Thursday, June 30, 2022

What's Coming in July?

 Enjoying the sun and having fun? We're definitely keeping busy here. I have all sorts of goodness on the reading end the next weeks, including Young Explorers Natural Journal, which inspires all sorts of outdoor adventures for kids, but the cover is quite available yet, so although I wanted to include it below, I couldn't (told you the publishing world is tricky). 

As usual, I try to keep a pretty broad spectrum of reads and have everything from paranormal to science fiction to contemporary to humor as well as nonfiction and more scheduled. It's going to be a pretty even balance between the age groups, too. So, keep an eye out and see if any of these might hit the summer reading list in your household, too.


GROUNDED FOR ALL ETERNITY

The title made me smile, but I didn't realize how literal it is until I read the blurb. This one hits a group of teens from Underworld, who venture out and make their way through 'our' world. I'm thinking it will have some humor, hit upon friendship, and...well, who knows what else. Anyway, I'm taking a peek at this one on the 1st.

Middle Grade Paranormal


PROJECT A.I.D.E.N.

A girl accidentally runs over someone to find him uninjured and begging for help because he's being hunted. That sounds like the beginning of a thriller to me, one with chase scenes, and according to the blurb, romance. There's more than a few hints of sci-fi making me wonder if gene-editing, cloning or something similar is involved. Or maybe aliens? Find out on the 4th.

Young Adult Science Fiction

THE ZEE FILES

This is the first in a spin-off series from the best-selling Mackenzie Blue books...which I've never read, so I'm pretty free-minded on hitting this one. It's about a girl, who heads to London for the first time and all the adventures she experiences. I'm thinking there will be some humor, some heart, and tons of quirky moments. Let's travel together on the 9th.

Middle Grade Contemporary


A PERFECT MISTAKE

This one comes from an earlier critique partner of mine, who has definitely found her voice and brought out several wonderful titles. It promises mystery, a few dark secrets, friendship, and finding courage. I'll be looking at the one on the 12th.

Middle Grade Mystery





DEFENDING OCRAS: NO MORE CAPTIVITY

I've always been fascinated by sea life and have a weak spot for non-fiction. So, it was a given that I wanted to take a peek into this one. It's the third in a series of books (Planetary Solutions) and should hold all sorts of information about Ocras, including facts, history, tales, and problems. I'm looking forward to seeing what this one holds, so join me on the 11th to learn more!

Children's Non-Fiction 
BURYING EVA FLORES

I was hooked the moment I read the blurb on this one. It includes TikTok, two very different girls, murder, accusations, and a hunt for the truth. I'm expecting chills, thrills, tons of mystery, and who knows what else, but I'm hoping it's good. Find out with me on the 20th.

Young Adult Mystery/Thriller




MONSTERS BORN AND MADE

Sold as a mixture between Hunger Games and Fable, this was swims around deadly, ocean beasts. A poor family...or rather, a girl and her brother, must catch them in order to keep their family from starving to death. It sounds dark and promises tons of action, and finds its roots in South-Asian myths. Find out more with me on the 18th.

Young Adult Fantasy



WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION

When I was asked if I was interested in taking a peek at this collection (coming in October) of Shakespeare's works adapted for younger readers, I wasn't about to turn it down. My own daughter will be taking her 1st glance in this direction this coming school year, so I'm definitely curious what this collection does. Explore it with me on the 22nd.

Middle Grade Fiction


THE REALLY ROTTEN PRINCESS

A princess, who acts like anything but? And that as a chapter book! Yep, I wanted to get my hands on this one and take a peek. This princess isn't only not frilly but packs tons of trouble and not-so-nice intentions. I'm expecting laughs and giggles, and a perfect mix for those beginning readers out there. Let's jump into royalty on the 28th!

Chapter Book Fantasy

ON MY PAPA'S SHOULDERS

This one greets from an author in South Africa and embraces the love between a child and their father. I'm looking forward to the scenes and atmosphere. Find out more on the 30th.


Picture Book


Every month, my reading list stands higher than I can reach (okay, maybe not quite). There's definitely more reads than I have time for, which means that I always have a few on the bench just waiting to join in. The book I will find time to squeeze in somehow...somewhere...no matter what is:


THE ELEPHANT GIRL

This one is co-authored by the very-well-known James Patterson, but that's not why I'm excited about it (although it does catch attention because of that). This tale centers around a girl and her relationship to an elephant. It's supposed to hold tons and tons of heart as well as take a peek at Africa. But when will I get to it? We'll find out! (Shh...but I am hoping for the 25th, since it's release day) 

Tween Fiction


Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Stealing Infinity by Alyson Noel!

Today's read actually had it's book birthday yesterday...but I'm all for celebrating as long as possible! The moment I saw the cover, I had to get my hands on this book. Plus, time travel can be intriguing if well done. The main character also promises tons of spunk...if she can keep a logical thinking process, that is. Yep, I do have high expectations with this one. So, let's take a peek and see if it's worth the hype.


STEALING INFINITY
Stolen Beauty, #1
by Alyson Noel
Entangled Teen Publishing
YA Time Travel / Fantasy
400 pages














These days, I’ve been killing it when it comes to letting people down. Now I’ve been kicked out of high school, arrested, and accepted into a remote, off-the-grid school owned and operated by an inscrutable billionaire tech guru.

Gray Wolf Academy is looking for a certain kind of student. Ones that no one will miss. Like me.

Then there’s Braxton. The beautiful, oddly anachronistic guy who showed up right when the trouble started. And he’s a total enigma—which means that I definitely can’t trust him, even if there’s something about him that makes me want to.
They all tell me I have a gift. A very rare gift. And Gray Wolf Academy wants me to learn it. To use it. Because if what they say is true, I have all the time in the world.
And that makes me the most dangerous high school student you’ll never know…


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N    /    BOOK DEPOSITORY


MY TIDBITS

Action, intrigue and a touch of romance intermingle with time travel to make an exciting read, which is hard to put down.

Nat's got a tough life, trying to help her mother pay bills while attending school. When a friend convinces her to skip class and go to a club, things race out of control. Convicted of a crime she didn't commit, Nat finds herself at the Gray Wolf Academy, where secrets flood every hallway. She's unable to make friends except with one guy, who's not telling more than he wants to. She knows something's up but has larger problems to deal with as she suspects that there's more to the school than meets the eye.

If you're a fan of academy settings (especially mysterious, secretive ones), time travel, tough girls, and dangerous plots, this will be right down your lane. It starts out with a thrust into Nat's life, who gains sympathy as she does her best to make everything work. Her bad decision is irritating, but everything else about her makes her hard not to root for as she struggles against so much garbage. When the book swings into the academy, there's an interesting twist, which keeps it from growing cliche. Also, Nat has a head and tries to use it as she's navigating the academy and tries to figure out what's going on. There's a quick pace the entire way through and unexpected moments to keep those pages turning.

Then, there's the relationships and characters. Nat is interesting and while she stumbles here and there, she remains a gripping character until the end. The others are touch and go. Some have a bit of depth but others don't. So, if you're into character driven reads, this has some of that but leans much more toward the action.

Even the romance isn't smooth...but it just might be that way intentionally. The love interest keeps a lot of his intentions and goals hidden, and the chemistry suffers because of that. But there are other possibilities in the starting lines on that front. It just depends on where this series goes.

This is an exciting read with tons of mystery and interesting directions. It definitely entertains and does set things up nicely for the rest of the series.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, The Little Bear by Nicola Killen!

It's time to celebrate a new release! Today's read is a picture book, which is part of a series written by Nicola Killen. I remember receiving her first picture book about this little girl, Ollie, several years ago and immediately being hooked. Her books haven't disappointed me yet, since I'm a fan not only of Ollie's love for dressing up but also love the art style with its carefully added colors.

So, happy book birthday, The Little Bear!!!



THE LITTLE BEAR
by Nicola Killen
Paula Wiseman Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8





From beloved author-illustrator Nicola Killen comes an adorable back to school story about a bear cub soothing a little girl’s fears, tenderly told and illustrated in limited color with lovely foil and interactive die cut pages.

The end of summer can be a bittersweet time, and Ollie isn’t sure if she’s ready to go back to school. But the night before her first day back, Ollie dreams about a magical schoolhouse in the woods full of friendly little animals who make learning an adventure. When Ollie wakes up, she can’t wait to go to school!


GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    AMAZON 


MY TIDBITS

Gentle illustrations with a touch of shine add magic to the tale of a little girl and her nervousness for the first day of school.

Ollie has her first day of school the next day. She's packed her backpack and, by bedtime, is as ready as ready can be. After falling asleep, she's awaken by the sound of an owl. She decides to follow it and heads outside and into the forest, where she realizes that some of the animals are following the owl, too. When a little school house appears between the trees and a small, hesitant bear waits off to the side, her adventure begins.

I'm already a fan of this illustrator's works, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an ARC. It did not disappoint. Not only is Ollie as cute as always, but she's in another animal costume and ready to go. This always makes me smile since I know so many kids of that age, who would have worn their 'animal-self' to school if they could have (a couple of my own kids included). 

This tale dances perfectly on the edge of dreams and reality, making sure that the reader is left to guess, which side it is. The text flows very smoothly and makes a lovely read-aloud, which is very appropriate for the age group. 

Ollie's nervousness for the first day of school is subtle and underlays her sense of excitement. Unlike many tales, which deal with this theme, the nervousness is indirect. Instead of dealing with it herself directly, the theme switches over to a small bear and allows her to help him. It was a kind approach, which leaves a sense of happiness.

And I'm not going to forget the illustrations because those were more than lovely. The characters stay in shades of white, gray, and with a hint of black, while the surroundings gain a touch of dark blues and yellows...only Ollie's cheeks get an extra dab of pink. The result is a dreamlike setting, which invites in. As if adding a sprinkle of magic, gold, shiny details are dabbled in here and there. 

This is a wonderful read to help with those first-day-of-school nerves, but also works great as a bedtime read.


And here she is...

Nicola Killen has always loved drawing and still likes nothing better than taking her sketchbook to the zoo to draw her favorite animals: rhinos and penguins. She designed cards before starting an MA in children’s book illustration at Cambridge School of Art, and since then she has been working on her own books, including The Little Reindeer, which was called “an original and entertaining Christmas story with its own understated charm” in a starred review by Kirkus Reviews and “magical” by Publishers WeeklyThe Little Reindeer was named a Horn Book Holiday High Note. Nicola Killen lives and works in Cambridge, England.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Review: Fly High, Lolo by Niki Daly

I decided to take this last weekend off from reviews (even I need a breather every now and then). So, I was able to hit today's read with a small gust of new-found energy...which is great since it's about an eagle flying! Well, a type of eagle. 

Today's read greets from South Africa and is one in a series of chapter books, which centers around a little girl named Lolo and her daily life adventures. The author has won a prize or two for the series, and since it promises to be a cute read, I wanted to take a peek.

Ready to flap into adventure with me?


FLY HIGH, LOLO
by Niki Daly
Chapter Book / Contemporary
96 pages
ages 5 to 9














Four new easy to read stories about the delightful and irrepressible Lolo and her daily life in a South African township, perfect for early readers.

In Fly High, Lolo, Lolo dreams of being an eagle in the school play; meets Miss Teen the Beauty Queen; goes on a beach clean-up with Mama and her new friend; and makes beautiful, recycled Christmas decorations.

These tales of school life, home life, and street life in today's South Africa are perfect offerings for a diverse society. The Lolo series are pitched first readers for children who are moving from picture books to chapter books, and are illustrated with delightful black and white drawings by the author.


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON 


MY TIDBITS

Accompanied with capturing illustrations the entire way through, this collection of short stories presents an energetic girl from one cute, experience to the next.

Four stories make up, and the reader accompanies Lolo through each one. From wishing to have a certain role in a class play to making Christmas decorations by recycling unwanted objects, readers will sink into the familiar situations, while learning a little about Lolo's life in South Africa. The tales are written for those, who are sure of their words but aren't quite ready, yet, for middle grade novel. 

The situations Lolo faces are those, which many kids come across, and that makes each one very relatable. Her attitude remains on the positive side and she's always kind, while trying to figure things out. There are heavier messages, at times, but Lolo still shines at the center, so they don't steal her show.

Black and white illustrations accompany every page and let Lolo come to life in a way, which will have readers wanting to play with her. This is also where the cultural end comes through, and the reader gets a glimpse into what her life is like in South Africa.

This is an enjoyable, chapter book read, which adds a nice mix of fun, positivity, and hint of cultural knowledge...and is very accessible to the intended age group.



And here he is...


Niki Daly’s groundbreaking Not So Fast Songololo, winner of a US Parent’s Choice Award, paved the way for post-apartheid South African children’s books. Among his many books, Niki Daly’s Jamela’s Dress was chosen by the ALA as a Notable Children’s Book and by Booklist as one of the Top 10 African American Picture Books of 2000. It also won both the Children’s Literature Choice Award and the Parents’ Choice Silver Award. Niki lives with his wife, the author and illustrator Jude Daly, in South Africa.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Review: Noor and Bobby by Praline Gay-Para

Today's read greets from France, has received attention around the world, and is finally being translated into English. Tales of children and their love for their animals always make me smile, and this one promises a different twist. With the current situation in the Ukraine (and other constant turbulences around the world), this book does open up to the theme of war and those affected directly by it to younger readers. Now, this isn't a theme I brought up with my own kids, since it would have worried them quite a bit (sensitive children). However, we did visit a war zone firsthand when they were young, and they took it rather well.

Okay, I'm going to make a slightly longer post today because this was quite the experience... 

We visited Croatia on a camping trip about 8-10 years after the war there had ended. While the northern shoreline of the country is well-built out for tourists, just a few miles drive into the interior paints a very different picture. We drove through minefields...literally, with signs every few feet on both sides warning about getting out of the car. We drove past ghost towns, where the destroyed buildings due to shelling portrayed very visible bullet holes and haunted with the devastation. And we saw clumps of houses/shacks, which still stood with basic repair and were lived in, but not with the standards and conditions you and I are blessed with and know. Not even close. My kids were very young (13, 11, 5, 3) and, except for the 3-year-old, will never forget and were left with a very strong impression.

That said, here's today's read....and my thoughts about it.


NOOR AND BOBBY
by Praline Gay-Para
Illustrated by Lauranne Quentric
Picture Books
48 pages
ages 4 to 8

   COMING...
OCTOBER 25th!!!


In a besieged city, Noor watches as his neighbors pack their bags and flee their homes—but a dog named Bobby is left behind. As Noor sets out across the ravaged city to save him, he discovers pockets of life and hope in this moving story of friendship in the face of adversity.

Then Noor goes off again
to find his dearest friend.

“Bobby, Bobby, where are you?
Bobby, Bobby, can I come, too?”


When Noor’s canine friend Bobby disappears from their apartment building one afternoon, Noor sets off on a perilous journey to find him. Noor stumbles through abandoned buildings and navigates streets cluttered with downed planes, barbed wire, and items left behind by fleeing residents. While searching for Bobby, Noor comes across other animals in the rubble of the city in need of his help. He frees a bird tangled in barbed wire, builds a shelter for a cat and her kittens, and is finally reunited with his beloved Bobby. Beautiful paper-cut collage illustrations highlight the realities of war as the brightness of Noor and his animal friends sharply contrasts with the desolate cityscape.

With its tender illustrations and animal-loving protagonist, Noor and Bobby is a compassionate and empathetic introduction to displacement and the realities of war and a heartwarming story of friendship from prolific French-Lebanese author Praline Gay-Para.

GOODREADS  /   B&N   /   TARGET   /   THIRD HOUSE BOOKS


MY TIDBITS

With very serious undertones, this is a read which shines with the warmth of friendship and never dying hope.

Everyone has left the neighborhood, leaving only Noor, his family, a neighbor lady and a dog. When the neighbor finally takes off in a cab herself, Noor's last possible friend is the dog, but the dog immediately tries to chase after the cab and gets lost. Noor does his best to find his last friend and discovers quite a bit along the way.

While the tale doesn't state exactly why everyone has left the neighborhood, the illustrations and scenes allow the war tattered buildings and rubble to build their own subtle tale. (Would a cab still visit such a place, I wonder). This background only becomes clear as the story progresses, leaving the reader/listener to wonder what's happening as it settles in. On one hand, I found it distracting because this 'why' question takes up so much thought space that it was hard to stay centered on Noor's search and small adventures, but on the other hand, it's a gentle way to really let the situation sink in. I did have to read the book twice in order to let the full atmosphere hit. So, I'm undecided on this front.

The story of Noor and his search for the dog, Bobby, is masterfully done. The text works its magic with little said and, yet, enough to make the scenes sit. Noor wanders through the neighborhood, meeting various animals, which need help. It's touching and offers tons of hope as he spreads kindness. Especially the end will leave a smile. It's a positive tale, on this front, which marks the warmth of friendship and does show that good always exists.

The illustrations are well done and, as said before, let the truth behind the tale unfold. In a scene or two, there are shadows of the missing children/people shown to make the loss tangible. The war scenes are subtle, but do show bullet holes, broken windows and such. It hits with enough reality to bring across what happened without being overwhelming. 

This is a well done tale, which shines with hope and friendship. Noor's family is never shown and only mentioned with one word in the beginning, which I found a bit dark since it left the reader feeling as if Noor were truly alone for the rest of the read...many younger listeners will have trouble because of this. Even the war idea, while well done, will have to be brought across with care. And yet, this story touches the heart and does open the eyes. This just isn't a book meant for every reader in the intended age group and, while meaningful, will have to be brought over with consideration and explanation.





And here they are...

Praline Gay-Para is a French-Lebanese storyteller, author, and actress. She’s written numerous books for children and adults often based on her reflections about traditional folktales and life stories from Lebanon. In addition to her work as a writer and translator, Praline also collaborates with the theater company Pavé Volubile to produce plays and live performances. She currently lives in Paris.


Lauranne Quentric is an illustrator based in Brittany, France. She has illustrated dozens of children's books and also creates intricate marionettes and sculptures for children’s theater events. Her work has been featured in exhibitions of children’s book illustrations across France.



Sneak Peek: Maddie Bloom and the Fae Academy by Emily Jenkins with Giveaway!

 


Maddie Bloom & the Fae Academy
by Emily Jenkins
June 21st 2022
YA Paranormal







 

Welcome to Fae Academy, where if the Sluagh Sidhe lurking in the woods doesn’t get you, the homework just might…

Maddie Bloom is dreading sophomore year. Not only is her mom’s mysterious illness getting worse, but it’s also a brand-new year of her longtime bully to look forward to. Because who doesn’t love getting swirlies in the newly renovated girls’ bathroom? But then the accident happens. The one where she’s escaping said bully and accidentally summons a magical portal that drops her right into the foyer of a literal castle.

That’s when the big reveals start…

  1. Faeries exist.
  2. Maddie is half-fae. Which is how she ended up in Figstern’s Academy for Excellence, aka Fae Academy.
  3. And Maddie’s uncontrolled magic? It’s slowly poisoning her mom.

When she’s given the chance to stay and learn to control her gifts to save her mom, the choice is clear. But Maddie’s not exactly welcome at Fae Academy. Bullies exist even in the magical world, and don’t get her started on the vindictive hobgoblin or the disgraced prince of the Autumn Court.

Still, not all is what it seems at Fae Academy. And the more Maddie digs, the more secrets she uncovers. Secrets that could threaten her life, her mother’s life, and the future of the fae world itself.

Goodreads / Amazon


SNEAK PEEK

I flipped onto my back, spitting mulch from my mouth. I was seconds from pushing myself into a sitting position when the ground vibrated beneath me, courtesy of Sam’s rapidly approaching footsteps. Her bloodlust rippled through the air; that’s how excited she was to have me where she wanted me.

Get up! My inner voice yelled at me.

I listened, but instantly regretted it. Sharp pain shot through my torso from the impact of the fall, and my stomach lurched as Samantha leered down at me. She was way too close for comfort – to where I could distinguish freckles from blemishes.

I swallowed, heat rising to my face. I had a feeling my life was about to flash before my eyes.

But before I could reflect on the short, uneventful fifteen years that I’d walked this Earth, I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye.

I turned my head sideways, and a strange warmth spread over my body, engulfing me from head to toe.

To my left, the air was… shimmering.

I blinked. Once, twice, a third time, but it was still there. A twinkling, transparent curtain swaying in mid-air and luring me in. Calling for me. I’m not exaggerating, either.

I swear it was chanting my name repeatedly.

Meanwhile, in front of me, Sam was preparing to pounce like a predator.

Without thinking, without understanding what was going on, I dodged, rolling toward the strange, glistening air to my left. And somehow, the space swallowed me whole, swooping me out of the playground and away from Sam’s clutches just as she reached out to make good on her promise to make me pay for forcing her to run.

I caught one last glimpse of her stunned face.

And then she disappeared from my view.

Or was it me who disappeared?

Whatever the case, the world as I, Maddie Bloom, knew it, was gone.



And here she is...


Hi, my name is Emily Jenkins. I'm a high school student and wrestle, and I also happen to be the USA National East Coast Jr Teen! After writing a children's book about bullying in 2020 (Wrestling Girl Takes Down Bullies), I was inspired to keep creating stories—which is how the Maddie Bloom series was born.

In my free time, I love collecting socks, cooking, and sewing clothes for my dog.

He tears them up. It sort of breaks my heart. I sew more.

Yep, it's a vicious cycle. :D

Wanna keep up with my updates?

Sign up for my newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/h3oXtL


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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Mouse by N. Scott Stedman

 Today's read was a surprise in so far that I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it is. Yep, this one is going onto my Favorite for 2022 list (that list has been growing lately, hasn't it?). I wasn't sure whether to mark this one as science fiction, mystery, or a thriller because it adds everything to the mix. But let's just get on with it before I babble out my entire review right here.



MOUSE
by N. Scott Stedman
River Grove Books
Tween Science Fiction / Mystery 
302 pages
ages 12 and up














“There aren’t many coders like that, not that I’ve ever met. You just might find that the mouse is really a lion, and even worse, that the lion has your head in her mouth.”

TWELVE-YEAR-OLD MOUSE GAMMA has spent her entire life struggling to communicate. She’s never understood how to stop the bullies and negligent foster parents without causing more trouble than it’s worth. That is until she discovers the magic of code—a language that’s more powerful than anything she’s ever imagined.

To everyone’s surprise, Mouse is anonymously chosen to attend the prestigious Rickum Academy—an incubator for the brightest and most promising young minds in tech. Her excitement is short-lived as the mystery of how she ended up at Rickum very quickly unravels around her, threatening the safety of her new life and the innocent lives of those around her. With the help of her new friends, Ada and Boone, Mouse is in a race against her classmates, her teachers, and the most powerful man in tech to not only uncover the truth about who she is, but who she is not.


GOODREADS   /    AMAZON   /   B&N   /   INDIE BOUND


MY TIDBITS

Get ready for a high-speed dive into the world of high-tech, coding, and hackers as this novel holds tension high, weaves in mystery, and places a genius girl right in the middle.

Mouse has bounced from one foster home to the next since she was born and can never figure out how she always catches the blame. Using her talents to search up information about her birth parents, she's caught hacking into one of the biggest corporation's systems, but instead of heading right back to juvie, she's enrolled in an elite, wealthy school for coders and everything high-tech. But she's not the only one confused at her odd luck, especially since a much-feared hacker has just escaped prison and is rumored to bring about a type of end of the world. Suspected to be a pawn in the villain's game, some have their eyes on her, but that's not her biggest problem. As fellow students are attacked and suspicions rise, Mouse needs to figure out who she is and who she wants to be.

This novel caught me by surprise. Not only did it hold the tension and high-tech mystery the blurb promises, but it does it in a very-well woven fashion. Mouse might seem as a bit cliche, an orphan wanting to know more about her birth parents and struggling to get through life, but she's so much more. Her talents in coding make her a genius, and yet, that's the only place she feels comfortable. Otherwise, she comes across as a little, lost 'mouse', not nearly as evil as those around her want to paint her and actually as normal as any other kid. While she's harsh to others, this quickly melts away as friendships build. It creates a wonderful character arc, which is understandable and easy to identify with.

The high-tech is simply neat. It was a treat to get lost in the world, where there's quite a bit of reality topped off with a frosting of fantasy. The two blur in a delightful way, making an intriguing world. The details are well laid and given just enough foundation to make them come to life without growing boring. The plot is very well woven, keeping the pacing high with enough mystery to make it hard to put down. There are always surprises, and even sub-plots create an engaging mix. The only thing I can criticize a tiny bit is some of the character reactions/interactions, but these teeny jolts were far and few between. 

This is one of the more original and exciting reads I've picked up this year, and I can recommend it not only to upper middle graders (ages 10 and up) but to teens and even some adults.


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, American Desi by Jyoti Rajan Gopal!

Today's read was a surprise even for me. It just popped up in my box, yesterday. Now, usually that would mean a 2-3 month wait (if I think it's something my readers might like), but the original book I wanted to read today still isn't available (publishing was pushed back a few months). See, that's how the book world rumbles and tumbles and stays so unpredictable.

Which is fine because what's better than a colorful surprise, and this one promises to be that. 




AMERICAN DESI
by Jyoti Rajan Gopal
Illustrated by Supriya Kelkar
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
40 pages 
ages 4 to 8


For fans of Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, this poetic story filled with expressive art empowers South Asian children living in the United States and celebrates being bicultural.

Pavadais in bright gold colors
Jersey shirts and faded jeans
Swapping, changing, feeling seen...
Which is the color of me?


A young girl longs to know where she fits in: Is she American? Or is she Indian? Does she have to pick or can she be both? With bright, joyful rhyme, and paired with an immersive art style using American and Indian fabrics, American Desi celebrates the experiences of young children growing up first and second generation Indian American: straddling the two cultural worlds they belong to, embracing all they love of both worlds and refusing to be limited by either.

This story is a powerful tribute to the joy of being South Asian and for every reader who aspires to bridge their worlds with grace, grit, and confidence.


GOODREADS    /    BOOK DEPOSITORY    /   B&N    /   AMAZON


MY TIDBITS

Colors explode in an exciting dance through texture, possibility, and all those things, which make us who we are.

This book is a celebration of variety: cultural, heritage, and much more. It takes an American girl, whose family stemmed from India. Since the two cultures can be very different, she swings through a world of variety to show all the wonderful things, which make her who she is...and that is good.

The energy and positivity swell from every page as a girl dances, hops, and skips from one artistic background to the other. The illustrations make this a whirlwind with whimsical flair as a color is presented in every scene before morphing into a little more detailed atmosphere with different foods, languages and such. The artist has added a huge variety of textures, which really makes each page shine. Sometimes, there's a touch of humor, too, but always a cheerful feeling.  It's really a feel-good book with a positive message

The text flows with a musical flair, drawing in and inviting to the same fun. It's written in flowing rhyme and always ends with a phrase similar to 'The colors of me.' It's catchy and ties everything up nicely.

This is also a lovely way to touch upon the topic of being multi-cultural. While these pages swing toward the South-Asian culture (which is a bonus and lovely aspect all in itself), the same thoughts apply to other mixes just with different details. Thanks to the more indirect manner used in these pages, applying it to all mixes really isn't difficult. But then, it even can be tied to those, who aren't multi-cultured in the traditional sense, since this 'different colors of me' aspect can apply in so many ways.

This is a up-beat read, which works great in a group or single setting, inspires, and offers tons of self-confidence.



And here they are...

Jyoti Rajan Gopal is a kindergarten teacher, writer, and mom who loves taking any opportunity to break out her Bollywood moves and hip-hop grooves. She grew up in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, and China and now lives in New York City, so she knows what it feels like to be caught between multiple cultures. She chooses to embrace all her wondrous colors! This is her debut children’s book.
 
Supriya Kelkar grew up in the Midwest, where she learned Hindi as a child by watching three Hindi movies a week. Supriya is a screenwriter who has worked on the writing teams for several Hindi films and one Hollywood feature. She is the author of Bindu’s BindisAmerican as Paneer Pie; and Strong as FireFierce as Flame, among others. This is her debut illustrated book. She invites you to visit her online at http://www.supriyakelkar.com.


Sneak Peek: The Starburst Effect by Kelly Oram with Giveaway!

 


THE STARBURST EFFECT

by Kelly Oram
June 20th 2022
YA Contemporary / Romance









Lily Rosemont lives next door to the biggest jerk in high school. Noah Trask has bullied Lily for years, and now he’s ruined her senior year by making her a target and turning the whole school against her. On top of that, her parents are getting divorced, and her world is falling apart around her.

After an accident on the football field leaves Noah with a traumatic brain injury, shattering his life as he knew it and leaving him with a whole heap of new disabilities, he’s no longer at the top of the high school food chain. In fact, he’s right down at the bottom with Lily.

In a cruel twist of fate, if Noah wants to graduate high school on time, he needs Lily’s help to complete a project—a book he wants to write about his experience. Lily’s not sure she can put aside her anger and hate for the boy who destroyed her senior year, but she desperately needs this project to get a scholarship to college.

It doesn’t take long for Lily to realize that the Noah who got injured is not the same Noah who survived the accident. He’s different. Way different. Slowly, Lily softens to this new Noah, but can she find it in her heart to forgive him? Can the two most unlikely people find friendship in adversity and help each other pick up the pieces of their broken lives?

Goodreads / Amazon


SNEAK PEEK

Authors Note: Noah suffers from a Traumatic Brain Injury which effects a lot of his speech abilities. He often mixes up words or can’t get them out correctly. If you see a wrong word in his dialogue, it’s not a typo, I promise. You’ll have to read the book to see how it all comes together!

Noah falls to his bed, lies back, and puts his hands behind his head, looking up at the faded glow-in-the-dark stars that have probably been on his ceiling since he was a little boy. “I like music,” he admits. “Can’t really follow lyrics anymore, but…” He struggles for a moment, then sighs.

“But you can still enjoy the music?” I guess.

“Yeah.”

There’s a hint of melancholy in his voice that makes me sad. How many things in his life have been affected, or even taken from him, because of his injury? His inability to follow a fast conversation or stay focused for long periods of time must make him miss out on so much.

Wanting to take his mind off of whatever’s got him down, I cross the room and push his arm, forcing him to make room for me on the bed. He scoots over, and it feels natural to lie down beside him as if we’re just two friends hanging out for the millionth time. “What else do you do?” I ask, staring up at the stars with him. “What are your hobbies now, besides listening to awesome music?”

He opens his mouth, then shuts it again. His brow furrows. Whatever he wants to say, he can’t come up with the answer. “I can’t remember the name,” he says with a grunt of frustration.

He leans up and reaches over me to grab a TV remote off his nightstand. My breath catches. I don’t think he meant to practically lay on top of me, but my body seems to come alive from his nearness. And have I mentioned before how good he smells? I need to find out what cologne he uses and then spray my pillow with it or something.

Oblivious to the chaos he’s just put my body through, he sits back, placing his pillow up against the headboard. I sit up with him, attempting to get my heart rate back to normal, while he finds whatever it is he’s looking for. Once the TV and a Netflix menu comes up, things seem to click back in place for Noah. “There it is.” He finds what he’s looking for in his Continue Watching list.

I grin at the show he pulls up. “You watch Bob Ross?”

He acts offended by the teasing tone in my voice. “Bob Rock is cool.”

I hold my hands up. “I don’t disagree. I just didn’t figure you for the type.”

He shrugs. “I like art. Plus, he talks slow enough, and it’s not over…over…”

“Overstimulating?”

“Yeah. Doesn’t hurt my head.”

It makes sense. Bob Ross is very slow and soothing. I’m sure it’s one of the few shows he can follow fairly well. He clicks on an episode and leaves the show on mute. For a minute, we watch Bob Ross paint the beginnings of a mountain landscape while The Mad Hatters jam out softly in the room. It’s nice. “You ever painted along with him?” I ask, pointing at the screen. “I’ve always wanted to try it. I bet you could follow along. Or at least you could pause and rewind as much as you needed.”

His eyebrows climb his forehead. He watches the screen, and after a few seconds, nods his head. “Maybe.”

“Could be fun.”

He perks up the tiniest bit, and there’s a touch of excitement in his voice when he says, “Let’s tire it. My mom will get us the…the…” He mimes painting. “She always wants me to try new things.”

“Sounds good. You, me, and Bob Ross.”

Noah nudges my shoulder with his. “Next weekend. It’s a date.”

I smile to myself. Painting with Noah sounds fun. I could play it off as a “friends” thing, but something stops me. Taking a breath, I force myself to take a chance on something that might be strange but could also be amazing. “It’s a date,” I agree.



And here she is...


Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen--a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which her family and friends still tease her. She's obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and likes to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and four children.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Spellbound by Jess Townes!

The moment I saw today's read, I had to take a peek...and the blurb more than catches the attention, too. Magic plays with the cover, and the little girl's expression tells so much. Add that baby pinning down her cape, and this was one I really didn't want to skip over.

(Especially since it's the perfect distraction from the hot, sweaty job of wood splitting I've been up to lately...perfect excuse to sit by the air conditioner!)

Ready for some magic? 



SPELLBOUND
an enchanting new arrival
by Jess Townes
Illustrated by Jennifer Harney
Union Square Kids
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

A funny, fresh twist on new-sibling relationships and the magic of love.       
Willow's world is perfectly magical, until Rowan is born. When her new baby brother seems to enchant everyone he meets, Willow becomes convinced he is an actual, real-life wizard. Can Willow put a stop to his hocus pocus, or is Rowan's magic too powerful to resist?
 
Author Jess Townes brings fresh and expressive writing that's sure to appeal to young children, while illustrator Jenn Harney's unique and colorful art style brings this wonderful, whimsical story to life.

GOODREADS   /   AMAZON   /   B&N   /   BOOK DEPOSITORY


MY TIDBITS

Magic and imagination sparkle and shine in a cute tale about new siblings, mesmerization, and a little sharing, too.

Willow lives with magic surrounding her at all times, and her family loves to watch her create one spell after the other. Everything is wonderful until the new, baby brother arrives. He's cute and sweet...and, obviously, an evil wizard. No one notices Willow anymore, but she refuses to fall prey to his magic and give in.

This tale dances on the edge of a child's rich world of imagination and reality, making the lines wonderfully blurred enough to let fantasy play its magic. Willow is a bundle of cheer and energy as the wisps of her spells and charms swirl around her. It's fun to get caught up in her antics as she jumps from one amazing spell to the next to gain recognition from her family...until they don't notice her thanks to the new baby brother. The disappointment hits with a little confusion and subtly builds in a way readers/listeners can sympathize with and understand. 

The illustrations are colorful, natural, and give realistic details, while still allowing the magic to meld right in. As Willow's troubles grow, so does the magical, purple swirl of her brother's, until her yellow magic is almost gone from the scenes. It plays right along with the text, which flows as smoothly as the spells, and creates scenes, which will be hearing the words 'again' more than once.

There tons of family love (even the grandma gets involved) and positivity. When the jealousy rises, there's never malice...just stubbornness, which readers/listeners are sure to recognize. The end is quick (very quick), tidy, and a heart-filled moment, which demands a smile. 

While this book, obviously, hits readers/listeners with young siblings spot on, it's a fun tale, which will have even those without rolling in its spell.


And here they are...

JESS TOWNES is a children’s author living in Missouri with her wildly creative family, a sixty-pound lap dog, and two curious black cats. In her former work as a doula and lactation counselor, Jess was privileged to bear regular witness to the magic a new baby brings. You can find her online at jesstownes.com.

JENN HARNEY is the illustrator of Spellbound. She also illustrated the picture book How to Become a Knight by Todd Tarpley (Sterling). Jenn lives in Cleveland, Ohio, with her family, a dog named Steve and the ghost of the oldest living goldfish in North America. You can find her online at jkharney.blogspot.com, Twitter, and Instagram.


Mommy and Daddy's Day: The Right Kind of Unexpected by Rayna York with Giveaway!

 Every now and then, I have a book for all of those mothers and fathers out there because parents like to read too. Since Summer is basically here, I thought a tiny touch of romance might be a great inspiration for some relaxation!



The Right Kind of Unexpected
by Rayna York
June 18th 2022
NA Contemporary /  Romance









 

Tess hasn’t experienced many kindnesses in her eighteen years. When her boyfriend abandons her at a small-town gas station, it’s just one more crappy event to add to the pile. Without a car, money, or cell phone, her options are limited, and calling her parents isn’t one of them. So when the family that owns the business throws her a lifeline, she grabs hold. Because even the worst situations can have a silver lining, and this one is a town called Jasper Creek, a diner everyone calls Earl’s, and a young mechanic named Colten Reed.

Rayna York’s standalone novel gives readers the small-town romance they crave with enough feels to make the heart sing. It’s the perfect feel-good, summer romance.

Goodreads / Amazon


SNEAK PEEK

I rush to the bathroom at the side of the building and lock the door behind me. I can’t deal with this anymore. I grip the sides of the pedestal sink and drop my head, breathing deep. In, out, in, out, fighting for calm.

Why? Why did I think this was a good idea?

Three days ago, Dax and I were on our way to a gallery opening when I mentioned I’d never been to Disney World. He said he hadn’t either. I commented on how it would be fun to jump in the car and go. High school graduation was over, my parents were in Europe, I didn’t have any plans for the summer, so the next afternoon we were on the road.

Bad idea.

Horrible.

The worst.

I lift my sunglasses to the top of my head and startle at the red-rimmed, brown-eyed zombie staring back at me. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since we left, and I forgot to take my makeup off last night, then Dax was in such a hurry this morning.

Maybe our relationship was always a mess. I don’t know. We’ve only been together for six months. In New York, Dax and I got along great. There were parties, restaurants, people, and places to fill our time. Now, without the distractions and being stuck together in mostly confined spaces, I realize we don’t have as much in common as I thought. But it’s more than that. He needs to be right about everything and nags me until I concede to his views. I never noticed him doing that before. There are a lot of things I didn’t notice before.

I use a little soap and water on a paper towel and clean the black smears from around my eyes. It cleans the makeup off perfectly, but the dark circles and puffiness remain. I slide a hair elastic from around my wrist and pull my brown mop of humid-induced frizz into a messy bun.

With a deep sigh, I slide my glasses back over my eyes and push the door open into the bright sunlight. I take in the beautiful field dotted with wildflowers behind the gas station, then close my eyes and lift my face to the sun, disregarding the intensity on my pale skin. I breathe in the fragrant smell of green that only a sweltering heat can produce.

It’s time to put an end to this impromptu adventure. It ceased being fun after the first five hours. And it’s my car, my time, my money. With renewed strength, I turn on my heels, ready to confront Dax and get my car keys back. I’m heading home with or without my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend. I can drop him off at a bus station if he wants to continue the trip.

I round the corner of the building. Wait, what? Where is it?

I walk to the two ancient gas pumps and turn in a circle, taking in the white building with peeling paint, and everything else in the three-hundred-and-sixty-degree radius, but the car is nowhere in sight. I walk to the other side of the building, thinking he might have parked in a different location while getting something from inside, but the car isn’t there either.


And here she is...


Rayna York grew up with hippie parents that liked to adventure. Where change was the norm, books were her constant—a way to escape. As an adult, many careers came and went, but writing has always been her passion. Everything I knew to be true is her first published novel.

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