Who Run the World?

Happy International Women’s Day!

It’s been far too long since I last posted. While I have been keeping up each week with my newspaper column and sharing lots of reviews there, I have not been keeping up with my blog. Sad day.

To make up for my absence, I am sharing THREE book reviews with you today!

Get excited.

And as a bonus, and in honor of International Women’s Day, these books all feature strong female protagonists!

Happy Reading and Happy International Women’s Day! 🙂


carolines comets

Caroline’s Comets: A True Story (2017, Holiday House, Picture Book Non-Fiction)

Caroline Herschel made history in 1786 when she became the first woman to discover a comet. But her journey began long before that, and it was not an easy road to becoming a highly respected scientist and astronomer. Caroline’s journey is inspiring and incredible, as she worked hard to achieve her goals at a time when women were afforded few opportunities.

Caroline’s Comets: A True Story, written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, is a fascinating account of Caroline Hershel, who not only discovered comets, but became the first female professional scientist, earning a salary from the King of England. Filled with interesting facts, detailed illustrations, and even excerpts from Caroline’s own journals, this is a beautiful book to share with young readers. Caroline’s journey is inspiring as she overcame many obstacles in her life before she even dreamed of becoming an astronomer. Young readers will look up to Caroline and all she accomplished as a woman and a scientist.

Highly recommended for ages 6 and up.

5 stars shooting across the sky!


runs with courage

Runs With Courage (2016, Sleeping Bear Press, Middle Grade Historical Fiction)

When ten-year-old Four Winds is taken from her Lakota tribe and sent to a white boarding school, she doesn’t understand the new world that surrounds her. She imagines she might be a bridge for her people and learn the ways of the white people, but as she learns more, she realizes the white ways are meant to replace all the things she’s ever known. Four Winds wants to run. She wants to run away from the white school and home to her people, but there are bigger things at stake than just what she wants.

Runs With Courage, written by Joan M. Wolf, is a touching, and heart-wrenching portrayal of life for Native Americans in the late 1800’s. This book is written with care and thoughtful consideration of all that was done during this period. Though the story is fiction, readers will gain knowledge of the how the Lakota tribes lived, as well as the actions of the U.S. Government during this time.

The story is written in first person, and delivered in a straightforward manner as fits the main character’s personality. Four Winds is strong and brave, and young readers will look up to her and root for her. The fictional life of Four Winds represents so many young girls who did face her harsh reality. While the girls might starve with their tribes, boarding schools offered food if only they would give up all they had ever known.

Thought-provoking and extraordinary, the story of Four Winds will stay with the reader long after her book has ended. Highly recommended for children ages 10 and up.

5 stars to guide Four Winds


future threat

Future Threat (2017, Albert Whitman & Company, Young Adult Science Fiction)

From the publisher:

The second book in the New York Times bestselling Future Shock trilogy!

Six months ago Aether Corporation sent Elena, Adam, and three other recruits on a trip to the future where they brought back secret information–but not everyone made it back to the present alive. Now Elena’s dealing with her survivor’s guilt and trying to make her relationship with Adam work. All she knows for sure is that she’s done with time travel and Aether Corporation.

But Aether’s not done with her–or Adam, or fellow survivor Chris. The travelers on Aether’s latest mission to the future have gone missing, and Elena and her friends are drafted into the rescue effort. They arrive in a future that’s amazingly advanced, thanks to Aether Corporation’s reverse-engineered technology. The mission has deadly consequences, though, and they return to the future to try to alter the course of events.

But the future is different yet again. Now every trip through time reveals new complications, and more lives lost–or never born. Elena and Adam must risk everything–including their relationship–to save their friends.

Review:

Future Threat, written by Elizabeth Briggs, is the second book in the Future Shock trilogy. Last year, I had the pleasure of reviewing Future Shock and so I was eager to review this book at well. As with the first book, the pace is quick and the plot moves right along as Elena and the others zip back and forth through time once more. As with the first book, the fast pace makes both character and relationship development difficult, but at the same time, the characters don’t feel exceptionally flat. Elena is still an interesting, engaging and daring main character, while other characters fill their roles and provide support to the plot.

This science fiction adventure is lots of fun to read, and once again, the time travel aspect is very well written. This is a sequel that definitely builds off the first book, and keeps the twists and energy going. I enjoyed this book just as much, if not more, than the first, and I look forward to the third installment in this trilogy.

This book is a fast read, and written in a straightforward style that will appeal to many readers. Readers who enjoyed Future Shock are likely to enjoy Future Threat, as well as fans of science fiction, action, and teenage angst. This would be a good one to add to the summer reading list!

Best for ages 13 and up due to some scenes of violence and adult situations.

4 stars for Elena traveling through time.


Thank you to Holiday House, Sleeping Bear Press, and Albert Whitman & Co. for copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

You can find each of these books at your local book retailer or online.

At Amazon:

Caroline’s Comets: A True Story

Runs With Courage

Future Threat

Book Review: A Monster Calls

Oh my goodness, what to say about this book!

Firstly, I can say I loved it. And secondly, I can’t stop thinking about it.

This is actually a review of a specific edition…the newly released Special Collectors’ Edition and it is, in a word, stunning!

A Monster Calls was first published in 2011, but I only recently heard about it. I read a review on a blog I follow, and I was about to purchase a copy when the opportunity to get a review copy came up. It really seemed like it was meant to be 🙂

In anticipation of the upcoming motion picture release, the Special Collectors’ Edition combines the original novel with bonus material including interviews with Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Lewis MacDougall.

There is also additional material from Patrick Ness, Jim Kay and director J.A. Bayona.

The story behind the novel is as fascinating as the novel itself and I loved all the bonus material as well as learning more about Siobhan Dowd who drafted the original idea for this story but passed away before she could write it.

Drawing from Siobhan Dowd’s original idea and outline, Patrick Ness wrote A Monster Calls. Writing a book from another’s notes presented a daunting task and he worried about doing her idea justice. His goal with A Monster Calls was both to stay true to Siobhan’s original idea but not try to imitate her and instead write a story he felt she would enjoy.

I’m curious to read her books after learning more about her, and while I have no idea what type of book she would like, I feel A Monster Calls is a beautiful work and a moving tribute to her life.

A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls: Special Collectors’ Edition (2016, Candlewick Press, Middle-Grade Magical Realism)

a-monster-calls

The monster arrives outside Conor’s window just after midnight. He’s just awoken from his nightmare, so he can’t possibly be dreaming, and this is definitely not the monster from his nightmares. That monster has tormented his dreams each night since his mother started her treatments, but now this new monster arrives and though it is huge and wild, Conor finds himself drawn to it. But the monster wants something from Conor. It wants something terrible and real, and Conor doesn’t want to give what the monster wants.

A Monster Calls, written by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Jim Kay, will draw the reader into Conor’s world with the very first line.

“The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.”

Patrick Ness writes beautifully, and every passage breathes magic. From the monster’s first words, to his last, he is a rich and developed character. This is magical realism at its best.

Conor is easy to relate to and sympathize with as he struggles with his mother’s illness. The interactions between him and the monster are moving, amusing, and at times heart breaking. Stubborn, willful, but at his core a very good child, the reader will suffer as Conor suffers.

There are not enough words to capture the magic felt while reading this book, and I think part of this feeling stems from the incredible illustrations. In this special edition, the illustrations are discussed in detail and I gained an even greater appreciation for the thought and time that went into the production of this work of art. For it truly is a masterpiece.  monster-calls-inside-page

I highly recommend reading this book, however I do not recommend reading it on an airplane, at the bus station, at work, ummm… pretty much anywhere you wouldn’t want to be observed having a good, ugly cry. Because if you read this book, that’s what will happen.

This edition would make a beautiful and treasured gift for any book lover in your life.

5 stars and more to fill the midnight sky

A Monster Calls. Patrick Ness.


The Movie

a-monster-calls-2016-trailers-posters

The movie released in Spain early in October, and in the U.S., a limited release of the movie is scheduled for sometime in December of this year.

The movie stars Liam Neeson, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones and Lewis MacDougall. And the screenplay was written by Patrick Ness.

a-monster-calls-movie


Thank you to Candlewick Press for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Midnight Glass

Hello all!

I’m excited to present you with a wonderful new middle-grade dark fantasy! I had planned to do several spooky posts all month long, and while I achieved that goal in my newspaper column, I can’t say the same for the blog.

But, to make up for it….I will be posting Halloween posts every day starting today through Monday!

This might cut into my Hocus Pocus watching time, but I’m willing to make that sacrifice…only for you.

I’m kicking off this fun weekend with a big post! I have a review, a publisher interview and an author interview to share. Get excited 🙂

And now…on with the show!

The Midnight Glass

the-midnight-glass

When I first heard of this book, I was immediately intrigued by the title. And I’ll admit, I did judge it by its cover…because I loved the cover!

Then I watched the book trailer….

And I knew I had to read this book!

I love that this book is from a new publisher and they have put forth a fantastic first book. The cover design, layout and feel of the book is fantastic. I would not have known this was a publisher’s first attempt if they hadn’t told me.


The Midnight Glass (2016, Branford Books, Middle-Grade Dark Fantasy)

When Wyatt’s mom accepts a new job, their family moves to the mysterious town of Davenport. Secretive and secluded, the town exists deep in the woods locked behind a gate. Wyatt is excited for the move, until they actually arrive. He thinks he must be seeing things when his classmates have green skin, gills, fangs and more! But the residents of Davenport aren’t the only mysterious thing…Wyatt learns the greatest mystery of all is that Davenport hasn’t seen the sun in over 400 years. As he adjusts to life in eternal darkness, Wyatt learns more and more about Davenport’s deadly secrets.

The Midnight Glass, written by D.T. Vaughn, is a great dark fantasy for Middle-Grade readers. With just the right amount of creepiness, readers will be eager to learn more about Davenport without being too scared to read in the dark. Readers will identify with Wyatt as he is bullied at his school and then doesn’t quite fit in at his new school in Davenport either. As Wyatt makes friends and stands up to bullies, children will root for him. Adding in all the fantasy elements, including curses and weird creatures, plus the normalcy of middle school, moving, and fitting in, makes this a book that touches on many popular themes. Some may find the pacing a bit slow, but most will be drawn into the rich world crafted by the author. Fantasy seems to be a popular genre for Middle-Grade, and adding the darker elements will likely appeal to many readers.

This story has all the elements to make it a hit with readers ages 9 to 12. For the hard to please pre-teen boys, this is an especially good choice.

Imaginative and fun, this book will have readers imagining their own Davenport, and all the adventure they might have there.

4 stars to hang in the brilliant night sky of Davenport!

Interview with Branford Books

I’m excited to introduce you all to a new face in the publishing world. Branford Books has debuted with a strong title in The Midnight Glass, and I’m excited to help spread the word! They were also kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about their new company and the future of Branford Books.

When was Branford Books established and what is your mission? 

Branford Books began in 2016 with the idea of starting something fresh for the publishing industry. Our goal is to bring new and exciting fantasy books to readers of all ages. We started our mission with one of our favorite genres, middle-grade.

Who is the owner/founder of Branford Books?

Branford Books is comprised of editor Shawn Conley, publicist Lauren Ruggles, and D. T. Vaughn, our first author.

What kinds of books do you publish?

Fantasy is at our forefront for books we’d like to publish, and that really umbrellas all of the subgenres from urban to high-fantasy to more subtle themes. Ultimately, we love books that spark the imagination and have well-designed characters to tug at our heart strings.

Congratulations on the release of your first novel, THE MIDNIGHT GLASS! Do you have any more releases planned for the near future?

Thank you for the well wishes for THE MIDNIGHT GLASS. We really hope the book captures readers like it has captured us! We are putting a lot of our energy behind this project because we feel that it deserves it; but as soon as 2017 rolls around, expect to see some enchanting new stories.

Are you open to submissions? And if so, how can an aspiring (or established) author submit to you?

At this time, we are not taking unsolicited material. However, that may change. We invite authors to visit our website and subscribe to our mailing list for updates.

What have been the biggest struggles with starting a publishing company?

The publishing industry is constantly changing and that can be a challenge. We love this business and we’re stockpiling new and exciting ideas to spark reader interest.

What do you hope for the future of Branford Books?

We aim to establish followings of fantasy readers who are always looking for the next exhilarating read. We also intend to have some of our books shift to new media like movies and television. It’s a process we’ve already begun, and it’s more thrilling than we could have ever imagined!

Anything else you’d like to say about Branford Books or THE MIDNIGHT GLASS?

If you’re a reader who loves Roald Dahl’s Matilda, Louis Sachar’s Holes, or Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, we couldn’t recommend a better book for you than THE MIDNIGHT GLASS. It’s the dark fantasy novel about a lovable boy against the deadliest of odds. Get it in print and eBook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or our site, BranfordBooks.com.

Interview with author D.T. Vaughn

The author of The Midnight Glass was kind enough to answer a few questions about the writing process and life as an author. I’m excited to share this interview with you and hope it offers some valuable insight into the writing process.

How long have you been writing and when did you publish your first book?

I started writing when I was about eight or nine years old. I would create little short stories in class and read them aloud to the other kids during story time. The first set of little books I wrote were called The Homework Stealer series. They were about a little man who secretly crept in at night and stole kids’ homework! Come to think of it… that might make a really good series now. The Midnight Glass is my first full-length book. I’m both the writer and the illustrator.

Where do you find your writing inspiration?

I often find myself coming up with ideas while I’m on the treadmill. It’s a funny place to think of them, but I just blank out to the world and imagine characters interacting with each other. My nephews are also huge inspirations for my middle-grade ideas. They have a lot of energy and it really sticks to me when I think about kids and how they experience the world.

What inspired you to write THE MIDNIGHT GLASS?

For THE MIDNIGHT GLASS, I pulled ideas from my past and present. As a kid I was obsessed with the idea of living amongst werewolves and mermaids. So, I decided to create a world based on that. My family also gave me a lot of inspiration to write this book.

How long did it take you to write THE MIDNIGHT GLASS?

The first draft took about a month. However, there were many, many more drafts after that and the book took about nine months to complete.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A rock star! And I was! For years I wrote music in a band and toured the nation. It was a lot of fun and I met a lot of great people. Maybe one day I’ll write about that, too.

What was your favorite book as a child?

That’s a tough one to answer! I was a huge fan of Roald Dahl, but I also loved Louis Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School. I think I’ve read that book more times than any other. He did a fantastic job of bringing to life each student and giving them an identity, wish, and purpose.

Who has most inspired you in your writing career?

In college, I worked at an elementary school full of amazing kids. They loved my weird drawings and stories about things like gluttonous hamsters and thieving goldfish. That was about ten years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. I often pull inspiration from what they liked the most.

What struggles have you faced on your way to becoming an author?

At first, the hardest part was the risk. I’m a full-time writer and I freelance various projects. However, starting a business can be scary. I worked nonstop for months before taking the leap and doing it full-time. Now taking risks is just part of the job and it’s crazy to see how they can work out.

What advice would you give to young writers?

First, writing is a career. If you love doing it, then you should go for it! Second, write as much as you can to improve. Third, ask for both praise and constructive criticism from peers and professionals. The praise will help determine your strengths and the constructive criticism will help you improve the gaps.

Name one interesting fact about yourself unrelated to writing 🙂

I’m a self-described sloth enthusiast! Even just seeing a sloth makes my eyes water with joy. Okay, that makes me sound crazy, but I don’t care–I love them!

Where can readers learn more about you and your books?

I invite everyone to visit TheMidnightGlass.com to watch the stunning book trailer and to read more about me. I’m also available for readings and lectures if you want to meet me in person, just visit BranfordBooks.com for the contact.

Anything else you’d like to mention about THE MIDNIGHT GLASS or your writing career?

Thank you to everyone who has read this interview. Branford Books is a small business, which means that word of mouth means the world. If you liked THE MIDNIGHT GLASS, please tell your friends and family. Maybe even order a copy for a kid you know for the holidays. Hopefully, they’ll enjoy it, too! Again, thank you for your support. I greatly appreciate it.


Eager to experience the world of Davenport and learn about the midnight glass? Check it out for yourself! The Midnight Glass is available now!


Thank you to Branford Books and D.T. Vaughn for taking time participate in my interviews and for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Secret of Goldenrod

The Secret of Goldenrod

Written By Jane O’Reilly

 

“The littlest things make you happy.”

“As the littlest things should,” Augustine said.

I requested this book when it first became available on Net Galley, and it has been a struggle not to start reading it right away. But I have to keep to my schedule if I want to get all my reviews done, and so I had to put off reading this for months and months while it continued to taunt me from my virtual shelf.

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Then Lerner Publishing put out this great behind-the-scenes blog post about the editing process and they used The Secret of Goldenrod as their example.

As you can see by my comment on their post, I’ve waited since April to read this book!

I loved their post for two reasons:

1. It had an outstanding (and super short) excerpt from the book, and 2. It’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the publishing process.

But now, at last, I have read The Secret of Goldenrod and get to share it with you all.

cheering_minions

With an October 1st publishing date, this is the perfect tale to kick off Halloween season.

A lonely girl…
A mysterious old house…
An antique doll.

So many things intrigued me about this book, but the antique doll really did it. What’s not to love about a possibly haunted house and creepy antique doll?

There are many things I loved about this book, but let me start with the one thing I didn’t love. I’ll get that out of the way, and then the rest of the post will just be a profession of all the wonderful things about this book.

For a book centering around a haunted house, the story was not very scary. I realize this is a middle-grade novel, so we don’t want to terrify young children, but a few times the story had the opportunity to crank up the scariness, and it fell just short of the spine-tingling mark. As it shied away from delivering truly scary scenes, it also shied away from dealing with heavy issues faced by the main character and her father.

And that’s all I’m going to say on that note, because overall I thought the book was great, and it will be a fantastic Halloween read for many young readers. In fact, the lack of terrifying scenes probably makes it better for many readers (and their parents).

These are a few of my favorite things

This book is chock full of fantastic middle-grade themes.

  1. Loneliness
  2. Family
  3. Making Friends
  4. Fitting In

While Trina is not your average fifth grader, she is someone children will still relate to. The only daughter of a single father, she loves school but faces “new kid” challenges nearly every year as her father moves a lot to fix up old houses.

This year, her new school jitters are compounded by the fact the whole town thinks Goldenrod, the house her and her father are living and working in, is haunted. With no friends, and no desire to return to school, Trina throws herself into the work with her father and ends up finding a mysterious and beautiful antique doll.

Trina is headstrong and adventurous, but that doesn’t get her into quite as much trouble as the reader might expect. As I mentioned before, the book shies away from anything too dastardly, so Trina approaches, but always stays well away from crossing the lines of temptation and trouble making. That’s not to say she doesn’t find herself in precarious situations, its just that the situations always work out a little too perfectly.

With a small cast of main characters, Trina and her doll take the spotlight with the house also featuring as a major character in its own way. Trina’s dad is a lovable character and the changing dynamics between him and his growing daughter are amusing and sweet. While Trina is the most developed character, the other characters don’t feel flat or act as fillers. Each character serves a purpose, and ultimately plays an important part in the story arc.

Weaving in generous amounts of traditional fairy tales, the story has a magical charm about it that is reminiscent of childhood, when anything seemed possible. I left this book wanting to read old fairy tales and renovate a Victorian house….and possibly play with antique dolls.

A beautifully told tale of family and home, this story is full of thought-provoking moments and poignant quotes. While I wish heavy emotions had been dealt with more directly and openly, this book still has resounding messages of love and forgiveness, which will resonate with readers of all ages.

This is a book children will adore. Highly recommended for children 8 and up.

5 stars for the book to wear forever and ever.

“What is more special than forever and ever?”

Thank you to Net Galley and Lerner Publishing for a reading copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday Special

Hello to all and I hope you had a wonderful and rejuvenating weekend!

I’m bringing you a new review today thanks to Book Look Bloggers and Zonderkidz!

love-letters-from-god

I received a copy of Love Letters from God Holy Bible NIrV, and once again, I am impressed with the Bibles Zonderkidz produces for children.

This book contains the complete text of the New International Reader’s Version of the Bible alongside letters for the reader which are formatted to be “written by God”.

The idea of God writing letters directly to the child is fun and a creative way to engage young children with Biblical text. Unlike some other children’s Bibles that only have a few inserts throughout, there are 80 letters throughout the book plus other bonus content like full-color inserts and writing prompts.

The letters encourage personal reflection and offer greater understanding of selected verses. By encouraging children to write their own letter to God, children are offered a different way to connect with God and the scripture.

Something to perhaps keep in mind, is to make sure children understand the letters aren’t really from God and those aren’t his true word, but they are a lovely way to facilitate his word and interpret it for children.

This Bible would be great for church libraries, children’s church and other church lessons for younger children.


Thank you to Zonderkidz and Booklook Bloggers for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

September Line-Up and New Reviews

I can’t believe September is here already. I am so excited for this month on the blog because I have great things lined up to share with you all!

September 15: MAX AT NIGHT Blog Tour

max at night

September 20: YOU’RE MY BOO Book Review and Author Interview

youre my boo

September 22: THE STORYBOOK KNIGHT Blog Tour and author/illustrator interview

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With the blog tours, I will have lots of great links and bonus content to share for each book. I just love blog tours 🙂

Then in October, I have spooky books lined up for the whole month, plus I’ll be hosting a special event at my store for kids. There will be more interviews and blog tours as well.

I feel so lucky to have so many opportunities to share great books and new authors with you all.

Today I have three great new books to share and I hope you will all get a chance to check them out at some point.

Happy Reading!


mind boggling number

Mind-Boggling Numbers (2016, Lerner Publishing Group, Non-Fiction Picture Book)

Can a piggy bank hold 1 million pennies? How many glasses of lemonade would it take to fill a swimming pool? Is it possible to send a birthday card to everyone on the planet? This book has all the answers, and the numbers are mind-boggling!

Mind-Boggling Numbers, written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Julia Patton, is an incredibly fun read! Written in question and answer format, the questions are both fun and puzzling, resulting in some fascinating answers. Children and adults will find the math engaging, and everyone is certain to learn something new. The questions present unrealistic situations, but then use real math processes to reach the answer. These word problems are way more fun than figuring out traditional problems. The illustrations accompanying each Q & A are charming and funny, and will keep children entertained as they contemplate each dilemma. And to top it off, at the end of the book, each problem is worked through in depth, showing the math steps necessary to reach each answer. Any book that can introduce math in a fun and entertaining way is a definite winner!


herbies big adventure

Herbie’s Big Adventure (2016, Capstone, Picture Book)

Herbie is just a little hedgehog but he’s growing fast and his Mother says it’s time for him to go on a big adventure. Herbie doesn’t feel ready for a big adventure all by himself, but he leaves home anyway. What awaits little Herbie in the big, adventurous world?

Herbie’s Big Adventure, written and illustrated by Jennie Poh, is a great reminder for both parents and children that sometimes children are ready to experience things on their own without parental guidance or supervision. The theme of independence, self-reliance, and resourcefulness is well-told but other aspects of the story distract from the poignant message. Herbie encounters obstacles along the way, and when he seeks shelter, the words and accompanying illustrations might be confusing to children. Otherwise the illustrations are precious and delightful, inspiring children to go on their own big adventure.


the changelings

The Changelings (2016, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Middle-Grade Fantasy)

After inheriting her Grandmother’s house, Izzy and her family move to the most boring town ever. Izzy is certain nothing exciting will ever happen to her here, until she starts hearing stories about the witch who lives next door. Soon Izzy and her little sister, Hen, discover strange piles of rocks around their house and shadows slipping through the woods behind the house. It’s all exciting and fun until Izzy hears mysterious music and Hen disappears into the forest behind their house. Now, with only the neighborhood “witch” to help, Izzy sets out on a wild adventure to save her sister.

The Changelings, written by Christina Soontornvat, is something of a modern day fairy tale. With tales of faeries and changelings, this book will likely spark interest in older, traditional fairy tales such as those by Hans Christian Andersen or the Brothers Grimm. Most middle-grade fantasy seems to focus on witches and wizards, so a book with a different focus in the realm of fantasy is refreshing. The book is entertaining and children will love the characters, mystery and magical aspects, but the beginning feels rushed. There is little set up for the story, and much of the information about the neighbor being a witch is established by a conversation with the cashier at the local grocery store. This introduction does not feel authentic, as the setting and neighborhood has not yet been described in detail and certainly not in a creepy context. Once the story progresses, and Izzy enters the faerie realm, the plot picks up and becomes more engaging. A fun read for children ages 8 and up.


Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers for reading copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Friday Fun Reads

Happy Friday!

Hope you all had a wonderful week!

I’ve spent the week thinking about all the reviews I do and I’ll likely be making some changes. I’ve been reviewing four books each week for my newspaper column and I’m thinking of changing that to two books.

Reviewing four books takes quite a bit more time than I realized, and I feel I can do each book more justice and provide a longer review if I focus on just two each week. I’ve struggled with the format of my reviews because I personally hate spoilers and I find the line between saying too little and saying too much, to be very thin.

So with the change to two books a week, I’m going to increase the length of my reviews while not spoiling anything. Wish me luck 😉

As for today, I have a few reviews for you from my favorites over the last couple of weeks. Do you have any books lined up for the weekend? What are you kids reading at school?

If you ever read any of the books I review on the blog I would love to hear from you! Commenting is a fun way to make connections and build community 🙂


thud and blunder

Thud & Blunder: The Not-So-Deadly Dragon (2016, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book)

When the town goes up in flames, Thud and Blunder dash in to save the day! Then when they discover a dragon is to blame, they head out to slay the dragon. When the heroes encounter the dragon though, the great beast bursts into tears. Is the dragon evil or not? Thud and Blunder are still determined to save the town from destruction but there may be more to the dragon than they realize.

Thud & Blunder: The Not-So-Deadly Dragon, written by Sean Tulien and illustrated by Pol Cunyat, is an action-packed beginning chapter book perfect for beginning and reluctant readers. The illustrations are vivid and give the book a comic-book feel. The heroine, Thud, and the hero, Blunder, are fun, non-traditional hero types which children will love. The story itself is funny, unpredictable and sometimes silly, making this an overall great choice for young readers. Lucky for young readers, this is part of the Thud and Blunder series so they can join these characters on many more adventures.


norberts big dream

Norbert’s Big Dream (2016, Sleeping Bear Press, Picture Book)

Norbert is not a regular pig. Norbert is a pig with a dream. While other pigs sleep and eat slop, Norbert is preparing to make his dream come true. One day he will swim the English Channel! But when the big day comes will Norbert be able to find the English Channel?

Norbert’s Big Dream, written by Lori Degman and illustrated by Marco Bucci, is a charming read about chasing dreams and what it means to reach one’s goals. This is a great read anytime, but especially during the Olympics as children watch athletes compete and live out their dreams. Norbert is just a pig but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big or working hard. Children and adults will love Norbert and his great attitude. Beautifully rendered illustrations round out this exceptional book.


dino mike and the dinosaur doomsday

Dino-Mike and the Dinosaur Doomsday (2016, Stone Arch Books/Capstone, Chapter Book)

Dino-Mike has traveled the world digging up dinosaur bones with his Dad, but he didn’t expect to look for bones in Antarctica! Tracking the evil Dr. Bones, takes Mike, his friends, and his Dad to the coldest continent in search of more fossils. But Mike and his friends aren’t alone, soon the Bones siblings arrive and make lots of trouble. With the ability to call up living dinosaurs, the Bones siblings hope to make Mike and his friends extinct!

Dino-Mike and the Dinosaur Doomsday, written and illustrated by Franco Aureliani, has a fun premise and great layout for young independent readers, but the execution falls a bit flat. This is just one book out of the series, so reading the first books may make the story more compelling. The adventure and inclusion of dinosaurs will be a hit with readers, but the conflict-resolution aspect feels rushed. The build-up to each conflict is short with a resolution following almost immediately. The reader does not have time to feel any real sense of danger or nervousness for Mike since the dire situations are resolved neatly and immediately. Start with the first book in this series, Dino-Mike and the T. Rex Attack!, and see if Dino-Mike’s adventures are a hit with your independent readers ages 6-8.


pyramid hunters iron tomb

Pyramid Hunters: The Iron Tomb (2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, Middle-Grade Adventure)

Sam Force is expecting the usual, boring visit to his Uncle Jasper in Egypt. What he isn’t expecting is to find his Uncle missing. Narrowly avoiding arrest at the airport, Sam discovers clues left by his Uncle, and finds himself relying on new friends to follow the trail. Using his knowledge of ancient Egypt, and with Hadi and Mary’s help, Sam embarks on a wild adventure to find his Uncle and uncover the secrets of The Iron Tomb.

Pyramid Hunters: The Iron Tomb, written by Peter Vegas, is a wild chase through Egypt’s streets and her history. Starting with an action packed teaser, the book then picks up with Sam en route to Egypt. Shortly thereafter, the action starts and never stops. Combining crazy action sequences with a smart and capable main character, make this a great choice for young readers. This adventure is sure to be a hit. Appropriate for children ages 10 and up.


Thank you to all the publishers for providing copies of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Happy reading to all!

Book Review: Miracle in Music City

Hello all!

Time got away from me! I have been busy reading and reviewing and getting new things lined up for the blog, and I completely forgot to put up posts last week.

I’ll get caught up with a few posts today and tomorrow full of new books!

In September, I will be participating in two blog tours for fantastic new picture books from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. I continue to be impressed by the content and quality of picture books from this publisher. As part of the blog tour, the publisher will be providing links to enter a rafflecopter for giveaways. I will also share a book trailer and author interview during the tour as well! Exciting times! 🙂

In other writing news, I registered for the SCBWI Middle of the Map conference in Overland Park, KS this fall.

Anyone else attending?

The last conference I attended was in Pittsburgh and I absolutely loved it! My excitement will be off the charts by the time November arrives.

Now, what you came here for….the book review!

miracle in music city

 

Miracle in Music City (2016, Zonderkidz, Middle-Grade Mystery)

The Glimmer girls have spent all summer on tour with their Mom. Now they are home and trying to readjust to normal life. The girls soon find out that might be easier said than done. Then their Mom asks them to help her with an annual benefit and auction, and the girls find themselves drawn into another mystery they are determined to solve. It seems life may never get back to normal for these smart and sassy sisters.

Miracle in Music City, written by Natalie Grant, is the third book in the Glimmer Girls series. The series is reminiscent of older, popular mystery series such as Boxcar Children and Babysitter Club, through the structure of the book and the situations the young characters find themselves in. This series is likely to be more popular with girls than boys as the plot often focuses on the dynamics of sisters, and female friends. As this is published by a Christian publishing company, the book does make reference to God, Jesus, and praying several times throughout the book. Overall, a sweet tale with a mystery and great message of helping others.

Though this is considered a middle-grade book, younger readers might enjoy it as well. Strong independent readers should have no trouble reading this book on their own.

Thank  you to Zonderkidz and Book Look Bloggers for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Back to School Books!

I can’t believe school is starting already! It doesn’t affect me directly, but it’s fun seeing all the kids getting ready for their first day of school.

I did do a back to school theme this week for my newspaper column and I have some great book reviews to share with you all. Trying to keep with the theme, I do have a back to school specific book, but overall, all books are great reads for the back to school crowd 🙂

Do you have any young readers headed off to their first day of school?

What books did they read in their classroom on their first day of school?


time for earth school dewey dew

Time for (Earth) School Dewey Dew (2016, Boyds Mills Press, Picture Book)

Dewey Dew doesn’t want to go to school. Not on his planet, not on any planet, and certainly not on planet Earth! Earth kids aren’t like Dewey Dew and Earth words are hard to say. Dewey Dew thinks school is hard and scary, but maybe he will learn school can be fun too.

Time for (Earth) School Dewey Dew, written by Leslie Staub and illustrated by Jeff Mack, is a fantastic read for young ones starting school for the first time or just nervous about going back to school. Dewey Dew is an adorable alien facing all the normal first-day-of-school jitters in a new way. He is comically different from Earth kids and worries about fitting in, which young ones will easily relate too. With charming illustrations and fun, simple text, this is a great read for parents to share at home or teachers to share with their students.

5 stars


counting barefoot critters

Counting with Barefoot Critters (2016, Penguin Random House Canada, Picture Book)

Kids can count to twelve as they follow an increasing number of critters on an outdoor adventure. Each activity brings a new member to the group, and so the group moves on to bigger and better things each time. You can count on these critters to make counting fun!

Counting with Barefoot Critters, written and illustrated by Teagan White, teaches the numbers one through twelve to children in a fun and engaging way. Presented with fun critters portrayed in beautiful illustrations, children won’t even realize they are supposed to be learning their numbers. Love the layout of the book, and presentation of each number. More than just a book about counting, this is a lovely story book to be enjoyed by parents and children.

5 stars


girl who drank the moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon (2016, Algonquin Young Readers, Middle-Grade Fantasy)

When the people of the Protectorate abandon a child each year, they think they are paying tribute to an evil witch in the woods. If they pay the witch with a child, she’ll leave their village alone, but Xan is a good witch. She is kind and gentle, and has no idea why the villagers leave a child in the woods each year, but she rescues each one. She delivers the babies to loving families in another village, feeding the children starlight on the long journey. But when she accidentally feeds a baby girl moonlight, a chain of events is set into motion that Xan could never have foreseen. Loving the child as her own, Xan raises the girl and learns more about the Protectorate and the real witch in the woods than she ever imagined.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, written by Kelly Barnhill, is a lovely new fantasy for the middle-grade crowd. The story is beautifully told through alternating perspectives as each character’s story weaves into the greater story arc. While the characters lacked some depth, they are all enjoyable and the plot is mysterious and magical. This is an original tale told with a nod to traditional fairy tales as it draws on typical fairy tale features such as witches, dragons, and magic. A fun read for fans of fantasies and fairy tales.

4.5 stars


And since school days might feel like the slowest days ever to some kids, I present to you, the slowest book ever….

slowest book ever cover

The Slowest Book Ever (2016, Boyds Mills Press, Non-Fiction Middle-Grade)

From sloths to snails, this book is SLOW! If you were hoping to read about the cheetahs or falcons, this is not the book for you, but slow things are cool too. From front to back, this book is packed full of fun facts, clever narration and entertaining illustrations. Whether you read it very slowly or very fast, this book is sure to make you slow down and think about new things.

The Slowest Book Ever written by April Pulley Sayre is a refreshing book for middle-grade readers. Filled with interesting and unique facts, and presented in a clever style, readers will not feel like they are learning as they enjoy this book. The author’s writing style is lively and engaging with facts presented in clever and humorous ways. The only complaint about this book is in regards to formatting. The text runs into the binding and is sometimes difficult to read. Overall, a fantastic read for ages 9 and up.

4.5 stars

 


What was your favorite first day of school book? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Happy First day of school to all!

 

Thank you to Boyds Mills Press, Penguin Random House Canada, Algonquin Young Readers and Net Galley for copies of these books in exchange for my honest reviews.

Sunday Special

Hope you all had a lovely weekend and are enjoying your Sunday.

I received a copy of the Minecrafter’s Bible last week and wanted to share it with you all today. I’ve received quite a few Bibles from Zonderkidz lately, and they share a similar theme of reaching children through the use of current trends.

While the text of the Bible, in this case the New International Reader’s Version, remains the same, the addition of page inserts, trivia, etc. in each of these Bibles makes the text more relevant to today. For children especially, they want to understand how the stories in the Bible have any significance in the world they live in today.

minecrafter bible

The Minecrafter’s Bible by Zonderkidz brings together the complete text of the NIrV Bible with 24 pages of Minecrafter inspired text and illustrations. Minecrafter is a wildly popular game among young people today, and showing the similarities between how God created the world to the world-building game, will likely intrigue many fans.

Each Minecrafter page features a significant event in the Bible along with the appropriate passages. Then the game is tied in to the verse by suggesting an activity to try within the game. For example, when talking about Noah’s Ark, the text suggests building a large boat in the game and putting animals on it.

The Bible is attractive and fun with a full-color, illustrated cover. The inserts are great, but I would have liked to see little tidbits included throughout all the pages. Some of the other children’s Bibles had small blocks of trivia or facts on nearly every page. Also, many children’s Bibles include summaries at the beginning of each book of the Bible which helps young people understand the main takeaways.

Overall, a great concept which many fans of Minecrafter will be eager to check out.