Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Review: Historic and Lively - What Am I? by Joyce Markovics

American Place Puzzlers
by Joyce Markovics
Bearport Publishing
Picture Book / Non-Fiction
ages 3 and up

What has a main street and hundreds of historic buildings? If you guessed Colonial Williamsburg, you're right! This book introduces early readers to a mystery American place by describing its features, one by one, using short simple sentences and eye-popping full-color photos. At the end of the book, the secret place is revealed across a colorful, two-page spread. Young children will love showing off their beginning reading skills as they learn about amazing American places--one clue at a time! Fast facts and maps at the end of the book provide key information about the place. Rich, colorful photos and a clever design are sure to grab and excite emergent readers.


With lively, real life photographs, this book describes Colonial Williamsburg while offering kids interesting tidbits along the way.

This book tries to help listeners/readers puzzle together an historic site in the United States by giving hints and clues so they can 'puzzle' it together. It's a cute idea, encouraging kids to think while trying to piece together the information offered in the pages step-by-step. Each illustration/photograph follows this scheme with its puzzle-appearance on the page, where a couple pieces are missing to give it that real game feel.

The text is very simple and short, making it appropriate for even youngest listeners. There's only one piece of information on each two page spread and the photograph fits to it perfectly. While the idea is grabbing and the book does a great job an introducing an interesting historic site to listeners/readers (and will even leave them curious to go visit it themselves), the one offered in this book, Colonial Williamsburg, is so unknown that the chances younger listeners have even heard of it are slim. This leaves a hint of frustration at the end since listeners have no way of solving the puzzle and might feel a bit cheated. It does, however, offer a great addition to those who are learning about the area or who have heard of the place before.

At the end, there's a Fast Facts section with more detailed tidbits about Colonial Williamsburg, a map of where it is in the United States, and an index as well as a website address where kids can learn more. The information is well-rounded, will inform listeners in a fun way and awaken their interest to visit the site.

Young children will love showing off their beginning reading skills as they learn about amazing American places--one clue at a time! This new series introduces emergent readers to iconic American places through a fun guessing game. Each 24-page book features controlled text with age-appropriate vocabulary and simple sentence construction. Vibrant photos and a clever design are sure to grab and excite young readers!

There are 8 titles in this series, all of which can be viewed here at Bearport Publishing.

Sneak Peek: Escape Forbidden by Ruth Silver with Giveaway

Escape Forbidden 
Aberrant Prequel
by Ruth Silver 
June 15th 2018
YA Dystopian

Fight to stay alive. 
The Gravelands are a dangerous place.
In a world of uncertainty, Cora Manning knows one thing without a doubt: getting into Genesis will offer her a brighter future.
When the intake coordinator agrees to let her in because of her genetic makeup, Cora discovers the promised city of utopia is nothing like she imagined.
The rebellion has begun.


“Sit,” Noelle said and gestured toward the cot positioned on the floor.
Without much thought I wandered over and stretched out to lie down. Had it not been a trying day and with bombings outside, I’d have opted to go home or at the very least refused special treatment. That was what Noelle offered me, wasn’t it?
“You don’t have to stay here all night,” I said. It felt weird to be watched as I slept. “If I need anything, I can let you know. Or I mean, whoever stays.” I didn’t want to assume she wouldn’t go home either. I shut my eyes and relaxed against the cot. It wasn’t the most comfortable bed I’d been in, but it beat the straw in the barn.
“Toby and I will alternate, unless your fever breaks. Then we’ll both go home and let you sleep in peace.”
Hearing her words was enough to help me relax. “Okay,” I mumbled. If only I had the ability to control my own body temperature.
Noelle shut off the lights which helped ease the throbbing pulse behind my eyes. The distant wail of the siren ceased. Had it ended? Was everyone safe? I took momentary comfort in the quiet of Noelle’s office and allowed myself to fall asleep.
During the night, I heard the door whine and I attempted to roll over, only half cognizant of where I was. The cot groaned beneath me and I felt the warmth of metal against my cheek.
“Wake up, little girl,” an unfamiliar voice said, and I heard the distinctive click of the safety released from a gun.
My eyes flashed open, staring up at the intruder, the gun tight against my skin. How would I get out of this mess?

And here she is...

Ruth Silver enjoys reading, traveling, writing, photography, boardgames, and playing with her dogs.
REFUGE FORBIDDEN (Aberrant Book 4) by Ruth Silver will be available June 29, 2018.
She also writes adult romance under the name Allison West. 


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Review: Ocean Meets Sky by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

Terry Fan and Eric Fan
Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Picture Book
 ages 4 to 8
48 pages

“Young readers will be captivated.” —The Washington Post

From the creators of the gorgeous bestseller The Night Gardener, comes a stunning new picture book about a young boy who sets sail to find a place his grandfather told him about…the spot where the ocean meets the sky.

It’s a good day for sailing.

Finn lives by the sea and the sea lives by him. Every time he looks out his window it’s a constant reminder of the stories his grandfather told him about the place where the ocean meets the sky. Where whales and jellyfish soar and birds and castles float.

Finn’s grandfather is gone now but Finn knows the perfect way to honor him. He’ll build his own ship and sail out to find this magical place himself!

And when he arrives, maybe, just maybe, he’ll find something he didn’t know he was looking for.


This is simply a beautiful, imagination packed book which invites to dream and ride on fantasy's wings.

Finn lives by the ocean, and he misses his grandfather, who loved ships and sailing. On what would have been his grandfather's ninetieth birthday, Finn decides to honor him by building a boat of his own. The results aren't only a boat but an amazing trip not only to the high-seas but beyond.

Illustrations, dreams and words find the perfect blend in these pages, creating not only a lovely read but a piece of art. Starting out with an average boy remembering his grandfather, this story mounts into a magical journey. There's a touch of Asia in the pages and the beauty of the culture and myths (especially of the giant golden fish) hit like a gentle dusting.

Imagination takes flight in this book and, with the amazing illustration, invites to gaze and dream. There's something new to find in the details every time, making this a book to flip through time and again. It's great as a bedtime read, especially with the moon taking on a lovely role toward the end.

There are many things to love about this book, including the journey the boy makes to reach these dreams. First, there's a warming memory of his grandfather—he misses his grandfather but its the wonderful memories which stand on center stage. Then, the boy constructs his own ship, putting his feelings and imagination to work. When the fantasy kicks in, it's spellbinding and offers a message of hope and encouragement. This one will receive a special place on our shelves.

And here they are. . .

Eric Fan is an artist and writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Born in Hawaii and raised in Toronto, he attended the Ontario College of Art and Design, where he studied illustration, sculpture, and film. He has a passion for vintage bikes, clockwork contraptions, and impossible dreams. See more of his work at and on Facebook (Eric Fan Illustration).

Terry Fan received his formal art training at Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada. His work is a blend of traditional and contemporary techniques, using ink or graphite mixed with digital. He spends his days (and nights) creating magical paintings, portraits, and prints. Born in Illinois, he now lives in Toronto. Visit him online at and and on Facebook (Terry Fan Illustration). 

Happy Book Birthday, Dethroned by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge with Giveaway

An Inimical Prequel Novella
by Genevieve Iseult Eldredge 
Monster House Books
YA Urban Fantasy

For eighteen-year-old Rouen Rivoche, being a fairy princess isn’t about fancy parties and happily ever afters.
Rouen’s people are the dark Fae whose powers of lightning, thundersnow, and all things Winter make them cold, severe, and 100% intolerant of rebellion.
Too bad being a rebel is in Rouen’s blood.
Against tradition, she’s teamed up with Syl Skye, the sleeper-princess of the fair Fae—a mortal enemy who Rouen should want to kill but only wants to kiss. Plus, to be with Syl, Rouen’s masquerading as a glam goth-rock star and human high school student. Honestly, Rouen doesn’t think things could get any more complicated.
Then, she discovers she must become Queen of the Winter Court or all her people will die. No pressure.
Now, dark forces are amassing in the Winter Court, turning Rouen’s people against her and blocking her path to the throne. Even Syl with all her powers of white flame and Summer can’t stop this new kind of evil.
Because betrayal cuts close when it’s someone you love… and now it looks like Rouen’s going to be dethroned before she ever becomes queen.


Chapter One

There’s nowhere I belong
No home, no hearth
No sing, no song
A princess with no kingdom to rule
– “Nowhere I Belong” – Euphoria
It’s December 24, Christmas Eve in the mortal realm, and you know what that means.
Only fifty-four days to go. Fifty-four days until the Lunar New Year.
Until I take my rightful place as Queen of the dark Fae.
No more being Rouen, princess-assassin and rebel. Once Father steps down—and he said he would—I’ll take his place.
Half of me, my dark self, says he’s lying through his fangs again. But the other half of me remembers the father-before, the man he was before our realm was crippled by our mortal enemies, the fair Fae. That man taught me to fight, to tap into the Winter in my royal blood and hear the wintry nightsong running through our Dark Faerie realm like a secret language.
The Adamant King. He was a good father and a great king—powerful but even-tempered, severe but just.
That’s the man I could trust. That man would keep his word to make me queen.
Even though there’s never been a dark Fae queen. Ever.
I’ll be the first. I can’t wait to rule, to do whatever I want, to be with whoever I want.
In fifty-four days.
But who’s counting?
“Not you,” Syl murmurs sleepily as we lie on the beat-up couch in the dressing room of our local club/hangout, the Nanci Raygun. It’s a snug room wallpapered with faded band flyers and covered in peeling spray paint art. The best thing is the comfy couch that’s ideal for snuggling with your girlfriend.
“Nope. Not me.” I kiss the top of Syl’s red curls. She knows me too well.
Just like I’m the princess of the dark Fae, Syl’s the princess of the fair Fae.
We’re complete opposites. I’m everything Winter—storms and squalls and brutal cold, unyielding ice and thundersnow. My Syl is the epitome of Summer and sun and brightness, with the power to purify dark magic with her white flame.
We met when I tried to kill her.
Technically, we’re mortal enemies. Winter. Summer. You get the picture.
Long story short, I tried to assassinate her. Not my finest moment, but I was controlled by Circuit Fae black-magic—a Moribund infection that stole my will and forced me to hunt her down when she was a mere mortal. Sleeper-princess that she is, though, she Awakened to the fair Fae power inside her.
Hoo-boy, did she give me a hard time. I loved it. Still do.
Syl snuggles in closer. Her nearness sends a spike of warmth shooting through me. She leans her head on my shoulder. “Is it time for your gig yet?”
Ancestors, I hope not. I’d rather lie on this couch with her forever. Lazily, I look past the Euphoria fliers plastered all over the dressing room and check the faded Blue Bee Cider clock on the wall. Almost 11 p.m. “Ten minutes.”
Ten minutes till I step onstage and take on the Euphoria half of my mortal guise. The other half is a seventeen-year-old high school junior, but this is more my style—local legend and goth rockstar violinist. Thanks to my powerful Glamoury, only Syl, her mom, and a few kids at Richmond Elite High have put the Rouen-Euphoria connection together. Otherwise, the human paparazzi would have a heyday with us.
As it is, they mostly leave us alone. Good thing, too, since tonight, I want some peace.
Tonight’s special.
In a little bit, Syl will be headed off on her own. Her task is less glamorous, but far more important. She has to leave to grab our Christmas Eve dinner.
I’ve never had a proper Christmas Eve dinner. It’s a mortal thing and very different from my people’s Dark Yule celebrations (which involve a lot of mayhem and destruction), and I’m looking forward to it.
Syl turns her face into my shoulder and says something like, mumble, mumble, don’t wanna, mumble, mumble, cold outside, mumble.
So. Adorable. I kiss the top of her head, inhaling the heady scent of sunshine and vanilla. My sweet fair Fae princess.
I’d do anything to protect her.

And here she is...
Raised by witches and dragons in the northern wilds, GIE writes angsty urban fantasy YA romance--where girls who are mortal enemies kick butt, take names, and fall in love against all odds.
She enjoys long hikes in the woods (where better to find the fair folk?), believing in fairies (in fact, she's clapping right now), dancing with dark elves (always wear your best shoes), being a self-rescuing princess (hello, black belt!), and writing diverse books about teenage girls finding love, romance, and their own inner power.
She might be planning high tea at the Fae Court right now.
GIE is multi-published, and in her role as an editor has helped hundreds of authors make their dream of being published a reality.

The Circuit Fae series
Derailed – A Moribund Prequel Novella
Moribund eSampler (FREE)


Monday, June 18, 2018

Review: Over Raging Tides by Jennifer Ellision

Lady Pirates, Book One
by Jennifer Ellision
YA Fantasy
239 pages

The pirate crew of the Lady Luck lives by many rules, but chief among them is this: they do not allow men on board. 

That’s a rule that quartermaster Grace Porter is willing to break when a shipwrecked young nobleman offers her information of an omniscient map, stolen from his warship by an enemy vessel. Until now, the map was only the stuff of legend… but with its help, Grace may finally be able to hunt down the Mordgris, the sea monsters who stole her mother away from her.

Unfortunately, some members of her crew have other plans...

To find the map and face the Mordgris, Grace will have to confront her past, put the Luck between warring nations, and uncover treachery aboard the ship. And ultimately, her revenge and the destruction of the Mordgris will come at a hefty price: the betrayal of her crew.

Grace promised them they wouldn’t regret this.

She just isn’t sure that she won’t.


The salty air, raw life of pirating, hopes, doubt and dreams comes to life with a massive wave of girl power in this high-seas adventure.

Grace captains the all girl crew of the pirate ship, Lady Luck, where men are simply not allowed aboard. When a battle leaves two men stranded on a shipwreck and their fate will be at the hands of beastly creatures, Grace feels forced to make an exception and brings the two aboard. She plans to drop them off soon, but one of the men knows the location of the map she's been searching for many years. Getting her hands on this map is her greatest desire but it might cost her everything else she holds dear, even her beloved crew.

This is not a sweet, princess like adventure. These are pirates in all of their roughness, strife and dreams. Grace is an amazing captain and holds all of those qualities needed to be a successful pirate, but she has her flaws like everyone else. Her crew and her rub shoulders but fit together like a raw puzzle—it's a pirating crew to adore and cheer for the entire way. The scenes are well done, allowing the moments to come alive, and there's just the right amount of humor thrown in to keep up a little fun.

It's a well paced read, keeping the reader in the pages from start to finish. The action as well as the dialogue is engaging and holds a clever back and forth. There is a romance of sorts, but this is by no means the main driving force. At times, it's almost too subtle and misses a little spark. But this isn't about hearts and love, it's about pirating and Grace.

Grace's past haunts her, and it's this which drives her forward into the adventure. There are so many aspects to love in this. A few stumbles come too. A little background depth as well as character depth is missing at times, which considering it's a fairly short read at 230 or so pages was missing. Still, the adventure is enticing and the characters intriguing, and it's this longing to know them and the circumstances better which show how fresh and interesting the story is. Since this is the beginning of a series, I'm hoping that the information is still to come as well as the chance to dive into some of this really great side characters as well. Because this is a crew to cheer for.

And here she is. . .

Jennifer Ellision spent a great deal of her childhood staying up past her bedtime with a book and a flashlight. When she couldn’t find the stories she wanted to read, she started writing them. She loves words, has a soft spot for fanfiction, and is a master of the fangirl flail. She resides in South Florida, where she lives in fear of temperatures below 60 Fahrenheit. Jennifer is the author of the Young Adult pirate fantasy, Over Raging Tides and the YA fantasy series, Threats of Sky and Sea.

Fun Pirating Facts!
  • Over Raging Tides was inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean... and the fact that there is only one female character of note in the first film.
  • To give the story a realistic feel, I researched a few ways:
  • While on an unrelated trip in London, I toured the Royal Observatory to get a sense of previous nautical navigation methods.
  • I read a great deal of non-fiction specifically about lady pirates. The highlight of these for me was Pirate Women by Laura Sook Duncombe.
  • I also read some YA pirate fiction, like Daughter of the Pirate Queen by Tricia Levenseller and Steel by Carrie Vaughn, thinking about which parts of those books popped as realistic for me.
  • The first scene that I wrote for Over Raging Tides was written in 2014, but back then, I was busy with my debut novel/series, Threats of Sky and Sea, so I put my lady pirates aside for the time being.
  • I seem to have a "thing" for YA involving water in some aspect. My debut, Threats of Sky and Sea, is an elemental magic fantasy.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Review: The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang

by Kat Zhang
May 15th, 2018
Middle Grade Magical Realism
ages 8 to 12

One of the happiest memories twelve-year-old Sophia Wallace has is of her tenth birthday. Her mother made her a cake that year—and not a cake from a box-mix, but from scratch. She remembers the way the frosting tasted, the way the pink sugar roses dissolved on her tongue.

This memory, and a scant few others like it, is all Sophia has of her mother, so she keeps them close. She keeps them secret, too. Because as paltry as these memories are, she shouldn’t have them at all.

The truth is, Sophia Wallace’s mother died when she was six years old. But that isn’t how she remembers it. Not always.

Sophia has never told anyone about her unusual memories—snapshots of a past that never happened. But everything changes when Sophia gets assigned a school research project on solar eclipses. She becomes convinced that the upcoming solar eclipse will grant her the opportunity to make her alternate life come true, to enter a world where her mother never died.

With the help of two misfit boys, she must figure out a way to bring her mother back to her—before the opportunity is lost forever.


With a touch of magic and tons of heart, this is a book which grabs, makes the reader dream and doesn't let go.

Sophia is in the seventh grade. Her mother died when she was six, but memory flashes allow her to see events with her mother up until she was much older than that. These flashes are too familiar and vivid to be dreams, yet they can't be reality. At least, not the one she knows. When an eclipse nears, she begins to suspect her memories are more than just dreams. Maybe there's even the chance she can have a life with a mother who didn't die.

The author does a wonderful job at touching upon some difficult themes and bringing them home for the intended audience, while still incorporating a dust of magic/science fiction and hope. Sophia lost her mother and still deals with the effects years after it happened. But this story isn't only about Sophia. She becomes friends with DJ and Luke, both who have suffered losses of their own. The kids come across mature, sometimes very mature, but usually natural. They see life from a twelve-year-old's view and deal with familiar issues and thoughts. This allows the light science fiction elements to flow in seamlessly and make it a great read for both girls and boys ages nine to twelve.

After reading the blurb, I assumed this would hit the magical realism arena, but the author does go a step farther and allows questions concerning dimensions and time to open up. It has a surprise ending, but one very fitting for the tale. This is the kind of book which grabs the heart, keeps a quick enough pace never to grow boring and allows the reader to think and consider possibilities which they might not have considered before.

And here she is...

Kat Zhang spent most of her childhood tramping through a world weaved from her favorite stories and games. When she and her best friend weren't riding magic horses or talking to trees, they were writing adaptations of plays for their stuffed animals (what would The Wizard of Oz have been like if the Cowardly Lion were replaced by a Loquacious Lamb?). This may or may not explain many of Kat's quirks today. (taken from Goodreads.)

Sneak Peek: The Final Lesson by Shakyra Dunn