Sunday, July 31, 2022

What's Coming in August?

Oh wow! It's already August, and I'm not sure where the summer went. School starts up again this month, which means getting up early again. But I do enjoy all times of year, so I'm not really complaining *yawn*. Nope, not one little bit.

When I set up this post, I was surprised at what books are lined up for this month.

"Surprised? But you choose your books and set up the schedule," you're probably saying. And you're right. I do. But I'm a bit all over the place, most of the time (scattered-brained, perhaps), and while I get excited when discovering the books, I kind of forget what I did. And for when. I tend to have the memory of a sieve. 

So, I was surprised to discover that this month holds tons of girl-power, especially during the first weeks. I also have more non-fiction for ages 4 to 12 than usual. There are some interesting young adult reads, too.

Anyway, take a peek and remember, this is only a glimpse at the goodness to come. I don't even have all of my 'most anticipated' on here, since I try to keep a pretty even balance of genres and audience levels. Nothing better than a huge range of possibilities!

So, off we go! 


Revisiting fifteen myths from around the world, this one promises inspiration for young girls. Plus, the illustrations are suppose to be amazing! I can't wait to take a peek into this one and, hopefully, even learn about a few myths I hadn't heard before. Check it out with me on the 2nd.

Middle Grade Myths and Fairytales


With advice from a professional ballerina, young readers can learn the basics of ballet. Not only does it promise lots of fun with a pinch of humor and insight, but there's a cute kitty accompanying every step, too. I was curious to see how this one is done...and I know so many little girls, who would love to learn ballet. Find out more with me on the 3rd.

Children's Non-Fiction


This is the first in a brand new, five-book series. Yep, I'm actually starting a series at the beginning! This one promises chills, thrills, haunting tales, school drama and tons of fun with five characters. I'm thinking it'd be the perfect read for Halloween (a wee-bit early, but that's fine). Check it out with me on the 8th.

Middle Grade Paranormal


First off, isn't this cover amazing? As you know, that's enough reason for me to pick this read up and take a peek. Luckily, it sounds like an amazing read, too. There's a secret diary, tales of an impossible castle, parallel worlds, magic, witches... I just need to stop and dream. Find out if it's everything I hope it to be on the 15th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


I tend to forget packing in enough romance for teens, so when I read the blurb on this one, I knew I needed to include it on my pile. It's about a girl, whose family runs a funeral home...which just happens to be haunted. Throw in all sorts of boy confusion and a bit of tension, and this might just be a fun read. Check it out with me on the 17th.

Young Adult Paranormal Romance


Friendship and cute animals come together in these pages, and that is sure to guarantee cuteness over-flow. The illustrator has already produced a few lovely reads, so I'm thinking that this one will be a treat as well. Find out with me on the 18th.

Picture Book


Since COVID, I've become a thrilled-homeschooling mom. So, books like these definitely catch my interest...even though mine is past this stage. With games and activities, this one also dives into a bit of the history of great mathematicians. I'm looking forward to seeing the fun in this one. Join me on the 21st to find out more.

Children's Non-Fiction


Believe it or not, Halloween is slowly sneaking in...or at least, going to. Since I also just happen to be a fan of 'flap' books, I decided to give this one a go. It's for our youngest readers out there and promises not to pack to many scares but quite a bit of fun. Flip and flap with me on the 24th!

Board Book


It's science fiction time! I found this one a bit original—twelve teens are given $12 million each, and sent to live in a biodome built over an abandoned suburb for 12 months with only starting snacks and their cash (which is useless until they leave). I'm expecting a bit of the Hunger Games vibe. Kind of? We'll find out on the 27th.

Young Adult Science Fiction


What's more fun than getting hands on when it comes to science? Well, there might be a few things, but I know all sorts of young readers, who enjoy experiments. This book tackles the theme of electricity and promises all sorts of easy to do projects, which will expand the understanding of all the electric things around us. Learn more on the 30th.

Middle Grade Non-Fiction

So many books, and so little time. Since my TBR-pile towers higher than I am tall, and I hate to let a good read slide through my fingers, every month, there's one book on my 'joker' list, which I promise I'll get to during the month. I can't say exactly when, but since things in the publishing world tend to be pretty volatile, I have no doubt I'll be able to squeeze it in somewhere...somehow...sometime.


Does this title sound somewhat familiar to you? Well, that's not surprising! This is the upcoming prequel to the best-selling book, The Murderer's Ape.
Sally Jones' tale finally hits the light of day as this adventure follows her trip around the world before she ended up in the first book. To make things even better, this is a graphic novel and promises tons of surprises. I'm looking forward to diving into this one and will do it on the....  Ha! I don't even know!

Young Adult Fantasy   /   Graphic Novel

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Today's read... Alliana, Girl of the Dragons by Julie Abe

 Isn't the cover on today's read an invitation to fantastical dreams? Okay, maybe riding on the back of a dragon would be a little more than I'd be up for...well, unless I knew for certain that it was a friendly dragon. Maybe, you're more daring?

Anyway, the cover already drew my attention to this one. Add that it's a Cinderella retelling...of sorts...and I was definitely curious. This one comes out in just a few days, so if it catches your attention, you won't have to wait long to get your hands on a copy.

Ready to soar above the clouds?

by Julie Abe
Contributions by Shan Jiang
Little Brown Books
Middle Grade Fantasy
336 pages
ages 8 to 12

AUGUST 2nd!!!

Once upon a time, Alliana believed in dreams and fairy tales as sweet as spun-sugar clouds. Alliana wished on shooting stars, sure that someday she and her grandmother would be able to travel to the capital city to see the queen. Then her grandmother passed away—and those dreams disappeared in a disenchanted puff.

Now Alliana’s forced to attend to the whims of her wicked stepmother—with long days of cleaning her stepfamily’s inn as her skin burns raw or staying up until the crack of dawn to embroider her stepsister’s ball gowns. Until she meets two beings who change her life forever—the first is a young nightdragon who Alliana discovers she can magically talk to. And the second is Nela, a young witch.

Nela needs Alliana’s help navigating the mysterious abyss, filled with dangerous beasts, a place Alliana knows by heart. Alliana sees Nela’s request as a chance to break free of her stepmother’s shadow and to seize a chance at a life she’s barely dared to hope for—but there’s a risk. If caught, Alliana will be stuck working for her stepmother for the rest of her life. Can Alliana truly make wisps of dreams into her own, better-than-a-fairy-tale happily ever after?

Inspired by the Japanese Cinderella story and set in the same world as the Eva Evergreen series, this story can be read as a standalone.



With warm friendships, dreams of the world beyond, and a touch of magic, this nod toward Cinderella takes a twist all of its own and invites to a wonderful, fantasy world.

Alliana works at the inn of her step-mother, trying to repay an impossible debt after her birth parents have both passed away. She dreams of traveling beyond her small town to a place where witches and wizards train...not that she has an ounce of magic. When a herb-gathering outing takes her to the edge of the dangerous rift, beyond whose shield dangerous creatures live, she rescues a baby dragon. Amazingly, she can hear its thoughts. But then, she always has seemed to have a special way with animals. Others have noticed this, too, but Alliana never guessed it would bring a real witch to her doorstep. And she never guessed the witch would want her help to fulfill an important task. But to do so would mean leaving the inn and the evil step-mother, betraying the written wishes in the will of the only person Alliana adored. Plus, her debt needs to be paid, or she'll never truly be free.

While taking on a bit of the Cinderella tale, this story goes beyond that border and reaches in new directions, which don't require the Cinderella constraints at all. Still, there's a sweetness in seeing the parallels with Cinderella as Alliana works for her step-mother and struggles to go beyond her borders (many actually self-constructed). She's kind-hearted, sympathetic, and it's hard not to pity her situation, although the reader might not agree that she shouldn't just pack up and run away. When she does, finally, begin to head into adventure, she's a heroine to root for.

Friendships are a shining light as Alliana first has a relationship with her 'grandmother' and a baker's son, before developing one with the witch and more. The author knows how to build these and pack each relationship with the right amount of emotion and heart. The villains, on the other hand, were nasty and dislikable, and stand as a nice opposites to the friendships. Other characters, however, didn't get the same depth and felt more superficial as they weaved in and out of the plot.

While the world and story are very well done and kept me in the pages until the very end, I did expect a bit more magic and...well, dragons. While the dragons are there, they run as a lighter side-plot, which works fine and creates a wonderful read, too. A reader just shouldn't go into this one with the same dragon expectations, which are held in other, currently popular reads for this age group. Even the magic takes a lighter role than I expected, but it is a fun one, which adds a wonderful, whimsical touch. And let's not forget the pastries because those alone are like a dream, making the reader wish they could have a bite. 

Summed up, this is a well done read, which holds the reader the entire way through. There's much to enjoy, and the tale flows more than smoothly...probably smoother than a true ride on a flying dragon would ever be. I do recommend it to fantasy fans and found it to be a lovely read.

And here she is...

Julie Abe has lived in Silicon Valley, spent many humid summers in Japan, and currently basks in the sunshine of Southern California with never enough books or tea, where she creates stories about magical adventures. Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch is her debut novel, of which Kirkus said in a starred review: “Bewitching… a must-read for fantasy lovers.” Julie is also the author of Eva Evergreen and the Cursed Witch and Alliana, Girl of Dragons. Visit her online at

Friday, July 29, 2022

Today's read... On My Papa's Shoulders by Niki Daly

 I'm doing a very small, schedule flip-flop and pulling tomorrow's read forward to today because I haven't gotten quite done reading the read, which was suppose to be presented today (and shhhh... I'm already going to admit that (now) tomorrow's read is a goodie).

Today's read greats from South Africa and a prize winning author, Niki Daly. I just loved the cover with a father bouncing his son along on his shoulders. I remember how excited our own children were when they had the chance to ride up there. 

So off we go!

by Niki Daly
Catalyst Press
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

From award winning children’s writer Niki Daly, author and illustrator of the Lolo early reader series

This little boy loves walking to school with his family, but the best days are when he walks with his dad, who lifts his son onto his shoulders and always says goodbye with a special “I love you”.

Whether it’s jumping in puddles with Tata in the rain, greeting the neighborhood cat on the quiet back streets with Gogo, or holding hands with Mama while rushing to make the bell, walking to school with family is the best. But nothing is better than walking to school with Papa. From high above, resting on Papa's shoulders, all of the town is in perfect view, and Papa always says “I love you” when he says goodbye. A sweet ode to fatherhood and the special relationships children share with each member of their family, On My Papa’s Shoulders reminds us that it’s not about where we’re going, but rather the people who walk with us along the way.



Family love comes across as a big, warm hug and leaves a smile.

Every morning this little boy walks to school, and usually it's with his mother, but some days, his Tata or Gogo accompany him (grandparents). On very special days, he gets to ride to school on is Papa's shoulders, and those are the most wonderful of all.

This is actually a very basic story about a very common activity: walking to school. But the author has brought it across with such care that the simplicity disappears, leaving familiar experiences and tons of good feelings. Each of the four family members takes their turn walking the boy to school, and each one holds a different atmosphere and experience. While there are different things they meet along the way (a cat, rain puddles, etc), it's the personality of the various people, which shines through and shows how each one is very special and important in their own way.

The illustrations are done in watercolor and carry a lighter flair. They don't sink in details, but then, hold more than enough for each scene to pull in. They allow the characters to hold their own appearances and give everything a natural appeal. It's hard not to smile as the boy meets his friends, grabs a hand, or walks along side each person.

It's amazing how something so simple can still grab in, and I believe it's the sense of familiarity, security, and warmth that does this. Even those readers, who don't walk to school, will recognize the situations of accompanying their family members somewhere and remember walking along side them. The differences are subtle between each person and, yet, obvious. None are less important than the other...except for the father, but that's due to the rarity. It's a special bond and nod to fathers, especially with the wonderful hints of the boy's attitude to his father on the last pages. 

This is a read to cuddle up with and enjoy, and one that many readers will identify with. It definitely leaves a smile on the face.

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.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Sneak Peek: Unbreakable by Kristin Smith with Giveaway!

 Today's featured book took me back several years to my first years of reviewing books, and one of the first publishing companies I had contact with. Today's author brought out the first book in her now complete Deception Game series, Catalyst. It's also one of the few books, whose plot and characters I still distinctly remember and fondly look back on. I did intend to continue that series whenever the next books came out but lost track of it in my never-ending mountain of reads (happens quite often). So, when I saw that she's brought out the 4th (wow—4th!) book and is wrapping the series up, I had to smile and even sigh a bit. 

Congratulations, Kristin Smith for getting this far! Oh, and she's also written many other books and become a prize-winning author as well as a best seller since those first years. Impressive, right?

by Kristin Smith
The Deception Game, #4
July 26th 2022
YA Dystopian


From best-selling and award-winning author Kristin Smith comes the riveting fourth and final book in the Deception Game series.

A terrible discovery that will change everything.

Armed with valuable information, Sienna and her friends find asylum in the east coast province of Pride. While initially grateful for Pride’s open arms, they begin to question exactly what kind of loyalties its president is after. Sienna must grapple with her new condition, Trey has to figure out how to win a war without losing Sienna, and Zane needs to recreate a gene regeneration therapy to cure Sienna without knowing if he’ll ever win her heart. When they learn Trina survived the Zenith Camp bombing, they also discover she’s been living a nightmare.

In the end, Sienna and her friends must somehow come together and fight a war for a government they aren’t sure they can trust.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo



Ever since we arrived in Old Richmond, President Turner’s team of doctors have done test after test and x-ray after x-ray to determine how severely my spinal cord is damaged. And it’s all led to the same conclusion. It’s damaged beyond repair. Which means I’ll never walk again, at least, not in this life.

Am I angry? Yes. Do I feel sorry for myself? A little. But that’s not what keeps me tethered to this bed. Sadness is a weighted sandbag that drags me down, down, down. All I want to do is sleep.

Day after day, I lie on my back in a bed in a room that’s too posh to be a sick room. I let them check my blood pressure and temperature. I let them empty my catheter. I let them switch out my IV bag. And I don’t complain when they stick me with this needle and that one. For all intents and purposes, I’m alive.

And yet, I’m not.

I lost the two most important people in my life, and I don’t think I’ll ever fully recover. So what that I can’t walk? So what that my life as I knew it is over? So what. So what. So what. My mom and sister are dead. Burned alive.

Death is a plague that has visited my doorstep over and over. No matter where I go, it finds me and the ones I love.

And I’m tired. So very tired. Tired of living. Tired of loving. Tired of caring.

There’s a soft knock on the door, and then Zane sticks his head in. His face lights up when he sees me. “Hey,” he says. “Can I come in?” His gaze travels to Chaz, who is asleep in a chair near the corner of the room. His head sags against his propped-up arm, his chubby cheek squished against his fist. Chaz hasn’t left my side since we got to Old Richmond. My eternal watchdog.

“Trust me,” I say, “nothing short of an explosion can wake him when he’s asleep.”

Zane chuckles at this as he crosses the room and sinks into the chair beside my bed. “How are you holding up?”

“I’ve been better.”

His face is awash in pain. “I’m really sorry, Sienna—”

“It wasn’t your fault, Zane,” I remind him. We’ve been over this again and again, but he still carries the blame. Like he could somehow have avoided the hidden explosive. The thought is absurd.

“It was,” he says, his voice firm. “But I’m going to fix it. I promise.”

“I know you will,” I say. “You can do anything you put your mind to.”

He smiles. “Your confidence in me means everything.”

A loud snore comes from the corner of the room. Zane and I exchange looks. “See?” I say. “Told you.”

When Zane laughs, it feels like a little bit of goodness has returned to the world. His laugh almost elicits a smile from me. Almost.

He reaches for my hand, then takes it in his. His hand is strong, solid, the muscles arching as he squeezes my fingers. “I’ve missed you,” he says, and it’s so sudden and completely unexpected that I’m not sure what to say back.

“I’m right here,” I joke.

“That’s not what I mean.” His eyes connect with mine, and his gaze is so intense I have to look away. “Sienna, I need to know.”

“Need to know what?”

“Is there any hope for me? For us?”

I draw in a sharp breath. I thought I spelled it out pretty well in my bedroom that night in his house before the assassin tried to kill him. Apparently not. I try to say the next words as gently as I can. “I’m with Trey now. I love Trey.”

Pain fills his eyes as his hand slips from mine. “I understand.”

“Zane, I’m sorry—”

“Don’t be. It’s not what I wanted to hear. But it’s what I needed to hear.”

I reach for his hand again, and reluctantly, he gives it to me. Bringing it up to my lips, I kiss the soft spot between his knuckles. “There’s a girl out there for you. One who will love you and appreciate you for the incredible person you are.”

When Zane stares at me, his eyes full of longing, it tears holes in my heart. “I know,” he says. “I just hoped it would be you.”

And here she is...

Kristin Smith is the best-selling and award-winning author of the DECEPTION GAME series. Her first book, CATALYST, is a 2018 IAN Book of the Year Award finalist in the Young Adult category.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, Kristin currently resides in North Carolina with her husband and five sons. To read more about Kristin or her books, please visit her website at

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Today's read... Catch That Pony by S. McMichael

Today's read comes from a series, which centers around a theme so many young readers enjoyed when I was young and still do today—horses and ponies. We do have our own little Shetland on our farm...a little guy, who comes up maybe to my upper-thigh. Anyone who has ponies, knows that those Shetlands can pack attitude. Well, believe it or not, ours doesn't really. Oh, he has a sneaky-bone and has a GPS for opening gates, but he's a sweetheart, otherwise. I'll admit that since the kids are bigger, no one can ride him anymore, but he's also an older fellow at 18 years. But he loves walking with me to our creek and even will let me lay a feed bag or two on his back when I need extra help carrying.

Does my pony run away like the one in today's read seems to? Let's just say that mine has a HUGE weakness for apples and sweet grain. 

Happenstance Farms
by X. McMichael
Illustrated by Justo Borrero

When young Sophia is introduced to her new pony, Piper, things don’t go as smoothly as planned. Could it be that Sophia isn’t the only one who is nervous about new things?

Sophia and her best friend Savanna are at the barn when the trainer, Miss Ellen, presents Sophia with her new pony, Piper. But when Piper pins her ears back and snorts, Sophia knows that the pony isn’t happy and is scared. The two need to get to know each other to build trust. Does Sophia have what it takes to rein in her pony and gain Piper’s trust?


Excitement, frustration, and patience mark these pages in a way, which will have young readers wanting a pony to call their own.

Sophia has a new pony, and she can't wait to spend time with it, but the pony isn't nearly as friendly as she'd hoped. It's scared and doesn't trust Sophia one little bit. Somehow, Sophia is going to have to figure out how to become friends with the pony.

This is a sweet, adorable story, which runs along a simple plot...and that works well. The story centers around patience and realizing that trust takes time, especially when a horse (or even people) are new and don't know anyone else. There's also a nice friendship between Sophia and her best friend, which adds a lovely back-drop to Sophia's forming friendship with her pony. Plus, the two girls are simply a lot of fun.

The illustrations are bright and well done. They bring the scenes to life and make it easy for non-readers to follow the story along on their own by flipping through the pages. 

Horse and pony lovers will enjoy this one quite a bit and get a taste of life on a farm as well as a warming sense of friendship.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, The Elephant Girl by James Patterson and Ellen Banda-Aaku


by James Patterson &
Ellen Banda-Aaku
with Sophia Krevoy
Jimmy Patterson
Middle Grade Contemporary
272 pages

James Patterson and award-winning author Ellen Banda-Aaku deliver an unforgettable story of a girl, an elephant, and their life-changing friendship. 
Clever, sensitive Jama likes elephants better than people. While her classmates gossip—especially about the new boy, Leku—twelve-year-old Jama takes refuge at the watering hole outside her village. There she befriends a baby elephant she names Mbegu, Swahili for seed. 
When Mbegu’s mother, frightened by poachers, stampedes, Jama and Mgebu are blamed for two deaths—one elephant and one human. Now Leku, whose mysterious and imposing father is head ranger at the conservancy, may be their only lifeline.    
Inspired by true events, The Elephant Girl is a moving exploration of the bonds between creatures and the power of belonging.



The love for elephants mixes with natural scenes and the determination of a young girl to draw in with heart and a tad bit of tension.

Twelve-year-old Jama has bigger dreams than the rest of the people in her village...not that she knows exactly what they are. No one except her family members seems to understand her. Her happy spot is watching the elephants at the watering hole, and after time, they seem to like her, too. When she runs across some dark secrets about the local head ranger of the conservancy, she's not sure what to do, but even that turns into a small problem when her own mother is trampled to death by the creatures she most loves, and the village declares revenge.

Except for the end, can I just say I really enjoyed this read? I'm not usually a fan of more serious, dramatic tales with obvious messages, but this one grabbed in the first pages and held me the entire way through. More surprising, it wasn't so much the action (yep, I'm an action girl at heart) but Jama as a character. It's rare that a character drives me through a read and even rarer that I want to now incorporate this one into the reading list for my homeschooled daughter. (I think this is, actually, a first).

This tale flows naturally and introduces Jama with familiarity as it peeks at life in an African village. The town barely has electricity, the villagers are in their own worlds, and it should feel exotic...but it with all of this, there's still enough sense of 'usual' that readers can sink right in. Details and scenes introduce a little of the daily life while keeping it more as a background setting. Because it's Jama and her desire to discover herself, which takes the stage. Even her connection with the elephants isn't over-the-top but gentle and realistic, making it easy to connect to and understand.

There's quite a bit of drama going on around Jama and not the cliche bullying a reader might suspect. She does have some problems with her peers, but this flashes by just enough to make the reader understand letting the entire atmosphere of the village, elders, and life filter in. Her supportive family and her independence make sure the bullying doesn't over-power the main journey of self-discovery. Plus, despite her inability to conform, it's not even a state she pursues. Yet, she's not confident as insecurity and hesitation make her likable and easy to root for. It's a refreshing and healthy mix.

Something is always happening, creating a very nice pacing most of the way through. While there are tense scenes, these never hit a level, which is too much even for the more sensitive end of the age group. I did find that it could have been more, actually. There's a death, which didn't seem as important to Jama as it should have, and the ending promised tension, which never came, as if glazed over. But then, as said above, the entire ending felt dumped in quickly as if to simply round things off. And yet, I still found this read, in general, very good and will close my eyes for the last bit.

I do recommend this one highly (obviously) and am glad I took the journey with Jama.

And here he is...

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author, best known for his many enduring fictional characters and series, including Alex Cross, the Women’s Murder Club, Michael Bennett, Maximum RideMiddle SchoolI Funny, and Jacky Ha-Ha. Patterson’s writing career is characterized by a single mission: to prove to everyone, from children to adults, that there is no such thing as a person who “doesn’t like to read,” only people who haven’t found the right book. He’s given over a million books to schoolkids and over forty million dollars to support education, and endowed over five thousand college scholarships for teachers. He writes full-time and lives in Florida with his family.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Today's read... Child of Etherclaw by Matty Roberts


by Matty Roberts
Twilight Fox LLC
YA Science Fiction
370 pages

AUGUST 2nd!!!

The bonds of family go well beyond blood.
But can those bonds hold when the blood itself carries a devastating secret?

Fenlee’s opal necklace had always radiated a certain warmth since her mother’s death. But now, at sixteen, her world begins to unravel as the stone sparks to life, revealing itself to be an otherworldly artifact of untold power.

Between her mechatronics studies at the academy and scavenging expeditions beneath the sprawling city of New Cascadia, Fenlee and her adopted brother, Elliot, try to decipher the mysteries of her necklace and its link to events in Fenlee’s past.

But they’re not alone in their search.

Strange undercity dwellers offer cryptic warnings, drones track their movements, and deadly corporate agents lurk in the shadows. When tragedy rips Fenlee’s family apart, she must learn to use the artifact’s power to save those who are deeply precious to her. But nothing can prepare her for the dark truths that she will uncover on that journey…

“Lee,” Elliot mumbled. “I’m not who you think I am.”



Strong world building meets high-tension and layer after layer of secrets in this excitingly gritty, scifi read.

Fenlee loves her mechatronic studies and will do anything to make her creations stay above everyone else's. That includes hunting for parts in the off-limits, underground city. With her younger brother, she crawls through dangerous areas and is always careful not to be spotted by the security drones. When one of their runs lands her in trouble, she discovers a woman who bears a very cryptic message about the necklace around her neck. Told that the stone has given her access to certain powers, Fenlee soon learns that she's been left in the dark about many things, and those secrets are about to endanger her and everyone she loves. But even that doesn't prepare her for the biggest secret of all.

From the very first page, the reader dives into a vivid world. The author has done a good job at letting the scenes and surroundings come to life in a way that makes the reader almost feel as if they were there. And that without falling into description word dumps. It was science fiction fun and carried a grimy dark hint, which made it a treat to see what would come next.

The plot is well laid with tiny hints and clues sprinkled throughout. There were more than a few action-packed moments and other times, where emotions came through. It was a good balance on this end, and even had a last turn, which was extremely hard to see coming. There were a few moments, when the information or scenes came too quickly and easily, but these by no means ruined the tale. So, there are quite a few things about this read, which make it more than a little entertaining.

I do recommend this one for science fiction fans, who enjoy rescue action, a hint of the unknown, and a setting, which has all the darkness of a grabbing, dystopian world.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

Today's read... Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin and John Armchambault

 Today's read has been a favorite in the picture book world for over 30 years and is, now, being released in a group-friendly format. I was more than a little curious to see how this works, so, of course, I wanted to take a look.

Teachers, group leaders, or those who just like to read for kids, ready to take a peek?

Storytime Together
by Bill Martin and John Armchambault
Little Simon
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

AUGUST 2nd!!!

The award-winning, perennial classic featuring cheerful art by Caldecott Honor illustrator Lois Ehlert is now available in a brand-new format with spiral binding and cardstock pages for an engaging read-aloud experience.

A told B,
and B told C,
“I’ll meet you at the
top of the coconut tree.”

In this lively alphabet rhyme, all the letters of the alphabet race each other up the coconut tree. Will there be enough room? Oh, no—Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom!

This beloved alphabet chant is now available in a Storytime Together edition, which is designed so the book can be folded in half and easily read aloud to an audience. The text will face the reader and the illustrations will face the audience. The spiral-bound book also comes with a cardstock jacket for convenient shelving and storage. This innovative format is sure to bring a rollickingly fun storytime experience to classrooms, libraries, living rooms, and video calls with family and friends!



Simple but clever, this easy to flip-back format makes reading in front of groups a treat.

Chicka Chicka Boom! Boom! has been republished over and over again since 1989, and rightly so. The story of the alphabet's letters climbing up a coconut tree isn't only original but very entertaining. Plus, there's the added benefit of reinforcing letter recognition. It's fun to get into the rhythm of the words, and I still, as an adult, can't help but smile as the tree bends under the weight. Add that the repeated phrase is addictive and invites kids to join in...and it's no wonder that this one has held on for several decades.

Since this tale makes a great read-a-loud, especially for groups learning their alphabet, this format attempts to make things even easier for the group leader. The book is spiral bound, allowing for the pages to be flipped all the way back, leaving only the main one for listeners to view. While the text is printed on the illustration (as is in the original form), the text is also printed on the other page, so when flipped, the group leader can easily see and read the words, while keeping the illustrated page in full display for the listeners. The listeners can, then, enjoy the illustrations and even read along, at the same time. I enjoyed it, since I no longer had to read upside-down or from the side, while sharing the book.

Because this isn't hardback bound, the book is pretty flexible. The pages are made from a light poster board type of paper, ensuring that they will handle some wear and tear. They are also lightly coated for easier clean-up of slight smudges. 

This is a clever way to make read-a-loud sessions with groups easier for both the reader and listeners. For young hands, the traditional format is more robust and ideal, but this format is a must-have for group settings.

And here they are...

Bill Martin, Jr. (1916–2004) has been called “America’s favorite children’s author.” He wrote more than 300 books for children, including the classic texts Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, illustrated by Eric Carle; and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, illustrated by Lois Ehlert.

John Archambault is a poet, journalist, and storyteller who worked with Bill Martin, Jr. on several projects. He lives in Idyllwild-Pine Cove, California.

Lois Ehlert (1934–2021) created numerous inventive, celebrated, and bestselling picture books, including Chicka Chicka Boom BoomHoley Moley, The Scraps BookMiceTen Little CaterpillarsRRRalphLots of SpotsBoo to You!Leaf ManWaiting for WingsPlanting a RainbowGrowing Vegetable Soup, and Color Zoo, which received a Caldecott Honor. 

Friday, July 22, 2022

Today's read... Shakespeare's Tales Retold for Children by Samantha Newman

 I was very excited to get my hands on today's read...or should I say reads? It's a collection of sixteen of Shakespeare's works, and each one has been rewritten with the lower end of the middle grade audience in mind. Think chapter book level. I'll admit that I found Shakespeare pretty unexciting, when I was in high school...although it was fun listening to my classmates play the words (let's just say that a few of them had an awesome sense of humor). But bringing this all down to a level young readers understand is quite the task. So, of course, I was curious to take a peek and see how this box set pulls that off.

Grab And let's dive into some classics!

Retold for Children
by Samantha Newman
Illustrated by Ceej Rowland
Arcturus Publishing
Middle Grade Classics
1024 pages
ages 7 to 12

JULY 30th!!!

This beautifully illustrated box set brings the Bard's timeless tales to life for a younger generation, with wit and panache. Samantha Newman's cleverly reworked text retains many of Shakespeare's own inimitable turns of phrase, while simplifying and clarifying the language and plots to make stories accessible to children. Perfect for children aged 7+.

Stories include:
- A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Romeo and Juliet
- Comedy of Errors
- Much Ado About Nothing
- Othello
- Macbeth
- The Tempest
- And many more!



With modern, young readers in mind, Shakespeare's works are rewoven and peppered with inviting illustrations, while still remaining true to the original tales.

Shakespeare isn't exactly an easy tackle for modern day teens, let alone middle graders. This collection attempts to take many of Shakespeare's works (sixteen in total), rewrite them, and make them accessible for ages 7 and up. Not only does the author accomplish this, but she does it well.

This collection steers clear from the original play format (something which bothered me, at first, but then, works out nicely) and takes on the usual, story form. The text is easy to read and especially a good fit for the lower half of the intended age group...much like a chapter book. While the scenes stick to the original locations and time frames, the wording is modern and flows smoothly. Descriptions are kept to a minimum, as is usual at this reading level, and anything which would need more explanation, happens in a way which flows right in with the story...and that in very short form. Even the dialogue comes across naturally. And all of it, still keeps to the original tales, just in a simpler and more age appropriate manner.

None of the stories hold new twists or embellishments, and they don't need it. Hamlett still has his ghosts, Romeo still has sword fights, and so on. There are illustrations on every page, which not only break up the text, but also add visual assistance in picturing the characters, events and time period. These are well done and hold a lighter, rounded style, which adds a fun and relaxed, reading atmosphere. It keeps the books from feeling as if the reader is sinking into a classic and lets them enjoy an entertaining story.

Not every reader is going to like every one of these books, but then, not even every Shakespeare fan enjoys every single one, either. This collection opens the broad possibilities of Shakespeare up to young readers in a very approachable way and simply lets them enjoy the stories. And these are stories to enjoy.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Today's read... Beyond the Stars by Doreen Berger

 Today's read is the second book in a series, and believe it or not, I did read the first one when it appeared last year. Since the first one was so original and well done, I couldn't pass on taking a glimpse...okay, really diving into this second adventure. 

It's time to start your engines because we're heading into space and the great beyonds with this read.

The Captain's Daughters
by Doreen D. Berger
Middle Grade Science Fiction
292 pages
ages 9 to 13


Mischievous sisters Diane and Robin are already in trouble with their father, Captain William Marsh, commander of the starship Polaris, for a stunt they just pulled. Their punishment (grounded…again!) is cut short with the arrival of Jannel, a soft-spoken, shy girl roughly their age, and the future ruler of the planet Lasusia. Jannel has been sent to the Polaris for safekeeping from a deadly virus running rampant on her home world. As Diane and Robin learn about their new friend and the problems she faces on her war-torn planet, they vow to help her, even though they understand it means getting deeper into trouble with their father. But they are soon in over their heads, stricken by the virus, and trapped by their father’s mortal enemy. They must use all their instincts and resources to escape before they perish from the virus, along with all hopes of planetary peace.



Wholesome reads are anything but boring, and the adventure in these pages proves it.

Diane and Robin have been sneaking out and are in trouble, again, but their frustration over being grounded ends quickly as they soon are introduced to their father's next mission. In order to save a planet's future, they are to transport the future ruler to another location and keep her safe. The girl is about the same age as Diane and Robin, and they soon warm up to her. When she tells them about her true problems, they promise to do anything they can to help. Not only does this mean they'll be going against their father's rules, but soon, they'll find themselves in more danger than they expected.

While this book, the second in the series, does do a pretty good job of laying enough background to let readers dive in without reading the first, there is still some information missing, which is important to really understand and enjoy the adventure. So, while this can be read as a stand-alone, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it.

This is the only series I've run across, so far, which manages to take the wholesome goodness of gentler reads and bring it into a space adventure, and that while adding just the right amount of tension to keep things more than interesting. Diane and Robin are a great pair of sisters, who don't always get along perfectly but have each other's backs, no matter what. The father, although very busy in his position, adores them and offers them quite a bit of family warmth. The relationships are inspiring, and even when the girls don't always behave (they have a knack for getting into trouble), forgiveness and patience is always waiting.

But this story heads in a unique direction, in that the girls and their father zoom between planets and deal with evil plots and difficult circumstances. (Think the goodness of The Brady Bunch in small version and launched into space excitement). Diane and Robin are always happy to bend the rules, especially when it means helping someone. They have good moral compasses and put their heart into their decisions, even when it means making mistakes...plenty of them. The tension definitely mounts to keep the tale grabbing, and there are more than a few moments, when it's unclear if they're going to make it through. 

This is a great read for those, who love family-friendly tales, but also enjoy the excitement of heading out into space and taking on evil aliens with deadly intrigue. It's an original mix with tons of goodness, which I can recommend.

Sneak a Peek at... On Destiny by Aileen Erin with Giveaway!

On Destiny
by Aileen Erin
Aunare Chronicles, #4
Ink Monster LLC
July 19th 2022
YA Dystopian

The moment I realized I had to go back to Earth, I panicked.

It wasn’t a little bit of panic. It was the kind that sucked the air and light from the room and made my body go cold with sweat and fear. I knew that if I did this, if I went back, then I had a shot of saving everyone—Earthers, Aunare, everyone—but it could cost me everything and everyone I love. And it could cost me my life.

But that moment of panic passed. It was still an insane, stupid, deadly idea, but the more I thought about it, the more I knew going back to Earth was the only plan that made sense.

Lorne agrees that this is the right plan, but he wants to come with me. We’re married now. A team. A unit. Where I go, he goes. It was in our marriage vows. And while I love that, I know that going to Earth will hurt him. He’ll want to see where I lived, how I survived, and seeing, knowing, understanding my past better will only hurt him. And yet, I don’t have a better plan.

There will be no hiding there. Not anymore. Everyone on Earth knows my face.

The vids of what happened on Abaddon and Sel’Ani have played throughout the known universe for months. But seeing those vids opened the Earthers’ eyes. They realized that I’d been fighting for them for years before I left. I’d taught martial arts, patrolled the streets, and helped save as many of them as I could. And now, somehow, my story has inspired Eathers to speak up and act out.

My name has become the rallying cry of the revolution.

Returning to Earth is risky, but nothing in life is without risk. I’m not afraid anymore. All I feel is determination to win. I won’t stop until SpaceTech has been destroyed.

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


Haden cleared his throat. I opened my eyes and made myself watch his face. “Shit has been going down since we talked. They’ve been hunting us, and we’ve been on the run, but every time we hide, they find us. I don’t know how they’re finding us so fast. We’ve lost nearly half the Crew, and no matter what I do or where I go, nothing helps. Nothing stops them. I’m scared about what will happen the next time they find us. I can’t…I can’t end up in an execution arena. Please. I’m scared.”

Suddenly the room was gone and all I could feel was Lorne’s hand tightly gripping mine. I couldn’t breathe because the weight of this news was crushing me until I had no breath left in my body.

This couldn’t be happening. It couldn’t be true. But it was.

And it was my fault.

The Crew had been everything to me. They’d given me a purpose, a life, a family when I had nothing but my mother. We’d been on the streets, close to starving, and I knew my mother was only moments from giving up. The only thing stopping her was me, but even my strength was ending, not because I was giving up but because I didn’t have any food. I’d been slowly starving, we had no money, no job, nowhere to go, no hope of surviving.

But then Jorge saw me and took pity on us. He gave us food, shelter, jobs. He taught me about Earth’s history, how to pilot ships, how to fight SpaceTech, and he never once cared that I was a halfer. All he saw was someone he could help, and boy, did he help me.

I owed him my life.

No. This couldn’t be happening. I couldn’t lose Jorge, the Crew, any of them. I couldn’t let them suffer Jason Murtagh’s revenge. Because that’s what this was. He couldn’t reach me now, so he was going after the people I loved on Earth.

“I should tell you that we did manage to find Ahiga, but he’s hurt and trapped in a building where they thought Declan was being held. Some of his guys are with him—and some of ours, too—but they’re all hurt. Ahiga’s intel was bogus. We’ve since found out that Declan’s in the main building of the SpaceTech HQ here. He was transferred there a few days ago, which explains why we’ve had so many officers swarming in, patrolling the streets. If he’s got any of your secrets, you best consider them spilled. So be careful. They want you, and anyone who ever spoke to you, dead, and so far, they’ve been pretty fucking successful. As usual.”

I tried to think of the key points. We had a location for both Ahiga and Declan. Wherever Haden was, he was safe for now. But the panic was still there—its claws still gripping my heart—because I knew none of them would be safe and alive for long.

“Jorge and I have been doing our best, but we’ve hit the end. We have no more places to run. Nowhere to go. And we’re running out of food. Water will be gone soon, too. I don’t think they can find us where we are right now, but we can’t risk leaving for supplies. We need help or we’re all going to die down here. And I’m not talking just me and your guy Ahiga and Declan. I’m talking all the Crew and the entire resistance because it’s not just us in ABQ that are hurting. We’re hearing the same across the planet.”

My father might’ve fought against me going back, but Lorne wouldn’t. Lorne knew how important they were to me.

My father would have his war in the stars, but mine? Mine would be on Earth’s streets, alleyways, cities.

“We want to help take SpaceTech down, but we can’t do it alone. We’ve tried, and it’s only made them hunt us harder. And I know you’ve been doing some diplomatic shit with the Aunare, but it’s a distraction. You can’t be falling for that shit, babe. They’ve already stolen your allies and while you’re off chasing the dream of getting them back, SpaceTech is murdering the Earther resistance, starting with us. By the time you realize you can’t win back your allies, we’ll all be dead.”

Damn it. I already knew that. Lorne and I learned that the hard way on Telnon. The war lay on the backs of the Aunare, and alone, the Aunare would win it.

Haden leaned closer to the screen. “Please, Amihanna. If you ever cared for any of us, please come home. I’m begging you. We will do anything you say. We will fight how you want us to fight. We will run when you say run. We will do whatever needs doing. But I’m begging you, please come. Now. Right now. Don’t let whatever bullshit happened between us keep you away. I swear. This isn’t a ploy.” He wiped a hand down his face. “We’re in the place where we hid that night. The night when everything went wrong.” He looked down. “Shit. I hope you haven’t forgotten.” There was desperation and defeat in Haden’s voice, and I wanted

to cry.

Of course I hadn’t forgotten.

“Please help us. We have nowhere else to go. This is it. You’re it. You’re all we have. We’re waiting for you.”

The screen went blank, and I closed my eyes.

I was all they had.


If I didn’t go there now, they’d be dead soon.

And here she is...

Aileen Erin is half-Irish, half-Mexican, and 100% nerd–from Star Wars (prequels don’t count) to Star Trek (TNG FTW), she reads Quenya and some Sindarin, and has a severe fascination with the supernatural. Aileen has a BS in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas at Austin, and an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She lives with her husband in Los Angeles, and spends her days doing her favorite things: reading books, creating worlds, and kicking ass.

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