Thursday, November 30, 2023

Today's read... Drawing Deena by Hena Khan

Today's read comes from an author, whose works I've been enjoying for several years. She always mixes culture with everyday life so smoothly, and I appreciate her tales. So, I'm expecting quite a bit with this one, too. But then, the cover has already won me over. My favorite color just happens to be yellow, and I adore, its so artsy and dreamy. 

This one doesn't come out until February, but it's always great to have an up-and-coming list, right?


by Hena Khan
Salaam Reads
Middle Grade Contemporary
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

FEBRUARY 6th, 2024!!!

From the award-winning author of Amina’s Voice and Amina’s Song comes a tenderhearted middle grade novel about a young Pakistani American artist determined to manage her anxiety and forge her own creative path.

Deena’s never given a name to the familiar knot in her stomach that appears when her parents argue about money, when it’s time to go to school, or when she struggles to find the right words. She manages to make it through each day with the help of her friends and the art she loves to make.

While her parents’ money troubles cause more and more stress, Deena wonders if she can use her artistic talents to ease their burden. She creates a logo and social media account to promote her mom’s home-based business selling clothes from Pakistan to the local community. With her cousin and friends modeling the outfits and lending their social media know-how, business picks up.

But the success and attention make Deena’s cousin and best friend, Parisa, start to act funny. Suddenly Deena’s latest creative outlet becomes another thing that makes her feel nauseated and unsure of herself. After Deena reaches a breaking point, both she and her mother learn the importance of asking for help and that, with the right support, Deena can create something truly beautiful.


Middle school and family hit naturally with all the smiles and hurdles to touch the heart from beginning to end.

Deena's stressed. At least, that's what the dentist claims. Between no one understanding her love for art, her grades, her friends, and, more importantly, her family and their money struggles, life isn't easy. But there might be a chance to ease both the art and family ends. Determined to help her mother sell her created clothes more efficiently, Deena gets together with her cousin and best friend to set up a few social marketing endeavors. And it's a success! But it's getting to her cousin's and friend's head, which is causing Deena more stress than before. If only there were a way to fix everything.

Deena comes across as an average, middle school girl with very normal problems. She's kind, unsure, and tries her best to cope. Everything about her comes across naturally and spot-on age-wise, making her very easy to connect with, like, and cheer for. Her family is loving and kind but not perfect...just like every family. The back-and-forth between home life, school life, and friends rings with true-to-life problems and situations, while still remembering to bring enough humor to draw those needed smiles of relief. There are more than a few things readers will identify with and see in their own lives, and that in an entertaining and wholesome way.

I appreciate that the author allows Deena to tackle issues in a larger way. In other words, her mother (although not in all aspects) listens to her suggestions and lets her tackle the social media marketing, showing readers that they can accomplish even 'big' projects with determination and work (inspiring). Yet, it stays in reality and shows the borders, and in this case, that help isn't a bad thing. Of course, nothing is easy, and that's also a great message for today's readers.

Then, there's the cultural aspects. These weave in so seamlessly and add a wonderful touch. Deena never thinks about the differences really, but rather, the food, dresses, details and more are simply part of life. Readers learn about the culture...and even more, with art history and such...and that without ever feeling as if there's something to learn. It creates a smooth read with depth in many ways, which is enjoyable to read.

And here she is...

Hena Khan is a Pakistani American writer. She is the author of the middle grade novels Amina’s VoiceAmina’s Song, More to the StoryDrawing Deena, and the Zara’s Rules series and picture books Golden Domes and Silver LanternsUnder My Hijab, and It’s Ramadan, Curious George, among others. Hena lives in her hometown of Rockville, Maryland, with her family. You can learn more about Hena and her books by visiting her website at or connecting with her @HenaKhanBooks.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

What's Coming in December?

December is a very busy month...and not just in our household, I'm assuming. While the Christmas tree is already standing, the Advent's wreath ready to be used this weekend, and cookies already baking, there are still plenty of hours for reading. I have a small collection of Christmas tales from various cultures and time frames, which stand near the Christmas tree. And, of course, there's always room for new tales.

This month, I have quite a few reads to ring in the holidays (no surprise there), but I also have a mix of others to spice up those cooling nights as hot chocolate gains popularity again. There are quite a few picture books on the holiday themed-end, where my young adult ones will pack more tension. The middle grade reads are a little sparser this month, but the ones I have head more toward school and life drama.

Here's a quick peek at a few. Just a sneak peek of the almost 30 reads that will be appearing in the next weeks!


This is the first novel in a series, which made its debut earlier this year in May. I might be late in getting to it, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited I' expecting a dusting of magic and quite a bit of school drama. It seems to be doing well, so it should be an entertaining read. Let's find out how spellbinding it is on the 3rd.

Middle Grade Fantasy


 This book is also part of a series...and no, I haven't read any of the other books, yet, so this one is new to me. The train on the front made me smile, and I already had tons of ideas of what this story might hold speeding through my head. I have a feeling its going to be a touching and fun read. Be ready to jump on board with me on the 5th to learn more about this one.

Picture Book / Holiday


This one is releasing this month and just happens to be from a very talented, author friend. I adore her tales and never know what to expect next. This one circles around a ghost, a small town, and a teen, who's trying to find footing again after some terrible family happenings. I have already taken a peek at this one and will just say that I'm excited to share it with you on the 7th.

Young Adult Paranormal


When I saw this title, I thought of the traditional tale about three little kittens who lost their mittens. But I'm pretty sure this book has nothing to do with that story. I was very curious to see what these little mittens are up to and hope that it's a warming read to cuddle up with. Get ready for some snuggly thoughts on the 9th.

Picture Book


This cover definitely doesn't drift to snowflakes and colder weather, but that's fine with me. This one promises fast-paced action as it circles around a mysterious girl, and secrets surrounding a small town and it's residents. I'm not sure what else to expect but am hoping this one will keep me hooked in the pages and, maybe, demand a late reading night. See how thrilling it is with me on the 13th.

Young Adult Thriller


No Christmas can pass by without, at least one read about Santa and the North Pole. This one promises to be a whimsical, imaginative read and perfect for those last dreams before Christmas arrives. I'm hoping for elves, toys, reindeer, and everything Santa. And more. Find out if this read is worth a slide under the tree on the 21st.

Picture Book / Holiday


I picked this lovely book up at the library and was thrilled to be able to work it in on here as a holiday/library read. It heads back to around 1815 or so and circles around a mystery and romance. I found the red and gold cover a lovely touch of traditional Christmas feelings...and a sleigh ride in the snow? Sign me up! I'll be visiting this one on the 22nd, so make sure that mistletoe is ready and waiting.

Young Adult Historical


Ghosts and family should be the highlights of this read. It surrounds a boy, who never fits in thanks to his paranormal talents. I've seen quite a bit of buzz about this one this last year and was excited to finally have the chance to take a peek at it. Join me on the 27th to see how spooky it gets.

Middle Grade Paranormal


This is the first in a new graphic novel series for the YA audience and surrounds a girl, who is anything but a 'good girl'. Yet, she's the only one capable of saving the day. A villain turned hero story, by the sounds of it. I'm expecting tons of action and am looking forward to a quick-paced read. We'll learn more about this one on the 29th.

Young Adult Science Fiction / Graphic Novel

Oh, and before I forget, there's the reveal of My Favorite Reads of 2023 coming up on December 31st!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Today's read... The Broke Hearts by Matt Mendez

Today's read is another young adult fiction story which should hit the gut. It's the 2nd in the series, and nope, I didn't read the first. So, I'm hoping that doesn't prove to be an issue, since this one should circle around some pretty rough circumstances which happened in book one. I am in the mood for something deeper and grittier, and I hope this one delivers everything it promises. 

(Note: I'm going to have to go back and read book one because after reading this, I'm adding it to my possible favorites of the year list.)

Barely Missing Everything, #2
by Matt Mendez
Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary
240 pages

In this piercing follow up to Barely Missing Everything , JD and Danny, still reeling from the gutting death of their best friend by police gunfire, grapple with life-changing decisions and the kind of people they want to be, for Juan.

A year after losing their best friend, JD and Danny are still brokenhearted. JD’s impetuous decision to join the Air Force only makes him yearn for “before” more than ever. Danny, who’d rather paint murals than open a book and certainly never thought of himself as college material, makes the equally impulsive choice to do what Juan will never be able to and enrolls in a community college.

Danny’s father, The Sarge, is proud of him for the first time ever for living out Sarge’s own dream of being a first-generation college student, but Danny can’t shake the thought that it should be Juan, not him. And studying hasn’t gotten any easier for him despite his new academic goals. When Danny is on the verge of flunking out and JD gets notified of imminent deployment, the two are forced to confront their shared grief that led them to these paths. Can they learn to live lives that are their own in honor of Juan, rather than for him?

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON   /    B&N


The tale hits with surprising potency and leaves an impression long after the last page has been read.

Danny and JD battle with the loss of their best friend, each trying to continue life in their own way. Danny's college aspirations are proving to be more than a struggle, not due to a lack of talent but a fight against himself. JD, who has joined the Airforce, isn't coping any better, despite his determination to reach his goals. They both must learn to handle the past and find a way to push forward, but that's easier said than done.

I did not read the first novel in this series, but that proved not to be a problem. The author allows each character to gain footing in the first chapters and reveals just enough of the past for readers, like me, to catch on what has happened without regurgitating the information in ways which might bore those who did read book one. Instead, Danny and JD are presented as they are: attempting to start anew. The pain and emotions lure the reader in, bringing sympathy immediately. It pulls at the heartstrings, lets harsh reality hit, and doesn't forget to throw in needed shimmers of hope...but with enough struggles to wonder if that light can really shine.

It's the character arc, which makes this a read to get lost in. Both Danny and JD have a long way to go and a rough climb if they want to make it. It digs into the rawer side of humanity and the world, hitting home in more ways than one. Especially teens will see part of themselves reflected in the characters as both hit the seemingly unsurmountable obstacles. It's a read to connect with, suffer with, and discover growth on the other side.

And here he is..

Like his characters, Matt Mendez grew up in central El Paso, Texas. He received an MFA from the University of Arizona and is the author of the short story collection Twitching Heart and young adult novels Barely Missing Everything and The Broke Hearts. He lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can visit him at

Monday, November 27, 2023

Today's read... Clever Crow by Chris Butterworth

It's said that the early bird catches the worm, and I should get a huge one considering how ready I am on today's read. This book concentrates on crows and should give young readers a better look into this interesting bird. It doesn't hit the shelves until next Summer, but I do enjoy getting excited about upcoming reads. 

by Chris Butterworth
Illustrated by Olivia Lomenech Gill
Candlewick Press
Picture Book / Nonfiction
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

JULY 9th, 2024!!!

For young bird-watchers and enthusiasts of the natural world comes a beautiful, eye-opening picture book about the familiar but ever-surprising crow.

Crows may not have flashy feathers, beautiful songs, or fancy flying skills, but if a crow looks at you with its small, round eye, you can be sure that it’s thinking, as these birds have very big brains. Did you know that crows will use a stick to poke into a crevice to tease out tasty bugs? Or that they like to play like kids by tumbling down a snowy roof? Or that they remember where they hide their food—but sometimes only pretend to bury a treat to fool other birds? Original and accessible, with Chris Butterworth’s welcoming text and gorgeous, expressive artwork from Olivia Lomenech Gill, Clever Crow is sure to generate newfound respect for these unassuming creatures that young readers come across every day.


The awe surrounding crows remains high as readers learn more about this clever bird.

Readers will learn all about crows in these pages, while never nearing the boredom of dry facts. Everything from crow feathers to flight techniques to food habits and more is mentioned and explained through a flowing text, which almost hits poetic but never quiet gets there. It keeps the listener/reader engaged and pulls them from one page to the next.

Through the use of unique backgrounds and style, the crows are presented in an easy-to-recognize way. The images support the information in the text to help deepen the understanding. Some of the scenes are familiar, while others edge toward an enigmatic atmosphere. This keeps a sense of mystery to the birds and does heighten interest while reading. 

The information is understandable and adds some tidbits young listeners/readers probably didn't know. It's a lovely way to introduce young readers to crows and also can be used to open up a theme for classrooms, groups, or homeschoolers. 

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Today's read... House of Ash and Bone by Joel A Sutherland

I loved the cover on today's read. Plus, I was in the mood for a thrilling tale...which is hard for me, since I'm actually a chicken if they get to tense. But something tells me that this one might be worth a go, even for a scaredy-cat like me.

by Joel A. Sutherland
Tundra Books
Young Adult Thriller
336 pages

The Haunted meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this young adult debut horror by acclaimed Canadian master of the macabre Joel A. Sutherland.

Seventeen-year-old Josephine Jagger is a talented writer with special abilities she doesn't fully understand. Over the years she has developed methods to cope with the voices she hears in her head, but the old house her family has inherited in Vermont makes Josephine question what's real and what's not more than anything she's ever encountered before. It's filled with shadows, and whispers, and the unshakable feeling of being watched. Josephine then catches her first glimpse of a shadowy woman with long hair, pale skin, an impossibly wide smile and hollow pits for eyes. Her name is Dorcas, the ghost of a witch who died three hundred years ago. She has summoned the family to Vermont to ensnare them — then consume them — in order to rise from the grave and live again . . .


Tension builds from page to page in this fast-paced thriller, where ghosts can do more than scare. They mess with the mind.

Josephine's family declares a sudden week vacation the day after Christmas and heads off to Vermont and a house some dead aunt left them. The troubles begin when her earbuds brake. Josephine hears others' thoughts and can't protect her mind...or that of others...when she sleeps. But that soon becomes the least of her concerns as everything about the house takes an odd twist. Sure, the pantry is stocked full of the most delicious foods and each bedroom seems made for each person. Even the corresponding closet holds a vast array of each individuals desires. Yet, there's something in the shadows. Something cruel and hungry, and it's playing with their minds.

During the first pages, I became convinced that this is a twist on Hansel and Gretel, and a clever one at that. The family is lead to the house only to find everything they desire. There are rumors about past residents, which flow in the Hansel/Gretel direction, and even an evil ghost/witch. There are many wonderful twists and turns in this read as the plot thickens, and the tension builds. It flows nicely and is chucked full of surprises with just the right amount of chills. The quick-pace keeps boredom away and the pages turning, while the dialogue draws in.

While I enjoyed reading this, I'm not sure which audience it fits with age wise. The story line, vocabulary, and details do make this a solid young adult read, since it's definitely not meant for middle graders. And yet, Josephine comes across as a 11/12-year-old in her thoughts, actions, speech, and concerns. The weaker character depth of the side characters as well as the pure acceptance of odd events (even with the mind-play) also slides this more toward the younger age category. Yet, this isn't a middle grade read by any stretch of the imagination.

I did enjoy this story quite a bit. It's original, well-woven, and grippingly written. Those who enjoy thrillers, which may seem lighter at times while still packing punch, should take a peek at this one.

And here he is...

JOEL A. SUTHERLAND is the Silver Birch, Diamond Willow and Hackmatack Award-winning author of Be a Writing Superstar, numerous volumes of Haunted Canada (a series that now has more than 500,000 copies in print) and Summer’s End (a Red Maple Award Honour Book currently in development for television by Scholastic Entertainment, Mainframe Studios and Man of Action Entertainment). His new series, Haunted, has been praised by Goosebumps author R.L. Stine. He has a Masters of Information and Library Studies from Aberystwyth University in Wales and lives in southeastern Ontario with his family, where he is always on the lookout for ghosts.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Today's read... Teaching Eddie to Fly by Katarina Macurova

The second I saw this cover, I wanted to pick this one up and take a peek. I don't know if it's the cute little bear or the predicament the ostrich is in, but I found the idea cute. 

Note: This one is going onto my possible favorites of the year list.

by Katarina Macurova
Beaming Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

Eddie is a bird, but he can't fly! His friend Ernest, a bear, decides he's going to help Eddie learn to fly--with hilarious and unanticipated results. Along the way, both Ernest and Eddie learn some valuable lessons. Is Eddie even meant to fly? Or is there something else he's even better at? Quirky and fun, Teaching Eddie to Fly will have kids laughing while challenging them to think about what they're good at, and what makes them unique.



An adorable pair of friends heads out to achieve the impossible, and it's hard not to cheer for them the entire way.

Eddie is an ostrich. A bird. So, his friend, Ernest, is convinced Eddie can fly. He just has never been taught how. Luckily, there isn't a better teach in the entire world than Ernest. With one theory after the other, the two try everything and anything to accomplish this dream, but whether or not it works remains to be seen.

Everything about this tale puts a smile on the face. The odd pair of friends, an ostrich and a little bear, fit perfectly to the quirky, yet super sweet situation. Ernest's desire to do anything to help his friend comes from the heart, while Eddie has a trust, which inspires. They go from one idea to the next, each attempt more interesting than the last. None of them end up with even the slightest hint of a negative direction, but everything stays in a wholesome...albeit silly...realm. Eddie's expressions, though subtle, are as golden as Ernest's determination. The two guarantee giggles, while warming the heart.

The text is kept simple and short, giving just enough to keep the story rolling along. It makes a great read aloud for even the younger end of the reading audience. The illustrations are gentle and still let the humor sit very well. 

It's sure to become one of those reads which ends with the words 'again' .

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Library read... Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

I've got a library read today! I stumbled across this one while searching for snow stories and ordered it in from another library (it's so kind that the libraries do this). It's a retelling on the Snow Queen and promises tons of action with exciting twists. I have heard about the author and know that she's written a best-seller or two...although I don't believe I've read any of her stories yet. (I might be wrong, though)

Since this one fits right in with the upcoming months, I figured I'd give it a go.

Stealing Snow #1
by Danielle Paige
YA Fantasy / Retelling
375 pages

First kisses sometimes wake slumbering princesses, undo spells, and spark happily ever afters.

Mine broke Bale.

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in Whittaker Psychiatric—but she isn’t crazy. And that’s not the worst of it. Her very first kiss proves anything but innocent…when Bale, her only love, turns violent.

Despite Snow knowing that Bale would never truly hurt her, he is taken away—dashing her last hope for any sort of future in the mental ward she calls home. With nowhere else to turn, Snow finds herself drawn to a strange new orderly who whispers secrets in the night about a mysterious past and a kingdom that’s hers for the taking—if only she can find her way past the iron gates to the Tree that has been haunting her dreams.

Beyond the Tree lies Algid, a land far away from the real world, frozen by a ruthless king. And there too await the River Witch, a village boy named Kai, the charming thief Jagger, and a prophecy that Snow will save them all.


Insanity dances along the sharp edges and breaks away to a harsh reality, where a princess must fight her evil father in hope of finding even a shard of a future for their kingdom.

Snow has been in the mental institute as long as she can remember thanks to her sudden, violent outbursts. The one person she was able to connect with broke her wrist at their first kiss. She starts to plan a way to see him again, but the attempt lands her following a strange boy through a portal to an unknown world. He calls her a princess and claims that she possesses incredible magical powers, but just as she begins to trust him, he disappears. Instead, she ends up in the hands of a witch, who divulges a prophecy concerning Snow's birth. Thanks to her evil father, the king, she's hunted because only she holds the key to the future of their world.

I was curious when I saw this one peeking between the books on the library shelves. After all, I'm all in for a retelling on the Snow Queen, especially one which begins with the main character in a mental institute...sounds original and promising. And this read is original. The first several chapters introduce Snow and her life as a patient. Her mother visits every now and then, but Snow's main interactions are with the nurses and other patients. Occasionally. It's never really clear why Snow is there or why she's been given such a long 'sentence' outside of the fact that she has a hot temper and has bitten a couple of people. The other patients around her have more serious problems, but the interactions are kept to a minimum. So, we don't really get too much of a handle on any of them...even her 'love interest', Blade.

After this longer beginning, Snow enters the other world. I enjoyed the magical aspects and the tension at the situation she suddenly finds her place in. It's exciting, unique, and holds so much promise. The writing makes every scene flow naturally by and creates a grabbing read. The characters and interactions are interesting as is the world building. But I had a hard time really connecting with Snow. Maybe it's her memory loss as she sort of stumbles from one thing to the next. She's very quick to accept the people and situations (too quick?) and grows into her powers with quick easy. It makes a light read, which speeds by and entertains.

There is romance...of sorts. While Snow should have enough to contend with considering the new world, prophecies, being hunted, and figuring out her powers, she has three boys which draw her interest. Each of these is an instant magnetic to her heart, despite her lack of complete knowledge about any of them. And her heart shifts as quickly as the sudden snow storms. In other words, the depth isn't there.

Still, it's an original and entertaining take on the Snow Queen and makes an easy, intriguing read for retelling fans.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Today's read... My Crumby Guide to Baking and Friendship Making by Shannon Addison

 Today's read should hold all sorts of ideas for girls, who enjoy baking or would like to learn how. Plus, it encourages friends to do this together. I'm expecting easy recipes, which taste great, and a light atmosphere through-out the read. Let's see if it accomplishes both!

by Shannon Addison
Middle Grade 
ages 8 to 12

Embark on a delightful journey of friendship, connection, and resilience with ‘My Crumby Guide to Baking and Friendship Making” – the interactive baking book featuring the characters “The Breadcrumbz” designed especially for children! This magical culinary experience not only introduces the joy of baking but also weaves in heartwarming lessons about the importance of friendship and the strength found in resilience.


Activity and good vibes surrounding friendship and fun fill every page and offer tons of new ideas along the way.

This book is a mixture of several things. It holds recipes for baking all sorts of breads and things, encouraging readers to dive into the world of baking themselves...but always with the help of adults as is mentioned in the foreword. Then, the science behind several aspects of baking is presented. So, readers get a bit of practical knowledge along the way. There are hints and words of encouragement/empowerment surrounding friendship and some life wisdom. And there's a little bit of fiction reading too, where situations surrounding friendship are presented in wholesome ways. Add the colorful illustrations and tons of enthusiasm, and it's a packed read.

The recipes offer a nice variety of baked goods, some which aren't usually presented to the age group but easy enough for them to do (with a little supervision, of course). These are understandable and use usual ingredients. The science facts are a nice touch and give insight, which will open bakers' eyes and follow them their entire lives...and yet, these are simple and easy to understand as well. The mix with short stories and more gives this the atmosphere of girl-day-fun and make it a book to pick up whenever a new idea is needed. 

It's an entertaining mix with quite a bit to offer. I did find the format a bit 'busy' and would have enjoyed a little more space between the least, every now and then. But that doesn't influence the quality of each section or the joy of each activity. It's a fun mix and offers support and inspiration, too.

And here she is...

Author Shannon Addison doesn’t consider herself a writer. She considers herself someone who likes to write and has been doing so for most of her life. Shannon finds inspiration for her writing through journaling, which she believes allows her to explore ideas without feeling any constraints It is this love of journaling that reinforced Shannon’s concept of combining stories with journaling which is reflected in her Breadcrumbz Presents format.  She believes that by getting girls to start journaling at a young age, it helps them to find ways to express what they are feeling, to address difficult questions, and to provide positive messaging. 
Shannon’s first story idea came from personal experience. While having lunch with her daughter at her school, she observed the interaction between girls at the next table and how easily and quietly they were able to manipulate and bully girls without being noticed. This furtive and mean behavior was both troubling and familiar to Shannon and gave her pause to reflect on her own experiences at that age and how little has changed with how errant young girls treat each other; and in fact, with today’s access to cell phones and social media, it only provides them more capable tools to be able to inflict such behavior. It became a mission for Shannon to be able to prepare girls for this type of conflict and encounters, and to help them learn how to better navigate it by building better communication with their parents and their peers.
Shannon hopes that her books’ stories, activities, and journaling enable young girls to deal with friendship, feelings, conflicts, and failures and empowers them in the process. Her aim is to have young readers relate to the characters in her stories and their flaws and differences, and in doing so be more accepting of themselves and others, finding their true inner strength, their kindness, and their generosity of spirit.

This is Shannon’s second book in the Breadcrumbz Presents collection.  The first book, “My Crumby Guide to Failing,” is currently available on Amazon.
My Crumby World, LLC

Where to find her:
IG, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tiktok   @mycrumbyworld

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Today's read... The Incredibly Amazing and Magical Flying Chair by Bob Schumaker and Nancy Machlis Rechtman


by Nancy Machlis Rechtman
and Bob Schumaker
Middle Grade Contemporary
104 pages
ages 8 to 12

Noah Gibson comes from a family that has magic in their blood. He is also an overly imaginative seventh grader whose magician father has mysteriously disappeared. The only clue Noah has to his father’s sudden departure is a magical reading chair in the attic. Noah believes the chair has the power to transport the person sitting in it anywhere they wish, but he has trouble convincing his friends and family. When a little white lie told to his teacher and classmates grows into increasingly fantastical stories about his summer vacation, Noah must find out once and for all whether the reading chair is truly magical, or if his imagination has consumed him. If it’s true, then Noah might just have a chance at finding his father and bringing him home safely.


Magic and humor create a fun character, while difficult themes flow in the background.

Noah's father disappeared, and Noah is sure he can find him again...if he can figure out the magic behind the mysterious chair in the attic, that is. Noah's father was a magician and promised that they have magic in their blood. Noah is determined to figure out how this magic works, but normal life holds enough problems of its own to keep him busy. To make things easier, he tells a small lie, but like magic, it transforms into something bigger. Soon, Noah's faced with more problems than he knows how to handle.

Noah is quite the character. His life centers around magic, and he dreams of having his own magic show with comedy, too. His enthusiasm and determination are inspiring as he truly works to fulfill his goal. His active imagination makes him easy to like and sympathize with, while his mistakes make him that much more realistic. 

The disappearance of the father has obviously left it's mark. While it's inviting to think that this might be connected to the chair, little remarks here and there (especially from the mother) lay ground to a slightly harsher reality. Luckily, there's a side character, Leo, who gives wholesome support. When the lies start, readers will already know that things can't run well, and it's this realization (while watching the situation unfold) which makes Noah's troubles hit home. And all of that with the sugar coating of humor to keep it from weighing down.

At just a little more than 100 pages, it's a quick read. The dialogue pushes the story along, but then, there's never a boring moment, anyway. It also opens up the door to discussions and a little food for thought, which makes it a lovely read for classroom settings as well.

And here they are...

Nancy Machlis Rechtman has had stories published in a number of children’s magazines, most notably several times in Highlights Magazine for Children. She has had several children's plays and musicals both produced and published. She is a member of SCBWI. Nancy has had numerous stories and poems published in various literary journals and she has also had poetry, essays, and plays published in several anthologies. Nancy worked for years as a tutor for elementary-school-age children, focusing mostly on reading and writing skills.

Facebook Author page is Nancy Machlis Rechtman, Author.

And her passion project which is a music video for children on YouTube called "The World's Upside Down," written to help children through the pandemic is at

Bob Shumaker, author of thirteen books, was raised in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and now lives in Simpsonville, South Carolina, with his wife, Sharon. He retired early from his sales and marketing company to focus on one of his lifelong passions: writing. His ‘Schmooney’ character was selected as the prestigious ‘South Carolina State Mascot for Literacy’ and was also named the ‘City Mascot of Simpsonville, South Carolina’.

Monday, November 20, 2023

Today's read... Boot Camp by Gina Musa

I'm tempted to scream 'Happy Book Birthday' to today's read, since it came out last week....but that would probably be stretching things a bit. Still, happy book birthday, Boot Camp! This one gives off tons of Summer vibes, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy it now. I don't hit many YA romances, anyway, and this one promises to pack a bit of fun and humor too. 

So, let's just head right in and take a peek.

by Gina Musa
Wattpad Books
YA Romance

Gina Musa’s tender, thoughtful debut is about finding your strength in the most unlikely of places

Whitney Carmichael has always been the odd one out in her family of athletes. And when her best friend bops her with a tennis ball, it’s the last straw. She’s going to tackle her fears about working out–and she does it by attending a five-week summer boot camp. From the first mile-long run to the dreaded rope hang, Whitney isn’t sure she’ll survive. And toss in the fact that Willow, someone who made her life miserable on an almost daily basis while they were at school, shows up–Whitney isn’t sure how she’ll succeed.

But any journey worth taking starts with a single step. Soon, Whitney’s feeling more confident, winning some competitions, and learning more about herself with the help of her sweet, sympathetic, and more than a little hot trainer, Axel. Her feelings soon dip into something deeper, but campers can’t date their trainers, and her struggles with Willow continue, which leaves Whitney wondering if she just shouldn’t quit while she’s ahead.

Giving up isn’t in her DNA, and the lessons she learns, about herself, about love, about friendship, change the course of her life forever.



With a bit of humor, romance, and self-discovery, this is an inviting coming-of-age which leaves a smile on the face.

Whitney has finally finished her last days of high school, which weren't easy thanks to the constant badgering from the mean-girl of her grade. But then, Whitney always struggles with self-imaging issues thanks to her fitness-orientated family and best friend. Fitness isn't exactly Whitney's cup of tea...until a tennis ball causes her more problems than it should. Determined to turn things around, Whitney enrolls in a several week boot camp to amp up her hidden, sporty side. It's tough, but she's determined. That is, until the mean-girl shows up in the camp. As if that doesn't already put everything on edge, there's signs of a romantic interest...and that will flip everything on its head.

This is a sweet romantic read with a good portion of wholesome messages concerning self-imaging, friendship, and love. While the first scenes allow the last moments of high school to settle in just enough for readers to understand her past, the camp hits soon after and sets the main stage. It holds the fun outdoor excitement a camp book should, while sliding into the older end of teen problems and concerns seamlessly. The moments come across naturally, creating an easy read to get lost in, and Whitney is a kind soul, whose determination and doubts win over right away.

While the romance adds the sigh-worthy touch, it's the character development which makes this read work. Whitney enters the camp with fitness goals but doesn't realize that her lack of athletic skill isn't her true problem. While she struggles with burpees and ropes, the important lessons happen in between. Each one is realistic and rings true to life, making Whitney that much more sympathetic. It's an enjoyable read from start to finish and one sweet, high school romance fans won't want to miss.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Today's read... Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

Today's read is one I've been excited to dive into. This is the first in a series of graphic novels adapted from the best-selling series, Keeper of the Lost Cities. I know there are very differing opinions about the idea of creating graphic novels from popular series like this one...both with good points. Either way, I know more than a few middle graders who adore graphic novels, and I bet that this one might be quite the read.

Let's see if the adaptation has been well met or not!

The Graphic Novel, Part 1
by Shannon Messenger
Adapted by Celina Frenn
Illustrated by Gabriella Chianello
Middle Grade Fantasy / Graphic Novel
352 pages
ages 8 to 12

The first book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series is being reimagined as a graphic novel with the first half of the epic novel adapted to this new format with beautiful artwork!

Twelve-year-old Sophie Foster has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks…

But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.

This stunning graphic novel retelling of the first half of the thrilling first novel comes to life with all the adventure and epic worldbuilding the Keeper of the Lost Cities series is known for

GOODREADS    /     AMAZON     /    BOOKSHOP      /     B&N


Adventure and a magical world set the scene for a heroine with heart, who has plenty to learn.

At twelve-years-old, Sophie is already known as a prodigy, which despite her loving family...ignoring her younger sister's taunts...leaves her feeling out of place. Not to mention that she has been able to hear everyone's thoughts since she was five. When a class trip to the museum has her bumping into a strange boy, things change and her life will never be the same again.

I was excited to get my hands on a copy of this one, especially since I remember the release day of the original novel years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit. This book only covers the first half of the novel (to around chapter 25 or so), and that does leave it feeling a bit incomplete. In other words, the strong plot line is missing, since it's clear that it's only the first half. That's not an issue, but needs to be mentioned since the story really unfolds over two books and not just one. Obviously, the graphic form also flows differently than the original novel in some aspects. The depth and richness isn't there. Yet, it manages to work in the major aspects and keeps the same flair. So, although different, I still enjoyed this graphic version quite a bit.

Sophie and the other characters are nicely done and come across with the right amount of emotions, quirks, and personality. Especially Sophie's sadness, awe, confusion and such hit well and make her easy to root for. The details and dialogue bring the world to life and make it easy to sink into the story. There's enough tension to grab, and despite the length, it's an easy, quick read. Too bad we need to wait for book two because there is the strong desire to continue this one to see where it's headed next.

The illustrations are bright and carry a nice mix of imaginative fantasy and tension. The style isn't quite my thing on the characters end, they are well done. It carries a nice balance between the text and imagery, letting both play their role nicely. According to the author notes, quite a bit of thought and effort went into the creation of this version...and it's noticeable. The book is well done.

I enjoyed reading this quite a bit and have no doubt that even those who haven't read the series before will enjoy it.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Today's read... Third Wheel by Richard R Becker

Today's read takes a more serious turn and explores the drug and weapon culture of the Las Vegas suburbs during the early 1980s. I haven't hit a harsher novel in awhile and am curious how this one deals with the tough themes. It has been getting great reviews and even won a few prizes. So, I'm expecting it will ring true and hit hard.

Let's take a peek and find out, shall we?

by Richard R Becker
Copywrite, Ink
Coming of Age
325 pages

Las Vegas, 1982. Brady Wilks, a teenage transplant from the Midwest, navigates life in the dusty suburban outskirts of an aberrant 24-hour town built by the Mob. Outcast as a newcomer, Brady forges a brotherly bond with an older teenage neighbor, Mick, and his friend, Brett. But when Brett unexpectedly moves away, Mick invites a new kid into their pack, squeezing out the last remnants of their childhood in favor of a new world laced with cartel-supplied drugs and the deal of a lifetime.
Third Wheel is a powerful novel about belonging, betrayal, and breaking away from paths laid out by others, even when it means grasping at an uncertain future. It is the story of a boy trying to find his identity without the benefit of a role model by taking chances on random and fragile relationships forged in the predawn hours of a future boomtown. Desolate and gritty, Third Wheel is a triumphant debut novel, and Brady Wilks is remarkable as a transformative protagonist. Four-time award-winning author Richard R. Becker shares his unique insight into the human condition.


Without the slightest sign of a sugar-coating, this read dives deep a difficult situation and leaves the weight hanging long after the book is closed.

Brady has managed to somewhat find a place for himself in a new home in Las Vegas after moving for a 'temporary' stay with his grandmother from the Midwest. While he does have a friend or two, games and fun have long turned into a harsher life surrounding drugs. Brady does his best to fit in, while dealing with a home life, which has nothing to do with family. Forced to make decisions he can't even begin to battle, Brady does his best to handle life.

While set in the 1980's, this is an easy read to connect with...although it's not an 'easy' read. Brady's life is harsh as he not only misses any resemblance of what can be called a family, but instead, faces a mother, who could care less and is unkind at best. The friendships he grasps at around him hit gritty from the very first page as the drug connections and dangerous relationships immediately unfold. There's violence, drug use, and death, and it weaves together in a way, which pulls at the heartstrings and cuts deep.

The writer knows how to bring everything across with authenticity as each scene grabs and hits home. I found Brady a bit difficult to embrace, at first, but his sharp edges slide right in with the situation. Of course, there are lighter moments surrounding a love interest and teenage nonsense, but the darkness of a world, where teens grow up quick, never releases its grip. 

Mature young adult audiences will find food for thought, and it does offer a good basis for more serious discussions. But it's not a light read and packs more than a little bite. 

And here he is...

Richard R. Becker is the award-winning, best-selling American author of 50 States and its companion, Ten Threads. His debut collection of short stories won first place in the Spring 2022 BookFest Awards; 2023 Book Excellence Awards for short stories; and ABR Book Excellence Awards for literary fiction, psychological thrillers, and short stories. It was also named a finalist in the IAN Book of the Year Awards. Third Wheel is his first novel. He is married and lives in Las Vegas. He invites you to visit him at

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Today's read... Simon the Snake by Diane Blue Brooks Britt

by Diane Blue Brooks Britt
Illustrated by Alyssa Grizenko
Monarch Educational Services
Picture Book
41 pages
ages 4 to 8

FEBRUARY 6th, 2024!!!

Simon and his new friends play games in the forest. When his best pal, Rabbie Rabbit, suggests they play a game of Forest Friends baseball, Simon feels left out. Read how friends can work together to make sure each has a role to play.
Making new friends, Inclusion, Sports, Games



Friendship and forming new ones rings true and warming in a calming read, which inspires to play.

Simon lives in the forest and enjoys slinking through the grass, but it would be fun to have friends to play with. When he meets Rabbie Rabbit, things are wonderful...but it'd be nice to have more friends, too. So, the two head off to discover more creatures of the forest and might go through some ups and downs along the way.

This read circles around friendship and hits topics such as forming friendships, patience, inclusion, and openness to new ideas. In other words, it's a wholesome read. Simon is a gentle snake, and it's easy to connect with him from the very first page. The range of animals introduced goes beyond the 'usual' ones found in picture books and broadens readers' horizons on that front, too. Each encounter offers a different situation and demonstrates that forming friendships isn't always easy but worth the effort.

Good vibes and atmosphere radiate from these pages, making it simply a 'good' book to pick up and read. It's very appropriate for the age group and creates a nice read-aloud as well as a lovely read for those who are pretty sure of their words. There's just enough tension to keep it interesting without ever pushing the borders even for sensitive readers. Homeschoolers will also find this to be one to grab up without a second thought and use to encourage those word skills.