Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review: Down World by Rebecca Phelps

 by Rebecca Phelps
Wattpad Books
Young Adult Thriller
368 pages

MARCH 31st!!!

As the site of a former military base, there have always been rumors that East Township High School was the site of experiments with space and time. For years, students have whispered in the hallways of a doorway created within the school, one that can access multiple timelines and realities, a place known as the Down World.

As the new kid in school and still reeling from the unexplained death of her brother Robbie, Marina O'Connell is only interested in one thing: leaving the past behind. But a chance encounter with handsome Brady Picelli changes everything. He will lead Marina to a startling discovery. The Down World is real and the past, present, and future are falling out of balance.

Brady is determined to help Marina discover what really happened to her brother. However, what is taken from one world, must be repaid by another. And Marina is about to discover that even a realm of infinite possibilities has rules that must be obeyed.



                                      * sold as Stranger Things meets Dark
                                      * very quick-paced plot
                                      * thrilling moments
                                      * well-developed world


I'm not usually a fan of horror or spooky reads, but this one borders along the lines of mystery, science fiction and a touch of high school romance, too. That balanced out the darker side just a bit. But yes, this is creepy.

After switching schools for the years after her brother's sudden death, Marina returns to her earlier school and students she once knew but has drifted more than a little bit apart from. She immediately meets Brady and finds herself drawn to him. She also notices the letters DW engraved or graffitied everywhere. After watching Brady accompany a girl, who takes off on a train and doesn't return but is claimed missing soon after, she wonders what's going on. When she finds doors in the school's basement marked present, past, and today with only today not bricked closed, she's soon swept off to an alternate reality. Brady and others have already been visiting it, but what it holds may be more than any of them can handle.

This one starts with a bang and doesn't let go the entire way through. Something unexpected happens around every corner, and the mysteries pile up quick. Add the rich world building and hints of science fiction, and there's never a boring moment...barely time to breathe. That drives this read forward and makes it quick and easy to digest. It also left a few spots in a little bit of blur on the logic end, but these passed as fast as they came.

The world building is also well done and was more than just a little intriguing. The flip-flop with the alternate based more on reality (no aliens or anything)...was well woven with more than a few chills and spooky thrills. 

The characters offered a variety of personalities, and there was quite a bit of potential on this end, but these didn't sit quite as well for me as the rest of the book. Much of this was due to the very fast-pace. Little time was spent on allowing the characters to gain depth or even allow relationships to truly build. Characters follow other characters or suddenly entrust them with supposed secrets without any real reason to do so. This was also noticeable on the general character arcs, which offered little development.

But for those who love action pure with chills and goosebumps and amazing parallel worlds, this is definitely a read and an exciting ride.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Review: Eat Up, Bear! by Terry Pierce

Two weeks ago, we had more cold temperatures and snow than this area has seen in a very long time. Yesterday, I was out in the garden  getting it ready for the first seeds by the end of this week. Talk about a switch-over quick! At this rate, we'll be planning a camping trip and ready to hit the hiking trails in another few days....because Spring has decided to roll in, and it's coming fast. 

Today's book is perfect for those camping friends! And it addresses bears along the way. 

by Terry Pierce
Illustrated by Nadja Sarell
Yosemite Conservancy
Board Book
ages 2 to 4

A board book for the littlest campers about those curious, hungry bears.
Black bears just want to eat! Juicy berries, crunchy nuts, tender grubs, and sticky honey--that's good bear food. But if park visitors don't watch out, their food will be bear food, too! Bouncy rhyming text and vibrant pictures share how families can do their part to keep bears safe and thriving.


                               * rotates around camping
                               * demonstrates food handling in bear areas
                               * lovely illustrations
                               * teaches about bears


Bears get hungry, and people do, too. But bears have their food, and people have theirs. The trick lies in how people keep their food safe from the bears, and what foods bears eat because nature holds enough for them.

Sturdy enough for small hands and for taking along on a camping adventure, this board book packs bright illustrations and tons of cute bears. It follows families as they spend time on a camping trip...and of course, they're depicted as having fun. But these families are storing away food, and this book shows the various and correct ways to do it. While the families do this on one side of each 2-page spread, the bears are on the other. They munch away on various bounties, which nature provides, demonstrating which foods bears eat and exactly how that looks like in nature.

The message in this one follows two paths. Firstly, it heightens young listeners awareness of the various possible food storage containers, which parks set out just for the purpose of keeping bears away from human food. This also, automatically, reminds readers that found shouldn't be left out and needs to be watched. On the other hand, this book follows bears and teaches what they eat in nature. It's never really pointed out in exactly mentioned what they eat. Instead, the illustrations take over that part. 

The text stays age appropriate and keeps to a maximum of two lines on each page. The page with the bears always holds the same phrases, giving a repetitive reminder to listeners. This also allows listeners to join in and repeat the phrases themselves along with the parent/guardian/caretaker. It's a subtle way to bring awareness and remind listeners of the joy of camping.

But mostly, these bears are sweet and show the bears in nature. That alone already makes this a winner in my book (no pun intended.)

This book supports the Yosemite Conservancy and helps fund the important work in Yosemite to repair trails, restore habitat, protect wildlife, and much more.

Sneak Peek: The Electric Girl by Christine Hart with Giveaway!


The Electric Girl
by Christine Hart
YA SciFi Fantasy, Magic Realism

Polly Michaels is trying to forget that her mom has cancer. She keeps busy at school and plods through a normal social life. Until a freak electrical storm and a unicorn appear in the orchard next to her house.

Sy'kai wakes on an orchard floor to the smell of rotting cherries and wet earth. She doesn't know where she is-or what she is-but she knows something is hunting her.

Polly recruits her friends to find the mysterious creature she saw from her window while Sy'kai, a confused shape-shifting endling from another dimension tries to piece her mind back together. Once the human girls find Sy'kai (whom they nickname Psyche) the mystery unravels and the danger facing all of them comes into focus. 

A gritty struggle ranges throughout the girls' rural hometown and in the wild terrain around it. All while two questions hang over their heads. Can an alien deliver a miracle for a human mother? Can a group of teens defeat an interdimensional demon?


Sparks cut the space in front of her, dancing in a lacy ice and sapphire ring. If I can close the portal with him inside, it won’t matter what we leave behind or where I land. Trapping Nur-gahl was nearly impossible because Sy’kai needed her wits about her to close a portal. If she closed it too quickly, Nur-gahl would be left behind, free to devour an entire world, unchallenged by beings not capable of understanding what he was let alone the depths of his hunger, his fury. With every new passage her brain grew increasingly muddled by the energy expenditure and the instant intake of information—the new world and all its life being taken in at once. Her only chance to weaken and then destroy Nur-gahl was to find a world at the moment of its death, with nothing left for him to mimic. Sy’kai focused every molecule of her consciousness on finding this elusive destination. Her electricity stretched into a clumsy oval as a window to the unknown tore open. Energy exploded outward. Fresh, sweet air rushed at her, filling her lungs with relief.
But this new world was far from barren.
“I smell a feast on the other side! Go ahead, jump in. I am right behind you, ssssister!”
Rage flared in Sy’kai’s core. She risked a glance back and saw the dark silhouette of a gargantuan, monstrous creature racing toward her. She faced the portal again and plunged through.
Heat and light devoured Sy’kai’s flesh as the fissure enveloped her. What will I be on the other side? Please, please, let this be the final shift, she thought as the vacuum of the portal crushed her entire being.
And then she was spat out from the portal, into the dark of night. Atoms pulled other atoms into minute clusters as millions of electric implosions sucked matter off the ground and out of the surrounding terrain. Pure instinct flowing from a primal mind scanned the landscape for a blueprint of sentient life. A mental tentacle scraped and slurped, hungry for material until it finally latched onto something in the distance and made its decision. Another explosion crackled behind her elemental brain, but the sound hardly registered in the morphling’s still-forming body.
Gray matter coalesced, bone materialized, and muscles knit themselves around the skeleton as it built itself from nothing. White light and raw energy found purchase through four glowing hooves. Delicious soft gas kissed her forehead, a body part that felt somehow heavy. Light hovered overhead, illuminating the way forward through dark leaves and moist dirt.
Brightness flooded the field ahead of her. Moments later, as her eyes adjusted, she sensed another life form somewhere inside the light. Instinctively, she walked toward a face she couldn’t see. A slight figure, a willowy bipedal creature with orange-red hair slowly came into focus. And the morphling brain, still crude with instinct and ability, reached out telepathically to evaluate this opposing alien heartbeat.
She turned back to the trees then as she felt the heat of another uncontrollable transformation taking hold.

Located on BC’s beautiful West Coast, I write from my suburban home outside Vancouver.  I love writing about places and spaces with rich history and visually fascinating elements as a backdrop for the surreal and spectacular.  

In addition to my undergraduate degree in writing and literature, my background also includes corporate communications and design. I am a current member of the Federation of BC Writers and SF Canada.

When not writing, I have a habit of breaking stuff and making stuff – in that order – under the guise of my Etsy alter-ego Sleepless Storyteller.  I share my eclectic home and lifestyle with my metalworking husband, dancing daughter, and future rocket scientist son.

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$25 Amazon

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Happy Book Birthday, Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi !

Today's book takes a totally different swing into the sibling relationship corner. I read this one, and honestly, it's steps beyond my comfort zone. While I did consider not reviewing this one, I changed my mind because it is superbly written and addresses issues many young adult readers will connect with. Plus, it leaves intriguing food for thought.

by Mary H.K. Choi
Simon & Schuster
Young Adult Contemporary
400 pages

* Triggers: eating disorders, cancer, female fertility, heavy 'bad' language usage

From New York Times bestselling author Mary H.K. Choi comes a funny and emotional story about two estranged sisters switching places and committing insurance fraud to save one of their lives.

Jayne Baek is barely getting by. She shuffles through fashion school, saddled with a deadbeat boyfriend, clout-chasing friends, and a wretched eating disorder that she’s not fully ready to confront. But that’s New York City, right? At least she isn’t in Texas anymore, and is finally living in a city that feels right for her.

On the other hand, her sister June is dazzlingly rich with a high-flying finance job and a massive apartment. Unlike Jayne, June has never struggled a day in her life. Until she’s diagnosed with uterine cancer.

Suddenly, these estranged sisters who have nothing in common are living together. Because sisterly obligations are kind of important when one of you is dying.

BOOK DEPOSITORY   /    GOODREADS    /    B&N    /    KOBO    /    AMAZON

                             * addresses sibling relationships (not in usual manner)
                             * Korean struggles living in the US
                             * coming-of-age
                             * fight with cancer
                             * getting life turned around


With tons of thought and a masterful weave, this book jumps with both legs into tough topics, jerks the emotions all over the place, and leaves a lasting impression.

Beginning college student Jayne's life is tough, and she's fighting an eating disorder among other things. Her sister, June, has the 'perfect' life of luxury...not the Jayne knows her. Jayne's battle with her identity as a 2nd generation Korean, extreme self-critical issues, and general dislike of everything about herself, throws her from one disastrous relationship into another. Until she meets June. June has been diagnosed with cancer and has stolen Jayne's identity to claim social health insurance payments to pay for her treatments. While the two aren't about to spend giggly moments together, they might be exactly what they other one needs.

I expected a slightly more whimsical...or at least, not quite so harsh...tale. But this book dives into the darker side of a coming-of-age and other issues. This is not an easy, light read, and not one for less mature readers. Topics such as eating disorders and self-identity issues hit with full force. There is also no pardon when describing certain female issues. Nor is there any halt in the harsher language area. So, this is definitely not a book for everyone. But for those who are ready for such topics...well, they are in for a treat.

This is a very well-woven tale, which digs close to both characters and their issues. And these characters, especially Jayne, are not sweet. The author does an amazing job with Jayne...and not in the expected way. Jayne is a character with more sharp edges, corners and hard spots than any person should have. She is not nice, not sympathetic, and very hard to embrace. And yet, there's something about her which makes this tale stick. I disliked her from beginning to end. Completely. But that is part of the story, and a bit of what makes it as powerful as it is.

Sibling relations, even when they aren't smooth and nice, hold a special significance. June does her best to help Jayne get a grip on her life, and she does this while struggling with cancer. Jayne, on the other hand, doesn't ignore her sister's issues, either, but offers help as needed. It's a strong tale for family and being there for each other no matter what. And that glides along with all of the other themes, each which pack their own punch. The only real criticism I have concerns the ending, which leaves June's condition hanging. So, it feels as if things aren't really wrapped up.

Summed up, this is a book which tackles difficult themes head-on and with grit, roughness, and without a pinch of sugar. But it's powerful and leaves thoughts lingering behind. And that's what a good read is also about.

And here she is...

Mary H.K. Choi is a writer for The New York TimesGQWired, and The Atlantic. She has written comics for Marvel and DC, as well as a collection of essays called Oh, Never Mind. Her novels Emergency Contact and Permanent Record were New York Times bestsellers. She is the host of Hey, Cool Job!, a podcast about jobs, and Hey, Cool Life!, a podcast about mental health and creativity. Mary grew up in Hong Kong and Texas and now lives in New York. Follow her on Twitter @ChoitotheWorld. 

Swallowed By A Secret by Risa Nyman with Giveaway!


Swallowed By a Secret
by Risa Nyman
Middle Grade Mystery

2020 Readers' Favorite GOLD MEDAL winner for Children's Mystery
2020 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards SILVER MEDAL for Pre-Teen - Mature Issues

One dead father. One lying mother. One giant secret.

12-year-old Rocky's father dies suddenly, and he learns the "his heart stopped" story is bogus. Immediately after the funeral, his mother sticks the For-Sale sign in the lawn and whisks them out of town as if living there has become too dangerous. As his trust in his one remaining parent unravels, Rocky is determined to crack the secret about how his father really died.

For Rocky, the road to the truth involves eavesdropping, snooping, and listening to advice from his dead father who urges him on a risky journey.

Will Rocky have to rethink who was the father he thought he knew? Sometimes it may be better to let a secret stay hidden.

Goodreads * Amazon

Born in Boston with the accent to prove it, Risa lived within ten miles of the city for decades until a recent move to the neighboring Ocean State. 
For many years, Risa worked in a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting active participation in our democracy, with a special focus on voting and elections.   Risa's deep dive into creative writing started with finding three pennies in a neat stack in a completely empty apartment that belonged to her mother. It's a long story.  When not writing, Risa is reading, exercising or doing therapeutic ironing (yes, there is such a thing.)

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Amazon * Goodreads

Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$20 Amazon 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, March 1, 2021

Review: The Abbey Mystery by Julia Golding

I can't tell you how excited I am to start this month out with today's read. Now, I'm not really a Jane Austen fan  (gasp?). It's true. Her works never really grabbed me, and yet, this one caught my eye. And I'm so glad it did! Using facts from Jane Austen's life, this book swoops a thirteen-year-old version of her into a mystery. It's intended for the middle grade audience...after reading it, I'd say the upper end more. A tween read, in my opinion. It's definitely a good one, too. Too bad, you have to wait until April 23rd for this one, but mark your calendars because it's worth it.
(Gosh, I hope this is the beginning to a series)

Jane Austen Investigates
by Julia Golding
Lion Fiction
Middle Grade Mystery
ages 9 to 14
192 pages

Jane Austen turns detective in this spooky historical adventure by award-winning author Julia Golding!

It’s 1789 and a young Jane Austen turns detective as she seeks to solve the mysterious happenings at Southmoor Abbey. When a carriage accident forces a change of plans, 13-year-old Jane is sent to be a companion to Lady Cromwell for a week as the household prepares to celebrate the eldest son’s coming-of-age party. While there, Jane vows to solve the mystery of the ghostly monk in the Abbey grounds – for she does not believe in such stories!

But this is not the only strange occurrence for the adventurous young Jane to investigate. There are shivery night-time investigations, an Indian girl with secret talents, a library fire, two prize horses in danger, and friends to save from false accusations.

With notebook in hand and her faithful dog Grandison by her side, will Jane overcome the continuous obstacles and find out the truth?

BOOK DEPOSITORY   /    GOODREADS   /    B&N    /     KOBO     /    AMAZON


                               * based on some facts from Jane Austen's life
                               * set nicely in time frame
                               * vivid characters
                               * mystery well woven
                               * tension mixed with humor, too


This is the kind of read to sink into and get lost in until the very last page. And that's exactly what I did.

Jane's entire family is known to be adventurous and a bit unconventional. Despite this, they are well respected, and her older sister is requested to serve as companionship for the Lady of a wealthy family until their son has his coming-of-age party. But when Jane's sister is injured, she has to jump in. Her older brother spruces things up even more, when he makes a bet with her about the existence of a ghost at the Abby. Excited to start that investigation and win the bet, Jane's stay at the home begins. It brings all sorts of unexpected twists, most of which have nothing to do with the ghost in the slightest. But each one leaves her in dangerous situations and discovering secrets she should know nothing about.

When I started reading this, I was a little unsure how it would proceed. It is set in the later 1700's and stays as solid in that time frame as possible. Which means the dialogue and such also slides into this category. The terminology and word choice made me wonder if this one might steer out of the intended middle grade direction. But this fear was completely unnecessary. This book is very well done, the characters are fun to accompany, and the plot made it impossible to set down. Still, I do see this one more geared to the tween audience.

Jane is portrayed as a curious, risk-happy, slightly spunky, and yet, very aware of her duties as a young lady, kind of girl. And she's clever. Add her love for her 'lap-dog', and it's very hard not to like her. She makes mistakes but is quick to admit it and jump right back in. Plus, her moral compass is very well set, where it counts...even if this isn't acceptable to society's rules. She's the kind of girl, one wishes they could run around with and join in on her adventures.

While the historic time frame is very well portrayed and slips in masterfully without boring descriptions, it's the well-woven mystery, which really draws in. There are more than a few characters, but each has a personality of their own. They have their own troubles, and even those which are 'honorable' might not be perfectly so. This makes for a wide selection of 'who-dun-its', and the true instigators are hard to find until the end. But there are also several sub-plots running along the side, which make it hard not to fever for some of the other characters and hope they work out their problems as well. Plus, there are a few life lessons tossed into the mix.

I can highly recommend this one to mystery lovers, who enjoy a well-done jaunt into the past. While Jane Austen fans will enjoy it, by no means is it only for them (I, personally, have never been a Jane Austen fan and enjoyed every page). I really hope this is the beginning to a series because it promises to be a good one.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Review: Angel and the Butterfly by Darlene Mallich


by Darlene Mallich
Illustrated by Alaina Luise
Mascot Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

Angel felt lost and confused, unable to find his way in the world after straying too far from home. What could he do? With the help of his new friend, Butterfly, Angel is guided into an exciting adventure just by following the clues right in front of him. Join Angel on his journey to discover the true meaning of a loving home.



Cat fans are sure to enjoy this one. It's the story of a very sweet cat, Angel, who wanders too far and can't find his way home. When he runs into a friendly butterfly, he's not sure what to think but soon finds a new friend.

The illustrations are very bright and bold in this one, and super fun to gaze at. They bring Angel to life in all of his antics. Even his emotions and adventure is brought across nicely. Plus, he's super lovers are sure to love him. But then, it is a warming tale. While pretty straight forward and simple, the book joins Angel as he finds a new friend in an unexpected form. Friendship is obviously a key point in this one. But so is family and what it means to be loved.

It's the kind of book which leaves a smile on the face and warm feelings in the heart.

What is coming in March?

Birds, flowers and sunshine are on their way. After the sudden bout of freezing temperatures, ice and snow, I am looking forward to every moment of Spring. Well, except for Spring cleaning...but that goes smoother with a good book on the side. (Shh...I never said I got my Spring cleaning done quickly.) And with this month's tempting reads, it will probably take much longer than usual. 

So much goodness coming this month! It just so happens to be Woman's History Month, too. So, I have all sorts of goodies on that front. Add the amazing...and I do mean super-awesome!...middle-grade reads on my list, and wow!

My son joked that I only show my 'best' reads on this list, but Oh, Contrair! I had so much trouble holding back this time and even counted the list several times to make sure I already had ten and couldn't squeeze in more. But I can't reveal everything. Life is so unfair.

Anyway, here we go!


From the Jane Austen Investigates series, comes this amazing looking mystery. I believe this is the 1st in the series (don't quote me on that, though). It does promise to be spooky, mysterious, historical and pack tons of goodness. Too bad, it doesn't come out until April 23rd, but you can get a tiny taste of it with me already on the 1st. 

Middle Grade Historical Mystery


The strength of sister relationships takes center stage in this one, but with a unique twist. Two estranged sisters meet up and live together (although they don't really know each other) and agree to work together to get away with insurance fraud to save one of their lives...while the other dies? It's written by an award winning author. My thoughts hit on the 2nd of this month.

Young Adult Contemporary


Planning a camping trip? You'll want to pack this book along with your tent if you are. It's a small board book about camping and bears...just right for little campers to get a first impression about these animals. If it hits that goal? Find out on March 3rd, although it doesn't release until April 13th.

Board Book


I've been looking forward to reading this one, since I got my hands on it. It's sold as a Stranger Things meets Dark and takes place in a high school, where doors open up to another world. It's supposed to be creepy...or so I've heard. It releases on March 30th, but I'll give you my thoughts on the 4th.

Young Adult Science Fiction / Thriller


This is the 1st book in a new series from Brittany Geragotelis, and I can't wait to dive in. A girl has grown up with a criminal father and is now, taking her skills to hopes of working for good. A Robinhood syndrome kind of thing, I guess. See how good it is with me on the 12th. It releases on July 6th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


While it's March...not October...I have another spooky read. This one centers around a cursed theater, ghosts, and the desire to make a show a success. It hits the shelves on April 6th, but get some goosebumps with me already on the 18th.

Middle Grade Paranormal


It's time for another dash into historical fiction, this time with one which resembles Anne of Green Gables or Little Women. Taking place in the 12th century, this one is about a girl who escapes her aunt and heads to the Holy Land in hope of finding answers about life. I thought it sounded intriguing, and we'll see if I'm right on the 19th.

Middle Grade Historical Fiction


This one is based on the true story of Manon Rheaume, the 1st and only woman ever to play a game in The National Hockey League. I'm always thrilled to get a sport book on here. See what I think of this one on the 21st.

Picture Book


I'm a sucker for fairy tale retellings. Peter Pan meets mystery and spookiness (yeah, as said, I wonder if it's October?) as 'Wendy' sets out to save the lives of not only her lost brothers but of many other children. I'm hitting this one on release day....the 23rd.

Young Adult Fairy Tale Retelling

Silver Dawn Afire

This one is fantasy pure. A girl dies, ending her mortal life but knowing she will progress to be one of the Myridians...which means magical power. There should be friendship, adventure, tension, action and magic galore. Of course, evil schemes and impossible odds are probably not far behind. You'll find out on the 26th but can beat me to it, since it releases on the 16th already.

Young Adult Fantasy

Should I show you more? There are so many more!!! Maybe just one. I'll call this one my surprise read, since I have no idea when or how I'm going to get it in this month. But I will because I'm determined...even if I have to add a whole new day to March (yeah, right.)


No worries. This one is in English, too. (Someday, I might get my Chinese far enough to read something...) I decided to hit another manga this month for fun. This heroine isn't really a heroine. She's shunned by the world. But one guy is willing to try to stop her from destroying them all with a scheme no one has thought of yet...he's going to ask her out on a date. Sounds crazy?  

Young Adult Fantasy / Manga

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Review: Sakamoto's Swim Club by Julie Abery

I love learning about little events in history which few have ever heard anything about, and this book does exactly that....while inspiring, too. 

How a Teacher Led an Unlikely Team to Victory
by Julie Abery 
Illustrated by Chris Sasaki
Kids Can Press
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

MAY 4th!!!

The inspirational and little-known story of a dedicated teacher who coached Hawaiian swimmers all the way to the Olympics, beautifully told in simple rhyme. When the children of workers on a 1930s Maui sugar plantation were chased away from playing in the nearby irrigation ditches, local science teacher Soichi Sakamoto had an idea. He offered to take responsibility for the children --- and then he began training them how to swim. Using his science background, Sakamoto devised his own innovative coaching techniques: he developed a strict practice regime for the kids, building their strength and endurance by using the ditch water's natural current. The children worked hard under the dedicated Sakamoto's guidance, and their skills improved. They formed a swim club and began to dominate in swimming events around the world. And then one day, the proud Sakamoto saw an impossible dream come true --- Olympic gold! In a unique approach that makes for a moving read-aloud, Julie Abery uses limited rhyming text to tell the little-known story of Coach Sakamoto and the Three-Year Swim Club. The stunning art of award-winning and highly acclaimed Chris Sasaki perfectly complements the lyrical storytelling. This inspiring picture book offers excellent lessons in perseverance, believing in yourself and not letting others define you, while wonderfully capturing how one person can make a huge difference in the lives of others. In highlighting the team's “bright and loud” presence at events, with their Hawaiian dress and ukulele, it also encourages children to take pride in their heritage and view it as a strength. An author's note with photos and more information tell the fuller story of Soichi Sakamoto and his Three-Year Swim Club. 


                                             * based on a true story
                                             * beautiful illustrations
                                             * inspiring tale
                                             * text appropriate even for younger listeners


With few, poetic words and lovely illustrations, this book reveals a little known tale from history in a way that will inspire even younger listeners.

While the plantation workers in Hawaii work hard under the sun, their children swim in the irrigation ditches. At least, until the officers come and chase them away. A science teacher, Sakamoto, steps in and makes a deal, where he watches the kids, and they're allowed to swim in the ditches. When the corporation builds a pool, Sakamoto's dreams mount with the founding of a club with his swimmers. And from there, they chase an Olympic dream.

Often times, picture books based on historic events can be a bit on the heavy side...when it comes to text and information. This book is not. I was very surprised to find that the author manages to build the scenes, create the story, and draw listeners in by using a poetic and very short text. Instead, the illustrations flow right along with the general story to allow the culture, situations, and emotions to come across. And it's just what this age group needs and will understand.

Then, for those who do want to dive deeper into the historical events, there's a longer summary at the end. 

In other words, it's a wonderful dive into history, offers insight into another culture, inspires listeners to reach for their own dreams, and is enjoyable to read/listen to as well.

Sneak Peek: In Command by Aileen Erin with Giveaway


In Command 
An Aunare Chronicles Novella #2.5
by Aileen Erin
 Ink Monster LLC
YA Dystopian

Amihanna di Aetes is used to fighting, surviving, and relying on her strength to get through the hard times. She thought the worst was over when she accepted her engagement to Lorne ni Taure, the High King of the Aunare, and claimed her place as the future High Queen.

It should be easy to slide into her new role. How hard can it be living in luxury with your soulmate after growing up alone on the streets?

But the more she learns about the Aunare and their politics, the more she realizes that the true test of her strength is just beginning.

Amihanna di Aetes is in for the battle of her life if she wants the Aunare to accept her.

*In Command is a 65K novella that takes place between Off Balance and On Mission (Books 2 & 3 of the main Aunare Chronicles). The series can be enjoyed without reading this story, but you can’t enjoy this story without reading the series.

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“Almya. I’m not wearing—”

A throat cleared, and I didn’t even turn around. “Roan. Best friend or not, I’m going to murder you if you keep coming in here.”

“Not Roan.”

I glanced over my shoulder. Lorne.

He was leaning against the edge of the door, watching me with his aquamarine gaze that seemed to see through me. My heart picked up, and I could feel myself giving him a stupid grin, but I couldn’t stop it. “Hey.”

“Hi.” His gaze ran down my body and slowly back up, heating every inch of me. “As fashion-forward as I usually am, I think it’s probably best if you find something else for the meeting. Quickly.”

I turned back to Almya, who was still smiling—although now it looked too forced—and holding out two dresses for me to choose from.

She held one out a little farther, giving it a little shake. “This one would look lovely on you, and it’s perfect for the—”

I shook my head. “If you would just listen to me—”

“Amihanna. My love,” Lorne said softly. “I’ve been standing here for a moment, and I heard more than enough about what’s going on. The thing to remember—”

“Is that I hate dresses,” I said to Almya, hoping that she would listen. “Hate. Dresses.”

“That’s not what I was going to say.”

I turned to him, annoyed and struggling to remember that I wasn’t annoyed at him. “What?”

“The thing to remember is that you are the future queen. Not Almya.” He gave her a short, pitying glance before focusing on me again. “You decide what you do, what you say, what you wear.” He slowly walked toward me as he spoke. “So, put something on already.” He brushed a quick kiss on my lips.

Author Bio:

Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.

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Friday, February 26, 2021

Review: Origins by Lyla Owens

 Today's book drew me in way more than I expected...and I'm actually reading the entire set now. These characters are over-the-top in so many ways, sliding into almost a sort of cozy-reverse-harem category...a clean one, so far, too (and I'm most of the way through book three). It's such an odd mix of the usual RH trope and...well....cliche? Quirkiness? And yet, serious danger? 

Anyway, it's Friday, and I'm determined to chop some thorn bushes along the edge of my pastures this weekend...or continue to read books four and five? I'm betting those bushes will still be there next week if I give in to temptation and continue to read on.

But instead of rambling, I'll let you read on right now!


The Grimm Cases #1
By Lyla Oweds
YA/NA Paranormal Mystery


The things I see aren’t for the faint of heart.

And I am no longer willing to ignore them. Not even when my family, and my best friend, tell me to keep quiet about what’s happening. They say people will think I’m crazy.

Maybe I am.

But the spirit haunting my professor’s house is definitely trying to tell me something, and I’m the only one who can see it.

The one person who can help me is my best friend's brother. But I don’t know if I can trust him or his friends. Or if I can step outside the protective bubble I’ve built around myself.

At this point it’s a toss up: the ghosts will kill me or my panic attacks will.

Either way, I figure I’m going to die.

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                                                  * reverse harem direction
                                                  * slow-burn romance
                                                  * very quirky main character


Magic, mystery, paranormal and romance meet a character with tons of heart and a very quirky personality to create a gripping and yet easy read.

Bianca has lived an extremely sheltered life, has one very-best friend, and isn't exactly a people-person, anyway. When her best friend refuses to listen to her request for help, she's not sure what to do. She knows he won't help her, since he believes the ghosts she claims to see are part of her psychological issues...she's been on medication, after all, for years. But this ghost is trying to kill her. Since she's her him mention that his brother has an interest in the paranormal, she steps way out of her comfort zone and seeks him out. She never expects that this small move will flip her life upside down and then some.

I picked up this one simply due to the title...and half-reading the surmise...and completely enjoyed it. While I expected ghosts, magic and romance, I did not expect the lightness this tale holds. The main character isn't only super-extreme naive, her thought processes are all over the place. I'd compare it to a imagination in hyper-drive with way too many TV shows or books used as the basis. Her logic is through the roof, her reactions all over the place...and it makes her very endearing in the quirkiest of ways.  And yet, the ghosts are not humorous, but really pose a threat.

There are all sorts of secrets, evil agendas and impossible to guess secrets. Little by little things start to come to light, but just as many more layers are added to the intrigue. It makes it hard to put the book down. Unfortunately, this is one of those books, which doesn't wrap things up at the end, but left me wanting to dive right into the next one to see what happens next.

Now, to the romance. This does slide into the reverse harem category...and it's super cute. Of course, the guys are gorgeous, muscular, and her perfect protectors. But they are quirky in their own ways. They definitely have more logic behind their actions and build the logic and grit, where she flows through the clouds. The cliches reign, and it's exactly what works. This is very slow burn with nothing to worry about on that end for young adult readers. Not even close. With this main character, flirting kind of bounces right off, and leaves lovely frustration for the other parties behind. It's simply a fun read with just enough darkness to grab and hold

All books in the series:
Home (The Grimm Cases prequel novella)Origins (The Grimm Cases #1)Ghost (The Grimm Cases #2)Blood (The Grimm Cases #3)Hidden(The Grimm Cases #4)Balance (The Grimm Cases #5)

- Home (The Grimm Cases prequel novella)
- Origins (The Grimm Cases #1)
- Ghost (The Grimm Cases #2)
- Blood (The Grimm Cases #3)
- Hidden(The Grimm Cases #4)
- Balance (The Grimm Cases #5)

Get the first 3 books and the novella Home as a box set!
Mu is the box set collection which combines books 1-3 as well as the novella Home in one handy box set. You can buy it here.

And here she is...

Lyla Oweds is a paranormal romance author who resides in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania. She grew up near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and is a native of Baltimore, Maryland, and has a deep appreciation for the paranormal, hauntings, and Edgar Allan Poe. As such, she loves all things fantasy, mystery, crime, and horror.

She is the author of the Paranormal Reverse Harem series, The Grimm Cases and related novellas. She has also published the first book of Gloria Protean’s story, The Red Trilogy. You can find out more about her current and upcoming works at her website,
When not reading, writing, or working as a web programmer, Lyla can be found doing adult-y things such as being a mom, decorating the house, and baking. She also frequently enjoys makeup videos, massages, wine, and coffee.

Author links:
- Website
- Facebook
- Instagram
- Amazon
- Goodreads

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