Friday, May 27, 2022

Review: The Girl and the Glim by India Swift

It's graphic novel time! I haven't been doing as many as these lately as I'd hoped to...too many other good reads to tackle...but when I saw the cover and read the title, I knew this one had to be squeezed in. The surmise rounds it off with a touch of eerie dark vibes, and I wondered if it might slide a bit into the Japanese direction with myths tying into yokai demons.  Add that it's for the middle grade audience, and...well... aren't you curious, too?

This one comes out in just over a week, so you can pick it up yourself soon.

by India Swift
Illustrated by Michael Doig
IDW Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
128 pages
ages 8 to 12

JUNE 7th!!!

An original graphic novel about being the new kid in a different school, getting picked on by the class bullies, and what happens when a magical presence takes notice. Like, can things get any worse?

Starting out at a new school is tough, and Bridgette isn't having much luck, seeing as, well, she's not great at making a first impression. Or, maybe, any impression. Ugh, all these nervous feelings!

Will she fit in? Will she make new friends? Will they still like her once they get to know her better?

Nope. For now the best she can manage is... awkward. This is not going great.

That's when she sees it. Something dark and scary... something only she can see. And she should be scared. But she isn't. Maybe scary things just need friends, too. Maybe The Glim isn't so bad after all.

The Girl and The Glim is about accepting the fact that fear is okay, and that while letting other people see your vulnerabilities can be scary, it can also lead to closer friendships in the end.



The problem of fitting in jolts into high-gear and takes an unexpected twist, sending the tale into fast-paced action and high-tension, which leaves the usual emotional direction twirling in surprise.

Bridgette is extremely nervous about her family's move, since she had to leave her super-close friends behind. She's a bit short for her age and knows that she might have some issues when heading to the new school. An accidental meeting with a guy, who attends the school as well, offers a bit of hope, but this goes down the drain as her fears come true already on the first day of classes. But that suddenly slides into the background when strange creatures pop-up. The first seems kind, but the rest are throwing her into a dangerous world, which only she can see and fight.

I had high expectations, when picking this one up, and with the first pages, I wondered if I'd ruined an otherwise good read by doing that. It does start a bit slow as Bridgette and her parents settle a bit into the house, and the reader learns about her hesitation to go to school. The guy she meets passes by without too much adieu and the first day or so of school also runs with the usual bullying scenes. So, the reader gets a 'normal' grip on Bridgette's life, which felt cliche...but it had to because it created the perfect base to contrast with the rest.

It was a tiny bit confusing when Bridgette suddenly saw dark creatures. I wasn't sure if they were really there or in her scared imagination, but even this fit wonderfully, since her nerves were a flurry from escaping an extreme bullying situation in a neighborhood she didn't know. So, the reader molds right with her confusion, since she can't be sure herself. When she gets home and meets the first little creature, all the rest becomes more clear. There's a sense of cuteness mixed with uncertainty to draw in (who doesn't want a cute little creature with them?) before the dark and high-tension completely takes over.

The illustrations are very well done and accompany the moods of the first scenes with the same sense of normal before going full swing into action pure. When that starts (about 1/3 to 1/2 through book), each and every moment holds the tension high with adventure, one boom to the next. And it manages it without growing redundant or confusing...and even works in more plot, character understanding and message with it.

While all of the battles are going on...and all of it appropriate for the age group, btw...the author and illustrator still inject heart and show how Bridgette protects others without a moments pause for her own safety, and that despite their cruelty. It's a heroine attitude to inspire. Add a last twist at the end to guarantee much more to come, and I'm excited to see where this series goes because it promises to be tons of fun for action and fantasy fans.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Review: Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday by Alysson Foti Bourque with Giveaway!

 Today's read comes from an author I've been following for a few years now from her very first Alycat book onwards. It's exciting to watch a fellow author work their way up with so much, her character and tales are adorable. She's won more than a few prizes and is extremely hard working. So, when the next book came out, there was no way I was going to pass up on the chance to take a peek.

Join us for this tour from May 23  to June 17, 2022!

by Alysson Foti Bourque
Pelican Publishing
Picture Book
ages 3 to 7

Alycat wakes up to seafood gumbo for breakfast, and even though her house is the first stop for the school bus, the bus is already full when she boards. Alycat’s whole day is turning topsy-turvy. What is happening? Young readers will tag along on Alycat’s adventures during her very “cattywampus” Wednesday and learn that a little help from some friends and a good attitude can make your day!

​The themes of the books in the Alycat Series all reflect a reliance on friendships, imagination, and creativity towards problem solving. The character traits of Alycat and her friends inspire and encourage young readers to find their own special gifts. After enduring a cattywampus world pursuant to an unexpected pandemic, this book will resonate with readers to persevere through the wackiest and toughest of times.

Alycat website
Amazon ~ B&N

Walmart ~ Bookshop



Strange events meet with a touch of humor and a cute character's attempt to adapt in a tale, which leaves a smile on the face.

Alycat isn't sure why her mom serves her dinner food for breakfast, but she doesn't have too much time to ask since the school bus is already there and the strangeness continues. Nothing is happening like it should, but rather, everything seems a bit flip-flopped. Alycat has no idea what's happening but decides to go with the flow as best she can until she can figure things out.

These pages twirl a little confusion fun as a usual day's events take odd twists. This alone will have listeners/readers smirking and smiling as well as forming their own opinions as to what might really be going on. It's a usual day in the sense that many listeners/readers with be familiar with the situations...or at least, until these are turned on their head.

Alycat is as energetic and positive as ever. While she is curious and wonders about the situations, there's never a glimpse of negative thoughts or emotions. A bit of hesitation and uncomfortableness is there, but she manages to find her way through. 

While the main flow does stay with the humor and fun at facing the odd situations, there is a gentle, underlying message of staying calm even when things aren't what is to be expected. Alycat never stops wondering at the cause but doesn't act-out, either, until she figures things out. The solution does come and it's simple as well as sweet.

At the end of the book, there's a suggestion for fitting activities as well as a definition of cattywampus. These help to lead to discussions and do make it appropriate in group settings. It works very well as a read-aloud and can be used by more beginning readers, who are pretty sure of their words. 

Meet the Author:

Alysson Foti Bourque is the author of the award-winning Alycat series. Alysson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Juris Doctor degree from the Southern University Law Center.

After practicing law for six years, she traded in writing trial briefs for writing children’s books. Alysson enjoys public speaking opportunities at schools, conferences, and festivals nationwide. She hopes to inspire people of all ages to follow their dreams and believe in themselves wholeheartedly.


The Alycat Series has won several prestigious awards including:
Three Mom’s Choice Awards®
Benjamin Franklin Digital Award, Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA)
Best Book Award Finalist
NY Big Book Award
Reviewed by Midwest Book Review
Southern Festival of Books Panelist
Louisiana Book Festival Featured Author

Connect with the author: Website  ~  Twitter   Facebook  ~  Instagram ~ Pinterest
Tour Schedule: 
May 23 – Working Mommy Journal – book review / giveaway
May 23 - Cover Lover Book Review – book review / giveaway
May 24 - Rockin' Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
May 24 – Gina Rae Mitchell – book review / guest post / giveaway
May 25 – Chit Chat with Charity – book review / author interview / giveaway
May 25 - Bound 4 Escape – book review / giveaway
May 26 – Bookworm for Kid – book review / giveaway
May 26 - Library Lady's Kid Lit – book review / giveaway
May 27 – A Mama's Corner Of the World – book review / giveaway
May 31 – Baroness' Book Trove – book spotlight / giveaway
May 31 - Splashes of Joy - book review / giveaway
June 1 – Sandra's Book Club – book review / giveaway
June 2 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book review / guest post / giveaway
June 3 – fundinmental – book spotlight / giveaway
June 6 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
June 7 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book review / giveaway
June 7 - The Phantom Paragrapher – book review / giveaway
June 8 – Pause for Tales – book review / giveaway
June 8 - Older & Smarter? – book review / author interview / giveaway
June 9 – Bigreadersite – book review / giveaway
June 9 - Ravenz Reviewz – book review / giveaway
June 10 – Leels Loves Books – book review / giveaway
June 13 – Westveil Publishing – book review / guest post / giveaway
June 14 – 100 Pages A Day – book review / giveaway
June 14 - @twilight_reader – book review / giveaway
June 15 – Fur Everywhere – book review / giveaway
June 15 - Lisa's Reading – book review / giveaway
June 16 – My Reading Getaway – book review / author interview / giveaway
June 17 – Amy's Bookshelf Reviews – book review / giveaway
June 17 - Faith And Books - book review / giveaway


Alycat and the Cattywampus Wednesday Book Tour Giveaway



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Sneak Peek: All-Star Love by Stephanie J. Scott with Giveaway!

by Stephanie J. Scott
A Six Lakes Tennis Academy Novel
YA Contemporary, Romance, Sports

An enemies-to-more fake dating romance set in the world of competitive tennis
Maisie Maxwell planned for a senior year of dazzling college scouts by playing her best tennis. Instead, her beloved tennis training academy is thrown into scandal when the academy founder and head coach, who happens to be her uncle, takes off to Tahiti with the school’s tuition money. Her classmates label her a traitor, but she commits to graduate from the school she loves.

Only her aim to lay low is thwarted by the school’s last-ditch hope to stay open, a new partnership with reality show The Academy.

Also not helping her stay-under-the-radar plan? A wayward forehand shot that nails transfer student Shane Wagner in the face on day one. Shane, obnoxiously gorgeous for starters, is the current number one nationally seeded player in junior boys’ tennis. Oops.

Everyone at school sees Shane as an outsider and fame-seeker. He’s just as much an outcast as Maisie. While reality show producers push for chaos, Shane and Maisie band together with their own idea: pretend to be together and control the narrative.

But the savvy head producer has her own agenda, and it’s not collegiate tennis scholarships. Shane and Maisie need to play hard to save the school before they’re outmatched.

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


I put all my strength into my next forehand. The ball torpedoed over the net, not even bothering to bounce within the court. Nope, that sucker was headed for the fences. If this was baseball, it’d be time to break out the peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Too bad this wasn’t baseball.


A figure in the distance went down, knees to the court. A crowd of students suddenly appeared, gasping and rushing over.

“You hit him!” someone shrieked.

My breath lodged in my throat. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I jogged over, terrified to breathe until I knew my accidental victim was okay.

Caleb directed a dirty scowl at me. “You really are the worst, Maxwell.”

I angled to see the fallen student. “I’m so sorry!”

“Oh, Maisie.” Nia mumbled, now beside me.

“I’m okay,” the guy on the ground said, attempting to stand despite the crowd. His head emerged, sun-bleached brown hair unkempt and curling over a tanned forehead. That perfectly shaggy hair some guys could get away with. He wasn’t a returning student. The face turning toward me could easily belong on a clothing website, the kind with ninety-dollar T-shirts with holes in them for a distressed look. Basically, he was very attractive.

A swath of blood streaked across that very attractive face.

That part was definitely my fault.

Sorry floated across my tongue, but my lips couldn’t form the word under the pressure of so many glaring classmates. Any hope of being an admired senior this year shriveled and burned like a tissue set aflame.

He accepted a clean towel and pressed it to his nose. “I expected I might not be welcome here, but your forehand really confirmed it.”

“Way to go, Maxwell,” Caleb said with a sneer. “You just nailed Shane Wagner in the face.”

Oh. Wait, what? “You’re … you’re—”

“Shane Wagner,” the bloody-faced model boy said through the towel.

Shane Wagner. The Shane Wagner. I just nailed the face of the number one-seeded player in junior boys’ tennis.

And here she is...

Stephanie J. Scott writes young adult and romance about characters who put their passions first. Her debut ALTERATIONS about a fashion-obsessed loner who reinvents herself was a Romance Writers of America RITA® award finalist. She enjoys dance fitness, everything cats, and has a slight obsession with Instagram. A Midwest girl at heart, she resides outside of Chicago with her tech-of-all-trades husband and fuzzy furbabies.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Newsletter / Instagram / TikTok / Bookbub

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Happy Book Birthday, Spark of Ash by Molly Lee!

Today's read gives way to a strong heroine and a mission to save life. I did read the first book in the series but skipped over the second, which probably means I'm going to have a few holes when tackling this last book in the series. It should hold quite a bit of action, tons of snark, demons, angels, magic, and...well, romance, I guess. It definitely should be a lot of fun if it's anything like book one was.

Ember of Night, #3
by Molly Lee
Entangled Teen
Young Adult Fantasy
400 pages

The Seven―the Divine beings meant to protect the world―just declared war. On me. They took Ray, my baby sister, and now they’re using my boyfriend to do their dirty work.

Well, screw that.

I may not be able to wipe them off the face of the earth now, but I know what can.

Thanks to an Ather connection, I know about the Seven Scrolls. An ancient incantation made by the Creator to counteract the Seven’s great power, scattered into pieces across the world.

With the help of my new crew, we’re on the hunt. And with each located scroll, I face new battles, bloodier and harder than I’ve ever known before. But now the stakes are even higher, because Ray has always been my bright light in the darkness, and Draven is my hope when all seems lost, and if I don’t get them back?

Well, then I might just become the scariest legend the world has ever known.



This book takes off where book two left off. While I did read book one of the series, I didn't read the second one, and that did cause more than a few holes when I picked up book three. So, these do need to be read in order.

Harley is just enjoying a few days calm with her soul mate, when he's suddenly pulled away by the Seven. With his memories removed, he kidnaps her younger sister to train her as a seer to serve the most powerful of the Seven. Harley is given a chance to save her sister, but must find the seven scrolls and give them to head of the Seven. But Harley has already accepted her destiny, unleashing not only her own unknown powers, but reviving her father's, the Devil's as well. Together with her friends, she mush find a way to stop the Seven, figure out if she can trust her father, and discover what her place in destiny truly is.

This is a quick-paced and easy read, which has something happening on every page. There is action, fight scenes, secrets, betrayal, family issues, romance, and much more. Harley is a no-nonsense character with amazing powers, who has grown into her position and is ready to take anyone on...even if it means she'll die trying. She protects those she loves fiercely and is holds life of anyone and anything dearly. She's a character to root for...may not have tons of depth, but she doesn't need it.

Romance is present but only in the beginning and grows again toward the end. This leaves Harley more than enough space to tackle the evil and learn to find her own place in things. So, action fans will enjoy this one as well as those who like a golden-romance, which by no means overpowers the tale. 

Friendship is golden as is family. Despite Harley's immense powers, she can't go it alone and does incorporate the help of those around her. The relationships are inspiring and make the entire time fun to follow. But then, there is always a wonderful back and forth in the dialogue to keep humor and snark as high as the action and tension. Even when a couple holes appear in the plot or something comes across as a bit to easily solved, the read is simply enjoyable and entertaining. And that's more than enough.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Review: The Adventures of Rumi and Bixby Bear by J.R. Rothstein

Today's read isn't a new or up-coming release, but rather one which has already been enjoyed by many a reader. Circling around friendship, this is the imaginative tale of a girl and her teddy bear as she travels to amazing places and the things she discovers. Doesn't that sound promising? (I thought so.) Plus, the artwork on the front cover drew me in with its sense of dreams and artistic flair. 

In other words, it's time to head off into adventure! 

by J.R. Rothstein
Illustrated by Nasim Jenabi
Redstone Publishing 
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

The Adventures of Rumi and Bixby Bear is a fun and contemplative story about a child in search of friendship. With her friend, Bixby Bear, at her side, Rumi undertakes a great journey and discovers depth and wisdom within herself.



With a heart-felt tone and the longing of a child to understand more, these pages glide on a deeper discovery of friendship, the world around us, and the direction of life.

Rumi is hesitant to go to school, afraid that the other children might tease her, but when she gets there, she opens up with questions for her teacher, ones he can't completely answer. At home, her grandfather  gives her words of advice, and although loving, she's not sure she understands them, either. So, with her imaginative friend, she goes on a dreamful journey to discover what answers she can find.

This book is based on the poetry of the famous Persian poet, Rumi, and weaves into a tale about a young girl. That said, this tale follows along a deeper type of journey and incorporates more than a little food for thought. Younger audiences will have difficulty grasping what's going on, but slightly more mature readers (6+) will be able to pick up some of the meanings, and if nothing else, find a string to lead into discussions. The text is also more geared to this age group, due not only to the larger amount of words on each page (which do work well as a read-aloud) but the vocabulary also leans in this direction.

Bright illustrations break up the deeper flow of the words and help sink into the situations. When Rumi's imaginative journey begins later on, these balance with the text to create the experiences and moments, which broaden Rumi's horizons. It makes it clear what is happening and gives the listeners focus while the words flow by.

Love, warmth, hope, and exploration ring high on every page. While there are whimsical tones, these are light, but they are enough to keep the meaningful words from weighing down too much. I believe that the adults reading this one to the kids will have even more to think about than the listeners and, obviously, have a better grasp as to what's going on. But this is definitely a lovely way to introduce young listeners to this more poetic and meaning-of-life thought process and words. 

More about the book...

The Adventures of Rumi and Bixby Bear is a contemplative and educational picture book that takes the poetry of Rumi, the famous Persian poet, and turns it into a book on friendship and self-development that children and parents can understand. The story is a journey of discovering wisdom and depth within oneself that even adult readers would love. I have also developed a curriculum for teachers and parents to encourage conversations and discussions with children about the book (which includes games and coloring books). More details can be found on our website:

Here are also some thoughts from the Huffington Post:

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Review: Gugulu, Little Bear Dares by Srividhya Lakshamanan

Today's read embraces so many fun things that I couldn't turn down taking a peek. Plus, isn't that animal on the front so adorable? And what a name! While this one does address kids' desires to become more independent and head out into the world a little bit more on their own, it also takes a look at lesser known animals and introduces young readers to them. 

In other words, it's time to head into the wild and see what we can find! 

by Srividhya Laksmanan
Illustrated by Akansha Krishnan
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Go on a wild adventure with Gugulu, the sloth bear, as he takes on a journey deep inside the western ghats of India.

Gugulu's parents won't allow him to go to school alone. But he can't wait to explore the forest on his own. So one day, he runs ahead of his parents. And before he knows it, he ends up in a river filled with danger - first a roaring leopard, then a gang of gaurs, but soon he shrinks in fear. Will naughty Gugulu be able to reunite with his parents?

Gugulu, The Little Bear Dares, is a quirky, funny, beautifully illustrated story about new experiences and courageously facing challenges when encountered.



Animal fun swings high as a cute, little bear tries to prove himself independent and runs into more than a couple surprises on the way.

Gugulu has decided that it's time for him to head to school on his own...without his parents. After all, he's big, now, and doesn't need the help. All runs well enough until he comes to the river.

This is a cute tale about a sweet bear, and his desire to 'grow up'. Young readers/listeners will identify with his desire to prove that he can do some things on his own, even if his parents don't think he's ready. While some moments run smoothly, troubles do come, and the meeting with the parents is heart-warming as well as offers a sense of security and safety.

The illustrations are bright and bring across and animals with a sense of joy and energy. They are easy to identify, which is a must, since this book also introduces young readers to animals, they may not have run across before. While Gugulu has his adventures, he meets other animals along the way...many of them. At the end of the book, each one is again illustrated and shortly explained, so readers learn more about them.

This is a book written in rhyme, which flows well for the most part. There are also three word sounds or actions tossed in, which listeners can repeat and 'read' along with.

And here she is...

Srividhya is an award-winning children's author, entrepreneur and writer. She always had a passion for storytelling and started to write when she was eleven. ​Her early success came when one of her dramas got selected by the 'All India Radio'. She spent years reading and writing stories, giving her characters a bright sparkle. ​She spent 15 years in corporate jobs. Later, she founded and managed a fashion e-commerce company, Pink Hippo, before venturing into publishing.

Website -

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Review: Swift and Hawk Cyberspies by Logan Macx

Today's read is the first...yes, you read that right, the FIRST... in a new series. See, I can start a series in the beginning! This one aims for middle graders and centers around spies and action and high tension and more action and... Well, that's what the blurb claims, and I have no reason to doubt it, yet. These teens specialize in AI and robotics, and must be pretty athletic, too, considering all of the amazing scenes they will find themselves in.  Yep, I'm expecting action pure and have the Mission Impossible theme song playing through my head non-stop.

Ready to dance on the wild side of life?

Swift and Hawk, Book 1
by Logan Macx
Walker Books 
Middle Grade Spy Fiction
352 pages
ages 8 to 12

An addictive new spy series for Alex Rider fans who love breathless plot, cutting-edge tech and action-packed adventure.

When their families mysteriously disappear, Swift and Hawk, teen experts in AI and robotics, are recruited by the secretive Möbius Programme to crack an unbreakable code. They are immediately plunged into a life-and-death rescue mission, that takes them from hidden tunnels beneath the British Museum, to the dangerous docklands of Amsterdam in search of the mysterious ship Nightfall. Caught in a treacherous world of spies and saboteurs, Swift and Hawk will be pushed to the limit as they follow a trail that leads to the remote island of Spøkelsøy, and straight into the hands of a dark and chilling enemy.




Action? Yes! High tech pure? Oh yeah! An evil villain with power and chilling goals? You bet! As spy stories go, this one packs in all of these things and more.

Caleb lives with his CIA mother and attends a school for gifted tech-kids in Britain. When informants visit their home and insist they go with them to a unknown place, Caleb's mother distracts them long enough for him to escape. After finding his best friend, Caleb learns that families of high tech talents are being kidnapped, and him and his friend are both instated into a secret organization. Their code names are Swift and Hawk, and the two of them are about to go on a dangerous mission, which chases them around the world and takes them to extremes.

This is one for spy fans who love action, action, and more action. There's never a boring moment, there's tons of intrigue, and high tension is a given. The villain fits this mix perfectly and the two main characters are definitely kept on their toes the entire way through. There is quite a bit of high-tech included, but then, Swift and Hawk both excel on this end. While this could leave the reader confused, everything is described with enough detail to make sure not to loose the reader, and yet, it never grows boring. The action scenes flow in the same way, giving detailed enough accounts to make them come to life but never going over board either. It's a quick-paced read, which doesn't loose the reader in the slightest.

There is a strong friendship between Swift and Hawk, and that is inspiring. The two have slightly different skill sets and harmonize very well. They enjoy what they do, love a challenge and will do anything to get their families back. In other words, they are easy to root for from beginning to end. The only slight thing which bothered me was that neither really gained a personal connection with the reader. The first chapter already starts with Caleb, aka Swift, watching the strangers talk to his mother, and never lets the reader really get to know him, his surroundings, or his normal life. It's about the same for his best friend Hawk. A tiny bit more character building would have really drawn in.

The ending comes as fast and hard as the rest of the tale, leaving off in an exciting cliff-hanger. Hopefully, book two will be out soon because readers are going to want to immediately grab it up and see where things go next. 

And here he is...

Logan Macx is rumoured to be an ex-spy formerly with the British Secret Intelligence Service, specialising in cyber communications and unexplained events. His whereabouts are unknown at this time but he is in periodic communication with the ghost writers of this series – Edward Docx and Matthew Plampin. He can sometimes be spotted at @LoganMacx1.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Review: The Power of the Pearl Earrings by Linda Trinh

Today's read dives into ancient warrior fighting (a favorite of mine), family, Vietnam culture, and elementary/middle school problems. This, I believe, is going to be a three book series, and I got my hands on book two. Nope, I didn't read the first one...because I seldom do that (it seems). This is a chapter book and meant for the slightly older end of that age those with a good handle on their words.

Ready to kick and head into school yard adventure?

The Nguyen Kids, Book 2
by Linda Trinh
Illustrated by Clayton Nguyen
Annick Press
Chapter Book
128 pages
ages 6 to 9

OCTOBER 18th!!!

I touch my earrings and feel a rush of wind. I can almost hear Grandma Nội’s laughter through them.

In Book 2, spontaneous and energetic Liz, the middle Nguyen sibling, is determined to prove she is just as important and brave as the fierce Trung Sisters, freedom fighters in ancient Vietnam that she learned about from Grandma Nội. That is, until the new boy at school threatens her plans by stealing her best friend and excluding her because she’s a girl. But Liz finds help and a powerful reminder of her Vietnamese heritage where she least expects it—in her Grandma Nội’s pearl earrings. By harnessing their mysterious power, Liz decides to show Michael exactly what girls are capable of.

You can find it:

Book Depository:



Note: I did not get a chance to read the first book in the series, but this wasn't an issue since it was no problem to dive right into the tale. Reading it as a series would have offered some background information, however, so I would tend to start with book one. Also, the copy I received did not have the illustrations, yet.

This tale takes a look at Liz, who is the middle child of three siblings, loves ancient freedom fighters, and comes from Vietnam heritage. She enjoys playing fighter with her best friend and is delighted when two new kids arrive in her class, but her joy ends soon. The new boy makes fun of her, is great at everything, and steals her best friend, starting an all boys club with him. Luckily, Liz has her Grandma's earrings because if she can figure out how their power works, she might be able to get everything sorted out again.

Liz is an energetic girl with a huge imagination and big heart. She struggles a bit with her position as the middle sibling and tries to make herself independent from her older sister, while irritated that her baby brother gets quite a bit of attention. Her popularity at school is understandable since she is a ball of sunshine, despite these issues, and has tons of fun. The Vietnam culture is also woven in very naturally and introduces young readers to different aspects. I especially enjoyed the addition of traditions, beliefs, and such. There's always something happening in the tale, and it's interesting to see how Liz will handle it all.

There are tons of messages packed into this read, which snuggle in with the plot. First, there's racism, which Liz's aunt faces with her customers, and Liz does make a statement herself towards others, which falls into this category. Then, there's the boys looking down on girls. There's the middle child syndrome. She has problems with her best friend alienating her and turning against her. We can't forget the bullying, and then, there's a 'new' kid issue as well. All of this wraps into the short read, ignoring the saying that 'less is often more'. While the story and Liz are cute, the messages gave the read the feel of a book on a mission and didn't explore or round some of them up as well as it could have.  Add, at times, choppy writing flow, and it slid a bit short of its potential. 

Still, I can recommend it. It's a cute read, and Liz is an awesome character. Despite the rough areas, the rest flows well and is entertaining. Liz's love for martial arts is inspiring, her warmth toward others is inviting, and it is a fun tale in so many ways. I recommend giving this one to those who are almost ready to cross the border from chapter books to middle grade reads and do think readers will enjoy it.

And here they are...

LINDA TRINH is a Vietnamese Canadian author who writes fiction and non-fiction for children and adults. She explores identity, cultural background, and spirituality. Her work has appeared in anthologies and literary magazines. She lives with her family in Winnipeg.

CLAYTON NGUYEN is an illustrator and animation student at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Review: The Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics) by Nathaniel Hawthorne

As my followers know, I do try to sneak in graphic novels whenever I can ,since these do resonate with young readers and are one of the first sections my own kids visit. One criticism I've run across on the graphic novel front is that kids aren't hitting 'real literature'. So, when I stumbled across this series, I couldn't dare pass it up. It takes the classics (a huge range) and has transposed them into graphic novel form. In the series, everything from Pride and Prejudice to Dracula to The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin to Romeo and Juliet to...well, it just goes on and on.

I'm assuming the next question might be, 'Can a manga do a classic justice?' Well, let's find out! 

Manga Classics
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
re-written by Crystal S Chan
Illustrated by SunNeko Lee
Inked by Morpheus Studios
Manga Classics
YA Classic
308 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne's powerful tale of forbidden love, shame and revenge comes to life in this manga presentation of the classic story. When Hester Prynne bears an illegitimate child, she is introduced to the ugliness, complexity, and ultimately the strength of the human spirit. Though set in a Puritan community during the Colonial American period, the moral dilemmas of personal responsibility and consuming emotions of guilt, anger, loyalty and revenge are timeless. This beautiful manga retelling of Hawthorne's classic American novel is faithfully adapted by Crystal S. Chan and features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into this tragic saga of Puritan America.



Remaining amazingly true to the original novel, the illustrations and dialogue bring new life to a classic and allow the tale to resonate with another branch of readers.

The story is as anyone whose read the book already knows—Hester Prynne gives birth to an illegitimate child and must face the town's wrath, hate, and gossip during Colonial times in a Puritan community. And this manga brings exactly this tale across, staying very true to the original. 

First, for those who are new to the manga world, there are instructions on how to approach this type of novel (as they are read in a different direction than our Western world is accustom to). Then, it starts with the writer's finding of his ancestor's notes, which inspires him to recapture Hester's tale. I was wondering how all of this would flow...whether it would be lighter, changed, different atmosphere and such. But this is a very serious read, which brings across the exact same atmosphere, scenes, characterization and circumstances. 

The settings and scenes, of course, pick up mostly in the illustrations, and these do a great job at making the time visual while keeping it simple. Little details like Hester's 'A' poke forward with a subtle intensity to make the scenes and importance sit. I was also impressed at how well the emotions and characters are brought across. The illustrator takes care to capture each one with the right features and let their personalities shine without over doing it, either. The dialogue did meld a bit away from the original, but only in the sense that it was easier to read and understand. I even found this aspect well done.

Of course, classic lovers and those, who really want to dive into the novel, will probably want to grab up the original, but this form does a great job at offering a slightly different point of view without altering the main strings. It is easier to digest and is even worth a peek from those, who do adore the original novel. To say that it is probably more inviting for the younger audience is, in my opinion, a given. 

After reading this one, I'm more than curious to dive into the other manga classics in the series.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Wind, Ocean, Grass by Karen A Wyle!

 Today's read is great for a mid-week pause. It invites to a second of relaxation while enjoying art and a poetic tale surrounding the wind, water and grass. I've enjoyed other works from this author and had a feeling this one might win me over again. So, let's take a look.

by Karen A Wyle
Illustrated by Tomasz Mikutel
Oblique Angles Press
Picture Book
50 pages
ages 4 to 8

This unique picture book has neither human nor animal characters, but instead features the wind speaking to the grass, explaining how long grasses are both like and unlike the waves of the ocean. Through lyrical prose and breathtaking impressionist-style paintings, the reader follows the wind’s journey over sea and land: the many moods of the ocean, the different seasons of the grassy field. We see glimpses of the birds that live off the bounty of the ocean, and the birds and flowers that live among the grasses.

Through this nature metaphor, the story, without becoming didactic, teaches children about seeing commonality and celebrating differences.



Beautifully illustrated and poetically written, this read embraces nature and blows along with the atmosphere of an ancient tale.

The wind speaks to the grass, and soon, the comparison to the ocean begins. The wind tells of its observations, comparing one to the other with the similarities and differences. The entire text takes on a poetic tone, which snuggles in with the painting styled illustrations. The two harmonize together to create an inviting, artistic atmosphere, which will even grab older readers.

The text is well down and flows wonderfully. While the vocabulary is well set for the age group, the metaphors and meanings do need a bit more maturity than most younger readers/listeners will have. Slightly older ones will pick-up on this end better, and it's a lovely way to introduce the audience to this more insightful way of thought. It can be used to lead into discussions and questions as to the meanings and thoughts behind some of the phrases in a classroom, group, or homeschooled setting as well.

But ignoring the learning possibilities, this book is beautifully created. Each illustration is a piece of art, and while some will grab the attention of younger readers better than others, the scenes do a wonderful job at portraying various aspects of grass and water in nature. Adults will appreciate this aspect as well.

It's a gentle read with the flow of an ancient tale as the wind takes on the narration. The phrases calm and the scenes do invite for a deeper glance, making it a lovely read for the right listener.

You can learn more about Karen A. Wyle and her other works here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Review: Rock Star Recess by Patrick Bagatta

Today's read swings into imagination and recess fun. I picked up this one because my own kids were School of Rock and Fancy Nancy fans. Plus, that cover is vibrant and energetic and so packed with promised chaos that it screams over-the-top entertainment. Since most picture book tend toward calmer tones, this one definitely catches attention. But lets just go ahead and see what it's about.

by Patrick Bagatta
Illustrated by Emily Mullock
Union Square Press
Picture Book
40 pages 
ages 4 to 8

School of Rock meets Fancy Nancy in this exuberant story about rock n' roll dreams colliding with the reality of elementary school.
Elsie’s music class has played Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star too many times, and she wants to try something new. When her music teacher suggests she “rock on her own time,” Elsie devises a plan. It’s recess, and the playground will make a great venue. Soon she and her best friends are setting up a stage. In true rock-star fashion, their band enlists classmates to help with hair and makeup, special effects, and security. They even host a press conference and an autograph session! Elsie has thought of everything to throw the most epic of recess rock concerts . . . or has she?


The amazing powers of imagination hit full-force, engulfing everything (as a kid's does) to form the best reality ever.

Still caught up in the joy of singing during class, Elsie knows exactly how to spend recess. Her and her friends are going to perform a rock concert. Thirty minutes seems short, but Elsie and her group have everything under control. Soon, make-up, autographs, stage crews, management and more are churning full-gear...until she realizes they forgot something extremely important.

Elise is a ball of energy...or maybe, calling her a small tornado is more appropriate. She's bursting with ideas and determination, and it's hard not to get caught up in her excitement. Her two friends stand at her side, offering words of advice and jumping into the swirl with as much commitment as Elsie. It's an atmosphere packed with positive vibes, energy, and drive to inspire and make a listener/reader smile.

Of course, this is completely over the top and impossible in any twist of reality, except for the imagination. But any child with an active one will know (and their parents, who try to get their attention) that the world disappears. So, while some scenes made me raise an eyebrow, I remembered my own 'spy adventures' as a kid and can only say that these pages hit spot on. The writing is very natural and slides some comments in for a tiny bit of food for thought along the way. 

And there's the message, which rides through like a show, but then, this is about a show. It's not preachy and simply rounds off the story, while staying present enough to be noticed. 

This is a cute read, which will grab attention when read-aloud or revisited by the reader to gaze at the vibrant illustrations. I don't see this one as being one to read again and again and again, but it's definitely worth a fun visit and could make a nice start to a series. I can imagine that Elsie and her friends have quite a few more ideas waiting to be placed into action.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Oceans of Love by Janet Lawler

I'm switching the read, which was supposed to appear today, over to tomorrow...simply because this weekend was SO busy that I didn't get enough side-time to pick up a little longer book. So, peek by tomorrow to see the middle grade read about recess and rock stars. 

Today's read swims into the underwater world and motherly love. I picked it up because I had a feeling the illustrations alone would already make this one enjoyable. Plus, motherly love is always a theme to snuggle up with and enjoy.

So, grab those snorkels and let's see what this book holds. 

by Janet Lawler
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Random House
Viking Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 8 to 12

A beautiful watercolor celebration of the love between ocean mamas and their babies, big and small.

From whales and dolphins, to hermit crabs and jellyfish, the ocean is filled with many different creatures. Join them on this imaginary undersea journey as ocean mamas care for their babies, each in their own special way! Because one thing is universal: there's no other love like that between mamas and their little ones.

With bright and beautiful watercolor illustrations comes this tender and heartwarming celebration of all the different mamas and babies you can find, especially those that live under the sea.



The world under the ocean's surface swims in motherly love and introduces more than a few adorable creatures.

Motherly love is the main theme in these pages, but it takes a new spin as it heads into the deeper waters of the sea. The entire books is written in rhyme, which flows well and makes it works nicely as a read-aloud. The text amount and vocabulary is just right for the age group. There's just enough to set the scene and allow the reader to then, settle into the illustrations. 

The illustrations are my favorite part of this read. It's a mix of playful imagination and reality. The sea life stays close enough to the true appearances to give readers/listeners a good idea of what they look like, and make them recognizable. But they receive eyes and slightly playful forms to make them endearing and cute. This makes each scene fun to visit and allows readers to probably discover several new creatures they've never seen before.

The idea of motherly love hits every page and, yet, it's gentle. These moms help, protect, and play with their young but because of the settings, the 'motherly love' slides into the atmosphere more than being at the forefront. The last page makes up for this with a mother-child embrace. 

It's an adorable read and especially nice for all of those sea life fans out there.

There's also a free coloring sheet to go along with the tale on Janet's website

You can learn more about Janet Lawler at her website :