Saturday, July 31, 2021

Review: The Captain's Daughters by Doreen D. Berger

Today's review takes us to the future and the infinity of space...and universes. This one is for the middle grade audience and is packed with adventure. When I saw the cover, I'll admit I was wondering how the horses would filter in, and it wasn't what I thought. 
Spaceships, twins, evil aliens, strange creatures, kidnapping, and the desire to return home....sounds intriguing to me.

So, off we go! 

by Doreen D. Berger
Polaris Print
Middle Grade Science Fiction
254 pages
ages 8 to 12

For most adolescents, growing up is hard enough when one has both feet planted firmly on the ground. But for mischievous, twelve-year-old sisters Diane and Robin, life is complicated further by the fact that their father, Captain William Marsh, is the commander of the Starship Polaris. Living among the stars provides a never-ending realm of creative possibility for the free-spirited girls’ pranks and adventures.

When aliens bent on profit and revenge kidnap Diane and Robin, only their indomitable spirit, ingenuity, and a common love of trouble allow the pair to escape the alien vessel. Finding their way home seems assured until the sisters realize they have been taken further from home then they could ever have imagined, and that they must evade an enemy who will stop at nothing to get them back into his evil clutches. Blocked by interstellar battles, malevolent creatures, and overwhelming obstacles, the sisters fear they may never find a way to return to their own universe and to the father they love.



Family love, sibling relationships, alien creatures, and exciting space adventure combine to make an entertaining read and, what seems, to be the start of a new series.

Diane and Robin are twelve-year-old twins, whose father is the captain of a spaceship. While riding their horses, a present from their father since they've been riding for years, they are surprised by a blinding light. Kidnapped by aliens, the sisters need to find a way to escape and figure out their way home. As if that wasn't enough, they learn of an evil enemy, who will do anything to stop them.

This is an easy to read space adventure. The twins, Diane and Robin, are a little mischievous but have tons of heart. Their love for their father and desire to return home is inspiring, while they face all sorts of high tension obstacles and intriguing creatures. It's well-paced and keeps the reader in the pages all the way through.

Imagination flows from every page, which really allows the creatures and worlds to shine. Luckily, readers aren't bogged down with detailed and technical descriptions, but each science wonder flows at an age appropriate level. The writing style was a little choppy, at times, but it still draws in. I enjoyed diving from one situation to the next with the girls and seeing how they got out of each situation. Diane and Robin do act a bit young for their age and sometimes skip the obvious once or twice. Still, they are fun to follow and root for. What I really enjoyed, though, was the lovely family relationship they shared. The love is impossible not to see, but then, some of this comes across better because of the inclusion of sections written from the adult's perspective. 

This is a read, which packs tons of space excitement, family love, and tension, which is perfect for this audience.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Review: The Upside Down of Nora Gaines by Cathrina Constantine

 Today's review is a book I've had my eyes on since early this year but never found a chance to pick it up. Finally, I've had time to open it up and dive into the pages. This one is a paranormal horror read for young adults. I just love the cover and title. Plus, I do know the author and enjoy her tales. 

So, ready for some chills and thrills?

by Cathrina Constantine
Young Adult Horror
314 pages

Nora has visions of horrific things. Things that lurk in the shadows and feast on bones. After moving with her mother into an old farmhouse, Nora discovers a blank journal that fills itself with an ominous warning. A cursed beast is coming for her and time is running out. When the blood moon rises, so shall the beast.

Local teen, Rebel, has his own trepidations about the house. His parents, both paranormal scientists, were investigating it when they died under mysterious circumstances. His growing feelings for Nora motivate him to battle the ghosts of his past, if it means keeping her safe.

Allies to turn to enemies. Fiction turns to fact. The past and the present collide. All in an epic battle to claim unfathomable power. Can Nora unlock the secrets buried within the farmhouse in time to save herself and those dear to her from a grisly fate?



Eerie and unpredictable describe this read to get lost in until the very end.

Nora's life is no longer balanced, since her parents got a divorce. She's given up so much to support her mom, even moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere. But she's not happy, especially when her ability to sometimes see the supernatural kicks in. Something is wrong with the house, and as she gets to know several people in town, her suspicions grow. Unfortunately, it might be more dangerous than she even suspects.

This was a wonderful, chilling read about ghosts, small towns and dark secrets. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Nora has some problems to deal with, but she handles them with the finesse of a teen—sometimes better than others but as best as she can. It was easy to feel for her and understand her decisions. Her relationship to her mother was also well done as the love between them is evident and ever-so is real life. It was interesting to dive into and see that things aren't smooth and take work, but family is still family.

The plot was gripping and carried more than a few unexpected moments. I enjoyed the dance between the past and present, and the paranormal side was a dark treat. Add in the boy from town and other characters, and it is an easy tale to get lost in. 

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Review: Deep in the Sea by Susan B. Katz

Summer thoughts tend to bring images of the beach, sun and ocean with them. Today's read connects land and water, and teaches young listeners about the various forms of life found under the water's surface. And that with tons of doors to flip and flop! (Yes, I'm a door fan.)

Ready to take the dive? 

by Susan B. Katz
Illustrated by David A. Carter
Little Simon
Board Book
12 pages
ages 2 to 5

Compare sea creatures to land animals with similar names in this interactive play-on-words pop-up book with spectacular illustrations.

Lions roar...sea lions snore. Are catfish, dogfish, and elephant seals the same as a cat, a dog, or an elephant? Pop-ups reveal their differences in this delightful introduction to amazing creatures of land and sea.



Exploring animals in the sea and on land gains a touch of fun in this easy to flip book.

While young listeners will easily recognize almost every land animal presented in these pages, the sea creatures will be more of a discovery for them. But this book is definitely not about dry learning. Each land animal (a cow, for example) is depicted, and then the door is flipped to show a sea creature with a very similar name (sea cow, in this case). The correlation does draw a few smiles, but more importantly, some of these will stick in young listeners' heads.

The illustrations are bright, bold and simple. Each creature/animal is depicted in a fairly basic but colorful way with only a little bit of surrounding. So, this remains centered on the creatures. They are clearly created to make them recognizable and yet, there's a pleasant, child-appropriate flair to them, too. The flaps to open with each connection, add a nice amount of, they are sturdy enough to hold more than a few rounds of opening and closing.

The entire thing is written in very short rhyme. Each animal receives only a single sentence, keeping everything short and sweet. But that's all that's needed, too. It's a fun way to learn about sea creatures and holds several young listeners probably haven't run across before.  

And here they are...

Susan B. Katz is an award winning author and bilingual certified teacher. She has written ABC, Baby Me!All Year Round; and Deep in the Sea, among others. She lives in California.

David A. Carter is a master paper engineer and creator of How Many Bugs in a Box? and more books in that series, which has sold more than six million copies. He is also the author and illustrator of the critically acclaimed One Red Dot, among others. Carter lives in Auburn, California, with his family.

Sneak Peek: Frostbite by Lynn Rush with Giveaway!


by Lynn Rush
Touch of Frost, #1
YA Paranormal


Amanda gives a whole new meaning to cool…

Amanda Smith is sick of getting chased from town-to-town. So when she lands in tiny Trifle, Arizona, she hopes it’s her last move for a long time. Despite hating the smallness of the town, she settles in and finds a best friend, and even a boyfriend. Normality at its finest.

But for a girl who can shoot snow from her hands and lift a two-ton truck over her head like a bag of feathers—normal is not an option.

The scientists who murdered her mother come barreling into Amanda’s quiet life. She must decide if she’ll run again or stay and fight. The price of either choice might be her life or the lives of those she’s come to love…

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


“You barely know me, Zach.” And I was so the wrong girl. He just didn’t know it.

“I’m trying to get to know you. You won’t let me.” His dark eyebrow quirked up, and his dimple flared as he offered me his totally addicting half-smile.

He was right, though. So trained to stay protected I’ve pretty much forgotten how to…be. So controlled. So…

I inched closer, which probably looked ridiculous as I scooted across the sand, but if I was going to take a chance, Zach was going to be that chance.

His eyes widened, and he leaned forward as his grip on my hand tightened. Despite the sand mixed in with our hands, his warmth still crept up my arm. But it also left a trail of goosebumps.

Do. Not. Freeze. Him.

I drew in a breath, then pushed that last inch separating us. My reward was the softest pair of lips. The contact, as light as it was, sent a shockwave through my chest, rattling down my spine. The warmth of the sun toasting us, and his now familiar scent, swarmed around my body, filling me with him.

All Zach.

I turned my head a fraction and that angle offered me even more of him. That pouty bottom lip I’d been eyeing since I’d first seen him was all mine to taste. To nibble. And I took full advantage.

And here she is...

New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author, Lynn Rush, is a full-time writer, wife, and trail runner living in the Sonoran Desert, despite her fear of rattlesnakes. Known as #TheRunningWriter, Lynn can't resist posting epic sunrise pictures while running in the desert with her trail sisters, even if she has to occasionally hop a scorpion.

When she's not running or writing, she's watching movies that fuel her everlasting love of superheroes, vampires, and all things Supernatural. The books she reads usually carry the same theme, but this former college athlete loves reading sweet sports romances as well.

She's madly in love with her Ironman husband of 20+ years who is the inspiration for what true love is. You can find her on social media as @LynnRushWrites and her website is:

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: It's OK, Slow Lizard by Yeorim Yoon

Today's review greets from South Korea and packs tons of heart and warmth. While I thought this one might be about a lizard, who needs to learn to like himself due to his slowness...I was so wrong. 
Great messages about enjoying life and friendship abound....and isn't that cover gorgeous?

So, why don't we just dive right in and enjoy?

by Yeorim Yoon
Illustrated by Jian Kim
Translated by Chi-Young Kim
Restless Books
Picture Book
ages 3 to 6


In a lush, sun-dappled forest, animal friends discover the advantages of living slowly, in this soothing picture book from beloved South Korean author and illustrator Yeorim Yoon and Jian Kim.



With lovely illustrations, tons of warmth, and even more heart, this book shines in friendship and the secret to truly enjoying life.

Slow Lizard isn't as hectic as the other animals around him and takes one day at a time, remembering to enjoy even the little things around him. As his friends hurry to finish their tasks or become frustrated with situations, Slow Lizard is there to help them calm down and get a glimpse of the calmer side of life. And sometimes, this ends in a tiny adventure of its own.

I'm going to start with the illustrations because these are beautiful. There's a calm to each and every one, while lovely details give so much for listeners to gaze time and again. The colors hang toward cheerful yellows and light greens, allowing the atmosphere of sunshine and joy radiate from every page. And that's exactly what this book is—joyful. 

Slow Lizard holds nothing negative about him, but rather, demonstrates how life is amazing when it isn't always hectic and filled with distractions or things to do. He's not lazy, but rather knows how to spread a healing calm to his friends and those around him. And when a little adventure does arrive, the positive attitude keeps them bonded and can even help possible stress float into fun. 

It's a wholesome book, great as a read-aloud or to snuggle up in a chair together and read.

And here they are...

Yeorim Yoon is from Ulsan, South Korea. She is a former editor of children's books at various publishers as well as the Samsung Children's Museum in Seoul. She currently lives in San Diego, where she leads a life that is both busy and slow as a mother and author of children's book.

Jian Kim is an artist and illustrator of children's books from Seoul, South Korea. She studied animation in college and became interested in picture books after encountering the work of Anthony Browne. She lives in Incheon.

Chi-Young Kim is an award-winning literary translator and editor based in Los Angeles. A recipient of the Man Asian Literary Prize (2011), she has translated more than a dozen books, including works by Kyung-sook Shin, You-jeong, Young-ha Kim and Ae-ran Kim.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Review: Good Dog: Home Is Where The Heart Is by Cam Higgens

Ready to start the new day with energy? If you're like me, this question off is answered with a groan. Maybe that's why today's book caught my attention. This little guy beams fun, energy, and adventure from morning to night. Set for the early reader audience, this is the first book in a series of today..5 books!

Ready to take a glimpse? 

Good Dog #1
by Cam Higgens 
Illustrated by Ariel Landy
Simon & Schuster
Chapter Book
127 pages
ages 5 to 9

Meet the loveable and rambunctious puppy, Bo Davis, in this first book of the Good Dog series! When Bo loses something important, his search takes him all over the farm.

Springtime has arrived at the Davis Family Farm! Spring showers lead to muddy hijinks for a young pup named Bo. But when Bo loses his dog tag, he gets serious and enlists all of his barnyard pals to help him find it. From horse stalls to chicken coops to grazing fields and beyond, Bo’s adventure takes him all over the farm, introducing a cast of friends and frenemies.

With easy-to-read language and illustrations on almost every page, the Good Dog chapter books are perfect for beginning readers.

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


Adventure, fun, and friends make this a read to create a smile, but it's Bo, who steals the heart and show.

It's been raining on the farm, which gives Bo the chance to roll in mud with one of his farm friends. His human siblings decide to take him in for a bath, which he enjoys almost as much as mud. But after toweling him off, they discover that his name tag is gone. It's the perfect mystery for Bo, and off he goes across the farm to find it.

This is the first book of an easy-to-read series and builds a wonderful base for all sorts of adventures to come. The tale starts with an introduction of Bo, his life and several of his friends on the farm. All of this is told from Bo's point-of-view and swings a little bit of wit and humor right in. This way, the author builds a great foundation for the story and, still, keeps it interesting. After this, Bo rolls into the first muddy step of his adventures.

The writing is directed toward those, who have a pretty good handle on their words but still need time before hitting 'larger' books. The font is larger for easy reading purposes, and there is an illustration on every page, keeping the entire thing from becoming overwhelming. Plus, the illustrations are fun and really make Bo adorable.

The adventure rolls along in a wholesome, exciting, and grabbing way. Bo's all over the place, and his energy beams off of every page. 

And here they are...

Cam Higgins wrote her very first book about a cat who lived in an alleyway when she was eight years old. As a child, she loved visiting a neighboring farm and seeing all the animals. Now Cam has a pup of her own, who is very mischievous, and she still loves writing about animals. Cam lives in New York City with her two children, her husband, and Laila the dog.

As soon as Ariel Landy learned how to draw a sky beyond a blue scribbled line, she knew she wanted to be an illustrator. Raised on coloring books and crayons outside of Boston, she now lives in France with her husband and dog. Visit her online at


In the charming fifth book of the Good Dog series, Bo learns to swim with his family!

One hot summer day, Bo and his family decide to cool off. They take Bo to a swimming hole on their farm. But Bo hasn’t gone swimming before. Can he learn how in time to join in on the fun?

With easy-to-read language and illustrations on almost every page, the Good Dog chapter books are perfect for beginning readers.

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON    /   B&N

Happy Book Birthday, On Mission by Aileen Erin with Giveaway!

On Mission
by Aileen Erin
Off Planet, #3
Ink Monster LLC
YA Dystopian

“Action adventure, space drama, political schemes, and just the right hit of romance has this series turning into an absolute must-read. Whether you think you’re a fan of sci-fi or not I’d urge you to give this series a try….”Angela, Pooled Ink Reviews

From USA Today Bestselling Author Aileen Erin comes the fourth book in the Aunare Chronicles

Amihanna di Aetes has finally accepted her place in the Aunare world. In a matter of weeks, she’ll be their High Queen, but no matter how hard she tries, she finds that she’s always doing the wrong thing. At least that’s what the High Council keeps telling her…
There’s only so much rejection a girl can take, which means she’s spending her afternoons trying to get out of High Council meetings. And yet, every time she leaves the council room, she sees the disappointment on her father’s face, and worse, on Lorne’s face. It pains her, but she can’t say what they want her to say.
The council is refusing to see the truth. War isn’t just upon the Aunare – they’re about to lose.
Training her guards to invade Earth is a much better use of her days. She spent too much time hiding, obeying, forcing herself to do what she had to do to survive.
She’s used up all her pretending and can only be who she is. A fighter. A leader. A warrior.
When SpaceTech attacks the Aunare colonies, she’ll do what needs to be done –she’ll fight to defend the Aunare alone if she has to. Because Amihanna is a di Aetes. She’ll never give up. Not until SpaceTech is dismantled and Jason Murtagh is dead.
Amihanna isn’t the queen the Aunare want. But she is the queen the Aunare need.

“Go, but leave knowing that I’m okay. Earth didn’t kill me. I didn’t die on Abaddon. And SpaceTech? They’re not going to get me while I’m here. I’m going to win.” I brushed a quick kiss against his lips. “I hate that you’re having nightmares about what I played in that interview with Himani, but if you’re having them, that means that you’re forgetting that I survived. All of it. Everything. And I’ll survive whatever comes next, because I’m a di Aetes, and I never—”
“—give up,” my father said with me. “Not ever.”
I glanced at him. How did he know that’s what I always told myself to keep going? “Right.”
“I’m glad to hear that my teaching stuck with you despite everything.”
I blinked a few times. His teaching?
It made sense that my secret motto—the rallying cry that I gave myself to get through everything—came from him, but I’d never thought about it before. I don’t know why. It was obvious. Of course it came from my father. “It really did stick. Telling myself that over and over got me through a lot of tough times. When I was scared or hurt or burning to death on Abaddon, I told myself that and it made me keep going. Keep fighting. If I wasn’t dead yet, then I wasn’t going to give up. I couldn’t quit. Because I’m a di Aetes.”
“Good.” My father considered me for a moment and then his skin lit, just ever so slightly. “Good.
There was approval and pride and respect for me in that second good that made me feel like I’d done something really right.

And here she is...

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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Monday, July 26, 2021

Review: Where There's A Whisk by Sarah J. Schmitt

If you're a fan (or sometimes fan) of cooking shows, today's review might just be for you. I saw the title and read the blurb, and had to get my hands on this one. It's a young adult novel (teen cooking competition), so that seemed original to me.

Grab those aprons and let's take a peek! 

by Sarah J. Schmitt
Running Press Kids
Young Adult Contemporary
400 pages

OCTOBER 5th!!!

Life is what you bake it.

Peyton Sinclaire wants nothing more than to escape her life as a diner waitress in her small, North Florida town and attend culinary school. Top Teen Chef, Food TV's new show that pairs reality TV drama with a fast-paced culinary competition, is her ticket out of her boring future. It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make her dreams come true and Peyton is determined to prove to herself, and the world, that where you're born does not determine where you can go. However, once on the show, Peyton quickly discovers that there is more to the competition than just a well-seasoned dish. 

As things start to heat up on and off the set, Peyton will have to prove to the judges that she deserves to win while trying to untangle what is real and what is scripted drama, and decide what she is willing to risk to win before her dreams end up on the chopping block.



Mix several cups of drama with a tablespoon of showtime pizzazz and a pinch of romance to get a mix of nerves, concerns, mistrust and simple fun.

Peyton can't believe she was chosen to participate in the first Top Teen Chef cooking show. The prize, a scholarship to a culinary university, is the only way she believes she can escape her otherwise difficult life. But not only her past becomes a part of the show's scripted drama, but the relationships with the other contests are throwing loops she'd rather avoid. Still, she may not be able to if she wants to win the show.

I grabbed this one up with very high hopes, and while this wasn't quite as good as I was wishing it might be, it still held its own. The novel starts at the cooking show, a few moments before Peyton makes her first walk out into the spotlight. Her confusion and nerves are clear as she meets her contenders one by one for the first time. That this isn't only a cooking show but a reality show, the cameras follow them everywhere, the contestants live together, and scenes (faked as also real) play a role. It's cooking with a huge heap of drama...and that's why it wasn't as I'd hoped.

In the first part of the book, we do see Peyton cooking a bit and hear her thoughts as she chooses her recipes. The actual cooking is summed up pretty fast (which it needs to be to avoid boredom), and it is fun to picture her working through the kitchen with the different themes and difficulties. Unfortunately, the cooking only stays front and center during the first part of the book and slowly fades into the background as the drama of the set takes over. Now, drama is necessary to hold the plot. But there are so many plot threads weaving along...or possible plot threads is a better term.

There a many characters, which each bring a different background and twist, but they pop in and out without ever gaining much depth. Peyton has a tough past, but it's basically ignored. Her 'enemy' during the show is never fleshed out or the problem really addressed. The romance is superficial. Friendship is a glance. Even the difficult judge is there as required but without reason. This book could have gone in so many directions and it took none of the paths. What was left was an entertaining read but it lacked any depth...which is too bad because it could have been an awesome read.

Still, I wouldn't say this one isn't worth picking up. It's an easy read with a very quick pace, tons of humor, enough tension to keep those pages turning, and Peyton is a character to like. I did enjoy reading this one and read it in one sitting. It just that it was good when it could have been great.

Mommy and Daddy's Day, A Vampire's Sin by Marie-Claude Bourque with Giveaway!

Every so often, here on Bookworm for Kids, we have a Mommy and Daddy's Day, where I present a book for parents. After all, parents like to read too. 

A Vampire’s Sin
by Marie-Claude Bourque
The Order of the Black Oak – Vampires, #2
Paranormal, Romance

A VAMPIRE’S SIN: A Slow-Burn Urban Fantasy Romance

Meet the Order of the Black Oak: a powerful order of modern-day warriors fighting evil to protect the ones they love.

Son of an ancient vampire and a legendary French witch, Mont-Royal Immortal Magnovald St-Amand has lived for so long that nothing matters except his ruling over the Montreal’s sultry nightlife. But when he chooses to help an ambitious real estate tycoon rescue her kid sister from a pack of daemons, he finds deep yearnings in his soul that he thought were buried forever.

If you love loyal tough guys with hearts, satisfying slow-burn paranormal romance and safe Happily Ever Afters, the Black Oak World is for you.

***** Fantastic series of action, magic and awesome romance. You will fall in love with the characters and feel you are right with them.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

Sneak Peek

She’d come to the club to talk to him countless times in the last three months, but today was different. Today, her quest was personal.

The one she was coming to see was the most infuriating man of her acquaintances—as if nothing serious ever touched him. Keeping her persona at the highest level of professionalism was the best way to approach him.

And there he was.

She watched him work at his usual corner booth beside the bar.

Magnovald St-Amand. Owner of this trendy Montreal nightspot, his actual wealth a secret, even to her. No doubt its origin tethering between both sides of the law, some legitimate and some probably criminal.

And this time—even though it killed her to have to do this—it was the latter she had come for.

Mag, as they called him, was pouring over a pile of ledgers spread across the table and punching numbers on a printing calculator, his demeanor unusually focused on the menial task.

A nudge of respect rose with a flutter in her stomach to see him work on his own accounts.

Such a contradiction. Nothing in his laid-back facade indicated a thriving business owner. As always, his dark hair brushed his neck, the curls a little too long above the plain black t-shirt emphasizing the defined broadness of his shoulders and arms. His skin—a tad too pale to be healthy—contrasted gently with the sculpted cheekbones and dark determined brows.

And as she watched him check his calculations, she knew she had mere seconds before needing to brace herself from his immense charm.

Once his dark gaze hit her, when his lips curled into that constant amused expression he had every time they met, she would have to fight hard her attraction for the man who was nothing like her.

His life was far from the world she came from. His was late evenings and sensual pleasures. Dubious connections all over the city and the lording over its luxurious nightlife.

Hers was pondered and orderly. Charity balls and business bureaus. A continuous quest to keep her tight hold on the Montreal’s real estate power.

As she looked at him now with a slight weight lodged in her chest, in those few seconds before he would become aware of her presence, she couldn’t help but wonder if there was perhaps a possible place where they might be alike.

But that small hopeful moment was soon over.

He knew she was here.

Magnovald St-Amand slowly lifted his head. With a profound inhale, she took hold of herself as the dark undercurrent of his gaze seized her and threatened her very soul.

And here she is...

Marie-Claude Bourque is a Montreal-born Seattle-based author of gothic paranormal romance and the winner of the American Title V award with her first novel ANCIENT WHISPERS.

Her writing features modern-day fantasy skillfully weaved into infinitely romantic supernatural stories between smart strong women and complex passionate heroes.

Happily Ever After always absolutely guaranteed!

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Sunday, July 25, 2021

Cover Reveal and Review: Pugnapped! by Marty Kelley


Commander Universe Saves the Day (Sort of)
by Marty Kelley
Sterling Publishers
Middle Grade Adventure / Graphic Novel
128 pages
ages 7 to 10 


Fourth-grader Stevie Blunt needs money to pay for a rare comic book so when a neighbor needs a last-minute dog sitter for her beloved pug, Stevie transforms into Commander Universe, ready to be the hero this citizen needs (and earn the money for his comic book). But then the dog goes missing, and Commander Universe has just hours to find out what happened. Follow the daring escapades of Commander Universe as they dodge mind-controlled squirrels, Mystery Neighbors, and new neighbor Abi in their attempt to save the precious pug.


This is a book really written for younger middle graders with full-speed imagination, determination and simple, exciting fun.

Stevie...or more correctly said Commander Universe is determined to get one of the 1000 limited edition copies of his ultimate, favorite comic series. But first he has to come up with $75 (and that before his arch-enemy does). When his neighbor agrees to let him dog sit her pug for even more than the needed money, Commander Universe finally has a way to save someone's day (and earn his comic book). Things don't go as planned as someone steals the pug from its super, cozy house. Commander Universe is off to save the day...but being a superhero isn't an easy task.

I love finding kidlit which is really written for kids and not what adults think kids would like, and this book is exactly that. Stevie's determination to be Commander Universe might seem over the top, but it's exactly what my own child or a couple nieces and nephews have done...just more in other directions like animals and such. Stevie embraces his own idea of fun without allowing others to ruin it with their poking and bullying attempts. And he has friends, who are ready to jump into his world with him. So, this alone made it a great read in my eyes.

Of course, this one is well-written and very nicely paced. There's a lot of dialogue, little description (just right for the age group), tons of woven in humor, and adventure pure. It's not clear what has happened to the stolen pug or who the true villain. It is clear that Stevie's so caught up in his own world that he makes some mistakes along the way. It's a great mix, which keeps the reader in the pages...and even more reluctant ones.

This book is an interesting mix of graphic novel and classic novel form.  The illustrations are very well done and let every moment shine. These are placed just right with the other text, so that the different moments develop as they need to. It's interesting, and it works.

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Review: Iridescent by S. H. Everly

Thoughts of summer almost always include beaches and, today's review is just right for the approaching end of July! This one is a clean fantasy with faith, magic, and so much more. Plus, I liked the cover with its wonderful blue.

Ready for a quick splash?

Iridescent book cover

Iridescent #1
by S. H. Everly
YA Fantasy
25 February, 2021


For 17-year-old Katrina Peterson, life is never the same after she finds out she’s moving back to California. Upon arrival, Katrina learns that the town has secrets, and at the heart of them is the mysterious and popular Jared, who’s been dreaming about her long before she came to Santa Cruz.

Only one thing seems to have all the answers: a map given to her by her mother. But Katrina wonders how long she can keep her own secret from Jared. Will he ever accept her for who she truly is? But, more importantly, can she?

A story filled with friendship, family, love, and even faith, Iridescent will take you away to the beaches and ocean waters of Central California, and on a magical journey in this coming of age book.
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Refreshing as a splash of water, this read carries wholesome values while spinning an intriguing tale of magic, mystery, romance, family and friends.

Katrina is about to embark on her senior year. She's happy living in Chicago and spending most of her time with her marine biologist aunt in the aquarium along with her best friend, Brandon. When her aunt suddenly moves them to Santa Cruz, Katrina is devastated...and she wonders if she'll ever see Brandon again. But she doesn't have long to ponder on the issue as new friends and tons of secrets come in. Add strange occurrences, the mystery of her parents' deaths, and a strange map left behind by her mother, and Katrina's life is about to become anything but normal.

This is such a fun read. Katrina is a girl with energy and heart, who tries her best to deal with each situation no matter how difficult they are. Secrets abound just as she's trying to reorganize her life, and it's clear that danger lurks not far away. The family and friendship side is inspirational, even when doubts settle in. Some things are easy to guess; others are hard to see coming. In any case, it's a fun mix of fantasy, faith, and coming of age.

It's a quick read despite its longer length, and the tale does keep the reader in the pages. There are several unexpected plot turns, more than a few interesting characters, and even the romance isn't easy but allows a nice sense of tension...if it is the true romance, that is. This is the beginning of a series and it lays the foundation for the upcoming books well.

While the pacing in this one stays quick the whole way through, there were moments it seemed to suddenly surge forward before breaking again. I found myself a bit confused more than once and felt like things jumped forward without explanation, leaving a few logic holes. But it still wasn't enough to kill the rest of the read. Fans of magic, faith, and mystery are sure to enjoy this one.

S.H. Everly author picture
And here she is...
Sarah is the author of Iridescent. She is a lover of the ocean and the beach which have inspired her writing, and she is also inspired by her Christian faith. In her free time, she loves baking gluten-free recipes and painting. Something on Sarah's bucket list is to write a full first draft on a typewriter. She is excited to continue writing the sequel to Iridescent, Book 1 of the Iridescent Series.

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Friday, July 23, 2021

Review: The Place Beyond Her Dreams by Oby Aligwekwe


by Oby Aligwekwe
Coming of Age Fantasy

At the sudden death of her grandfather, Ona’s pain drives her to mystical Luenah—a place of infinite possibilities. There, she discovers she is an Eri, chosen to accomplish a special purpose on earth, and is handed a box in exchange for what she desires the most.

Burdened by her quest, Ona learns that dreams carry a hefty price, and no one is who they seem. As evil looms, she must unmask the villain and save the one she loves, even at the risk of losing everything she holds dear.

Set against the backdrop of two warring towns, The Place Beyond Her Dreams delivers life lessons using a powerful fable. This coming-of-age fantasy takes the reader on the path to self-discovery and demonstrates the transformation one must go through to realize and eventually occupy their purpose.



I found the cover on this one amazing...and of course, the blurb really drew in as well. While it's sold as a young adult novel, it spans to even a slightly older age group and hits the 'coming-of-age' category very nicely.

Ona's had a very happy life and isn't sure what to think of her very short, occasional glimpses into the future...which sometimes come true and sometimes don't. When her beloved grandfather passes away, her quick dreams pull her into another world, Luenah—a place of peace and calm. But she quickly returns to reality only to be pulled back and meet her grandfather there at her eighteenth birthday. Now, she discovers that she has a responsibility toward reality and Luenah, and a task she must learn to fulfill. And this is where her true journey begins.

This is a rich story with many wonderful aspects. It follows Ona from her happy life as a young girl and through her path to becoming an adult. Her love for her family and friends is inspiring. Plus, her desire to do what is right makes her a character to simply enjoy. The addition of this peaceful, alternate world opens up the door to imagination and adds just the right dash of fantasy. It adds an interesting twist as Ona struggles to find her purpose and way, while overcoming more threatening obstacles and even love. In other words, it's a well-rounded tale from beginning to end.

The writing flows smoothly and switches between a narration about Ona's life to more showing scenes, where the reader experiences the events with Ona (like a usual story). The narrative telling wasn't quite my thing, and I often found myself distracted, since this did keep Ona an arm's length away. But just as I was about to lay the book down, an interesting twist would come and draw me back in. This seemed to be a constant pattern the entire way through. The back and forth forms an intriguing style, which will grab the right reader from start to finish. With a touch of fairy tale magic along with a flair of real life struggles and a dash of tension, it's a unique tale which does leave an impression after the last page.

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Happy Book Birthday, Hardly Haunted by Jessie Sima!

 Yesterday, this book hit the world, and what a cute book it is! Although it, obviously, works great for Halloween....after reading it, I see it as a year around enjoyment. But then, Jessie Sima hasn't disappointed me, yet. 

Ready for a little spookiness with tons of heart?

by Jessie Sima
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

From the bestselling creator of Not Quite Narwhal comes a delightfully spooky story about an old house who wants to be a home…even if her new family isn’t what she expected.

House has a problem.

She’s a little spooky. She’s a little cobwebby. Oh, no! What if she’s haunted?

She’s not sure, but…her hinges creak. Her pipes bang. And on windy days, the branches scritch-scratch at her windows. She tries to hold her breath and be as still as possible. If she’s on her best behavior, maybe a family will move in.

How will House ever find a family that doesn’t mind being haunted?



While the cover tends to spookiness...and the title makes suspicions of chills run high...this is a book full of heart.

A house has stood empty and alone for many, many years despite the for sale sign in the front yard. Knowing that it comes across as spooky, the house does its best to give a normal...although dirty and worn...impression. No matter how hard it tries, there are things beyond its control to make it appear eerie again. By the looks of it, the house will be lonely as long as it stands.

This is such a cute book! The house is hard not to feel sorry for as it only wants to have company. It is a run-down house, but that doesn't mean it's creepy or bad. It's a situation many listeners will connect with and if they're like me, wish they could give the house a hug. Or even move in themselves. It's hard not to hold your breath as the house gives its all to become less spooky, and a sigh comes when it doesn't work. In other words, this house captivates the reader and brings across the various emotions masterfully.

Each page only holds a line or two of text, and this swoops right along with the illustrations. Sound effects weave in as well and allow the eerie sounds to top off the atmosphere. Still, it's easy to read and makes a wonderful read-aloud. Readers, who have a fairly good handle on words, can tackle this one on their own as well.

The illustrations are well done and let the personality of the house shine. There are enough details to keep listeners/readers involved and give something to gaze at when flipping through on their own. The visual creepy and dirty aspects of the house play along with the text to create a balance between both.

And there is the wonderful, warming message at the end, which leaves the reader/listener with a smile. 

And here she is...

Jessie Sima is an author/illustrator living and working in New York City. They grew up in a small town in southern New Jersey, unaware that they were a storyteller. Once they figured it out, they told their family and friends, who took it quite well. They are the author of Not Quite NarwhalHarriet Gets Carried AwayLove, ZSnow Pony and the Seven Miniature PoniesSpencer’s New PetJules vs. the Ocean; and Hardly Haunted. You can visit them at

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Review: Rat Rule 79: An Adventure by Rivka Galchen

I'm back! While I've been managing (barely) to keep up with reviews the last days due to a weekend trip, I'm sorry I haven't been able to add a few personal words. And no, that doesn't mean I'll babble more to make up for it.

Today's review is a re-release from a prized adult author. It is quirk. Very quirky. And super witty with clever dialogue and humor. Plus, there are illustrations! (I love pictures). 

But no babbling...right? 

by Rivka Galchen
Illustrated by Elena Megalos
Restless Books
Tween Fantasy
256 pages

From the  New Yorker  “20 Under 40” author of  Atmospheric Disturbances  comes a brain-twisting adventure story of a girl named Fred on a quest through a world of fantastical creatures, strange logic, and a powerful prejudice against growing up.

Fred and her math-teacher mom are always on the move, and Fred is getting sick of it. She’s about to have yet another birthday in a new place without friends. On the eve of turning thirteen, Fred sees something strange in the living room: her mother, dressed for a party, standing in front of an enormous paper lantern—which she steps into and disappears.

Fred follows her and finds herself in the Land of Impossibility—a loopily illogical place where time is outlawed, words carry dire consequences, and her unlikely allies are a depressed white elephant and a pugnacious mongoose mother of seventeen. With her new friends, Fred sets off in search of her mom, braving dungeons, Insult Fish, Fearsome Ferlings, and a mad Rat Queen. To succeed, the trio must find the solution to an ageless riddle.

Gorgeously illustrated and reminiscent of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Rivka Galchen’s Rat Rule 79 is an instant classic for curious readers of all ages.



Reminding of the same quirkiness as found in Alice in Wonderland, this book takes an original twist and dives into an unpredictable fantasy world.

Fred is as ordinary as her name. Unfortunately, her life is ordinary, too. So much so that Fred doesn't even know when her mother's birthday is (it's never been celebrated). One day, when Fred goes to the living room, she discovers her mother standing in front of a large lantern. This is only the beginning as Fred is taken to another realm and needs to search for her mother as well as solve all sorts of other issues along the way.

This is a book packed with humor, which relies on clever dialogue and unique situations. I did smile several times and even had to snort down a laugh once or twice. The play on words, twisted logic of the characters, and flipping everything upside-down, was intriguing and masterfully done. It doesn't talk down to the age group and places Fred in the perfect light for her age group. It's done in a heavy, narrative style with a narrator, who is clip, clear and adds tons of humor too. So, it's a fun read.

Plot wise, it's fine but could be better. There is always something going on...although much of the scenes depend on silly wit more than actual advancing of a plot. The characters do shine, and there's definitely never an overdose on descriptions. While some aspects pull through well and wrap up at the end, others (and in my opinion, the more obvious plot strings) are not tied and even ignored. For example, Fred and her mother have obvious problems, but these issues are never resolved nor does the tale work around them...although there is even a side plot which acts as a mirror to the issue. Plus, there were a few holes, where things were mentioned but never connected. Also, I'm not sure the humor itself will always hold readers' attention, since it pushes plot and action aside, sometimes.

The illustrations in this one are so much fun! I enjoyed each one and like the way they bring life to the world Fred is discovering. It makes the tale that much more grabbing and makes up for several missing descriptions. So, these do work hand-in-hand with the tale.

I did find this read fun and interesting, and believe that the right reader will enjoy it quite a bit.