Friday, March 31, 2023

Today's read... Unicorn Island: Beyond the Portal by Donna Galanti

Pink adventures and unicorns...those are the vibes I'm getting from this cover. Today's read is the third (and I believe final?) book in the Unicorn Island series. I have not read the first two books but that never stops me from enjoying a read. I'm expecting friendship, adventure, imagination, tension, and unicorns. So, let's see if these pages hold all of that...and hopefully, even more.

Unicorn Island, #3
by Donna Galanti
Illustrated by Bethany Stancliffe
Andrews McMeel
Middle Grade Fantasy
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

APRIL 4th!!!

The secrets of Unicorn Island are all revealed in the final book in Epic’s middle-grade fantasy series! When Sam and Tuck discover a way to unlock the answers they’ve been seeking, they must set out to discover the truth…

For Sam, knowing a little about her mother’s disappearance through the portal is almost worse than knowing nothing at all. Determined to distract herself, she tries to learn everything possible about caring for the herd on Unicorn Island. But when she and her friend Tuck stumble on a coded verse in The Unicorn Protector Creed, they are faced with an even greater task.

With no way of knowing what’s beyond it, Sam, Tuck, and Barloc the unicorn step through the portal and find that not only is Sam’s mother no longer a unicorn protector, she also lives in a world plagued by its own problems—and convinced that the only solution to them rests in the horn on Barloc’s head.

With the portal closing at sundown on the third day, Sam and Tuck are in a race to rescue their friend, reunite their families, and save another world from a terrible fate of its own making!



With family, friendship, and magic, and exciting adventure unfolds, which will keep readers hooked until the last page.

Sam's mother has been missing since she was a toddler, and now, that her father has returned, she's determined to locate her mother, too. When she discovers a book, which holds the key to unlock the portal through which her mother disappeared, she and Tuck embark on a journey, which packs more than they expected.

This is the third novel in the series, and while I didn't read the first two, it wasn't difficult to sink into this one. These are not really stand-alones, though, since the stories do build on each other to a certain degree. 

First off, I do enjoy the cover. Not only do the pink coloring, unicorns, and stars catch the eye, but there are silver, glistening words and stars...superficial? Probably but it does invite with a special touch. The first pages were a bit to chew through. The author does a super-quick summary of Sam's general family/friend developments from the first novels to help with memory (or new readers like me), but it turns into a hodge-podge of names, which had both my daughter and me re-reading it four or more times to get the names figured out...and we wonder if that was really necessary. But after that, this tales soars off into fun and imagination.

There's a lovely balance of family, friends and adventure in these pages, giving it heart while building up the action and excitement. It keeps a nice pace the entire way through (never too quick nor too slow) and holds several surprises. Sam and Tuck are a great pair, who work together well even when they don't agree completely. It's an inspiring friendship, but then, Sam has quite a bit of support in her corner thanks to her varied family, too. Then, there's her magical friends, which add a nice touch of imagination.

The illustrations are colorful and brighten up the tale. It is a treat to hit each one and get a glimpse of the scenes, since they do bring the world and characters even more life. 

I would recommend this one more for the lower end of the middle grade audience or those who are transitioning from chapter books into the middle grade novels. The font is larger, making it easier to read, and the tale stays lighter for that age end. There are a few more difficult words thrown in to ease into higher reading levels, but the general level is very age appropriate. At the end of the book, there are several sections, which add more information to various topics hit during the story (each two pages). Readers get a deeper dive into information surrounding themes like horseback riding, mythical purposes of unicorn horns, colic and more.

So summed up, this is a lovely read to end off the series. It holds adventure, heart, imagination, and even a little information. 

And here the are...

Donna Galanti wanted to be a writer ever since she attended an English school, housed in a magical castle, where her wild imagination was held back only by her itchy uniform (bowler hat and tie included!). She loves to visit young readers as a guest author at schools and is also the author of the middle-grade fantasy adventures Joshua and the Lightning Road and Joshua and the Arrow Realm. Donna has lived in fun locations including England, her family-owned campground in New Hampshire, and in Hawaii where she served as a U.S. Navy photographer for Fleet Intelligence Pacific. When she’s not writing you can usually find her hiking in the woods.

Bethany Jayde Stancliffe is a Central Washington-based artist who grew up in the Rockies, where she spent her time building tree forts, reading fairy tales, and filling up sketchbooks. Having had a spectrum of creative interests since childhood ranging from architecture to animation, she has found a home in illustration, where design and storytelling meet. Following in the footsteps of her parents, Bethany studied art and illustration at BYU-Idaho. She draws most of her inspiration from nature, films, and childhood adventures and has a love for interesting textures and patterns. When she’s not painting, she enjoys exploring outside with her son, Max, and creating original stories with her husband.

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Bright Family Vacation by Gabe Soria

This one, actually, hit the shelves on the 28th, but it's still a reason to celebrate. I didn't read the first one in the series, but when has that stopped me from diving right in? This one promises science fiction adventure with family goodness...I'm think Swiss Family Robinson with Lost in Space and multi-universe hopping? Well let's take a peek and find out!

by Gabe Soria 
Illustrated by Rafa Ribs
Andrews McMeel
Middle Grade Science Fiction / Graphic Novel
160 pages
ages 7 to 10

The Brights are back in their second out-of-this-world graphic novel! From Epic Originals, The Bright Family series teaches heartfelt lessons about conflict resolution, cooperation, and the importance of family in all its forms. 

After searching for each other throughout the multiverse and repairing their interdimensional portals together, the Bright family is ready for a vacation! But relaxing days riding water slides and eating space ramen are put on hold when the portal drops them deep in the jungle on an unknown planet rather than at the door of the luxury resort. Told through multigenerational storytelling, the Brights are about to figure out that space travel is a lot like space ramen: It always leaves adventurers wanting more.

Includes "One Birthday in Time," a bonus Bright Family tale outside the main plot line that's a true moment of delight for readers.



Note: This is the second book in this series. I did not read the first one, but it was no problem to dive into this 2nd tale, anyway. So, it can be read as a stand-alone.

Aliens and portals to other worlds are just a natural part of life in this fun family's adventures.

The Bright family finally gets the last interdimensional portal repaired, when they receive the invitation to spend some time at an amazing resort. After heading home to pack and pick-up their grandfather, they head back to the planet, but the resort is no where in sight. Luckily, Grandpa has come prepared, and they are soon enjoying their time camping in the strange jungle...well, until Grandpa and the father get into a disagreement. Then, things get a little bit complicated.

Vibrant graphics make this book a joy to flip through and read, and add a sense of positivity to each scene. But then, this is a book all about wholesome adventure and sheer fun. The Bright family works as a family. Always. It's the wonderful and realistic (excluding the science fiction end, of course) interaction, which gives this family and tale it's special touch. They might have to deal with surprises and alien oddities, but it's the interaction with each other, which drive this one forward. They are tight-knit, but that doesn't mean they always agree. There are sibling issues as well as ones between the adults, and these get worked out in the most meaningful of ways, which brings along a life message with it.

Among this wholesome goodness, there is simple adventure. The high-tech and interdimensional aspects mix with imaginative aliens and a few, tenser situations (these aren't overly tense, though, making it also perfect for more sensitive readers). Not only do the Brights come up against gigantic robots, but a second story holds escalating inter-galactic tensions and the silliness of a food war. While not always fast-paced in the usual sense, there is something always going on to drive this one forward and make it a family, not only to enjoy but to wish to be a part of.

And here they are...

Gabe Soria is the creator of the Midnight Arcade series and the co-creator of the comic book MegaGhost. His other works include DC Comics' Batman ’66Fakespeare in the Park, a tie-in novel for Cartoon Network’s Regular Show, and the best-selling Audible Original Foreverywhere, created with Steve Burns of Blue’s Clues and Steven Drozd of the band the Flaming Lips. He lives in New Orleans, where he’s currently writing an original fantasy adventure trilogy for Penguin Workshop.

Rafa Ribs is a Brazilian artist currently living in São Paulo. He has worked as a character designer and visual development artist for animation and games for the last six years. He loves drawing imaginary universes and filling them with otherworldly characters and stories.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Today's read... The Case of the Missing Bicycles by Milo Stone, Shawn Martinbrough, and Joseph P Illidge

Judge Kim and the Kids' Court
Ready-to-Read Graphics, Level 3
by Milo Stone, Shawn Martinbrough, and Joseph P. Illidge
Illustrated by Christopher Jordan
Simon Spotlight
Chapter Book / Graphic Novel
64 pages
ages 6 to 8

The treehouse court is now in session in this first book in the Judge Kim and the Kids’ Court Level 3 Ready-to-Read Graphics series about a young judge who presides over conflict of all sizes in her neighborhood!

When bicycles go missing at Fairville Elementary School, it’s up to Kim Webster to settle the case. Up in her treehouse court, Judge Kim listens to witnesses and evidence gathered by her friends before determining what’s fair and what’s not. Will Judge Kim be able to restore peace to her neighborhood?

Ready-to-Read Graphics books give readers the perfect introduction to the graphic novel format with easy-to-follow panels, speech bubbles with accessible vocabulary, and sequential storytelling that is spot-on for beginning readers. There’s even a how-to guide for reading graphic novels at the beginning of each book.



The truth and justice rank high with this fun judge and her friends.

Kim isn't sure what to do. At school, the bicycles are disappearing and no one knows who's stealing them. After visiting a court case with her mother, Kim knows what has to be done. After collecting clues, though, the case still isn't clear. So, it's time for Kim to put on a judge's robe and make sure the culprit is truly caught and no one is falsely accused.

This is a bright graphic novel, well written for beginner readers. The characters are enjoyable and easy to follow. The word choice is just right to edge readers along in their skills without bogging down in difficulty, and the scenes flow nicely. Of course, the graphics are very well done and fun to flip through all on their own. 

This book starts out with a presentation of the main characters, which I found cute and a great way to begin the tale, since it does bring a bit of familiarity when the story begins. Then, there's a section on how to read a graphic novel, which wasn't my thing, but that could just be me. From there it glides over a new tree house (which holds importance later), and then the mystery. This is very well laid, and the clues will keep readers guessing. I was surprised that none of the adults cared that the bikes went missing, since this would, realistically, be a large problem...especially when all bikes but one go missing. But aside from that the mystery ran very smoothly, draws in, makes some great points not only on how to collect clues but also on not drawing conclusions too quickly. There is an interesting twist at the end, which rounded off everything in a positive manner.

I did enjoy the tale and believe young readers will get quite a bit from it. Judge Kim will no doubt have many more cases to solve, and I'm looking forward to seeing where the next tales lead.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Today's read... Guardians of Dawn Zhara by S. Jae-Jones might have seen my mistake. I thought this was a book birthday, BUT it seems that the release day has been pushed back until late August. So, there will be plenty of time to get excited about this one.

Guardians of Dawn #1
by S. Jae-Jones
St Martin's Press
YA Fantasy
416 pages

AUGUST 29th!!!

Sailor Moon meets Cinder in Guardians of Dawn: Zhara, the start of a new, richly imagined fantasy series from S. Jae-Jones, the New York Times bestselling author of Wintersong.

Magic flickers.
Love flames.
Chaos reigns.

Magic is forbidden throughout the Morning Realms. Magicians are called abomination, and blamed for the plague of monsters that razed the land twenty years before.

Jin Zhara already had enough to worry about—appease her stepmother’s cruel whims, looking after her blind younger sister, and keeping her own magical gifts under control—without having to deal with rumors of monsters re-emerging in the marsh. But when a chance encounter with an easily flustered young man named Han brings her into contact with a secret magical liberation organization called the Guardians of Dawn, Zhara realizes there may be more to these rumors than she thought. A mysterious plague is corrupting the magicians of Zanhei and transforming them into monsters, and the Guardians of Dawn believe a demon is responsible.

In order to restore harmony and bring peace to the world, Zhara must discover the elemental warrior within, lest the balance between order and chaos is lost forever.



Each character pops off the page in this complex tale of magic, power, and hope.

Zhara does her best to keep her magic hidden. Not only is any sign of magic an instant death sentence, but the hunt for magicians is underway thanks to the increasing appearance of abominations (magicians turned into monsters). When she accidentally bumps into a strange man while trying to procure her favorite book, she winds up with a forbidden tome in her hands concerning magic. Soon, it becomes clear that the mythical Guardians, who are to protect magicians and the world from demons, might be real, and Zhara must find them.

First off, what a cover! That alone had me wanting to pick this one up and dive in. Then, there's the Sailor Moon and Cinder comparison, which peeks interest. So, I went into this one with high expectations, and already having read works from this author, was ready not to be disappointed. While this read wasn't what I expected, it was a fun ride.

Each character packs personality. Tons of it. In some ways...and maybe this comes from the Sailor Moon angle...they almost feel cartoonish and over-the-top but not quite. This makes each one quirky and very individualistic in their own ways. It was a treat to meet each one and gave each scene an extra zest of life. 

The plot is complex and weaving, which considering this is the first in a series, great. There are many layers to the magical world and secrets abound. The history was laid out enough to build up a beginning base and get the world set-up. There are still holes at the end, but that's not a problem since there is plenty more to come. This can go so many directions, and I'm looking forward to see which ones it will take.

Comparing this one to Sailor Moon and Cinder was, in my opinion, not the best direction to take...outside of the fact that it does catch readers' attentions and markets nicely. But the tale doesn't really follow either of these. There's a tiny bit of a Cinder atmosphere in the beginning, but this disappears rapidly. As to Sailor Moon...well, I don't see it. Then, there's a BTS insert, which raises eyebrows. So, not what I expected.

The writing style is easy-to-read and draws in. The lower end of the YA audience will feel at home in this one, not only thanks to the writing but also due to the characters, since their concerns hit this age level nicely. There's a somewhat superficial atmosphere to the read, and that with the thickly woven plot, ends up creating an original and interesting mix. The only thing about the writing which bothered was the pronoun useage. The author explains that these are to follow the more Asian language direction with familiarity, but the problem is that this is written in English for English speakers. So, the sudden 'they' instead of he/she, due to familiarity usage in the Asian languages, not only confuses but plucks out of the story and world flow. The reader has to pause to realize what's going on.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable read and world with characters to really enjoy. I found the style light and refreshing with tons of potential on what is still to come. And I am looking forward to seeing what will happen next.

Monday, March 27, 2023

Today's read... Hello, Meadow! by Terry Pierce

If you're an outdoors family like we are, then you'll understand the already mounting urge to head outside and explore. Today's read is exactly about that. For the youngest readers out there, this one will introduce the world of meadows...but from what I understand, it's not about the facts surrounding meadows. Rather, it should be more inspiring and have a few other lessons along the way. But let's just head in and see what it's all about.

by Terry Pierce
Illustrated by Nadja Sarell
Yosemite Conservancy
Board Book
14 pages
ages to 5

APRIL 11th!!!

"We can help our meadows, too!"

Grassy, flower-filled meadows are really pretty! It’s oh-so tempting to hike and skip right through them. But meadows are actually fragile, and human footsteps and picnics can cause them harm—and then they cannot do their important work of providing habitat for creatures and plants, filtering water, and even storing carbon. The bouncy text and vibrant illustrations in this sturdy board book show little nature lovers how to easily protect meadows while enjoying one of Earth's loveliest features.



Nature, outdoor, and exploration fans discover the wonders of visiting a meadow in a way, which will have them wanting to head out and discover one themselves.

Written in rhyme, this is a little board book for the youngest readers out there and heads off into beautiful meadows. Each page offers a bright and radiant meadow scene, portraying the various aspects, which make meadows inviting, peaceful, and fun. Along the way, readers learn how they should behave to best preserve these beautiful areas.

This book is brought out by the Yosemite Conservancy and releases right on time for the up-coming months, when outdoor explorers head into nature to discover whatever they can. So, it's rather fitting to have this one center around ways to discover the beauty and variety of life, while preserving it for others to see...and letting it thrive. Each scene has two short, poetic phrases, which not only describe something wonderful about a meadow but add a tip to help conserve it. This includes everything from staying on the path to not picking flowers and beyond. The purpose of the book is clear, but the author has done a nice job at letting the amazing life and vibrant variety a meadow holds radiate from every page, too. While there aren't informational details as to what a person finds in a meadow, the broad view also will have young readers ready to head out and experience a meadow, too.

It's a bright, happy book, which promotes the preservation of meadows but also radiates the wonders a meadow has to offer. I know my little hikers would have packed this one into their packs to read again and again as we headed on our own little escapades. 


Sunday, March 26, 2023

Today's read... Shakti Girls by Shetal Shah

Poems of Inspiring Indian Women
by Shetal Shah
Illustrated by Kavita Rajput
Shakti Girls
Children's Picture Book Nonfiction / Poetry
32 pages
ages 4 to 10

From the globally well-known producer Mindy Kaling to the lesser-known freedom fighter Kasturba Gandhi, Indian women have been breaking ceilings and ushering in powerful change for decades. Learn 13 of their exceptional stories in Shakti Girls, where single rhyming poems illuminate each woman and reflect the diversity of India and its diaspora, including representations of over 10 different industries, such as women in science, politics, math, activism, sports, and more.



Through thirteen poems, readers are introduced to women from India, who have made accomplishments in everything from science, politics, sports, and more. Each poem covers the basic facts of the individual's life and accomplishments. At the bottom of the page, there's a short glossary of lesser known terms as well as a list of a few items to find in the following illustration of the individual. At the end of the book, there are several activities and puzzles surrounding the information.

I did enjoy the idea of placing the information into poetic form, since it makes it a little more digestible to the reader and not so dry. These aren't for the youngest readers out there but do work nicely for ages six and up. The added glossary is a great learning tool and does help with some more difficult terms. The illustrated portraits accompanying each one present each woman nicely and make it clear what her specialty is/was. If it wasn't for the item-search included, the background on these would be a little plain, but this adds a nice touch...not to mention the added entertainment factor. These aren't exactly difficult and do seem simple in comparison to the difficulty of the poems and information.

This is a lovely way to introduce readers to some important personalities from India and demonstrate how much women have achieved. It's also an inspiring read, which will help empower readers to strive toward their own goals.


Saturday, March 25, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Thorns at Sunrise by Janeen Ippolito with Giveaway!


by Janeen Ippolito
YA Fantasy / Romance


A young queen. Her imaginary friend. A kingdom on the verge of death.

She believes she’s crazy.

Queen Usilea has a secret–and he lives in her mind. Ever since she was six years old, her imaginary friend has been her closest companion, and her arranged marriage has been a great dread. When she learns her betrothed and the royal family have suddenly died, she feels obligated to attend the funeral in the foreign land of Absteph–and perhaps learn more behind their mysterious passing.

He only wants the truth.

Petar endures great pain to protect those he does not remember. His only solace is a shadowy woman who he loves–even though she denies that he exists. When a terrible tragedy occurs in his kingdom, that mysterious woman is his only hope of bringing justice to light. For the cage that imprisons him grows harsher every day, and he is losing the fight.

But there are thorns at sunrise.

Brought together on the barest thread of reality, Usilea and Petar must discover what really happened to the royal family. But Petar’s time is running out. Soon not even a Mender like Usilea will be able to save him.

This YA romance features a gender-swapped Sleeping Beauty in an original fantasy world on the brink of doom.

Goodreads / Amazon


Her imaginary friend was playing a new trick on her. This time, she would discern his meaning.

Usilea set down the quill on the paper, frowning at the words mocking her from the page. She pressed her lips together in thought. Thorns at sunrise? What could it mean? What was her mind trying to tell her?

“What do you think of my riddle?

As usual, the voice didn’t come from within her mind directly, but somewhere outside. Yet were she to glance around, all she would perceive is the vaguest sensation of shadow and soul in the periphery of her vision.

And so, she refrained from looking. Instead, she focused on the words she had written, words he had spoken into her mind at some point in the night.

I think … you’re afraid.

“And what am I afraid of, goldenbird?” Amusement teased the edges of his words. She had known her friend was a male since the first time they had met, whenever that had been. Sometime after her sixth year. “Tell me, you who know me so well.”

I know you as well as I might any figment of my imagination.

“Likewise. That is not the answer to the riddle.”

A sigh escaped her. Usilea leaned back in her cushioned chair and rubbed the tense area around her eyes. You are afraid of being lost. You are afraid of being found. You are afraid of darkness, and you are afraid of light.

No answer came from the voice in her mind. A faint smile curved her lips. He only withdrew like that when she was right and he was bewildered. She had learned that pattern over the years as they had conversed. He liked keeping his mysteries, while he equally delighted in unveiling the mysteries of others. A curious behavior for her imaginary friend.

A strange, stabbing sensation pierced through her musing.

What did it imply about her that her closest friend wasn’t real?

And here she is...

Janeen Ippolito writes about misfits who defy expectations, whether in fairy tale, steampunk fantasy, urban fantasy, humorous paranormal romance, or poetry. She also spreads wordtastic joy in her work as a fearless book strategist, nonfiction author, and coach. In her spare time, she swordfights and posts cute animal memes.

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

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Friday, March 24, 2023

Review of... Once Upon A Legend by Mary Ting

 Okie dokie. I posted this one yesterday but was unable to read it and get up the review I'd planned to do. So, I'm making up for that now. 

Once Upon A Legend
Mary Ting
March 20th 2023
YA Fantasy


A story of love and a power that echoes through time.

A prophecy foretold by the Council.
A sword forged by the Ladies of the Lake.
A child born from love and the hope of thousands.

Seventeen-year-old Idrisa is a student from Dumont Orphan School. When the Emperor of Dumonia invites all citizens to a birthday gala for Prince Merrick, she attends and becomes entangled in a world beyond belief.

At the party, Idrisa begins to hear strange voices that urge her to go to the lake. A student from school follows and tries to kill her, but in the fight for her survival, Idrisa gains possession of an eternal sword—gifted by the Ladies of the Lake.

The Emperor demands it, but only Idrisa can wield the sword, so he imprisons her. Her only hope is Prince Merrick, but he is grieving the death of his mother and doesn’t care about anything happening around him.

While held captive, Idrisa uncovers secrets that challenge everything she thought she knew about Dumonia. Enemies and allies emerge when they hear news of the sword, and she must unlock the mystery of the weapon before darkness descends on the empire forever.

Goodreads / Amazon


I've read several works from this author and always look forward to see what's coming next. This time, her tale took an exciting, new direction.

Idrisa is an orphan and as normal as can be, or at least, so she thinks, since only royals and elites possess magic. But when she attends the kingdom-wide birthday gala of the prince, strange things begin to happen. Not only does she feel awful, but there's something pulling her toward the lake. Giving in, she follows the call and ends up with a powerful, mythical sword only she can wield. Her secret doesn't stay as such for long, and soon the king is doing what he can to gain possession of the sword himself.

This is the first book in a brand, new series (as it appears) and a great start. While the writing came across as a bit too flowery to me, at first, I soon found myself being pulled in by the characters. It's an exciting ride with tons of subplots, twists, intrigue, magic and more. While this is a type of King Arthur re-telling, it has a life of its own right along with an original world, characters and plot. I expected something more fitting for the original tale's setting, and I'm so glad the author followed her very own direction.

I can't wait to see where everything goes from here because it promises to be quite the ride.

And here she is....

Born in Seoul, Korea, author Mary Ting is an international bestselling, multi-gold award winning author. Her books span a wide range of genres, and her storytelling talents have earned a devoted legion of fans, as well as garnered critical praise. She is a diverse voice who writes diverse characters, often dealing with a catastrophic world.

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

Website / Facebook Page / Facebook Group / Twitter / Instagram / TikTok / Bookbub / Newsletter

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Today's read... Enly and the Buskin' Blues by Jennie Liu

Today's read is about a boy, who plays the melodica on the street for tips. And that definitely caught my interest. Firstly, a melodica is a wonderful instrument, which is so often forgotten...and I love learning about lesser-known things. Secondly, my older daughter was always looking for ways to make some extra change and often set up lemonade stands, juice stops, sold rocks from vacations, and whatever else she could think up. Let's just say that she kept our neighbors busy.
Anyway, let's dive in!

by Jennie Liu
Carolrhoda Books
Middle Grade Contemporary
208 pages
ages 9 - 13

Twelve-year-old Enly Wu Lewis is determined to go to band camp and follow in the footsteps of his musician father, who died years ago. But his mom, a single parent working two jobs, is saving every penny for his older brother's college tuition. So Enly sets out to earn the money for camp on his own, by busking with an obscure instrument he can only kind of play. When someone drops a winning scratch-off lottery ticket into his tip box, Enly thinks it's the answer to his problems--but he'll have to overcome teenage thieves and his own family if he wants to achieve his dreams.



This read has several refreshing twists, while promising a fun adventure with a few life lessons along the way.

Enly is determined to follow in his father's footsteps and become a talented pianist. To reach these dreams, he's sure he needs to attend a summer music camp, but his mother is already struggling financially to keep the family running after his father's death, making the $2800 fee impossible to round up. In hopes of making Enly and his brother's futures brighter, every extra penny goes toward Enly's brother's college savings. But Enly isn't about to give up. He uses the little money he has saved to purchase a melodica, a lesser-known instrument, and go busking. But playing on the streets for tips isn't as easy as it seems, especially when a tipped lottery ticket gets involved.

My musician heart warmed at a story about a boy, who's ready to do anything to reach his piano dreams, but even non-music-orientated readers will connect with the dream of joining a band and becoming a popular musician. Enly's determination is inspiring, especially since he takes realistic steps to reach his goal. Not only does it show that effort is needed to achieve goals, but also opens up to ideas of financial adventures such as lemonade stands and pet rock sales—entrepreneur hopes and dreams.

The characters are lovely. Not only does Enly come across as a normal kid with normal dreams and hopes, but even his friends and family have interesting personalities and goals of their own. The edition of the elderly 'friends' offered a nice twist, while opening up the door to awareness and still keeping things very fun and light. His mother's struggles show how frustrating parents can be but also demonstrates that there can be more behind their actions than first appears. But then, the family dynamics in general are well done.

There is also an exciting, unexpected adventure, which gives this tale an extra boost of tension and action. There are bad decisions, consequences, hope, desperation, and more as Enly has to figure out how to solve a difficult problem...and words of wisdom thrown in at the right time, show that there is also an easier way to go about things. So there are quite a few messages woven into the fun. 

And here she is...

Jennie Liu is the daughter of Chinese immigrants. Having been brought up with an ear to two cultures, she has been fascinated with the attitudes, social policies and changes in China each times she visits. Follow her on Twitter @starnesliu and IG @jennieliuliu.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Once Upon A Legend by Mary Ting with Giveaway!


Once Upon A Legend
Mary Ting
March 20th 2023
YA Fantasy


A story of love and a power that echoes through time.

A prophecy foretold by the Council.
A sword forged by the Ladies of the Lake.
A child born from love and the hope of thousands.

Seventeen-year-old Idrisa is a student from Dumont Orphan School. When the Emperor of Dumonia invites all citizens to a birthday gala for Prince Merrick, she attends and becomes entangled in a world beyond belief.

At the party, Idrisa begins to hear strange voices that urge her to go to the lake. A student from school follows and tries to kill her, but in the fight for her survival, Idrisa gains possession of an eternal sword—gifted by the Ladies of the Lake.

The Emperor demands it, but only Idrisa can wield the sword, so he imprisons her. Her only hope is Prince Merrick, but he is grieving the death of his mother and doesn’t care about anything happening around him.

While held captive, Idrisa uncovers secrets that challenge everything she thought she knew about Dumonia. Enemies and allies emerge when they hear news of the sword, and she must unlock the mystery of the weapon before darkness descends on the empire forever.

Goodreads / Amazon


The voice in my head hummed a tune with ancient words. The somber melody rose an octave higher and dipped lower. A song of death, a song of horror and grief, and yet beautiful and profound, like the voice, raw and pure.

“I’m here. What do you want?” Why was I talking to the water?

I wrapped my arms around my chest when the breeze blew harder, water slamming against the walkway. Perhaps a warning of something terrible to come.

“Idrisa.” It sang my name, a soft tune filling my mind with bliss.

“Why is my lantern black? Why have you put it in front of me?” I shouted, desperate for answers.

Something glowed inside the lake, the size of an orb at first, then illuminated brighter and closer, like the birth of a new star. I threw my arms up to protect myself but the glow shifted, and then split into an image of three women.

Their long, silver hair and flowing white dresses blazed like milky fire, and brilliant light shone where their faces should be. I couldn’t stare without blinding myself.

“We welcome you, Idrisa. Do not be afraid. We are the Eternal Mothers,” they said in unison. Their voices sounded in my head like a hypnotic and celestial chorus.

My heart lurched to my throat. I curtsied, awed and humbled they’d appear before someone like me. Surely there was a mistake.

“What do you want with me?” I asked, my voice shaky.

“You are the light and the dark of this world. Within you lies strength, courage, and hope. Your time has come.” The Lady in the middle held a beaming sword that hadn’t been there before.

The sword rose from the lake, no doubt a hallucination. I shivered, an icy blast of wind nearly knocking me back as mist sprayed over my face. I didn’t know how deep the lake reached. If I fell, I doubted I could swim in the freezing water.

“I am Eternal Mother Viviane, the voice of all. I present to you, Caliburn.” The white light from the blade, like a thousand diamonds blessed with inner fire, beckoned me to reach out for it.

Your time has come? “What do you mean? Is it my time to die?”

“The truest of hearts and the blood of the firstborn, to restore the balance from once torn. Kingdoms shall rise and fall and empires alike, but only the blessed ones can save them all. You must live, Idrisa. You must fight. Most of all, you must have faith and accept your destiny. Now, take Caliburn and run.”

Before I could ask more questions, rapid footsteps vibrated on the walkway.

And here she is....

Born in Seoul, Korea, author Mary Ting is an international bestselling, multi-gold award winning author. Her books span a wide range of genres, and her storytelling talents have earned a devoted legion of fans, as well as garnered critical praise. She is a diverse voice who writes diverse characters, often dealing with a catastrophic world.

Becoming an author happened by chance. It was a way to grieve the death of her beloved grandmother and inspired by a dream she had in high school. After realizing she wanted to become a full-time author, Mary retired from teaching. She also had the privilege of touring with the Magic Johnson Foundation to promote literacy and her children’s chapter book: No Bullies Allowed.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Today's read... FlipFlopi by Linda Ravin Lodding and Dipesh Pabari

Today's read caught my interest the moment I saw it. I'm a sucker for real-life tales which lead to thought and inspire in fun ways, and this book promises to do just that. Based on a true story, it should be eye-opening, informative, and inspiring. Let's see if it does all of these things!

How a Boat Made from Flip-Flops Is Helping to Save the Ocean
 Illustrated by Michael Machira Mwangi
Beaming Books
Picture Book
ages 4- 8
40 pages

Juma is excited to go fishing with his grandfather, Babu Ali. But when they get to the beach, they find the sand covered in plastic pollution--flip-flops, plastic straws, toothbrushes, bottles, and shopping bags. One of the flip-flops floating in on a wave looks like a boat. That gives Juma and Babu Ali an idea.

Based on the true story of the Kenyan dhow boat Flipflopi, this inspirational tale demonstrates how innovation, art, and determination can transform plastic pollution into something useful. In 2017, 30,000 flip-flops and other plastic waste items, all collected from the Kenyan coast, were melted, shaped, and carved into the dhow named Flipflopi. Weighing in at 7 tons, this boat is a testament to what can happen when awareness is turned into action.



These pages awaken awareness for ocean pollution and inspire for action in a fun way.

Juma loves to head to the beach with his grandfather to go fishing, but the constant build-up of plastic trash is becoming a huge problem. When Juma sees a flip-flop floating on the water, he imagines it to be a boat and shares his thoughts with his grandfather. What Juma doesn't expect is that his grandfather, a boat maker, takes this as an inspiration to create a real boat from the trash on the beach. 

The idea behind this book immediately had me curious to take a peek, and I'm so glad I did. The tale is written in an easy-to-tell fashion, making it a lovely read-aloud as well as something for steady readers to pick-up on their own. It's easy to get caught up in Juma's excitement and become curious as to where the entire idea of building a boat will go. It's interesting as well as informative to see how the boat comes together and detailed enough to learn along the way, but not so much so that it drags. There is also an illustration, which shows how the boat was constructed, at the end of the book. So, this one offers quite a few directions. 

The main theme, of course, centers around the amount of plastic trash in the oceans. The illustrations bring this point home as the people on the island collect the needed amount of plastic from the beaches and place them in huge piles. There is more information at the end of the book, which briefly breaks down some facts surrounding this theme. While the pollution is addressed, it swings perfectly along with the tale, keeping any sign of preachiness away. Listeners will pause to think. Yet, the story stays centered on how Juma and his grandfather deal with the garbage and by doing so, inspire for action.  This will awaken ideas in listeners and can act as an opportunity for them to do a similar teachers and homeschoolers, be on the lookout for that!

I can recommend this one and find it a great way to address the topic, while doing so much more along the way.

And here she is...

Linda Ravin Lodding is the award-winning author of nine children's picture books including release "The Busy Life of Ernestine Buckmeister" (Flashlight Press), "Hold That Thought, Milton!" (Parragon Books), "A Gift for Mama" (Knopf Books for Young Readers), "The Queen is Coming to Tea" (Sourcebooks), "Painting Pepette" (Little Bee), "Wakey, Wakey Elephant" (Union Square Kids), "Little Red Riding Sheep" (Atheneum Books for Young Readers) and the forthcoming "Flipflopi: How a Boat Made from Flip-Flops is Helping to Save the Oceans" (Beaming Books, 2023).

Linda graduated from Barnard College, Columbia University (New York) and has an MBA from New York University's Stern School of Business. In addition to being a writer, she works as Head of Communications for a children's rights organization founded by the Swedish Royal Family. Linda is originally from New York, but has spent the past 25 years in Austria and The Netherlands and now lives in beautiful Stockholm, Sweden.

Find out more:

Link to the Flipflopi Project:
Link to author's website:
Link to author's Instagram: @lindaravinlodding_author

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Happy Book Birthday, Moonlight Blade by Tessa Barbosa

It's time to celebrate another book release! This time, I have a young adult fantasy read, which centers around magic, violent battles, and...well, the blurb reminded me a bit of Hunger Games but with spells and set in a fantasy realm. I was intrigued and was excited to give it a go.

So, let's pick up this shiny new book and see what it has to offer! 

by Tessa Barbosa
Entangled Teen
YA Fantasy
338 pages

I promised my mother I would never come to Bato-Ko…and yet here I am.

Narra Jal is one of the cursed, cast aside her whole life, considered unlucky. But with her mother’s life on the line, she will return to the city where she was born to face the trials: a grueling, bloodthirsty series of challenges designed to weed out the weak, the greedy, and the foolish. Trials to select the next ruler of Tigang.

Narra has nothing. No weapons. No training. No magic. No real chance of leaving with her life. Just her fierce grit and a refusal to accept the destiny she’s been handed. Even the intense, dark-eyed Guardian she feels a strangely electric connection with cannot help her. Narra is on her own. But she’ll show everyone what the unlucky can do.

Let the bloodbath begin.



An original world comes to life in this exciting adventure, which holds tension and tons of magic.

Narra is cursed and stays fairly isolated from society until her mother disappears. With her sister, she heads to the main city despite her mother's insistence that she never step foot there. While Narra does her best to stay hidden, she's determined to discover her mother's fate, which brings more trouble than she needs. When things unravel, she finds herself in the dangerous position and must fight in the deadly trials. But without any training or weapons, her chances to survive are slim.

This is an exotic world with magic, religious sects, governmental power, and a society full of dangers. Starting with the disappearance of Narra's mother, the story catapults head-first into the streets of the city, where every corner holds a threat. It's a wonderful setting, which gives the perfect backdrop to the bloody trials Narra will find herself in. From the very first page, I wanted to love this novel and get lost in Narra's world.

There is a lot to take in during the first chapters. Not only does Narra start in the heart of the dangerous streets, but she's immediately drawn into problems. This does make the tale grabbing, but with so many unique aspects, thanks to the rich world, it was also a little confusing. The government and society is quite complex and very different from many tales in this genre, especially since it weaves around a religious direction. It is so intriguing but, unfortunately, never built out enough to gain clarity of how it really works. The same can be said for the magic. There are original wonders about it, and yet, it's usage is also left a little foggy. Both of these deserved to unfold so much more than they did.

The characters are what makes this read. Each one is unique, has sympathetic goals, and is easy to root for or hate. A little background is missing on this end, too, but it's forgivable as they face all sorts of complications and situations. So, there is quite a bit to enjoy about this read and just wish to get lost in it even more.

And here she is...

Tessa Barbosa is a Filipina-Canadian author who writes fantasy novels by night, and software help by day. She studied computer science and the fine arts in university, but stories were her first love, and she’s thrilled she gets to write them now. Tessa currently lives in Vancouver with her family and when she’s not at the keyboard, you can find her reading, making messes in the kitchen, or sewing things. Find out more at