Monday, May 31, 2021

What's Coming in June?

There are still a few days left of Spring, and I'm going to use them well. 

I'm always excited to do these posts because it's so easy to get lost in the massive review pile, that I often lose the overview of what exactly each month will look like as far as genres, intended audiences and such. I'm always surprised because each month seems to gain a natural trend. Sometimes, it's more historical reads or graphic novels or...well, who knows what. 

This month holds an odd...well, I'll just say that it's a pretty wide variety. I have quite the pile of re-writes and retellings (which took me by surprise) and a couple more fantasy reads than the last months.  I also have a few more chapter books than I usually have, which I was happy to see. In other words, it promises to be an interesting mix.

So, off we go!


I wanted to start this month off on a positive note, and what could be more positive than a cool duck? This book is supposed to keep the fun level high and include an egg (I think that's what it is) to search for on every page. Who doesn't like to search for things in the illustrations? Anyway, paddle off with me and see if this duck should be wearing sunglasses or not on the 1st.

Picture Book

Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles

Classics should never be overlooked. This one is a rewrite of a famous tale (obviously) and fashioned up just right for the middle grade audience. Since I haven't had one in this direction in a very long time, I couldn't resist swiping it up. Discover the new version of this famous detective's mystery with me on the 6th.

Middle Grade Mystery


I was thrilled to get my hands on this one, since it promises to be an excellent read. It's set in the medieval times and features a mysterious girl, who's found injured by a monk, and has a goat as a friend. There should be prophecies (obviously, since it's stated in the title), a dark forest, forgotten kingdoms, magic...and we'll see what else on the 9th.

Middle Grade Fantasy

I love finding nonfiction picture books, which carry a bit of quirkiness but still teach kids all sorts of things. This one is exactly the kind of thing I would have peeked into as a kid, and my own kids slip into their book bag at the library, too. Take a look at it with me on the 12th.

Picture Book Nonfiction


It's time for a retelling! This one weaves with Shakespeare's The Tempest. With a girl raised on an island under a wealthy family, a historical setting, magical elements, and tons of intrigue. So yep, this one caught my interest. I'm not super hot on the cover, but that doesn't mean anything. Right? Right? Find out what I think of the tale on the 14th.

Young Adult Fantasy


What's life without monsters and adventure? For all fans of true fantasy, this one promises a journey, tons of action, imagination pure, and tension to make hearts pound faster. I'll be sharing my thoughts on the 18th...and see if it's as exciting as it promises to be.

Middle Grade Fantasy


We're off to Lagos to meet a young girl named Tola and her sister. This one is a collection of three stories, each one diving into a little adventure. Each one should be pretty true to life (I'm led to believe), and is suited for chapter book readers. I'm just looking forward to learning more about Lagos and this girl's life. Take the trip with me on the 19th!

Chapter Book Contemporary


Ready to blast off into the future and a dystopian world? This time, it's with a twist toward the Spanish culture (South American?). There are also elements surrounding music and song, which slide along magical notes. A scifi/fantasy/dystopian? Or something like that? I'll know more when I tell you all about it on the 21st.

Young Adult Science Fiction


A mysterious jukebox, disappearing father, secret messages...and then, the jukebox begins to glow and pulls the kids away to the time period of whatever song is playing? Seriously, how could I not want to read this one! Dance to the beat and enjoy the tunes with me on the 23rd.

Middle Grade Mystery / Fantasy


Hold on tight because the elements of this one are quite the intriguing weave: a retelling of Jane Eyre, lean toward fantasy, death and deceit at every turn, and an Ethiopian-inspired setting. It might make an amazing mix. Find out with me on the 30th.

Young Adult Fantasy

See? Lots of goodness. Each month, I'm tempted just to share my entire list because...well, I also have the 1st in a brand new middle grade series from a best-selling author, a few more books from diverse authors, a couple more fun reads to kick-off the summer for the lower grade levels and...
Well, before I say more, let's just hit this month's Joker Read and call it good.


This one promises a good, wholesome, middle grade mystery. It's the third in the series (and as you might already have guessed, no, I didn't read the others), and I was intrigued by the New Hampshire setting. There's a waterfall, sunken ship, pirate tales, and lots of summer swimming in the sun. In other words, I thought it might be perfect for June...that's when I squeeze it in. Sometime. But when?

Middle Grade Mystery

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Review: Marly in Pieces by Cathrina Constantine

 Today's review is an amazing young adult read, which I've been meaning to pick up since it appeared last year but just didn't have the time. 

But it was well worth the wait, and I might be reading it again soon. (Yep, I loved this one)

by Cathrina Constantine
Young Adult Contemporary
260 pages


Marly refuses to believe her friend, Rae, committed suicide. Even though her wrists were slit, Marly knows her beautifully vibrant bestie would never do that.

Even though the two had drifted apart, Marly and Rae made a blood promise long ago to always look out for each other. Even in death, Marly intends to honor that vow.

Determined to find Rae’s killer, Marly faces a long list of potential suspects. It seems everyone has secrets or lies they are covering up… including the boy she loves. Can Marly uncover the murderer’s identity before she becomes the next victim?



This one does a few triggers: suicide, violent deaths, bullying, self-harm, abuse

With potent writing, this read pulls in, hits home and leaves one on the edge of their seat for a tense and gripping end.

Marly's very best friend has gone missing, a girl who she not only shares a blood oath with but who she loves deeply despite their recently drifting a bit apart. Hoping to help find her, Marly heads to their secret place, and there makes a horrible discovery. Marly has trouble coping with the idea that her best friend is now dead, but soon, she realizes that there's a larger problem involved. She has reason to believe there's a murderer among them, and she very well might be on that person's list.

I love how this one is written. The author first sets up a heart stabbing scene full of tension, which grabs the reader on the very first page. Marly's best friend is missing...more than just a friend...and nobody has a clue where she went. But the author soon flips into a dance between flashbacks and present day, which reveal all sorts of secrets and emotions, linking Marly and her best friend. It gives wonderful character depth and makes it hard not to feel for Marly and connect with her. Usually, I'm not a huge fan of this sort of time-hopping, but the author does it masterfully, drawing out the right atmosphere and information while never allowing it to feel forced or chaotic. 

There are heavy themes in these pages, and the reader should be aware of that before tackling this one. Yet, these are handled age appropriately and with care. It cuts at the heart and gut, while adding the necessary setting for the tale. It gives the friendship, and later more tense situation, a lot of depth. The thriller end starts out slowly and smoothly comes in as the chapters advance. It's a wonderful slide from the first chapters and kept me in the pages until the very end. This is one of those books, which I didn't want to put down until that last page.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Review: Court of the Grandchildren by Michael Muntisov and Greg Finlayson

Today's book is sold as an adult novel appropriate for ages sixteen and over. So, I'm letting it slide as a possible young adult one. The content itself is definitely fine for the age since it doesn't hit upon intimate or violent scenes, and the main character, Lily, does come across young enough to grab upper teen readers. 

This is a book for thought, so get ready to dive deep into several current topics as they explore how things might evolve to affect future generations.

But take a look for yourself.

by Michael Muntisov and Greg Finlayson
Speculative Fiction
307 pages

A man from today and a woman from tomorrow. How will she judge him?

Lily Miyashiro lives much as any twenty-nine-year-old in 2050’s America. Her job is busy, resettling climate refugees from the coastal cities. Then she gets a call. She has family she never knew about. And they want something from her she doesn’t want to give.

Lily is one of the young, reliant on artificial intelligence and facing an uncertain future.

David Moreland was a bigwig during the world’s golden age. He is old and almost forgotten…until he is drawn into the realm of the Climate Court. Now a whole generation seeks to condemn him.

When Lily meets David, she is forced to confront events from her past that she would prefer to forget. Feeling trapped, she hires a young lawyer. Is it to defend David, or to deny the past?

In a world that seems comfortably like the present, hints of sinister differences begin to emerge, and the stakes are raised beyond David’s fate.


A jump into a possible future brings interesting twists, which not only highlight environmental and AI issues but tackles the question of how the actions of past generations should be judged.

It's 2050 in the US, and thanks to climate change, the coastal land is disappearing. This has caused all sorts of problems on immigration issues as people from states like Florida try to relocate to inner states. The situation is dire and tensions run high. Here Lily lives her normal life, trying to help those she can through her job. She's more than surprised to learn that she still has a distant uncle, and even more shocked when he contacts her for the sole purpose of getting her signature so he can meet the current laws and die with dignity. She's not ready to sign away on anyone's life, but when she discovers that he's also been called to Climate Court, her decision not to sign is made. In Climate Court, those from the earlier generation are called to testify about their earlier decisions and held responsible for the climate damage they've caused. And it appears her uncle played an important role, but whether it was good or bad is yet to be determined.

This is a book packed full of topics and themes, which encourage thought, while weaving an intriguing tale along the way. David, Lily's uncle, is a very intriguing old man, and we find him wishing he could enter death's door. The first clash comes with Lily and David's wish to die, and the entire debate surrounding euthanasia. This already draws sympathy as Lily, due to her own past, values life more than David...and we, as the reader, slowly discover David's thoughts and views. Then, the book pulls into the area of technology, its integration into daily life, and AI intelligence (as it controls almost every aspect of life) Next, comes the environmental side with Earth suffering the results of climate change and polar melt, and this also brings in the problems of immigration, and, in a very different way, prejudice hate. On top of it, comes the Climate Court and the younger generation's hunt on early generation in order to hold them responsible for their part in the climate chaos. So, there are tons and tons and tons of crumbs as food for thought, and this book does a great job at opening the doors for differing viewpoints, possible new considerations, and ways of looking at the world.

As to the read itself, it's well done and flows nicely. Each scene grabs in its own way, which makes it hard to put down. Something is always happening, and everything leaves an impact. The court scenes are well done as they take the view of the transcript, and the other chapters seamlessly slide between the characters and make each thought and action clear as well as interesting. 

This book is not boring, and it does take a very original twist with some intriguing questions. Still, there's too much. While thoughts and points are well made (without ever feeling preachy), the needed background and world building aren't there. We catch glimpses at normal life but never get a full feel for it. We're given the background information to certain events and circumstances, but other aspects are left with holes. Sometimes less is more, and I had that feeling in this one more than once. Plus, the characters, while we learn about their personal issues and such, missed a little depth.

This is an intriguing read which opens up all sorts of themes and makes the reader think. And it does this with a pretty interesting story, which leaves an impression.

And here they are...

Michael Muntisov

Mike’s professional expertise was in making drinking water safe. He was the editor of a non-fiction book on water treatment, sales proceeds of which were donated to Water Aid. After a global consulting career spanning 35 years, Mike finally got around to writing his first work of fiction. Before he knew it, he was a playwright as well.

Greg Finlayson 

Having played in a rock band during his University days, Greg has recently returned to the music scene, where with his teenage daughter he does improv Jazz sets at local clubs. During the day, Greg consults for water authorities around Australia and the USA in fields such as desalination, integrated water management and climate change planning.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Review: Cliff the Failed Troll by Barbara Davis-Pyles


(Warning: There be Pirates in this Book!)
by Barbara Davi-Pyles
Illustrated by Justin Hillgrove
Little Bigfoot
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

This sweet and funny story is about feeling different and embracing who we are.

A fun and original story by Barbara Davis-Pyles, author of Grizzly Boy and Stubby the Fearless Squid, about a troll named Cliff who isn't very good at sitting still or being a "proper" troll. He'd much rather be a pirate anyway!

"Ahoy!" he shouts upon meeting other trolls, who then remind him that the proper troll hello is "Go away!" After a report card full of Fs in bridge building, stoney staring, and even goat gobbling (he's a vegetarian!), Cliff sets off for pirate school.

But are things different for him there? Aye, that they arrrre!

This humorous story is about appreciating who we are and knowing there is a place where we fit in the world.



The cover caught my eye on this one, and it's as fun of a read as I'd hoped.

Cliff is a troll, but he's nothing like the other trolls. For one, he's smaller....and he can sing...and he can't sit still forever...and he loves pirate things. When he realizes that no matter what he does, he can't fit the expected troll role, he heads out and meets pirates. And maybe, just maybe, he's found a home.

The illustrations on this one do a great job at making a troll likeable, while not trampling on the more traditional troll ideas completely. While they are ugly-ish and not friendlish, Clifff is so cute! He's the kind of troll any young reader would want to meet and join as he heads to adventure.

Young listeners will have no trouble connecting to Cliff's problems as the author has kept them exactly at the level the age group will understand. When he heads out, although sad, he immediately meets a strange friend, and this keeps the entire thing from running in too negative a direction even for more sensitive readers. The pirates are funny and still a bit 'dangerous'. Add the ending with a quirky surprise, and it's simply a cute read with a nice message wrapped in.

And here she is...

BARBARA DAVIS-PYLES, author of Grizzly Boy and Stubby the Fearless Squid, has written hundreds of fiction and nonfiction pieces for the children's education market. In addition to her curriculum-based work, she helped create A Day in the Meadow (with composer Frederick Frahm), a pipe organ demonstrator for children (Wayne Leupold Editions, 2006). When Barbara's not writing, she can be found hiking, biking, or packing for a road trip. She lives in the northwest corner of Washington State with her family. Find out more at HILLGROVE is a Pacific Northwest artist who loves painting monsters, robots, and other such nonsense, and has worked on everything from comics and toys to tabletop games. Justin lives in Snohomish, Washington with his wife, four kids, some chickens and ducks, a rabbit, and a dozen or so imaginary friends. Learn more about Justin at

Sneak Peek: Becoming Brooklyn by Amanda Deich with Giveaway!

Becoming Brooklyn
by Amanda Deich
January 5th 2021
YA Contemporary, Science Fiction


Eighteen-year-old Brooklyn never knew her father. Rex Blackburn died in the 9/11 attacks four months before she was born.

And even though she never met him, she always dreamed about what he must have been like before he died. In her mind, he was a hero.

Little did she know.

After an attack at a 9/11 memorial gala, Brooklyn learns her father had been a member of an elite, anti-terrorism, military task force, made up of a very select group of people who had superhuman abilities. On the day the towers fell, he died using his power to save people.

The Army believes she inherited his gift, and Brooklyn is invited to train at West Point in order to hone her skills. Knowing deep down she is different than anyone else her age and wanting to learn more about a father she never knew, she readily agrees to become a cadet at the prestigious military academy.

She and five other 9/11 babies strengthen their superhuman abilities and spend weeks preparing themselves for their future in the army, fighting terrorists at home and abroad. And in the process of training, they identify with their deceased parents in a way they never knew they could.

Brooklyn knows she’ll go to war someday, but when terrorists find out about the group’s gifts, they don’t bother to wait.

They bring the war to West Point.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble


“Why do you need to talk to…just us?” Bree asked, her stare critical and questioning. “Why not all the 9/11 Babies?”

The general nodded, acknowledging the fairness of her question. “You would probably instinctively group yourself with the rest of the kids who had parents die in the attacks of 9/11. And while the entire group of 9/11 Babies have been branded heroes – appropriately, I might add – the six of you are different than the others who attended the dinner the other night.”

He brought his hands in front of him, clasped them together casually in front of his broad torso. “In fact, I’ve been assigned to talk with you all this evening regarding this difference. But before I begin, please know I am about to tell you something that is quite possibly the most sensitive, most valuable, most protected secret in our military today.”

My heart picked up speed. Suddenly I felt like I was sitting in the principal’s office, in trouble but not quite sure why.

“Sensitive, how?” Adrianna asked.

The general pursed his lips. “It may take a while to explain. If I may, I’m going to ask for your patience as I attempt to do so.” He walked slowly toward us, clicking a button to lower a white screen behind him. It hovered above the fireplace as if it were a painting.

“I was thinking about the best way to inform you on the topic, and I decided I should start with what you already know: what you see in the papers and what you’ve learned in History Class.”

Ugh. History Class.

The six of us took turns shooting uneasy glances to one another, and the general, like so many teachers, pressed on, despite our obvious lack of enthusiasm.

“Even before the terrorist attacks on 9/11,” he explained, “the United States of America was the world’s leader in stopping terrorism. We continue to fulfill this role today.”

As if to prove his point, the screen behind him exploded into pictures of ongoing warfare. Bombs, tanks, and horrific blasts filled the screen.

“Terrorists know no geographical boundaries,” he continued as the pictures ceased, “but neither do we, when it comes to humanitarian issues. When the U.S. was young, we were spoiled by our location. Oceans separated us from the rest of the world’s conflicts, so we were primarily concerned with our own. But after the atrocities of the Second World War were exposed, we knew we needed to make a global effort to combat the evil that existed outside our borders.”

“The way we did this was to develop our best, most gifted citizens. We identified them at a young age and used our training facilities to nurture their gifts, pushing them as hard as they could be pushed, and making sure those gifts weren’t wasted. Soon, we had enough of these gifted warriors to form an elite military group. Its earliest members named it The Crest.”

“And what does this have to do with us?” I asked. I mean, it was nice of him to give us a history lesson and all, but the anticipation of why we were meeting with a general was killing me.

“Patience, Brooklyn,” General Richards replied, his tone implying he was losing his own. “I promised I’d explain, and I’m about to.” He turned to address the whole group again.

“You are six of the so-called ‘9/11 Babies’,” he began. “But you are a special six. The hundreds of other 9/11 Babies lost their parents heroically on that horrible day, and you did, too. But your parents were more than heroes.”

He paused, making sure he had our undivided attention. We weren’t breathing; we couldn’t.

“You would probably think of them as superheroes, members of the very same group I described.”

His gaze intensified. “They were part of our most secret, gifted branch of the military: The Crest: Chosen, Rare, Elite… Superhuman and Triumphant.”

Author Bio:

Amanda Deich is an author out of Littleton, CO. In her non-writer life, she is a teacher and coach to hundreds of kids, and she is a mama to two. If you meet her, she'll talk Jesus and identity like no one's business.

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Insincerely Yours by Manasi Singh


All Ray wanted was to have some fun. Little did she know that what began as a harmless midnight adventure would soon end up being the most terrifying night of her life.

Shuttling back and forth between the States and whichever obscure Indian town her civil servant father was transferred to, Atreya ‘Ray’ Sen’s life has always been on the move. When she comes down to sleepy old Visakhapatnam and befriends Mira, Ray hopes she could be a successful means of whiling away her summer. When Mira invites her to a late-night adventure with Mira’s boyfriend and his pals, Ray jumps at the chance for some excitement. When one of the boys suggests they take a detour to one of Vizag’s most famous haunted houses, the night takes a turn for the dark. The spirit of a mean old man seems to be following them, killing them off one by one.
A near-death experience reveals to Ray that she is the only one who can bring peace to him. Now, Ray must race against time to find a way to save her family and friends, or else the once-peaceful town of Vizag would witness a bloodbath like never before.
An old Victorian mansion with a dark history…a spirit with a vengeance…a girl with no memory of her past…
Will Ray be able to stop the killings in time? Or will she be left with no friends and no family yet again?

Real Life Incident that inspired Insincerely Yours

In the words of Stephen King, we make up horrors to cope with the real ones. But what if the horrors written is a part of reality? What if the tale is written not just as fiction, but as a memoir to the unexplained that occurred years ago, yet bears fresh imprints in mind? 

When I sat down to write this story, I had to resurrect memories from my college days, from that fateful night, when my friends and I had decided to have our own little late-night adventure. Back then, we were just stupid college freshmen who didn’t have a care in the world, who would go lengths for cheap thrills from the world of the supernatural. Here, I bring you the real-life story that inspired me to write Insincerely Yours. 

Our night started on the cliché note of being cold and stormy. We had found our source for horror stories: our friend Vishnu. Vishnu would always keep us at the edge of our seats with his storytelling, and that evening was no different. We had assembled in a circle around him, drinks in our hands, when he started telling us about the legendary haunted house that stood proud just off the path to the beach in Vizag. As the story goes, the house belonged to a retired colonel and his family. They kept to themselves, but the neighbors often complained of yelling and fighting coming in the evenings. One night, the house fell silent, and the neighbors saw an eerie glow emanate from the windowpanes. When they went over in the morning to check, they found that the Colonel’s family had disappeared overnight. The house was still as is, sans the family that had once lived in it. Nobody knows where they went, and the watchman claimed he never saw anyone leave the house. Their mysterious disappearance gave rise to the stories that the house is haunted. 

Scoffing at his words, my friends and I decided to check it out for ourselves. So off we went, Shreya, Swetank, Vishnu and I, on a drunken midnight visit to the famous haunted house. The house had a sinister look to it, with the front lawn stretching before us, coated with dried grass, exactly how I chose to describe in the book. Inside, the house looked like someone had lived here years ago, and had suddenly just chosen to walk out. The place oozed with a cold vibe, and I wasn’t the only one who felt it. We decided to explore the house a little, and each room creeped us out a little more than the next. Most of the belongings of the house had turned to debris owing to a cyclone that had wreaked havoc in Vizag a year ago, but there was one room that had managed to stay intact. Intrigued, we stepped in bravely, and immediately, we felt helpless. It was like the place had sucked the happiness out of our lives as a blanket of depression descended on us. We saw muddy footprints going towards the bathroom, and opened the door to find the room painted in vantablack, the darkest color known to humanity, often the sign of evil. The room started feeling like it was sucking the energy out of us, slowly as it grew. Swetank, being the most sensible of us, insisted we get some fresh air at the balcony we had seen on our way into the room. At the balcony, we felt the sudden weight the room had given us lift off us, and we slowly relaxed into conversation. In the entire time we were in that house, I kept getting this feeling that someone was watching us. As we were talking, I felt something move from the corner of my eye, and turned towards the balcony door, where I saw five shadows. Four was of us standing in the balcony, but one was coming from inside the house. As I turned around quickly to see if anyone else had noticed, I saw Swetank looking pale as a sheet. We saw the shadow stay for a few seconds, and it suddenly disappeared, vanishing. At this point, Swetank and I ushered the other two out of the house, and made a run for it. All we knew was that the old Victorian mansion housed something that was pure evil, so dark that even one hour in that place had left us feeling soulless for days after. Swetank and I promised then and there that we would never meddle with forces outside of our control ever again, but as you all know, promises are meant to be broken.   

And here she is...

Manasi Singh is a lawyer, graduated from one of the top law schools in India in 2019. Lawyer by day and reader by night, Manasi always had a lot of stories to share, which she did by publishing short stories and articles in newspapers, magazines and journals. In 2019, she began writing short snippets on social media under the name “The Vanilla Writer”, shortly after which she published her first novel “As Fates Would Have It”, which was received warmly by readers of all ages. Manasi is a firm believer in art and creativity not being restrained in any way, which is why she writes short stories, fiction novels, screenplays for short films, and much more.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Review: The Immortal Game by Talia Rothschild and A.C. Harvey with Giveaway


The Immortal Game
by Talia Rothschild & A.C. Harvey
Swoon Reads
May 25th 2021
Ya Fantasy


An exiled goddess goes on a quest to clear her name and save Mount Olympus in Talia Rothschild & A C Harvey’s action-packed young adult debut, The Immortal Game!

Galene, daughter of Poseidon, desperately wants to earn her place among the gods. But when a violent attack leaves Mount Olympus in chaos and ruins, she is accused of the crime. Banished from Olympus, Galene sets out to prove her innocence and discovers a more deadly plot—one that threatens even the oldest of Immortals.

Fortunately, she has allies who willingly join her in exile:

A lifelong friend who commands the wind.
A defiant warrior with deadly skill.
A fire-wielder with a hero’s heart.
A mastermind who plays life like a game.

All-out war is knocking at the gates. Galene and her friends are the only ones who can tip the scales toward justice, but their choices could save Olympus from total annihilation, or be the doom of them all.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play


Excitement and tension roll from scene to scene, making this a read which is hard to put down.

Galene needs to pass her trial if she wants to rise to the ranks of a goddess, but unlike everyone in the trials before, as the daughter of Poseidon, she is required to take them three years before the usual age. When she ends up facing an impossible beast, it's not only unsurprising that she fails, but there's reason to believe that she's been set up. But that is the least of her worries as monsters break out, threaten Olympus, and everyone believes she is to blame. Someone is out to get her, but soon she realizes, that it's about more than just her. 

When I picked this one up, I really hoped it'd take a fresh twist on Olympus and the gods...and it definitely did. While Zeus and all the other gods were their usual, over-bearing selves, this book steers away from them, for the most part, and heads off on an exciting adventure, which leaves the gods a little more in the shadows. Galene and her friends were easy to root for as they stand by each other from the beginning until the end. Well, mostly. There are some amazing secrets and more than a little well-woven intrigue, which also surprises along the way. But it's exactly these twists and turns, which kept it exciting.

Monster, battles, impossible hurdles and action mark every page as Galene and her group try their best to do what only the strongest gods can do. There's a lot of girl power, but not only. Galene might be strong, but she needs to rely on the others as well. Each of her friends has their strengths and, what I really enjoyed, not every weakness was really a negative. Each character has their own quirks and personalities, and each one is easy to love or dislike. It was fun getting to know them, and the author does a good job at letting each one gain some depth.

And there's romance. Luckily, it's not an instant one but takes a little time to build. Trust has to be earned, and with everything else going on, romance isn't really at the forefront of Galene's mind. 

This was a fun read, which grabbed me more than I thought it would.

Author Bio:

Talia Rothschild, Italian American, is passionate about stories in many forms—music, dance, photography, film and, of course, great novels. She believes in thick hot chocolate and creamer in your tea. When she’s not happily writing, she’s mothering the sweetest baby girl and making memories with her husband. Her debut book The Immortal Game, coauthored with A. C. Harvey, hits the shelves May 2021.

Ashleigh Harvey is teaching high school physics and bringing her writing dreams to life. English-born and world-traveled, she loves filling her life with new adventures, such as visiting a new country or exploring the Wild West with her husband. She also finds escape in movies, music, literature, and yearly comic conventions. The Immortal Game is her debut novel, created alongside Talia Rothschild, her close friend.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Review: Honey Mountain by Jane Taylor


by Jane Taylor
Middle Grade Fantasy
400 pages
ages 9 to 12

In a dimension that is invisible to humans and inhabited by magical beings, four companions embark on a journey to free a friend and a large number of pollinating insects from the clutches of a diabolical wizard who is himself captivated by the most powerful Sorceress ever known.

They are sustained in their quest by humour, affection and loyalty as they courageously battle the age-old evils of cruel greed and unfettered ambition.

Honey Mountain is a story of light-hearted magical realism with a dark edge in which traditional fairy tale creatures tackle their own twenty-first century environmental problems. A strong female character leads the cast and sees the struggle through to a dramatic conclusion while two other antagonistic creatures come of age when they forge a friendship out of adversity.



                                            * rich world building
                                            * fairies
                                            * friendship
                                            * environmental issues


This book heads into a rich fantasy world, where spunky fairies delight with their personalities while darker situations settle in.

I was surprised how well-developed this world is. The author allows each personality to unfold with depth, individuality, and fun quirks and attitudes. Details sprinkle in, which allow the scenes to come to life and place vivid settings, which feel as if they could be real. Fantasy fans will enjoy diving in and getting lost in this world.

This is a book about fairies, the type that live in nature and take their responsibilities along with a good dose of fun. The dialogue holds clever humor and lets each characters personality shine, making them to love or dislike. Because of this richness and the slightly higher vocabulary, I see this as a better fit for the upper end of the middle grade group. 

The pacing in this one is steady the entire way through and adds wonderful bouts of tension. Friendship, courage, and determination are key, but this one also touches upon environmental issues, which offers a refreshing twist. 

And here she is...

Jane Taylor is a retired secondary school teacher of Chemistry and Science who now lives near Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire.

She spends a great deal of time writing fiction, biographical and autobiographical stories, and some poetry but this is her first published work.

Honey Mountain was inspired by her daughter Emily’s illustrations, some of which are included in the book.

Jane set out to write a modern fairy story, alluding as it does to some twenty-first century problems, but one that also stays true to young people’s  fondness for humorous fantasy, for heroism and for action-packed adventure.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Review: A Fly for a Frog by by Stephen Dallas

Quirky humor launches this week as today's review steers toward a frog and the natural desire to eat a fly. Yep, the cover won me over on this one, not because it's amazing, but it just made me wonder what this one would be about. 

Let's see what this fly and frog are up to.

by Stephen Dallas
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

It's a "Frog eat Fly" world out there, but there's one fly who wants to change that. Maybe our froggy friend will learn a lesson along the way.


                                              * packed with humor
                                              * clever fly
                                              * bright, simple illustrations


Silly humor drives these pages forward and is sure to create more than just a laugh or two.

Froggy received a package for his birthday from his mother, but before he can open it, he already hears the small voice inside and knows what awaits him: his favorite meal! But this meal is begging him not to eat it. Instead, the fly inside claims to know many things which make just as good (if not better) meals for frogs. Although unsure, Froggy decides to listen to what the fly says. After all, he can always eat him in the end.

While this one is paced with quirky humor, it wasn't quite what I expected and went in a slightly odder direction. Which isn't a bad thing in the least. The author starts by winning a bit of sympathy for the frog. After all, it's his birthday and he did receive the present from his mother. It's not even a strange present, and any listener would understand why a frog might like it. But this frog is cheated a bit as the fly decides not to be his present. So, that sets an interesting tone.

I love the clever fly and how he buzzes around with the most ridiculous (and yummy) food for a frog. The illustrations strengthen the humor...but I'm not going to say how. It's definitely smile worthy and even a tiny bit worrisome for the frog (it was just his birthday, after all). And while this guarantees laughs and giggles, the ending really surprised me and left me with a 'huh' effect. While ending everything with a fable message feel, it hit strange with the rest of the read. So, I wasn't the hugest fan of those last couple of pages.  But it's not 'bad' either, just unexpected.

It's a book to pick up and let the smiles and giggles roll because this is a frog kids will enjoy watching.

Happy Book Birthday, Apocalipstick by Lisa Acerbo with Giveaway


by Lisa Acerbo
Hell in a Handbag, #1
YA/NA Post-Apocalyptic


Life is bad after the apocalypse . . . the undead just made it worse.

“My dreams pre-pandemic included a high school graduation party before attending college and marrying an attractive future lawyer. Instead, I’m praying for a long, sharp knife and a big gun to survive the undead.” —Jenna

Jenna Martin lives in a world gone insane after a mysterious pandemic kills much of the population. Being alive after an apocalypse is bad, but it is made worse when the multitudes killed by the disease return ravenous for human flesh. Jenna, in serious trouble and pursued by undead, heads to the safest place available, a cemetery.

Ready to give up, she finds the strength to persevere for one more night and meets a group of survivors willing to take her in. The group caravans to Virginia, where they plan to inhabit an isolated inn called High Point, but the undead are always close behind. Packs of zombies, known as Streakers, attack, leaving Jenna and the other survivors battling for their lives and racing toward safety.

Once safely isolated at the inn, the group rebuilds society and Jenna begins a relationship with Caleb. Although he withstood the virus, he has not come out unscathed. He and some others now labeled the New Rave have changed into what many would call zombie kin—vampires. Jenna’s falls hard and fast for Caleb, which causes more problems that she ever expected in the fledgling society. But there are worse things than vampires and zombies searching for her, and they arrive at the inn’s door ready for destruction.

Goodreads / Amazon


Glass shattered in the next room and footsteps crunched over the broken splinters. What had once been a tall, middle-aged man in a business suit, was now a bloated corpse in rags crusted over with blood and pus. The baked-by-the-sun Streaker wore a wrinkled face with the consistency of an old raisin. His right arm hung limply, dislodged from the socket, but both hands made continual grabbing motions.

Lacking any grace, the creature staggered to the bedroom door and stopped. It sniffed, searching out its next meal. Blood poured from Jenna’s lip, where Tundra had hit her. She wiped it away, then retrieving the piece of wood. Sensing the movement, the Streaker turned its undead eyes on her. Some of its skull had been torn away, exposing the rot. It lumbered and stumbled over the chair in its path, giving Jenna desperate seconds to ready herself. Arm raised, eyes dead and unblinking, it came, dancing with death. It reached out to grab her.

Jenna ducked, then swung low and hard. “I must have gone brain dead. I can’t think of one good zombie joke right now.”

The creature staggered back, but then surged forward. Jenna rammed the edge of the board into its stomach.

“No comeback from the undead. There’s a no brainer.”

It writhed against the constant pressure of the wood. A trail of intestines spurted out, staining the tattered remains of clothing. Jenna gagged at the stench.

“You, my good sir, are too gross for words.”

The undead groaned, plowing forward. Decaying brains leaking from its nostrils and eyes.

“That all you got for me?” She stepped back, hoisting the board, and swung. The head of the creature flew sideways, but it continued forward, emaciated fingers scratching. She drove the Streaker over to the left with a repeated, steady swing. The wood sank into a shallow layer of skin covering the undead’s overripe, bloated belly.

Upon Caleb’s return, he moved to Jenna’s side. She stepped back and leaned against the window. Caleb, hatchet in hand, forced the Streaker into a corner. A noise at the window had her spinning around. A hand shot through the glass and into the room to claw at Jenna’s face. Outside in the darkness, lifeless eyes found her. The undead rammed against the window, spraying glass. Jenna stepped away, and seconds later, a loud crack caused splintered wood and glass to fall to the floor along with pieces of the zombie’s fingers. With a catatonic stare, the Streaker pushed through the opening, tearing its flesh against the jagged edges of the frame.

Jenna flashed back to the cigarettes and matches she saw in the room. Fire was exactly what she needed now. She searched for the matchbook that had laid on the floor, but the room was in disarray thanks to the fight. Something bumped behind her, and panic rose inside her. Dropping to her belly, scanning the floor, her fingers reached under the bed.

And here she is.

Lisa Acerbo is a high school teacher and adjunct faculty at a local community college. She lives in Connecticut with her husband, daughters, two dogs, and horse. When not writing, she mountain bikes, hikes, and fosters dogs.


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Sunday, May 23, 2021

Review: Milo's Moonlight Mission by Kathleen M. Blasi


by Kathleen M. Blasi
Illustrated by Petronela Dostalova
Yeehoo Press
Picture Book
36 pages
ages 4 to 8


The most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the ideal moment—with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!

Outer space is out there for exploring, and Captain Milo is ready for takeoff! If only he didn’t have to wait for his Second-in-Command—or as he also calls her, Mom—to report for duty. Yet Mom’s list of daily tasks grows ever longer, and she can’t launch until they’re done. So, like any good captain, Milo offers to help!

Work? Check.

Dinner? Check.

Cleanup? Check.

When the weather forecast predicts a middle-of-the-night meteor storm, Captain Milo wants desperately to witness it. But will his Second-in-Command have enough time to accomplish this magical mission with him?

In lyrical prose and charming illustrations, Kathleen M. Blasi and Petronela Dostalova capture how the most spectacular night skies are revealed when we plan for the perfect moment—with loved ones by our sides. This heartwarming tale is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts!

What to Expect:

Emotionally Resonant: A heartwarming tale of a parent and a child struggling to find quality time together – a challenge with which many parents and children can identify.

Adorable Space Setting: With a playful, expressive setting, this book is perfect for space fans and young budding astronauts.

Vivid, Atmospheric Storytelling: Children will love how much this midnight adventure feels like a real mission complete with a spaceship—and will wish that they could journey to the world beyond.

A Clever Combination of Fiction and Non-Fiction: Interwoven in the fiction text are unique facts about meteor showers. Educational back matter offers opportunities for discussions about cosmic phenomena.



                                          * lovely illustrations
                                          * balance between imagination and reality
                                          * parent/child relations
                                          * working together
                                          * some meteor shower facts at end


Playful imagination juts in between the more mundane chores of daily life to demonstrate the importance of patience and working together in parent/child relationships.

Capitan Milo is ready for another adventure in space, but his Second-in-Command can't make it. Mom has some important work to get done, and Milo's just going to have to wait. Knowing how working together can make things go faster, Milo does his best to help out but ends up having to simply show patience and wait. When Milo hears that a meteor shower is coming the next morning, his excitement soon dims as she announces she has an important meeting. Now, Milo wonders who that important person could possibly be.

I was surprised at how much is incorporated into this short book...and that with interesting finesse. First, there's the amazing and grabbing imagination of Milo as he prepares for his space adventures. The scene is perfectly set and immediately draws into this space realm, not only through the short, yet fun text but also through the amazing illustrations. It's hard not to want to launch off right with him. And that's when the emergency brake is pulled, shifting hard into reality where Milo (and the listener) learns that reality comes first. The shift even left me disappointed...which means it works.

Milo's mom is busy, but instead of having a fit or pouting, he tries his best to help. But he can't completely, and that means waiting. The wait is something listeners will easily identify with. I appreciate how the author never let Milo lose his temper, and I'm not sure there are many kids out there who could handle waiting as well as he does. His golden attitude is inspiring, and the ending rounds it off nicely even for the listeners as everything finishes on a warm and positive note.

I found the text well-balanced...not too much and not too little...but it's the space illustrations which really shine. The message in these pages is very clear and also nicely done. For some reason, the pacing hit me a little off between the reality and imagination (not sure why, though), and at the very end, there's an author note with information about meteor showers, which while informative and opening up to discussions about meteors (if desired), seemed a bit tossed in. But all in all, this is a nicely done read, and the space parts alone capture the attention and invite to dream.