Friday, December 31, 2021

Best of 2021!!!

It's finally here...the end of 2021! It's been a very busy last twelve months on Bookworm for Kids with a review almost every single day. Part of that is thanks to the ever increasing popularity...thanks to you guys for that! It's hard to believe that so many out there seem to enjoy my ramblings.

A large part is also due to COVID (isn't everything?). Authors had a tough time getting the news out there, which meant an up-kick in review requests. A BIG one. I've had to also turn down more requests than ever before, which is something I never like to do, but reading time has its limits. There's real life, too.

But enough with my babbling! Let's start with some numbers and statistics!

This year, there were 329 books reviewed on Bookworm for Kids. Amazing, right? This does not include the Mommy and Daddy's Day reads (which would have brought it up to around 340). Of these:

Picture Books = 138

Middle Grade = 110

Young Adult =  81

This is the first year in which picture books haven't surpassed the others by around leaps and bounds (I'm talking 200% + ). So, yay to more middle grade and young adult reads! And wow! Where did I find time for that much reading? (middle grade and young adult tend to be MUCH longer books).  

What's more interesting, though, is the genre breakdown. I only do this for the middle grade and young adult reads, since picture books tend to be a bit more difficult to divide up so cleanly. 

The last years, contemporary has swung up big and strong. This year, it's still strong. Graphic novels are also as popular as ever for both groups. I saw more non-fiction in the middle grade realm this year, which I find nice, and historical is edging a little higher. There is a new and really interesting trend, which just started up a few months ago—thrillers and horrors are rising onto the new release lists. As I peek into my crystal ball (okay, it's called catalogues of upcoming releases from the publishers, but magic sounds more interesting, don't you think?), I see this trend continuing into 2022, too. What does this say about society? It says something, I'm sure, since trends to mirror people's attitudes and expectations...but I'll let you have that discussion with your reading groups. (See, I'm sending you off with new topics into the New Year!)

Oh, and I know my genre breakdown doesn't 100% reflect the market trends, since I do try to keep the variety going as much as possible. 


Fantasy              28 %

Non-Fiction       16 %

Contemporary    15 %

Mystery              9 %

Sci Fi                  8 %

Paranormal        5 %

Historical           5 %

Humor               5 %  

Thriller              3.5 %

Other                 3 %


Fantasy               30 %

Paranormal         16 %

Sci Fi                  12 %

Contemporary     11 %

Thriller               10 %

Romance             7.5 %

Historical            5 %

Non-Fiction        4 %

Other                   4 %

Then, we have the graphic novels (these were included in the genre percentages as well).

Middle Grade       13 %

Young Adult         7%

Now, it's time for the exciting part! My favorite list!

Now, some of these might surprise you because, while Bookworm for Kids does highlight bestsellers and highly anticipated new releases, there are many gems, which don't garner as much attention in the advertisement world. There are some amazing but lesser known reads out there. Also, I try to filter in the opinions of the young readers I know. So, the best-list doesn't reflect my own opinion only. After all, kidlit is written for kids, not us adults. And they tend to look at things differently.

The list appears in random order. You can click on the image to be taken back to the original post.


This elephant and his forgetfulness is so endearing! Fun details hide in the illustrations to keep readers coming back for more...and even adult readers will smile at the very familiar situation.

I am a Fan Brother fan (no pun intended), and their latest book didn't disappoint. The illustrations are top-notch, and it's a read that can be visited over and over again. It kind of reminded me of James and the Giant Peach but only slightly as this one takes a turn all of its own.

This ant is so easy to root for, and the way he sticks to his goals despite the opinions of those around him creates an inspiring tale. I love the illustrations, too...minimal but concentrated very well. There are some life lessons in this one for everyone.

Firstly, I loved how music mixed with a story and really found myself getting lost in this one. The atmosphere is amazing, the illustrations extremely well done, and the tale carries tons of heart. So yes, I'm definitely putting this one on the list.

There were several books in the final spot of this running, but this one finally won out. There's a bit of history, but it's the wonderful inspiration that this chair brings, which convinced me to add this book in as well.


The first one on this list surprised even me. Remember, I filter in the opinions of readers from the intended age group...and the ones that read this, loved it. I believe the short story form made it perfect and kept it from growing boring or overwhelming. Plus, each tale packs super-high tension, and that to the extreme. There is danger. There is action. And each and every one could really happen...maybe.

Action, vampires, and the desire for a girl to want to prove herself...but then, a huge twist comes, which throws everything on its head. The tale is well-woven and has many characters which pop from the page. It's on the darker side (something my middle grader enjoys) and oh-so-much fun. 

Fun, non-fiction reads tend to be overlooked on 'best of' lists, which is really too bad, since so many kids love to pick these up. This one is not only well done but hits a direction, which calls to the little rascal in every reader. I have no doubt that it will inspire many readers to try things themselves...and even learn something along the way. 

Mysteries should never be overlooked, and this one is also for true literature fans and more. It's well done not only on the historic level, but the mystery is hard to figure out. It has a classical atmosphere, but still is written in a way modern readers easily slide into and enjoy. It's one out of a series and promises tons of surprises to come.

This one was on here just a few days ago...and what an adventure it is! While the first pages flowed fine, the tale very quickly hooked and wove an intricate mystery with tons of imagination and plot. It is a tiny bit on the dark end of things but only a little bit. But then, I know more than a few young readers, who love mysteries that way.


Life problems, drama, and such aren't often my cup of tea, but this one even won me over. It digs deep in a realistic way and makes it impossible not to sympathize with the main character. The situations are tough, but it never goes over-the-top and weaves a thrilling story to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Ninjas have become so rare in young adult literature, but so many readers do love this direction from time to time.  It's packed with adventure, mystery, intrigue, and has a ninja girl, which keeps the reader engaged from one page to the next. It's not one with super deep meanings or purposes...and that's great! Since it is so well done, I'm definitely adding this one to the list

I've had more nonfiction and historical reads this year, which I was glad to see. This one is on the longer side, but the author has done a fantastic job at making the time period come to life and brings it down to a very personal level, by using statements, letters, and interviews from teens, who lived during that time. This isn't a read for every one, but it'd be wrong to overlook it because I know of few books for this age group that are this well done. 

A romance on the 'best' list? Especially on mine? I'm shocked, too, but what should I say? I found this tale so-super-sweet and simply light-hearted, and all that without a heroine or hero, who are on the rand of society. So, I'm including it. Even my own daughter smiled, and I think it's because it isn't heavy on social messages or tough topics, but rather, allows the simple fun of a well-done, high school love to unfold. Sometimes, a good story is all it takes.

Super-rich world building and tough themes made this one hard to put down and even tougher to forget. I, actually, picked this one up for the cover and was thrilled that it held so much more than I expected. It's not a light read, although packed with imagination. There are triggers galore, tons of grit, and a wonderful dose of magic.

And that wraps up the year 2021! I hope you enjoyed taking a peek at all of the books during the last 365 days and thank you for every glimpse you've given. I do enjoy doing this and find every review request like a surprise present...yep, I really get giddy when it comes to Kidlit. 

And with that, I wish all of you a...


Glitter text was found at

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Review: Absurd Words by Tara Lazar

 This is the last review for 2021, and I'm going to end it with a very fitting book about...


Reading is all about words. So, when I got my hands on this one, it was a no-brainer that I'd have to take a look at it. There are so many words out there...enough to fill South Dakota according to this book (or something like that). Among those normal words are weird ones. Absurd ones.

Ready to take a look?

A Kids' Fun and Hilarious Vocabulary Builder for Future Word Nerds
by Tara Lazar
Sourcebooks Explore
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
320 pages
ages 8 to 12

Why use boring old words when you can expand and build your vocabulary—and have fun doing it! A user-friendly, engaging book about the power of words—perfect for educators, parents, and future word nerds. Build confidence and become a stronger reader, writer, and communicator!

This fun and hilarious vocabulary builder:
  • Includes over 750 high-level, wondrous, and wacky words!
  • With sample sentences and word history that help new words make sense!
  • Bright and fun illustrations make learning new words fun!
  • Allows to search by category so new word choices are easy to find!
  • Kids with strong vocabularies are better readers, better writers, and even feel more confident tackling math and science. When a kid wants to learn a new word, we often send them to the dictionary or a thesaurus. But dictionaries only work if you know exactly the word you want. This dictionary-thesaurus hybrid is organized by theme and puts words in context with fun, engaging and hilarious sentences, pictures, and fun facts. You'll learn what words mean and then actually use them!



    Words, words, and more words fill every page with meanings, curiosities, and simply fun things to say.

    While I thought this one would be more...well, I don't know what I thought, but it wasn't the twist on a traditional dictionary setting. But no worries because it's not completely traditional, either. The entire book is divided into chapters with a Table of Contents in the beginning to help locate each theme highlighted. These are titled in entertaining ways which also hint at the enclosed category of words. For example, 'itchy feet' leads into words surrounding travel. Each chapter begins with a short paragraph of explanation. The words follow with only a few on each page. Each one is accompanied by a pronunciation, word form, and the meaning(s). On the side, there are more facts, which have been divided into Roots, Pop Culture, and Level Up, which give extra information about a word's origins, cultural importance, and interesting facts surrounding the word, respectively.

    This is one of those books, which can draw a reader in for hours as they search, find silly or interesting tidbits, and discover all sorts of things, they didn't know before. While everything is very information and fact based, it is entertaining. Not only are the words themselves amusing to say or use, but the history or usage behind some of them are packed with curiosities or silly facts. These make it easier to remember the word and to broaden knowledge in a way, which isn't easily forgotten. The information is clear and easy to understand, but then, it is written in a fun way, too.

    Bright colors accompany every page, allowing the words with their definitions to playfully placed. So, although they have the same format as a dictionary, they are much more pleasantly placed with an atmosphere of fun. 

    It's a great way to get kids to use and discover new words. After all, there are more than a couple they can use with their friends...and even to impress an adult or two. It's playful and still packs even more information with fun historical and cultural tidbits. It's a great way to broaden younger readers' vocabularies...and even that of some adults.

    Wednesday, December 29, 2021

    Review: Astronomy Activity Book for Kids by Aurora Lipper

     Only two more days until New Year's Eve and my end of the year wrap-up. So, I'm ending 2021 with meaning and excitement. 

    Today's review hits the world of astronomy and puzzles! As a kid, I adored activity books...actually, I still do (growing up is over-rated).  Since this one is also thick at 160 pages...something that would make my kid-heart flutter, I had to pick it up. 

    Ready to reach into space and beyond?

    100+ Fun Ways to Learn About Space and Stargazing
    by Aurora Lipper 
    Illustrated by Victoria Stebleva
    Z Kids
    Childrens Non-Fiction / Activity
    160 pages
    ages 5 to 7

    Explore planets, stars, and constellations with this "out of this world" educational activity book for kids ages 5-7

    Space is awesome, and we can explore a lot of it from right here on Earth using our eyes, binoculars, and telescopes. In this interactive activity book, kids ages 5-7 get to be astronomers! Former NASA scientist Aurora Lipper leads an exciting journey through space, beginning with a tour of the planets and moons in our solar system. Next, kids visit the constellations and then zoom through the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy. Along the way, they'll find amazing facts about the starry skies and get to color and draw, connect dots, find hidden objects, and have fun with word puzzles while improving math and reading skills.

    Astronomy Activity Book for Kids features:

    90+ educational activities: On-page games and cool facts about space allow for fun, independent learning
    Simple stargazing projects: Learn how to find the Big Dipper, view meteor showers, and more with just the eyes, binoculars, or a small telescope
    Easy and exciting to read: Beautiful space illustrations and simple explanations written for early readers

    GOODREADS    /     AMAZON    /    B&N    /    BOOK DEPOSITORY


    If your young reader loves, loves, loves puzzles, activities, mazes and more, this book will have them smiling from ear to ear.

    The title says it all because basically every page holds something about astronomy and is accompanied by a puzzle. Accompanied is probably not the right word, since the activities do reign on every page. The astronomy tidbits flow along on the side and give the activities a direction, while also teaching basic terms and ideas surrounding our universe. The text can be read by those very sure of their words, but many will need someone there to help out, since there is new terminology, terms and such that young readers might struggle with. But that's the point of this book—to teach about astronomy amongst the fun.

    At over 160 pages, this is a whomping activity book, and what I found especially delightful is that every page is brightly and even lovingly illustrated. The characters and scenes allow the facts and mysteries of astronomy to unfold and make sense, but they also carry joy and a playful atmosphere, which is inviting. Every page is different, and each activity offers something new from mazes to word connecting and beyond.

    The information hits a wide range. While there are some more exact facts, this book is more centered on giving a broad scope of what astronomy holds. Moon phases, star constellations, and so much more are addressed with correct terms. The theories, reasoning, aspects, and influences are shortly explained as well. But nothing ever goes into much detail...just enough to awaken awareness and inspire curiosity. It's great to open young minds to the realm of astronomy, one that young readers will enjoy and even pick up a few facts along the way.

    So, yes, I do recommend this one.

    Tuesday, December 28, 2021

    Review: Amulet of Scion by J.T. Grobler

    Today is another double-whammer with two reviews...because there are just so many awesome reads out there! (Some women love shoes. I love my kidlit). I have read a work or two from this author before and thoroughly enjoyed the tale. So, when I got a chance to peek into this one, I wasn't about to pass it up.

    Let's just say that as a reviewer, it's this kind of read which makes me realize how much I love doing what I do. 

    by J.T. Grobler
    National Library of South Africa
    Middle Grade Paranormal / Fantasy
    223 pages
    ages 8 to 12

    "When the amulet calls, and the third sun falls, a heartbeat stalls."

    At a Fossil Park, ancient relics go on display - a golden cat, a witch's broom, mysterious twig-people. A child wearing an amulet enters, unaware of the mayhem she's about to cause.

    Bailee Paxton wants to help raise money for her friend, Asher. When she takes her amulet for appraisal, it glows the moment the professor touches it. Before long, he’s found in a trance and the relics from his display are missing. Meanwhile, someone… or something, spies on her from the shadows. And piles of salt begin appearing.



    A determined girl gets lost in a mystery surrounding curses, witches, and secrets, which lead to more than enough danger and intrigue to keep the reader on the edge of their seats the entire way through. 

    While Bailee's father is helping clean up an oil spill off the coast, she lives alone. Well, somewhat. Neighbors and friends are always readily available and help keep an eye out to make sure she's okay. When she learns that her best friend's mother is about to be evicted, and it's her fault a car accident took her best friend's leg, she hopes that by selling the most precious heirloom her mother left her will bring the needed cash. Upon showing the amulet to a relics expert, strange and deadly things begin to happen. With people suddenly falling ill and dying, colored sticks seeming to come to life, and piles of salt appearing all over town, it doesn't take long for rumors of witches and curses to take root.

    This is such a fun and well-done read. Bailee is a character to love and root for the entire way through. She's got a bit of spunk and independence, but still is, sometimes, unsure, shy, and a bit at a loss despite her cleverness. Her openness and friendly personality intermingle with hesitation and a dab of scrutiny to pack a full personality...and make her realistic. Add the sympathy, which already unfolds at the loss of her mother and the longing for her father to return, and it's a perfect mix. But then, the other characters carry as much depth and quirks as she does, adding spice and suspicion on every page.

    Friendship is key in this tale as Bailee does out of her way to protect her best friend, especially thanks to the guilt she carries after he lost his leg. But friendship also reaches out in new directions, and there is a lesson or too on relationships, judging people without having complete knowledge of what's going on, and remembering to ask for help. 

    Messages and friendship aside, this is a quick-paced, adventure-packed, and twist filled read. The mystery behind the amulet is tricky and very hard to figure out. Plus, there is danger and, definitely, secrets around every bend. Everyone could be involved, and that makes it that much more intriguing. The magic plays along the side, adding a hum of imagination. There is death and slightly gruesome moments to keep tension high and add a smidgen of a dark side, too. In other words, it's a read which keeps the pages turning until way after bedtime.

    Review: Vampire Dormitory by Ema Toyama

    With the weekend over and things winding down, I had a couple extra moments to throw in a read or two above and beyond my review list. So, I'm slipping these in this week for a little fun. 

    Vampire Dormitory, Vol. 1
    Kodansha Comics
    YA Paranormal Romance
    160 pages

    "I'll do it! I'll become your thrall!" A crossdressing girl and an otaku vampire find themselves entangled in a dangerous relationship. Don't miss this heart-pounding romance from the award-winning Ema Toyama, perfect for fans of Crimson Spell, Black Bird, and He's My Only Vampire!


    Mito has no family to rely on. She lives on the streets, disguised as a boy. Ruka is an otaku vampire interested only in 2D girls. After Ruka saves Mito from a perilous situation, he makes her an offer: "Become my subservient thrall and let me drink your blood whenever I wish! In return, you can live with me—in the boys' dorm!" But to stay with him, Mito must hide the fact that she's a girl. Every day is a new danger—to say nothing of that bloodthirsty vampire!

    GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    AMAZON  


    Cliche and simple, and that makes it more than well done.

    Mito's looks are said to be the golden ticket through life, but someone forgot to tell life that. After being fired from the cafe, Mito's back on the street without a thing to live off of. When Ruka, a vampire, crosses Mita's path and soon offers to take care of everything, it's not hard to agree. After all, allowing a vampire to feed a little here and there with the promise of knowing how to stop is better than dying on the streets. It might be a dangerous game, but Mito doesn't realize how deadly until she discovers that Ruka doesn't like girls...only the ones he reads about on paper. Mito dresses up as a boy to keep herself safe, since she usually lives on the streets, but she's shocked Ruka hasn't figured that out. Now, she's not sure how she can keep her secret because going back on their deal is no longer an option.

    Fans of Vampire Knights, Boys over Flowers, or any tales, which swim between those lines, will enjoy this one. The story is nothing original...(poor girl agrees to deal to survive with hot and wealthy guy, finds out things might not be as she thought, has other hot guys interested in her, romance buds from one direction or the other, and soon, she has all sorts of problems)...but it's exactly this cliche-ness which makes it so wonderful. It's the kind of read to pick up, know what's basically coming up, and yet, has enough twists and turns to pull the reader in.

    The graphics follow the plot, allowing it to give the right emotions and context, and creating a great balance with the written words. It's easy to follow, easy to understand, and a quick read. There is a side bar, every now and then, with a humorous cat adding its tidbits. This cheeses it up just right and fits the tale, in general. Because while there is a dark hint, it keeps itself light, too. So, it's a fun mix.

    I always find that these are, if anything, too short. The characters gain the needed depth to make them interesting and engaging, and the plot thickens with twists and hints at danger to come. But of course, there's just enough to wet the fangs before the volume is done. The urge to grab up the next one and see what happens next is definitely there.

    Monday, December 27, 2021

    Review: Starpassage: Cyber Plague by Clark Rich Burbidge

    Today's 2nd review swings through time, mixing history with modern day twins...and pursuers, who can't be trusted. This is the 4th book in the series, and nope, I haven't read the other three. I loved the idea of mixing fact and science fiction. Plus, this series has won some awards. 

    Ready to see where and when we'll go?

    StarPassage, Book Four
    by Clark Rich Burbidge
    Illustrated by Karl C Hepworth
    Deep River Books LLC
    YA Science Fiction
    304 pages

    In Book One, teenagers Tim and Martie are desperate to end their parents' downward spiral. Then an ancient Christmas ornament reveals its secrets, sending the siblings across the centuries on a search for hope. But Tim and Martie aren't the only ones hunting through time. They're being watched by dark figures-Trackers doomed to haunt history. These Trackers believe the teens' ornament is their key to freedom, and they will do whatever it takes to steal it.

    In Book Two, Bobby and Mike are struggling after a tragic accident rocked their family. With the help of the Carson family, they go on a dangerous adventure to solve riddles, save lives, escape the stronger, faster Trackers, and experience some of the most dreadful and exciting moments in history.

    In Book Three. Mike longs to help a struggling new patient who may hold dangerous secrets. An evil Tracker has escaped to the present, bringing with him plans to end the world. Our growing band of travelers work together to resist the powerful Trackers at every turn while trying to solve the relic's riddles and guard against the ever-growing risk of betrayal.

    Now the Gold Medal winning saga continues with Book Four. Contemporary twin sisters are thrust into a compelling adventure with a mysterious warrior from the past who holds secrets even he does not understand. In the most dangerous adventure yet, our unlikely heroes are thrust into a dangerous and uncertain future where humanity is on the verge of extinction. Pulled from the pages of our modern world, a dangerous cyber plague, societal breakdown, and the relentless Trackers must be overcome to preserve the future. Our inexperienced new travelers must learn quickly to survive while overcoming a series of impossibly complicated and interwoven threats.



    Historic facts and other true tidbits mix with an exciting tale, holding time travel, adventure, sibling love, and the determination to do what is right.

    Tocho, a Native American, is on one of his first hunts, and while he succeeds, he's accidentally thrown into the future. Here, the twins, Callie and Courtney, have been dreaming of him and realize that they have a star, but aren't sure how to use it. With a powerful group chasing them and dangerous situations awaiting around every bend, the sisters do their best not only to escape but to save the world.

    First off, I did not read the other books in this series, which is a mistake. The books, obviously, build on each other to enough extent, that there is background information missing, which makes it a little difficult to completely sink into this read. So, I don't recommend this one as a stand alone.

    This is a quick-paced read, which thrills as it bounces between times. It's a lovely mix of reality, history, and science fiction impossibility. Starting in the past with Tocho, the forest and hunt draws in as true to life as possible, thanks to obvious research on the author's part. While the landscape and such aren't that rich in description, the author, instead, slips in facts about the animals, and these perfectly blend into the tale. The hunt scene builds tensions, introduces Tocho, and even brings along some history. Before it grows boring, the science fiction shoots in, and starts adventure pure. When this mixes with modern day scenes and tech, it gains familiarity...and yet, the author makes sure to keep feeding interesting facts the entire way through. 

    The twins, Callie and Courtney, have a wonderful relationship and are both down to earth. They come across mostly natural and are the kind of girls readers wouldn't mind having as friends. Their decisions and actions are understandable, and their determination is golden. Not everything runs smoothly, but that's what makes them so interesting and easy to root for. 

    The twists and turns are well laid, and with the Trackers on the heroine's tails, there's never a dull moment. There is quite a bit of action, and the messages are inspiring. This one is sold as a young adult read, but it reads more like an upper middle grade novel. There is a lack of depth in the scene building and characters, which suits this lower level better. So, that's where my recommendation goes. 

    It's definitely an easy read with all sorts of goodness along with action and fun. 

    And here he is...

    Clark Burbidge's path to becoming an award winning author had distant beginnings. He received an MBA degree from the University of Southern California and a BS Degree in finance from the University of Utah. His career spans 31 years in banking, project finance, investment banking and more recently as Chief Financial Officer of three separate companies.

    He has been actively involved in community and church service, including lay youth and adult ministry, for over 35 years. It has been his long-term dream to write and publish several works that have been kicking around in his mind for many years. His first book, Life on the Narrow Path: A Mountain Biker's Guide to Spiritual Growth in Troubled Times was released nationally in March 2011. His second book A Piece of Silver was published in July 2011 and is currently entering its 2nd edition. Clark enjoys life in the foothills of the Rockies with his wife, children and three grandchildren. He looks forward to this next phase of life's wonderful adventures.(from Goodreads)

    Review: The Final Heir by Jon Monson

    Hope all of you had a wonderful Christmas and are ready for a few days before the next celebration. To keep these days exciting, I have a stack of fantasy, science fiction, and some wonderful non-fiction for middle graders and young adult readers. 

    Today's first review...yep, I squeezing in as much as I can before 2022 rings in...has a grabbing cover...or so I thought...and the blurb caught my attention. Plus, I was really in the mood for fantasy pure with battles, magic and such.

    Anyone want to grab their armor, board a griffin, and fly past the clouds and beyond? 

    by Jon Monson
    Young Adult Fantasy

    JANUARY 1st!!!

    The world is free. The world is mine.

    Some call him the Usurper, the Destroyer of Worlds. Mahzun calls himself the Savior of Man. A decade of war has brought him to the precipice of victory.

    Zahara, a prodigious mage, is destined to wield the Power of Creation and put an end to the Usurper. But when that power mistakenly falls to Ekarath, her best friend and elite soldier incapable of casting the simplest of spells, destiny must be questioned.

    Will the Usurper complete his victory? Or will Ekarath find the strength to be the hero he wasn’t destined to be?



    Strong worlds clash over a last grip for power as magic, friendship, and the fight to survive keep this a fast-paced read.

    Zahara is a mage, and although she's only been training a short time, proves to be talented beyond her years. Her best friend, Mahzun, isn't any different when it comes to his swordsmanship. When the Usurper brings his army to their kingdom's doorstep and destroys the leader, taking over everything, all seems lost. But Mahzun accidentally receives the magic and power Zahara was supposed to get from their ruler (not that she knew she was supposed to get it, by the way), and this throws everything on its head.

    This is a rich, fantasy novel with tension, battle scenes, danger, quests, magic and so much more. There are unexpected twists, moments where everything seems lost, and victories to make the reader cheer. For fantasy fans, this is a read to pick up and get immersed in. And it is an exciting'd be wrong if I didn't say that.

    I really enjoyed the first chapters as we get to see Zahara and Mahzun before the battles begin, training, playing, and causing a bit of mischief. The descriptions bring the city and the forest to life, letting the imagination take root and the world build. It's not over-burdened with descriptions or info dumps, and that makes it pretty smooth reading. While the fear and emotions are well based, and the danger comes while packing fear, as the tale goes on, the missing history and background starts to leave holes. These aren't huge and don't really disrupt the action enough to ruin the read, but the world doesn't become as rich as it could have. Still, it is a fun read.

    The characters are well placed and have a lot on their plates. Zahara is talented but not arrogant, and the same goes for Mahzun. Mahzun, obviously, is out of his element, and it's easy to understand him as he does the best he can with something he has no idea really how to handle. The author keeps these two at a friendship level, which was refreshing and fits them very well. 

    The Usurper is the one, though, that caught my attention. The author spends time fleshing him out by giving him chapters from his perspective, which gives great insight and makes him so much more than the 'evil' guy. The problem was that I liked him (to a certain degree) and wasn't sure why he was seen as evil, outside of the fact that he was trying to destroy the existing ruler. The Usurper and the rest of the world claims they are being suppressed. Since the world background is missing, there really isn't much reason to know if they are wrong or right. But since millions of  civilians turned into soldiers, giving  up everything for this cause, even their lives, it's hard not to assume they have a good reason to act this way. As for Zahara and Mahzun's ruler, he comes across very nice (and I assumed he is 'good'), but there's no way to know what he did or why his rule is the better of the two. So, this let the book begin with a strange balance, which left me undecided the entire way through. Although I did root for Zahara and Mahzun.

    There is a lot going on in this read, and even with the uncertainty of the things I mentioned, it is a exciting tale with surprises and tons to enjoy. I'm going to assume that this is the first in a series and am excited to see how the author handles it from here.

    Thursday, December 23, 2021

    Review: Winter Lullaby by Dianne White

    Since today's 1st review is right on the borderline for a 'kidlit' read (YA), I'm adding another one for the youngest readers. Yep, from one end to the other! The cover was so comforting to look at, and with that cute pair of bears, I was looking forward to seeing what this one holds.

    This isn't a Christmas read, and I did promise to have pure Christmas reads on here until the 25th, but the winter landscape and nature's winter sleep fit the peaceful calm enough that I thought I could slide it in.

    Ready to walk through a winter wonderland with me? 

    by Dianne White
    Illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki
    Candlewick Press
    Picture Book
    32 pages
    ages 4 to 8

    Rendered with reassuring words and pastoral scenes, this soothing lullaby of a story is sure to settle even the most restless of cubs.

    Mouse is rushing to her nest.
    In soft, dry grasses she will rest.

    Geese are calling, a chilly wind is blowing, and the sky is turning gray. Winter is on its way. For Mama Bear and Small Bear, that means it’s time to tuck into their den for a long sleep. But Mouse is scurrying by, and Chipmunk is still gathering nuts beside the lake. And look at Hare and Skunk, still romping through the leaves! Why can’t Small Bear stay up, too? To each question, Mama Bear responds with the coziest of answers, finally painting a dreamy picture of the brightening colors and new adventures that will greet Small Bear in the spring. But first comes sleep, in this irresistible invitation to drowsy little cubs everywhere.

    GOODREADS    /    AMAZON   /    BOOK DEPOSITORY    /   B&N


    Nature's peace, serenity, and calmness flow from every page and invite to snuggled dreams.

    It's time to go into hibernation as the cold days approach, but little bear isn't so sure he's ready, yet. As mommy bear and little bear head toward their den, the little bear asks about the various animals, hoping that one will stay he can, too. 

    This is a beautifully created book, which looks at nature's slumber during the cold, white days. The text is kept short and sweet, and still flows with a poetic rhyme very fitting to the atmosphere of the book. Each scene invites with a lovely calm and serenity, which makes it fun just to flip through and gaze at each one.

    Various animals are introduced as little bear heads through the forest, and with few words, it's shown what each one does and where they hibernate. It's very educational and captures everything with a true-to-life impression. Still, little bear's excitement is hard to miss and keeps everything a little light-hearted, too.

    As a goodnight read, this one is fits as well. After watching each animal snuggle into their burrows, the bears do the same. A secure warmth with family love is portrayed and sets the scene for sweet dreams.

    And here they are...

    Dianne White is the author of Green on Green, Goodbye Brings Hello, Sometimes a Wall, and many other picture books. As a child, she loved reading books, playing music, and learning new languages. Years later, as a teacher, all three favorites followed her into the classroom. By day, she read great books, sang, and even taught kids who were learning English for the first time. At night, she worked on picture books. Today, she's delighted to be writing full-time, while enjoying life in sunshiny Arizona.

    Ramona Kaulitzki has always spent her days doing something creative, but her biggest passions are drawing and storytelling. She loves to create little characters and breathe life into them, imagining their stories and the world they might live in. When she’s not illustrating, she can be found somewhere outdoors or at the riding stable. Her great love for animals and nature is a major inspiration for her work. Ramona Kaulitzki is based in Germany.

    Review: Zanta Claus: There's A New Claus in Town! by D.C. Little

    Today's read sounded super cute. This is another 'older' read, making its debut back in 2015. In other words, you can grab this one up without any problem. And with a cover like that...I wanted to give it a go. It's silly. It's cute. And well....

    Ready for some zany, Christmas joy? 

    There's a New Claus in Town!
    by D.C. Little
    supposedly YA
    Sweet / Humor Romance
    302 pages

    Zanta Claus is a hilariously funny, fresh story guaranteed to brighten your holiday season. David Kringle, Santa’s brother, realizes his destiny is to start his own fairy tale, Zanta Claus, which starts where his brother’s ends. The new fairy tale is an extension of the family business, but is different in every way! David is a slender, handsome man with a quick wit and a certain charisma with the ladies. He is hopeful he will find the one, even after searching for over a thousand years! David had found a niche in life as an author, writing about the family business with titles such as “Elves Gone Wild”, “One Reindeer You Don’t Want to Pet”, and others. Despite these less than flattering views of the North Pole, Kris and Claire support David in all his endeavors – that doesn’t mean there isn’t restitution! The Council of Fairy Tales approves the Zanta Claus charter for a one-year provisional trial. The race is on to prove the new South Pole fairy tale can make a difference in the world. The success of Zanta Claus relies on the edgy elves appointed by the Elf Union, a rookie reindeer team and their strict trainer, an inexperienced head elf, a cantankerous plant foreman and the rest of a colorful, hilarious cast of characters. Their journey is sure to become part of your holiday season for years to come.

    GOODREADS   /   B&N   /   AMAZON


    First off, this one was sold in the Young Adult category, which it should not be. It's an adult read, but a clean, sweet, silly one. While I wouldn't 100% directly recommend this one for the teen category, I can't really say it's inappropriate either. Honestly, it is silly and imaginative and while having some innuendos, never is a problem...and will be enjoyed by some readers in this age bracket, too. Now, that I have that said...let's go on!

    David is an immortal and the brother of Santa Claus. He lives in the city, is jealous that his brother has an awesome wife (Mrs. Claus), and writes bestseller books, which irritate the elves to the extreme. But he's finally found his destiny, or so he thinks. Santa hears it and is totally behind him. Even the elf council approves it, and David is off to jump-start his own 'fairy tale'. Working under huge time constraints with a crew, which was considered not-up-to-snuff by those on the North Pole, he still does his best and finds support. But when he hires the Head of PR, things start running a direction he wasn't counting on.

    Imagination and the magic of Christmas are let loose in these pages with all of their fantastical shine. The world of Santa is amazing, and Zanta's tale isn't any different...just a bit grittier and smidgen closer to real life. The elves have heart but aren't Santa's elves, and the South Pole definitely takes a different twist...and yet, it holds everything Christmas needs with sweetness and dreams. I really enjoyed the zany fun from page one and beyond.

    The characters are full of personality and heart. They are not perfect, but that's not an issue as they make this world glimmer and shine. There is more than a little humor as the situations slide from ridiculous to those which even feel familiar. And that's what makes this read fun.

    As for the romance (because there is definitely romance) is sweet. The heroine is determined, a bit lost in life, and full of love. It's a bit quick to the development, and yet, not. While taking the main plot, it's rides only barely over the other one of David's battle to get his new life as Zanta Claus running. This balance does keep spirits high and the read quick and easy.

    If you're into sweet romance with silliness, imagination, and Christmas fun, this one is for you.