths, and strange legends...this sounds like something right down my lane. I believe it swings in the direction of vampires, but I'll have to wait until I read it to know for sure. You can discover how dark this one gets on the 27th.

Young Adult Paranormal


The moment I saw this one, I knew I had to dive in. The title is something my kids (and I as a kid) said too. Add the crown...and the fact, that I actually like oatmeal now...and yes, this one grabbed my attention. If it's one to buy and read to your own kids? Find out on the 28th.

Picture Book

I have 24 to 26 reviews planned this month! I wish I could show you every single one right now (I always say that, but it's true...I would scream every title to the world if I could.) Think spies, silliness, Vietnam, meaningful moments, cajun spice, magic, birds, snow, warlocks...and...well, there's still tons more. In other words, it's going to be a wonderful month in this reading world!

Friday, October 30, 2020

Review: Australian Sea Life by Matt Chun

by Matt Chun
Hardie Grant Egmont
Picture Book/Non-Fiction
36 pages
ages 7 to 12

In this stunning companion to Australian Birds, Matt Chun takes to the oceans to explore Australia’s most fascinating sea creatures, from the great white shark to the tiny soldier crab.

Matt Chun's unique way of rendering our natural world will spark young readers' imaginations and evoke awe in all nature enthusiasts.


Stunning is the word for these illustrations as the under sea world of Australian is highlighted with its vast sea life and tons of information, too.

This is a book for young animal and sea life fans. A must have if you ask me. I was surprised how beautiful the illustrations are. Each one focuses on the sea creature presented and is simply wonderfully depicted in watercolor mastery. These alone make this a book worth flipping through.

As for the sea life (because that is the main focus of the book, after all), this book holds lots of facts and explanations over a wide variety of creatures, which can be found near Australia. This is not a book for younger listeners but is more directed toward the middle grade audience or slightly older readers. The information is rich and straight-forward, meaning that those who really want to learn about the habits, characteristics, habitats, and details of these creatures are going find exactly what they're looking for. 

The text is written in a manner that the intended age group can easily understand. While it is definitely focused on the information surrounding each animal, it is dull or boring, either. Animal fans will discover many things they didn't know before and are sure to be intrigued by more than one or two of the creatures presented.

My favorite part of this book (except the illustrations, of course) is the variety of animals presented. While some are familiar (dolphins, sharks, etcs), others are less known. Everything from coral to dugongs to crabs to fish is explored. This gives the opportunity for young animals fans to not only recognize and confirm knowledge they already have but gives them new facts and favorites to find. 

The author has brought out another book, Australian Birds, which I haven't had the chance to read. However, if it's anything like this one, it's definitely worth snatching up for Australian animal fans.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Review: To the Bone by J.R. Johansson

Looking for a creepy read just in time for Halloween? The one I have for you today is definitely worth a thought. Not only does it take place in Paris...ahhh, Paris! But it is chilling to the bone. And there are so many bones.  

by J.R. Johansson
Young Adult Thriller
276 pages

Seventeen-year-old Harley Martin has been obsessed with Paris for years. Between her passion for studying architecture and wanting to spend time with her cousin, Gretchen, there's nowhere on Earth that she'd rather go. So when Harley's parents feel guilty enough about their constant fighting to offer to send Harley to visit her cousin, Gretchen, she doesn't hesitate.

But Gretchen and Harley have both changed in the years they’ve been apart. In an effort to rekindle their friendship, Harley agrees to Gretchen’s suggested activity, even though it’s outside her comfort zone: a tour with Gretchen and her friends through the off-limits section of the Paris Catacombs. Miles and miles of tunnels deep under the city, filled with the remains of more than six million people.

When a cave-in kills their guide and leaves the group injured, terrified, and lost with limited supplies, they must search for a way out from the endless maze beneath the city of light. But surrounded by shadows, it's hard to tell friends from enemies. Harley doesn't know if she can trust anyone, including her own cousin. If they ever want to get back to the surface, they'll have to fight for everything they hold dear--for their sanity, their humanity, their very lives--in a place that only embraces death.


With the perfect setting of the caves and passageways deep underneath Paris, this is a thriller which leads in unexpected turns and adds more than a few chills along the way.

Harley's life has blown up in all directions thanks to her parents sudden decision to get a divorce. By some miracle, she got them to agree to let her visit her very famous aunt and not so famous cousin in Paris. Pressure from her cousin has her agreeing to go on a not so legal tour of underground Paris. Even though the guide is well-known and experienced, strange things begin to happen while they tour the bone filled passageways and caverns. When an accident leaves the group stuck and the guide dead, they must pray they find their own way out...and that not only before they starve or die of dehydration. They are being hunted. One by one. And the killer might be one of them.

There's something about the underground realm of Paris, which already launches the imagination into the deepest and darkest shadows. This book takes that and flies away into a suspense packed adventure with chills and thrills at every turn. It is a thriller and does hold the reader at the edge of their seat, especially because the characters are sweet enough to root for until the end. Or maybe not? It's hard to guess true intentions and what secrets each one hides.

Harley comes across as a nice girl...just one who is a little at a loss thanks to something she has absolutely no influence over. And her cousin, who wades in the rebellious world, has her reasons and is pretty easy to connect to. The others are strangers, but the author quickly builds up each personality and makes them likeable enough to be hard to suspect. They make mistakes but come across naturally. 

The setting in this one is what makes the tale. Not only does the idea already set the reader's mind in the right mood, but the world building shows that the author knows what she's talking about. And if I read her bio correctly, she has visited these herself. The descriptions lure in and hold enough detail to bring each scene to life and build the atmosphere. There were a few things which surprised me, but I'm assuming the author did her research on every end. 

It was impossible to guess what was really going on until the very last chapters, and there's even a hint of more as the tale closes off. It's dark, thrilling and intriguing, walking on the line of horror without ever really going across. In other words, it's a great read to cuddle up with and get lost in the pages, but not scary enough to make one loose sleep either. In my eyes, it's wonderfully balanced.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review: Frankie and the Creepy Cute Critters by Caitlin Rose Boyle


by Caitlin Rose Boyle
Oni Press
Middle Grade Fantasy/Graphic Novel
40 pages
ages 7 to 12

Frankie Fairy loves to learn about creepy crawly critters in her own backyard! Now that she's at a new school, she's excited to learn even more about them! Instead, she learns that the other fairy kids in class think she's the creepy one. Is Frankie really that scary? And if she is—is that really a bad thing? Maybe her creepy crawly friends can help her figure it out! 


Fun with a dusting of creepy make Frankie an amazing fairy to get to know, and that
while adding exploration and biological discoveries, too.

Frankie has moved to a new town with her mother and can't wait to meet everyone at school, but when the other fairies notice Frankie's bat-like wings, sharp teeth, and odd voice, they don't want to have anything to do with her. Sad, Frankie heads out to the nearby forest to see what she can discover there. After all, she loves learning about new creatures and is sure there are all sorts of ones to discover there. And she's right, but it leads to a ton more adventure than she expected.

Graphic novels already catch the eye with most middle graders I know, and this one, with its touch of monster-creepiness, is sure to draw attention. Especially when readers learn that Frankie is supposedly a fairy...just more of a bat-like one. It's an imaginative concept, whose uniqueness is sure to raise a few eyebrows and makes kids want to see what she's about. Luckily, she is a fun character. But these pages pack more than a touch of creepy adventure.

There are several meaningful aspects built into these pages. Firstly, Frankie has to deal with a new school and bullying. Then, there's the science end, which introduces readers to several animal facts and the fun of learning more about various creatures. I found this end especially well done as it weaves seamlessly into the story and Frankie's personality, never coming across as a biology lesson. Plus, the creatures she runs into are not ones often explored in children books—bats, possums, mosquitos and snakes. The way Frankie puts each one into her field guide also shows listeners how to do the same on their own.

In other words, this isn't only an original look on fairies in a lovely graphic novel form. It offers quite a bit more along the way.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Review: Clouds by Laura Sobeich

Every so often, I present a read not intended for younger audiences but for the parents. These books are not any worse in content than one for intended for young adults—in other words, no need to hide these under your bed. 
Today's book was once a Disney movie and is now available as an inspirational novel. It's the mother's memoir of her teen son, who knows his cancer is terminal and still finds a way not only to inspire those closet to him but many, many more.

by Laura Sobiech
Thomas Nelson
Young Adult Memoir
368 pages

Originally published as Fly a Little Higher and now updated and revised to coincide with the film release of Clouds, Laura Sobiech tells the amazing, true story behind the song and the movie.

“Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big. I want someone’s life to be changed forever.” This is what Laura Sobiech prayed when she found out her seventeen-year-old son had only one year to live. With this desperate prayer, she released her son to God’s will.

At that point, Zach Sobiech was just another teenager battling cancer. When his mother told him to think about writing goodbye letters to family and friends, he decided instead to write songs. One of them, “Clouds,” captured hearts and changed lives, making him an international sensation.

This story is a testament to what can happen when you live as if each day might be your last. It’s a story about the human spirit. It shows how God used a dying boy from a small town in Minnesota to touch the hearts of millions—including top executives in the entertainment industry, major music artists, news anchors, talk show hosts, actors, priests and pastors, and schoolchildren across the globe. And above all, it’s an example of the amazing things that happen when someone shares the most precious thing he has—himself.  

“I’m not a musician; I’m just a filmmaker, and my prayer is that you get an opportunity—both through the reading of this beautiful book and the watching of our film based on it—to experience what I will fail to put into words: the magic and inspiration of Zachary David Sobiech.”

—Justin Baldoni, filmmaker and director of Clouds


Zach had cancer his freshman year and thought he'd beat it, but when Senior year hits and he knows it's terminal, he needs to figure out how he wants to handle the rest of his life. Thanks to his love for guitar and talent for writing songs, he found a way not only to bring inspiration to a few friends and relatives, but spread it across the world.

This book is told from Zach mother's point of view; it's her memoir. She starts with a quick run-down of some moments during Zach's senior year in high school before flashing back to his freshman year and then back through before concentrating on when he took her advice and 'wrote' for his siblings, relatives and friends. This is a book, which settles strongly on Christian faith, hope and miracles. It's written with tons of heart, a mother's love and wishes, and even laces in interchanges of Zach with his family and friends. It's well done, paced nicely and does leave a lasting impression and tons of food for thought.

I'll admit, I'm not usually a huge fan of memoirs and not a person, who dives very often into inspirational, real life tales. I did find this one interestingly crafted, though. While it's a memoir, it didn't fit this bracket completely. Rather, dialogue and scenes were presented in a more usual, story-telling fashion as well. It created an interesting back and forth mixture between the two forms, and created a more flowing tale than a pure memoir would. It was easy to get lost in the story, and even easier to learn to love Zach.

The first chapters hop around quickly through time (forth and back) in an attempt to get the reader up to date with the mother's thoughts and Zach's past. These chapters hit the memoir style as I know it. While the information was dropped fast and smoothly, it wasn't my favorite way to handle things  (a bit of a bouncy information drop and a little confusing). Still, they style pulls in and makes it hard not to be invested in Zach's life. The religious tones slide effortlessly right along into the tale, and I enjoyed the openness in this direction quite a bit. It is inspiring in so many ways.

While this isn't my favorite type of read and this didn't grab me completely maybe because of this, it is nicely written and will leave more than just a little footprint on those who enjoy stories, which head in this direction. I do wish I could highly recommend this one to teens, since I think they would especially enjoy and benefit from Zach's life, it comes from the mother's thoughts, and I'm not sure this will resonate with that age group as well as it could. Still, parents will connect with this one (after all, it is a mother's memoir) and find Zach to have been a very special young man, and I can imagine some teens really connecting with him.

Learn more about Laura, Zach and the book at #flyhigher

Review tour:

Saturday, October 3rd: Mom Loves Reading and @mom_loves_reading

Monday, October 5th: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf

Tuesday, October 6th: Running Through the Storms

Wednesday, October 7th: Nurse Bookie and @nurse_bookie

Thursday, October 8th: Laura’s Reviews

Friday, October 9th: Mammanatty’s Raves and Reviews

Monday, October 12th: What is That Book About

Tuesday, October 13th: @iamgeorgiabrown

Wednesday, October 14th: @irishgirliereads

Thursday, October 15th: Living My Best Book Life and @livingmybestbooklife

Friday, October 16th:

Monday, October 19th: @memoriesbymeyers

Tuesday, October 20th: Sincerely, Karen Jo – spotlight

Wednesday, October 21st: @bookscoffeephotography

Thursday, October 22nd: @the_unwined

Friday, October 23rd: Leighellen Landskov and @mommaleighellensbooknook

Monday, October 26th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

Tuesday, October 27th: Bookworm for Kids

Wednesday, October 28th: @baytownbookie

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: Round by Jennifer Ward and Lisa Congdon


by Jennifer Ward
Illustrated by Lisa Congdon
Beach Lane Books
Picture Book
48 pages
ages 3 to 8

From award-winning author Jennifer Ward and celebrated artist Lisa Congdon in her debut picture book comes a lyrical, rhyming exploration of the many round things that can be found in nature.

Nature all around is round...

Take a spin through the seasons in this thoughtful and meditative picture book that explores roundness in the natural world. There are round birds’ nests and eggs in the spring, round raindrops falling from the sky in the summer, round apples filling the trees in the fall, and round snowflakes covering the ground in winter—and so much more! Little ones will love this stunning read-aloud that is certain to intrigue and inspire them to start looking all around outside for things that are round.


Ringing in with a celebration of nature, the idea of 'round' is presented in a sweet and unforgettable way.

Nature is round. That's the main theme in these pages, and it's presented in a clear, constant way. From the moon to a curled up fox, the possibility to find 'round' things seems almost limitless. The author keeps the text extremely simple with only a few words on each page and let's the illustrations take over from there. Listeners will figure out pretty quickly what round is and probably head off to find things on their own...and if they are as inventive as this book, they'll have tons to discover.

The illustrations make this a read listeners will want to grab up on their own time and again. While the text isn't overly exciting (that's not the point, either), the illustrations allow all those round things in nature shine. The pictures are full of positive vibes and hold a variety of images and settings. 

As a whole, the book definitely brings across the idea of round and holds repetition as the main teaching tool....which works. There were a few moments, where I'm not sure the idea of round really fit the presented scene, and some listeners might be a bit stumped. But all in all, the book does it's job well and definitely gives enough 'round' for listeners to catch onto the concept pretty well.

And here they are...

Lisa Congdon is an illustrator, author, and speaker. She is a completely self-taught artist, whose successful career as an artist didn't start until her 30's. Best known for colorful graphic drawings and hand lettering, she's worked with high profile clients (including Comme des Gracons, the Obama campaign, Crate and Barrel, etc) and cultivated a following of 400K on her channels. Congdon has published eight adult books focusing on career-building as an artist, and also hosts motivational speaking engagements about finding one's artistic voice.

Jennifer Ward has writtein numerous award-winning picture books, including Mama Built a Little Nest and Mama Dug a Little Den, both illustrated by Steve Jenkins, and How to Find a Bird, illustrated by Diana Sudyka. A former elementary educator, Jennifer Ward is an experienced public speaker who travels the country, speaking in schools and at international and national writer and literacy conferences. She lives with her family in Edwardsville, Illinois. Visit her at

Cover Reveal: Prom House by Chelsea Mueller

by Chelsea Mueller
Underlined (Penguin Random House)
YA Thriller

MAY 4, 2021!!!

What happens when the best night of your life turns into the worst? Full of menace and suspense, this is an unputdownable thriller—and a trade paperback original.

When Kylie walks into the gorgeous beach house, it’s a dream come true. She still can’t believe she talked her parents into letting her spend the weekend down the New Jersey shore after Prom. Kylie, her boyfriend Liam, and their friends have rented the most amazing party house—and it’s all theirs. Prom was awesome, but this is going to be even better.

Except there’s a little problem. A violent storm hits the beach and the power goes out—and there’s no sign it’s coming back. Candles and camping lanterns wasn’t the vibe they were going for, but everyone wants to make the most of it. Until people start disappearing . . . and turning up dead. Kylie’s terrified. Is somebody’s prom date a killer?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

And here she is...

Chelsea Mueller writes gritty, twisty fantasy and thriller novels for adults and teens. She loves bad cover songs, good fight scenes, and every soapy YA drama Netflix can put in her queue. Chelsea lives in Texas and has been known to say y'all.

For the latest updates, visit or follow @ChelseaVBC on Twitter and Instagram.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

Hosted by:

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Review: I'm Feeling School Bus Yellow! by Tina Gallo

by Tina Gallo
Illustrated by Clair Rossiter
Simon Spotlight
Board Book
14 pages
ages 2-5

Celebrate the back-to-school season with fantastic Crayola colors in this adorable board book that’s shaped like a school bus with foil on the cover!

Kids are sure to love going back to school with this fun shaped board book! From a scarlet lunchbox to macaroni and cheese–colored pencils to a blue violet brand-new backpack, there is so much to be excited for with the start of a new school year!

© 2020 Crayola, Easton, PA 18044-0431. Crayola Oval Logo is a registered trademark of Crayola used under license.



The inventive names Crayola uses for their crayons come to life as the school day goes rumbling joyfully by.

If you're like me and my kids, it is fun to read the names of the colors printed on Crayola crayons. They can be pretty inventive. In this little board book, several of these colors take the spotlight. By accompanying a 'crayon' on a usual day at school, several colors are presented while the good points of a day at school are highlighted.

This is a sturdy board book, which takes the cute form of a bus. A yellow school bus, of course. The crayon colors which will appear in the book are already shown doing all sorts of antics in each of the bus' windows. Personality and quirks are definitely there, and it does add a lot of fun to the tale. The book covers two things at once—showing what a pretty average day of school looks like and learning colors. So, from the end, it's something well directed toward little ones, who are facing their first days of school. 

For a board book, there's quite a bit of text on the pages. At first, I wasn't sure that was a good thing, but the text isn't difficult and does fit the understanding level of the intended age group. Some words are a little more difficult, but since this is a read-aloud, introducing a few new words is a good thing in my book (no pun intended). It not only introduces each color and a moment in the school day, but adds a couple more details which address the listener directly like favorite foods and games that most will recognize. Each page ends with a question directed toward the listener, asking for their opinion on things like favorite colors and what makes them feel happy.

One thing which makes me take pause in these pages is the presentation of the colors. Firstly, by introducing Crayola's names, it does run a little on the wayside of basic color learning. For example, Jungle Green isn't a pure green...but does this make a difference? Maybe. Maybe not. Also, there are quite a few intentions held in these pages between learning Crayola's colors, seeing the schedule of a usual day at school, and talking about emotions. It feels busy. But then, it can be used to address several themes, depending on where the main reader wants to take it. 

All in all, it's a fun book which heads in several directions without growing confusing. Friends of coloring, who recognize Crayola's colors, will especially enjoy this one.

Friday, October 23, 2020

Review: Three Keys by Kelly Yang

Good morning! Anyone else experiencing the weather rollercoaster? We have a high of 55 degrees one day, and 85 the next. But I can't complain. It's the right mix for working outside and snuggling with a book the next day.
Today, I have something for middle graders, which is set in southern California. This is the second book in the series and hits hotels, friendship, and illegal immigration along the lines of racism. It's definitely diverse and has a sweet little girl as the lead role.

Front Desk, #2
by Kelly Yang
Middle Grade Contemporary
ages 8 to 12

Mia Tang thinks she’s going to have the best year ever.

She and her parents are the proud owners of the Calivista Motel, Mia gets to run the front desk with her best friend, Lupe, and she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing! But as it turns out, sixth grade is no picnic…
1. Mia’s new teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great.
2. The motel is struggling, and Mia has to answer to the Calivista’s many, many worried investors.
3. A new immigration law is looming and if it passes, it will threaten everything—and everyone—in Mia’s life.

It’s a roller coaster of challenges, and Mia needs all of her determination to hang on tight. But if anyone can find the key to getting through turbulent times, it’s Mia Tang!


A little girl navigates the world around her with heart, spunk, and an attitude, which is hard not to enjoy.

Mia's life is looking up. Her parents have not only purchased the hotel and made a step closer to fulfilling their hopes and dreams, but it's flourishing. Now, if only the rest of her life were like that. But school and especially one teacher are making things difficult. Add the constant rampage of the local government's focus on the evils of illegal immigration, and she's got more than a few stumbling blocks to overcome.

This is the second book in the series. While I didn't read the first one, this wasn't an issue. There are a few mentions of things which did happen in the first book, but I had no problem getting to know Mia, her family, her situation, and her friends by starting with book two. So, this can be read as a standalone.

I love the way this book starts out—tons of family goodness, a celebration with friends and neighbors, and a dash of culture, setting and the lifestyle they live in all rolled into one. It sets a rich scene without feeling that it other words, no description dumps which bore. The positive vibes hit right away, so fitting to Mia's personality, too. The characters and their relationships come to life in a fun and easy to read way.

The writing is very fitting for the age group. Mia and her friends come across naturally, not only in their actions and dialogue, but also in their thought processes. Friendship, school troubles, and family concerns come across in an age appropriate manner and are mostly things readers will easily identify with. The entire thing carries a nice pace and makes for a smooth, easy read. Middle graders, who enjoy reading about kids just like them who deal with real life issues, will enjoy it quite a bit.

The only thing which bothered me about this tale is how the author handles the message. This is a book with a clear one, addressing illegal immigrants. While I respect and enjoy lovely written tales, which broaden horizons, make kids think and open it all up for discussion, this one slams it front and center with gusto. Mia's adventure slides around it, more as second place. I simply wish there had been a better weave between the two with a little more finesse, so that Mia would stand in the center point and not an agenda.

Still, middle graders who like tales about kids their age, who take on real life issues, are going to enjoy this one. Mia is hard not to like and the type of kid you'd like to call your friend. And how fun it would be to have the chance to visit her family's hotel!

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Review: Cat's Fur by Bonnie Stanard


by Bonnie Stanard
Illustrated by Mariaena Shannon
Fairview Publishing
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 4 to 8

A witch lives alone until homeless cats move in. The moonlight gets scratchy and the witch gets achey. Then a letter arrives and she understands! Cat's Fur is a lyrical read aloud story with irresistible artwork and beautiful illustrations. Fun for all ages. Perfect for Halloween and year round. Perfect for the little ones, and big ones will enjoy it too!


Just perfect for Halloween, this is a darker read for those young listeners who want something creepy and very different.

A witch lives alone and is miserable, since everyone avoids her. But in a way, she has a heart of gold. Stray cats find a type of home around her house...and she tolerates them mostly thanks to the things they bring her so she can do her spells. When a witch friend very unexpectedly wants to visit but has a cat allergy, the witch realizes that this might just be her problem too.

I'm always on the look-out for picture books that stick out. And this one definitely does that. Dark is the word for this tale, inside and out. It starts with the very heavy illustrations and stretches right into the odd tale. Every page is dark and dreary...much like the witch herself. The illustrations give off a creepy vibe without really ever crossing any lines. But still, the image of her house surrounded by many, many cats, and even the image of her horribly, miserable self, does anything but awake warm fuzzy feelings. Sensitive readers might not like this one, since it does send off a strange vibe.

The tale itself is...well, strange. But that doesn't mean it's badly written either. The witch is a witch, a very lonely witch. This brings a sense of sadness which mixes in with her odd quirks and strangeness. But I don't think it really misses any marks because witches might just be that way. I did enjoy it and believe that there are young listeners out there, who will be thrilled. It just won't be every listener's thing. My only real critique on this one is the ending. It doesn't wrap up much, but leaves a lot hanging as if the story were dropped off before the end hit. 

Is it worth a read? That really depends on your listeners, but for Halloween, this definitely earns at least a consideration.

Sneak Peek: Dare by Rowdy Rooksy with Giveaway!

by Rowdy Rooksy
A Bradford Academy Novel
August 1st 2020
YA Contemporary


Welcome to Bradford Academy where power and elite are bred, wealthy bloodlines bond, and a risky game of Dare can make or break your family legacy. Fallon Gamble used to believe that life was simple until she found herself in the hall of Bradford Academy. At Bradford, the only thing that matters is your family legacy and what you’re willing to do to preserve it. Fallon used to live a simple life but things are different now. Now, Fallon’s caught in the viper’s den with a power hungry egomaniac out to destroy her, a dangerous secret that’s eating her alive and she’s torn between three of the hottest, wealthiest boys on campus.

Goodreads / Amazon


“Bradford Academy is the Harvard and Yale of boarding schools. Your family has to not only be extremely wealthy but they have to have certain connections. There’s a hierarchy within the elite and that same hierarchy applies here at Bradford. The kids at the top of the food chain come from the wealthiest families and are what we call pure bloods.”

“Pure bloods?” I say with a frown.

“Yeah, it means that your family wealth goes back many generations so you’re born into wealth. It’s the only life you’ve ever known.”

“Are you a pure blood?” I ask.

“Yep” she nods.

“But I’m not,” I say.

“No, you’re not but you’re a Gamble and that trumps everything.”

“Why?” I ask. This is some secret illuminati shit she’s talking and it’s blowing my mind right now.

“Because the Gambles not only have wealth, they also have political power. The Gambles ran the inner circle for years then they lost their heir when your father died. No heir, no power. So, for a long time the Gambles had to yield to the Barringers but then you came along and even though you’re not a pure blood, you’re the future of the Gamble dynasty so the rules were changed to accommodate your existence and not everybody’s on board with that.”

“And by everybody you mean Bexley,” I say.

She nods. “Next to the Gambles, the Barringers are it. That family is worth sixty-six billion dollars and with the Gambles out of the way the Barringers took over the inner circle. And here at Bradford, there was no Gamble legacy so Bexley Barringer became the It pure blood around here.”

“So, what about the others? How do they fit in?” I ask.

“So, here at Bradford the Barringers have been at the top of the hierarchy for a long time. At least since the last Gamble heir went here.”

“My father,” I say.

“Right, but that was a very long time ago. So, it’s been the Barringers ruling this place. That family owns one of the largest fashion and retail chains in the country. After the Barringers you have the Davenports who make their money in oil. They’re worth about forty billion. Then you have the Nadars,” she says point to herself. “My grandfather is a billionaire industrialist and philanthropist. We’re worth thirty-eight billion. Then there’s the Amhersts who own the largest energy infrastructure firm in the country. They’re worth about thirty-six billion. Next you have the Radcliffes who are cousins of the Barringers.”

My eyebrows go up in shock. “Bexley and Harlyn are related?”

“Yeah, they’re cousins but they’re nothing alike. So anyway, the Radcliffes are worth like thirty-five billion, then there’s the twins Indigo and Tatum James who are the offspring of Hollywood actor Quincy James and billionaire heiress, Leyla Motsepe James. Leyla’s family is the real power in that union. The Motsepe’s family made their fortune in gold, metal and platinum. They’re worth like thirty billion. Then there’s the Caldwells and the Norths. They’re not as wealthy as the rest of us. Their net worth is in the high millions but they’re legacies. Lucca’s the son of legendary NFL running back, Darren Caldwell. After daddy Caldwell retired he partnered with the Amherst family in some lucrative deals putting the Caldwells in the inner circle. As for the North’s, their worth about five hundred million but they’re deep into politics so they have an in with the government which makes them very valuable.”

“So, let me see if I got this right. The hierarchy here is Bexley Barringer, Alisander Davenport, You, Zade Amherst, Harlyn Radcliffe, the twins, Indigo and Tatum, then Lucca Caldwell and Chloe North.”

“You got it except…”

“Except what?” I say, leaning in.

“Except now that you’re here, technically you’re at the top of the hierarchy,” she says with sly grin.

“Me? Yeah, right?”

“I know you don’t realize it yet but you will eventually. Again, you just need to learn how things work.”

“It’s all so complicated. Why can’t we just be teenagers?” I wine.

“We are teenagers. Our bank accounts are just bigger and normal teenager rules don’t apply to us,” Devya says with a smirk.

And here she is...

RowdyRooksy aka Rowdy fell in love with writing in junior high when she was given an assignment to read the poem Death Be Not Proud by John Donne and to write a sonnet in that similar style. She wrote the poem and hasn't stopped writing since. She has several notebooks filled with poems and short stories and she finally decided to put some of her short stories into a novella which became her first published book, Turned Out.

Rowdy loves a range of genres from Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary Romance, Erotica to Young Adult. She can talk all day about aliens, ghosts and the afterlife and can get lost for hours in meditation. She hates peas but chocolate is her jam!

Rowdy loves to hang out on Instagram. Hit her up @authorrowdyrooksy.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Review: Escape from a Video Game by Dustin Brady

The Secret of Phantom Island
by Dustin Brady
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Middle Grade Science Fiction/
Choose Your Own Adventure
179 pages
ages 7 to 12

Young gamers control the action in this interactive new series from the bestselling author of Trapped in a Video Game. With more than 30 endings and an unlockable bonus adventure, The Secret of Phantom Island promises hours of screen-free fun.

Cooper Hawke and the Secret of Phantom Island is the greatest video game nobody has ever played. The treasure-hunting adventure was supposed to set a new standard for gaming. Then, just one month before its release date, it fell off the face of the earth. 

Now, for the first time, you get a chance to play the mysterious game—from the inside. As you outsmart enemies, solve puzzles, and explore the island’s hidden areas, you’ll discover that there’s more to this game than the world realized. 

Escape from a Video Game is an innovative pick-your-plot story that promises two adventures for the price of one! The main adventure builds critical thinking skills by rewarding young readers for solving puzzles and making sound choices with non-stop action and huge plot twists. Once readers beat the video game within the book, they’ll get a chance to hunt for every possible ending. Finding all the book’s endings reveals a code that readers can use to unlock a secret story online.

Fans of the best-selling Trapped in a Video Game series, as well as new readers, will quickly come to appreciate the page-turning action to uncover more secrets about the mysterious video game company Bionosoft.


Choose Your Own Adventure takes on a new meaning in this exciting tale of adventure, puzzles and oh-so-many twists and turns.

This is the second book put out by Mr. Brady, which follows this CYOA style. I didn't get to read the first one, and that doesn't really matter (except for the fact that I'd now love to grab it up, too). This book goes right down the traditional CYOA alley but with a few new twists. The reader can interact a little more with the tale and is prompted to work out things with puzzles and such. It adds a new dimension and a lot more fun.

 The story telling itself is fine...nothing amazing, but then, that's not the point of something like this. The tale does draw the reader in and allow them to become part of the excitement as well as steer in unknown directions. Luckily, if the reader dies, they aren't prompted to have to return to page one (because who does that in a traditional CYOA anyway?) but simply leads them back one step to try the other route. If it wasn't this way, I could see frustration raking in quick...and that's also not the point of a 'fun' read.

The adventure suggests that the reader remember their steps, and there are little prizes along the way. In other words, this is so much more than a simple CYOA, and that's great. It isn't literature at its prime, but this does encourage kids to read while doing so much more. In other words, I'm a total fan and have no doubt middle graders will enjoy this one from beginning to end.

And here he is...

Dustin Brady writes funny, action-packed books for kids. Although he regularly gets locked out of his own accounts for forgetting passwords, Dustin still remembers the Super Mario Bros. 3 game genie code for infinite lives. It’s SLXPLOVS. Dustin lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with his wife, kids, and a small dog named Nugget.

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