Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Mish-Mash Day with Review 3: RYB by Nicole Adrianne

It's Mish-Mash Day, and here's book number three!
I think I was approached by the author on this one...or maybe I someone got it some other way? Seriously, I've been searching and am no longer sure. But it doesn't matter because this one is free over on the author's website anyway...Nicole Adrianne.
Why? Well, my best guess is that she's about to release a brand new series. Her first trilogy, Miles & Breaker, has gotten positive praise (it's a YA SciFi Dystopian). After reading this novella, I've started reading this trilogy. Maybe I'll get a chance to share my thoughts when I'm done. 
Anyway, this one is a quick, fast-paced read, which throws the reader into the virtual world and was good enough to have me pick up her other, I guess that says something.

A Novella
by Nicole Adrianne
Young Adult Gamer Fiction

Greta wakes up in a tunnel surrounded by soldiers, with nothing to her name but a red uniform and a sharp mind. The only thing she knows for sure: she needs to think fast if she's going to survive.

As Greta searches for a place to hide from the fighters, she notices bizarre details in her world. Are trees supposed to have secret panels? And why is the war zone next to a perfectly manicured suburb?

When Greta puts on a blue uniform and hides among the enemy, she learns they're not the monsters she expected. Their warmth and gentleness seem out of place in the battle-scarred city.

But Greta's charade can't last forever...


Set in a 'gamer' world, this one takes a slightly different twist as it throws two sides against each other in a battle which never seems to end.

Greta wakes up in a concrete tunnel with selectively wiped memories. She has no clue how she got there, what she's doing there or even where she came from. Others around her wear blue or red, and she herself is adorned in a red outfit. When chaos breaks out and all attack each other, her panicked desire to survive and a good portion of luck bring her to the surface, where a destroyed city and outer forest awaits. But as she runs, she soon notices things are even more bizarre than she first thought. She knows where secret doors are on trees, sees flying girls, and runs into a barrier. As she tries to understand and wrap her head around what's happening, a deadly incident leaves her in the hands of the blues, and while she manages to wear blue before they notice, her life is more than on the line. 

I've read a few gamer novels...they seem to be far and few between...and was excited to try this one, especially since it's a short read. It takes quite a different twist on the 'gamer' world in that, it sets two sides against each other in a seemingly never-ending, pointless battle. Or perhaps pointless. It's just the novella beginning to a series. So, there are mountains of story still in store. 

It's definitely high action and edge-of-the-seat moments. I appreciate that Greta is at a loss and not super amazing at fighting or anything. She's just got a good handle on her gut feelings and sharp wits. But she makes tons and tons of mistakes...and she should considering she has no clue or shimmer what's going on. The realistic thought process does win bonus points and helped my connect with her well.

The tale itself has a lot of open ends. And there is a lack of explanation and logic holes which riddle every twist and turn. While this bothered me, at first, I have to remember that this is a short taste and dip of the toes into the pool that's about to come. The writing is solid and the characters intriguing. To say there isn't enough world building which draws in would also be unfair. It comes to life in every way. I just wish the first book was already here because I'm more than curious to see what lies in store.

Mish-Mash Day with Review 2: Traces of Sulfur by Madeline Freeman

It's Mish-Mash Day and here is book two! I picked this one up...hmmm...via Book Bub, I think. And it was more entertaining than I'd even hoped it be. 


Blade Keeper Academy, Book 1
by Madeline Freeman
Laurealinde Publishing LLC
YA Urban Fantasy / Academy
228 pages

I’m not who they think I am. If they learn the truth, I’ll pay with my life.

Blakethorne Academy is the premier training ground for warriors. Every person here will one day be a member of the angelic Guard.

As a demon, it’s the last place I should ever step foot. But I couldn’t exactly say no when they handed me an engraved invitation to attend. Access like this doesn’t come around every day.

My people are in peril, and walking among these angels could give me what I need to save them. I just need to keep my true identity a secret.

But that gets harder by the day when the lead Keeper, Nate Kouri, sets my heart galloping every time he draws near. Getting close to him is dangerous, but I’ve never been one to turn down playing with fire.

They think I’m a Blade Keeper—one of five elite warriors destined to defeat whatever evil rises. If they learn I’m a demon, I’ll pay with my life.

My name is Eden Everdell. Saving my people has always been my mission, but ensuring the survival of my brethren might destroy me.

Enter a fast-paced world of angels and demons! Click to buy Traces of Sulfur today.


While I've picked up a handful of academy stories over the last years, I tend to steer away from them thanks to the heavy tendency toward cliches. This one did surprise me.

After her parents' deaths thanks to the angels' lack of interest as to what happens to anyone with demon blood, she's spent her years in the underground, planning on raids to acquire the desperately needed medicine, which heals certain deadly diseases. When a raid leaves her stranded in a building of angels, the last thing she expects if for them to mistake her as one of them and lead her to join others in a test to join the elite warriors. Since this is the perfect chance to finally get information from the inside, the rebellion urges her to continue the charade. And while it's the chance they've been waiting for, she also knows it could very well cost her life.

While this book does involve an academy, there's much more to it. The first chapters allow Eden and her place in the rebellion along with the problem between demons and angels to really sink in. The academy angle is more of a side plot. Even when Eden does enter the academy and is forced to secretly train among the angels, the cliches which do arise don't hit quite as horribly. There is a 'mean girl' and the hot guy who instantly likes her...and I really could have done without either of these, but it is an academy book, and I'm not sure fans of this genre would be happy if these things didn't exist. But thanks to the wider concept in this book and broader world building, it doesn't irritate quite as much as other books I've read in this genre.  This book simply has more than just the academy scene.

There's a nice build-up in this pages, which promises a potentially more complex plot with intrigue, secrets and scenes which go beyond the cold brick, school walls.  Demons and angels are at odds but there's more to it than the usual good vs. evil. This one is grayed and almost seems to flip-flop stereo-types...maybe. And the rebellion along with Eden's mother's death are also promising some more twists to come. There was quite a bit of foreshadowing on the rebellion's leader...which I'm hoping won't turn out too predictable and still has some surprises in wait. Plus, I'm hoping this one does allow the world to stay expanded and doesn't suddenly shrink. So far, so good.  But we'll see. And I will see because this one was good enough to have me happily awaiting book two.

Mish-Mash Day with first Review: Lift Off by Tyrean Martinson

I'm declaring this to mish-mash day! What's that, you ask? 
While I post one review a day on here, many are picture books, which leaves me (sometimes) grabbing up a random book from friends, at the library or simply stumbling across on social media...and these look so good that I need to read them immediately! Which I do but then have no space to put them up here on Bookworm for Kids. Since I have a few this time, which are for ages up to eighteen (and I had a slot suddenly open up) I've decided to make this a day where I simply shove in reads throughout the day, which I've enjoyed the last months.

And here's book #1! It's fresh off the press, a quick read, and one for YA science fiction fans. 

The Rayatana Series, Book One
by Tyrean Martinson
Wings of Light Publishing
Young Adult Science Fiction
105 pages

A spaceship in disguise,
an Earth girl searching for a sense of home,
and a Thousand Years’ War between alien races,
collide on a summer afternoon.

An old movie theater welcomes Amaya in and wraps her up in the smell of popcorn and licorice. But one sunny afternoon during a matinee, the movie screen goes dark. The theater rumbles.

Amaya gets trapped in the middle of an ancient alien conflict. Angry and frightened, Amaya entangles herself in a life-changing cultural misunderstanding with Sol, a young alien who keeps omitting key information, even while they’re on the run from his enemies.

What will it take to survive a battle between alien races involved in an ancient war?

A fast-paced, clean YA read for fans of Skyward, Cobra Kai, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
Science fiction, Action, Adventure, and Sweet Romance.


Like a spaceship switching into hyper-drive, this is a fast-paced, action packed read and a good beginning to what appears to be an exciting series.

Sitting in a movie theater with her best friend to watch the latest film, the last thing Amaya expects is an earthquake to rock the theater. While her friend manages to jump through the exit in time, Amaya is held back. Soon, she finds her world thrust into the vast realm of a universal war and is unwillingly placed on the side of a young alien, who isn't being quite truthful about everything...and that while he's being hunted down.

I picked this one up because I know the author, and it's been awhile since I've set off on a space adventure. Also, the short length guaranteed I'd have enough time to shoot through this one and get it finished without stressing over my normal reading schedule. And it is an entertaining read. Definitely fast paced.

The beginning really caught my interest with a very usual scene of teens in a movie theater. The tension mounts super quick, and although I did miss a little more build-up, the adventure shot off right away and didn't slow down until the end. There are tons of surprises, a good dose of humor and snark, and run-ins which keep the characters more than on their toes. If you're looking for depth, this isn't the read to pick up because there's not much. It's a fun ride through the galaxy which centers on action, fun, frustrating moments, deadly encounters and a main character, who would probably pull her out thanks to the alien, who 'kidnapped' her, but will have to battle off killer aliens to have even the slightest chance of ever returning home. It's simply an entertaining read.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Review: The Girl Who Found Christmas by Barbara Escher

Thanksgiving is this week! I have to keep telling myself this because it really snuck up on me this year. It's not that I'm unprepared...I have the entire meal planned and ingredients purchased (although I'm not sure how I managed that)...but it's rolling in too quick. But that also means Advent is almost here. We do keep this period special through several traditions, not excluding Advent's calendars and special thoughts for each day. I was lucky enough to be approached with today's book, which has a story time for each day leading up to the 25th of December. It's got a girl with spunk, fun adventures, contemplates the true meaning of Christmas, and is has exactly the right amount of reading for sharing a few moments together. Anyway, here it is and enjoy taking a look!

An Advent Calendar Storybook

A Unique Christmas Mystery for Kids!

Bet you don't think there's anything mysterious about a snowman!! But hold onto your hat. Snowmen are just the beginning of a mystery adventure for six-year-old Belinda, and for your kids too!! Every day in Advent, Belinda draws a clue as she tries to solve the mystery of "What It Is That Makes It Christmas." She thinks it's pretty tough. "No treasure map, no frankincense, no presents What kind of mystery is that?"

Every day brings a new story and a new clue. If it's not the snowman, what about the Christmas tree? Or the stockings? If your children have a crayon, a piece of paper, and some imagination, they can gather round you to listen to a new story every day and join Belinda in drawing each clue and solving the mystery that is Christmas.

Lucky for Belinda, she has special help. It's somebody she calls "Howard" (like "Howard be Thy name"). He's a big help as Belinda finds her way from the snowman to the manger.


A snowman, a mystery, and the meaning of Christmas swirl together in a exciting read, which reveals fun and the warmth of the holiday season.

Belinda can't believe her eyes—the calendar shows it's finally December! While there's tons of reasons to celebrate...and she does...she still misses her mom, who is miles and miles away at work. Luckily, her parents and grandfather have set-up something special. Belinda needs to figure out what makes Christmas Christmas, and every day she gets a very unexpected clue.

I love the spunk and energy Belinda radiates on every page. This is a girl full of life, curiosity, and the cleverest questions. Only her constant 'Oh boy!' irritates a bit. But she's adorable and exactly the kind of girl any kid would love to live next door to because there's never, ever a boring moment when she's involved. Her family is also packed with love and care, creating a truly wholesome environment while illustrating the stress the modern business world can place on families (her mother is miles away and only visits through Skype). 

This is a fun tale with a new twist and clue for every single one of the Advent days. Each read is a few pages long, making it perfect for a short, shared reading time between parents and children (or even in other groups). The clues do lead in unexpected directions, and it is fun to see what each day will bring. 

There's obviously a ton of meaning and several messages woven in as Belinda tries to figure out what makes Christmas Christmas. Now, Belinda does have a super good grip on Jesus' birth from the first page on...yep, this one is a lovely Christian read. And she has a very close relationship with our Lord, who she calls 'Howard'. This did strike me a little weird, at first, but she gets the name from a slight misunderstanding—"Howard be Thy Name". And after a second thought, I had to smile because I remember have a similar issue in the early years of school, when we said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning.."...and to the Republic for Witches stand...". It took years for me to figure out why those witches were there. So, I have to give Kudos to the author for adding this because it makes Belinda very human.

But these stories are super cute, definitely hold attention, and explore the wonders of Christmas through the adventure of a spunky girl. In other words, I can really recommend this one.

And here she is...

Barbara Escher grew up in Philadelphia and loved seeing her city come alive with light and sparkle and color as Christmas approached each year. She read every book she could get her hands on, including Christmas favorites like The Night Before Christmas. 

She never lost that childhood love for Christmas, and today she often looks back on special Christmas memories, like much loved books she received as Christmas gifts.  She also remembers years she spent teaching and creating stories. First for every kid on her block. And later for a classroom and her own children. And she especially remembers how much her children loved their Advent Calendar and looked forward to it every year! 

One day Barbara decided that she wanted to share a story that had been in her head for a long time. That story book became The Girl Who Found Christmas. It was important to her as she wrote the story that kids have both the traditional Christmas and the spiritual one. In her words the magic and the manger!

 Today, Barbara lives in Tampa, Florida with her husband and Hope, their funny Havanese dog. She still loves Christmas and delights in decorating her Christmas tree with ornaments made by her children long ago. When Barbara isn’t writing, she spends time dipping her toes in the waves at the Gulf beaches and spending time with her children, grandchildren and grand pets (three dogs, three cats, and a turtle named Michelangelo). 

For more information about Barbara and The Girl Who Found Christmas, visit


Facebook- @RedMittenBooks




Relic by Renee Collins

Monday, November 23, 2020

Review: The Vulture King by Nikki Turner


by Nikki Turner
Blkdog Publishing
Middle Grade Fantasy
156 pages
ages 8 to 12

Orphaned Aram has survived alone for five years, his only friend a thieving magpie, who acts as his eyes. For in the Carrionlands, magic comes at a terrible price. It costs you your sight, hearing or voice.

When he rescues a voiceless girl, Bina, from being sacrificed to the Vulture King, he is taken in by an underground resistance group. They reveal that Aram's mother is alive, but the king is using her and other slave magicians to fuel his unnaturally long life.

With his mother's magic being rapidly drained, she doesn't have long to live. If Aram can find the Radix, a hidden magical power source, there's a slim chance he might be able to save her. But to get there, he must cross the Barrens where every living creature is out to kill you. That's if one of his new companions doesn't betray him first.



Set in a bleak world, this is an exciting read with more than a few gripping twists and turns.

Aram comes from a people, who wield magical powers and are bonded to birds, who are their eyes and, for some, voices. His people are hunted by the ruling Vulture King and either killed or captured to be drained of their magical source until they die. After witnessing the death of his mother by the Vulture King, Aram is an orphan, who only wishes to survive and hide. He doesn't realize more of his kind still exist until one day turns everything around.

This is a short and packed read. I thoroughly enjoyed the bond between the people and their birds, and loved how this world was built and created. It's a bleak world and harsh (something more sensitive readers won't necessarily enjoy), but it's never graphic either. Aram is a wonderful character, who needs to build courage, self-esteem and trust. Even those around him are, for the most part, well developed and add the right tension and emotion to the tale. I especially enjoy Bina, a young girl who offers all the right support at the right time, while adding a wonderful sense of 'light' in the otherwise dark world.

Aram grows up on the street, is hunted by a very sinister king, and lives in a world of oppression and poverty. It's not a happy place and there's little humor added in. In some ways, it might have fit better in the young adult spectrum, but the author manages to keep it within a middle grade range and while dancing on the dark line, doesn't cross over into an area which would be too heavy for this age group. She also portrays the characters very age appropriate and makes them easy to connect with. The actions, thoughts, and decisions are easy to relate with and understand.

The tale is, in many ways, very well done. I was surprised that such a story can be packed into so few pages...and there's a reason for that. Things do move along quickly. While this does create an exciting read, there were moments which hit a bit too sudden. Especially the end and several of the characters would have benefitted from more build-up. But to say this really hurts or ruins the read wouldn't be fair. I can recommend it to fantasy fans and am sure they'll enjoy Aram and his bird as much as I did.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Review: The Butterfly Tree by Kelly Harrison Spining


by Kelly Harrison Spining
Illustrated by Abby Rocha
Mascot Books
Picture Book
ages 4 to 8

Three trees sat atop the verdure of a hillside: two were large and grand, while the other was tiny and weak. As the soft winds of springtime blew one day, a lovely butterfly flew past the trees in search of a new place to call home. What happened next would forge a lifelong bond between two unexpected creatures. Inspired by the writer’s own experience of viewing a stunning tree covered in butterflies, The Butterfly Tree communicates a universal message of love, friendship, and connection.


This is really a book I can recommend. It tells the tale of a tree, who doesn't feel as special as the ones surrounding it. It doesn't bear fruit for people to eat, nor is it strong like an oak. It's dying, weak and unloved. But when a single butterfly visits the apple tree and is shooed away, a small miracle happens.

This is a book, which belongs in the shelves and is one that can be read to children over and over again for generations to come, too. The tale is heartwarming, encouraging, and simply classic. There is so much goodness in these pages, I don't even know where to begin. Yep, I was that surprised by this one.

The text is easy for young children to understand and will interest older ones as well, since it follows a more traditional tale form. It makes a great read-aloud for groups or individuals or even as a bedtime read. Even those readers who are a bit more sure of their words will enjoy diving into this one. The words might be a bit challenging for beginner readers, but by ages seven or eight, many will be able to breeze through it. And there isn't an over amount of text on each page either.

The illustrations are well done, bright and add to the story as it flows along. Especially the last ones allow the meaning behind the words to come to full light. 

In other words, this is a book to pick up and know that it will be enjoyed.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Review: More to the Story by Hena Khan

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

From the critically acclaimed author of Amina’s Voice comes a new story inspired by Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic, Little Women, featuring four sisters from a modern American Muslim family living in Georgia.

When Jameela Mirza is picked to be feature editor of her middle school newspaper, she’s one step closer to being an award-winning journalist like her late grandfather. The problem is her editor-in-chief keeps shooting down her article ideas. Jameela’s assigned to write about the new boy in school, who has a cool British accent but doesn’t share much, and wonders how she’ll make his story gripping enough to enter into a national media contest.

Jameela, along with her three sisters, is devastated when their father needs to take a job overseas, away from their cozy Georgia home for six months. Missing him makes Jameela determined to write an epic article—one to make her dad extra proud. But when her younger sister gets seriously ill, Jameela’s world turns upside down. And as her hunger for fame looks like it might cost her a blossoming friendship, Jameela questions what matters most, and whether she’s cut out to be a journalist at all...


This is a lovely read about family, friends, siblings, first love interests, and chasing your dreams.

Jameela is a seventh grade girl, who has a loving family and a good head on her shoulders. But that doesn't mean life is simple. Her father is having trouble finding a job and must head across seas, leaving the rest of them alone. A boy her age, and family friend, moves to their town from Britain, with troubles of her own. While she's becoming good friends with him, her ambitions to because a great reporter for the school paper have her chasing him for an inclusive. And that might not go as planned. Add troubles with the head of the newspaper, regular life with her siblings (which isn't always smooth) and she's in for quite the time.

The author does a terrific job at introducing a wholesome family and bringing their situation to life in such a way that readers of this age group will easily identify with. Jameela is a girl with energy, determination, a big heart but that doesn't mean she feels secure in every situation or always knows what to do. The problems she faces are the type readers will recognize and sympathize with, and the solutions are realistic as well as nicely laid.

While the tale follows every day problems (more or less), it's never boring. Jameela has her plate full and not every problem is easy to solve. Her insecurities make her easy to like and fun to root for. Even her mistakes are simple to understand. The Muslim life weaves in seamlessly. This allows readers not only to learn more about the religion and culture, but doesn't take over the story. Readers from other religions and cultures can still identify with the characters and their issues without ever feeling pushed. It's simply well done. There are surprising twists and turns as well as humor built in, making it a fun read from start to finish, too. This is a read kids ages 8 to 12 are sure to enjoy and identify with.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Review: Women in Biology by Mary Wissinger

Science Wide Open
by Mary Wissinger
Illustrated by Danielle Pioli
Science, Naturally!
Picture Book
40 pages
ages 7 to 10

Take a peek inside the mysterious world of living things! Women in Biology follows a conversation between an inquisitive young girl, whose curiosity prompts her to ask questions about the world around her, and a scientifically astute narrator, whose answers are crafted to be both accurate and approachable to a young mind. In this way, learning the basics of biology becomes an effortless outcome of enjoying the story.

And just as important, these science concepts are explained through the research and advancements of numerous inspirational women who each changed the world with their scientific discoveries. This fun story of biology is a perfect place for young scientists to start their own journeys of discovery and wonder.

Women in Biology is Book 1 in the science-based series called Science Wide Open. This series explains and teaches some basic concepts in biology in simple and memorable terms through the natural questions and curiosity of a young child, while also highlighting women scientists throughout history and some of their mind blowing scientific advancements. These women include Hildegard of Bingen, Barbara McClintock, Maria Sibylla Merian, Jane Wright, and Linda Buck.


Science becomes understandable and fun in this series, which centers also on female scientists and their contributions.

Starting with the simple question and answer to what biology even is, this book dives into simple cell, DNA and gene explanations and takes a look at the very basic end of biology. It goes through five female scientists (biologists) and very briefly explains what they did and their discoveries. But this book isn't as much about these personalities as it is about giving the very fist introductions to biology in a way young readers can understand.

This is a small book without nearly as much text as I thought it might have, when I discovered the intended age group (ages 7 to 10). Every page is filled with bright and bold illustrations, which not only entertain but, especially toward the end of the book, assist in making the more scientific explanation understandable. The text is written for a fairly young audience, and I'm not sure that those eight and older won't feel talked down to. But the material and explanations are definitely not for the younger age group and slide nicely into this age group. So, it's a slight mix on that end.

I enjoyed that the scientists weren't dryly added in, but rather, are mentioned as their discoveries fit with the topic. The book doesn't concentrate on each woman so much as add in what their discoveries did and how they were an easy to read and non-boring manner, too.  

And here they are...

The Author
Mary Wissinger spent most of her childhood in Wisconsin singing, reading and daydreaming. A former teacher, she enjoys writing sotries that inspire curiosity about the world and connection with others. Now a St. Louis, MO, resident, she is the author of the entire Science Wide Open series: Women in Biology, Women in Chemistry, and Women in Physics. More information about Mary can be found at

The Illustrator
Danielle Pioli is an artist and illustrator whose mission is to inspire others to create. The idea of creating a whole universe from her mind to paper is what made her fall in love with art and storytelling. As a child, she was drawn to magic—what she now calls Quantum Physics. She is the illustrator of the entire Science Wide Open series. For more information on Danielle's work, you can visit her website at

Review: Traces of Sulfur by Madeline Freeman


Blade Keeper Academy, #1
by Madeline Freeman
Laurealinde Publishing LLC
Young Adult Paranormal
228 pages

I’m not who they think I am. If they learn the truth, I’ll pay with my life.

Blakethorne Academy is the premier training ground for warriors. Every person here will one day be a member of the angelic Guard.

As a demon, it’s the last place I should ever step foot. But I couldn’t exactly say no when they handed me an engraved invitation to attend. Access like this doesn’t come around every day.

My people are in peril, and walking among these angels could give me what I need to save them. I just need to keep my true identity a secret.

But that gets harder by the day when the lead Keeper, Nate Kouri, sets my heart galloping every time he draws near. Getting close to him is dangerous, but I’ve never been one to turn down playing with fire.

They think I’m a Blade Keeper—one of five elite warriors destined to defeat whatever evil rises. If they learn I’m a demon, I’ll pay with my life.

My name is Eden Everdell. Saving my people has always been my mission, but ensuring the survival of my brethren might destroy me.

Enter a fast-paced world of angels and demons! Click to buy Traces of Sulfur today.


Demons and angels mix in an exciting read, which creates a slightly, different academy read.

Eden is an orphan, thanks to the divide between demons and angels, which left her parents dead for two very different reasons. Now, part of the underground, which steals medicine the angels withhold from the demons, she tries to keep the same fate which happened to her father from hitting other demons. When a raid places her unknowingly in a sword, testing ceremony, her life takes a complicated and very dangerous twist.

After reading several, academy series from authors, I was expecting a slightly different beginning on this one. The first chapters go in a totally different direction, gripping from the very first page. The pacing holds throughout the read, and while there are a few cliche moments found in this genre, these are held to a minimum. The academy does shift in as the main scene, but it is not the all determining factor in this read. It could disappear and Eden's story still would hold and function. Which I found refreshing.

The romance follows the sudden attraction rule, which I'm not a fan of, but it does stay at bay and make the characters work for it and steer away. So, at least, there's that. 

My biggest problem with this book is that it feels like a story was just started and not an entire arc. I would have loved to see some ends of some sort knotted off, but so, everything is still open. I was left wanting to know what happens next, and my fingers are itching to pick up book two. So, that does say quite a bit for the tale. 

Fans of Young Adult demons, angels, wars, action scenes, intrigue, and all of that with a side dish of academy settings are going to enjoy this one.

Happy Birthday, Damned When I Didn't by Cherie Colyer with Giveaway!

by Cherie Colyer
The Wild Rose Press
November 18th 2020
YA Paranormal, Romance

Death isn’t the end for eighteen-year-old Avery Williams, and her final resting place isn’t beyond the Golden Gates. No, the Queen of the Damned has plans for her and, unbeknownst to Avery, fought hard to gain possession of her soul.

As Hell’s newest succubus, Avery is expected to siphon life from the living. It only takes a long, meaningful kiss, but for a virgin like Avery, kissing guys she barely knows isn’t something she’s comfortable doing. Avery focuses on the upside of her fate—she’ll be returning home, or so she thinks. When the Queen of the Damned cuts her off from her old life, Avery is determined to find a way back to her family and friends, even if it means facing Hell’s fury if she’s caught.

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo / Google Play


I kicked my sneakers off near the kitchen stools and dropped my purse on the floor.

“What’s your problem?” Cole asked. He stood a few feet from me, eyes narrowed.

“Nothing.” I breathed in deep, trying to calm myself. The stench of cheap perfume invaded my nostrils. I covered my nose with my hand. “You reek of imitation lavender and…and…onions.”

Cole tossed his keys onto the counter. Obvious confusion flittered over his features only to be replaced with the realization that I was referring to the scents of the waitress.

“You’re one to talk!” he spit back. “You stink of Sport Goofy.”

“Sport Goofy, I mean Marcus, barely touched me.” Cole gave off such a strong odor, I was sure the waitress had put her hands all over him.

Cole stepped closer, placing his hands on the counter on either side of me, caging me in.

“And I barely touched her,” he growled. “When a human’s life force flows from them to us, our souls grow brighter and—”

“We smell like them,” I said, finishing his sentence. He’d told me that once.

“And because our senses become sharper, we know when our kind renews.” The blue in his irises was more pronounced than I’d remembered. I bit my lip to keep from asking him if that was because of my heightened vision or because he’d renewed, as he called it. “Now, do you want to tell me what’s really bothering you?”

I felt my face warm, and I had to fight to keep my gaze from traveling to his lips. Did I want to admit that I was irrationally jealous that he’d kissed another girl? Nope. So, instead, I said, “Her smell makes me want to puke.”

“Eau de Jock is doing the same to me.”

“You’re the one who called Sport Goofy,” I reminded him.

He smiled, clearly happy that I’d called Marcus by the nickname.

“You’re the one who pissed off the Queen of the Damned,” he countered.

I twitched a shoulder. “I still can’t stand how you smell right now.”

“Fine!” He grabbed me just under my butt and lifted me over his shoulder. I screamed. He held my legs, keeping me from falling.

“What are you doing?” I grabbed his waist from my upside down position.

“You think I smell?”

“Reek. And you said I do, too! Now put me down!”

“Let’s fix that.”

He marched to the bathroom with me slung over his shoulder. The next thing I knew we were standing in the tub. He continued to hold me like a sack of rice.


He slid me down his chest so I stood in front of him with his arms keeping me from moving.


He reached behind me.

I glanced up at the showerhead, then to the knob next to me. “You wouldn’t!”

“Want to bet?”

And here she is...

Cherie Colyer is the author of Challenging Destiny and the Embrace series. When she's not getting the fictional people in her life into trouble, she can be found solving network issues at work, spending time with family and friends, reading, or exploring the great outdoors.

Cherie lives in Illinois with her family.

To learn more about Cherie and her novels visit

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter

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Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Review: Amina's Song by Hena Khan


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

MARCH 9th, 2021!!!

In the companion novel to the beloved and award-winning Amina’s Voice, Amina once again uses her voice to bridge the places, people, and communities she loves—this time across continents.

It’s the last few days of her vacation in Pakistan, and Amina has loved every minute of it. The food, the shops, the time she’s spent with her family—all of it holds a special place in Amina’s heart. Now that the school year is starting again, she’s sad to leave, but also excited to share the wonders of Pakistan with her friends back in Greendale.

After she’s home, though, her friends don’t seem overly interested in her trip. And when she decides to do a presentation on Pakistani hero Malala Yousafzai, her classmates focus on the worst parts of the story. How can Amina share the beauty of Pakistan when no one wants to listen?


With tons of heart and a touch of bittersweetness, this tale illustrates the push and pull when stuck between cultures and the struggle to find balance when no one truly understands.

Amina spends time in Pakistan, visiting her relatives and soaking up the moments with them as much as she can before returning to her home in the US. Of course, she's sad to go but excited to return to her friends at home, too. Over bubbling with the joys of the trip, she tries to share it with her friends at home, but they aren't as interested. When she decides it might be great to give a presentation on her home country, especially on a historical figure, things don't go quite as planned.

This is simply a well done book and set perfectly for middle grade readers. Amina is a wonderful character with tons of heart, lots of room for love, and yet, unbalanced in her own state of being thanks to her stretch between two 'worlds'. I really enjoyed how naturally she comes across. Every moment, exchange, and scene flows smoothly and let me sink in. Amina is the kind of girl, anyone wants to be friends with, and when she has problems, it's hard not to feel for her and want to help her figure out how to handle things. In that way, this read does a marvelous job at awakening empathy and, at least, begins to show what problems people like Amina face.

While many books, which tackle this sort of topic, tend to be dry and preachy, this one has a lovely pacing and keeps the reader in the pages. The author allows scenes and descriptions to open up Pakistan without becoming long-drawn or boring. So, kudos on this end!

With my own family strapped between countries and cultures, I was really looking forward to seeing how the author handled this. And I can give it a two thumbs up! My own kids have been repeatedly asked if they are related to Hitler or support his ideas and such...and while they were at first offended, they now roll their eyes. Usually, explanations fall flat on other kids because they really aren't interested in learning anything outside of whatever they've heard. So, this hits home and, obviously, gives us a special view on Amina's tale. 

In any case, this is well done and definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Review: The Beast of Bellevue by Grace Chen


by Grace Chen
Reading Harbor
Young Adult Contemporary


"He was the most beautiful boy that she had ever seen...and she had confused him with her prince."

When 17-year-old Dylan Albright mischievously creates a dating website posing as his unsuspecting heartthrob brother, he doesn't realize what is at risk is his own heart. Locked in Bellevue Sanatorium, 17-year-old Ava Pierce stumbles upon soccer star Alec Albright's photo and 'Hire-A-Friend' dating service. Eager to get out and meet her prince charming, she sets out in search of her own independence. But what happens when the love of her life is not who she thinks he is?

A twist on a tale as old as time, the Beast of Bellevue explores the meaning of friendship, the value of beauty, the boundaries between the virtual world and real world, and the importance of developing one's self-identity.


Friendship and romance swirl through a mist when the virtual world meets the real one in this contemporary, teenage romance.

Ava has spent the last years eight years in an asylum, but thanks to her grandfather, has received a gadget, which lets her connect with the rest of the world through the internet. There, she runs runs into a 'friendship service', which concentrates on one boy. Little does she know, it's his younger brother, who's secretly running the site. Soon, she's caught up in a strange, blooming friendship and crush...with a guy who isn't who she thinks he is.

Firstly, I headed into this book expecting something a bit different than it really is. While the idea of a girl locked up in an asylum and a website with a boy's false identity promised, at least, a few 'dark shadows' in my mind, I got it wrong. The first pages do present Ava, a girl who's been unfairly locked away in an asylum for much of her life and, for all intent and purposes, ignored by her family. Even the doctor's lack of interest gives the hint that something edgy is on its way. But this tale isn't dark or mysterious or eerie. It flows more into a modern day teenage drama, where friendship, love, learning to accept ones self, and fighting against preconceived opinion remains key. It's fine, just not what I had in mind after reading the blurb or first pages.

It is interesting to see how Ava's and Dylan's lives weave together from unexpected origins. The mix-in with the social realm of the internet, adds a wonderful layer which teens will easily connect with. The characters come across pretty naturally with problems that are easy to understand and connect to. The author goes at this through several points of view. These flow well, but then the entire story is an easy, quick read. The romance is sweet, and there are several meaningful messages in these pages. YA romance fans are sure to enjoy more than just a few moments of this story.

This one is also sold as a Beauty and the Beast re-telling, which is too bad. While I expected to see some clear connections, there weren't many similarities. The nods and hints at the original fairy tale are very slight, and far and few between. Also, I had trouble connecting to the characters, in general. The author simply 'tells' quite a bit about them, instead of letting the reader get to know them personally by 'watching' or experiencing things with the characters. This 'telling' keeps the reader an arm-length away, never allowing me to really dive into the tale and get lost in the pages. 

But all in all, this is an entertaining read. It's easy and fun to follow what happens between Ava and Dylan as they weave their way through very different backgrounds and circumstances. The romance is one to draw more than a little smile, and YA romance fans are sure to enjoy it.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Review: The Farmer and the Monkey by Marla Frazee


by Marla Frazee
Beach Lane Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 4 to 8

The farmer has another unexpected visitor from the nearby circus in this humorous and tender follow-up to The Farmer and the Clown by two-time Caldecott Honor–winning Marla Frazee.

After his new friend the baby clown returned home to the circus train, the farmer expected to resume his quiet and solitary life. Little does he know a playful circus monkey has followed him home! At first, the farmer isn’t sure what to make of his excitable houseguest’s wild sense of fun, but he soon learns that sometimes an unexpected visit can lead to a wonderful new friendship.

Sweet, funny, and full of emotion, this wordless second book in Marla Frazee’s stunning trilogy is sure to become a classic favorite for young readers.


Words aren't necessary to make this a read packed with giggles, surprises, gasps and heart-filled moments.

This is a book without words, and they are not necessary. The illustrations drive this book from beginning to end. I love books like this because it demonstrates how potent good illustrations can be. From the first page to the last, every moment sits and hits with its very own emotional impact. And it tells a wonderful story, too. 

It's funny to watch the monkey follow the farmer, and this alone will have listeners giggling and wondering what will happen next. The 'plot' builds from page to page. It's clear what's going on, and yet, there's room for kids to allow their own stories to take flight in their imaginations. While the monkey follows and watches the farmer in the first pages, the reasoning behind the monkey's actions are left open to interpretation. It's a wonderful way to allow kids to take the first steps in their own story telling. Or even more importantly, it allows their own imaginations to work, wonder and take flight. 

Still, this tale has clear messages and situations. The monkey's antics and the farmer's reactions remind of patience, forgiveness, and warming care. A friendship develops and yet, there's an ending, which calls for a chuckle, understanding, and even a little sigh of relief. It's a great tale, which invites to be read over and over again, and can easily become a favorite with some 'readers'.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Review: Trevor and Me by Yuno Imai

Today's story is one, which resonated with me thanks to one of my own childhood 'friends'.  Not only is this a lovely, heart-warming read with beautiful, watercolor illustrations, but I learned that the author's Japanese works have hit the #1 spot on new releases. 

by Yuno Imai
Picture Book
24 pages
ages 4 to 8

Trevor and Me defies the boundaries of age, gender and race. It is a heartwarming story about reincarnation based on the real-life friendship between an elderly Caucasian man and a young Asian girl. As Trevor's health starts to decline and he prepares to die, he promises to always be with the girl even after he's gone. Trevor dies and the girl is filled with grief until one day she begins to receive signs to let her know Trevor is and always will be with her.


With warmth and love on every page, this takes a wonderful glance at a friendship, which defies time and age. 

The tale centers around a young girl, who has a very special friend, Trevor. She describes some of the things she enjoys doing with him, the likes they share, and builds a lovely picture of friendship. But the girl notices that Trevor is growing less hungry and more tired as time goes on. One day, he tells her that he's going to leave soon, but will send signs that he's always with her. Now, she waits for these.

When I was young, we had a neighbor much like Trevor, who was our best friend. This book definitely hit upon those memories and had me smiling. But this book isn't intended for me. 

I do see children enjoying this one, especially those who have or have had a friend who is up in the years like Trevor. There are many happy moments in these pages, which simply warm the heart. Even when Trevor passes, it is done with great care and very age appropriate. While the moment is sad, this book shows that having someone in your heart...even as a very special. It's a great way to hit such a difficult topic.

As if the tale isn't lovely enough, the illustrations add extra cream and cherries. The watercolors radiate a gentle joy, while allowing the tale to unfold in detail. It was fun just to flip through these and enjoy the scenes.

I can recommend this one to young readers, especially those who can relate with the girl's situation.

And here she is...

Yuno Imai is a best-selling children’s book author and Japanese writer based in Los Angeles. She specializes in writing heartwarming stories that help readers cope with death or develop a healthy understanding of difficult subjects.

Instagram: @yunobook