Monday, November 30, 2020

What's Coming in December?

Singing those carols, yet? I'm already in full baking, decorating, and stuffing my face with treats mode. But do I have time for reading, too? You bet! As always, the book pile is higher than high (not quite as big as our Christmas tree...thank goodness!). I haven't read any of these, yet. I'm always tight on the reading end and usually pressing for some last minute words. So, each day will be like opening a present...for both you and me. While I steal another cookie, here's some of the goodies you can expect in the upcoming weeks.


The title got a strange look from me, when I first saw it. But hey, I'm ready for the unexpected. This is a collection of short stories, and more than several of them have already won prizes internationally. There are a few new ones included too, and it promises to stretch over quite a few genres. I'll tell you what I think on the 8th.

Short Story Collection


Gingerbread men, which come to life? That sounds like an adorable picture book to me. As a fan of gingerbread houses, this one definitely caught my attention, and I can't wait to see what sweetness lies in store. You can sneak a peek with me on the 7th.

Picture Book


It's been awhile since I've picked up a YA contemporary romance. Add a musical twist and the thought of a girl falling for a boy, who doesn't believe in love...and this might be one to snuggle up with in front of the warm fire. We'll see on the 2nd.

Young Adult Romance


A girl wants to become an author but can't finish any of her stories. I think you might see why this one grabbed my attention...sounds simply too familiar. Add an irritating twin brother, a castle, a maze, and I couldn't say no to taking a peek at this one. I'll be giving my thoughts on the 11th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


There's no way I'd skip out on fantasy this month, and this one seemed like a fast-paced, exciting read. Wielded with a strong heroine, these pages have her zapped to another world and facing off giant, rat armies. It's been a bit since I read a fantasy with this much imagination, and I'll tell you if it's as exciting as I hope it is on the 14th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


Of course, I'm going to have more than a couple lovely Christmas and wintery reads this month, as well. Because what are the holidays without snowy and Christmas-y tales? I'll be peppering these in during the next weeks and hope you enjoy them as much as I do. This one will be reviewed on the 17th.

Picture Book


This is the first book in a brand new series from this bestselling author. It's a retelling of Wild Swans and set in England...every book in the series will happen there (as I understand). I'm hitting this one right before Christmas on the 22nd, although you'll have to wait until January 5th to get your hands on it.

Young Adult Fairy Tale Retelling


This one reminded me of myself as a kid and my daughter...a lemonade stand to raise some cash. Granted, we aren't geniuses like the boy in this one. And we didn't get competition from across the street. Set in graphic novel form, this one appears to be a ton of fun to read. You'll find out on the 26th! Releases on January 19th.

Middle Grade Graphic Novel


This is the second book in the High Crown Chronicles series...the first book I'm just finishing up and loving (I'll talk about that one, too, on the 28th). It's high fantasy with a great heroine and tons of action. This just happens to be an author I enjoy, anyway. If this series is worth a glimpse? Find out at the end of the month!

Young Adult Fantasy

So, did any of those catch your curiosity, or are you still munching on those cookies? Hopefully, both! If not, have no fear because there are a total of 25 reviews this month (or more?) and tons of surprises. I'd wrap every single one with a big, red bow if I could. And shiny paper. Got to love shiny paper. In any case, you aren't going to want to miss out on the fun because this month packs goodies galore.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Review: Eternal Choice by Kara Leigh Miller


The Cursed Series, Book Two
by Kara Leigh Miller
FireChicken Press
YA Urban Fantasy

Forced to move to California with her father, the same man who abandoned her ten years ago, Chloe is once again starting over. Only this time, she has a perky new stepmom and an annoying baby brother. To make matters worse, the sea of snobby rich kids at her new prep school pretend she's invisible. As if all that wasn’t bad enough, she has this gnawing sensation that she’s forgetting something important.

And then Trent Halstead crashes back into her life, bringing with him everything she's forgotten and the devastating news that there’s a coven of witches after her, and no one knows why—until Chloe discovers the answer in a box of old family photos. Now, she's keeping a secret that could save Trent's life. There’s just one problem: his salvation will come at a cost. Her destruction. And that’s a price she’s not sure she’s willing to pay.

**Eternal Choice is the exciting sequel to Eternal Curse.**



Vampires and witches intertwine with curses and a bit of romance in a read, which never offered a boring moment.

Chloe's not happy. After her mother passed away, she's forced to move to California to live with her father and new stepmother, leaving every friend and loved one behind. But she turns eighteen in another month and is determined to use that to move back to the life she loves. In an attempt to appease her father and step-mom, she agrees to start tutoring, but the student she gets is packed with secrets. When she meets his brother, strange flashes of what appear to be memories have her realizing there's more to her life than she thought. Soon, she discovers everyone has been keeping information from her, the kind which will edge her closer and closer to a choice between life, death, and love.

I did not dive into book one first but headed straight into this one. And that wasn't a problem, at first, since Chloe starts a new life in this book in almost every way. Even her own past doesn't play a really huge role until about mid-way through the book. When her world flip-flops, however, it would have been nice to have read the first book first, since I did find myself playing catch-up. But even that wasn't a huge problem, and I enjoyed this one the entire way through.

This has a lot of teen drama. Chloe hates her new life in California, misses her mother, misses her friends, deals with school like an outcast and yet, ends up with the hottest guy there chasing after her. So, cliches are in full spin during the first part of this one. And she acts like a teen with a bit of an attitude and lack of gratitude or understanding for her situation. Simply said, she came across a bit spoiled to me, especially since her step mom was very sweet and nice. That said, the book takes a very positive spin (on the intriguing plot end of things), when the two strange guys show up and start stalking her. Dark secrets and dangerous surprises  knock the cliche pretty much out of the tale and allow more and more excitement to settle in. By the end, the spoiled teen girl is gone and a much bigger problem lies in wait. 

Fans of young adult urban fantasy with lots of romance...tip-toing into the reverse harem in some ways...will enjoy this one quite a bit.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Review: I Hate Oatmeal by Jan Lis

by Jan Lis
Illustrated by Courtney Smith
Elk Lake Publishing 
Picture Book
46 pages
ages 4 to 8

A delightful book for picky little eaters.

Timmy refuses to eat his oatmeal. Mother tries to make his cereal look yummy, with no luck. See what she does with the oatmeal and how Timmy reacts.


This one caught my eye thanks to the title combined with the wonderful true for some of those early, picky eaters!

Timmy will not...under any his oatmeal. Mom goes to all lengths to add the extra something, which will make that oatmeal more enticing. Day after day, she does her best, but Timmy is not to be swayed. Then, she does something unexpected and his attitude might just change.

I know I was not an oatmeal fan when I was younger, so for me, Timmy was very easy to connect to before this book even started. My kids thought so too. But even they had to admit that with everything the poor mother tried, it was getting to be a bit much.

The author does this with a sense of repeat. Every morning, Timmy comes in and refuses to touch his oatmeal, and every day, the mother does something to spice things up. At first, I thought there was a printing mistake since the story really repeats itself, but then quickly realized what was going on. The sense of him doing the same thing day after day hits even with younger readers in a way which starts to make Timmy's dislike seem more and more tiring...much like it should for the mother. So, this was really well done in its monotony. 

The illustrations really caught my eye. They are detailed, very brightly colored, and while portraying things realistically, throw in an unexpected, artistic flair, too. I enjoyed the originality and was very surprised by the mother's outfits and 'personality'. It's definitely something which sticks out and will catch kids' attentions.

At the end of the book, there are question to open up discussions about the tale. These ask readers about what they say or happened in a game-like fashion. It helps to make the message clear without coming across preachy.

You can find out more about the author...


Friday, November 27, 2020

Review: Feather Frost by K.C. Simos


The Dryad's Cede, Book Two
K.C. Simos
YA Fantasy / Retelling

When Prince Anders disappears from the Palace in very mysterious circumstances, his childhood friend Eliza suspects there may be truth in the myths and legends of the land. The decision to test her theories results in a test of her own strengths, and in searching for the missing prince she finds answers to questions about her own past.


Several myths and well known fairy tales skip and twist in unexpected ways to create an exciting tale with wonderful characters.

Eliza was handed over to a young man in a small town shortly under mysterious circumstances shortly after her birth by her mother, who swore it'd be better never to see her again. Over the years, Eliza becomes good friends with the royal family and especially the two princes. When one of them goes suddenly missing, she's determined to find out if the myths behind an Snow Queen are true, and her adventure takes her not only in directions she never dreamed possible, but ones which are also very dangerous.

This is the second book in a trilogy. I did read the first one (and enjoyed it quite a bit), but these can be read as stand alones, too.

I enjoy how the author takes well-known legends and myths and swirls them together in various ways. Some are more dribbled in, while others have a larger presence in the tale. It's fun to see these well known characters go in new and yet familiar directions, and form their very own legends and myths along the way. Anyone who enjoys retellings is going to enjoy this trilogy because it packs tons of lovely surprises.

In many ways, this sticks to the traditional, story-telling feel, while incorporating a few aspects which make everything familiar too. Eliza is an easy character to like as are many of the characters in the book. I was surprised how quickly I was caught up in the tale, and it was very hard to make myself put it down. I would have liked to have a little more background surrounding the evil characters, but this didn't hurt the story as it is, either. 

I'd recommend this one more for the younger end of the young adult audience and upper middle graders. While Eliza is seventeen and her friends are starting usual jobs and going to college, the writing slides better in with ages 10 to 14. But then, even adults can get lost in this one, since I'm not sure how many readers of these ages will know all of the myths and legends included. Either way, it's a treat.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!


May every single one of you have a wonderful and blessed


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mish-Mash Day with Review #4 - The Sparks by Kyle Prue

It's Mish-Mash Day! And that means I'm digging through the books I've read 'unofficially' the last weeks and letting them have their day in the spotlight. Since this is pretty spontaneous, I've been surprising myself with what I have. I'm especially shocked to see that almost every single one is YA!

Anyway, I picked up this one in an entire trilogy set because I was desiring some more hardcore fantasy, which this tends to, at least. Since I've only finished up book one so far, here it is!


Feud Trilogy, Book One
by Kyle Prue
Cartwright Publishing
YA Fantasy
300 pages

One teen assassin-in-training must unite three warring supernatural dynasties before death comes to them all…

Find out why USA Today calls The Sparks “a crackling read” that “builds a vivid world (both) otherworldly and relatable.”

Neil Vapros just wants to make his father proud. The sixteen-year-old aspires to serve his family as an assassin, but he nearly dies in the process. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Neil’s family, as well as two rival dynasties, have abandoned an ancient promise to protect their city. An unknown evil has begun hunting all three houses from the shadows…

As Neil’s relatives fall one-by-one, he attempts to unite the three supernatural families against a common enemy. But earning trust after years of assassination attempts could prove impossible. Neil’s fight may involve more than a bloodthirsty empire, as betrayal rears its ugly head…

The Sparks is the first book in the award-winning Epic Feud trilogy of young adult fantasy novels. If you like captivating characters, inventive world building, and supernatural battles, then you’ll love Kyle Prue’s action-packed coming-of-age tale.

Buy The Sparks today to ignite your thirst for adventure!


Three families with magical powers, an evil emperor, a kingdom surrounded by walls, monsters outside, betrayal, secrets, greed, and mistrust all make this into a complexly woven plot and a rich, fantasy world.

Neil belongs to one of the three powerful families in the kingdom, one which was granted magical powers many years before. It's his job to be a socialite or, what he'd rather be, an assassin. Unfortunately, his father has no trust in his abilities as the later. Caught in a never ending feud with the other two families, Neil follows his father's orders to try to turn tables on the dispute. While he fails, his actions indirectly speed up another, unknown danger. Soon, the world as Neil and the families knows it falls apart, and Neil's dreams of being an assassin dim in the new danger he now faces.

While the blurb starts with the idea of a new assassin trying to make his way, this really doesn't do the tale even the slightest justice. This isn't about an assassin. It's about an empire, greed and warring families needing to find a way to deal with each other for other purposes. It's not even written from a single point of view. This tale weaves masterfully between families, characters and scenes, allowing different perspectives to tell the tale as it unfolds. Because it is so woven, it'd be impossible to do it any other way. And as a reader, I learned to like/hate every single character. 

The world building is very well done as the kingdom and lives of these characters develops and changes. But it's a character driven tale, through and through. The survivors of the three families are young adults with determination, hatred, and powers they haven't completely grown into...but don't underestimate them, either. 

The tale is very well done and doesn't leave a boring moment, while still building the needed background, world building and character depth. It's an adventure to get lost in, and every chapter brings something new. 

I just finished book one and can't wait to hit book two.

Mish-Mash Day with Review 3: RYB by Nicole Adrianne

It's Mish-Mash Day, and here's book number three!
I think I was approached by the author on this one...or maybe I someone got it some other way? Seriously, I've been searching and am no longer sure. But it doesn't matter because this one is free over on the author's website anyway...Nicole Adrianne.
Why? Well, my best guess is that she's about to release a brand new series. Her first trilogy, Miles & Breaker, has gotten positive praise (it's a YA SciFi Dystopian). After reading this novella, I've started reading this trilogy. Maybe I'll get a chance to share my thoughts when I'm done. 
Anyway, this one is a quick, fast-paced read, which throws the reader into the virtual world and was good enough to have me pick up her other, I guess that says something.

A Novella
by Nicole Adrianne
Young Adult Gamer Fiction

Greta wakes up in a tunnel surrounded by soldiers, with nothing to her name but a red uniform and a sharp mind. The only thing she knows for sure: she needs to think fast if she's going to survive.

As Greta searches for a place to hide from the fighters, she notices bizarre details in her world. Are trees supposed to have secret panels? And why is the war zone next to a perfectly manicured suburb?

When Greta puts on a blue uniform and hides among the enemy, she learns they're not the monsters she expected. Their warmth and gentleness seem out of place in the battle-scarred city.

But Greta's charade can't last forever...


Set in a 'gamer' world, this one takes a slightly different twist as it throws two sides against each other in a battle which never seems to end.

Greta wakes up in a concrete tunnel with selectively wiped memories. She has no clue how she got there, what she's doing there or even where she came from. Others around her wear blue or red, and she herself is adorned in a red outfit. When chaos breaks out and all attack each other, her panicked desire to survive and a good portion of luck bring her to the surface, where a destroyed city and outer forest awaits. But as she runs, she soon notices things are even more bizarre than she first thought. She knows where secret doors are on trees, sees flying girls, and runs into a barrier. As she tries to understand and wrap her head around what's happening, a deadly incident leaves her in the hands of the blues, and while she manages to wear blue before they notice, her life is more than on the line. 

I've read a few gamer novels...they seem to be far and few between...and was excited to try this one, especially since it's a short read. It takes quite a different twist on the 'gamer' world in that, it sets two sides against each other in a seemingly never-ending, pointless battle. Or perhaps pointless. It's just the novella beginning to a series. So, there are mountains of story still in store. 

It's definitely high action and edge-of-the-seat moments. I appreciate that Greta is at a loss and not super amazing at fighting or anything. She's just got a good handle on her gut feelings and sharp wits. But she makes tons and tons of mistakes...and she should considering she has no clue or shimmer what's going on. The realistic thought process does win bonus points and helped my connect with her well.

The tale itself has a lot of open ends. And there is a lack of explanation and logic holes which riddle every twist and turn. While this bothered me, at first, I have to remember that this is a short taste and dip of the toes into the pool that's about to come. The writing is solid and the characters intriguing. To say there isn't enough world building which draws in would also be unfair. It comes to life in every way. I just wish the first book was already here because I'm more than curious to see what lies in store.

Mish-Mash Day with Review 2: Traces of Sulfur by Madeline Freeman

It's Mish-Mash Day and here is book two! I picked this one up...hmmm...via Book Bub, I think. And it was more entertaining than I'd even hoped it be. 


Blade Keeper Academy, Book 1
by Madeline Freeman
Laurealinde Publishing LLC
YA Urban Fantasy / Academy
228 pages

I’m not who they think I am. If they learn the truth, I’ll pay with my life.

Blakethorne Academy is the premier training ground for warriors. Every person here will one day be a member of the angelic Guard.

As a demon, it’s the last place I should ever step foot. But I couldn’t exactly say no when they handed me an engraved invitation to attend. Access like this doesn’t come around every day.

My people are in peril, and walking among these angels could give me what I need to save them. I just need to keep my true identity a secret.

But that gets harder by the day when the lead Keeper, Nate Kouri, sets my heart galloping every time he draws near. Getting close to him is dangerous, but I’ve never been one to turn down playing with fire.

They think I’m a Blade Keeper—one of five elite warriors destined to defeat whatever evil rises. If they learn I’m a demon, I’ll pay with my life.

My name is Eden Everdell. Saving my people has always been my mission, but ensuring the survival of my brethren might destroy me.

Enter a fast-paced world of angels and demons! Click to buy Traces of Sulfur today.


While I've picked up a handful of academy stories over the last years, I tend to steer away from them thanks to the heavy tendency toward cliches. This one did surprise me.

After her parents' deaths thanks to the angels' lack of interest as to what happens to anyone with demon blood, she's spent her years in the underground, planning on raids to acquire the desperately needed medicine, which heals certain deadly diseases. When a raid leaves her stranded in a building of angels, the last thing she expects if for them to mistake her as one of them and lead her to join others in a test to join the elite warriors. Since this is the perfect chance to finally get information from the inside, the rebellion urges her to continue the charade. And while it's the chance they've been waiting for, she also knows it could very well cost her life.

While this book does involve an academy, there's much more to it. The first chapters allow Eden and her place in the rebellion along with the problem between demons and angels to really sink in. The academy angle is more of a side plot. Even when Eden does enter the academy and is forced to secretly train among the angels, the cliches which do arise don't hit quite as horribly. There is a 'mean girl' and the hot guy who instantly likes her...and I really could have done without either of these, but it is an academy book, and I'm not sure fans of this genre would be happy if these things didn't exist. But thanks to the wider concept in this book and broader world building, it doesn't irritate quite as much as other books I've read in this genre.  This book simply has more than just the academy scene.

There's a nice build-up in this pages, which promises a potentially more complex plot with intrigue, secrets and scenes which go beyond the cold brick, school walls.  Demons and angels are at odds but there's more to it than the usual good vs. evil. This one is grayed and almost seems to flip-flop stereo-types...maybe. And the rebellion along with Eden's mother's death are also promising some more twists to come. There was quite a bit of foreshadowing on the rebellion's leader...which I'm hoping won't turn out too predictable and still has some surprises in wait. Plus, I'm hoping this one does allow the world to stay expanded and doesn't suddenly shrink. So far, so good.  But we'll see. And I will see because this one was good enough to have me happily awaiting book two.

Mish-Mash Day with first Review: Lift Off by Tyrean Martinson

I'm declaring this to mish-mash day! What's that, you ask? 
While I post one review a day on here, many are picture books, which leaves me (sometimes) grabbing up a random book from friends, at the library or simply stumbling across on social media...and these look so good that I need to read them immediately! Which I do but then have no space to put them up here on Bookworm for Kids. Since I have a few this time, which are for ages up to eighteen (and I had a slot suddenly open up) I've decided to make this a day where I simply shove in reads throughout the day, which I've enjoyed the last months.

And here's book #1! It's fresh off the press, a quick read, and one for YA science fiction fans. 

The Rayatana Series, Book One
by Tyrean Martinson
Wings of Light Publishing
Young Adult Science Fiction
105 pages

A spaceship in disguise,
an Earth girl searching for a sense of home,
and a Thousand Years’ War between alien races,
collide on a summer afternoon.

An old movie theater welcomes Amaya in and wraps her up in the smell of popcorn and licorice. But one sunny afternoon during a matinee, the movie screen goes dark. The theater rumbles.

Amaya gets trapped in the middle of an ancient alien conflict. Angry and frightened, Amaya entangles herself in a life-changing cultural misunderstanding with Sol, a young alien who keeps omitting key information, even while they’re on the run from his enemies.

What will it take to survive a battle between alien races involved in an ancient war?

A fast-paced, clean YA read for fans of Skyward, Cobra Kai, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Science fiction, Action, Adventure, and Sweet Romance.


Like a spaceship switching into hyper-drive, this is a fast-paced, action packed read and a good beginning to what appears to be an exciting series.

Sitting in a movie theater with her best friend to watch the latest film, the last thing Amaya expects is an earthquake to rock the theater. While her friend manages to jump through the exit in time, Amaya is held back. Soon, she finds her world thrust into the vast realm of a universal war and is unwillingly placed on the side of a young alien, who isn't being quite truthful about everything...and that while he's being hunted down.

I picked this one up because I know the author, and it's been awhile since I've set off on a space adventure. Also, the short length guaranteed I'd have enough time to shoot through this one and get it finished without stressing over my normal reading schedule. And it is an entertaining read. Definitely fast paced.

The beginning really caught my interest with a very usual scene of teens in a movie theater. The tension mounts super quick, and although I did miss a little more build-up, the adventure shot off right away and didn't slow down until the end. There are tons of surprises, a good dose of humor and snark, and run-ins which keep the characters more than on their toes. If you're looking for depth, this isn't the read to pick up because there's not much. It's a fun ride through the galaxy which centers on action, fun, frustrating moments, deadly encounters and a main character, who would probably pull her out thanks to the alien, who 'kidnapped' her, but will have to battle off killer aliens to have even the slightest chance of ever returning home. It's simply an entertaining read.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: The Girl Who Found Christmas by Barbara Escher

Thanksgiving is this week! I have to keep telling myself this because it really snuck up on me this year. It's not that I'm unprepared...I have the entire meal planned and ingredients purchased (although I'm not sure how I managed that)...but it's rolling in too quick. But that also means Advent is almost here. We do keep this period special through several traditions, not excluding Advent's calendars and special thoughts for each day. I was lucky enough to be approached with today's book, which has a story time for each day leading up to the 25th of December. It's got a girl with spunk, fun adventures, contemplates the true meaning of Christmas, and is has exactly the right amount of reading for sharing a few moments together. Anyway, here it is and enjoy taking a look!

An Advent Calendar Storybook

A Unique Christmas Mystery for Kids!

Bet you don't think there's anything mysterious about a snowman!! But hold onto your hat. Snowmen are just the beginning of a mystery adventure for six-year-old Belinda, and for your kids too!! Every day in Advent, Belinda draws a clue as she tries to solve the mystery of "What It Is That Makes It Christmas." She thinks it's pretty tough. "No treasure map, no frankincense, no presents What kind of mystery is that?"

Every day brings a new story and a new clue. If it's not the snowman, what about the Christmas tree? Or the stockings? If your children have a crayon, a piece of paper, and some imagination, they can gather round you to listen to a new story every day and join Belinda in drawing each clue and solving the mystery that is Christmas.

Lucky for Belinda, she has special help. It's somebody she calls "Howard" (like "Howard be Thy name"). He's a big help as Belinda finds her way from the snowman to the manger.


A snowman, a mystery, and the meaning of Christmas swirl together in a exciting read, which reveals fun and the warmth of the holiday season.

Belinda can't believe her eyes—the calendar shows it's finally December! While there's tons of reasons to celebrate...and she does...she still misses her mom, who is miles and miles away at work. Luckily, her parents and grandfather have set-up something special. Belinda needs to figure out what makes Christmas Christmas, and every day she gets a very unexpected clue.

I love the spunk and energy Belinda radiates on every page. This is a girl full of life, curiosity, and the cleverest questions. Only her constant 'Oh boy!' irritates a bit. But she's adorable and exactly the kind of girl any kid would love to live next door to because there's never, ever a boring moment when she's involved. Her family is also packed with love and care, creating a truly wholesome environment while illustrating the stress the modern business world can place on families (her mother is miles away and only visits through Skype). 

This is a fun tale with a new twist and clue for every single one of the Advent days. Each read is a few pages long, making it perfect for a short, shared reading time between parents and children (or even in other groups). The clues do lead in unexpected directions, and it is fun to see what each day will bring. 

There's obviously a ton of meaning and several messages woven in as Belinda tries to figure out what makes Christmas Christmas. Now, Belinda does have a super good grip on Jesus' birth from the first page on...yep, this one is a lovely Christian read. And she has a very close relationship with our Lord, who she calls 'Howard'. This did strike me a little weird, at first, but she gets the name from a slight misunderstanding—"Howard be Thy Name". And after a second thought, I had to smile because I remember have a similar issue in the early years of school, when we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.."...and to the Republic for Witches stand...". It took years for me to figure out why those witches were there. So, I have to give Kudos to the author for adding this because it makes Belinda very human.

But these stories are super cute, definitely hold attention, and explore the wonders of Christmas through the adventure of a spunky girl. In other words, I can really recommend this one.

And here she is...

Barbara Escher grew up in Philadelphia and loved seeing her city come alive with light and sparkle and color as Christmas approached each year. She read every book she could get her hands on, including Christmas favorites like The Night Before Christmas. 

She never lost that childhood love for Christmas, and today she often looks back on special Christmas memories, like much loved books she received as Christmas gifts.  She also remembers years she spent teaching and creating stories. First for every kid on her block. And later for a classroom and her own children. And she especially remembers how much her children loved their Advent Calendar and looked forward to it every year! 

One day Barbara decided that she wanted to share a story that had been in her head for a long time. That story book became The Girl Who Found Christmas. It was important to her as she wrote the story that kids have both the traditional Christmas and the spiritual one. In her words the magic and the manger!

 Today, Barbara lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and Hope, their funny Havanese dog. She still loves Christmas and delights in decorating her Christmas tree with ornaments made by her children long ago. When Barbara isn’t writing, she spends time dipping her toes in the waves at the Gulf beaches and spending time with her children, grandchildren and grand pets (three dogs, three cats, and a turtle named Michelangelo). 

For more information about Barbara and The Girl Who Found Christmas, visit


Facebook- @RedMittenBooks




Relic by Renee Collins

Monday, November 23, 2020

Review: The Vulture King by Nikki Turner


by Nikki Turner
Blkdog Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy
156 pages
ages 8 to 12

Orphaned Aram has survived alone for five years, his only friend a thieving magpie, who acts as his eyes. For in the Carrionlands, magic comes at a terrible price. It costs you your sight, hearing or voice.

When he rescues a voiceless girl, Bina, from being sacrificed to the Vulture King, he is taken in by an underground resistance group. They reveal that Aram's mother is alive, but the king is using her and other slave magicians to fuel his unnaturally long life.

With his mother's magic being rapidly drained, she doesn't have long to live. If Aram can find the Radix, a hidden magical power source, there's a slim chance he might be able to save her. But to get there, he must cross the Barrens where every living creature is out to kill you. That's if one of his new companions doesn't betray him first.



Set in a bleak world, this is an exciting read with more than a few gripping twists and turns.

Aram comes from a people, who wield magical powers and are bonded to birds, who are their eyes and, for some, voices. His people are hunted by the ruling Vulture King and either killed or captured to be drained of their magical source until they die. After witnessing the death of his mother by the Vulture King, Aram is an orphan, who only wishes to survive and hide. He doesn't realize more of his kind still exist until one day turns everything around.

This is a short and packed read. I thoroughly enjoyed the bond between the people and their birds, and loved how this world was built and created. It's a bleak world and harsh (something more sensitive readers won't necessarily enjoy), but it's never graphic either. Aram is a wonderful character, who needs to build courage, self-esteem and trust. Even those around him are, for the most part, well developed and add the right tension and emotion to the tale. I especially enjoy Bina, a young girl who offers all the right support at the right time, while adding a wonderful sense of 'light' in the otherwise dark world.

Aram grows up on the street, is hunted by a very sinister king, and lives in a world of oppression and poverty. It's not a happy place and there's little humor added in. In some ways, it might have fit better in the young adult spectrum, but the author manages to keep it within a middle grade range and while dancing on the dark line, doesn't cross over into an area which would be too heavy for this age group. She also portrays the characters very age appropriate and makes them easy to connect with. The actions, thoughts, and decisions are easy to relate with and understand.

The tale is, in many ways, very well done. I was surprised that such a story can be packed into so few pages...and there's a reason for that. Things do move along quickly. While this does create an exciting read, there were moments which hit a bit too sudden. Especially the end and several of the characters would have benefitted from more build-up. But to say this really hurts or ruins the read wouldn't be fair. I can recommend it to fantasy fans and am sure they'll enjoy Aram and his bird as much as I did.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Review: The Butterfly Tree by Kelly Harrison Spining


by Kelly Harrison Spining
Illustrated by Abby Rocha
Mascot Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

Three trees sat atop the verdure of a hillside: two were large and grand, while the other was tiny and weak. As the soft winds of springtime blew one day, a lovely butterfly flew past the trees in search of a new place to call home. What happened next would forge a lifelong bond between two unexpected creatures. Inspired by the writer’s own experience of viewing a stunning tree covered in butterflies, The Butterfly Tree communicates a universal message of love, friendship, and connection.


This is really a book I can recommend. It tells the tale of a tree, who doesn't feel as special as the ones surrounding it. It doesn't bear fruit for people to eat, nor is it strong like an oak. It's dying, weak and unloved. But when a single butterfly visits the apple tree and is shooed away, a small miracle happens.

This is a book, which belongs in the shelves and is one that can be read to children over and over again for generations to come, too. The tale is heartwarming, encouraging, and simply classic. There is so much goodness in these pages, I don't even know where to begin. Yep, I was that surprised by this one.

The text is easy for young children to understand and will interest older ones as well, since it follows a more traditional tale form. It makes a great read-aloud for groups or individuals or even as a bedtime read. Even those readers who are a bit more sure of their words will enjoy diving into this one. The words might be a bit challenging for beginner readers, but by ages seven or eight, many will be able to breeze through it. And there isn't an over amount of text on each page either.

The illustrations are well done, bright and add to the story as it flows along. Especially the last ones allow the meaning behind the words to come to full light. 

In other words, this is a book to pick up and know that it will be enjoyed.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Review: More to the Story by Hena Khan

by Hena Khan
Salaam Reads
Middle Grade Contemporary
272 pages
ages 8 to 12

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes a new story inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all...


This is a lovely read about family, friends, siblings, first love interests, and chasing your dreams.

Jameela is a seventh grade girl, who has a loving family and a good head on her shoulders. But that doesn't mean life is simple. Her father is having trouble finding a job and must head across seas, leaving the rest of them alone. A boy her age, and family friend, moves to their town from Britain, with troubles of her own. While she's becoming good friends with him, her ambitions to because a great reporter for the school paper have her chasing him for an inclusive. And that might not go as planned. Add troubles with the head of the newspaper, regular life with her siblings (which isn't always smooth) and she's in for quite the time.

The author does a terrific job at introducing a wholesome family and bringing their situation to life in such a way that readers of this age group will easily identify with. Jameela is a girl with energy, determination, a big heart but that doesn't mean she feels secure in every situation or always knows what to do. The problems she faces are the type readers will recognize and sympathize with, and the solutions are realistic as well as nicely laid.

While the tale follows every day problems (more or less), it's never boring. Jameela has her plate full and not every problem is easy to solve. Her insecurities make her easy to like and fun to root for. Even her mistakes are simple to understand. The Muslim life weaves in seamlessly. This allows readers not only to learn more about the religion and culture, but doesn't take over the story. Readers from other religions and cultures can still identify with the characters and their issues without ever feeling pushed. It's simply well done. There are surprising twists and turns as well as humor built in, making it a fun read from start to finish, too. This is a read kids ages 8 to 12 are sure to enjoy and identify with.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Review: Women in Biology by Mary Wissinger

Science Wide Open
by Mary Wissinger
Illustrated by Danielle Pioli
Science, Naturally!
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 7 to 10

Take a peek inside the mysterious world of living things! Women in Biology follows a conversation between an inquisitive young girl, whose curiosity prompts her to ask questions about the world around her, and a scientifically astute narrator, whose answers are crafted to be both accurate and approachable to a young mind. In this way, learning the basics of biology becomes an effortless outcome of enjoying the story.

And just as important, these science concepts are explained through the research and advancements of numerous inspirational women who each changed the world with their scientific discoveries. This fun story of biology is a perfect place for young scientists to start their own journeys of discovery and wonder.

Women in Biology is Book 1 in the science-based series called Science Wide Open. This series explains and teaches some basic concepts in biology in simple and memorable terms through the natural questions and curiosity of a young child, while also highlighting women scientists throughout history and some of their mind blowing scientific advancements. These women include Hildegard of Bingen, Barbara McClintock, Maria Sibylla Merian, Jane Wright, and Linda Buck.


Science becomes understandable and fun in this series, which centers also on female scientists and their contributions.

Starting with the simple question and answer to what biology even is, this book dives into simple cell, DNA and gene explanations and takes a look at the very basic end of biology. It goes through five female scientists (biologists) and very briefly explains what they did and their discoveries. But this book isn't as much about these personalities as it is about giving the very fist introductions to biology in a way young readers can understand.

This is a small book without nearly as much text as I thought it might have, when I discovered the intended age group (ages 7 to 10). Every page is filled with bright and bold illustrations, which not only entertain but, especially toward the end of the book, assist in making the more scientific explanation understandable. The text is written for a fairly young audience, and I'm not sure that those eight and older won't feel talked down to. But the material and explanations are definitely not for the younger age group and slide nicely into this age group. So, it's a slight mix on that end.

I enjoyed that the scientists weren't dryly added in, but rather, are mentioned as their discoveries fit with the topic. The book doesn't concentrate on each woman so much as add in what their discoveries did and how they were an easy to read and non-boring manner, too.  

And here they are...

The Author
Mary Wissinger spent most of her childhood in Wisconsin singing, reading and daydreaming. A former teacher, she enjoys writing sotries that inspire curiosity about the world and connection with others. Now a St. Louis, MO, resident, she is the author of the entire Science Wide Open series: Women in Biology, Women in Chemistry, and Women in Physics. More information about Mary can be found at

The Illustrator
Danielle Pioli is an artist and illustrator whose mission is to inspire others to create. The idea of creating a whole universe from her mind to paper is what made her fall in love with art and storytelling. As a child, she was drawn to magic—what she now calls Quantum Physics. She is the illustrator of the entire Science Wide Open series. For more information on Danielle's work, you can visit her website at