Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Review of Secrets of the Looking Glass (The Lost Wonderland Diaries #2) by J. Scott Savage

Secrets of the Looking Glass by J. Scott Savage
Format:  E- ARC
Publisher:  Shadow Mountain Publishing
Number of pages:  368
Publishing:  September 13th, 2022 
Source:  publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Opening Line: "Tyrus stumbled into our first period English class weighed down by his bulging backpack."

Secrets of the Looking Glass is the second book in The Lost Wonderland Diaries and follows Celia and Tyrus as they venture into the Looking Glass, encounter their mirror images and become entangled in a battle between the Red and White Queen's Armies.        

 I'm a huge fan of Alice in Wonderland and so I thoroughly enjoyed my read of J. Scott Savage's first book in The Lost Wonderland Diaries series.  It had all the memorable characters I've come to know and love, like the White Rabbit, The Mad Hatter, the Queen of Hearts and the Cheshire Cat.  Savage then spun the story into a few new and pleasant directions.  This latest addition also did not disappoint, I loved all the new characters, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, Humpty and Dumpty, even the Bandersnatch (from Jabberwocky), the Black Sheep Pirate Captain and Lia and Ty, who are mirror images of Celia and Tyrus with the bonus of having received their "best qualities," or Celia's math/logic skills and Tyrus's imagination.   

What would a Lewis Carroll adaptation be without some clever wordplay, nonsensicalness, a few acrostics, neologisms and portmanteau words?  There's even some clever riddles and I love how it focuses on language, including words like "abhorrence and "deferential."  There are so many details that I enjoyed, the way that each chapter ended with the title of the next chapter.  The inclusion of chess and emphasizing how it improves skills like visualizing, planning moves in your head, increases your ability to analyze an outcome of your opponent's move and react.  Skills that later became important when the battle between the White and Red Queen began.  And oh, don't get me started on the wonderful battle scenes.  So much fun.  Savage really has a knack of taking all the wonderful things about Lewis Carroll's works and combining them into his stories giving them the feel of the original works, while being something completely unique, humorous, and exciting.      

 Then there's our two main characters, Celia and Tyrus, who because their skills were taken away had to learn to adapt, and in the end discover that within them are more abilities than they've ever realized before, that there is more too them then just their logic and imagination.  That having flaws was a strength.  I will forever remember the expression a "fish in roller skates."  Overall, this was a lovely story that I zipped through and has me now looking forward to a re-read real soon.  

**A huge thank you to Shadow Mountain Publishing for the E-ARC** 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday (TTT): School Freebie


 TTT was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018, born of a love of lists, books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  This week is a School Freebie.  So, I have school related books covers. 


Feel free to share your favorite school book covers or leave me a link to your TTT post and I'll check it out.  

Monday, August 29, 2022

MMGM review of The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs

Shannon Messenger was the first person to start off MMGM, and the tradition carries on with Always in the Middle.  (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)

The Other Side of the River by Alda P. Dobbs
Format:   Print-ARC
Publisher:  Sourcebooks for Young Readers
Number of pages:  368
Publishing:  September 6th, 2022
Source:  Author in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line: "Thousands of us-the poorest of the poor, the underdogs-choked the narrow bridge and begged for our lives to the gatekeepers, and despite the sun glistening over the smooth river below us, everyone, including me, believed it was the end of our lives."

In the year of 1913, Petra Luna and her family escaped the Federales in Mexico and made their way to safety in the United States.  Upon their arrival, Petra, her abuelita, and younger sister and brother were then placed into a refugee camp along the Texas/Mexico border.  Initially they were provided a place to stay, but now with smallpox and hunger raging through the camp, Petra was in need of a new plan.  With the Federales being pushed out of the village nearby in Mexico, the camp made plans to close.  Everyone who could work were offered jobs, and anyone left behind would need to return to Mexico.  Then Petra learns of a train headed to San Antonio and makes a bargain for the remaining seats, hoping that they'll be able to build a better life there.  

At twelve, almost thirteen, Petra was out looking for work as soon as they arrived in San Antonio and does land a job working for the Chili Queen, Dona Carmen.  She also finds them a place to stay in a rundown apartment.  Petra works hard at her new job, while her abuelita takes care of her siblings.  They even manage to save some money with the pecans that her Abuelita shells.  Then an unfortunate misunderstanding leads Petra to lose her job, and in dire need for an income, Petra turns to Sister Nora, a nun at the Wesley House for help and is offered a position as her assistant.  As Petra begins to spend more time with Sister Nora, they begin to learn of the commonalities that they share, like how Sister Nora and her sister escaped the potato famine of Ireland, and they also begin to develop a strong friendship.  The sister is also helpful in teaching Petra how to read and write, as well as opening up an opportunity for her to attend school for the first time.  The story has a nice resolution and sees a positive future for Petra and her family.   

The Other Side of the River is a continuation of the author's first book, Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna which was inspired by her great-grandmother's experience during the Mexican Revolution of 1913.  I think it's important to have read Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna first to have the full picture of Petra's story.  She's a really courageous girl and her determination and bravery to lead her family across the desert to safety in the United States is commendable and it's a story that shouldn't be skipped over.

This is the kind of historical fiction that will really resonate with the reader.  Even now when I think of how very young Petra was, twelve years old, who can imagine working at that age? All the hardships she had to endure.  Not to mention having three other people depend on your wages to sustain them.  She's a really remarkable girl, and such a hard worker, even during difficult circumstances.  While I was reading, her struggles feel like your struggles, and you want her to succeed.  For her dreams of being able to read and write to come true.  It really is a step back in time and a reflection of one girl's resilience.  A really beautiful series and I enjoyed being immersed in Petra's new life in San Antonio.  I also really enjoyed the authors note and learning of how the authors experiences growing up in Texas were incorporated into the story as well as the origins for the school mentioned.    Favorite lines "There is great power in the written word..."  "Spoken words are like old winter leaves-they're easily spun, blown away, and forgotten."

A huge thank you to Alda Dobbs for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.               

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Happy 10 year Book Blogging Birthday


It's hard to believe that I first starting blogging 10 years ago, on August 21st, 2012.  How is it I'm always late to my own party?  And where has the time gone?  Seriously that amounts to about 683 posts, with a combination of guest interviews, author posts, book reviews, Top Ten Tuesday's, and Marvelous Middle grade Mondays.  I even managed to have 105 posts in 2015, a record for me.  I've read a lot of books over the years, 1244 since 2009, it's been a wonderful experience blogging and helping to support my author and fellow MG book bloggers.  But most of all I just want to say thank you for all the support and comments on my blog.  Thank you to fellow blogger friends, authors and publishers who request reviews and thank you to all my Twitter followers who retweet my posts. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Completed Series I Wish Had More Books

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  Each week there is a new prompt, and everyone is encouraged to share their list. 

This week's prompt is Completed Series that I Wish Had More Books.  One of my favorite things is to read the classics and growing up I loved Pippi Longstocking, Ramona, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I know I would've loved more books in the series and would've devoured them all.  I didn't read Mary Poppins, Bunnicula, Anne of Green Gables and The Lightening Thief until much later, yet these books have stuck with me. Also, both The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Bunnicula stopped at 7 books, there's something about that odd number that has bothered me.  



Next up I'm kind of cheating, I selected Keeper of the Lost Cities as I series that I worry about being completed soon.  Book nine, Stellarlune comes out in November, and I know there's a tenth book tentatively coming out in 2023.  I can't help worrying that we're reaching the end of the series.  This is the longest series that I've ever read, I'm vested in completing all the books in the series, and I hope she doesn't stop writing books anytime soon.  

My all-time favorite book series is Lockwood & Company, and Jonathan Stroud is one of my favorite authors.  He's currently working on The Notorious Scarlett & Browne Series, but I've always held out hope he'd return to Lockwood and write more about the skull in the jar.  


Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what completed series you'd be interested in reading more of.  

Monday, August 22, 2022

MMGM with a review of The Fire Star (A Maven & Reeve Mystery) by A.L. Tait

It's been a long time since I've participated in a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, but I thought I'd give it a shot.  Shannon Messenger was the first person to start it, and the tradition carries on with Always in the Middle.  (CLICK HERE FOR PAST MMGM POSTS)

The Fire Star:  A Maven & Reeve Mystery by A.L. Tait
Format:  Paperback
Publisher:  Kane Miller Publishing
Number of pages:  320
Published:  September 1st, 2020
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Opening Line:  "Of all the things I'd imagined might stop us from reaching Rennart Castle by nightfall, goats had not even made the top fifty."

The Fire Star is the story of a lady's maid, a knight's squire, a stolen gem, and the hunt to capture a thief and locate a murderer.  It's a fast-paced mystery, spanning three days, with lots of action, humor, and a duo that you can't help but root for.  It's been described on Goodreads as a cross between 39 Clues and The Ranger's Apprentice, which fits it beautifully, and it also kind of reminds me of The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen.  Intricate plotting with a little palace intrigue.

Lady Cassandra is set to marry Sir Garrick, knight to Airl Buckthorn, or the master of Rennart Castle.  After having just arrived at the castle, The Fire Star is stolen from Lady Cassandra's bed chamber.  Being the newest squire at the castle, Reeve is immediately blamed for the theft, and is given three days to find the stone.  If he can't reveal the thief, he'll be sent home where he will most likely be exiled and his dream of becoming a knight will end.  Maven feels sorry for this boy and sets out to help him on his quest.  Two heads are better than one after all and they'll need all the help they can get when they find one of their friends has been murdered and the gem becomes even more elusive to find.          

I really enjoyed the dual POV of Maven and Reeve.  Maven possesses many skills, she's clever, she can hold her own in a fight.  Despite the women of Cartreff not being allowed to read or write, she grew up under her father's guidance learning military strategies, how to defend herself and is highly educated.  She's also learned how to blend in, preferring to take to the shadows and observe, rather than to stand out.  She'd probably make a very good assassin.  At first, I was kind of sad that her father sold her off to Cassandra as her lady's maid to cover his gambling debts, but Cassandra and her do have such a strong bond of friendship and have vowed to be there for one another.  They both belong to the Beech Circle, a secret society of women who support each other to become independent and free of the rules of Cartreff, very similar to a women's resistance.   Reeve is also a very fun character, and has a secret, which he hasn't shared with Maven yet.  He's kind, observant and so likeable.  I love the way that he looks out for Maven and enjoyed watching their friendship grow.    A huge thank you to Kane Miller Publishing for sending me review copies of both The Fire Star and The Wolf's Howl, which I'm really looking forward to reading next.        

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz

The Prince of Steel Pier by Stacy Nockowitz
Format:  E- ARC
Publisher:  Kar-Ben Publishing
Number of pages:  248
Publishing:  September 1st, 2022
Source:  publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Opening Line:  It's nine o'clock on Friday morning, and Mrs. Goldberg is definitely dead." 

For eleven months out of the year, Joey, his mom and brothers spend their time in Philly.  For that other month, they stay in Atlantic City at their grandparents' hotel.  Joey and his brothers wait tables for Uncle Sol and lend their grandparents, Bubbe and Zeyde a hand where needed.  Whenever he can escape the hotel, Joey can be found playing Skee-Ball at the arcade, he's actually quite skilled, so much that he even draws the attention of a local mobster, Artie, who offers him a job chaperoning his daughter around Atlantic City.  Joey develops an instant liking to Artie, they both enjoyed reading "The Once and Future King," and Artie makes him feel important because he takes Joey seriously, unlike his family.  Joey relishes in being "one of the guys."  Then Joey overhears two of Artie's men making a deal and a special request from Artie himself, has Joey questioning whether he can truly trust these new friends he's made.   

The Prince of Steel Pier has a very nostalgic feel.  There's pre-casino Atlantic City and the boardwalk during the 1970's, our Skee-Ball champion, saltwater taffy and all the feels of summer time at the arcade.  I just adored Joey and his extended Jewish family, including his older brothers, Reuben and Simon, younger brother Ben, his mom, Bubbe, Zeyde and even Uncle Sol.    I could so relate to Joey and being a middle kid, teased by your older siblings and not yet old enough to be taken seriously.  That feeling of being distant from your family, and not feeling respected.  It's no wonder that Joey connects so easily to Artie and his gang.  They made him feel strong and confident, laid praise on him for his Skee-Ball skills and he's even given the responsibility of being a companion for Artie's daughter.  It's also not surprising when he lays trust in someone he shouldn't and things start to go horribly wrong.  Being "one of the guys" isn't all it's cracked up to be.  Growing up I remember being told that the only thing you could really depend on were your family and Joey also seems to learn this lesson.  In the end he begins to recognize that his family will always be there to support him and I just loved how the story resolved.  Overall, I really enjoyed the setting and plot.  I was  pleasantly surprised to learn that the authors own grandparents owned the St. Charles Hotel and that she'd spent many a summer on the shores and visiting Steel Pier. You can certainly feel the authors love for Atlantic City and her connection to the city and it did remind me of my time in Atlantic City, and will certainly appeal to fans of arcades, classic amusement park rides and visits to the shore.    

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago.

 Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.  This week's prompt is Books I Love That Were Written Over Ten Years Ago.  I decided to go back to some of the first books that I reviewed on Goodreads, so there is a mixture of books that I read with my kiddo (have special meaning) and ones that I adore.                                                                                                         


      Beyond the Deepwoods is the fourth book in The Edge Chronicles by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell  It is my favorite book in the series.  It reminds me a lot of Redwall by Brian Jacques which is a book that I've loved for a long time.  

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan was one of the first audiobook series that I completed all of the books in the series, I've even gone back and read the books as well.  The Magic Thief: Lost by Sarah Prineas was one of the first books that I received through the Harper Collins First Look giveaways.  It's the book that introduced me to Goodreads and helped to start me on my blogging journey.  

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell and Sir Fartsalot by Kevin Bolger are two of my favorite books because of the memories that they illicit.  I can't even count the number of times that I read these books aloud and the giggles that were shared over these two books.    


Last but not least are Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom by Eric Wight and Midnight For Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo.  Frankie Pickle is another one of those books that brought great enjoyment reading and I especially enjoyed reading the Charlie Bone series.  

Well, that's my Top Ten for today.  Feel free to check out other bloggers contributions at That Artsy Readergirl   Hopefully I'll be able to participate in these Top Ten lists a bit more and maybe even the Middle Grade Monday's.    

Friday, August 12, 2022

Guest Post by A.L. Tait author of The Mapmaker Chronicles, Maven & Reeve Series and Ateban Cipher

 Today I'm super excited to have A.L Tait, author of The Mapmaker Chronicles, Ateban Ciper series, and the Maven & Reeve Series, which I'm reading right now (keep a lookout for my review).  Her latest book, The Wolf's Howl released this year from Kane Miller Books and she's here today with a guest post on moving from a reader to writer.  Thank you so much for dropping by Allison!  

From reader to writer: an epic adventure story

By A. L. Tait

As a young reader, I was voracious, consuming words in great gulps and vast quantities.

I read all kinds of stories, leaving the local library with armloads of books every week –sometimes returning them days later, having breezed through the stack.

I read over breakfast, at lunchtime, walking down the street, when I was supposed to be doing my homework, late at night under the covers with a torch.

Mostly, I read mystery stories. Strong characters in strong plots with solid resolutions. Kids working together, always watching each other’s backs. These stories were catnip for a kid who moved around a lot in the primary school years, never quite feeling she found her place.

But I never had a sense of those stories as having come from a person.

Oh, there was a name on the cover, but for me, books were about the characters and settings, both near and far away, and they dropped from the ether onto the shelves of the library or bookshop.

In those days, well before the internet, children like me, who lived in rural and/or remote places in Australia, never saw an author. There were no school visits or Zoom sessions where authors talked about how they wrote their stories or where they got their ideas.

There were just the books, and the next great series to find.

I think this is one reason why it took me until my mid-twenties to start to think I could write fiction.

Oh, I’d always written. I wrote stories for school and did very well in English. I even had a poem published in our local newspaper when I was in grade five (my Mum cut it out and saved it for me). There was no doubt that I could string a sentence together, which is probably why I ended up working for many years as a magazine journalist.

But an author?

By my mid-twenties, I was working as a features editor on a women’s magazine, sometimes interviewing authors about their new novels. By that stage, I’d read thousands and thousands of books, and one Saturday morning I woke up and thought, ‘why not give it a crack?’

And so began a journey, of many ups and downs, through the Kingdom of Romance Novels, via the Peak of Almost Publication, and the Valley of New Motherhood, that, years later, finally brought me back to where my love of words had begun: adventure and mystery stories for young readers.

My first series, The Mapmaker Chronicles, was written for my sons (then nine and six). My second series, The Ateban Cipher, was
 written for my nieces – four feisty girls holding their own in our extended family against a majority of boys.

My latest series, The Maven & Reeve Mysteries, was written for me – or the me I was at the age of ten or thereabouts. I drew on all of those years of reading mystery stories to write one of my own.

A mystery series set in an ‘almost history’ world, featuring Maven, a maid, and Reeve, a squire, who must work together to solve crimes? Sign me up.

Watching the friendship develop between these two characters has been one of my greatest joys as a writer. Throw in a secret resistance movement for girls and young Allison, reading under the covers all those years ago, would be running to the library for the next installment.

I will add that writing mysteries involves a lot more wrestling (in the mind) and sweat than reading them does. Setting up a huge puzzle and trying to figure out how to give readers enough clues to solve that puzzle while still hiding the solution from them until the very end… well, let’s just say the ending of The Fire Star (book #1) probably surprised me as much as it does readers!

I still read detective novels, and still love strong plots built around vivid characters. I no longer have quite as much time to inhale words like I did then (and, frankly, not the stamina to stay up reading all night), but when I find a series I like, I devour it.

Now, though, I get to create them as well as consuming then.

I like to think 10-year-old me would be cheering.

A. L. Tait is the internationally published, bestselling author of epic adventure and mystery series for middle-grade readers. The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mystery series are all available in the US through Kane Miller Books. Allison lives in Australia with her family. Find out more about Maven & Reeve here and more about Allison here:

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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Review of Fenris & Mott by Greg Van Eekhout

Fenris & Mott by Greg Van Eekhout
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Number of pages:  208
Published:  August 2nd, 2022
Source:  Blue Slip Media

Opening Line: "Mott was recording a root beer review video in the alley behind the Mi-T-Mart when she found the puppy."

Mott has just moved from Pennsylvania to California and has been having a difficult time.  Her best friend, Amanda is on vacation in Germany, and they haven't been able to shoot any videos together lately, and now with the move she isn't even sure if they'll be able to again.  While attempting to shoot a video solo in an alley, Mott finds the most adorable white, fluffy puppy in a recycle bin.  Mott is very angry that someone could abandon something so cute and makes a promise to take care of the puppy.  Making a promise is a big deal to Mott, she's had people who've broken their promise to her and so she doesn't take giving her promise to the pup lightly.  Her father was always good about making promises, but now that he has a new family, he hasn't kept up with them.  Mott knows the no puppy rule at the apartment her and her mom live at will be a huge problem, but a promise is a promise.  Hoping to gather information about the puppy, Mott takes him to an animal shelter and finds out that she actually found a wolf pup, and the shelter suggests sending him to a wolf sanctuary.  Just as the guy from the shelter tries to put a leash on the wolf, it takes off and a chase on foot ensues.

Eventually Mott catches up to the wolf pup and finds him being held by a man claiming to be Gorm the Vicious.  The man explains that the wolf is called Fenris, and he is the destructor of worlds, Odin's slayer.  He tries to take Fenris from her and is unsuccessful but cautions her that eventually Fenris will need to be destroyed before he can swallow the moon and end the world.  Soon after the encounter with Gorm, Mott meets Thrudi, who is a Valkyrie, charged with guarding Fenris, before he escaped from her.  Thrudi fills her in on the prophecy surrounding Fenris and his ties to Ragnarok.  They band up to search for answers on how to save Fenris and the world. 

If Fenris and Mott taught me anything, it's that I don't know my mythology as much as I'd like.  I knew Fenris' is one of Loki's sons but somehow missed that he was prophesized to end the world.  Starting him off as a wolf pup and not the huge beast that he becomes was a wonderful change.  It brought about the predicament of Mott not wanting any harm to come to him and the choice of whether to save him or the world.  I also enjoyed the emphasis on promises, that they shouldn't be given out too easily.  That to break a promise is breaking an oath.  Thrudi is an absolutely fun character, it's humorous watching her learn about root beer and hot cocoa while swinging a sword and calling Mott a sorcerer because she can search information on her phone.  What really won me over about her though is the way she tells Mott that she can become one of her Valkyrie sisters who have a bond based on trust, a found family.  Fenris & Mott is a fast-paced action story that would appeal to readers who like the California setting, lots of stops around LA that were entertaining, or readers who enjoy Greek mythology, focused on a destructive wolf pup.  Or just read it for the humorous bits like when they had to chase a dead man's hand through the city streets, which really made me laugh.   

**A huge thank you to Blue Slip Media and Harper Collins for the ARC hardcover.**

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Ravenfall by Kalyn Josephson

Ravenfall by Kalyn Josephson 
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Delacorte Press
Number of pages:  256
Publishing:  August 30th, 2022
Source: publisher via Netgalley

Opening Line:  "Everything looks different in the dark."

Anna Ballinkay's family runs Ravenfall Inn, a supernatural bed and breakfast that sits between the human and Otherworld, where spirits dwell.  Her family comes from a long line of psychic's, each with varied talents.  One of her twin sisters can read minds and the other people's emotions, Anna's mom is a fortune teller, and her Aunt Elaine talks to spirits.  But Anna has never been happy with her ability, she feels it's useless, more of a curse and she's actually scarred to use her powers.  Following a chance encounter where Anna brushes into a man at her families Inn, she has a vision of two people's horrible murder and the two boys who witness the murder.  Anna becomes so unnerved by what she sees, she can't let it go, it weighs on her heavily and she must find out the killer's identity.  Then Colin Pierce arrives at Ravenfall Inn looking for his older brother Liam, they became separated and had agreed to meet at the inn.  Colin and his family were in a witness protection program and Colin's parents were the ones from Anna's vision.  Colin was hoping to get some information about why someone would've wanted his parents killed.  Anna wants to be able to prove to herself that her powers can have a purpose or can be more useful than just visions of death, and so she sets out to help Colin to find some answers.  But first Colin must believe that magic is real and be willing to trust Anna.   

Ravenfall has a very unique magical system, and I quite enjoyed all the varied abilities Anna's family had.  The story felt like a mix of Natalie Lloyd's Snicker of Magic (coziness of the tea shop, and its magical tea concoctions reminiscent of the ice cream from Snicker of Magic), with Jessica Towsend's Nevermore or even Jessica Day George's Tuesday's at the Castle (with its alive Inn versus the Castle) and then add in the television show Supernatural (for all the wraiths and creatures).  I was totally feeling Halloween vibes with this read.  Then bump it up a notch with the whole murder mystery and hunt to find a killer, yeah defiantly loved the spooky magical adventure of Ravenfall.   The killer was just the right amount of creepy and sinister.  I so loved the sentient inn, which almost is a character in itself.   My favorite character though had to be Max the part Jabberwocky/black cat who guards the Inn.  Such a fluff of fun.  Sigh, if only there were pictures to accompany the story.  The inclusion of varies Irish traditions was very enjoyable and I defiantly learned a lot about Samhain.   The alternating chapters between Anna and Colin were fun, offering that opportunity to learn more about each of the two main characters and how their stories intertwined.  Anna explaining the families magic, her feelings of insecurity and pressure to find her place, while Colin was able to express his sorrow and pain to her.  Anna also has her humorous moments and gets Colin to "embrace" the weirdness of her family.  Some lovely bonding going on here, can't wait to see where their friendship leads.  This would make a wonderful Halloween read.   There are plans for a sequel, Hollowthorn, that I'll now be eagerly anticipating.

**A huge thank you to Delacorte Press and Kalyn Josephson for my E-ARC**

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

David Massie and the Hidden Underworld by Andrew M. Nehring

David Massie and the Hidden Underworld
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Andrew M. Nehring Publishing
Number of pages:  105
Publishing:  August 9th, 2022
Source:  Recommendation from Books Forward and E-ARC from Netgalley 

Opening Line: "CP, the fully armored Time Cop, sat in the futuristic flying vehicle, which slightly resembled a sportscar, as it hurtled toward Earth."  

David Massie and the Hidden Underworld is the second book in the David Massie series, unfortunately I haven't read the first book David Massie and the Quantum Flux.  From what I gathered from the synopsis on Goodreads, David and CP; a Time Cop were successful is solving the mystery of the Quantum Flux.  Now having returned from their mission, David is back at school when everyone in his history class, except him and Rory are frozen in time.  CP tells David that the Time Police Depot was destroyed along with all the other Time Cop's.  It seems a Dark Armored Warrior is now on the loose.  In order to save the planet, David, his crush Rory, and CP must travel back in time to ancient Greece and locate Pax, a scientist who can build them a reality gate before the Dark Warrior can destroy their world.  

The Hidden Underworld is an interesting science fiction with some fun tech heavy components.  There's CP the last remaining Time Police officer, who is tasked with keeping the timeline intact.  There are robots, Greek gods, interstellar time travel via a spaceship that's more like a SUV but can cloak itself to blend in as a chariot, there are battles with blasters, and even reality gates.  There is also the added mystery of what happened to David's older brother, Morgan who vanished in the first book of the series.  Some of the highlights of the book are the light flirting that goes on between David and Rory and the teasing from CP.  I also really enjoyed the parts when they end up in ancient Greece, although I do wish the author would've expanded on this a bit more.  Overall, the story is on the shorter side, which on the one hand would be good if you're introducing a reader to science fiction, but for me, I would've enjoyed more.  It felt like just as the action was building, things ended and will most likely be continued on into the next book.  At the same time, I think this will certainly have kid appeal for its time travel, action and who wouldn't enjoy learning about CP the Time Cop?    ** A huge thank you to Books Forward for the recommendation and NetGalley for the E-ARC **

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey (Maybe Marisol #2) by Erin Entrada Kelly

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada Kelly
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Greenwillow Books
Number of pages:  160
Publishing:  August 9th, 2022
Source:  Sparkpoint Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line: "Marisol Rainey keeps a list in her head.  She calls it her List of Favorites."  

I really loved the first book in this series, Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey it's an adorable, illustrated chapter book.   Marisol is such a lovely young girl, she's kind, empathetic, anxious, and at times quiet and reflective.  She reminds me a lot of Matilda and Harriet and I just adore her.  I was super excited to get my hands on the follow-up, Surely Surely Marisol Rainey by Erin Entrada.  

In the latest book, Marisol is worried because her gym teacher just announced that the next unit they're starting is kickball.  She'd love to ask her dad for help or kickball advice, but because of his job on an oil rig he's gone a lot, he does call home weekly, but it's not the same as having him home so he can teach her what to do.  Marisol could ask her older brother, Oz, who is really good at sports but that might be difficult and embarrassing too.  Both Marisol and her best friend Jada despise gym class, and starting kickball makes them both anxious, on that one thing they both can agree.  It's not because of the teacher, who is supportive and encouraging, it's having to play sports.  Just the thought of having to kick the ball makes Marisol and Jada both worry.  What if they fall flat on their face, or make a mistake?  Plus, she doesn't want to embarrass herself in front of the whole class. Then Evie starts to bully Marisol, telling her how good she is at kickball and how Marisol is never going to be able to match her skills, which causes her even more anxiety.   The only positive is that she gets paired up with Felix in gym class and he's super nice.  Felix even starts telling her about his ability to talk to animals, which distracts her from thinking about and worrying about kickball.  Eventually, Marisol does ask Oz for help for her, and Jada and he teaches them how to kick and catch the ball, which alleviates many of their fears.

Surely Surely Marisol Rainey can be read as a standalone, but I highly recommend both of these books.  Marisol is such a treasure, and her stories would be perfect for an elementary age reader, who will find her easily relatable and will just love how she works so hard to overcome her fears and anxiety.  The use of the brain train analogy is especially done well in explaining Marisol's worries.  Although some of the illustrations in my ARC weren't complete, I loved the gentle lines of the ones I saw and felt they complement the story so well.  I really hope Erin Entrada Kelly will write more Marisol Rainey stories and I really enjoyed that she not only wrote these books but illustrated them as well.