Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Review: Bizzy Bear: Train Engineer by Nosy Crow and Benji Davies

After yesterday's review for older readers (and even adults), we're taking a huge swing back in the other direction. I do have a soft spot of board books, and this little bear looked adorable. Plus, trucks and cars and all those wonderful things bring smiles on many young readers' faces. So, obviously, I was going to take a look at this one. It's scheduled for release beginning March.

Ready for a peek? 

by Nosy Crow
Illustrated by Benji Davies
Nosy Crow
Board Book
8 pages
ages 0 to 4

Come along for a train ride with Bizzy Bear in this board book full of sliders to push, pull, and turn.

Join Bizzy Bear as he guides the big green steam engine across the city, through the level crossing, and then up into the high mountains. But where are he and his passengers going, and will they get there on time?

GOODREADS   /    AMAZON    /   B&N


With lots of pull, push, and rotate fun, this cute book lets the excitement surrounding trains come to life.

Bizzy Bear is a train engineer. Right away on the cover, young readers can already pull a tab and watch the train grow from an engine to one pulling a car with passengers. Every page holds a new surprise as Bizzy Bear travels around to all sorts of different places.

Not only train fans will enjoy this book. First, Bizzy Bear is simply an adorable bear, and each of his friends are portrayed as kind and inviting. The joy is visible thanks to the bright and very detailed illustrations. So, this is definitely a book with good vibes...even the ending packs a lovely surprise. The various sliders and twists are well built and will withstand some abuse. Plus, the details will have listeners coming back again and again just to investigate the scenes and find something new.

The entire thing is written in short rhyme. The one phrases is repeated every time, making this one listeners will 'read along' with. The word choice is appropriate for the age group and easy to understand. It's a book to enjoy from beginning to end.

Sneak Peek: Snow and Red by Eileen Mueller and A.J. Ponder with Giveaway!


by Eileen Mueller & A.J. Ponder
Dragon Shifters’ Hoard, #1
January 13th 2022
YA Paranormal, Romance, Urban Fantasy


Snow & Red have always had strange powers. When they collide with the Draki twins, their lives explode.

Red’s always liked playing with fire, and Snow’s so frosty, she’s nicknamed the Ice Queen. Mom’s warned them not to use their powers. To be careful not to reveal they’re freaks.

But when Snow and Red sneak out at night to have fun, they have no idea of the dangerous world they’re about to get dragged into—a world of dragon shifters, mages and deadly Fae.

Snow and Red are attacked in an alley by a local gang. They instinctively react with fire and ice. Two buff guys swoop in to rescue them. Insanely attractive, with shimmering gold and silver tattoos on their faces and arms, the Draki twins may be more dangerous than the girls’ attackers.

As the girls get to know them, they’re drawn deeper into the deadly underworld simmering beneath the thin veneer of Pinevale.

Snow and Red is the first heart-pounding adventure in the Dragon Shifters’ Hoard YA paranormal romance series. If you love sizzling attraction, magic, urban fantasy and dragon shifters, pre-order your next exciting adventure today.

Goodreads / Amazon


Red whirled to help Snow, fire racing through her veins. A guy yanked her leather backpack—hard. He lunged toward her. Red-hot anger flashed through her. She flung a hand up to defend herself. Flames sprang from her fingertips and shot out. Fire licked along the thug’s sleeve.

He screamed, dropping her arm, and backed off, batting at his jacket. The stench of burning fabric jammed up Red’s nose.

Snow wasn’t doing much better. Her clothes were glittering with ice as she dodged and kicked at a guy slashing at her with a wicked curved blade. “Red!”

A tall guy grabbed Red by the shoulders and slammed her against a building. Her head whacked the bricks. Sharp pain lanced through her skull. She struck out with her foot and kicked him in the shin.

He swore. A knife flashed, angling toward her neck.

She ducked, heart racing. Gods, were she and Snow going to die tonight in a stinking alley? She’d felt so alive, with fire running through her veins. And they’d just found that photo of Dad. They were onto something, she was sure.

“Give me your purse, lady.” The man’s leering eyes and stinking attitude made Red want to burn his face off.

Red’s legs trembled. Her feet were shaking. No, the ground itself was shaking. Wow, that was some weird anxiety reaction. Or maybe someone had spiked her juice while she’d been dancing. Surely not. They’d been with Snow’s cute I.T. guy and friends from school.

“So, think you can play with fire?” the tall man sneered, his blade at her throat. He had the cutest baby blues. And a face that could belong to an angel. Not much good when a guy was holding you at knife point.

Red gulped.

A rumble filled the air and two large dark figures in leather hoodies dashed down the alley. Another tremor ran through the ground. An earthquake at a time like this—whaddaya know, hyper crazy. What else could go wrong tonight?

One of the dark figures ran at them and swung a punch at the man holding the knife. The puncher’s fist, covered with gold tattoos, flashed past Red and connected with Angelface’s nose. There was a crunch. Angelface crumpled to his knees. His knife skittered across the asphalt and clanked against a trash can.

The dude in a leather hoodie towered over Angelface, his face deep in the folds of his hood.

Had the earth moved for him, too?

A freak gust of wind blasted the alley. The other hooded stranger tackled the thug harassing Snow.

The thug hit the ground, then rolled away and scrambled to his feet. “It’s the Draki twins. Let’s get out of here.” He raced off, two more of his gang following him.

The man who’d thrown the punch dragged Angelface up by the scruff of his neck and held him against the wall. “What did you want with these girls?” he growled. Dark hair peeked from the edge of his hood.

The other guy in the leather hoodie, a blond, crowded in, cracking his knuckles.

“Uh, n-nothing. Mr. Sparkles sent us.”

Snow dashed over to Red, clutching her flimsy purse against her body. Ice rimmed the hem of her sequined tank. She was shaking, lips white with rage.

The hoods were too busy questioning Angelface to notice.

Red grabbed Snow’s hand. “Come on. Let’s get outta here,” she hissed.

Snow blinked. “Who are they?” she asked. “The guys in the hoods? And that pretty gang? I mean, all those boys were so good looking it was crazy.”

So, she’d noticed their looks too. “Whoever they are, they’re dangerous as hell.” Red pulled Snow’s arm. “Let’s get to the car.” Together, they raced along the dingy alley past trash cans and dumpsters.

“Hey!” Boots pounded behind them. The two hoodies were on their heels.

And here she is...

Eileen Mueller is a USA Today-bestselling and multiple-award-winning author of heart-pounding fantasy novels that will keep you turning the page. Dive into her worlds, full of magic, love, adventure and dragons! Eileen lives in New Zealand, in a cave with her dragonets. She writes action-packed tales for young adults, children and everyone who loves adventure.

Visit her website for Eileen’s FREE books and new releases, follow Eileen on Amazon and BookBub and become a Rider of Fire in her Facebook group!

USA Today bestselling author A.J. Ponder has a head full of monsters, and recklessly spills them out onto the written page. Beware dragons, dreadbeasts, taniwha, and small children—all are equally dangerous, and capable of treading on your heart—or tearing it, still beating, from your chest.

Visit A.J. at ponderbooks.com or join A.J.’s mailing list to discover new releases and secret stories. Follow A.J. on Amazon and BookBub.


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Monday, January 17, 2022

Review: 2000 AD Encyclopedia by Scott Montgomery

I did think about classifying today's review as a Mommy and Daddy's Day post, but I know there are tons of YA readers out there, who love these comics. I, myself, am not a comic guru, but it'd be wrong to not admit that these tales shape the reading world and beyond as much as any novel does. And since this one packs a ton of information on that end for the 2000 AD world, I'm more than happy to present it today. (It comes out next month, btw)

Ready for a lot...and I do mean a lot...of comic adventure?

by Scott Montgomery
2000 AD
Comic Encyclopedia
332 pages

FEBRUARY 22nd!!!

From A.B.C. Warriors to Zenith ! Meticulously researched and compiled for comics fans everywhere, the 2000 AD Encyclopedia is the essential fact compendium to the Galaxy’s Greatest Comic!

What are the essential Judge Dredd stories? In which progs did The Ballad of Halo Jones run? What year was the first appearance of Nemesis the Warlock? Just who are the Thrillsuckers? Look no further, Earthlets! Every strip and major character from 2000 AD’s trailblazing 45 year history is catalogued and detailed, accompanied by stunning artwork and illustrations. With this show-stopping hardcover collection, must-read characters and storylines from across the cosmos are at your fingertips!



This is a must have for all 2000 AD fans out there, which include Judge Dredd, Rouge Trooper, Strontium Dogg, Slaine and Tank Girl. It covers 44 years of goodness, and believe it or not, 40 featured characters are found on the cover alone. 

To say this book is packed is an understatement. It starts out with a list of the characters in alphabetical order and on which page to find them. That list alone made me head spin. Each one is highlighted with their background, story importance, appearances, tidbits, and more. If a comic fan needs information or a bit of clarification, this book definitely will fill any gaps and more. Plus, there are other historical facts and interesting bits of information thrown in to give this one a very, all-around, information flair.

The characters are illustrated and presented in their original and well-known style. Thanks to the tons of information, the graphics, while well done, don't have full-page displays, which would really knock this one out of the park...but it would make a colossal sized tome, too. It is great to see each character and get to know them and revisit them. The writing does make each bit of information entertaining and fun to read. I never felt it was dry, and even I as a non-comic fan, was grabbed in and want to learn more. 

Fans of these comics will enjoy this book quite a bit and I can see it being an amazing present or surprise, too. So, yes, I can recommend this one and give the author a huge thumbs up.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Review: Max and the Isle of Sanctus by John Peragine


Secrets of the Twilight Djinn, Book Two
by John Peragine
YA Fantasy

In the second book of Secrets of the Twilight Djinn, Max Daybreaker embarks on all new adventures. Max must battle a Kraken, ride a fire-breathing dragon, and defeat the evil djinn whose powers are growing every day. The stakes are high for Max as he tries to protect his friends from angry sea gods and a vengeful sultan while also saving his mom from a terrible curse! Max must reach the Isle of Sanctus using his unpredictable magic power and foes on all sides before time runs out.



After reading the first one in this series and enjoying it quite a bit, I was looking forward to where Max's adventures would take him next. This is the 2nd novel in the series and is best read as such, since it starts where book one left off.

Max now has powers, a crew, and is off to more adventure and figuring things out. There's a huge cast of intriguing characters, which was a bit much for book one, but here, the previous footwork pays off and every single one shines. I have my personal favorites, but every one has quirks and adds to the tale. Thanks to Max's continuing inability to always judge people correctly...a part of his character arc...it's also hard to sometimes judge whether those he meets or befriends are truly trustworthy or not. This, of course, adds to the already high tension and adds some unexpected twists and turns along the way.

Like book one, there is something always going on with never a dull moment. Now, that the world building is well placed thanks to the first book, this one can really flow along plot and excitement. It makes for an easy read, which is hard to put down, and promises so much more excitement the book to come.

Fantasy fans, who love djinn, magic, adventure, high seas, family, friends, and tons more are sure to enjoy this one from beginning to end.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Review: Hardcourt by Fred Bowen

Today's review heads into the world of sports...mainly basketball. Young readers love books about sports (as I hear over and over again from school librarians and kids). So, when I got my hands on this one, I was thrilled. Am I a sports' fan? Well, I've played quite a few sports and been on various teams over the years, but to say I'm a fan of any sport in particular...uh, no. Not really. This book definitely held all sorts of information, and I learned quite a bit.

But read on to find out more!

JANUARY 18th!!!

Stories from 75 Years of The National Basketball Association
by Fred Bowen
Illustrated by James E. Ransome
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Middle Grade Sports Non-Fiction
112 pages
ages 8 to 12

Celebrate seventy-five years of the NBA in this exciting and beautifully illustrated middle grade account of the legendary athletes, coaches, and teams that changed basketball forever and created a national phenomenon enjoyed by millions today.

The National Basketball Association is the biggest league for one of the nation’s most beloved sports. Played in massive stadiums by athletes who are now household names, with millions of fans around the world, basketball has truly become a global phenomenon. But it didn’t always exist the way we know it now.

Follow basketball from its humble beginnings as a casual indoor pastime played in gyms and colleges through its evolution for seventy-five years of hardcourt history. The NBA gained legions of fans thanks to the introduction of rules like the three-point line and the twenty-four second clock, and teams such as the Harlem Globetrotters, who paved the way for desegregated teams. Discover the story of the legendary Olympic Dream Team of 1992 and beloved players like Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James, along with the early game-changers who made basketball what it is today.

With the expert storytelling of veteran sportswriter Fred Bowen and stunning full-page illustrations from award-winning artist James E. Ransome, experience the biggest and best basketball league in the world, the NBA.



Well-written facts and history accompanied by bright and engaging illustrations make this a book to get lost in.

From the very first thoughts of founding a professional basketball team, these pages follow the history of basketball from it's first moments onwards. Hitting upon the development of  the game by a gym teacher with peach baskets, various important moments, personalities, problems and successes of the sport over time are presented and explained. The book is divided into 'quarters' and various chapters under those. At the end of the book, there are several lists of teams, individuals and such, which are great for those who like more exact numbers and details.

I enjoyed the comprehensive view these pages take on the history of the NBA, since it reaches further than just the famous individuals and feats surrounding the league, but includes the history which affected it. It centers around the struggles and intriguing solutions, which kept the dream of basketball alive and brought the NBA to where it is today. This includes organization beyond the NBA and shows how the efforts of those not directly involved in the organization did influence the NBA and did help to keep it alive, directly or indirectly. It definitely gave me a deeper respect for the people behind the sport, and portrays the clever twists and turns used to keep spectators interested in the game...because it wasn't always clear the sport would go on.

The illustrations are very well done and allow the energy of the court to come across clearly. The faces of the individuals mentioned are recognizable and, yet, there's a nice artistic flair, too. But it's the text, which makes this one shine, since it brings across the facts in an interesting fashion...and that in an appropriate as well as easy to understand fashion for the intended age group. It never talks down to the reader, but actually, is one even some adults will enjoy picking up and flipping through.

And here they are...

Fred Bowen is the author of Gridiron and more than twenty additional children’s books about sports, and for the past twenty years has written the weekly KidsPost column in The Washington Post. Fred lives in Maryland with his family. Visit him at FredBowen.com.

James E. Ransome’s highly acclaimed illustrations for The Bell Rang, which he also authored, received the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor. His other award-winning titles include the Coretta Scott King winner The Creation; Coretta Scott King Honor Book Uncle Jed’s BarbershopSweet Clara and the Freedom QuiltBefore She Was Harriet, and Let My People Go, winner of the NAACP Image Award. He frequently collaborates with his wife, author Lesa Cline-Ransome. One of their recent titles is Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams, which received four starred reviews and was an ALA Notable Children’s Book.  He lives in New York’s Hudson River Valley region with his family. Visit James at JamesRansome.com.

Sneak Peek: Moon Scorned by Marty Mayberry with Giveaway!


Moon Scorned
by Marty Mayberry
Raven Moon Wolves, #1
January 5th 2022
YA Paranormal


I fell hard and fast for the son of an elite wolf pack. Then he rejected me.

Asher was my fated mate, and he took off when I needed him most, rejecting me and my inner wolf. Then my half-sister is murdered at an exclusive college that’s enshrouded in magic and secrets. When the school offers me a scholarship, I accept and move onto campus. I’m going to find out who killed her, then rip them apart. And if I run into Asher while I’m there? He’ll learn I’m no longer his sweet little thing. He’s about to taste the fury of a wolf shifter scorned.

Everly’s everything to me, but to protect her, I had to shove her away. If I go near her, the Drudge Pack will discover who she truly is. My father—their enforcer—will kill her. But when she shows up at Ravenmire College, my inner wolf hungers. I’ll do anything to keep her safe—even if that means sacrificing myself and betraying my dangerous family.

Goodreads / Amazon


Asher stood beneath a long-needle pine. When I paused, he strode forward, letting the moonlight touch his gorgeous features. He cupped my face with his warm hands.

Likes him, my wolf sighed.

“Missed you,” he whispered.

“You, too.” My heart rate picked up to double time.

His lips captured mine, softly at first, then harder and with growing need.

I wasn’t sure where this was going between us, but I did know one thing. Cats might rule and wolves might drool, but Asher was my catnip. Whenever he touched me, I purred.

“Jeez,” Shorty groused through the screen door of the food truck behind me. “Don’t be doin’ any of that crap so close to my truck. Go on with you. Take a walk on the beach or something. Kids.”

Pulling away from Asher, I snorted out a laugh. I gazed up into his warm brown eyes that sparkled solely for me and held out my hand.

“Take a walk with me, Ash?” I asked coyly. He told me I was the only one who could call him Ash.

He took my hand and tugged me close, wrapping his arm around my waist and holding me against his warm frame.

Likes, my wolf sighed again. Likes him lots.

Asher guided me around the truck, across the sidewalk, and out onto the sand.

During the day, crowds of humans mobbed Old Orchard Beach. Once the sun had set and the tourists headed to their rented condos and hotels, the locals could breathe a sigh of relief and enjoy the quiet. And late at night, especially when the moon bathed the sky with her milky gaze, wolves like me and Ash could run.

I kicked off my shoes and shimmied out of my jeans and long-sleeve shirt—I wisely wore thin shorts and a tank underneath.

Asher watched, his smoldering eyes tracing my every curve as I moved. We’d come close to going all the way but hadn’t done it yet. I wasn’t sure why I resisted. He made it clear he wanted to. The heat simmering in my veins told me I did too. I guess I wanted to wait. We’d only known each other for a few months.

He had to leave for college soon, but he said he’d come back for each of his breaks. We had plenty of time to do things then.

“Shift?” he asked.

Yesss, my wolf sighed. She rose and stomped her paws, eager.

The first time I shifted, it felt like my skin turned itself inside out, ripping muscles, tendons, and breaking my bones to morph five-four, skinny old me into a gorgeous white wolf with steel gray tufts on her ears and the tip of her tail.

Go for it, babe, I told my wolf, stepping back in my mind.

She leaped forward, jumping into my skin.

Ash joined us, and I could feel his grin as our wolves touched noses then rubbed necks.

Likes so much, she said. She gave him a wolfy grin and raced toward the water, charging a wave and yipping with joy. He followed, only a bit more sedate.

When she kicked up her feet and ran through the shallows, he kept pace, nipping at her ruff and huffing with pleasure.

They ran for what felt like forever, and it recharged my soul. Shifting might turn me inside out, but it put me back together again after, making me brand new.

My wolf flopped on the sand and rolled, shimmying her back to scratch an itch. Asher’s wolf stood nearby, watchful. As protective as Ash.

Time’s up, I finally said. She’d run and play with him all night long if I let her. I wanted to, but Ash would leave for college in three days, and I needed to be with him more than I wanted to breathe.

We morphed back.

Ash gathered me into his arms. His kiss drank me in as the final push settled, turning me back into what I was before. My wolf changing back to me. His wolf into him. Us.

I moaned, pressing myself fully against him.

We eased apart, and he took my hands with that special gleam in his eyes he shared solely with me.

Things couldn’t get any better than this. Sometimes, I dreamed we were fated.

A feeling I couldn’t define sped across my skin, leaving goosebumps behind. I told myself it was nothing. The wind with a hint of the crispness of fall. A bit of stray magic lingering in the air.

It couldn’t be us.

Nothing would come between me and Ash.

And here she is...

Marty writes young adult fiction with plenty of suspense and romance, plus a touch of humor. When she’s not dreaming up ways to mess with her character’s lives, she works as an RN. She lives in New England with her husband, three children, three geriatric cats, and a spunky Yorkie pup who keeps her on her toes.

She also writes adult contemporary romance and romantic suspense under the pen name, Marlie May. Marty/Marlie was a 2018 RWA ® Golden Heart ® Finalist in contemporary short and romantic suspense.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Bookbub

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Friday, January 14, 2022

Review: The Velvet Fox by Catherine Fisher

 It's another double-review day thanks to a few skipped days this last weekend. I won a copy of today's read and was really looking forward to reading. It is the second in a series, and of course, I didn't read the first (because I have such a horrible habit of doing that). But I still hoped that wouldn't hurt this one and that I'd get lost in a clockwork world. It's been so long since I've enjoyed a clockwork fantasy for middle graders, too.

Ready to see if this one was worth the read?

The Clockwork Crow 2
by Catherine Fisher
Firefly Press
Middle Grade Fantasy
220 pages
ages 8 to 12

After rescuing Tomas from enchantment, orphan Seren Rhys is enjoying her first summer at Plas-y-Fran. But as autumn arrives, it brings with it a mysterious new governess who seems intent on drawing Tomas away from Seren and his family.

Dangerous figures from a bewitched toy carousel stalk the house, and fearing the worst, Seren calls on her old friend, the clockwork crow, to help her.



This is the 2nd in a series, and while it would be best to read the first book, since the background would enrich the characters and situation, it wasn't hard to fall into the adventure and enjoy every moment. So, while I would highly recommend reading the first book, it's not completely necessary, either.

Although Seren grew up in an orphanage, she's now found a home with her friend Tomas after their adventures in book one. Everything is going very well until Tomas' father decides to hire a tutor. The woman seems fine, but Seren feels the injustice and witnesses her snide grins more and more. When Seren finds her accused of ridiculous things more and more often, she's sure the woman is out to get her. The most disturbing thing, however, is a toy carousel, which plays a horribly familiar tune and is pulling Tomas into a strange state. Suspecting that the Family is back and up to no good, Seren calls the Clockwork Crow...but hopefully, she's not too late.

This is such a smooth, easy read and packed with tons of adventure and imagination. The stakes are high, the magic powerful, and danger real, and yet, it's perfect for the lower end of the middle grade audience. There are just enough descriptions to create a world, but it's the characters and situations, which hold the attention the entire way through. Every moment brings a new difficulty as the Family weaves its powerful magic and slowly spreads its evil grip. While Seren gives her best, she's definitely in for a fight, and it's this which keeps the reader on the edge of their seat.

We don't really get to know Tomas very well in this book, only that Seren's friendship with him is more than golden. It's Seren and the Crow, who stay front and center as they fight the various evils. There are quite a few characters in the book, and while none are given huge depth, it's enough to make each one interesting and either to like or hate. But then, the entire book dances by quickly for a light read. This is also seen in the plot itself. The solutions to fight the powerful magic isn't exactly difficult, but rather, often simply falls into place. If this were a novel for older readers, it'd be a problem, but it's great for the intended audience.

I did enjoy the tale quite a bit, plan on heading back and reading book one, and do hope we see more of Seren and the Crow in the future.

Review: D is for Drool by Amanda Noll and Shari Dash Greenspan

Today's review made my entire household smile. I thought the cover was cute, when I was offered to take a peek at this one. Little did I know that it's only the beginning of one of the most imaginative and entertaining ABC books I've run across in awhile.

Ready for a monsterly adventure into the realm of bedtime fantasies? 

My Monster Alphabet
by Amanda Noll &
Shari Dash Greenspan
Illustrated by Howard McWilliam
Flashlight Press
 32 pages
ages 4 to 8

When Ethan can’t sleep, he doesn’t count sheep – he says his ABCs. But in monster-loving Ethan’s alphabet, A is for Arms, B is for Belly, C is for Claws, and D is for Drool! Kids will love pointing out the alphabetical attributes on the silly monsters that parade across Ethan’s room – like earlobes, noses, spikes, and wings – and discovering where all of those monsters are headed. By the time Ethan gets to Y, he’s Yawning. And by Z, kids will be ready to sleep as Ethan does, surrounded by the tails, tentacles, and drool sticking out from under his bed. ZZzzzzz. D is for Drool is a monstrously magnificent ABC book that offers a new way to fall asleep. With the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, it is a captivating companion to the award-winning I Need My Monster series.



ABC's take on a delightfully, monsterly twist, which will leave readers smiling and willingly peeking under their beds.

Ethan can't sleep. So, he decides to recite the ABC's, but with his imagination working at full throttle, these turn out a bit differently than what might be expected. 

The text is very simple and short because it's the illustrations, which carry this book. Every letter of the alphabet is listed, one by one, and immediately, a word with it follows. For example, D is for drool (like the title). Sometimes, there are two or three words with the same beginning letter mentioned, but this only ranks up the silly fun. And this one is silly fun.

The monsters parade across the page, one, two or even three at a time. They start out rather sinister and creepy but grow sillier and funnier as the pages turn. It's not only the attributes mentioned by the ABC's which make this cute, but each monster carries a distinct personality. It's super fun to meet each one...and listeners will probably start rattling off other attributes the can think of that start with the letters, too.

The entire thing ends on the perfect, bedtime-read note, and despite the claws and growls, this one does invite to sweet dreams. To say it's a fun read is an understatement.

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Review: Beyond Invisible by Marjorie Jackson


Being Together, Book 2
by Marjorie Jackson
Emery Books Press
Young Adult Contemporary
280 pages

After tragedy and illness brought Amber and Missy together in Being is Better, the girls, now in high school, continue their journey to unravel the mystery behind Missy’s brother Frankie’s Army enlistment and the cause of his death.

Meanwhile, both girls experience first love, and Amber supports Missy, who continues to resent her father and struggles to accept his new girlfriend.

Will they be able to discover the reason for Frankie’s sudden enlistment, and when misunderstandings loom, will their still-new friendship survive?


With as much care and warmth as found in the first novel, this book continues the struggles of the two new friends in a way, which digs even deeper than before.

Now, in high school, the two girls continue to build their friendship and deal with the various issues still left off in book one. Especially Missy finds herself in new territory as she tries to accept her father's new girlfriend and continues to search for information surrounding her older brothers' death. Amber tries her best to mediate between Missy and her father but also finds herself in a new situation as she meets the guy of her dreams.

This is the 2nd book in the series and should be read as such, since it builds from where the first novel let off. There's a bit of an age shift as we leave middle school and enter the world of high school, but it's the life problems, which this book swirls around, anyway. Missy gets more of the plot in this one as she is forced to deal with the situation of her father finding a new girlfriend and also continues her research into the death of her older brother. Amber receives the role of helping her cope with everything. Of course, Amber doesn't fall by the wayside as she's still dealing with her own health issues (however, this didn't come into play nearly as much as before) and hits romance themes as well. While I was wondering about this second path, especially considering the stronger issues Amber still needs to handle, it did add a lovely balance to the tale and needed development to her personality.

I'm not a huge fan of slow passages, and this book begins even slower than the first. It does keep interesting tidbits dribbling in, though, which did keep it from growing boring. Still, I prefer a bit quicker pacing. For those who love character depth, this works very well, though, and does draw in. 

The girls' decisions and actions are very understandable, and actually quite mature, which I do appreciate, since many YA novels miss this beat. The relationships come across realistically and both characters handle everything as best they can. The friendship remains key, and the added dash of mystery surrounding Missy's brother's death adds a lovely spark, which promises all sorts of possibilities. I was a bit disappointed that Amber's problems didn't hit a little more, but it doesn't really cause issues for the tale, either. This is a solid book to follow the first and just as interesting.

Sneak Peek: Thorn of Secrets by B. Truly with Giveaway!

Thorn of Secrets
by B. Truly
My Darkest Secret, #2
YA Coming of Age, Romance

JANUARY 25th!!!


In love with the same face that haunts me….

The falling leaves of autumn are like the deceit in my family lineage. Closing the door on the infinite cold—winter blossoms into the spring of new beginnings. In the next season of my life, I’m mending the pieces back together. Opening myself up, I even begin to date, which is a big step for me.

After graduating from high school, a shocking development causes me to be on alert. When nothing comes of it, I move forward, wanting desperately to put the past behind me.

About to start college, I bump into someone from my complicated past, and my heart is torn. The dilemma I struggle with: Do I let other people’s opinion define who I am? I must decide if I’ll push through the ridicule and pave my own path. Could the face that’s scorned me be the key to my resolve? I’ll never know if I take the easy way out.

I’ve unlocked my darkest secret only to have it return to torment me. As the thorns of his obsession encompass me, I discover I’m part of a twisted ploy. If I don’t figure a way out of this predicament, then the life I’ve known may cease to exist.

Don’t miss the riveting sequel to Madison’s story that will have you dangling on the edge of your seat.

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On Thanksgiving Day, the Thibodeaux family gathers—courtesy of my gram’s married name. Aunt Cass, Dari’s mom, and her father Drew are here. So is Uncle Clemens, the eldest, with his wife, and my older cousin, Kenya. Gigi’s oldest daughter, Corine, has made it, too, which is a relief. She has always been the mediator between her two younger, bickering sisters. Aunt Corine’s son, Ryan, accompanies her. Even Gigi’s younger sister and her husband have made the trip.

Finally, the last to arrive is my birth mother, Charlotte. Ever since she wouldn’t give me a straight answer about believing me, I’ve been referring to her as Charlotte. She no longer gets the privilege of me calling her Mama. Her arm is laced through her significant other, Regan, and my older sister is by their side. One big happy family—in hindsight.

Grandma Thibodeaux is thrilled to have everyone together. When Cassandra sneers at Charlotte in greeting, an uneasy feeling washes over me. A storm is brewing—its shape forming in Aunt Cass’ eyes. There has been bad karma between them, and I have no clue why their beef started. Dari and I glance at each other quickly, picking up on the tidal waves. For Gigi’s sake, I hope that for this evening, they can let bygones be bygones.

Gigi’s formal dining room has an elegant vibe. Dari and I put in a lot of work cleaning and decorating. The aroma of fried turkey, dressing, and candied yams fills the air. I introduce my daughter to my extended family. Gigi hasn’t shared the specifics of who her father is, and for that, I’m grateful. For now, I’d rather ease into it. I’ve only recently taken the first step with pressing charges.

I put Justice down for a nap, turn on the baby monitor, and take a seat next to Dari. Our mama’s may be at odds, but she’s my best friend. My cousin, Kenya, plops down on my other side.

Everyone begins passing around the food, stuffing their plates. I scan the room, swallowing the mothball in my throat. There are bound to be fireworks. Aunt Cass is still shooting daggers at Charlotte. Dari’s dad, Drew, is oblivious to the tension, or he’s choosing to ignore it. Dari smirks. Kenya eyes them skeptically. Regan hasn’t looked up once since he sat down—he finds the food on his plate more interesting. My other cousin, Ryan, licks his lips at the meal in front of him. Tanya glances over herself, snapping a selfie in her phone.


Clearing her throat, Gigi asks, “Who would like to say grace?”

“Clemens can say it,” Charlotte bellows. “He’s the oldest.”

“Very well,” Uncle Clemens replies. “Let’s bow our heads.”

He says a beautiful prayer, and then everyone starts to dig in. For a while, all that can be heard is the clinking of utensils.

Breaking the sound of mouths chewing, Charlotte exhales. “Now is as good a time as any to share my wonderful news.” Everyone’s heads snap to attention. Charlotte lifts her ring finger, revealing her gorgeous diamond engagement ring and announces, “Regan and I got married last week in Las Vegas. It’s official.”

Gigi’s eyes widen. Obviously, this is news to her. Kenya’s jaw drops, and Dari makes a garbled sound. Aunt Cass glowers at Charlotte and Regan. The table grows as quiet as a church in Hades. They have been engaged for months, and I don’t have any ill-will toward Regan. I’m just kind of shocked they still went through with tying the knot with everything going on. Regan will soon have confirmation that Justice is, indeed, his granddaughter.

Their marriage makes Justin and me official stepsiblings. Things between us will be even more complicated. I wonder if Justin knew about the matrimony and felt it was our parents’ place to spring the news.

Finally, Aunt Cass breaks the silence. “Are we supposed to congratulate you?”

Charlotte scrunches her nose. “You’ll never change. Still jealous, holding grudges until your grave.”

Regan’s Adam’s apple bobs. He looks seconds from bolting for the door.

“No, you’ve just always thought you were better than me,” Aunt Cass snaps.

“Your words, not mine.”

“Please, don’t start, you two,” Aunt Corine chastises them.

“Let’s respect our mother’s home,” their older brother, Clemens, chimes in.

Okay, what is this about?

Dari’s eyes dart to mine. I shrug, with nothing to offer. Their rivalry is propelling to the forefront of the evening’s festivities. Tanya places her cell down, now all in the mix with her brow knitted.

“Sorry, Mama. I meant no disrespect toward you,” Aunt Cass apologizes to Gigi.

“You can’t help yourself,” Charlotte sneers.

Aunt Cass’ head jerks backward. “Like you can talk. You’re a backstabbing whore, who cheated with my finance.”

And here she is...

B. Truly has wanted to be an author since she was fifteen years old. She is grateful to have accomplished this dream. B. Truly has very vivid dreams and a wild imagination. She likes to read, watch tons of TV shows, and movies. She’s addicted to romance and gets a thrill out of suspense and sci-fi. She writes young adult, new adult, and adult romance, sci-fi, dystopian, and paranormal genres.

B. Truly likes to explore conflicted plots of romance with thrilling twists. She also loves creating impossible situations for her characters to grow from and try to overcome.

B. Truly has three wonderful children, and a husband who defines the person that she is today. She works full-time as an Ultrasound technologist in Houston, Texas.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Review: Tyrone O'Saurus Dreams by James Howe

by James Howe
Illustrated by Randy Cecil
Candlewick Press
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

In a follow-up to the beloved Brontorina, a young dinosaur finds unexpected support for his secret dream: to defy expectations and become a dancer.

Tyrone has a dream. But it seems like everyone else has their own dream for Tyrone. Should he be a dentist? A lawyer? A football player like his brother Johnny? None of these things make Tyrone happy. But then he meets the strongest dinosaur he’s ever seen, who inspires him to follow his own heart and become a dancer—like her. The creators of Brontorina reunite for a captivating companion story about a young dinosaur who, with a little love and encouragement, finds the courage to dance his way into his dreams.



This super, sweet dino's question of whether to follow a dream...or if it's silly...will not only touch the heart but brings along giggles and smiles. 

Tyrone has a dream, and it isn't that of his parents' or brother's. They want him to be a dentist or a lawyer or play in the Dino League. But Tyrone isn't ready to embrace his dream as he wonders if maybe they are right, after all. 

Tyrone is a dino to embrace and love. He has a caring family, who only hopes the best for him. Even his brother has only the best intentions in mind. And Tyrone is simply trying to figure things out. There's never a harsh word anywhere in the book, even when things don't quite work out. The support is genuine, and, yet, Tyrone needs time to state his true dreams because...well, it's not stated directly but the love for his family is clear. Plus, sometimes it takes time to figure things out for ourselves. And maybe, this is what makes Tyrone so easy to relate to.

The illustrations present Tyrone wonderfully, keeping the big, dino presence while giving him a slightly, awkward touch. And, as seen on the cover with the tiny arms on the back as they lift tiny weights, there's a good dash of humor, too. Everything flows together, even the odd mix of characters that come into play. I do see young readers coming back and visiting these time and again.

The text is simple enough and at the right level for the intended age group. The read glides along at a good pace, making it great for a read aloud as well as one to pick up on its own (for those more sure readers). I did burst out in a laugh even, and my kids raised their eyebrows while pulling a smile...thanks to the silly humor, which stays subtle and, yet, doesn't hesitate to suddenly take odd jumps to unexpected extremes. 

It's a super cute read with a great message...and a dino to wish you had as a friend.

And here they are...

James Howe is the author of many books for children, including the Bunnicula series and the Misfits series. He is also the author of the Houndsley and Catina books, as well as Otter and Odder, illustrated by Chris Raschka; Brontorina, illustrated by Randy Cecil; and Big Bob, Little Bob, illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. James Howe lives outside of New York City.

Randy Cecil is the author and illustrator of the picture books Douglas and Lucy, and has illustrated many books for children, including Brontorina by James Howe, And Here’s to You! by David Elliottand Looking for a Moose by Phyllis Root. He is also the author-illustrator of Gator and Duck. Randy Cecil lives in Houston.


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Review: Baby Goes to Market by Atinuke


by Atinuke
Illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
Candlewick Press
Board Book
32 pages
ages 3 to 7

Join Baby and his doting mama at a bustling southwest Nigerian marketplace for a bright, bouncy read-aloud offering a gentle introduction to numbers.

Market is very crowded.
Mama is very busy.
Baby is very curious.

When Baby and Mama go to the market, Baby is so adorable that the banana seller gives him six bananas. Baby eats one and puts five in the basket, but Mama doesn't notice. As Mama and Baby wend their way through the stalls, cheeky Baby collects five oranges, four biscuits, three ears of sweet corn, two pieces of coconut . . . until Mama notices that her basket is getting very heavy! Poor Baby, she thinks, he must be very hungry by now! Rhythmic language, visual humor, and a bounty of delectable food make this a tale that is sure to whet little appetites for story time.



Rhythm, bright scenes, and more than a few smiles make this a read to enjoy again and again and again.

Baby goes to the market with Mama. Every time they pass a stand, the seller gives Baby a treat—the banana seller gives him six bananas, the orange seller give him five oranges, and so it goes. Baby eats only one of each and quietly places the rest in the basket on Mama's head. By the time they're done, Mama is surprised how full her basket is. But her next assumption is sure to draw a laugh.

This is a cute, board book, built for smaller hands. The scenes are bright and vivid and hold quite a few details. Since this takes place on a market in Nigeria, there are things for readers to learn and discover. Not only the items for sale are interesting, but the clothes, customs and such also come across without every being stressed or pointed out. It does a nice job at bringing across the aspects of the other culture and the marketplace well.

The text is done with poetic finesse and will have listeners soon repeating some moments right along with the reader. It does encourage counting, too, as listeners watch baby collect various numbers of items. Thanks to the illustrations, listeners can count right along with Baby. Add the humor as Baby receives tons of items without his mother's knowledge, and it's a book packed with goodness from beginning to end.

And here they are...

Atinuke was born in Nigeria and spent her childhood in both Africa and the UK. As a traditional oral storyteller, drawing upon her recent Yoruba ancestry, she visits schools and theatres all over the world. Atinuke is the author of the bestselling Anna Hibiscus fiction series, as well as the No. 1 Car Spotter series, and the picture books B Is for Baby also illustrated by Angela Brooksbank and Hugo illustrated by Birgitta Sif. Atinuke lives on a mountain overlooking the sea in west Wales and supports the charity SOS Children's Village. Visit her online at atinuke-author.weebly.com

Angela Brooksbank worked as a designer and art director in children’s book publishing before turning her hand to her own illustration. Baby Goes to Market is her debut picture book. She lives in London.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Review: Ear Worm! by Jo Knowles


by Jo Knowles
Illustrated by Galia Bernstein
Candlewick Press
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

JANUARY 25th!!!

A musical treat for the ear and eye, this antic tale of a worm on a mission doubles as a cozy bedtime book.

One summer day, as Little Worm heads out to play, he discovers he has a song stuck in his head. “What’s that you’re singing?” Owl asks, but Little Worm can’t say. He wriggles past, determined to learn who filled his head with “Shimmy shimmy, no-sashay.” Owl flaps along with a song of his own, and before long Chipmunk, Bunny, and Fox fall in line, each contributing an ear worm to the joyful cacophony. Amid all the singing and dancing, Little Worm forgets his musical mystery until later when—surprise!—Papa Worm tucks him in. Hip, vintage-inspired illustrations and whimsical typesetting meet movement, sound play, and comic, cumulative delights in a picture book that will charm media-savvy children and their parents alike.



Ear worms carry more than just a little contagious fun...and this little worm squiggles to his in the cutest way.

Little Worm can't stop singing and dancing to a song. When the owl tells him that he has an ear worm (and what that means), Little Worm is determined to figure out, who planted it in his head. Each friend he meets has an ear worm of their own, but they are ready to help him find the source of his. 

The illustrations and words flow together to create music, which is so visual, you can feel it. The Little Worm's beginning 'shimmy, shimmy, non-sashay' continues with repetition and mixes in with entertaining dance moves...plus, the worm is super cute. Each animal joins along with their own musical words and dance style, which creates a contagious fun. It's hard not to smile as the line of animals head on their way.

The text alternates between the songs, and more, with story. The songs are written in large and creative font and are printed cozied close to the particular animal, who sings it. The switch back-and-forth makes this great as a read-aloud, since the reader can get creative. Listeners will definitely want to join in and, with time, be able to speak the very short songs themselves.

This is a read, which not only makes it clear what an ear worm is, but radiates the joy for music and dance. It's silly and will have a reader wanting to join in with their own 'ear worm'. But it also ends with a feeling of love and warmth, which gives it a wholesome touch. Oh, and let's not forget that this book shows how fun it can be to simply share adventures with friends. 

And here they are...

Jo Knowles
 is the renowned author of several middle-grade and young adult novels, including See You at Harry’s, Still a Work in Progress, Where the Heart Is, and Jumping Off SwingsEar Worm! is her picture-book debut. She lives in Vermont.

Galia Bernstein is the acclaimed author-illustrator of I Am a Cat and Leyla. She lives in Brooklyn.