Friday, July 19, 2019

Sneak Peek: The Sin Soldiers by Tracy Auerbach with Giveaway!!!





The Sin Soldiers 

by Tracy Auerbach 

Fragments, #1
YA Fantasy, Science Fiction


COMING...
JULY 23, 2019!!!





Red compound makes them angry. Yellow exhausts them. Blue drives them into a state of ravenous addiction. The thief Kai knows about the chemically controlled soldiers of the Eastern forces and their savage, deadly nature. When a robbery attempt at Club Seven goes wrong, Kai is captured by a handler and his bestial soldier-boy. She wakes up inside the military base with no idea what happened to her twin brother, Dex.
Things go from bad to worse when Kai is started on a drug and training regimen, and forced to take injections of blue compound. The scientists in charge plan to make her into a working soldier who will mine the mysterious power crystals beneath the desert. Kai becomes a victim of the bully Finn, a handsome but nasty soldier whose years on red compound seem to have erased his humanity. Still, she begins to pity the Seven Soldiers, including the monstrous boy who tried to rip her to shreds at the club. They appear to be nothing more than genetically enhanced, drug-controlled teenagers.
On the outside, Dex and his tech-savvy boyfriend try to crack the soldiers’ chemical code to find a weakness that will break the system. But Kai has already been drawn deep into her new world. Strong feelings for the soldiers she’s come to know have started to cloud her judgment. Can she escape and find Dex without becoming a monster herself?


SNEAK PEEK

The strobe lights and blaring music made Kai’s pulse beat along to their frantic rhythms. She and Dex had worked for Leo before, but never on a hit this big. To steal the night’s earnings from Club Seven took more than the kind of finesse that she and her brother were famous for; it took balls. She looked over at Dex, who squatted in a small patch of shadow by the three steps leading up to the club’s first marble floor. Only he could make squatting look graceful. She strained to see him clearly while the blue-white lights flashed like a detonated bomb with a pause button. The strobes were replaced by a dim red glow, and she held up two fingers to signal the all-clear.
Dex responded instantly, their timing down to an art form. He hoisted himself onto the cold marble and did a quick military crawl to where she was lying flat on her stomach beside the liquor bar, propped on her elbows. His long, spiky hair brushed against her. He smelled like hair gel, but his closeness brought her comfort. No matter what sort of situation Kai found herself in, Dex made her feel safe. He looked up and smiled broadly, showing off teeth so bleached, they nearly glowed in the dark. She narrowed her eyes in warning, and he quickly closed his mouth. He could always tell what she was thinking. Twin power or something like that.
It was important to stay out of sight until they had scoped out the whole scene and gotten a lay of the land. The small service entrance they had used to access the club was situated directly across from the longer of two bars, which ran the length of the club on one side. This bar wrapped neatly along the perimeter, hugging the large entryway’s shiny black walls. It slunk down two steps and kept going all the way across the dance floor. With its white, rounded stone finish and polished glass casings to hold bottles upon bottles of alcohol, it looked pristine. But where Kai was lying at floor level, its fa├žade was shattered by thick patches of dust and some unpleasant-looking stains.
The crystals that powered the club, bringing it to life in all its pulsing, deafening glory, were housed in a nest of wires under the polished stone. They glowed through a transparent square in the bar’s surface with a soft, pale light that somehow stood out even in the midst of the chaotic strobes. Those crystals were the reason this club existed. The ongoing campaign for power over those precious fragments had made Seven Soldiers necessary. Sevens were the front line of the Eastern Forces; the heavy hand that held the public in place and kept all opposition at bay. At Club Seven they were paraded around as spectacles for citizens to gawk at. Kai glanced up toward the enormous body of a soldier walking by the bar, held tightly by his handler as they shoved through the raucous crowd of inebriated revelers. He was so large, he obscured the light from reaching down to where she lay in wait.
Kai shoved herself closer to the bar as a group of giggling women approached the protruding marble above her hiding spot. They surrounded the soldier and his handler, and she squinted up to see them running their hands all over the Seven’s body before leaning close to the bartender to shout for drinks. Kai pulled her hands out of the way of their high heels as they swayed and stepped in rhythm to the hypnotic movement, gyrating against the zombie-like Seven.
Dex reached a hand into his pocket and brought out the tiny camera he treasured. The crystal shard within it was no larger than a pebble, but it had worked for years. He edged his body along the floor away from the people around them and waited for the strobes to give way to red darkness again. When they did, he launched himself from the ground to his feet, fired off a round of pictures, and sunk back down. His movements were so quick, and so well-timed with the lights, that unless one of the clubgoers or bartenders who stood mere feet away were staring straight at him, they would miss his presence completely. Kai knew that from his vantage point, the arc of his leap gave him a clear shot of the club’s raised central stage. On the dance floor, a mass of writhing bodies clamored for a better view of the soldiers above them.
Kai glanced around to make sure nobody had noticed. In the clear, she gave him a thumbs-up to take another round, this time to the left of the club stage where a smaller bar wrapped around a mirrored pole. Lastly, he took some quick shots of the right side’s wooden buffet tables and then crawled back to the shadows of the entryway steps. Kai joined him, and they opened the heavy stone door just a crack before slipping back out into the night.
“I think you got some good ones,” Kai whispered when they were safely outside the club and leaning against the exterior wall. She could feel the vibrations of the music through the stone, and her hearing seemed to have taken a beating as her ears throbbed. But her pulse relaxed as the cool night air and sky of the desert took the place of the stifling sights and smells of the club’s interior.
“Let me have a look first.”
She studied the open plains before them while she waited for him to check out the shots he had taken. The halo of light that surrounded the throbbing stone edifice grew dimmer and dimmer until it faded into total darkness. The silhouettes of desert plants near the light’s border looked like shadowy sentries guarding the empty expanse of sand. Huge saguaros and short, thickly clumped agave cast a parade of midnight black shadows onto the scarcely-lit areas of sand beyond. Further in the distance, Kai could just make out the dimly twinkling lights of Eastern Pless. It was a few miles away, and night lights were a luxury that most couldn’t afford, but being the only other light for miles gave it the illusion of closeness. Above them, millions of stars blinked in and out of existence; only the small red moon and large orange moon remained constant. She shivered—a mixture of the cold air drying the sweat on her skin, and the thought of what could be lurking in all that darkness.
“Hold on a second,” said Dex, keeping the camera out of her reach as she tried to take it. Only a few inches taller, he was still skilled at taunting her by holding things just out of grabbing distance. He continued casually going through the pictures, one by one.
“I’m serious,” she said with a frown. “Give it to me.”
“Not yet,” he snapped. “I’m in man-candy heaven.”
She rolled her eyes.
“You disapprove, sister?”
“They’re Seven Soldiers, Dex. Barely even human.”
“That doesn’t mean they’re not fun to look at,” he protested. “I’m not going to date one. Just having a nice, long stare.”
She tried to glare disapprovingly at him, but he gave her the innocent grin that had always managed to keep him out of trouble. His big, dark eyes seemed to glow in the reflection of the moonlight, and the spikes of his hair cast a funny-looking shadow over his brow. Although they both bore the darker coloring of Northerners, their hair and eyes were so close to true black that their skin paled in comparison. Dex finally relinquished the camera, and she peeked. He wasn’t joking that the soldiers were hot. He nudged her, seeing her expression, and wiggled his eyebrows. She laughed. The two of them very rarely had the same taste in men, thank the Lord, but this was one of those times that it was hard to argue.
“Yeah, well I think the really attractive part of the scene is all the money being thrown at said man-candy,” she retorted. “It looks like the timing will work out in about five minutes. The collection crew should come through to get most of the crystal money out of the way of the dance floor. Clear enough path, right? And dark, so we should be able to blend.”
“Sure,” he agreed.
It was ladies’ night, and the whole thing was super creepy. Kai had known about the club scene forever, but she preferred to stay away. Not that poor-looking thieves like her were allowed in by the bouncers anyway, but it would’ve been easy to pass as a wealthy citizen and have a night out. Dex had done it often, and offered to give her a ‘Club Seven makeover,’ but the whole concept gave her the shivers. Her experience tonight served to confirm her instincts. There was a disturbing aspect to the pictures that sent chills up her spine. She couldn’t decide if it was the predatory, animalistic glare on the faces of the soldiers themselves, or the indifferent smirks of their handlers that unnerved her more.
“Let’s just get this over with,” she sighed. “I don’t like it here.”
“Alright,” agreed Dex, getting serious. He was a great thief because, in the end, he easily shed his usual air of arrogance and got down to business. “Just like we planned with Leo. I’ll go around the side of the smaller liquor bar, and you sneak around to the other wall by the food. That’s likely where a lot of the swept crystals will accumulate since the collection crew hovers around there.”
“Got it,” she said as they slid back through the side door and into the awaiting sensory overload.
This time, Dex walked casually across the stone floor and down the two steps to the dance area. Upon reaching the back of the dance floor, he waited for the strobe lights to give way to dim redness, and ducked into a crouch. He skittered across the last few feet of polished wood, situating himself between the club’s back wall and the smaller, circular bar. Kai watched him disappear behind the smooth rock before she ducked and ran along the nearest wall, cutting close to the guarded front entryway on the right. She slithered through the undulating crowd of eager ladies, and toward the stage.
She paused for a second to look at the young men being held there like circus animals. She had never seen actual Seven Soldiers this close before, and her curiosity got the best of her. Yes, they were attractive; perfectly built and handsome as hell. But they were dauntingly huge, and their eyes were empty; unseeing and unfeeling. Each one had a thick collar around his neck, buzzing with pale blue electrical energy. They were powered by a different sort of crystal, she assumed. Those collars were supposedly the only thing that could keep them docile. She shivered again.
Their handlers, who ranged in appearance from mildly attractive to downright ugly, had a wider range of facial expressions; some attentive and at-the-ready while others were apathetic and bored. The huge throng of screaming women threw small, flat crystals at the performing soldiers on stage, doling out more money than Kai had ever seen just for the chance to interact with a monster. The money they spent allowed them to climb up and pour a glass of liquor down a soldier’s throat or feed him food from the long table to the right of the stage. They could also have a dance with a chained, brain-dampened soldier, or do even less savory things in private rooms upstairs.
Supposedly the young men couldn’t resist the offerings. They were Seven Soldiers, which meant they were sinners, and this was a place to witness their unleashed gluttony. They opened their mouths each time, indifferent but accepting of the food and drink that gorged them through the course of the evening. Their rage, too dangerous to be put on display, was kept in check by the handlers, so supposedly they were as complacent as puppies in this state only. No sex, though. That was too much of a liability. That was the club’s cover story at least, but Kai knew that handlers could be paid off. She had even heard of women scoring tickets for backstage passes to the Eastern Fortress where the soldiers were kept.
She shimmied along the perimeter of the club beside the stage, shaking her hips to the music’s frantic beat, trying to blend in. She darted under the long, beautifully decorated food table once the strobe lights started up again. With quick, fluid movements, she settled herself centrally under the table, where a hanging silvery cloth obscured her from view. She saw Dex across the way, sweeping up handfuls of the crystals that had fallen to the floor, putting them into his cloth sack. Perfect timing was critical, because there had to be enough money to be worth Leo’s while, but not so much that the club collectors noticed something wrong when they came through to bag it up. She pulled out her own sack and started brushing in money that had fallen or been swept under the table by the collectors. Simple.
As she was shoveling the crystals into her take-away bag, the smell of the food on the table above hit her nostrils and her mouth began to water. The soldiers really did get the good stuff. What a waste. There was fresh fruit, cakes and chocolates, and platters of meat and cheese. She couldn’t remember the last time she had eaten something besides dry bread, and even that had been scarce lately. She continued to absentmindedly shovel money into the sack, but now her eyes were focused on a spot where the tablecloth had accidentally gotten tucked up in the corner, affording her a crooked view of the tabletop. There sat a huge piece of cake that hung precariously over the side, shaking as dancing women jostled by. Her breath caught in her throat as it slid off and landed on the floor about a foot to her left.
As her hand seemed to instinctively reach out and grab for the fallen treasure, she saw Dex shaking his head frantically out of the corner of her eye. She felt a boot-clad foot slam down hard on her hand seconds later, and a wave of pain shot through her body. Her head hit the underside of the table and food spilled all around her. Terror gripped her insides like a live wire, and she froze. Quickly, she shook herself out of it and tried to reclaim her hand, but it was too late. The black boot held tight, and she saw a hand reach under the tablecloth, getting ready to lift it and expose her completely. She had to think fast.
Kai shoved herself sideways, toward whoever was standing on her left hand, and bit into the person’s calf, right above where the boot ended. Her teeth sunk easily through the thin cotton uniform into skin and flesh. She didn’t hear any scream over the blasting music, but the booted foot slid sideways just enough as a hand clasped it defensively. That was all she needed. She saw the face of the person who had caught her for only a second. He was young and gaunt, with pasty skin and pointy features. A handler. He must’ve been in the process of escorting his soldier past the front of the stage when he had spotted her fool attempt to grab the damn cake. She could beat herself up later. Now, she had to run.
She darted past the table and away from the stage, choosing the back door across the dance floor as an exit point. She shoved around several club-goers, knocking a few to the floor as she fled through the crowd. She didn’t dare to glance at Dex as she practically jumped over him on her way out. The last thing she needed was the guilt of getting him busted, too. They could reunite back at the rendezvous point. She slammed into the door in her panic, frantically felt around, grabbed the exit bar and pushed, then bolted out into the night.
She was at least twenty yards from the building, sand rising to resist in slow, messy heaps with each crunch of her shoes, when she stole a glance behind herself. Her heart jumped into her throat. Not only was the handler chasing her; he had brought his soldier, too. The man-beast couldn’t have been more than seventeen or eighteen years old, but he was huge. He had to be at least seven feet tall and almost as wide, with muscles popping out everywhere as he bounded soundlessly after her. Taut muscles rippled over his entire body, highlighting the contrast of his distended stomach, and making him appear even more savage as he darted across the sand in his bare feet. He was clothed only in the gold loincloth that was his club outfit, but the blankness in his eyes had given way to something far more primal, his snarling face letting her know that the party was definitely over. Whatever the mental switch was that kept him calm—it had been flipped.
“Get back here, you biting little bitch!” yelled the handler.
She froze for a second, hoping his limping from her bite would slow both him and his monstrous soldier-boy down, but to her horror, the glowing chain slipped out of his hand. He cursed and made a grab for it as Kai screamed. She picked up speed as she headed across the desert sand in the direction of the outer wall of the city. Eastern Pless would hide her in its cesspool of overcrowded streets. She could go back to Leo’s place. The soldier might get his hands on a citizen or two, but he would be stopped. They were always taken down if they got loose inside the city’s walls.
Kai still had her heart and eyes set on the safety of the city’s distant lights when the snarling soldier dove and grabbed her around the legs. She screamed as she fell, and tried to claw at his arms, but he didn’t seem to notice. His fingernails ripped her skin as he flipped her over and dragged her toward his waiting mouth.
He’s going to eat me alive.
His face was very close to her now, and even in this dim light, she could see that he had the pale skin of a southerner, and ear-length blond hair. She was surprised again by how very young he looked. Then she saw his eyes. There was no humanity in the heavily dilated pupils; only death. His open-mouthed roar exposed a straight line of teeth, with four unnaturally sharp, piercing incisors. Now face to face, she saw that the tiny rings of iris around his pupils were light brown, but the pupils themselves weren’t black the way they were supposed to be. The spot in the middle of the brown glowed with an odd blue tinge that lit his face.
Flinching, she prepared to be ripped apart. Instead, a huge jolt that rattled through her body, from the base of her spine to the top of her head, making her teeth clamp down on a shriek. Her eyes flew open, and she saw that the handler had regained control. He grabbed the chain leash around his charge’s neck and pressed a button. Waves of electricity rocked the giant, sending his body into spasms. Kai breathed a sigh of relief, even as she felt the power surge pass through him and into her own body. The last thing she thought before she lost consciousness was that it was far better to be electrocuted than to be torn to shreds by that monster.



And here she is...

Tracy Auerbach is an author of science fiction and fantasy for teens and adults. As an avid reader with a vivid imagination, she chose to study film, English, and education, and went on to teach and write STEM curriculum for the New York Department of Education. This helped to polish her writing skills and ignite her passion for science fiction and fantasy.
Her first scholarly article, published in Language Magazine, was about the value of active, creative learning in science.
On the fiction side, Tracy’s work has been featured in the online literary journal Micro-horror, The Writing Disorder fiction anthology, and the “(Dis)ability” short story anthology, in addition to her novels.
When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or spending time with her family. She lives in New York with her husband and sons.

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Sneak Peek: Witches Protection Program by Michael Okon with Giveaway!



Witches Protection Program
by Michael Okon
YA Urban Fantasy 










Wes Rockville, a disgraced law-enforcement agent, gets one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he’s reassigned to a 232-year-old secret government organization.


The Witches Protection Program.

His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar cosmetics company’s diabolical plan to use witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt’s evil deeds. Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in witches…and believe in himself.

Filled with adventure and suspense, Michael Okon creates a rousing, tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern-day New York City.






SNEAK PEEK
“Follow me, kid.” She led him down a gray hallway with mulberry-colored carpet,
more plush than anything he’d ever seen in a governmental office. The place
had to be a city block wide, with corridors branching off to other conduits. Here
and there, a doorway opened. Wes saw that many were filled with groups of
people sitting at polished conference tables. Some rooms were dark, with shades
drawn, the light of a presentation on screens peeking through the slats of the
blinds. Staff walked through the hallways, nodding to each other. Some were in
pairs. All had a badge hanging on a chain or attached to a pocket. He squinted,
but he couldn’t make out the impression on the shield. Forget about attempting
to read it. He shrugged; while it looked official, it was unfamiliar. For a person
who grew up with an entire family in law enforcement, he found it odd that he’d
never seen it before.
“What is this place?” he asked.

“This is where the magic happens,” she told him cryptically.

She opened the door, whispering, “Prepare to be amazed.” Then, with a giant
pop of her gum, she disappeared.

“Where…” Wes turned, looking for the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere.
“Where is…”

“Oh, she’s gone. Come in already,” a male voice ordered impatiently.

Wes spun to the speaker, his eyes settling on a small man seated at a glass desk.
He was in a neat gray suit but wore a black turtleneck, which made him look like
some odd, eccentric leftover from the beatnik generation. He was older than
Wes’s father, Wes guessed somewhere north of sixty, with the thickening middle
of a sedentary life, a tanned complexion, and silver hair. His chubby face sported
a neatly trimmed goatee. Wes wondered where his beret might be. The man
studied Wes with interested black eyes that glowed with merriment.

“What kind of department is this?”

“Mr. Wesley Paul Rockville. Son of Harris and Melinda, brother to Lauren and
Andrew. Tough act to follow. Runt of the litter?”

Wes bristled, wondering where this pint-size dude got off calling him a runt. At six
foot three, he was hardly considered small. “I fail to see what this has got to do
with my reassignment,” he said icily.

The older man ignored him. “The young gun who had his free will sucked right
out of him.”

“No one took my free will!” Wes shouted, his face hot.

“I think Miss Genevieve Fox did a pretty nice number on you.”

“What are you talking about?”

Alastair cocked his head, a smile playing on his lips.

“I don’t think this is funny, um…Alastair. I’m getting out of here.” Wes had had
enough. He was pissed and hungry.

“Sit down, Agent Rockville. It’s time you learned about your new assignment.”




Michael Okon is an award-winning and best-selling author of multiple genres including paranormal, thriller, horror, action/adventure and self-help. He graduated from Long Island University with a degree in English, and then later received his MBA in business and finance. Coming from a family of writers, he has storytelling in his DNA. Michael has been writing from as far back as he can remember, his inspiration being his love for films and their impact on his life. From the time he saw The Goonies, he was hooked on the idea of entertaining people through unforgettable characters.

Michael is a lifelong movie buff, a music playlist aficionado, and a sucker for self-help books. He lives on the North Shore of Long Island with his wife and children.




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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Review: Twinkle, Twinkle, Dinosaur by Jeffrey Burton


TWINKLE, TWINKLE,
DINOSAUR
by Jeffrey Burton
Illustrated by Zoe Waring
Little Simon
Board Book
16 pages
 ages 1 to 5



This sleepy dino board book is a prehistoric twist on the popular bedtime lullaby, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!”

Twinkle, twinkle, dinosaur
how I like to hear you roar.
Stomping through the trees so high, 
as your friends fly through the sky. 

A roaring twist on the popular bedtime nursery rhyme, Twinkle, Twinkle, Dinosaur is the second book in a brand-new board book series that’s perfect for parents and little ones to snuggle up with and share.



 MY TIDBITS

Young dinosaur fans' hearts will be right in rhythm with this fun twist on a well-known bedtime song.

A cute, lovable dinosaur...with a fierce roar...wanders over the land, while friends circle above and around him. While the illustrations are kept rather simple, this also allows the focus to remain clear—dinosaurs. These dinos aren't scary but take on a warm atmosphere which leads to the calm needed before a nap or night time sleep. 

The book is small and sturdy, just right for little readers' hands. The text is also not too simple or difficult, making it slide right into the middle of the intended age group range. After reading this, a favorite song might take on a slightly different text for awhile, one great for all those dinosaur dreams.


And here they are...

The Author...
Jeffrey Burton has written several books for children. He lives in New York City with his family.

The Illustrator...
Zoe Waring is a children's book illustrator and designer based in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Zoe loves the warmth and humor so often found in children's picture books and is a little obsessed with cute baby animals, which often make an appearance within her artwork She works in a variety of materials and loves creating engaging characters to make people smile. When she's not drawing in her sunny studio, she can be found exploring the beautiful British countryside. To find out more please visit her online at ZoeWaring.co.uk and follow her on twitter at @ZoeMop.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: I'm Worried by Michael Ian Black


I'M WORRIED
by Michael Ian Black
Illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster
Picture Book 
40 pages
ages 4 - 8




A girl, a flamingo, and a worried potato star in the third book in New York Times bestselling author Michael Ian Black and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s series about feelings—and why they’re good, even when they feel bad.

Potato is worried. About everything.

Because anything might happen.

When he tells his friends, he expects them to comfort him by saying that everything will be okay. Except they don’t. Because it might not be, and that’s okay too. Still, there’s one thing they can promise for sure: no matter what happens…they will always be by his side.




MY TIDBITS

This odd trio—a potato, a flamingo, and a little girl—take a very worrisome worry and flip it upside down until worry disappears.

Potato is worried about...well, anything. Especially the future because bad things can happen. Flamingo agrees and begins to worry, too. The little girl, however, refuses to budge from reason. A fall from the table or evil peanut butter jars or dangerous accidents are possible. And this book takes a look at what to do with all of that worry.

The trio demands attention and is sure to catch young readers' attention from the get-go. With simple illustration, the story concentrates (very clearly) on whether or not worry is a valid way to look at the future or not. A shivering potato is easy to sympathize with, and the flamingo adds an even more funny twist. Readers will laugh about certain incidents, and yet, see something the recognize in others. It definitely brings the message home.

This makes a great read-aloud and opens the door to discussions. Kids do worry about things, and through a playful manner, this problem is nicely addressed.


And here they are...

The Author...
Michael Ian Black is a writer, comedian, and actor who currently appears on Another Period, The Jim Gaffigan Show, and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. Michael regularly tours the country as a stand-up comedian and is the bestselling author of the book My Custom Van (and 50 Other Mind-Blowing Essays That Will Blow Your Mind All Over Your Face) and many children's books including The Purple Kangaroo, Naked!, and A Child's First Book of Trump. Michael lives in Connecticut with his wife and two children.

The Illustrator...
Debbie Ridpath Ohi is the author of Where Are My Books?. Her illustrations also appear in Sea Monkey and Bob, written by Aaron Reynolds; I'm Bored (New York Times Notable Book) and Naked!, written by Michael Ian Black; as well as ten Judy Blume chapter books and middle grade titles. For more info, visit DebbieOhi.com or @InkyElbows on Twitter.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: Reaching for the Moon by Katherine Johnson

It's July! And it also happens to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 space flight. To help celebrate this monumental motion, I was lucky enough to receive the autobiography of Katherine Johnson, a woman who helped make the flight possible.


REACHING FOR THE MOON
The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Middle Grade Non-Fiction
256 pages








The inspiring autobiography of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who helped launch Apollo 11.

As a young girl, Katherine Johnson showed an exceptional aptitude for math. In school she quickly skipped ahead several grades and was soon studying complex equations with the support of a professor who saw great promise in her. But ability and opportunity did not always go hand in hand. As an African American and a girl growing up in an era of brutal racism and sexism, Katherine faced daily challenges. Still, she lived her life with her father’s words in mind: “You are no better than anyone else, and nobody else is better than you.”

In the early 1950s, Katherine was thrilled to join the organization that would become NASA. She worked on many of NASA’s biggest projects including the Apollo 11 mission that landed the first men on the moon.

Katherine Johnson’s story was made famous in the bestselling book and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures. Now in Reaching for the Moon she tells her own story for the first time, in a lively autobiography that will inspire young readers everywhere.
 



MY TIDBITS

Starting from when Katherine Johnson was a young girl, these pages recount her childhood in a world of segregation and sexism and show her path to being apart of an historical moment—a recount which is sure to inspire and allow young readers to dream of their own futures.

Growing up on a farm, and then in the small town of White Sulfur Springs, Katherine Johnson was blessed with a loving family and wise parents. In a world where segregation made many things for her and her family a battle, her father encouraged her and, with determination, helped to guide her onto a path, which would not only lead her in a special direction, but bring her to help break boundaries which were closed to women before.

Katherine Johnson takes great care in bringing over the details of her life, which not only help middle grade readers learn more about a difficult time in American history, but enable them to connect with her younger (and later, older) self. The trip through daily life brings allows her to come across as a very normal girl, while still making clear the difficulties she and her family faced. The information is logical, easy to understand, and never boring or dry. Historical facts and events are dribbled in effortlessly as Katherine grows through the various stages of life, facing different trials and stumbling blocks along the way.

The writing flows smoothly and holds a constant pace, keeping every chapter interesting. The addition of photos from her life help bring the reality of it home and add the extra touch. Not only middle graders will find Katherine's journey fascinating, but even older readers will enjoy this read.


And here she is...

Katherine Johnson is a former NASA mathematician whose work was critical to the success of many of their initiatives, including the Apollo Lunar landing program and the start of the Space Shuttle program. Throughout her long career she has received numerous awards, including the nation’s highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Barack Obama.

Additionally, one day before her 100th birthday, West Virginia State University unveiled a new statue of her along with a scholarship in her name. In May 2018, Mattel released a Barbie doll in Katherine’s likeness as part of their “Inspiring Women” line.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Review: Ms. Love's Mystical Island Adventure by Susan Love


MS. LOVE'S MYSTICAL 
ISLAND ADVENTURE
by Susan Love
Illustrated by Patrick Harrington
Mystic Sea Lady Publisher
Picture Book
ages 4 to 7
69 pages


Sabrina, Arthur, Miguel, and Lucy arrive on Ms. Love’s Mystical Island bursting with excitement. The young explorers have been chosen to witness the flowering of a rare and magical orchid, which blooms once every century with an explosion of light and energy—mysteriously repairing Earth’s ozone layer. But Ms. Love greets the children with devastating news: The scientists hoping to study the orchid’s secret power are not coming, and a massive hurricane is headed their way. If the destructive storm strikes the island while the fragile orchid is in bloom, this extraordinary plant will be wiped out forever. 

There is only one hope—the Magic Power Flower—a flower-shaped crystal that once magically protected the island from danger. Although Sunflower, Ms. Love’s mother, possesses the flower’s centerpiece, the other hidden pieces must be found—and found quickly—if the island and its precious orchid are to be saved. As the hurricane rapidly approaches, the children and Ms. Love race against time to complete seemingly impossible tasks: decode the ancestor’s map, discover and unravel the clues to find the missing pieces, and safely return this supernatural power source to Sunflower—unless Ms. Love’s jealous, power-hungry Rivals find and steal the sacred flower first.



 MY TIDBITS

What a fun adventure! While taking a dip into environmental issues, this tale quickly spins into a place of magic and action that will leave the reader sitting at the edge of their seat.

Sabrina, Arthur, Miguel and Lucy can't believe their luck! Out of everyone at their school, they were selected to take a flight to an exotic island to view a moment which rarely takes place—an orchid will bloom, whose energy can save the ozone layer. At the island, the children run into Ms. Love, a woman as exotic as the island itself. When she receives notice that a terrible storm is moving that could wipe out the orchid, the search for another magical flower begins.

This would make a great read-aloud. The text is more thought for sure readers, but even younger ones will be entranced by this fun tale. Every few pages comes a new chapter. This offers the perfect breaks to set the book down until the next reading (or continue on, which kids will most likely wish would happen). The fast-paced keeps every moment exciting, and there are even times of high tension as the question pops up as to whether or not the kids can pull the tasks off. It's excitement pure.

Ms. Love is magical in powers as well as appearance, and the island around her lets dreams take flight. The four kids behave fairly normal, making them easy to connect with. And they are adventurous and brave! It's hard not to wish that one could be there with them, trying to find all the pieces to the magical flower.


And here she is...

Susan Love has experienced the foster care system firsthand when at the age of 5 was rescued from a fire that destroyed everything her family owned and left her mother unable to take care for her and her siblings. Her passion is to provide these children with a strong support system, mentor, and to make changes to the current system of foster care.

When Susan Love was new to teaching, she was a little depressed by her classroom. The room was infested by mice and roaches. The kids were uninspired, the parents uninterested. She was sure the year would be a failure until her trip to the Caribbean guided her to feel refreshed in which she decided to turn the classroom into an "Island of Learning" and encouraged her students, many of whom had island backgrounds, to write stories. 

To her surprise, the children wrote island stories about her and suddenly she decided to create her own Ms. Love island story incorporating the kids creative ideas and decided to share it with the rest of the world.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Review: Iron Magicians: The Search for the Magic Crystals by Cetrix and Yuio


IRON MAGICIANS
The Search for the Magic Crystals
Comic Quests, Book #5
by Cetrix 
Illustrated by Yuio
Quirk Books
Middle Grade Graphic / Adventure
184 pages
ages 8 to 12

COMING...
AUGUST 6th, 2019!!!


This middle-grade graphic novel series makes YOU the hero of a fantasy quest—pick your panel, find items, cast spells, defeat enemies, solve puzzles, and play through new storylines again and again!

Step inside a steampunk re-imagining of nineteenth-century Paris, where magic and machines exist in harmony. The Eiffel Tower—a secret weapon built with magic—is almost complete, but the crystals that power the structure are missing! Find the hidden crystals and survive your dangerous mission.

HERE’S HOW TO PLAY:
• Select your character and begin your quest.
• Numbers are hidden in every panel. Decide where you want to go next, and then flip to the panel with the matching number.
• Solve puzzles, cast spells, and defeat enemies in your quest for success. Only after you’ve collected all the crystals will your journey be complete.
• If you fail your mission, just start again from the beginning! You can play the book again and again, making different choices every time.

Remember, this is no ordinary comic book—what happens next is up to you!
 



MY TIDBITS


This was a fun mix of mystery solving, graphic novel, and a bit of a choose your own adventure feel, while incorporating even more. In other words, a book to really dive into.

I've heard that this was a novel in France in 2014 and was translated. I have not read the other books in the series, but that is not an issue. This adventure surrounds the hunt to restore the power to the Eiffel Tower to keep Paris safe. It's set in a steampunk world around the end of the 1800's. There are downloadable pages to help keep track of progress while solving the mysteries, but these are also in the book. In other words, this is an active read on many levels.

The story is fun, keeps the reader guessing and has unexpected twists and turns to guarantee a return to try the adventure again. The graphic novel style fits wonderfully—something I've never seen in this form, but really enjoyed. The wording is just right for ages eight to twelve, and even slightly older readers will get caught up in the fun.

I recommend this one for all fans of graphic novels, a little steampunk and an adventure which the reader can steer.

I received a complimentary copy from Netgalley and was surprised at how fun a read it was!