Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Review of Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston

Amari and the Great Game by B.B. Alston
Publisher:  Balzer & Bray
Number of pages:  400
Published:  August 30th, 2022
Source:  Sparkpoint Studio in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line:  "I sprint down the sidewalk, flying past designer boutiques, luxury shops, and a fancy art gallery."

Amari and the Great Game is the sequel to the fabulous Amari and the Night Brothers which released in 2021.  It was an instant success, spending more than 30 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.  In the first book, Amari was instrumental in finding her brother Quinton, who remains under a curse, and saved the Bureau from Dylan Van Helsing, who was later imprisoned in the Sightless Depths for his crimes.  In the newest book, Amari is set to return with her friends to the Whitman Preparatory Academy and the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs as Junior Agents.  That is until she receives an ominous message, "beware of unseen dangers" in her fortune cookie, setting off a series of mysterious events.  First, a wild storm appears out of nowhere and Amari then witnesses a temporary time freeze, which affects everyone on the city bus but her.  Word is also received that Merlin, the current Prime Minister, and the entire Supernatural World Congress have been permanently frozen in time.  Using this news to his advantage, the Deputy Prime Minister, Bane uninvites Amari to summer camp and has her Othernet turned off, leaving her no way to check on her brother's recovery from his curse.  With Bane having established his control, he also sets out to rid the society of all magicians and what he calls Unwanteds.  But given Amari's new notoriety for having saved the Bureau, he is forced to reinstate her in the summer session and Amari returns to the Bureau.  Along the way, Amari was joined by Maria Van Helsing, Elsie and Jayden.  Lara Van Helsing also helps their investigation but only after Amari agrees to trust her.  Her trust issues are very understandable given how much Lara tortured and bullied Amari in the first book.  I loved that when Amari was faced with the decision of treating Lara how she was treated, she instead chooses to befriend her. 

Then news arrives that Dylan has escaped his prison and Amari suspects he caused the time freeze.  Just as she begins an investigation, an offer also arrives from the League of Magicians for Amari to take control of the league.  At first, she declines, but then Amari is pitted against Dylan in a series of challenges, "The Great Game."  The winner will have control over both the power and the magic of the loser and lead all the magicians.  The challenges were some of my favorite parts of the book.  Partly because Amari was sworn to secrecy and had to figure out how to tell Elise without revealing why she couldn't tell her.  Also, each of the challenges were exciting often placing her in grave danger and I was really vested in finding out if she could win and gain the control to save her brother, clear the magicians name, and finally release Merlin from his frozen state.

As a whole, I love this series.  The world is so well developed and has strong Harry Potter vibes with a nice mix of Artemis Fowl/Men in Black, as described on Goodreads.  Head Minister Bane and Harlowe are perfect new villains with their secrets and intrigue.  The plot moved very rapidly and there are some great friendships here.  I also loved the magical setting, the exploring of different departments and the way that Amari is coming into her power.  The pitting of fair versus foul magick.  That ending though, oh my.  This is the second book I've read recently where the ending completely shocked me and has me so eagerly awaiting a sequel.  Seriously, when does it come out?  I want to be on that list ASAP.    I highly recommend beginning with Amari and the Night Brothers to provide context for Amari's confrontations and challenges and well just because both of these books are amazing.  **A huge thank you to Spark Point Studios for the hardcover in exchange for an honest review**   

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday: Books hanging out on my TBR the longest that I haven't read yet

  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.   

Today's prompt was book covers that have a design that is all or mostly words.  This was a hard prompt for me as Middle Grade books are all about the eye-catching covers and I couldn't find ones that were mostly words.  So, I'm switching up this week for Books that have been hanging out on my TBR the longest, yet still haven't read yet.  

The first title I added to Goodreads was Eragon by Christopher Paolini.  It has been on my list since April 2009.

Three titles that I own and have not read yet.  TBR's can be such a torture to peruse, so many books yet to read.  Ugh.  


Books I added because of watching the movie, and still want to read someday.  

Two books in a series that I started and well, haven't got back to either.  

                        A picture book whose cover is so darn cute!

A title that I added recently and is coming for a review, so one that I can hopefully tick off my toppling TBR.  

What are some of the books that have been on your TBR the longest that haven't been read yet and you hope to get back to? 

Release Day Blitz for Ghoster Heights by Corey Landsell, Kelly Mellings, & Lisa Larose + Excerpt & Giveaway

I am so excited that GHOSTER HEIGHTS by Corey Landsell, Kelly Mellings, & Lisa Larose is available now and that I get to share the news!

If you haven’t yet heard about this wonderful book, be sure to check out all the details below.

This blitz also includes a giveaway for 2 finished copies of the book courtesy of Wonderbound & Rockstar Book Tours. So if you’d like a chance to win, check out the giveaway info below.


                                                                                About The Book:


Author: Corey Landsell, Kelly Mellings, Lisa Larose, Becca Carey, Rebecca Taylor (Editor)

Pub. Date: September 27, 2022

Publisher: Wonderbound

Formats: Paperback, eBook

Pages: 208

Find it: GoodreadsAmazon, Kindle, B&NiBooks, Kobo, TBD,

A haunting and hopeful Middle Grade graphic novel about a girl, ghosts, and grief.  For fans of Sheets, Small Spaces, and Ghosts.


Eight-year-old Ona has lost just about everything: her home, her possessions, her mother, and almost her life. When she and her father move into her Baba’s apartment complex after these traumatic events, they had hoped for a clean start. But a mysterious specter follows her, and Ona befriends the ghost she discovers haunting the boiler room. When her new friendship starts allowing her to see other ghosts—the ghosts who haunt the other residents of her building—she decides to use her ability to help her new neighbors face their troubles and free themselves from their specters. In doing so, however, Ona must eventually come face to face with a much darker foe—her own trauma and grief. The earnestness of Judy Bloom meets the raw emotion of I Kill Giants in this beautifully hopeful story of childhood tragedy.

An original graphic novel for Middle Grade readers about grief, loss, and the ghosts that haunt us all.

For fans of Brenna Thummler’s Sheets and Delicates.




About Corey Landsell:

Corey Lansdell is a multiple award-winning illustrator and animator. He is a skilled communicator, expert storyteller and passionate collaborator. Corey heads up a SCBWI illustrators group in Edmonton, Alberta.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon


About Kelly Mellings:

Kelly Mellings is an award-winning art director, illustrator, and designer. His work has
appeared in comic books, TV commercials, magazines, apps, museum exhibits, and video
games. He is the co-writer of Ghoster Heights and illustrator of the Canadian best-selling graphic novel, The Outside Circle. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

 Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads


About Lisa Larose:

Lisa LaRose is a pop surrealist painter, illustrator, and comics artist in Vancouver, Canada. She is best known for her paintings: Bizarre and Colourful artworks. She creates lively and exciting colour palettes and is always making something a little weird. Lisa loves middle-grade fiction (books, comics, cartoons, you name it) and so she also moonlights as a middle-grade comics artist.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | TikTok | Goodreads


Giveaway Details:

2 winners will receive a finished copy of GHOSTER HEIGHTS, US Only.

Ends October 11th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 26, 2022

MMGM with a review of Cat Ninja: Welcome to the 'Burbs by Matthew Cody, Illustrations by Chad Thomas, Warren Wucinich Colorist

Cat Ninja: Welcome to the 'Burbs by Matthew Cody, Illustrations by Chad Thomas, Warren
Wucinich Colorist
Publisher:  Andrews McMeel Publishing
Number of pages:  160
Publishing:  November 1st, 2022
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line: "...Eighty-nine bottles of pop on the wall, eighty-nine bottles of pop!" 

Cat Ninja Welcome to the Burbs is the fourth volume of the Epic! originals series. includes four seasons of stories from the series that you can have read to you, but I believe you need an account.  Parents can try it out for free with a basic plan.    

In the latest installment of this graphic novel, Cat Ninja, Master Hamster and the family have moved from Metro City to Peaceful Valley after their dad purchased a new house.  An unexpected visit from their new next-door neighbor with a welcoming gift, and the disappearance of Master Hamster, leads Cat Ninja and robot-dog Adonis on a chase through Peaceful Valley hunting the notorious Goldfather and his slimy henchmen. 

Cat Ninja is a totally new series to me which I thoroughly enjoyed.  The kid appeal of this is on fire.  I can see why it's one of Epic! most popular series.   There's lots of action as the masked feline shreds his way across the pages on his board with his pal Adonis in tow.  Cat Ninja/AKA Claude also this time assists the crime fighter, Octopunch in dealing with a rampaging monster truck.  Master Hamster/AKA Mr. Stiches also had me in stiches with his workout routine.  I could read tons of stories about him, he's surly and just downright funny.  I loved the way Cat Ninja and Master Hamster had their alter ego/pet personalities and their superhero status.  It was fun to watch them interact with Marcie and Leon and then go out on missions.  I've seen reviews that describe this as being like Phineas and Ferb, which fits it perfectly.   The illustrations have such beautiful vibrant colors, and I especially loved the martial arts style feline kicks and moves.  The panels of backstory about Fish-Face Malone and the rest of the villains were so appreciated.  This graphic novel features two diverse siblings, exciting panels, one superhero cat, a robot-dog, a humorous hamster and tons of adventure.  This would make a perfect gift for a cat loving, superhero fan.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Top Ten Tuesday (TTT): Books On My Fall 2022 To-Read List

 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. 

Today we're looking ahead to Fall 2022... While I hope to read all of these, I actually have no way of knowing if I will.  But they're all on my TBR at the moment so fingers crossed.    

Sisterhood of Sleuths (10/4/22) is described as an intergenerational mystery, which I find intriguing in itself.  There's also a box of vintage Nancy Drew books and family secrets.    Yep, sounds like my cup of tea.   Stellarlune  (11/8/22) is the ninth book in the Keeper of the Lost Cities series and can't wait to read this.  

The Rat Queen (10/11/22)  I really enjoyed Hautman's Slidder book, so wanted to check this one out.  It's described as a "mysterious modern-day fairy tale about developing a moral compass-and the slippery nature of conscience."  Honey and Me (10/18/22)  This reminds me of Judy Blume's books.  It seems to be about how friendships change and adjusting to them.

Next are two historical fictions, The Door of No Return (9/27/22) is written by Kwame Alexander and is also written in verse.  I really enjoyed the Crossover so I would also like to read this one.  Morning Sun in Wuhan (11/8/22) is a book that is coming for a review, and I'm really excited to read especially since it's drawn from the authors own experiences.   

Heart Finds (11/15/22) and The Rabbit's Gift (10/25/22) are two books I've picked because of the title and cover.  Really!  Sometimes that's all it takes to spark my interest.   

Archibald Finch and the Curse of the Phoenix (11/29/22) is the second book in the series and it and Dust & Grim (9/27/22) both speak to my need to read something spooky or scary.  Seems perfect for say a read before/after Halloween.  

What Fall books are you looking forward to reading??

Monday, September 19, 2022

MMGM with a Review of A Long Way From Home by Laura Schaefer

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)

A Long Way From Home by Laura Schaefer
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Carolrhoda Books
Number of pages:  192
Publishing:  October 4th, 2022
Source:  Author in exchange for an honest review  

Opening Line: "T-Minus 62 days to Launch."

Twelve-year old Abby and her family are moving to Florida for her mom's new job at Space Now, an aerospace company.  There impending move gets her to worrying, as if climate change, global news issues and The Great Pacific Garbage Patch isn't enough for her to worry about.  Abby's mom wants her to focus on the positives, but how do you do that when so many negatives surround you? 

Once in Florida, Abby struggles to acclimate to her new school and being assigned a mentor doesn't help her anxiety.  Abby then ventures out to explore the neighborhood and meets two boys, Adam and Bix, who tell her they're a long way from home and need her help to find Adam's twin sister Vanessa or V, who is ill.  As Abby starts to help the boys, she discovers that they're not just visiting from out of town, they're actually from the future, a time that sounds like a utopia, compared to the dystopian world she currently lives in.  Abby then secretly touches Bix's time vortex device and enters a portal to the year 2272.  Thrilled by her discovery of this new world, Abby strikes a deal with Adam and Bix, she agrees to help them from being discovered and in exchange they'll take her with them when they return to the future.  

Abby hides Adam and Bix on her dad's boat and secretly brings them food to eat.  Hoping to get more answers about the future, Abby searches for her mother's aunt Nora, a brilliant scientist like Abby's mother, and someone she's always been curious about.  Why did they become estranged? And why did Aunt Nora leave Space Now?  Was it Aunt Nora's agoraphobia that made her isolate herself from her work and family or is there another reason?   At the same time, Abby begins to spend more time with her mentor, Juliana and begins to enjoy the company as well as helping her while dog walking.  When Abby's mom's newest space project begins to have troubles, her mom and Aunt find a way to reconcile their differences.  As the time allotted in finding V draws near, they will all need to join together to ensure that they can find her and cure her illness before time runs out and V, Adam and Bix are stuck in Abby's time and the overall timeline will be disrupted. 

A Long Way From Home was a super quick read that I really enjoyed.  Abby is the kind of character that is pretty relatable, she's very anxious and worry's a lot about the state of the world and is also very compassionate and caring.  She refers to her anxiety as being a part of the human package, just like opposable thumbs.  She's very sweet and before learning about why Adam and Bix were at Checkers, she offers to buy them a milkshake just because she thinks they'll like it, and they look hungry.  She even begins to open up to Juliana and offers to help her with her mom's business.  I liked trying to figure out the messages that were showing up on Abby's outdated cell phone, and the connection they had to the overall plot.   The way each of the chapters were a countdown (T-Minus... days to launch) gave some urgency to Adam and Bix's mission to find Victoria and also to Abby's mom's project at Space Now.  Overall, this was an enjoyable read with some wonderful inclusion of women in aerospace and an interesting look at whether a utopian society provides a perfect future or whether exacting change needs to happen here and now.  A nice selection for someone getting into the science fiction genre.  ** A huge thank you to the author, Laura Schaefer for the ARC for my review**

Thursday, September 15, 2022

CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ & THE GOLDEN DOOMS by Ryan Calejo Blog Tour Excerpt + Giveaway

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ & THE GOLDEN DOOMS by Ryan Calejo Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. This is the third book in the series and I'm looking forward to reading the first book soon.  Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!


                                                                                About the Book:

Title: CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ & THE GOLDEN DOOMS (Charlie Hernández #3)
Author: Ryan Calejo
Pub. Date: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Aladdin
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 384

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindle, B&NiBooksKoboTBD,

Inspired by Hispanic folklore, legends, and myths from the Iberian Peninsula and Central and South America, this bold sequel to Charlie Hernández & the League of Shadows, which Booklist called “a perfect pick for kids who love Rick Riordan” in a starred review, follows Charlie as he continues on his quest to embrace his morphling identity.

Charlie Hernandez still likes to think of himself as a normal kid. But what’s normal about being a demon-slaying preteen with an encyclopedic knowledge of Hispanic and Latino mythology who can partially manifest nearly any animal trait found in nature? Well, not much. But, Charlie believes he can get used to this new “normal,” because being able to sprout wings or morph fins is pretty cool.

But there is a downside: it means having to constantly watch his back for La Mano Peluda’s sinister schemes. And when the leader of La Liga, the Witch Queen Jo herself, is suddenly kidnapped, Charlie’s sure they’re at it again.

Determined to save the queen and keep La Liga’s alliances intact, Charlie and his good friend Violet Rey embark on a perilous journey to track down her captors. As Charlie and Violet are drawn deeper into a world of monstruos and magia they are soon left with more questions than answers—like, why do they keep hearing rumors of dead men walking, and why is Charlie suddenly having visions of an ancient evil: a necromancer priest who’s been dead for more than five centuries?

Charlie’s abuela once told him that when dead men walk, the living run in fear. And Charlie’s about to learn the truth of that—the hard way. 


Grab the first 2 books in the CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ  series now!


                                                            Cover Video:


                                                                    CHAPTER ONE

Death came for me at around lunchtime. I was walking out of Ms. Alonso’s third-period history,

on my way to the cafeteria, and didn’t even see it coming. No one usually does. In fact, as I

started down the hallway toward the little stairs plastered with prom posters, all I saw was a

girl. And she didn’t look particularly deadly, either. She was, as a matter of fact, seriously pretty.

I mean, who would’ve thought somebody that cute was gonna bring about the end of the

world? Definitely not me, or else I wouldn’t’ve stood there like some starry-eyed goof, basically

just gawking at her as she slipped her way between the streams of hungry middle schoolers and

came right up to me.

        “¿Perdona, tú eres Charlie Hernández?”

        Large hazel eyes blinked up at me from beneath ridiculously long, ridiculously thick

lashes, and I think I might’ve managed a couple of blinks myself. I think. . . .

        She tried again. “Are you Charlie Hernández?”

        And this time I managed a whole nod. (Impressive, I know.) But before I could work up

to an “Uh,” or a “Huh,” or even an “Uh-huh, that’s me!” her hands snapped out, quick as a

thought, and she was shoving me backward— back, back, back past the broken water fountain,

past the row of second-floor lockers, past the little janitor’s closet with all the brooms inside,

and through a door very clearly marked GIRLS’ RESTROOM.

        “Hey, what are you DOING?” I hissed, watching her flip the dead bolt.

        “Locking the door.”

        “Yeah, that I can see. My question is, WHY?”

        “¿Cuál es el problema?”

        “The problem is that this is a girls’ bathroom!”


        “So there could’ve been A GIRL in here!”

        “There is a girl in here.”

        “WHAT! Where?” I whirled, my heart doing its best flippity-floppity, fish-out-of-water

impersonation; and a moment later I felt the tap of a cold finger on my shoulder. “Right behind

you . . .”

        Ah. Her. Right.

        As I turned back around, I couldn’t help noticing that she was now staring up at me the

same sorta way someone might stare at a three-headed mule. “You’re . . . different than I

expected,” she said doubtfully.

        “Well, that’s kinda your fault for expecting. Most people don’t expect much from me.

And it usually works out better for everyone that way.”

        Her dark eyes narrowed. “You seem tense.”

        “That’s because I am tense! And I’m getting outta here before someone catches us and I

get even tenser!”

        I started toward the door, which was definitely a step in the right direction, but not

nearly enough. I should’ve gone running out of that bathroom and not stopped until I’d reached

the North Pole. (Which, in case you were wondering, was approximately 3,972 miles from South


        “Wait!” Suddenly, Little Miss Shoves-a-Lot leapt in front of me, flinging her hands out

like a traffic cop. “¡Necesito tu ayuda!”

        And it was the fear—no, the pleading in those last few words (“I need your help”)—that

really got me. She sounded alone. And scared. And near tears.

        So I stopped. I stared at her, and she stared back. Her hair was thick and dark and wavy,

and her skin was smooth and tan and so uniformly flawless that you had to wonder if she’d ever

even had a single zit.

        She was almost too perfect to be real. Which, come to think of it, should’ve been my

first tip-off.

        The second, though—easily—should’ve been her fashion sense. Or, rather, her lack

thereof . . . She looked like someone who had been told how middle school kids liked to dress

but hadn’t actually ever seen one. At least not in a while. Her hairstyle and bell-bottoms made

her look like she’d just stepped out of Austin Powers’s groovy time machine, and her colorful

purple sweater screamed eighties pop (and actually read, on one sleeve: THE 80S ROCK!).

        She said, “I’m in trouble.”

        “Trouble?” Confused, I shook my head. “Well, in that case, you should probably find a

hall monitor. And those are usually found out in the halls. . . .”

        “But I don’t need a hall monitor,” she said pleadingly. “I need a Morphling!”

About Ryan:

Ryan Calejo is the author of the Charlie Hernández series. He was born and raised in south Florida, where he graduated from the University of Miami with a BA. He teaches swimming to elementary school students, chess to middle school students, and writing to high school students. Having been born into a family of immigrants and growing up in the so-called “Capital of Latin America,” Ryan knows the importance of diversity in our communities and is passionate about writing books that children of all ethnicities can relate to.


Simon & Schuster Webpage | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon



Giveaway Details:

2 winners will win a finished copy of CHARLIE HERNÁNDEZ & THE GOLDEN DOOMS, US ONLY. 

Ends October 7th, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week Three:


The Bookwyrm's Den

Review/IG Post


Two Points of Interest

Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post


Log Cabin Library



Ya Books Central

Guest Post or Excerpt


Novel Novice

IG Spotlight

Week Four:


More Books Please blog

Review/IG Post


The Momma Spot

Review/IG Post


The Real World According to Sam

Review/IG Post



IG Review


Mom with a Reading Problem

Review/IG Post



IG Review


Little Red Reads


Week Five:


PopTheButterfly Reads

Review/IG Post


Two Chicks on Books

Guest Post or Excerpt/IG Post


Lifestyle of Me

Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post



IG Spotlight


Feed Your Fiction Addiction

Review/IG Post