Friday, September 30, 2022

Today's read... Ember Burning by Jennifer Alsever

I'm squeezing in a review today (because my pile is that high and schedule is that tight). Plus, I've been wanting to share this one with you guys for a bit now. Back in...ummm...July! Well, back in July, I reviewed a book by Jennifer Alsever and absolutely loved it. It even hit my possible favorites of the year: Burying Eva Flores. Jennifer offered a peek at some of her other works because she has more than one or two out in the world. So, of course I took her up on the offer and dove into today's novel. Want to see if she's becoming one of my more liked authors...because I think she might be just that.

Oh, and this one does ring with shadows, mystery, and darker tones fitting for the upcoming month, too.

Trinity Forest, Book 1
by Jennifer Alsever
Sawatch Publishing
YA Paranormal
265 pages

Senior year was supposed to be great—that’s what Ember’s friend Maddie promised at the beginning of the year. Instead, Ember Trouvé spends the year drifting in and out of life like a ghost, haunted by her parents’ recent, tragic death.

At home, she pores over her secret obsession: pictures of missing kids— from newspaper articles, from grocery store flyers— that she’s glued inside a spiral notebook. Like her, the people are lost. Like her, she discovers, they had been looking for a way to numb their pain when they disappeared.

When Ember finds herself in Trinity Forest one day, a place locals stay away from at all costs, she befriends a group of teenagers who are out camping. Hanging out with them in the forest tainted with urban legends of witchcraft and strange disappearances, she has more fun than she can remember having. But something isn’t right.

The candy-covered wickedness she finds in Trinity proves to be a great escape, until she discovers she can never go home. Will Ember confront the truth behind her parents’ death, or stay blissfully numb and lose herself to the forest forever?

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON   


Note: This read does hit drug abuse, some violence, and a rape scene

Ember's world has shattered with the death of her parents, and while she's trying to keep things together, it's like swimming upstream against the world. She no longer fits in, but then, her hobby of collecting pictures of officially missing individuals from around the country has always made her a bit different. Suffocated by her grandmother, she takes a chance to turn things 'off' and finds herself in the not-so-great-crowd agreeing to visit the forbidden Trinity forest, an eerie place where people disappear more often than they should. Drawn by something she can't explain, she wanders too far in and discovers a paradise. With a group of people, who enjoy having her around, and finding her every heart's desire delivered to her door, she's tempted to forget the world beyond the forest and stay. But the place holds secrets, and when she does try to leave, she discovers there is no escape.

This is quite the complex read in the sense that it weaves teen problems, battling through the loss of  loved ones, ancient myths, magic, mystery, hard topics, releasing of spirits, and a touch of Hansel and Gretel all together in under 300 pages. So, it packs a fast-paced punch and definitely lays down enough ground for the series. I did find the mystic/magic side very foggy through most of the read, which could have used a bit more clarity, but then, I'm pretty sure this is intentional, since the book ends with revelations in that direction and uses these to catapult into book two. So, everything is nicely flipped on its head, promising a completely new adventure and excitement for the next read, while leaving off in a cliff-hanger. While I'm not usually a fan of cliffhangers, the huge change the plot brings does seem to be best handled by entering an new novel.

When we meet Ember,  she's in a bad place. And that's fully understandable. Her choices aren't always great, but they do make her more realistic. The other characters are mostly fleshed out with personalities to love, hate, and doubt. I did wish to get to know some better, though, like the grandmother. But they add a wide array, which feeds toward the plot well. 

There are more than a few harsh themes in this read. First, Ember's dealing with the loss of both parents. Her attempts to cope hit failure, since there doesn't seem to be really any help, and that drives her need to escape. The drug abuse builds into the plot with purpose and even foreshadows at things to come. The rape is built in with care, hitting as a memory flashback, which is summed up quick and slightly graphic-ish without going overboard. I wasn't a huge fan, but then, it's really a personal thing on that one, since it was also well handled and did work into some character relationships later on (not only the romance, which was refreshing). All of this does form and shape Ember as she heads into the paranormal mystery and danger, and I'm sure, it will hold more meaning as the series continues.

This is a harsher, darker read and packs bite. I do recommend it to darker YA fans, who love to dive into characters and face inner struggles as much as outer ones.

What's Coming in October?

 It's October!!! I don't know why I'm this super-excited about a reading month...well, I actually do! I have such the line-up this time. But I usually don't get THIS excited. October is going to be amazing thanks to tons of mysterious, spooky, and even silly reads. 

*takes big deep breath*

I've always dreamed of having an October schedule like this year's. So, are you ready to get a small peek at the amazing reads coming up this month?


I'm starting the month with a Halloween read for the youngest because I don't know of any age group, which looks more forward to Halloween than the little ones. And oh, the costumes they have! This one is full of doors to flip and open...and we'll visit all of them on the 1st.

Board Book


Lockers carried many spooks during my high school days (mostly other students' rotted lunches), but you never know what's really lurking in those dark hallways. This one is even a choose-your-own-adventure style, which I've always loved. Let's all become detectives and sneak into the classroom after dark on the 4th.

Middle Grade Mystery


"Armed with ten years of receptionist training, mediocre fighting skills, and non-stop self-deprecating sarcasm..." This line in the blurb already had me hooked. A teen, who fell over a cliff to his death has spent 10 years in afterlife pushing paperwork and now, turns demon hunter. Unwillingly. Need I say more? We'll head into this one on the 8th.

Young Adult Paranormal

A family hotel is about to go under in this read, and a boy is determined to stop it. This one promises adventure, friendship, and tons of mystery. I love the cover and the little ghost on the side. And the tree house. Isn't that a neat...if not threatening looking...tree house? It looks like we're heading into the forests of Maine on the 9th to find out more.

Middle Grade Mystery


I reviewed the first book in this series a while back, and now, I'm doing the 2nd! See, wonders never cease. While the MC escaped the parallel world...barely, the closed door calls to her. Of course, she's not stupid enough to open it. But things take a horrible twist, and she might just have to open it again, knowing it means her death. Yep, chills are guaranteed on the 13th!

Young Adult Thriller


Kids love to sketch and draw, and I know mine are still excited to get their hands on books like this one. Plus, it does hold monsters and fits right into my Halloween theme...just cuter than dark beasts. I'm excited to dive into this one and hope your young reader will be inspired right along with mean, kids. Not me as an adult. Right? (We'll sneak in a scribble or two on the 21st).

Middle Grade Nonfiction


Monsterly fun and hits the world of toilet training...and yep, I thought this would work well for the spooky season, too. After all, monsters can be fun as I just showed in the read above. Right? Anyway, this one has received recognition and will be posted on her on the 22nd.

Picture Book


Doesn't the title and cover scream Halloween fun? It drew me in and the blurb had me hooked. Shadows are combing the neighborhood and causing all sorts or mischief and trouble...ones that nobody by Cody can see. I'm ready for a few surprises in this read. Discover them with me on the 23rd.

Middle Grade Paranormal


Classics are considered endless for a reason, and what spooky season can go by without a good mystery from Holmes? To make this especially worth a peek: it's a graphic novel with a bit of traditional flair. I'm going to peer into this one on the 29th.

Upper Middle Grade / Young Adult Mystery


Nonfiction cannot be ignored, and this read promises to discover all of those mysterious places, which have simply gone missing over time. I doubt this has to do with spooks and chills, but I'm still eager to dive into this one and learn all sorts of new things. 
When can you join me to take a glance? Well, that's the mystery!

Children's Nonfiction

I have to smile at this section of my monthly post, since I'm not sure it really makes as much sense to you, the reader, as it does to me. The glimpses I show above are on my in scheduled for those specific days (could be shoved around, but that always causes me scheduling issues). Each and every day of the month (and usually the two or so following) are booked out. I only show you ten of those reads to keep the fun and suspense high. But I even have more books than those! These come in from publishers and writers at the last minute, or are just on my personal reading list...and these are supposed to, somehow, be squeezed in, too. (Yeah, right.) But I do my best, and that's where the Joker Read comes in. This is a read, which is on that unscheduled pile that I am determined to slide into this month's posted reviews.  

So, what do I have waiting on the side-lines for October?


This year, I've taken a deep dive into the world of house renovation. So, this read hit me just right. It's about a mother and daughter, who buy houses, renovate, and sell them. This house, though, refuses to be sold. I loved the cover the moment I saw it. It already released in 2019, and looks deliciously creepy. But when will I get to it? Well, that's the spooky surprise for us all.

Young Adult Horror

Thursday, September 29, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Bite the Bagel by Joel Ross!'s almost a book birthday. Today's read was released on the 27th, but I'm all about celebrating for as long as possible. And trust me, the characters in this series would agree with me (and probably take it 100 steps farther).

I did read the first book in this series...and I remember being very skeptical thanks to the 
guy in the bunny suit on the cover, but this pair won me over. So, I was more than happy to get my hands on book two and see what they were up to next.

Ready for some fun? Because that is exactly what this duo is about.

Alley & Rex, Book 2
by Joel Ross
Illustrated by Nicole Miles
Atheneum Books
Middle Grade Humor
160 pages 
ages 8 to 12

Loveable prankster Alley and bunny-suited brainiac Rex team up again, this time to help each other survive PE and save breakfast, one mutant bagel at a time in this hilarious story that’s perfect for fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Wayside School!

Rex can rock a bunny suit like no one else. But his PE teacher insists that all students must wear gym clothes—or face a punishment worse than dodgeball. Alley vows to help his pal Rex. And to save the free breakfast cart that was closed due to budget cuts. Everyone knows that kids can’t learn on empty stomachs!

From a heist in the principal’s office to a bake sale featuring mutant bagels, Alley tries everything he can to bring back the food cart. And Rex tries everything he can to turn Alley’s bad choices into good solutions. They will stop at nothing in their quests for justice!



Packed with heart and wonderful intentions, this duo causes problems every where they go and has the reader wishing they could be right there with them to witness every situation.

Alley can't believe it—the breakfast cart is gone! The school is wrestling with tight funds, which means the morning free juice, cereal, and bagels for kids in need of a good breakfast has been chopped from existence. But Alley is determined to find a way to bring it back. Rex, of course, is at his side but has his own troubles to face thanks to the PE dress code, which does not allow for bunny suits. Both problems are going to be difficult to tackle, but together, they hope to find a way.

Alley and Rex are as different as different can be, and I'm not sure which one I like more...although Rex is quite a bit more tame if you can handle his bunny suit. Alley's good intentions shine on every page as he takes on every person's problem with 100% sincerity and determination. There's not an evil bone in his body, although there aren't many pranksters out there who could out-do him, thanks to his backward thinking. Still, it's impossible not to love him and cheer him on...more or less. Rex, on the other hand, is awesome with his high-level speech and thoughts. He adds the right amount of assistance Alley needs to create perfect balance and hilarious situations, which somewhat steer in the right direction. Simply said, these two are made for each other.

While laughs are guaranteed, there is tons of goodness wrapped in, too. Readers get a glimpse at the idea of budgets, fundraising, and working together for a goal (Alley's and Rex's classmates do get involved). The acceptance and friendship is inspiring as well as the idea of having each other's backs. Mix in the principal's amazing attitude, and it's a read with tons of warmth, too.

Reluctant readers will enjoy the quick read, which never leaves any wiggle room for boredom. Alley's ideas are always churning from one ridiculous situation to the next, ensuring a smooth glide. The text is short, and thanks to Rex, does offer some advanced vocabulary every now and then to strengthen reading skills, too. Add the illustrations, which pop in with extra emotion and humor, and it's a fun read from start to finish. 

And here they are...

Joel Ross is the author of The Fog Diver, Beast & Crown, and Alley & Rex series. He’s never worn a school uniform, but he did try a spoonful of calves’ foot jelly once. The taste lingers. Visit him at

Nicole Miles was born in the United States but grew up in the Bahamas where all schools have uniforms but nobody eats calves’ foot jelly (as far as she is aware). She feels this is a fair compromise. She now lives in the United Kingdom, and her tiny place on the internet is

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Today's read... All Through the Night by Polly Faber

When I saw today's read, I knew I had to get my hands on it. I was a huge fan of busy picture books, when I was were my own kids. I don't see these very often, since times have changed and picture books tend to wander toward other themes. So, this one...I'm a treat.

Ready to see if it was what I was hoping it'd be? 

People Who Work While We Sleep
by Polly Faber
Illustrated by Harriet Hobday
Candlewick Press
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8


A beautifully illustrated picture book exploration of the jobs that keep a city running all through the night, and make it ready for the new day.

The sky is getting dark. In a big city, a little girl is eating her dinner, brushing her teeth and getting ready for bed. Meanwhile, her mother is putting on her coat and getting ready to go to work. But where will she go, and who will she see along the way? As the night goes on, follow nurses, cleaners, delivery workers, doctors, police officers, journalists and many more.

Meet the people doing the important jobs that help keep the city running all through the night, ready for the next day to come.



Every page bubbles with life and activity, celebrating all those people who keep the world running.

It starts with a little girl going to bed as her mother heads out to work her night shift at work. Once the mother walks out the door, she passes many others who are also on their way to their jobs or already working. And it's not just a few individuals, either.

First off, the illustrations are well done and really draw in. With beautiful blues, the night atmosphere radiates softly in the background and holds its hue as a constant reminder that much of the world is sleeping. Yet, the colors and details are impossible to ignore...and there are quite a few of them. Young listeners have more than a few things to search and gaze at, allowing them to discover something new with every read. 

The text is simple and kept short, letting listeners know what to see but leaving the rest to the illustrations. Most of the jobs mentioned are familiar, and some might surprise young listeners. It does raise awareness to how many people are actually active during the night to keep life as we know it running the way it does. It's a wonderful way to expand young listeners' views on life around them and does raise the respect they'll have for these many individuals and jobs.

And here they are...

Polly Faber lives in London with her husband, sons, and two black and white cats called Alan and Babs. She worked as a midwife and a sandwich maker before becoming a writer, and has also mashed potatoes for Prince Edward’s dinner. Her best impression is of a tortoise eating a strawberry.

As a child, Harriet Hobday would spend hours drawing what was around her and filling sketchbooks with imagined characters and scenes. Little did she know that she would become a (real!) Illustrator for a living. She left her hometown of Yorkshire to embark on an undergraduate degree in Illustration at The Cambridge School of Art, where she stayed on to study the esteemed MA in Children’s Book Illustration. It was during this time that she developed her love of storytelling and limited colour palettes.

Following graduation she moved to Edinburgh, where she was inspired by the impressive architecture and buildings became a recurring theme in her work. Since then she has returned home to Yorkshire, where she spends her days making books, causing havoc in the kitchen and watching videos of Elephant Shrews ( If you don’t know them – look them up!)

She was selected for THE BOOKSELLER’s Illustrator Showcase and The Cheltenham Illustration Awards, was runner up in The Batsford Prize, and has been highly commended in the ‘The Macmillan Prize’ for Children’s Illustration.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Today's read... Alphabreaths Too: More ABCs of Mindful Breathing by Christopher Willard

Ieme of mindful breathing. Now, it's no secret that I'm extremely picky when it comes to these types of books for young readers...there are so many out there and many are too preachy for my taste. So, when I discover one, which manages to escape this downfall, I get a little excited. And this book does just that.

More ABCs of Mindful Breathing
by Christopher Willard &
Daniel Rechtschaffen
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Sounds True
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Teach children the basics of mindful breathing—along with their ABCs—in this playful and interactive picture book.

In Alphabreaths Too, children learn their ABCs along with the basics of mindfulness through fun exercises and illustrations they’ll want to come back to again and again. Each letter of the alphabet teaches a simple mindfulness, or compassion-based, practice to help kids focus their thoughts, feel calm, express gratitude, and hold positive feelings for others. A great standalone title or a companion volume to Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, this is a perfect book for the classroom or home library.

Breaths like Astronaut Breath and Fireworks Breath help children use their imaginations, while breaths like Gift Breath and Kite Breath help them fill their hearts with gratitude and send good wishes to others. They can breathe with a partner using Drawbridge Breath, relax with Ocean Breath, or get their wiggles out using Pirate Breath.

Alphabreaths offers a meaningful introduction to mindfulness for children, all while keeping them delighted with imaginative inspiration and hours of fun. It’s as easy as A-B-C!



While I wondered if mixing ABCs with breathing skills would really win young readers over, this book surprised me and proved that it can...and even be a ton of fun along the way.

This is the companion book to Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, a book I have not read. But that isn't an issue, since this one is very much a book all on its own. These pages center around the idea of making kids more aware of their breathing and offers fun techniques. Starting with 'A' (Astronaut Breath), various breathing and movements are connected with scenes and emotions in a fun and imaginative way. Each one of these encourages young listeners to do the movements themselves. From backhoes to bridges to dinosaurs and more, young listeners learn to breath in certain ways and play along. It's simply fun and will have young listeners very engaged.

The text, while only carrying a short paragraph, is appropriate for those, who are very sure of their words, and is best used as a read-aloud. It is written in a way the age group can understand and will recognize what is happening. It flows smoothly and offers the opportunity for pause between each letter, so listeners can join in and do each motion.

The illustrations made me smile. I, honestly, wasn't expecting these to be as well done as they are and had fun simply flipping through. The scenes are gentle, yet pack joy and imagination. The characters are friendly, diverse, and invite listeners to play. It's a warming read and stays positive the entire way through. Each scenes is easy to recognize and will be familiar to young listeners.

This is a fun read which will have listeners working right along with each letter and breath. I can recommend it to groups as well as individuals.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Today's read... I Cannot Draw A Horse by Charise Mericle Harper


by Charise Mericle Harper
Union Square Kids
Picture Book
48 pages
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 11th!!!

Award-winning author and illustrator Charise Mericle Harper delivers a fantastically funny adventure about doing the impossible: drawing a horse.
The cat wants a horse.
The book cannot draw a horse.
The book CAN draw a squirrel, a beaver, and a bunny.
Fun . . . but the cat still wants a horse.
Can the quick-draw book appease the horse-obsessed cat with an impressive collection of horse-y alternatives (all created from the same “nothing shape”)? Or will the cat finally get a horse? The cat REALLY wants a horse.



With simple phrases, easy shapes and tons of humor, this is a cute read, which is sure to have listeners giggling and laughing the entire way through.

This book includes the illustrator as one of the characters. The illustrator draws a simple shape, which so happens to then be made into a cat. The cat, however, has desires and demands, since it doesn't want to stay alone and wants some fun. It wants a horse. The illustrator, however, claims it can't draw a horse and tries to satisfy the cat with a different friend. The results are silly and send the cat into all sorts of mini-adventures.

Created with simple, short phrases, this is a wonderful book to get those early readers hitting words on their own. Plus, it makes a great read aloud, too. The sentences are printed clearly with only one or two on the page. Then, there are word-bubbles from the cat, which are just as simple and add comic relief.
But then, the situations (and the cat's complaints) are humorous.

The illustrations are very simple and, still, pack everything they need to make the story fun. And they do a great job and showing how creativity works. With just a simple, basic shape, various animals and scenes come to life. 

And there is a message or two, which cleverly meld right into the silly fun. Altogether, it's a creative read, which is sure to become a favorite.

And here she is...

Charise Mericle Harper is the award-winning author and illustrator of numerous books for children, including The Good for Nothing Button!CupcakeGo! Go! Go! Stop!So Embarrassing, and Bad Sister. Her children’s book series include Pepper & Boo, Just Grace, Fashion Kitty, Sasquatch and Aliens, Bean Dog and Nugget, and Crafty Cat. Charise lives with her family and furry pets in Portland, Oregon.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Today's read ...What Good is a Dragon? by Patrick Carlson

 Today's read simply looked cute. And dragons are always a plus. I'm thinking this one will hold more than a little squirt of humor. Ready to see if its worth a peek?

by Patrick Carlson
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

It’s the queen’s birthday and Alexander must deliver a dragon before the party starts! What does the queen need with a baby dragon? Come with Alexander as he travels across the kingdom to deliver this special gift…and discover what good a dragon is!



The question surrounding a baby dragon's value is only the beginning of a fun journey, which brings giggles and smiles.

It's the Queen's birthday, and the King knows exactly what she needs: a baby dragon. Alexander volunteers to deliver the present in time for the party, but he meets more than a few characters along the way. Each one not only questions the dragon's purpose but offers their own surprises to make the Queen's birthday that much more special.

The title already caught my attention and raised tons of questions because...what good is a dragon? Now, I'm a dragon fan, but this is a question I've never considered, and I have no doubt that young readers will wonder what the answer could be, too. The author hooks this to the main character's journey across the kingdom, where he meets various fantasy creatures. Young readers won't have any trouble recognizing most, if not all, of these, and each one is portrayed with tons of personality. The situations are slightly humorous, and do make the reader wonder whether poor Alexander will make it to the party in time or not. Because each creature he meets makes his mission that much more difficult.
It's just tons of fun.

The illustrations are colorful, cartoonish, and make the main themes of each scene sit just right. The characters' emotions come across nicely, and it's no problem to understand what is going on. Plus, there's a hint of humor in each one, which follows along well with the written tale.

The ending holds a big surprise and is so simple that it's cute and giggle worthy. Plus, there's a tiny message snuck in along with the fun. It's a fun, easy read and will get the word 'again' after it's done. 

You can take a peek at Patrick's illustrations and other works here:

Friday, September 23, 2022

Today's read... A Long Way from Home by Laura Schaefer

 Today's read sort of fits my life this weekend. We're off on a short road trip to Kentucky and exploring whatever nature has to offer. I prefer hiking vacations, so it's caves, waterfalls, natural bridges, and who knows what else on our schedule. We tend to be a tiny bit spontaneous on the planning end of things, since life never goes as planned, anyway.  In today's read, the main character isn't on a vacation, but she's discovering all sorts of new things. And worlds. Or times?

It promises to be quite the mix and has been getting great reviews. So, let's take a peek!

by Laura Schaefer
Carolrhoda Books
Middle Grade Science Fiction
ages 8 to 12

OCTOBER 4th!!!


Twelve-year-old Abby has a lot to worry about: Climate change. The news. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And now moving to Florida for her mom's new job at an aerospace company.

On the Space Coast, Abby meets two boys, Adam and Bix, who tell her they're a long way from home and need her help. Abby discovers they're from the future, from a time when all the problems of the 21st century have been solved. Thrilled, Abby strikes a deal with them: She'll help them--if they let her come to the future with them. But soon Abby is forced to question her attachment to a perfect future and her complicated feelings about the present

GOODREADS    /   B&N    /    AMAZON


A girl's worries surrounding family, school, and the state of the world around her smack face-first into the impossibility of time travel and the true meaning of home.

Abby can't help it; she worries. She worries about her mother, who always has her head in her job. She worries about moving to Florida and leaving her best friend behind. She even worries about the way humans mishandle the world and is sure that present-day-life is in fact a dystopia. While trying...or not so handle the move to Florida as best she can, Abby runs into two boys, who obviously need her help. Without a moment's thought, she buys the shakes and takes them to her father's boat, where they can sleep for the night. Little does she realize that when they say that they're far from home, they're speaking of hundreds of years in the future. And if they don't find the person they're searching for, the entire future of the world is at stake.

It took me a little bit to sink into this read, since I was expecting something different, but this 'different' ended up being much better. While this is a time travel read and stays solidly on the science fiction path, it reads with the wonderful subtleness of magical realism. Abby is introduced as a difficult girl, mostly due to her over-excessive worries. Her life is actually very comfortable, her parents have good jobs, and they love her very much. She isn't battling any huge trauma or bullying, but simply is overwhelmed by the negative aspects of the world around her. And yet, she's a very kind and generous person, and that's what lets her amazing friendships blossom and bloom. It was interesting and enjoyable to get to know her, and it does help bring the problem of anxiety down to a level the age group can understand.

While Abby steers the world of time travel and friends from the future, she also has some growing to do herself. These two aspects balance out very well. The tale rolls along at a steady pace, never lagging into boring and sometimes shifting into a quick sprint of action to keep the tension high enough to make the story grab. The three friends are on a time crunch and have a few sticky problems to figure out. Add a touch of first crushes, evil micro aliens, and it's fun. Plus, the family is pulled into this one and shows that even parents have true problems to deal with. Oh, and there's hope as well as not forgetting all the wonderful things life offers now and can in the future if we're willing to work for it.

I can recommend this one and found the way it all comes together original and well done. Not only science fiction fans will want to take a look at this one because it's about so much more. This one is all about hope and not forgetting all the wonderful things life has to offer.

And here she is...

Laura Schaefer is the author of The Teashop Girls, The Secret Ingredient, and Littler Women: A Modern Retelling. Born and raised in Wisconsin, Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida, with her husband and daughter, where she enjoys visiting theme parks and watching rocket launches from her front yard. Visit her online at and

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Today's read... If Your Babysitter is a Bruja by Ana Siqueira

 It's not October yet, but I'm already getting into the Halloween mood. I'm not usually into spooky, witchy, or whatever-that-season-holds reads quite yet, but then, with the never-ending high temperatures, I'm longing for cooler days much more than usual, too. (Can you believe it's 96 degrees outside?) Yeah, no coloring leaves and hot drinks here, yet. So sad.

Anyway, here's a little dreaming of broomsticks and fun in a not-so-spooky-pre-Halloween-season read.

by Ana Siqueira
Illustrated by Irena Freitas
Simon & Schuster
Picture Books
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

This bouncy, bilingual picture book is an enchanting, rollicking read-aloud for small ones with big imaginations.

On the night before Halloween, a new babysitter might be more than she appears. If she wears a black sombrero and cackles like a crow, she might just be a bruja! One little girl is determined not to fall victim to an evil witch or her cats. She knows bath time is really the bruja’s way of putting her in a boiling cauldron, and the only way to keep her at bay is with a magic potion—or is it?

With a boundless imagination and plenty of tricks up her sleeve, the young protagonist may just have the best night ever!



Babysitter woes carry a witchy twist, which guarantees a tiny dose of scares and more than a few unexpected surprises.

While the well-done bilingual side of this read already makes it worth a peek, it goes beyond that with its spell for fun. This child is anything but excited about the new babysitter, and the imagination goes wild before the babysitter walks through the door. Or does it?

This book allows imagination to filter into reality until the two are impossible to decipher or keep apart. The witch...umm bruja...holds all sorts of tricks in that black sombrero and knows more than a few potions to keep children in line. Still, her hidden smile during all those wicked moments keeps the readers wondering how much evil is behind the mystical moments. The child, though, definitely has their hands full as they try to outwit the bruja and survive. It creates a fun scene with unexpected twist and unexpected turn from one page to the next. Giggles, gasps, ooos and ahhhsss are guaranteed.

The illustrations let the magic shine and bring in tons of witchy moments, letting the reader sink into every scene. Even here, reality mixes with imagination to make the reader forget which side they might be on. Plus, the details are a treat.

And the bilingual side cannot be forgotten. Spanish words dribble in here and there. Never are they defined but simply used every now and then in a way that readers will automatically understand what they mean even if they've never heard the word before. Many of them are close enough to their English counterparts to make guessing easy and remembering even simpler. Young readers can easily adapt these into their own word usage.

It's a cute picture book and is a fun, educational read.

And here they are...

Ana Siqueira is an award-winning author from Brazil who cackles but doesn’t wear hats. When not flying with brujas, she teaches Spanish to adorable little ones, where she casts a learning spell that nobody can resist. Besides Bella’s Recipe for Success and If Your Babysitter Is a Bruja, Ana has also published a Spanish early reader for the education market. She loves being an abuela and a vovó to her Cuban-Brazilian American grandkids. She lives in Florida with her husband, who just might be a wizard.

Irena Freitas is an award-winning artist and illustrator. She has an MFA in illustration from SCAD and loves illustrating people, funny situations that happen in daily life, and whimsical stories. When she is not reading and illustrating books she likes to travel and visit new places. Irena lives in Manaus, Brazil.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Tall Tales by James Riley

Today's read comes from a known author in the twisted fairy tale realm. I've read his works before and was excited to see what this latest...the second in his new series, which just came out this Summer... might hold. Yep, this is a series that speeds right along on the publishing end, which means there wasn't a long wait between books one and two. And that was a good thing after putting the first book down because it did have me excited to grab up this one too.

Once Upon Another Time, #2
by James Riley
Aladdin Books
Middle Grade Fantasy
320 pages
pages 8 to 12

The second book in a new trilogy of twisted fairy tales from New York Times bestselling author James Riley, set in the world of his popular Half Upon a Time series, that’s perfect for fans of Fablehaven and Chris Colfer’s A Tale of Magic series!

Lena might finally be accepted by the other giants after helping to defeat the Golden King and his faceless army in the Cursed City, but that doesn’t mean life has become any easier for her. The power-hungry Golden King wants revenge and has begun spreading shadow magic out over the kingdoms, taking over the minds of anyone it touches, and instilling fear and hatred as it goes.

The fairy queens, the most magical beings in the kingdoms, say their sacred book, Tales of All Things, claims that there is one person who can defeat the Golden King and his dark spells: Lena. But only if she first proves herself worthy by completing three challenges.

All Lena ever wanted was to prove she is really a giant. Now she has to be so much more. Can she and her genie friend, Jin, save the human world that doesn’t trust them, or will they fall prey to shadow magic, and doom everything?



After picking up the first book, I was excited to dive into the second installment and see what would happen with Lena and Jin next. And I wasn't disappointed.

Where the first book laid a very solid foundation, this book takes off into adventure pure. Lena has her hands full as she tries her best to do what she knows is right. She no longer hides herself from the giants and has basically already achieved, at least, some part of her initial goal. Now, she's shoved into the role of saving the human world from disaster thanks to a book. It's fun to see this character shift as she now heads in a direction, which she never wanted to go, and has to deal with problems bigger than herself. She easy to root for and still a character to enjoy. 

This is another fast-paced adventure with tons of fun twists and turns. There are more than a couple new characters introduced, and it's a treat to meet them (good and bad) as they hit a little familiarity and then go beyond. I did smile at the fairies. The tension stays high as Lena and Jin are forced to step into bigger shoes than they dreamed they could fill...and while they've come a long way, they're still learning to find their own notches in the world. Plus, their personalities make them both to love, each in their very own way.

If nothing else, this book has built the scene for what promises to be a very, exciting ending for the last book in the trilogy.

And here he is...

James Riley lives in Virginia. He is the New York Times bestselling author of the Half Upon a Time, Story Thieves, and Revenge of Magic series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Today's read... Crabgrass: Comic Adventures by Tauhid Bondia

I seem to have a few comics/graphic novel collections for middle grade boys this month...and isn't that exciting?! I think the world would be a better place with more h-packed tales for middle grade boys. I'm already a fan of Big Nate and Jesper Jinx and am always on the lookout for stories about boys, their best friends, and the adventures they have when facing the world...because boys just have a amazing sense of nonsense, which girls don't. And that's important not to ignore.

Anyway, this one comes out next week, so it won't be long before you can get your hands on it yourself.

by Tauhid Bondia
Andrews McMeel Publishing
Middle Grade Humor / Graphic Novel
192 pages 
ages 8 to 12


Through its heartwarming, wry, and relatable comic episodes, Crabgrass explores the timeless subject of friendship between two boys growing up in the 1980s.

Crabgrass is a comic strip set in the fictional town of Crabgrass Drive, and chronicles the close friendship of Kevin, who is white, and Miles, who is black, and the many stumbles and breakthroughs they encounter growing up together. The main characters exemplify the resilience of the bonds we form when we are young, and are a reminder of why we remember those times fondly. Crabgrass is also a thrilling exploration of the adventures and mischief that children can get into when allowed to roam.

Set in an ambiguous time before cellphones and the internet, the strip finds a way to connect to the old and the young without alienating either. Crabgrass explores the same youthful themes of friendship and adventure as Calvin and Hobbesand the humor, warmth, and innocence will appeal to readers of bestselling middle grade series like Phoebe and Her Unicorn and Big Nate.



Friendship...with all of its amazing moments and not so amazing ones...bursts through with adventure, discovery, and humor pure, reminding readers how unforgettably wonderful it truly is. 

The author begins with a quick foreword, which grounds this series back into the 1980's and exposes the main thrust behind these pages: friendship and every remarkable (and unexpected_ moment that means for a pair of boys in middle school. So, while this one is definitely set for middle grade readers, adults will quickly find themselves smirking and snorting as they relive moments from the childhood, too. The humor crosses that generation threshold and promises laughs from all ages. 

Kevin and Miles are quite the pair and have the entire world neighborhood as their playground. Their adventurous spirit, never-ending ideas, and imagination bring endless possibilities...even when most don't end up quite the way they'd hoped. Most of the 'adventures' are super short and sweet, hitting only a page or two, and leaving with a snort or laugh, and tons of heart-warming nods. It's a read to pick up, put down, and grab up again, never knowing what the two will do next. 

The illustrations are bright, bold, and let the twists of reality versus expectation hit full force with a tad bit more to make the humor sit. The characters' expressions meet at the right times to jab in the last needed impact, and make them seem like the kid next door. 

Fans of Big Nate will want to take a peek into Crabgrass, too, because if these two ever came together...yeah, that'd be every boy's dream and parent's nightmare.

And here he is...

Tauhid Bondia grew up in Elizabethtown, Kentucky. A budding young artist and an early fan of comic strips, he spent many hours at the local library reading comic strip collections. His first serious attempt at drawing a serialized strip would come in 1993 when his comic “High School Daze” was published in his high school newspaper.

Tauhid briefly attended Murray State University on a Fine Arts Scholarship and went on to become a graphic designer. His days were spent designing logos for local companies and events while his nights were spent working on a variety of comic projects which were published on the web. These webcomics remained a passionate hobby for him for the next 20 years, however he would become most widely known for his strip “A Problem Like Jamal,” which first appeared on (an AMU website) in July 2018.

In 2019, Tauhid decided to end "A Problem Like Jamal" and (with the help of his wife) developed the idea for Crabgrass. His hopes of finally becoming a syndicated cartoonist were fulfilled as the strip was selected for development by Andrews McMeel not long after. Over the course of its development, Crabgrass has enjoyed a devout following on Instagram and other social media platforms.

Tauhid currently lives in Hodgenville (one town over from his childhood home) with his wife, 3 cats, and 2 dogs.

Monday, September 19, 2022

Today's read... Stolen City by Elisa A. Bonnin with Giveaway!

 Today's read is said to be a bit like Legend or Six of Crows. So, of course, I wanted to take a peek. It's the 2nd book in the series and promises magic, action, and even a little romance. Since I'm always in for some mages and adventure, I have high expectations for this one.

by Elisa A. Bonnin
Published by: Swoon Reads
September 20th 2022
YA Fantasy

Twin thieves attempt to pull off a daring heist in Stolen City, the sophomore fantasy novel from Dauntless author Elisa A. Bonnin.

The city of Leithon is under Imperial occupation and Arian Athensor has made it her playground.

In stealing magical artifacts for the Resistance, bounding over rooftops to evade Imperial soldiers, and establishing herself as the darling thief of the underground, Arian lives a life wrapped in danger and trained towards survival. She’ll steal anything for the right price, and if she runs fast enough, she can almost escape the fact that her mother is dead, her father is missing, and her brother, Liam, is tamping down a wealth of power in a city that has outlawed magic.

But then the mysterious Cavar comes to town with a job for the twins: to steal an artifact capable of ripping the souls from the living–the same artifact that used to hang around the neck of Arian’s mother. Suddenly, her past is no longer buried under adrenaline but intimately tied to the mission at hand, and Arian must face her guilt and pain head-on in order to pull off the heist.

As Arian and Cavar infiltrate the strongest fortress in Leithon and Liam joins the Resistance as their resident mage, the twins find themselves embroiled in court politics and family secrets, and the mission becomes more than just another artifact theft. The target is now the Imperial rule, and Arian will go to any length necessary to steal her city back.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo


Tension is guaranteed in this fast-paced tale about a heist, unjust rule, and magic.

Arian and Liam are twins and one of the most talented pair of thieves in the resistance. By stealing magical artifacts, they hope to someday end Imperial rule, but they also are more than happy to take up jobs, when a little money is involved. When they are approached by Cavar, a once royal guard gone traitor, to steal a certain artifact, things shift into high-gear.

This is a fun read with quite a few surprises and exciting moments. The world building is very well done as Leithon becomes a rich city, which pops from the page. Even the political background, culture, and life is described enough to make the surroundings understandable and vibrant. This created a wonderful backdrop for the magic, fight scenes, and chases, which kept the plot moving and the read entertaining. Plus, a heist with all of its difficulties and tension is always a treat.

The four main characters each share their own points of view as the chapters switch between each one. The name is presented at the beginning to help keep confusion at a minimum, but it still took a bit to get into the flow of all four of them. Arian and Cavar both held quite a bit of personality, making them easy to connect with right away, while the other two, although also fun to root for, just never hooked me quite as much. Each of them had their own problems to overcome, though, and added richness to the tale. It will be fun to see where the next book in the series goes from here.

Author Bio:

Elisa A. Bonnin was born and raised in the Philippines, after which she moved to the United States to study chemistry and later oceanography. After completing her doctorate, she moved to Germany to work as a postdoctoral scientist. A lifelong learner, Elisa is always convinced that she should “maybe take a class in something” and as a result, has amassed an eclectic collection of hobbies. But writing will always be her true love. Publishing a book has been her dream since she was eight years old, and she is thrilled to finally be able to share her stories. Dauntless is her first novel.

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