Wednesday, November 30, 2022

What's Coming in December?

Hear those jingle-bells and carols floating through the air? Or smell the aroma of cookies and hot chocolate? 

This month, I have quite a few reads to match the lovely, holiday season. Last month, I was heavier on the longer novels, intended for middle grade and young adult audiences. This month, it leans much more heavily toward picture books...oh, but I made sure to add some goodies in there for the older readers, too. Especially the end of December is going to swing toward middle grade and young adult readers as I jump into an entire week of graphic novels before ringing in the New Year. I do enjoy graphic novels...and I might also need some lighter readers to get everything else in life done during those days (graphic novels are awesome for that).

Grab up a snuggly blanket and your favorite, young reader because this month is all about cuddling up in a chair together and enjoying warming tale after tale after tale...


Chanukah is right around the corner, and, of course, there are perfect books to ring in that celebration for even the youngest readers out there. This is a board book, which promises a new twist on the well-known rhyme, Five Little Monkeys. We're hitting this one right away on the 1st.

Board Book Holiday 


This is the first in a brand-new, graphic novel series for middle graders. I'm all about snow right now (maybe because we don't see it very often here...). Adventure is great, too...and this one promises tons of that. Find out more with me on the 2nd because I'm betting it will be quite the fun read.

Middle Grade Fantasy  /   Graphic Novel


One of my favorite things about the Holidays is the time for crafting, especially since easy ones are great to get the kids to make gifts for others themselves. I'm hoping this book holds ideas readers 8+ can create with a little help or by themselves. So let's take a peek on the 5th to see if it does just that.

Crafting Non-Fiction


We're jumping into the historical past and joining a young girl as she travels to London and learns to fend for herself before heading to a castle to work out a mystery. It promises heart, tension, romance, and all sorts of unexpected twists and turns with knights, titles...and who knows what else. Find out more with me on the 8th.

Young Adult Historical Fiction


Our oven is working overtime during December, so this book caught my eye. It twirls around the 12 Days of Christmas with an original spin, which...I'm guessing...has something to do with baking. And a lot of nonsense. Get your sweet tooth ready because I'm visiting this one on the 16th.

Picture Book


I love getting lost in beautiful, picture book illustrations, and this one promises just that. Taking the well-known poem from Robert Frost, a well-known illustrator creates, what is sure to be, a keeper and treat. I'm going to brew myself a lovely drink and sit down to enjoy this one on the 18th.

Picture Book


Can't have Christmas without reindeer! This is another book for the youngest readers out there and has....I love this part...flaps! I'm very excited to swing open the doors, here and there, and see what surprises might be inside. (And no, I'm not to old for that). Let's prance and play on the 21st.

Board Book


I read one book in this series a few months ago and found it cute. So, when I was offered another one...and one for the Holidays...of course, I wanted to take a peek. We'll see how sweet this one gets on the 23rd.

Young Adult Romance


I wanted to stomp my foot right along with this character, when I saw the cover. I have no idea what this hero will do in these pages, but I'm ready to take on trouble with him and his bright red high-tops. And elbow and knee pads? Am I sensing some humor, maybe? I'm curious what this graphic novel will hold, but I'm betting middle grade boys will be perking their ears on this one. Join me on the 30th to find out.

Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel

The title caught my attention on this, maybe because of this blog? Anyway, the cover and the blurb sounded intriguing, too, and as a Royal Academy book, it fit right into my week's theme of princes, princesses, and royalty. Take a look at it with me on the 28th.

Young Adult Fantasy / Graphic Novel

Do you know how many books come out each month? According to, in 2019 alone, over 4.5 million books were published in the US. And now, in 2022????? Well, let's just say that my reading list is always HUGE!  Since there are always a few books I really want to wiggle into my schedule but have no idea when, I have this wonderful Joker Read spot. This month's is...


This read came out in 2017 and nods toward A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and a nod is about as close as this one gets. At least, that's the vibe I'm getting from the blurb. Holly misses her 'ghostly' chance and ends up working in the Afterlife on Project Scrooge. I'm expecting quite the ride in these pages and am really looking forward to presenting it to everyone. (And I got this one through the library...which I'm now using as a hint to visit your local one, too)

Young Adult Paranormal

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Today's read... Green Mountain Academy by Francis Greenslade

After the whirlwind of academy books to hit the young adult audience these last years, I'll admit that my mind immediately heads for bullying, mean girls, teachers, romance, and...well, anyone who has read even one of these knows what I mean. So, when I read the title on today's read, my thoughts did hit that direction...and then, they stopped. Mountains? Snow? The girl on the cover is, obviously, not magical. So yeah, something different! 

According to the blurb, this one is going to take academy in an original direction. Survival techniques and outdoor will-power are going to be key. 

And I'm ready to see where this will head...are you?

by Frances Greenslade
Tundra Books
Upper Middle Grade / Tween Adventure
240 pages
ages 10 to 14

A daring rescue in the middle of a snowstorm in this compelling Red Fox Road companion survival story for ages 10 to 14, for fans of Hatchet and The Skeleton Tree.

After a family trip turned disastrous when their truck broke down in the middle of an old logging road in Oregon, Francie is now back in British Columbia. People try to make things as normal as possible for her, but they don't understand that trying to be normal in your old life that's exploded is the worst feeling in the world. Luckily for Francie, the wilderness is still soothing, and an opportunity to attend the Green Mountain Academy, a tiny boarding school perched on the side of a mountain, seems perfect. It's a new start, with new friends and a chance at a new family. But when a winter storm hits, knocking out all the power, news that a small plane has gone missing unsettles Francie. Knowing that the chance of survival in the middle of a wild nighttime snowstorm diminishes over time, Francie is compelled to leave the cozy school and set out into the icy cold, swirling snowstorm . .



Well, this one wasn't what I expected. We have Francie, a thirteen-year-old girl, who has suffered quite a bit of family tragedy thanks to the earlier death of her sister, and shortly before this tale begins, the disappearance and assumed death, of her father as he sought help for them and got lost in the wilderness. So, to help her life return to 'normal', she's sent to a secluded boarding school in the mountains, where only eight students study while learning to survive the great outdoors. While Francie and her new best friend are exploring nearby caves, a odd noise roars somewhere nearby, but with a snow storm moving in, they don't have time to investigate. Just before the storm knocks the power out, the news announces the disappearance of a private plane in their area...and Francie is sure that was the noise. But nobody believes her. Plus, with the massive storm raging outside, it's not even safe to start a search party.

While this one has academy in the title and the school plays a side role in the plot as well as lays the setting, the rest of the story hangs on Francie and her past as well as the attempt to rescue the plane's passengers. There are some other side-plots weaving around a few of the other girls, which does give this depth and life, while tension and action slide in from the storm and survival end. It does create a nice balance between characters and plot, and makes for a well-rounded story.

The scenes and characters come to life thanks to well-developed descriptions and a natural flow. The mountains and outdoors hits with a richness, which draws in until one can almost smell the pines. And it's hard not to want to climb the fire-tower, sleep in front of the fireplace, or stomp through new-fallen snow right along with Francie. The academy seemed to be a wonderful place, especially since most of the girls were very likeable. There were some aspects of the academy's rules (or lack of), which surprised me, though. Francie is never really punished for breaking the few rules, which exist, and comes out without any (or very slight) consequences every time. Even her rescue attempt, while brave, goes against many important survival guidelines and common sense. For a book, which promotes and describes some helpful techniques and the love for the outdoors, I found this a little odd. But it does make for a more tense story and more excitement.

Francie has quite a few problems from her past to deal with, and the reader learns about these little-by-little as the story goes along. These come in sudden flashbacks, which not only slowly expose Francie's past but also add to her personality. Since these blend right into the story, I did find them a little confusing at times, but in general, it was a nice way to get to know Francie better. These did, however, slow down the pacing, at times, which, for an action girl like me, isn't always happily seen. But character fans will eat it up.

This is an enjoyable read, which swings toward survival fiction and reminds a bit of books like My Side of the Mountain. True outdoor tidbits are described, for those who love such things. So, it is an enjoyable read and is sure to grab the interest of many readers.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Today's read... It's A Squirrely Life by JP Cawood

Today's read is a playful twist on the ever-loved  movie, It's A Wonderful Life. I do find the cover cute and with squirrels, it promises to be tons of fun.

by J.P. Cawood
Children's Fiction / Animal / Holiday
90 pages
ages 6 to 10

A wild holiday adventure that teaches the value of friendship, community, and responsibility.

When all the nuts are stolen from the Oak Creek bank, George the squirrel feels guilty for leaving the vault open. If he doesn’t find the nuts, Christmas will be ruined. He goes on a journey to learn what forest life would be like without him and gets the courage to face the thief. It’s a nutty spin on the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, great for kids ages 7+

This children’s book comes to you from HEROmation, a content studio that specializes in imaginative characters and worlds. Our short animated film, The Wrong Rock, was recognized by the Oscars Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. JP Cawood wrote the accompanying book, as well as the sci-fi kids adventure, Sam & The Secrets of the Universe.


And here she is...

JP Cawood is an author who has also worked in live-action TV and film, animation, and comics. The screen adaptation of her novel, Love from Mars, was a recent Semi-finalist in both Screencraft and Stage32 screenplay competitions. She was also named Top 50 Screenwriter by the International Screenwriters' Association in 2021. Both a teacher and student of meditation, she strongly believes in the untapped potential of the human mind. Her books question the nature of reality in unexpected and entertaining ways.


Amazon page:





Sunday, November 27, 2022

Today's read... Cruel Illusions by Margie Fuston

Today's read plunges into the world of vampires and magic with a very unique twist. It hit the shelves at the beginning of this month...and I just love the cover! 
Ready to dance on the side of danger, magic, and mayhem (or I think that's what this one is about)?

by Margie Fuston
Margaret K. McElderry Books
Young Adult Fantasy 
499 pages

Caraval meets Buffy the Vampire Slayer in this deliciously dark young adult fantasy about a girl who makes a deal with a magical secret society to enter a potentially deadly competition for the chance to avenge her mother’s death.

Ever since a vampire murdered her mother, Ava has been determined to get revenge. This all-encompassing drive has given her the fuel she needed to survive foster home after foster home.

But it’s been ten years since anyone’s seen a vampire, and Ava has lost hope that she’ll ever find one…until she stumbles across a hidden magic show where she witnesses impossible illusions. The magicians may not be the bloodsuckers she’s hunting, but Ava is convinced something supernatural is at play, so she sneaks backstage and catches them in acts they can’t explain.

But they’ve been waiting for her.

The magicians reveal they’re part of an ancient secret society with true magic, and Ava has the same power in her blood that they do. If she joins them, they promise to teach her the skills she needs to hunt vampires and avenge her mother. But there’s a catch: if she wants to keep the power they offer, she needs to prove she’s worthy of it. And to do so, she must put on the performance of her life in a sinister and dangerous competition where illusion and reality blur, and the stakes are deadly.



Magic, revenge, immortality, and romance weave among bloody thorns and a very dangerous game.

Ava will never forgive the vampire, who took her mother's life. Nor can she forget her parents' love of performing magic shows on the stage. Now that her brother and her have shifted from one foster home to the other, he, at least, has found a place he can call home. She, however, is eighteen and needs to deal with the revenge she's planned for the last years. When she runs across a magic show, which not only impresses but seems to call to her in a strange way, she wonders if she's found what she's looking for. But it's the hunt for vampires the magicians do after the show, which completely wins her over. Convinced she can finally find her revenge, she agrees to become the troupe's apprentice...but she's no where near ready for everything that means. Especially when she's forced to take part in a dangerous competition, where only one of the new apprentices is allowed to keep their magic and continue the hunt.

This book packs a lot...which also explains the almost 500 pages found in the hardcopy. It starts out with Ava and her brother somewhat settled into their latest foster home, explaining a bit of past but mostly allowing the reader to get to know her situation and sink into her character a little, first. She comes across as sharp-edged but not as cold as she'd like to be. Her love for her younger brother is golden, and although she's untrusting of the rest of the world, she doesn't completely spit in kindness' face. It gives her just the right amount of warmth to gain a little sympathy, while showing how her past has hardened her, too. It sets up the perfect stage for the rest of the wild ride...because it does shift into high-gear from there.

The author does a fantastic job at opening up a world of amazing magic and scenes. The descriptions allow for wonder, letting the darkness mix with beauty. It was fun to watch the magic happen through Ava's eyes and almost see the impossibility unfold. The manor, the fight scenes, and everything else comes to clear life, and that without overly wordy or drudging description blocks. 

Plots weave with secrets and sub-plots to make quite the intricate tale. While some aspects are predictable, there are quite a few which hit with unexpected twists and turns. Every truth is hard-won and comes at a price, and each one holds a darker secret behind it. It gave the read richness and felt as if there were more than the pages should be able to hold...but it all fits into a great story. The ending does leave enough open to let imagination flow, while securing the loose ends to form a solid finish.

There are tons of characters, many of which fall clearly into a gray zone. It's a complex world with shadows and forced survival, making each character hold their own goals and rules dear. It's hard to see who is worthy of friendship, and who is hiding their hand. But many have very individual story arcs...although Ava's didn't progress or change as much as it could have. Still, it was easy to root for her and the others, and hope they came through.

And there is romance. This wasn't quite my thing since it involved a lot of instant attraction and that with a love triangle... of sorts. I did root for one side, and Ava is in a hard spot. I just had a little trouble accepting the triangle with all of the other things going on too. But that's a personal thing, and the romance did flow with all the delicious tension and excitement that it should

I did enjoy this read quite a bit and found it extremely well done. I read it in one sitting and let myself happily get lost in this dangerous but magical world.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Today's read... My Very Rocky Christmas by Jackson Murphy

Today's read came out the beginning of this month and caught my attention right away. Firstly, I don't remember ever seeing a Christmas story surrounding trees and rocks. Second, some of the proceeds go to 'Plant a Billion Trees'. And after reading this...well, let's just say that I wasn't disappointed.

A Rocky the Rock Quarry
by Jackson Murphy
Illustrated by Rebecca Rem
Picture Book
34 pages
ages 3 to 8

While on an annual December outing with his father to a local tree farm to cut down the family Christmas tree, a young boy encounters an unusual resident who changes his life forever. “My Very Rocky Christmas” is the heartwarming, “based-on-a-true story” memoir of a very unlikely friendship. Destined to become a new yuletide tradition, adults will want to share this amazing adventure — and the important lessons it teaches — with the young ones in their lives each and every holiday season.

Author Jackson Murphy was 6 years old when he first met Rocky (who was over a million years old at the time). Their relationship got off to a bit of a rough start (as you’ll find out), but today it’s as solid as a…well, you know.

"My Very Rocky Christmas" also includes fascinating and educational information on all the varieties and traditions of Christmas trees grown around the world, along with some fun holiday trivia.

BUY THIS BOOK HELP PLANT A TREE! Partial proceeds from every book sold go to The Nature Conservancy’s ‘Plant a Billion Trees’ Campaign.



Based on a real experience from the author, this Christmas tale takes a very original direction, which ends with warm feelings and unique inspiration.

Every year, a boy and his father head to a tree farm to find their Christmas tree, something the boy enjoys. One year, after cutting down their perfect tree, the boy discovers a rock by the now cut truck. Concerned that the rock will no longer be happy to be lying in the open, the boy finds a new spot, which should work well. The next years, he visits the rock to make sure it's still fine...until one year, the tree it was under is gone right along with the stone. Finding the stone a few yards away buried in the snow by itself, the boy comes up with a new plan to make sure the rock is always protected.

This is a sweet, Christmas story, which is very easy for kids to relate to (and for adults to remember when they might have done similar things themselves). It's told with a gentle flow, starting with the wonderful atmosphere of finding a perfect tree with a parent, before meeting the stone. The entire thing is done in first person from the child's perspective and with a natural feel. It does make a great read-aloud for quieter moments to settle listeners down and simply enjoy a story.

The illustrations are well done and bring atmosphere to the experiences and happenings. The snowy landscapes and Christmas details invite to the season. These are placed, here and there, around the text at the right moments. The pages are full-sized (A4) with the text in a slightly larger font and always on white, which also makes reading much easier.

I can see kids wanting to meet their own rock friends after this and developing a new hobby for awhile. Plus, there are two sections at the end of the book, which give more insight on the various types of Christmas trees as well as a bunch of Christmas tree facts. 

As a super bonus, this book was created with the intention of giving some of the proceeds to The Nature Conservancy's 'Plant a Billion Trees' campaign. 

You can learn more about Jackson Murphy and his wonderful endeavors...

Friday, November 25, 2022

Today's read... The Patrick Picklebottom Everyday Mysteries by Mr. Jay

 Today's read would have been one I would have definitely snatched up as a kid, and my own son was curious too. I only had the chance to read one of the ten mysteries in this book, but I was still curious to see how to flowed (and if it was as good as I'd hoped it'd be).

Patrick Picklebottom isn't new to the book world but has several titles already in print. I have not read any of them before, so this sleuth was new to me. This book is a collection of ten mysteries (with answers at the end of the read) and is the first in a new series surrounding Patrick. This one comes out March 1st, so there is a bit of a wait.

Everyday Mysteries, Book 1
The Case of the Brazilian Vase
by Mr. Jay
Illustrated by Erin Wozniak
New Paige Press
Middle Grade Mystery
128 pages
ages 8 to 12

MARCH 1st, 2023!!!

Patrick is back! Can YOU help him solve 10 different mysteries?

Patrick Picklebottom has a knack for critical thinking. So it's not too surprising that he and his best friend, Claire, keep coming across everyday mysteries. In school, at the local ice cream shop, during a history fair - even in his own house - Patrick constantly comes across new cases to crack.

In the great tradition of the classic Encyclopedia Brown books by Donald J. Sobol, The Patrick Picklebottom Everyday Mysteries takes the beloved picture book character into a completely new direction with an interactive book for early readers.

Join Patrick and his friends in 10 short stories where YOU help solve the mysteries. Can you figure out the solutions based on the clues provided? Think carefully before checking the answers in the back!


While the mysteries are relatively short and sweet, they push the thinking-gears and let the reader become a sleuth.

Patrick Picklebottom is a pretty normal middle schooler, who has a knack for noticing the details. He doesn't search for mysteries; they find him. In this first book of the series, Patrick runs into ten different situations, where he discovers something isn't what it appears to be or not quite right. At the end of the book, the solutions are offered so young sleuths can make sure they solved each case correctly. 

I only had the opportunity to read one of the ten cases, 'The History Fair', but it was enough to win me over to want to read the rest of the tales, too. In this one, Patrick and his friend are at a history fair with their own presentation table...which isn't getting as much attention as it should. When one of the other presenting kids pokes fun at Patrick's work, he decides to take a look at that kid's presentation and see why everyone seems drawn to it. And that's where the mystery begins.

The writing is very smooth and easy to read. The dialogue flows naturally, and it's easy to like Patrick and his friend. Their reactions were understandable and completely down-to-earth, which kept drama at bay. Instead, the author swings into the mystery effortlessly. In this one, the case was very appropriate for the intended age group (no murders or darker material).  So, I'll assume the others are, too. It does require a bit of thinking and contemplating to reach the solution, making these not extremely easy to solve. Still, it wasn't impossible to figure things out, either, and fits the age level nicely. 

The illustrations are spot on and bring each scene to life, while the text still holds the hints and clues needed to solve the situation. These added a little lightness to the atmosphere and make the entire tale more approachable.

I'm going to keep my eye on this one and am considering picking up the entire thing, when release date rolls around.

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, The Tarnished by E.S. Christison

 It's another day of book birthday celebration! This one came out yesterday, so it's very new to the shelves. It's the 2nd book in a series, and I did read the first one already back in 2020 and enjoyed it quite a bit. Since that book ended with a cliff-hanger, I was excited to see what happened next. So, let's dive in and see.

The Blameless, #2
by E.S. Christison
Wildling Press
Young Adult Fantasy
372 pages

Princess Briana has escaped imprisonment and is on the run. Her beloved Predonia is in upheaval as the villainous Vaylec tightens his grip on the Blameless, tearing the kingdom apart in search of the girl who’s evaded him. To regain her people’s freedom, Brie must turn her back on her friends and her new home as she and her uncles race to uncover the secrets of Vaylec’s mysterious and growing power. There is no safety nor rest for the usurped heir to the throne, and Brie must dig deep inside herself for strength to take action as her world crumbles around her.



I did read the first book in this series and enjoyed it quite a bit. This second book (and this needs to be read as a series) grabbed me more than the first.

Brea, thanks to her uncles, has escaped evil Vaylec's grasp, but that's only the beginning, since she now has to find a way to stop Vaylec and help her people. With her amazing uncles, who do have their own lives and responsibilities but give them up to help her, she heads out to uncover the secrets surrounding Vaylec and try to find a way to turn things around.

This is a young adult read, which works well for teens, too, since Brea is only fourteen and also comes across that age. There's a wonderful sense of family and growing friendship. It's like a moment of fresh air whenever the uncles' families hit the scene, since it adds a great balance of calm and security to the otherwise dangerous situations they face. There's also the first signs of a romance, but this stays more on the sidelines, since Brea really has enough on her plate. But that doesn't mean there isn't emotion and moments to touch the heart. Mixed with the action, secrets, and tense scenes, something is always happening.

I did enjoy Brea's character development in this book as she slowly learns to embrace who she needs to be...which for a 14-year-old is a lot to ask. She makes mistakes, is hesitant, and comes across pretty realistic. But then, many moments in this read come across very naturally, which gives it a nice flow. 
It was fun to root for Brea and those rallying around her, and it will be interesting to see where al of this goes next.

Sneak Peek at... Hunted by V.M. Nelson with Giveaway!


by V.M. Nelson
The Dhampyr Series, #1
October 25th 2022
YA Paranormal

Tasi, an eighteen-year-old, head-strong, blood-drinking, dhampyr, has been hidden away in a small town in Maine since the death of her parents. Though she had trained to fight and kill vampires, she never believed those skills would be useful in her mundane life. That’s where she’s wrong.

In one moment, her life changes forever, and her aunt’s final words ring in her head.

They want your blood.

Now orphaned and charged with protecting her sister, Emily—a sister who doesn’t know what they are or that she’s about to endure a life-threatening change—Tasi has no other choice but to follow directions left for her. She is to find an ally who lives in New York City. This is the only way Tasi will figure out why she and Emily are being hunted before they end up drained of their blood.

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


What started out as a routine task to find blood turned into an onslaught of pain. I rubbed my eyes, allowing the darkness that filled my head to fizzle away. My hands, tender from scraping against the gravel, grasped at the cold metal fence. I flinched as my cuts burned against the steel. I’d done this to myself. The thumping under my skin and my lack of balance were all a result of ignoring my need to feed.

Now here I sat, watching my blood as it dripped down my leg and pooled onto the sidewalk. A tingling sensation ran through me as I flicked out the tiny shards that had embedded themselves in my skin. My body helped to push them out in an effort to heal itself. This was not part of tonight’s plan. I stared back up at the fence—my nemesis. Razor-sharp wire wrapped itself around the top of the rusty, twelve-foot-high chain-link barricade.

Take the shortcut, Tasi. It’ll be quicker and safer, Tasi. What a stupid idea.

Under normal circumstances, I could dart up the fence, hop over the barbed wire, and gracefully land on my feet. My overall dexterity might have won me a gold medal in gymnastics, but that was so not happening in my current condition.

An ache thundered through my body as I reached for the fence again. I hoisted myself up for the first time since tumbling off. With one last labored breath, I ran my hands down my pants, dislodging the remaining rocks from my newly healed skin. Nearby, a rustling sound echoed through the alley. My breath caught. The metal garbage cans clanked together as if they were being tossed around. If I were human, I wouldn’t think twice about the commotion. Lucky for me, I knew better. It was probably setting up to kill its next victim. There were a few shady-looking dive bars and run-down nightclubs in this area. The repetitive pounding of music stemming from different directions would drown out all screams. This was a perfect feeding ground.

Over the past few months, these creatures had become my reality. Since I was thirteen, I’d known of their existence, but only recently had I been in the same vicinity as them. And when they were around, you didn’t want to be, so it was time to go.

With a quick pivot in the opposite direction, I ran. I didn’t get farther than a few feet before my shoelace caught in the grate and my chin scraped against the ground. More blood dripped from my body.

Tasi, seriously—what else can go wrong?

Wrapping the shoelace around my fingers, I yanked until it released itself. By the time I tucked it into my shoe, it was too late. It had heard me. The pounding in my ears was no longer from the nightclubs but the pavement, and it was getting louder. I’d piqued its interest. Rather, my blood had piqued its interest.

And here she is...


V. M. Nelson is the author of The Dhampyr Series. She writes upper young adult paranormal, urban fantasy with a touch of romance thrown in. When she isn’t writing, you can find her playing video games.

Virginia resides in Minnesota with her partner and three children. She has always had an obsession for myths, legends, and fairytales. If asked, she would prefer to live in an alternate universe with vampires and fairies.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok / Amazon / Pinterest

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Today's read... Whistlestop Tales by Krish and Miriam Kandiah

My daughter and I just finished up a semester of ancient world history, which made today's book, one I was excited to get. Not only does it cover Bible stories, but I found it exciting that it also points out the countries where the tales took place. It was fun seeing which tales take place in Syria, Iran, and other places...since we just 'visited' them these last months. Plus, this one is said to feed in a little humor and tons of fun illustrations. 

Around the World in 10 Bible Stories
by Krish and Miriam Kandiah
Illustrated by Andy Gray
Nav Press
Middle Grade Religious
ages 7 to 10

Discover exciting Bible stories from around the world to inspire you on your own adventure with God!

The Bible is filled with stories featuring rich, cultural diversity. In the Bible, we meet an Iranian queen, a Syrian spy, an Italian soldier, and a Sudanese senator, to name just a few of the many ethnically diverse people that God has woven into his grand redemption story.

Whistlestop Tales features ten Bible stories that illustrate how God uses people from all over the world to accomplish his purposes. Each story begins with a closer look at the modern-day country where it took place to help anchor the characters in their original context and cultures, providing a new perspective on the lives of these brave men and women. These action-packed stories will encourage children to live out their own unique adventures with God.



By weaving in a little fun, a bit of people knowledge, and some cultural tidbits, these lesser-known Bible stories are told from a slightly different perspective.

This book contains ten lesser-known Bible stories, including the tales of Ruth, Ester, Lot/Abrahm, and more. The author begins the entire book with a note to the reader, which makes it a bit more personal. Then the stories start...and they are anything but boring.

While each tale does center on a Bible story, it also does a bit of a cultural introduction to today's countries, where the Bible stories took place. For example, Ester lived in what is now Iran. The author gives a few insights into some interesting or fun aspects of today's country (in Ester's chapter it's the hospitality of the Iranian people), and then, dives into Ester's story. Not only was it interesting to learn the small bits about each place, but it was a great way to connect modern times with the more ancient ones.

The stories themselves are quite imaginative and do build in a lot around the story as to people's behaviors, thoughts, and actions, but the main plot does stick on the general course of the original. Instead, the characters come to life in a way today's reader can identify with. Lot is gossiped about, the Egyptian princess (Moses) finds her father (Pharaoh) annoying, or a centurion calls fisherman a 'stinky pile of festering fish guts'. It packs in humor and relatability, which makes them fun to read...and still, stick to the main gest of the stories well.

The illustrations bring the characters to life. The facial expressions, quirks and situations come across with a gentle, comic flair without going over-board. It's fun to see Haman stewing or Saul's wanted poster. And these things aren't easily forgotten.

I found this a lovely way to introduce some Bibles stories, which are often overseen. The way it connects to modern day life both on the comic as well as geography/cultural end is original and well done. Plus, it's just fun to read.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Happy Book Birthday... Yetis Are The Worst! by Alex Willan

 I'm screaming this birthday out a day early (it actually appears on the shelves tomorrow), but birthdays  are so amazing that they deserve the extra special attention. This is the third book in a series, which began with Unicorns Are The Worst!, and I've been following the series ever since. Which is quite remarkable, since I usually am too all over the place to do that. This has been a cute and silly series so far, and I don't expect this newest addition to be any different.

by Alex Willan
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 3 to 5


In this hilarious follow-up to Unicorns Are the Worst! and Dragons Are the Worst!, Gilbert the Goblin’s next adventure takes him to the frozen tundra where he’s determined to find the legendary yeti.

Gilbert the Goblin is the first to admit that he was, ahem, mistaken—unicorns actually throw the best tea parties, and dragons make delicious ice cream soup. This time, though, he can absolutely confirm that YETIS ARE THE WORST!

Sure, they may seem cool and mysterious, but once you meet one, he’s CERTAIN they’re not all they’re cracked up to be! And that’s what Gilbert plans to do: meet a yeti. That is, if he can find one…but how hard can that be?



 These pages prove how sneaky, giggle-worthy, and determined a yeti hunt can be. 

Gilbert the Goblin is at it again, trying to prove to the reader that yetis aren't nearly as mysterious as people make them out to be. Wielding a polaroid camera, he marches off through mountains and snow. Of course, it doesn't quite work out the way he hopes it will.

This is the third book in a series, each which stands perfectly well on its own. Gilbert is his usual, concerned self and is out to prove that another mystical creatures, this time yetis, aren't nearly as awesome as people make them out to, in other words, his envy shines through in an, actually, very subtle manner. Readers will pick up on it and realize he's being ridiculous, but it's most definitely the humor that drives this read. And quiet yetis.

The illustrations carry the humor, while the text lets Gilbert's more serious thoughts, flow. Each scene will have listeners giggling as the yetis appear. The illustrations are cheerful, oh-so-snowy, and make the yetis and Gilbert very approachable. 

The other books in the series carry much the same scheme as this new one, but it's still a lot of fun to explore the various mythical creatures from the simple humor end as it pokes a bit of fun at the stories surrounding each one. Plus, Gilbert's jealousy makes it interesting to see what he'll try next...and how it always ends. 

I do see this one as a very fun read-aloud in a group setting and for smaller book cuddling as well.

And here he is...

If it was Alex Willan, and not Gilbert the Goblin, who was in charge of writing the stories, he’d make a book called Anchovies are the Worst!. Alex is the author-illustrator of Unicorns are the Worst!Dragons are the Worst!Yetis are the Worst!, and the Jasper & Ollie series, as well as the illustrator of Got Your Nose, written by Alan Katz. Alex lives in Chicago with his dog, Harley, who is the absolute best. Visit him online at

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Today's read... Keyana Loves Her Family by Natasha Tarpley

 Today's read was described by one reviewer as taking on a Fancy Nancy style. So, I was curious when I got my hands on it. Plus, (and maybe this is cheating) I've already read the author's previous book, I Love My Hair!, and enjoyed it. This new one is the beginning of what is planned to be an entire picture book series and will hit the shelves around mid-December.

by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow
Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 4 to 8

DECEMBER 13th!!!

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley returns with a breakout new picture book series all about Keyana, the protagonist of her bestselling title I Love My Hair!, and the people and places she adores.

Keyana’s always full of big ideas. Her latest and greatest plan is to host a perfect family movie night. From aunts to uncles to her five favorite cousins, everyone is invited! She knows the best way to impress her guests is with a fabulous soireeand there’s a lot on her to-do list. But when the night doesn’t go as planned, she’ll have to rely on a little help from the people she loves most.
With warm illustrations by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow, this character-centric new picture book series from Natasha Anastasia Tarpley will give Keyana a fresh, commercial update that's perfect for today's young readers.



Frilly, party vibes meet family support, a little chaos, and learning to stay positive in this new series for picture book fans.

Keyana wants to invite the entire extended family over for a movie night and impress them with her self-organized party. Mom offers to help, but Keyana's sure she has everything under control. Soon, the decorations are up, the food planned, but just when everything seems it might be as perfect as hoped, disaster strikes.

Keyana is an up-beat young girl, who possess a wonderful amount of energy and spice for life. Her attitude is contagious as she does her best to make a fun experience for those, who she enjoys being around the most—her family. Her sense for style and flair round off her cheerful personality, which is sure to draw young listeners in. Her reactions to the mishaps are understandable, and the way things are wheeled back in is wholesome and gives a warm message. While one or two moments were rushed over a bit, the story has a great atmosphere and flow. Especially the relationship of the family is inspiring and nice to experience with Keyana.

The illustrations are bright, cheerful, and give enough details to bring readers back and experience the story on their own. The emotions and scenes come across well and put Keyana and her family in a lovely light. Each scene balances well with the text to make this a great book to read aloud. Some readers might wonder what a soiree is, and that might need to be explained. But the term fits so well with Keyana and adds that special something. Those more sure of their words will have no trouble visiting this one their own. 

It will be fun to see where Keyana goes from here.

And here they are...

Natasha Anastasia Tarpley started writing when she was seven years old, and from that young age she understood that stories could change the world. She is the author of the bestselling picture book I Love My Hair!Bippity Bop BarbershopThe Me I Choose to Be, among other titles. Natasha is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and is the cofounder of Voonderbar! Media, a project seeking to expand the depictions of children of color in media. She lives with her family in Chicago, Illinois.

Charnelle Pinkney Barlow was born and raised in Poughkeepsie, New York. She received her BFA in Illustration from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and her MFA in Illustration as Visual Essay from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Creating images and stories that speak to the hearts of children and those that guide them is her greatest joy. Charnelle currently lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband. She is the illustrator of Remember to Dream, Ebere, The Real Santa, Just Like Mama, and many other titles.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Today's read... Neverdying by Shanti Hershenson

 Today's read heads toward the realm of science fiction and a manufactured 'disease', which brings immortality. Since only a few have been infected, the rest of society finds it unfair and decides to terminate them, one by one. I thought it sounded interesting and after highlighting this one last month, have now had a chance to dive in and take a peek myself. 

by Shanti Hershenson
Young Adult Science Fiction

If you could live forever, would it be a gift… or a disease?

A doctor created a genetic mutation meant as a gift to society—to those at random in future generations who were born with it: Immortality. But the risk of overpopulation and questions rising about the imbalance of only few being Immortals brings the ruthless President Wilde to a different stand—a facade of peace and equality whereas Immortals are executed daily—thus creating the ruination of the United States… and the world soon after.

Scarlett Caldwell is a girl of many mysteries—but along with that, she’s an Immortal. Having run away from a very young age and forced to forget the part of her identity that could get her assassinated, she turns to very few of her friends and spends the majority of her days hiding in the Immortals Legion, a compound for Immortals in hiding. But times are changing and tensions are only growing—Scarlett knows she can’t stay hidden forever. When she encounters an unfairly attractive Exterminator who, despite seeming rigid, has an amusing thing or two to say, she is left absolutely livid. But beyond that, beyond all the parts of him that she hates, there’s a secret. And Scarlett will do anything to unravel it.

Cain Hawkins is an Exterminator, a member of the country’s new authority specially trained to hunt down and exterminate the remaining Immortals. He truly believes that being an Exterminator is what he is meant for—despite what he may or may not know. And when a skirmish with an Immortal on the street leaves him questioning every last bit of himself, he will have to rise to stand with his president and failing country, or run from everything he was conditioned for. Besides, Cain has a secret: He is an Immortal too.

Their first encounter is far from the last, for an opportunity rises for the two to (unwillingly) work together. Already, they are left with a spark—a spark of hope for a future where Immortals are not prosecuted. And no matter if Cain sees the spark or not, the question still remains: How long will it be until a single spark ignites a fire?

TUCK EVERLASTING meets STAR WARS in this compelling and romantic novel by 14-year-old author, Shanti Hershenson.



From the very first chapters, this world grabs and draws in with amazing character depth and enough action to keep the pages turning.

Scarlett learned of her immortality when she was twelve. Thrown onto the streets by her parents, she managed to survive thanks to a secret organization, the Immortals Legion. Their only goal is to keep immortals alive and hidden away from the Exterminators, but things have started to change, and Scarlett isn't sure she's ready to face any of it. Especially with the odd fact that she, as an immortal, is scared of death.

This is written by a fourteen-year-old author, and it's safe to say that she's one to keep an eye on. Without any gentleness, the first chapters dive into both Scarlett's and Cain's lives. The situations grab, each in their own, potent way. Scarlett is one of the hunted, who lives in hiding, and Cain is on his way to achieve his hard-earned dream as an exterminator. Both have harsh edges, both are determined in their goals, both have understandable situations, and despite mistakes...or maybe because of them...both end up being hard not to like. The author especially did a great job with Cain, since his first moments definitely don't invite to sympathy, and yet, it doesn't take long before the reader is rooting for him and hopes he might be able to redeem himself. 

The plot is character drive, but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of action along the way. This is a complex world with a lot going on. There were a few moments, which slid by with a slight lack of logic and too much ease, but in general, everything flows very well. The world is interesting to get lost in, and the aspects of the society leave food for thought. The enemies-to-friends romance comes across with a good pacing and is sure to win over fans of that trope. It will be fun to see where this tale heads next because it's off to a very solid start.

And here she is...

Shanti Hershenson’s first two novellas were published when she was in the sixth grade, although her writing journey started long before then. Ever since she could hold a pencil, marker, or crayon, she was creating stories. They started from pictures, mere scribbles, and eventually, turned into captivating tales.