Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Grimwood by Nadia Shireen

Grimwood by Nadia Shireen
Publisher:  Andrews McMeel Publishing
Format:  E-book
Number of pages:  240
Publishing:   May 30th, 2023
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Sibling fox cubs Ted and Nancy live in the Big City, fending for themselves after their parents disappeared.  Nancy is older and kind of bossy, but Ted loves her dearly.  Then one day, they have a run in with a pampered pet cat, Princess Buttons who refuses to share the scrumptious chicken dumpster they get their meals from with them.  To make matters worse Ted mistakes her tail for a hot dog and all mayhem ensues.  Soon Ted and Nancy are fleeing from their home and find themselves in Grimwood where everyone seems super nice.  Nancy is kind of skeptical about Grimwood, the residents seem kind of weird.  But Ted, whose been ever so lonely finds himself a new friend, Willow the bunny.    Just as they start to settle into their new home, Princess Buttons tracks them down, threatening to use the Brain Zapper 3000 on our two cubs.  With a little help from their new friends, Ted and Nancy develop a plan to bring Princess Buttons down.

Grimwood makes for an amusing read as long as you don't mind some silliness, animals doing bad things (two animals are decapitated and one has their tail severed) or animals being placed in dangerous situations (stuck in quicksand). The black and white illustrations are sprinkled throughout the story and will appeal to younger readers, and who doesn't enjoy a fluffy bunny character?  Even the thieving eagle, dramatic duck, badger driving a jeep and squirrels playing Treebonk make the story even that much more fun to read.  There's also Eric Dynamite, a woodlouse who interjects himself into the story from time to time.  Sometimes to add levity or comment on events.  Give this to a reader who enjoys stories with wacky animal characters, hijinks, and one who can tolerate the revenge plot, and danger.  

Let The Fur Fly Releases 9/23/23

Monday, April 24, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson

The Firefly Summer by Morgan Matson
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Number of pages:  400
Publishing:  May 2nd, 2023
Source: Edelweiss +

Opening Lines:  "I could tell something was wrong the moment I came downstairs." 

Ryanna (Ry) lives in Los Angeles with her father, the former movie director turned screenwriter and his new wife, Ginger.  Ryanna's mom died when she was three and since the wedding it's just been the three of them.  Now that school is out for the summer, Ry has been looking forward to some peace and quiet and lots of reading, but then a letter arrives from her grandparents, the Van Camps.  These are her mom's parents and neither Ry or her dad have spoken to them since her mom's death.  They would like her to come to their summer home, a camp in the Poconos "while she still can".  

At first Ryanna is reluctant to give up all the summer plans that she made with Ginger and her dad but learning more about her mom's side of the family is too hard to resist.  Especially when she sees a picture of her mom at her age and the camp in the background.  Perhaps her grandparents can explain why they've been estranged from her for so long and what they fought with her dad about.  Maybe they even have stories and memories they can share about her mom.  Plus, Lake Phoenix sounds like it could be relaxing, a quiet place to read by the Lake.  However, when Ry arrives at the camp, she is greeted by all of her relatives.  Aunts, uncles and a slew of rambunctious cousins that she never knew she had.  At first, Ry feels like a fish out of water but as she gets to know her relatives and they begin to share their memories of her mom, Ry can't imagine being anywhere else.  Her summer begins to be filled with campfires, s'mores, swimming in the lake and even finding an unexpected treasure map that seems to be linked to her mom.  While at camp, Ry also learns of a feud between her grandparents and the family that lives on the other side of the lake. The camp is supposed to be torn down as her grandfather bought the land the camp is on with only a handshake, and the son of the camp across the lake wants to turn their property into condos.  With a little help from her cousins, Ryanna is determined to bring some peace to the two families feud and help her grandparents preserve their camp by finding the missing deed.

The Firefly Summer is Morgan Matson's debut middle grade book and it's such a wonderful summertime read.  Heck if you were reading this by the lake or at a summer cabin it would perfect.  I loved the whole summer home/camp feel.  The sleeping on bunk beds, eating in a mess hall and outdoor activities.  I also enjoyed Ryanna's extended family; they were an interesting group.  These were her mom's sisters and brothers and that she had the opportunity to learn more about her mom from them was so beautiful.  I also loved how the family was able to reconcile their differences, how her dad came back into the fold and how the feud was finally ended.  For Ry to be able to form a bond with her cousins was also such a joy.  I also loved the inclusion of the treasure hunt.  The way that Ry's grandmother shared her mom's mystery book collection with her and how it led her and her cousins on a treasure hunt.  Such fun!   Yep, like I said a perfect summertime read filled with family, mystery, adventure, sparkling with all the warmth of sunshine.

I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge's blog HERE

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner

A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner
Publisher:  Aladdin
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  368
Publishing:  May 2nd, 2023
Source: Edelweiss+

Opening Lines: "I always think back to fourth grade..."

A Work in Progress was the first book I read to start of 2023, and WOW what an amazing book it is.  I mostly know Lerner from his humorous Enginerds book series, but I really must commend him for writing something that will surely touch so many kids' hearts, a story that as he has stated previously is very personal to him.    

Will Chambers is hanging out in the hallway at school, like most fourth graders do, when he feels a slight tap on his shoulder.  Upon turning around, he finds Nick Fisher, one of the boys in his grade who decides for whatever reason to take that moment in the already crowded hallway to call Will "fat."  Not to mention that his three best friends are there to hear Nick blurt out that he's "fat and everyone knows it." Anyone who reads this story can surely relate to how that moment must have made Will feel.  We've all had embarrassing moments, but Will takes Nick's words to heart.  They follow him around; they weave their way into his consciousness and begin to change his friendships.  Will starts to wear baggy clothing, avoids eating certain foods, and slowly his self-loathing leads him to abstain from eating altogether.  Then one day while hanging outside, a new boy skateboards on by.  Will likes the clothes this new boy wears, his hair, the way he has pink fingernails, but most of all he likes Markus's confidence.  The way he does and says what he wants, and he likes that Markus sees him and talks to him like anyone else.  With help from Markus, Will begins to see himself in a new light and through sharing their stories and being willing to put himself out there, Will begins to experience a positive change in his life. 

Oh, this story, such a beautiful heart-tugging story.  I could instantly relate to Will.  His struggles will invoke all kinds of memories too, embarrassing moments, moments where a person's words hurt you (I still can't listen to Randy Newman's Short People song for the teasing that I endured).  Hopefully people who read this book will see that words can wound you, change your whole perspective of yourself in an instant.  On the flipside it also illustrates that an act of kindness or acknowledgement can make a positive change.  Words do hold a huge weight, it's important to think about the things we say.  Choose our words carefully and never use them to bring someone else down.  We carry those words into adulthood.  Often reflecting on those insecurities that they created.

I love that the story was told in verse, it makes it even more special.  It truly has the feel of following Will's stream of thoughts as if reading his personal notebook.  You feel his sadness, anger and his hunger, even his battle over his body image.  I also loved the artwork that is intermixed within the words.  How some words tumble down the page and others are written in big bold font.  But what will stick with me the most about the book is the message that we all are a work in progress.  Can't wait to get a finished copy in May to read it all over again. 

** A huge thank you to Sarah at Wunderkind for putting this on my radar, and Edelweiss + for the E-ARC **          

Monday, April 17, 2023

Blog Tour for THE CARREFOUR CURSE by Dianne K. Salerni + Giveaway

I am thrilled to be hosting a spot on the THE CARREFOUR CURSE by Dianne K. Salerni Blog Tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Check out my post and make sure to enter the giveaway!

                                                                                         About the Book:

Authors: Dianne K. Salerni
Pub. Date: January 31, 2023
Publisher: Holiday House
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 224
Findit: Goodreads

The Addams Family meets The Westing Game in this exhilarating mystery about a modern magical dynasty trapped in the ruins of their once-grand, now-crumbling ancestral home.

Twelve-year-old Garnet regrets that she doesn’t know her family. Her mother has done her best to keep it that way, living far from the rest of the magical Carrefour clan and their dark, dangerous mansion known as Crossroad House.

But when Garnet finally gets summoned to the estate, it isn’t quite what she hoped for. Her relatives are strange and quarrelsome, each room in Crossroad House is more dilapidated than the last, and she can’t keep straight which dusty hallways and cobwebbed corners are forbidden.

Then Garnet learns the family secret: their dying patriarch fights to retain his life by stealing power from others. Every accident that isn’t an accident, every unexpected illness and unexplained disappearance grants Jasper Carrefour a little more time. While the Carrefours squabbles over who will inherit his role when (if) he dies, Garnet encounters evidence of an even deeper curse. Was she brought to Crossroad House as part of the curse . . . or is she meant to break it?

Written with loads of creepy atmosphere and an edge-of-your-seat magical mystery, this thrilling story reads like The Haunting of Hill House for preteens. Perfect for late-night reading under the covers. 


 "A standout, genre-bending dark fantasy. . . . Salerni enlivens classic horror tropes and gothic ambience, complete with a sentient manor house, blending wry humor with atmospheric descriptions. . . ."—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

"Salerni’s gothic charmer is deliciously creepy and atmospheric, building an immersive fantasy world that gently explores intergenerational trauma. . . . An enchanting and evocative tale."—Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

"An inventive take on the supernatural that skillfully blends drama, humor, magic and mystery. Salerni's large cast of characters is delightful and each family member is enough of a rounded individual that readers should easily keep track of them all. The puzzle, spook factor and complex family dynamics make this a perfect book for upper middle-grade readers and fans of The Addams Family."—Shelf Awareness, Starred Review

"Interconnected mysteries keep readers turning pages, and when they all converge, the payoff is spine-chilling and satisfying."—The Horn Book

"Fans of The Haunting of Hill House or Schwab’s Gallant will surely stay up late at night reading this heart-pounding novel."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"A fun page-turner that touches on the deeper themes of family, identity, and what it means to pay for the sins of the past."—Booklist

"Spooky, dark, and enthralling. I couldn't put it down until every mystery had been solved." —Cassie Beasley, New York Times bestselling author of Circus Mirandus


                                                        The Carrefour Curse

By Dianne K. Salerni


Excerpt for Rockstar Book Tours


Excerpt from The Carrefour Curse / Text copyright © 2023 by Dianne K. Salerni. Reproduced with permission from Peachtree Publishing Company Inc. All rights reserved.





Color: blue- green, sometimes mottled


Magical properties: promotes physical and emotional healing, good health, good fortune, and good travels


To recharge: place in direct sunlight


You’d think spitting up frogs would be a lot like the worst stomach flu you’ve ever had, but it’s surprisingly different. A knot travels slowly up your esophagus and into the back of your throat. It hops onto your tongue, and then ptooey, you spit out the frog.

A quiet but disgusting bit of magic.

The frogs, each less than an inch long, haven’t yet filled up the basin in my lap, but if I don’t get rid of them soon, they’ll be hopping around the car. “You have to pull over, Mom.”

My mother wrenches her eyes off the road long enough to shoot me a wild- eyed glance. She’s taking this harder than I am, which seems strange, but I think it’s better if somebody remains calm. “Just throw them out the window, Garnet.”

“I can’t do that!”

“Why not? It’s not like they’re—” Mom doesn’t finish the sentence. She can’t tell me the frogs aren’t real. Hallucinations don’t leave a trail of slime on your tongue.

Which makes me wonder— where are they coming from? Are they magically popping into existence in my stomach? Or are they being frognapped from some peaceful pond and subjected to a situation that is probably as unpleasant for them as it is for me? Either way, I won’t throw them out the window of a moving car. “Mo-o-om!”

“Okay, okay!” She puts her blinkers on and pulls onto the side of the road. “Hurry up. The faster we get where we’re going, the sooner this will stop.” Even now, she avoids saying the name of our destination.

I pop the handle to open my door and tip the frogs onto the shoulder of the road. Go free, little guys. I’ve barely closed the door when Mom peels onto the road again and stomps on the gas. “Use the bracelets I gave you,” she says between clenched teeth. “Call upon the power of the stones to control the phenomenon and slow it down.”

“I’m trying!” But the bracelets aren’t helping.


About Dianne K. Salerni:

Dianne K. Salerni has written many books for children, including Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selections Eleanor, Alice, and the Roosevelt Ghosts and Jadie in Five Dimensions. After teaching elementary school for twenty-five years, Dianne now spends her time hanging around creepy cemeteries and climbing 2,000-year-old pyramids for book research. Visit her online at


Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub


Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE CARREFOUR CURSE, US Only.

Ends May 2nd, midnight EST.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tour Schedule:

Week One:


The Book View

Excerpt/IG Post


Log cabin library



YA Books Central

Excerpt/IG Post



IG Review


Just Another Teen Reading Books

Re-Post Review/IG Post



Review/IG Post


The Real World According To Sam

Review/IG Post


Country Mamas With Kids

Review/IG Post


A Blue Box Full of Books

IG Review/LFL Drop Pic


Brandi Danielle Davis

IG Review/TikTok Post

Friday, April 14, 2023

An Accidental Pirate by Brooks Almy

An Accidental Pirate by Brooks Almy
Publisher:  Bold Story Press
Format:  E-ARC
Number of pages:  324
Published:   April 4th, 2023
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Lines:  "Fanny knew she shouldn't be scared."

According to the authors note An Accidental Pirate was inspired by a short paragraph about Fanny Campbell that was included in a collection of short stories about female pirates.  So, actor-turned-author, Brooks Almy set out to create an adventure for Fanny.

The story takes place during the 1700's in Rhode Island.  18-year-old Fanny lives and tends to her parent's (now deceased) farm, with the help of Nate and Sara, a formerly enslaved couple who her father helped to free.  Fanny grew up learning how to sail, hunt, fish, to ride horses, and how to fight with a sword.  Her father was originally from Scotland and moved to the U.S. with his brother because of the Jacobite uprising.  The nearest family are her Aunt Biddy and Maude who want Fanny to move into town to get married, but she hasn't found the right man and isn't willing to give up her independence just yet.  Then one day a handsome Englishmen, William Marston Lowell "Will" shows up on the farm.  He has been living in town while his ship is being repaired.    Fanny is instantly smitten by Will and the two begin courting.  Eventually they get married, and Will promises to relinquish his command and return to her in six months, but the months turn into years before word of Will's ship being captured and his imprisonment in a Cuba jail reaches her.  Concerned for Will's safety, Fanny disguises herself as a man and takes work aboard a merchant ship, only to have their ship captured by the Bloody Rose, a pirate crew.  Soon Fanny is joining onto the crew, while trying to make plans to rescue the love of her life.  

Overall, this was an exciting adventure.  The story headings alternate between Fanny, Will, and chronicle Fanny's parents, her found family of Nate and Sara, special events like the Magic Chestnut Tree, Best Christmas Ever, and even The Proposal leading up to the Wedding and Beyond.  You sort of feel the passage of time by the different events happening around Fanny.  Oh, the mentions of chestnut stuffing, with yams and corn with cream sounded yummy.    I enjoyed reading about her daily chores, getting to know her family and watching Fanny and Will's relationship bloom.  It reminded me of say Little House on the Prairie meets Emily New Moon, and Enola Holmes with a dash of Highlander.  Fanny is certainly a spirited, resourceful girl.  She's sassy, adventurous and a little naive.  Not afraid to box Will on the arm and tease him immensely.  I quickly got wrapped up into the story and enjoyed revealing in her adventures, braving storms at sea, battles between rival ships, explosions and the ultimate planning of Will's prison escape.  Just a downright fun tween to YA historical fiction, pirate romance.  I especially enjoyed learning about the "posting of the banns" (which is the public announcement of an impending marriage between two people in a Christian parish), reading about Smuggler's Cove, the Boston Tea Party and the Son's of Liberty.  As I said, lots of fun.  

**A huge thank you to Bold Story Press for the access to an E-ARC. **  

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Adventure Kingdom: A Knight of the Realm By Steve Foxe, Pedro Rodríguez, Shadia Amin

Adventure Kingdom:  A Knight of the Realm by Steve Foxe, Pedro Rodriquez and Shadia Amin
Format:  E-ARC
Publisher:  Andrews McMeel Publishing
Number of pages:  160
Publishing:  April 25th, 2023
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Line "Step right up and get your tickets to Adventure Kingdom."  

A Knight of the Realm is the second graphic novel in the Adventure Kingdom series.  I had no difficulty in following the story, despite not having read the first book.  From what I can gather, the first book involves Clark and Karoline discovering an abandoned theme park that was once magical, they then use an enchanted coin and are transported to the magical land from which the theme park originated to rescue the park's creator, Karoline's granddad.  

Book two begins shortly after the events of the first graphic novel.  The park has been fully restored and everything seems back to normal, despite the magic wishing well being closed severing the link between the magical theme park and its magical land.  Then suddenly a knight appears through the magical wishing well searching for the one true hero.  It seems Clark not Karoline has been deemed a hero and his presence has been requested at the Forever-Ever Castle for a royal quest to stop Professor Porcus from selling his mind controlling snake oil to the citizens of Adventure Kingdom.  

Once at the castle, Clark and Karoline learn the details of their quest and figure out that the professor is none other than Hogswallop, the evil henchman of the Iron King (thought to be exiled after the first book).  Joined by a talking helm, Clark and Karoline begin their adventure in the Gym Jungle where they encounter a group of kids, whose parents are under the influence of the professor's snake oil, and who are trying to evade the Rawrs, feral stuffed animals bent on revenge.  Soon the group is adventuring to Backwash Beach, where they fend off Captain Nine Iron and his gang of Putt-Arrs, tracking the professor to the Carnival and finally locate the Sweet Suite factory, responsible for the production of the professor's snake oil.  With quick wit and the assistance of an unusual ally, their former foe, the Iron King himself, Clark and Karoline are finally able to bring the professor to justice. 

The Adventure Kingdom is another exciting graphic novel series from Epic! They're the publishers of such fun titles as Unicorn Island, Bright Family Vacation and Ninja Cat.  I think the setting of a magical amusement park will hold kid appeal.  I especially enjoyed the play on the locations, Backwash Beach and Sweet Suite.  There's enough tension with the baddy's, Putt-Arrs and the Organ Grinders to make things interesting and enough humor thrown in to hold your attention.  The messaging that sometimes adults make bad choices too was light and even the jealousy between friends was easily resolved by Clark making room for more than one hero.  I quite enjoyed the art panels by Pedro Rodriquez and the depiction of such fun and exciting settings, like the Midway, Carnival and even the Beach.  Overall, I can see this appealing to kids who enjoy Andrews McMeel Publishing's other Epic! stories and for fans of theme parks and knightly adventures.

**A huge thank you to the publisher for an E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.**

Monday, April 10, 2023

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with a review of Tiger Warrior: Rise of the Lion Beast by M. Chan illustrated by Alan Brown

Tiger Warrior:  Rise of the Lion Beast by M. Chan illustrated by Alan Brown
Publisher:  Kane Miller Publishing
Format:  Paperback
Number of pages:  120
Published:   March 1st, 2023
Source:  Publisher in exchange for an honest review

Opening Lines:  "The nearby village was filled with bright lights and laughter, but down in the darkness where the land met the ocean, something was stirring."  

It's the beginning of the Chinese Lunar New Year and Jack and his family are getting ready for the annual party at the Chinese Community Center.  It promises to be a night of food, stories, the traditional Lion Dance and fireworks.  At the same time as Jack is getting ready for the festivities in his community, the Jade Kingdom is also preparing for their celebration and the appearance of Nian, the lion-headed beast who devours children.  Each year, Nian's reappearance sends shivers among the people of the Jade Kingdom. Even back home, Jack is nervous to think of what Nian is capable of.  All the people can do to prepare for Nian's arrival is to place red decorations on their homes and make loud noises by banging on drums or by setting off fireworks, hoping that will be enough to ward him off.  

The Jade Kingdom is also looking forward to receive assistance from the Dragon Warrior.  First it was Jack's grandpa Yeye, then his father, and now that his father has been killed, YeYe is training Jack to take over his place.  This year it falls upon Jack to protect the Jade Kingdom against Nian.  Assisting him in this quest is Princess Li, the Jade Emperors daughter and his twelve Zodiac animal companions, each having a unique power that Jack can tap into.  Can Jack overcome his fear of Nian to help save the people of the Jade Kingdom? 

Rise of the Lion Beast is the third book in M. Chan's Tiger Warrior series.  I didn't experience much difficulty in following the story without having read the other books in the series but believe it would be more enjoyable having followed along with Jack's story from the beginning.  I'd say these stories are geared towards readers six and up who are interested in learning about the Chinese zodiac and the mythology surrounding Nian.  There's plenty of action and a little humor sprinkled in.  The illustrations by Alan Brown, featuring Nian and the Dragon King are done very well, and I enjoy how he highlighted all of the characters.  I also especially enjoyed the various cultural references to Chinese foods and the tradition of giving red envelopes with money or hongbao.  Overall, this was a very enjoyable read.  It reminded me of Jackie Chan's Adventures, an animated television series that was on Cartoon Network in 2000 that my kiddo and I used to watch.  Both sort of focus on battling dangerous demonic creatures and have ancient artifacts (In Jack's case use of a Jade coin to call up an animal from the Zodiac so that he can utilize their respective attributes and summon a portal).  Lastly, I enjoyed the messaging and the way that Rabbit (smallest of the animals) is the one who helps Jack to overcome his fears. Illustrating that even the timid can hold great strength.

 I hope you'll check out all the other Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday posts at Greg Pattridge’s blog HERE.   

*A huge thanks to Kane Miller Publishing for the paperback copy for my review**