Monday, July 13, 2020

Duo Review of Hotel Flamingo & Holiday Heat Wave by Alex Milway

54420365. sx318 Hotel Flamingo by Alex Milway
Format:  Paperback
Publisher:  Kane Miller Books
Number of Pages:  192
Published:  2020
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line:  "Anna Dupont stepped out of the taxi and saw Hotel Flamingo for the first time."

The Hotel Flamingo is the first book in the series.  It's been three years since a guest has checked in at the Hotel Flamingo, but the new owner, Anna Dupont has plans to change things around.  There's a glitzy new hotel on the hill that seems to have taken all of her business away, but T. Bear and Lemmy have stayed on at the hotel tending to their one guest, Mrs. Turpington, whose been in hibernation for the past three years.  Despite everything, Anna is sure that with a little hard work, hiring some new staff, and lots of elbow grease, the Hotel Flamingo can regain its past glory.  Anna has a vision of remaking the hotel into the go-to spot for the city, a place that welcomes all.  This is really a fun introduction to the series and the black and white illustrations by Alex Milway with pink hues really make the story.  I would have loved if they all were in color like the cover, but they are so lovely either way.       

54420398. sx318 Holiday Heat Wave by Alex Milway
Format:  Paperback
Publisher:  Kane Miller Books
Number of Pages:  192
Published:  2020
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line: "In the blazing heat of summer, a long black limousine pulled up outside the Hotel Flamingo."   

Holiday Heat Wave is the second book in the Hotel Flamingo series.  Anna has been successful with running the Hotel Flamingo so much so that the King and Queen Penguin want to make reservations to stay at her hotel.  That is if she can adhere to their strict list of demands.  They want to be greeted with a red carpet, be serenaded by a string quartet, their room must be decorated in a specific way, and there just must be an iceberg in the pool.  Can Anna and her staff live up to their demands for perfection?   

I really enjoyed the summery feel of Holiday Heat Wave.  It's quite amusing to have penguins showing up at a hotel in the middle of a heatwave expecting to have an iceberg in the pool.  Anna is quite industrious and ultimately gets them what they want, with a few mishaps due to sabotage from someone trying to undermine the hotel and make them look bad in front of their first royal guests.  I quite enjoy the illustrations by the author, Alex Milway.  They're lively and the pink hues do match the theme of hotel flamingo.  This would be a fun series for summer reading and especially for someone who enjoys animal stories.  I'm excited to be able to donate it to my public library for kids to enjoy.   

**Thank you to Kane Miller Publishing for the review copies.**

Monday, July 6, 2020

Blog Tour for BRITFIELD & THE LOST CROWN by C.R. Stewart with an Excerpt + Giveaway

I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing BRITFIELD& THE LOST CROWN by C.R. Stewart back in February and was excited when Rockstar Book Tours announced it's upcoming Blog Tour.  I hope you will take a look at the excerpt and enter the giveaway at the end of the post!
About the Book:
Title: BRITFIELD & THE LOST CROWN (Britfield Series, Book I)
Authors: C.R. Stewart
Pub. Date: July 1, 2019
Publisher: Devonfield Publishing
Formats:  Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 394

Britfield & the Lost Crown is the first book in a thrilling seven-part series for middle school and young adult readers. It will inspire children to engage both their creativity and their critical thinking skills as they encounter actual places, authentic characters, and exciting but realistic events in seventeen action-packed chapters.
Based on family, friendship, loyalty, and courage, Britfield & the Lost Crown and its hero, Tom, take readers on an epic adventure across England – from the smoldering crags of Yorkshire to the heart of London and, finally, to the magnificent shores of Dover.
With help from his best friend, Sarah, and a hot air balloon, Tom flees Yorkshire, escaping from Weatherly Orphanage and the clutches of a relentless detective, in pursuit of the truth about himself and his heritage: Are his parents still alive? Is he the true heir to the British throne? As Tom and a memorable cast of both heroic and dastardly characters unravel a royal mystery that could change the course of history, readers are taken on a breathless journey to a surprise ending that will leave them clamoring for more.
Built on more than seven years of extensive research and development, Britfield & the Lost Crown creates a real-world that readers can embrace as it weaves accurate geography, literature, architecture, and history into its fast-paced story. With stimulating language and active writing, Britfield engages the reader from the first pages and doesn’t let go until it reaches its exciting conclusion.


"The story was everything the cover promised. I felt like I was in a kid version of Mission Impossible. I was on the edge of my seat with narrow escapes, daring plans, and unexpected adversaries."- Reader Views Kids, Autumn, Age 14

"Along with its relentless action and suspense, Stewart's novel provides young readers with a wealth of information about British culture (with frequent references to literary classics) and the history of the Monarchy and the Anglican Church. Highly recommended, Britfield and the Lost Crown will appeal to both young readers and their parents."- Parents' Choice Awards - Gold Medal

"In this series opener, Stewart offers nearly nonstop action, with escapades both perilous and amusing, and exhilarating hairsbreadth escapes. The conspiracy is bold and compelling while the plot folds in intriguing facts about British culture, history, and famous sites."- Kirkus Reviews

"A perfect mixture of fast-paced excitement, heart-stopping surprises, fascinating history, and endearing characters with historical references scattered along the way. Stewart's clever narrative draws you in and doesn't let you go till the end!"
- Reader's Favorite Book Reviews, Dawn Weaver - 5 Stars

"A joy to read to the very last page, Britfield & The Lost Crown is a high-spirited saga, enthusiastically recommended for personal and public library young adult fiction collections."- Midwest Book Review

"An Intriguing first-in-series read that is sure to capture the attention of the middle grade and young adult crowd. Britfield weaves plot, texture, storytelling, and fascinating characters into a winning combination and enriching experience."- Chanticleer Book Review - 5 Stars

"This fast-paced, vivid tale has many twists and turns which keep tween readers turning the pages,"- Eric Hoffer Award

"A thrilling tale with loads of adventure and unexpected twists that will captivate youth audiences. Recommended for home and school libraries."- Children's Literary Classics - Gold Medal

"This is a far-flung adventure story that will readily interest the target audience. Stewart writes in clear, descriptive prose and integrates alluring and novel details that at times harkens back to an earlier era, an effect that offers an element of timelessness to the storytelling."- The Booklife Prize

"Such a thrilling book  filled with so much awesome history about England, crazy mysteries, and truly amazing characters. It had me hooked every second of reading it!!
-Hannah, Age 13, Kids' Book Buzz - 5 Stars

"Narrator Ian Russell carries listeners along for a thrilling, fast-paced adventure about two kids, Tom and Sarah, who run away from a bleak Yorkshire orphanage. Pursued by a determined police detective, they face even more danger when Tom discovers a clue about his ancestry that may link him to the royal family and a plot to eliminate his bloodline--including him. With varied accents and voices, Russell transports listeners to England and brings each character to life. As hot-air balloon crashes, several narrow escapes, and a white-knuckle chase through London ensue, Russell ramps up the pace of his narration, making the danger all the more palpable."Audiofile Magazine

 Tom and Sarah's adventures are masterfully narrated by award-winning voice actor Ian Russell, who provides memorable voices to all the tale's characters. Along with its relentless action and suspense, Stewart's novel provides young readers with a wealth of information about British culture (with frequent references to literary classics) and the history of the Monarchy and the Anglican Church. Highly recommended, Britfield and the Lost Crown will appeal to both young readers and their parents."
- Parents' Choice Foundation - Gold Medal Award

Book Trailer:

A strong breeze shot across the sky as Sarah and Tom followed the pack of balloons over Oxfordshire. Known as the Thames Valley, this lush countryside was a multicolored patchwork of square farmlands crisscrossed by hedgerows and rock walls. The Thames River gracefully snaked through the open fields covered with extravagant mansions built centuries ago. Although most of the balloons headed toward Canterbury, some floated off in opposite directions. By mid-afternoon, most of them had vanished. Tom and Sarah followed behind a few but soon lost them in the hazy clouds. Every so often, Tom gave the balloon a long blast of hot air to maintain its altitude. While they drifted southeast toward London, their main concern was Gowerstone. Peering through the binoculars,
Tom searched for the helicopter.
I don’t see him.”
Do you think he gave up?”
No,” he replied quickly. “He’ll never give up.”
We seem safe for now.”
For the moment,” he added with caution.
As Sarah admired the scenery, Tom reached into his pocket to retrieve her locket.
This really does bring me luck,” he concluded, handing it to her. “Thanks for letting me borrow it.”
It’s yours, silly,” she smiled, pushing it back. “Just promise you’ll always keep it with you.”
But —”
All right . . . it’s a deal.” Stuffing it back in his pocket, he felt the piece of paper Patrick gave him and removed it.
What’s that?” she inquired curiously.
Before we left, Patrick broke into the Grievouses’ office and looked through my file. He wrote something down.”
Let’s see.”
Tom opened it. Scribbled across the page was just one word.
Hmm,” he grunted, expecting detailed information.
What does it say?” she demanded.
Britfield? What the heck does that mean?”
How am I supposed to know?”
There must be more.” She snatched the paper from his hand and thoroughly examined both sides. Dissatisfied, she shook her head. “So Patrick breaks into the office, sneaks your file out, and writes only one word on it — is he mad?”
I’m sure he was in a hurry,” his voice deepened, “given that we were planning to rescue you and everything.”
Then it’s a clue?”
It’s a name.”
Maybe it’s your last name,” she suggested encouragingly.
This comment caught Tom off guard. After all these years of having only a first name, it was a lot to digest and felt rather strange.
Maybe,” he shrugged, not sure what to think

About C.R.Stewart:

Born in Newport Beach, California, C. R. Stewart has twenty years of experience writing fiction, nonfiction, and movie screenplays. His areas of expertise also include film and media production, global strategy, and international marketing.

“Britfield & The Lost Crown was conceived as an idea over 10 years ago while enduring a boring finance seminar. It started as a sketch of a hot air balloon with a young boy and girl trapped inside. From this simple drawing sprang the entire concept and story for Britfield.”

C.R. Stewart received a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature and European History from Brown University; did post-graduate work at Harvard University; earned an MBA from Boston College; and is pursuing a Master of Science in Advanced Management and a Ph.D. in Strategy.

Now based in San Diego, C.R. Stewart is a strong supporter of education and the arts. He enjoys world travel, reading, riding, swimming, sailing, tennis, and is currently on a National School Book Tour with Britfield & The Lost Crown speaking to students on the importance of creativity!

Giveaway Details:

5 winners will receive a signed finished copy of BRITFIELD & THE LOST CROWN & a poster, US Only.

Tour Schedule:
Week One:
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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

MG review of Rise of ZomBert by Kara LaReau, illustrations by Ryan Andrews

Rise of ZomBert by Kara LaReau, illustrations by Ryan Andrews 
Format:  ARC paperback

Publisher:  Candlewick Press
Number of Pages:  144
Publishing:  July 14th, 2020
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line: "It was a cold fall night in the town of Lambert and the moon was full." 

Strange, peculiar things are happening in Lambert.  On one very cold fall night, a cat escapes from his cage, slinks through a fence, and falls into a dumpster.  Cold, tired, and very hungry the cat waits.  Much later he is found by a young girl named Mellie.  Mellie was out helping her best friend Danny, a horror film aficionado with his latest horror film project when she heard noises coming from the dumpster.  Mellie is instantly taken with this scraggly stray cat, but Danny is a bit more skeptical.  Unswayed, Mellie picks the cat up and names him Bert.  Then she sneaks him into her house, despite knowing there is no way her parents would ever approve of letting her keep him.  Because Mellie's parents have been so distracted with her younger brothers and their blog, she figures they probably won't notice anyway.  

Mellie tries desperately to care for Bert, but he's sort of standoffish to her affection, preferring to roam at night and bring her small gifts of decapitated animals in the morning.  Bert seems to have plans of his own but first, he is focused on regaining his strength.  Danny is still very wary of Bert, especially after the cat appears to eat the heads of his victims so Danny starts to refer to him as ZomBert.  However, Mellie isn't convinced that her new friend is as evil as Danny makes him out to be.  Meanwhile, there are also mysterious happenings at the nearby YummCo food factory, several researchers and a hazmat team have been spotted in town.  What or whom are they searching for?

Rise of ZomBert is the first book in a new middle-grade series by Kara LaReau.  It kinda reminds me of a mixture of Bunnicula and maybe Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  Probably because Bunnicula gets accused of being like Dracula and I guess I'm recalling animal testing from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.  Rise of ZomBert is on the shorter side but would be wonderful as an introductory book into more scary stories.  That is if the idea of decapitated animals and the crunching and munching of Bert chomping on his prey doesn't bother you. This is a solid first book and is also a highly entertaining read.  A little macabre but not too scary, and who couldn't love a cat with a questionable past? 

**Thank you to Candlewick Press for the ARC.**

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Guest Post from Keira Gillett, author and illustrator of the Zaria Fierce series

Today I'm pleased to have Keira Gillett, author, and illustrator of the Zaria Fierce Trilogy.  Her latest book, Christoffer Johansen and the Return to Jötunheim released on May 1st and she's here today with a guest post on how her trilogy expanded into a multibook series.  Thank you so much for dropping by Keira!  

Hi everyone! My name is Keira Gillett and I am the author-illustrator behind the Zaria Fierce Series. I’ve been here to Brenda’s Log Cabin Library before so you may recognize me from another post. If so, nice to see you again! It’s always a lot of fun to hang out with you all to discuss books and writing. Thank you as always Brenda for having me over to visit and talk with your readers.

For those who don’t recognize me, my elevator pitch for the Zaria Fierce Series is this: Join a motley group of loveable characters as they traipse all over Norway to stop dragons from taking over the world. You’ll fall in love with the gang and they will become some of your favorite literary friends. Don’t just take my word for it - check out the reviews :)

25091986When I began writing the Zaria Fierce Series, I expected it to end at three books. I planned for a trilogy, but I had a feeling by book two, — and this feeling was solidified when writing book three — that it wouldn’t stay that way. As the story was written out the plot expanded like rising dough and the world grew beyond the bounds of three books. The trilogy simply couldn’t contain it all.

When a story expands beyond its original premise — as Zaria Fierce most certainly did — an author has a choice to try to force the story into its original box or let it grow.  The trilogy (or box) was known and yet I knew there was so much more to discover in Zaria’s world and in the lives of her friends. I wanted to know more!

I decided to let the story grow, but then faced an immediate conundrum — Zaria’s story was complete. What to do next? It wasn’t a difficult choice at all. If there’s more story to tell and yet it’s complete for the main character the obvious conclusion was to hop into another character’s head. With the setup in place from Zaria’s trilogy I now knew that the series is would be nine books long and broken down into three sets of trilogies. 

But whose would be next?  

35531687The first character to grow from his status as a side character into a main character in his own right was Aleks Mickelsen.  From the beginning, he just wanted to be normal and from the very beginning, he was not.  His friends’ knew he was fey and had heard his grandmother’s stories about the magical realm of Norway, but it’s one thing to notice your human-looking friend having pointier ears and insanely good navigational skills, and it’s another to truly understand it. Until you see it for yourself it’s still more story than reality — which is frankly how certain aspects of Zaria’s story were able to play out in book one and why Christoffer couldn’t imagine a river-troll was, in fact, real, despite having some intimate knowledge of some pretty cool secrets.

Of course, once Christoffer truly understood how the magical and normal aspects of Norway collided he wanted nothing more than to be a hero himself. However, he is 100% human and lacks the magical talents required to be the hero. But are heroes born or are they made? With that thought in mind, it was an easy decision to jump to Christoffer when Aleks’ trilogy was finished. I love uncovering what makes a character tick and how they perceive the events around them. Head-hopping really allows me as an author to explore that.

I also love playing with expectations. It’s not just the main character facing down challenges in my books. Everyone has a role in the fight against evil and combined their abilities to help save the day. They can’t do it alone. So even though there are more friends than trilogies planned, each one has an integral part to play.  It’s important to my series and world-building that everyone plays a part in fighting evil.

Speaking of world-building, having a sandbox already built by the Zaria Fierce trilogy meant that I could lean on the existing structure for the following trilogies. I could even leave plot holes — or as I like to think of them — things left unfinished —  to come back to later and answer in new and unexpected ways. I could create new components or expand even more on previously known things.  Also, getting into Aleks’ and Christoffer’s headspace was relatively easy, as I’ve known both characters for several books. I already had a solid feeling for their mental spaces and didn’t have to start from scratch. A blank page can go anywhere (and it can also sit and go nowhere.) I like editing things and mixing them up and basically playing with how things go together.

The challenges with writing a series like this are to keep it consistent with the previous trilogies, to bring readers back into the fold of a wonderful group of friends to learn how the dynamics work from another perspective, and yet give the trilogy its own unique flavor so that it feels like the character whose name is on the cover. It can sometimes take a lot of time to navigate properly and also quite a bit of rewriting, especially in the first book of each trilogy.

Did you know that Aleks’ story was meant to go to Jotunheim? He never quite got there though, did he? Some might see that as bad planning. That’s okay. For me, I see it as an opportunity.   I let the characters speak and by listening better stories emerge. Those aspects form the original plot for book four were placed aside for the next (and current) trilogy. When mountain-trolls hijacked the forest scenes in book four and pulled me into a whole new and unexpected direction I certainly wasn’t going to say no. I might have become their lunch if I did that! Which meant I spent a lot of time remapping the dynamics of the magical realms and shifting timelines. But it was also a lot of fun opening up my computer to explore how everything changed from what I thought was going on to what really was going on. It felt new. I was discovering with Aleks like I had with Zaria.

Christoffer Johansen and the Return to Jötunheim by Keira Gillett 
Series:  Zaria Fierce #7
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Keira Gillett

Number of Pages:  296
Published:  May 1st, 2020

For the first book in Christoffer’s trilogy, he spoke to me in first person and I found myself writing that way a lot and having to go back and change it over to third person to match the other two trilogies. I also had to age the group of friends up again and peek into the group dynamics. Some things stayed and some things went by the wayside as I wrote. By the end of the book, Christoffer was playing nice and keeping to the third person, which certainly made it easier and faster to write. His cooperation came when I agreed to add more jokes to the story. 😅 

So there you have it — Readers/Writers - Do you like head-hopping? When do you think it’s acceptable to do? Or is it never acceptable?

About Keira 

Every chance she can, Keira Gillett loves to take ballet lessons, where she calls fondus nasty one-legged squats, and grande battements the reason you happily suffer barre routines featuring said fondus. At home, she loves to play with her doggie and train him to learn new tricks. Spin is the closest he gets to a pirouette. Wherever he goes, even without a tutu Oskar steals all the attention, not unlike Christoffer. You can follow Keira and Oskar’s antics on Instagram with the #oskarpie hashtag.
Find Keira at

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