Monday, July 31, 2023

What's Coming in August?

It's August! That means the days of higher temperatures are numbered....I count down every year just waiting for the cooler weather to settle back in. I's going to be quieter, too, since another one of my sons is headed off to college. My house isn't empty, yet, but it's getting there. So, I'm going to be ready for a few more adventures and maybe some more writing time?

Anyway, this month holds a strange mix in my reading pile. I have several Mangas/graphic novels and more nonfiction than usual. A lot more. Young adult reads are a little more scarce, though, but the ones I do have promise to be very grabbing and dramatic. I think. I haven't read them, yet, but the appear to pack a punch. 

So, without any further babbling and nonsense, here's a glimpse at what will be hitting this blog in the next weeks.


I found the cover so inviting. If I happened to walk by this store, I'd pop in for a snack. The book is about the girl and how she helps the man, Lolo, to run his store. I'm betting young readers will be wanting to open their own stores after reading this one and see what they can sell, too. I'll be hitting this one right away on the 1st.

Picture Book


The Summer heat is leading my thoughts towards refreshing water and swimming in the waves, and this novel...rather, Manga...caught my attention. It's about a teen sea sprite and underwater-school and family drama. There should be quite a bit of humor built in, too. I'm looking forward to diving into this one on the 4th.

Young Adult Fantasy / Manga


The biggest farts of history...yep, this one will catch young readers' eyes. 'Fart' is taken in the very, very broad sense, and should make several aspects of history come across in a slightly different light. I'm, honestly, not sure what to expect with this one, and that's why I'm excited to give it a go. We're taking a peek on the 9th.

Children's Nonfiction


I've been hearing whispers about this one in the kidlit world for several months, now, and was excited to get my hands on a copy. It's going to be a bit darker read with a few triggers (or so I've heard), but then, should slide into magic and revenge. I'm expecting gritty and tense. Be prepared for the 10th, when I finally take a peek and tell you what I found.

Young Adult Paranormal


It's mystery time! I can't have a month without, at least, one of these. This one takes two young sleuths on a summer vacation to a mystery museum...I think? The director disappears, and they receive letters to solve clues and such to find him, but this takes them to more secrets than they wanted to know. It's said to be clever and I'll be diving in on the 12th.

Middle Grade Mystery


This one had me curious as soon as I saw that it involves a jar of magical coins, which transport a girl where ever and whenever (time/space) she wants to go. There should be tons of secrets even surrounding Lillian herself. I'm expecting quite a bit of imagination and adventure in these pages, and can't wait to dive in and tell you more on the 18th.

Middle Grade Fantasy


I found the cover adorable and, why is that rain spout so crooked? I'm wondering if this one hits the over-beloved nursery rhyme or if other adventures lay in store. Either way, I'll find out and tell you all about it on the 21st.

Picture Book


When I was offered to take a peek at this read, my answer was an immediate 'yes' (I might have been hungry at the time, too). Not only am I hoping it will hold all sorts of fun facts about's always great for young readers to learn, right?...but should invite readers to cook themselves. Get that water boiling for the 24th, when I'll be revealing if it's worth the time or not.

Picture Book Nonfiction / Cookbook


I guess it's nitty-gritty month in my YA direction as this read, again, approaches tougher themes. It circles around a girl, who finds herself living with her famous aunt & uncle in Hollywood...which makes her famous. I haven't dived into a read like this for awhile and will tell you all about it on the 30th.

Young Adult Contemporary


My sons enjoyed the D&D movie that came out a few months ago quite a bit. So, when I saw that this novel feeds in something similar, I wanted to take a peek. It snuggles up with a mystery surrounding a 'Midnight Lake', which sounds ominous. The cover promises tons of action and monsters, so I'm ready to dive in for an adventure on the 29th.

Middle Grade Fantasy

I think I could live hundreds of life times and still never have enough time to read all the amazing books out there. So many new ones are begin added each and every day, too. While my reading pile isn't nearly that big (that'd be insanely large if it was), it still holds more reads than I could ever tackle in a month. Since the publishing industry is also unpredictable, and my schedule can shift suddenly, I keep a book or two at the very top of the pile, knowing I'll get to them. Somehow. This month's read, which I'm determined to weave in at one point is:


This is a manga (I think it is, anyway) and caught my attention not only because of the wonderful tree with houses on the cover but also because it's about a monster hunter, whose profession has become useless and, now, creates homes for monsters. It should hold quite a few fun twists and creatures. Plus, I'm looking forward to see what they look like. When will I share this one? Well, that's the question, isn't it.

Young Adult Fantasy  /   Manga

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Mommy and Daddy's Day with Murder in Myrtle Bay by Isobel Blackthorn

Every now and then, I replace my usual kidlit posts with a read for all those moms and dads out there (or adults, in general). After all, they like to read to. These books do not have any content, which isn't appropriate for YA audiences. In other words, you don't have to hide these under the bed and hope they aren't discovered. Today's read proves this with this trigger warning:  "like the packet of peanuts that may contain nuts, this book may contain a murder…"  And that's it!

So off we go to dive into a murder mystery...and I'm really hoping there will be cute characters with some very quirky traits. But we'll have to wait and see.

Ruth Finlay Mysteries, Book 1
by Isobel Blackthorn
Cozy Mystery
286 pages

When feature writer Ruth Finlay and her elderly neighbor Doris Cleaver visit an antique and collectibles market in the small town of Myrtle Bay, they get a lot more than they bargained for.

After Ruth’s old tennis coach is found dead, they discover that there’s no lack of people who harbor a grudge against the victim, and a tangled web of family ties and lies begins to unravel. But can Ruth and Doris find the killer in time to avert a second murder?

A quirky feel-good mystery laced with intrigue, Murder in Myrtle Bay is the first book in Isobel Blackthorn’s ‘Ruth Finlay Mysteries’ series. Set in small town Australia, it is a sure pick for any fan of classic whodunits and cozy mysteries!



Enjoyable characters, good food, and more than a little town gossip make this an intriguing murder mystery in so many ways.

Ruth accompanies her neighbor and friend, Doris, to the market not only to work on her next article but to pick up a simple lid. The simple task launches into an unexpected direction as Doris stumbles across a dying who happens to be Ruth's ex-tennis teacher. The lack of visitors to the market keeps the suspect list to a minimum, but that doesn't mean the case will be easily solved. Instead, Ruth and Doris run across more family and small town secrets than they could have imagined.

Doris and Ruth make an unusual and fun duo. Doris is Ruth's neighbor, several years older than her, and packs personality. From inviting herself to coffee on a whim to a colorful fashion sense, her sudden ideas promise more than a few surprises. She's the fun to Ruth's more serious life of balancing a job with cooking for her father in the nursing home and more. It's entertaining to follow them and inspiring to witness their friendship. Plus, they make a great detective pair.

The mystery itself is well laid. While the suspect list seems to be small in the beginning, the weave of secrets, gossip and more soon expose a complex web. It's not clear who the murder is. The tale runs along at a steady pace, allowing the personalities of the characters to gain depth while adding humor here and there. Then, there's the vivid descriptions of delicious foods, which entice and invite in. 

It's an enjoyable read and I can't wait to see what Ruth and Doris will be up to next.

And here she is...

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, historical fiction and dark psychological thrillers. Her Canary Islands collection begins with The Drago Tree and includes A Matter of Latitude, Clarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun. Her interest in the occult is explored in The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey and the dark mystery A Perfect Square.

Her dark thriller The Cabin Sessions was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award 2018 and the Ditmar Awards 2018. Isobel’s  biographical short story ‘Nothing to Declare’ which forms the first chapter of Emma’s Tapestry was shortlisted for the Ada Cambridge Prose Prize 2019.  A Prison in the Sun was shortlisted in the LGBTQ category of the Readers’ Favorite Book Awards 2020 and the International Book Awards 2021. And The Unlikely Occultist: A biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey received an Honorable Mention in the 2021 Reader’s Favorite Book Awards.

Isobel writes non fiction too. She is the author of the world’s only biography of Theosophist and mother of the New Age movement Alice Bailey – Alice A. Bailey: Life & Legacy.

Isobel’s first work, which she wrote in 2008, is Voltaire’s Garden. This memoir is set in the mid 2000s and tells the story of building a sustainable lifestyle B&B in Cobargo on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia, which gained international attention when a firestorm razed the idyllic historic village on New Year’s Eve 2019.

Isobel’s writing appears in journals and websites around the world, including Esoteric Quarterly, New Dawn Magazine, Paranoia, Mused Literary Review, Trip Fiction, Backhand Stories, Fictive Dream and On Line Opinion. Isobel was a judge for the Shadow Awards 2020 long fiction category. Her book reviews have appeared in New Dawn Magazine, Esoteric Quarterly, Shiny New Books, Sisters in Crime, Australian Women Writers, Trip Fiction and Newtown Review of Books.

Isobel’s interests are many and varied. She has a long-standing association with the Canary Islands, having lived in Lanzarote in the late 1980s. A humanitarian and campaigner for social justice, in 1999 Isobel founded the internationally acclaimed Ghana Link, uniting two high schools, one a relatively privileged state school located in the heart of England, the other a materially impoverished school in a remote part of the Upper Volta region of Ghana, West Africa.

Isobel has a background in Western Esotericism. She holds 1st Class Honours in Social Studies, and a PhD from the University of Western Sydney for her ground-breaking research on the works of Alice A. Bailey. After working as a teacher, market trader and PA to a literary agent, she arrived at writing in her forties, and her stories are as diverse and intriguing as her life has been.

Isobel has performed her literary works at events in a range of settings and given workshops in creative writing.

British by birth, Isobel entered this world in Farnborough, Kent, She has lived in England, Australia, Spain and the Canary Islands.



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Saturday, July 29, 2023

Today's read... Craving Beauty by Jennifer Silverwood


Wylder Tales #1
by Jennifer Silverwood
YA Fairy Tale Fantasy

A dark tale of enchantment and woe, perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson and Holly Black, Craving Beauty is the first installment of the epic Wylder Tales Series!

Nineteen-year-old Vynasha's life is no fairy tale. The fire that killed her sisters was her fault, and the magic that saved her nephew cannot heal their scars. They shouldn't have survived, and the villagers either fear or loathe them. Until a mysterious stranger saves her, giving Vynasha the key to finding the only family they have left.

With nothing to lose, Vynasha dares the journey into the forbidden Wylderland. Through dangers untold, she makes her way to the forgotten city, but more than ghosts linger in the castle. A wicked curse shadows the land, shadows whisper that the one to break their curse has come, and a beastly prince makes a bargain Vynasha cannot refuse.

Become the beast's bride or become a monster herself.


The writing is as beautiful as the dangerous world and lures in with just as much grace.

Usually, I start off with a short description of the plot as I saw it, but this time, the blurb says it all. Vynasha lives a solitary life thanks to her magic, and she holds secrets to match the gossip swirling about her. She's an intriguing character, who also grabs sympathy right away, not only because of her lonely situation but due her to desire to protect her nephew, too. 

The world is crafted with as much poetic beauty as the writing. It's a treat to visit each scene and simply sink into the moment. It weaves with Vynasha's journey to form a vivid atmosphere and makes the tension, worries, struggles, and hopes dig deep. While lovely, though, some passages need to be read more than once to understand what is being brought across. This isn't my favorite style, but it'd be wrong to say that it's not well done.

The plot follows the main flow as described in the blurb. However, there is quite a bit happening on the side as well. It's layered with so many secrets and surprises. While these captured my interested and curiosity, many of them are left open-ended and unanswered, while others simply brought a little confusion. There is a second book on the way, which I'm expecting will clear much of this up. While I did enjoy diving into this tale and found the twist to Beauty and the Beast more than intriguing, I'm going to bow out after this first book, since it's simply not quite my thing. Still, I'm glad I had the chance to visit the enchanting world.

And here she is...

Jennifer Silverwood has been involved in the publishing world since 2012 and is passionate about supporting the writing community however she can. After studying traditional art at university, she began helping Qamber Designs bring authors’ books to life. In real life, she’s a mom of two, a passionate reader, and an occasional artist. Jennifer is the author of three series—Wylder Tales, Heaven’s Edge Novellas, and the Borderlands Saga—and the stand-alone romance titles Stay and She Walks in Moonlight.

Author links:
– Website
– Website book page
– Facebook
– Twitter
– Goodreads
– Books2Read
– Newsletter

Friday, July 28, 2023

Today's read... Devin Drake and the Family Secret by R.M. Clark

by R.M. Clark
Middle Grade Paranormal
172 pages
ages 8 to 12

Another day, another birthday, right? Not quite for Devin Drake. A few days after his twelfth birthday, he loses his new drone in the creepiest place on earth, a cemetery. While retrieving it, he realizes he cannot only hear, but see ghosts. Devin soon finds out that necromancy runs in the Drake family. However, before he can learn everything about his new-found power, a classmate begs him to find out why her deceased grandfather keeps contacting her through cryptic texts, random pennies, and birds of all things. Thinking it’ll be a quick case; Devin agrees to help her. However, he soon learns that spirits don’t always make things easy and just when he thinks he’s solved one clue, another one pops up creating at least ten more questions than the last. Will Devin get the hang of his new-found gift before time runs out? Or will Eva’s grandfather continue to lead Devin on what could be considered a wild goose chase?

GOODREADS   /    B&N    /    AMAZON


Drones, magic and ghosts launch this book into a very exciting adventure.

Devin doesn't consider himself  normal, but he has no clue how right he really is. When the drone he received for his birthday crash lands in a cemetery, he swallows his fear to get it...until he hears and sees ghosts talking nearby. It doesn't take long for him to figure out that it's part of a talent, handed down for generations thanks to the necromancers in his ancestery. Going with the flow, he does his best to cope with this new reality. When a classmate discovers what he can do, she begs him to help her. She's convinced her dead grandfather is trying to tell her something. But it's not as simple as it seems, and Devin soon finds himself in over his head in all the wrong ways. 

Devin is a character packed with personality. His fears (and he has several of them) mixed with a little awkwardness make him easy to sympathize with as he does his best to steer through every problem thrown at him. And he has a lot to deal with. This is a shorter read but it packs quite the adventure. The author has made sure to use every moment to move the secrets along and let the tension build. There were a few times, which jumped a bit too fast, but with so much happening, these breezed right on past with barely a notice. The writing is clever, the clues well-laid, and every moment has the reader wondering what will happen next.

These characters come across with natural flair. The back-and-forth between Devin and his younger sister rings true to sibling relationships, but then, family remains a theme throughout the read. It adds a wonderful foundation, especially when the family of his classmate and their wonderful restaurant comes into play. The scenes add depth to the characters and relationships without straying away from the main plot. 

It's a quick-paced, which keeps the pages turning from beginning to end, and holds more than a few surprises along the way.

And here he is...

Clark is children's book writer who lives in a small New England town with his wife, two sons, and one cat. Devin Drake and the Family Secret is his eighth published novel. He is currently at work on his latest middle grade project.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Today's review... When Dark Roots Hunt by Zena Shapter

Today's read heads into a slightly darker fantasy direction. It's a fantasy with the promise of an unique world and tons of tension. I do like the cover (always those covers!) and am curious to see how tense this one gets.

by Zena Shapter
MidnightSun Publishing
Young Adult Fantasy
355 pages

Don’t go out onto the lake. Wyann trees search the shallows to spear passing prey with their roots. Giant water-ants hunt anything that moves on the water-skin. Sala’s village survives hidden behind a wall of poisonous ivy, because everyone don’t go out onto the lake.
But when her village refuses to listen to sense, and continues squeezing beautiful pond-bred ‘keeiling’ fish to death for their precious saliva oils, Sala has no choice. She will risk it all to prove herself one last time, else leave everything behind for the dark shaded swamps beneath the towering hillfarms of Palude.
At least that’s the plan before a strange comet crosses the night sky, throwing her and her pet pointer into a race through wyann-infested swampland to unearth long-hidden truths and stir rivalries into a terrifying conflict set to change the world of Palude forever. Sala must do whatever it takes to face the truth of who she to save her village, to save her family, to save herself.

If only they had listened.



Every moment seems to sit on a knife's edge of tension in this uniquely crafted world.

Sala knows her village is dying, but not only do the others refuse to change their fate, they won't even recognize the truth of what she's telling them. Determined to prove that there's a better way, she heads out onto the forbidden lake to harvest milk from healthy fish and not the dying ones hanging near the shore. But there's a reason her village holds tight rules and stays sheltered. The world around them is deadly. When a comet shoots through the sky during her expedition, a chain of events is set off, which will destroy the village's last bit of life...unless she can stop it. 

Already the first page unleashes the details of a vivid and unique world, which holds a dank and dark atmosphere. The creatures possess a delightful mix of familiarity and fantasy to make the threat sit with just the right amount of creepiness. Especially the first scenes come to life in the mind's eye and make the danger Sala faces potent. The writing's kept tight, letting these scenes unfold without overloaded details and allowing the danger and action to stay front and center the entire time. Despite the lush environment and characters (her 'pet' is amazing), little time is spent on getting to know life in the village or the people there. Without some history or glimpse at Sala's normality, it's difficult to build needed understanding and sympathy. Still, the read grabs more and more until it's hard to put down.  

Sala is a strong character, who is ready to take on whatever comes her way. Her stubborn attitude makes her interactions with others a little prickly, at times, and kept her at arm's length, but for the mission she's on, she can't be a push-over because she's got a lot to face. And this drives the tale forward.

It's a grabbing read with a setting, which entices and draws in. There's never a boring moment, and it's a refreshing breeze with bite. 

And here she is...

Zena Shapter writes from a castle in a flying city hidden by a thundercloud, reaching across age and genre into the heart of storytelling. A multi-award-winning author of speculative and contemporary fiction, she loves conjuring journeys into the beyond and unusual. To read more of her work, please browse the bibliography on her website at

When not writing, Zena loves movies, frogs, chocolate, potatoes and living with her family among Sydney’s beautiful Northern Beaches. She’s travelled all around the world, visiting close to 50 countries, which inspire her to create worlds of her own. With her BA (Hons) in English Literature, Zena enjoys working as a mentor, editor and inclusive creativity advocate, inspiring writers to develop their craft. She teaches storytelling and writing at festivals, libraries and schools, judges various literary awards and encourages everyone to value the importance of creativity. She believes that stories are our best invention.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Today's read... The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson

Summer isn't summer without a read surrounding summer camp (a lot of summer going on, huh?). Today's read promises to be quite the adventure and take readers to pure outdoor fun, while solving a mystery and more. The cover has me dreaming of our own kayak adventures...and reminds me that I really do need to take the kids on some before school starts again. 

But first, let's take a peek at this read!

by Morgan Matson
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Mystery
400 pages
ages 8 to 12

The Penderwicks meets The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in a story about a young girl who gets to know her mom’s side of the family and hunts for hidden treasure over the course of one chaotic summer.

For as long as Ryanna Stuart can remember, her summers have been spent with her father and his new wife. Just the three of them, structured, planned, and quiet. But this summer is different. This summer, she’s received a letter from her grandparents—grandparents neither she nor her dad have spoken to since her mom’s death—inviting her to stay with them at an old summer camp in the Poconos.

Ryanna accepts. She wants to learn about her mom. She wants to uncover the mystery of why her father hasn’t spoken to her grandparents all these years. She’s even looking forward to a quiet summer by the lake. But what she finds are relatives… so many relatives! Aunts and uncles and cousins upon cousins—a motley, rambunctious crew of kids and eccentric, unconventional adults. People who have memories of her mom from when she was Ryanna’s age, clues to her past like a treasure map. Ryanna even finds an actual, real-life treasure map!

Over the course of one unforgettable summer—filled with s’mores and swimming, adventure and fun, and even a decades-old mystery to solve—Ryanna discovers a whole new side of herself and that, sometimes, the last place you expected to be is the place where you really belong.

GOODREADS   /    BOOKSHOP    /     AMAZON    /    B&N


Family, summer camp, and treasure maps...this book holds all the ingredients to form the foundation for a wonderful read.

Ryanna is an only child with an amazing step-mother and a very loving father, who just happens to be a movie director and script writer. Although her mother died several years before, Ryanna's as happy as can be...until she receives a letter. Her grandparents, the ones from her mother's side which she forgot exist, have invited her to stay with them for the summer. At first, she refuses but when realizing that she'll have a chance to learn more about her mother, decides to give it a go. What she doesn't expect is to land in the middle of cousins, aunts, and uncles, she didn't even know she had. Worse yet, the ex-summer camp that belongs to her grandparents is in danger of being torn down...and when if that happens, all the clues surrounding her mother would disappear, too.

The setting is every reader's dream: an empty summer camp with lake, docks, forests, kayaks, and the freedom to run around almost however the kids please. Plus, Ryanna's relatives pack tons of personality and fun. Even the adults (for the most part, anyway) take life in stride and handle things with patience, humor, and finesse. It's the perfect setting to launch Ryanna's search for more about her mother, especially since this involves a treasure map with all sorts of clues. While some of these were obvious (not to Ryanna, though), the search adds to the excitement.

The mystery left behind by Ryanna's mother plays along between adventures with the cousins and worries about the neighbor, who is threatening to bulldoze the camp to the ground. Then, there's the side problem of the father's not-so-smooth relationship with the grandparents. In other words, there's always something going on. It creates a rich read but makes for a longer one, too. Still, it's fun to follow every moment of shenanigans, and there are quite a few. 

This is a fun summer camp adventure that will have readers wishing they could join Ryanna and her cousins, and go on as many adventures as they do.

And here she is...

Morgan Matson is the New York Times bestselling author of six books for teens, including Since You’ve Been Gone and Save the Date, and the middle grade novel Firefly Summer. She lives in Los Angeles but spends part of every summer in the Pocono Mountains. Visit her at

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Today's read... The Case of the Missing Tarts by Christee Curran-Bauer

Readers of all ages can enjoy a good mystery. So, when I saw today's read, which is aimed toward chapter book readers, I grew giddy...okay, it might also have been because the detectives are pigeons. (Isn't that Sherlock Homes hat adorable?) Let's head off and see how this case turns out and if these sleuths are as amazing as they appear.

Pigeon Private Detectives, #1
by Christee Curran-Bauer
Union Square Kids
Children's Mystery
ages 6 to 9
80 pages

AUGUST 29th!!! 

The Pigeon Detectives are looking forward to devouring a delectable platter of jam tarts—until the tasty treats are stolen from right under their beaks! With tummies grumbling, the PPD are on the hunt for clues, but can the detectives recover the tarts in time before they are all eaten—or worse—stale? As the list of suspects grows longer, our heroes wonder if they’ll ever catch the thief jam-handed.

Pigeon Private The Case of the Missing Tarts, Christee Curran-Bauer’s author-illustrator debut, pokes fun at detective procedurals with kid-friendly humor!

GOODREADS    /    B&N    /     AMAZON


A delicious mystery takes on all sorts of unexpected and silly twists and turns.

Mama Pigeon makes the most yummy tarts, but before the Pigeon Detectives can bite in, the entire batch is stolen. It's definitely more than enough reason to launch into the case and discover who the horrible, pastry thief is. As the clues pile up, the detectives know they are getting close to finding the culprit and, hopefully, they can do it before the thief strikes again.

This is a cute mix between a beginning chapter book and a graphic novel, and perfect for those readers who are just diving into slightly more difficult reads. The graphics bring across the birds, animals, and scenes very well with fun details and characters with quite a bit of personality. While these moments keep the text lighter and let the graphics take over the tale, other pages glide in with more text, which gives the tale added depth and information. There are also more difficult words scattered in here and there to broaden the vocabulary. Some of these terms are defined at the end of the read.

These detectives are quite the trio. Each one has their strengths, and each one has an opinion. All three work well together, even when some of their thoughts and actions lead to giggles rather than solid clues. But when the clues come, these are well-laid. Especially since the reader also learns the basics of solving a crime along the way. There are several surprises to keep the reader guessing and except for one or two slower moments, the entire read moves along nicely.

The end of the book also adds a fact page about chipmunks. I do wish there had been a simple recipe for the cookies, since Mama Pigeon bakes a batch of these, at one point, with more detail. But that's just my thoughts. It's a fun read, which is sure to help even more reluctant readers slowly work their way to more difficult reads.

And here she is...

Christee Curran-Bauer has a BFA from Pratt Institute in communications design/illustration, and is a proud member of The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Christee is a Jersey girl currently living in Virginia Beach with her family and spoiled French bulldog. She invites you to visit her at and on Twitter at @ChristeeDoubleE.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Today's read... Always Sisters by Saira Mir

Today's read hits a more serious tone but promises to be beautifully crafted. I do find the cover quite lovely and am curious how this one swings into the topic. So, let's take a peek!

A Story of Loss and Love
by Saira Mir 
Illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8


This much-needed picture book about navigating the difficult experience of pregnancy loss meets young readers at their level to offer a tender look at grieving someone who never entered the world.

Raya can’t wait for her baby sister to arrive. She’s already got a name—Nura—and Raya is certain they’ll be best friends. She’s got all kinds of plans for things they’ll do together like run through the sprinklers, play dress-up, and give piggyback rides.

But one day, Mama returns from the doctor with tears in her eyes. Nura won’t be coming home after all. Raya feels confused and sad, like all the love she has for Nura is trapped inside her. With the help of family, friends, and her school counselor, though, Raya finds a way to grieve this loss and to share the love she’ll always feel for her sister.

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON    /    B&N


Each page and moment carries love and warmth with lovely illustrations to fit the mood.

A young girl is very excited to learn that she's going to have a younger sister. Sure, she has an older brother, but that's definitely not the same. She dreams of all the wonderful things her sister and her will do in the future, each moment more special than the last. But then, news arrives that something went wrong and her sister isn't going to come after all.

The book starts out with amazing positivity. It's cute to see all the things the girl hopes to do with her sister one day, and since the illustrations build the sister right into these scenes, it's almost as if she's really there. This is a clever way to make emotions and hopes come across and let the disappointment and feelings of loss come across clearly when things don't turn out as planned. It's potent, yet gentle and brings across the point in a meaningful way. Even the moments of dealing with the disappoint and acceptance afterwards are done with care and leave on a hopeful note.

The illustrations are pretty and have a dreamy flair. The colors remain bright and cheery, not allowing this one to sink into depression. Instead, the scenes offer support and encouragement the entire way through.

While this isn't a book which will resonate with every reader, those who do need the extra support will find this to be a wonderful read.

And here they are...

Saira Mir is a physician and author of the award-winning picture book Muslim Girls Rise, which she wrote for her daughter and other children to have Muslim feminist role models. As an OB-GYN, she has cared for many families through pregnancy loss, but could not find the book she needed to help support her daughter through grief over her own family’s loss, which inspired her to write Always Sisters. She lives in the DC area with her kids and is always on the hunt for the next best playground and bubble tea.

Shahrzad Maydani is an illustrator and storyteller based in Maui, Hawaii, where she lives with her family. She was raised in Africa by an Iranian mother and an English father, and she spent her childhood collecting and telling stories. Shahrzad is the illustrator of the picture books Poetree by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds, Always Sisters by Saira Mir, and Sourgrass by Hope Lim.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Today's read... Thomas Creeper and the Purple Corpse by J.R. Potter

Today's read dips into the macabre but should be a treat. I've been looking forward to this one, since it promises to be quite original and carry a balanced mix of horror and humor.

by J.R. Potter
Black Rose Writing
YA Paranormal Mystery
327 pages

Fall arrives in the miserable seaside town of Gloomsbury, Massachusetts like a fresh corpse—cold, gray, devoid of life. After vanquishing an undead Victorian monster with his best friend Jeni Myers over summer break, the last thing Thomas Creeper wants is another supernatural mystery to solve. There are caskets that need polishing at his family's funeral home, and all that new homeschooling work his mother keeps piling on. But Thomas has a big secret: he's a Fixer, a detective for the dead, and his powers are just beginning to sharpen. When corpses start washing up on Gloomsbury's shores, dyed head to toe in strange purple ink, Thomas realizes he might be the only person alive who can stop the killer's reign of terror. And he won't be alone. After the most important person in his life bails on him, a new core of allies—both living and undead—arrive on the scene, showing Thomas Creeper that there is one force greater than friendship. Dive into the series Booklist hails as "marvelously macabre" and follow the clues along with Thomas as past and present, horror and humor collide on the page, brought to life from the wild and unsettling mind of J.R. Potter.



Delightfully dark twists with clever humor in a tale, which invites to dig deeper with every page.

Thomas lives in Gloomsbury, Massachusetts, which is as cursed as its name suggests. But then, he does spend his life at his parents' funeral home helping out, homeschooling, or just living...unlike the corpses around him. Or the ghosts. As a detective for the dead, Thomas has more than his fill of those and would, sometimes, like nothing more than to be normal. Or go out on a date. Instead, he finds himself drawn into a deadly mystery as purple inked corpses wash up on shore, and only he has a chance of finding the cause.

This was an exciting dive into a world packed with imaginative details and, yet, sticking close enough to real life to make it wonderfully haunting. The author masterfully creates a town, where all sorts of horrors and gloom wait in the shadows, but even as death and danger hang in the air, humor pokes in its head with perfect snorts and snark. Imaginative details punctuate at the right times to draw in, while the characters and their quirks add needed depth. It's well-crafted and a treat for goth fans, who enjoy a heavy dose of humor to keep things lively and unexpected.

The mystery tangles right in between all of this and promises more than a few unexpected turns. Thomas makes a detective to root for as he sinks into his role, while dealing with several usual problems this age group tends to face. It's a read to get lost in and one, where it's hard to guess what will happen next.

And here he is...

J.R. Potter is the award-winning author and illustrator of the Thomas Creeper series about a reluctant mortician’s apprentice turned detective for the dead. Thomas Creeper and the Gloomsbury Secret, Potter’s debut novel, won the 2019 Kraken Prize for Middle Grade Fiction and is now featured in libraries from San Francisco to Saudi Arabia and included in two teaching curricula in the United States and the Dominican Republic. His graphic novel work has been published by Image Comics (The Glimmer Society), and his short fiction has appeared in The Portland Review and various fiction anthologies. When not working on the next Thomas Creeper mystery, Potter writes and illustrates teen fiction for educational publishers Pioneer Valley Books and Heinemann Publishing, helping to boost literacy, empathy, and wonder in schools across the world.

Also, coming soon...

The upcoming educational series for Pioneer Valley BooksCOWBOTS, is a leveled reader series that follows a group of cowboy robots as they explore Mars, take care of a herd of "space cows," and help each other. The series follows the Flesch-Kincaid reading scale, allowing young readers to build literacy and understand concepts in a gradual and cumulative way. I had a blast taking real names and characters from the American West and turning them into fun-loving robots: Billy the Lid, Annie Spokely, Wide Phil Thick-Lock, the Clone Ranger, Chef Fry-It Earp, and Fizz "the Robot Reporter" who records all the adventures and narrates the stories. Coming to schools early 2024.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Today's read... The Bubble Kiss Adventure by Lynnette Adair

Finley and Grandma Goldy
by Lynnette Adair
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 2 to 5

Finley the fish makes a HUGE bubble
when he tries to blow a kiss
to his Grandma Goldy.

Grandma Goldy gets the giggles
as the bubbles grow SUPER fast
and even come out in different colors!

As Finley blows more and more bright bubbles,
the room fills up to the ceiling
and he can’t find his Grandma!

The Bubble Kiss Adventure is fun to read
and even more rewarding to watch,
as little ones learn to finish the sentences
and “POP” the bright bubbles
while identifying each color.

This interactive book will excite young readers
as they help Finley the fish find his Grandma Goldy.

This lyrical, rhyming book is perfect for children ages 2-5.



Hugs and kisses from Grandmother become even more colorful and fun in this adorable read.

Finley loves his grandmother, and she gives the most wonderful kisses. When he decides to return the favor, he accidentally creates a gigantic bubble instead. But if there's any embarrassment, it's cut short thanks to games these colorful bubbles create.

This is a read for grandmothers and their grandchildren, and will invite to cuddles and smiles galore. Thanks to Grandmother's big lips, these kisses carry tons of warmth and love. But even kiss-shy readers will be drawn in as the bubbles form and overtake each and every page in a rainbow of bubbliness. Not only does this slide into a cute chance to learn the basic colors, but holds a whimsical atmosphere as the bubbles offer chances for hide-and-seek and more. 

The illustrations radiate family love and invite with their carefree scenes. The fish are made with tons of care and appear as if they sparkle and shine. This especially fits well to Grandma and her wonderful, puffy lips...a little bit of extravagance which slides into her personality perfectly. The text changes and mixes right into every scene, making a great read-aloud. When it doesn't flow with pretty smooth rhyme, the playfulness takes over to guarantee, at least, a smile or two.

It's a fun read with a simple plot, which invites to cuddles and play...which is just right for the age group.

And here she is...

Lynnette Adair is a beach-loving, empty nester who feels as though she has lived a thousand lives and confident that she will never run out of ideas. She is the successful author of a Women's Fiction novel, The Sea Sprite Inn. Now, with the arrival of THREE grandbabies in one year, Lynnette's interest in Children's Picture Books has blossomed.

After writing three stories - one for each baby - Lynnette couldn't resist learning how to illustrate too! This decision has made her question her own sanity. The Bubble Kiss Adventure is her debut picture book.

She has tried her hand at an incredible list of jobs including an insurance agent, city planner, professional ballroom dancer, and Air Force veteran, but her favorite reinvention is becoming an author.

Her short story “The Magical Suit” was published in Beach Days, where it caught the eye of the publisher and led to her novel,The Sea Sprite Inn.

Lynnette lives with her husband in Venice, Florida.