Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: Jimi & isaace 1b: Curve Ball by Phil Rink

Jimi & Isaac, Book 6
by Phil Rink
Middle Grade Fiction
105 pages

A bigger field, leading off and stealing bases – real baseball! 
Jimi and Isaac are moving up from Little League. 
Jimi thinks baseball is a muscle memory game: you play how you practice. Isaac thinks baseball is just like everything else: the real game is between your head and the head of your opponent. 
There's only one way to find out who's right: PLAY BALL! 
Jimi and Isaac Books are strongly and unapologetically informative! Sometimes they read like an instruction manual, because the kids that read Jimi and Isaac Books read a lot of instruction manuals and non-fiction. They watch TV shows and YouTube videos about building stuff, and they don’t hesitate to tear something apart to see how it works. 
Our hope is that a focused kid will pick up one of our books for the stated subject matter, and then trust Jimi and Isaac enough to follow them into another area of interest. In every book, a problem presents itself and the boys need to learn and work to solve the problem. They fail constantly, struggle to recover, and success is often a less limited failure. The books are short and fast moving so more readers can succeed, but they are not simple books. They’re full of information and intellectual challenges. 
This book is perfect for baseball-obsessed kids!


Jimi and Isaac have been playing baseball for years, but now, they're playing 'real' baseball. Or so Jimi claims. Either way, Isaac seems to be falling behind. He simply isn't putting forth the effort in practice. After a discussion on the way home, Jimi and Isaac can't seem to agree whether baseball is a game of practice and muscle memory, or a game of the mind. When Isaac decides to become a pitcher, things get interesting.

Jimi and Isaac are all about baseball in this book, and not just light-hearted fun. Like the other books in this series, this tale concentrates on the various aspects of baseball—rules, terms and technical aspects—while keeping an interesting story up at the same time. Anyone who loves baseball or would like to really get to know the game is sure to enjoy this story. While Jimi and Isaac play and practice, the motions and game are described in great detail. Positions, throws and even strategic ideas coat every page, making this a very informative read. But it's never dry. The author does a great job of building this in to an interesting story.

Jimi and Isaac come across as normal boys, who have a good amount of curiosity and aren't afraid to take things on to find answers. They don't always agree, but their friendship never lets this come between them. Instead, they work together to find the solutions and learn quite a few things along the way.

Kids ages eight and up will enjoy all the information this book has to offer and, at the same time, will easily relate to Jimi and Isaac. At about 100 pages, the book is great for reluctant readers, and is fast paced enough to hold a reader's interest until the very last page. In other words, this is a book curious kids are sure to devour.

Find out more about the series:

Phil Rink's last book, Jimi & Isaac 5a: The Brain Injury, was awarded a Kirkus "Star" review and was chosen as “Best Books of 2015”.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Review: Dangerous Dramas of Dashing Determination, Willakaville by Bald Guy

Willakaville, Book 4
by Bald Guy
Middle Grade Fiction
101 pages

How will Craggleknot and Volta escape the dark military? Will the junk food army take over the castle? What happens when origami animals come alive? Find out now by reading the fourth book of the crazy Willakaville series. See how a talking cat rescues more of it's kind. Learn about a new kind of monster that terrorizes the countryside. Learn what happens to Veronica when she finds a strange box. More wackiness, more weirdness, more Willakavilliness awaits in this next entertaining book!


This is a walk to the odder side of tales, which leave readers thinking, wondering or simply cocking their heads to the side.

Ten short stories make up this book, and each one is as different as the last. But they do have one thing in common. Each one takes a twist into the strange, magical or wacky. Most of the stories start out normal. As things occur, however, the explanations aren't what they appear. Some are magical like an ancient box, while others more weirdly sinister such as a cat rebellion or a monster. The stories pull at the imagination and make it bend in abnormal ways, making each tale a treat.

The writing is perfect for ages eight and up. Each story is written from a situation or viewpoint which kids will immediately relate to. The characters are interesting and grab attention right away. But then these tales pull in from the very first paragraphs. The author dives nose first into each tale, making each one a fast paced read. Each tale also has a simple illustration, nothing overly exciting, but it's enough to break up the story and add a little fun.

Summed up, this is a fun collection for readers who enjoy unusual and unexpected turns in short reads. There's a little bit of magic, a dash of mischief and tons of quirky imagination.

All about Bald Guy. . .

Bald Guy is a genetically modified carrot-banana slug hybrid with mind controlling powers that allow him to implant silly songs into one's brain. He is the supreme ruler over his bathroom and garage. He grew up in the sewers of the city of Glop on planet Toidy. After receiving his degree in bizzarology, he continued onto a career of laziness followed by several years of goofing off. 

If you want to know more about Bald Guy, read his series Willakaville. By the time you are done reading it, you will have a better understanding of this monolith of galactic culture.

You can discover more at. . .

Monday, November 20, 2017

Review: Where, Oh Where, Is Baby Bear? by Ashley Wolff

by Ashley Wolff
Beach Lane Books
Picture Book
32 pages 
ages 4 and up

Baby Bear is back in this cozy, seek-and-find companion to the celebrated Baby Bear Sees Blue and Baby Bear Counts One.

When Mama and Baby Bear go out to look for food one night, curious Baby Bear wants to wander and explore. Each time his Mama Bear calls for him, Baby Bear turns up in a different place. Where, oh where, could Baby Bear be?


This is one of those books, which is sure to become a favorite.

Baby Bear follows Mama out of the cave to search for food, but the outdoors is so exciting. His curiosity has him peering behind trees, boulders and many other places where Mama can't immediately see him. Each time, she calls, 'Where, oh where, is Baby Bear?' and each page, turns to a fun game of hide-and-go-seek.

Young listeners/readers love to play peek-a-boo or hide-and-go-seek, and this book allows them to dive into that fun. Baby Bear is quite the character as he investigates the best hiding corners. Young listeners/readers will enjoy seeking him out and announcing exactly where that bear has gone off to. It's interactive and draws kids into a game they love to play themselves.

But this isn't only a fun game. While each spread turns into a seeking exercise, it also portrays the life of a bear. Subtly, young listeners/readers discover Baby Bear's habitat and learn what exactly bears love to munch on. The illustration bring the landscape to life, while incorporating a lovely dose of fun. Near the end of the tale, the journey of Baby Bear and Mama is mapped out on their return trip to the cave. This allows kids to test their memories and see if they can remember all the places Baby Bear visited.

Summed up, this is a cute, fun, yet simple read which is sure to lure young listeners/readers in and have them playing along again and again and again.

And here she is. . .

Ashley Wolff is the author/illustrator of more than sixty books for children, including Block City by Robert Louis Stevenson, Baby Beluga by Raffi, the modern-classic Miss Bindergarten series by Joseph Slate, and her own celebrated Baby Bear Sees Blue and Baby Bear Counts One. She lives in Vermont. Visit her at

Enchant by Micalea Smeltzer with Giveaway

 by Micalea Smeltzer
The Enchanted Series #1
November 17th 2017
YA Fantasy

Mara Pryce never imagined that her life was anything but normal and then a strange gray-eyed young man appears at her graduation. When he vanishes without a trace, she’s convinced he’s a figment of her imagination. Then he appears again and shatters her whole world.
Mara is an enchanter, part of an ancient line of Wiccan power, and a war is raging—one of good and evil—between the Enchanted and the Iniquitous.
The Iniquitous want her dead and it’s Theodore’s job as her protector to keep her safe.
When Mara and Theodore arrive at a safe house, where Mara will remain hidden while learning about her powers, they find that the real threat might be a little closer to home than they want to believe.

And here she is. . .
Hi. I’m Micalea. Ma-call-e-uh. Weird name, I know. My mom must’ve known I was going to be odd even in the womb. I’ve written a lot of books. Like a lot. Don’t ask me how many, I don’t remember at this point. I have an unhealthy addiction to Diet Coke but I can’t seem to break the habit. I listen to way too much music and hedgehogs have taken over my life. Crazy is the word that best sums up my life, but it’s the good kind of crazy and I wouldn’t change it for anything. 


Sunday, November 19, 2017

Review: Prince Dustin and Clara by Daniel Lee Nicholson

Deep in the Black Forest, Book One
by Daniel Lee Nicholson
Fossil Mountain Publishing, LLC
Middle Grade Fantasy/Retelling
299 pages

To escape the wrath of Egon, Clara finds herself Deep in the Black Forest. It is a world of mystery and magic; creatures and animals, fairy tale princesses, and a Snow Queen. Prince Dustin, the Nutcracker Prince, is determined to protect Clara from Egon. Vicious and vile, Egon is not far behind and determined on getting revenge. 
Clara, a sweet and timid 12-year old, soon discovers that her uncle is a wizard in this far away land and that he is at the center of the chain of events. This thrilling fantasy adventure re-tells the story of the fairy tale, The Nutcracker, taking the reader along for the ride…a classic for all seasons!


With all the magic of the Nutcracker, this tale pulls into an exciting adventure.

Christmas is approaching, and Clara can hardly wait. Her younger brother might be up to his pranks, and the whole household is a bustle, but when her uncle arrives with his presents, the magic begins. Clara finds herself transported to the deep woods of the Black Forest and to a world which can only exist in wonderful fantasy.

This is a retelling of the Nutcracker, and although there are original twists in this tale, the basic story line glistens through. Clara is 12-years-old and fairly mature for her age. She's timid, well behaved and adored by all. When she heads out into adventure, her warm heartedness and true bravery make her a lovely heroine who is easy to cheer for and love. Her relationship to the Prince sits with a mix of emotions, remaining in the style of the original tale. There's sprinkles of strong friendship, hints of a possible future romance, and even a dash of motherly protection and childlike awe. It hits the beauty and newness of a girl this age perfectly and makes Clara a beautiful character in so many ways.

The first chapters switch between scenes and various characters' points of view as two worlds, one of fantasy and the other more realistic, are introduced. This isn't the simple opening up into Clara's dreams, but a step between two realms. Each has history and purpose, and each is as real as the other. This foundation laying made the first chapters jostle around and came across unsettled as well as a little confusing. When the Christmas party finally takes place, the plot finds it's pace and the story draws in, making it hard to put down. Clara comes across several exciting and original adventures, which keep the tension high and exciting. Still, the beauty of the Black Forest and its fantasy inhabitants come to life through rich, but never boring descriptions. There are even several scenes where the more musical aspects leave their mark, and the beauty of he ballet plays in as a gorgeous backdrop. Despite all of this, the writing does stumble at times and breaks jostles out of the world for a second. Still, it wasn't enough to set the book down. The story, in general, is so engaging and inviting that it's hard to leave Clara until her adventures find their end.

Especially fans of The Nutcracker are going to want to grab this one and get lost in Clara's tale. Since this is the first book in the series, there's a promise of more to come—and I can't wait to see where the story goes from here.


Egon, spewing and cursing, trampled through the halls of the Castle of Bosartig. He was rage walking. All the mice in the kingdom that saw him from a distance backed off and quickly fled the other way, probably hoping they had not been spotted. Those less fortunate, quickly learned the folly of being in the path of a mouse gone mad.
Egon had already given orders to have all the mouse soldiers ready by the time he made it to the front of the castle.
The mouse soldiers were lined up row by row by the time Egon made it out to the castle’s courtyard. Many gulped when Egon appeared. 
“Mice!” Egon bellowed.
“Yes, King Egon.” The mouse soldiers shivered as they quickly knelt in unison.
King Egon thrust his sword in the air above his head. “We are on our way to the Ice Palace. Nordika thinks her army can protect Dustin and that young girl. Can she protect them?” Egon said with an evil laugh.
The mouse soldiers said nothing. They hung their heads low.
“You!” Egon hollered as he pointed to one of the mouse soldiers up front. All heads immediately turned. Some mice could be heard sighing with relief. Egon was not speaking to them.
The soldier Egon pointed out quickly ran forward. Directly in front of Egon, he knelt down on one knee and bowed his head. “Yes, King Egon,” he said meekly, almost in a whisper. Tears could be seen welling up in the soldier’s eyes.
“I remember you from our last battle,” Egon continued as he walked from side to side with his head held high. 
The poor mouse soldier softly responded, “Yes.”
“Stand and look behind you!” Egon ordered while he thrust his sword into its holster.
The mouse soldier jumped up and looked at the rows of mouse soldiers still kneeling with their faces partly lowered.
“Now, tell me what you see.”
The mouse soldier looked perplexed and gulped. In a shrill and confused voice, he responded, “Mouse soldiers?”
Egon walked from left to right and templed his sharp claws, tapping them together in front of his chest. “Yes, mouse soldiers,” he affirmed in a commanding low voice. “And none of those faces will be here tomorrow if we don’t get that girl and Dustin by the stroke of the next hour.”
Egon then charged forward. The mouse soldiers followed quickly behind him. Their long tails swished from side to side, leaving marks in the snow.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

by Emily Barton
Tim Duggan Books
Coming of Age/Fantasy/Steampunk
448 pages

Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith.


This is a well-woven, tightly packed tale which hits on heavy themes such as faith, power, the value of diverse individuals and justice.

Esther is the daughter of the nation's adviser, well-educated and more than aware of what is expected of her in her position. She's only sixteen but is already promised to be wed to another powerful family—a marriage she's excited about. Her country stands on the brink of war with a very technically advanced Germania, one she's learned does not treat Jews or captives well. She sees the mistakes her country's about to make, and she's sure she can help in the upcoming battle. But she's a woman and, as such, must remain in her place. In hopes of saving her country, her beliefs, and those dear to her, she ventures to a far away land where she hopes to become a man and do what she as a woman is incapable of.

I was looking forward to reading this. Esther is an interesting historical figure, who's bravery and faith is often overlooked. Mix that with elements of steampunk, intrigue and threat of war, and this promises to be an engaging ride.

The writing in this is very solid. The author does a fantastic job at bringing an alternate dimension to life, while maintaining clarity in the very complex layers of characters, historical elements and intrigue. Esther comes across as a compassionate but brave young woman, who's determination to keep her country safe is simply an inspiration. She's tough, yet warm-hearted and even soft at moments. Her curiosity and cleverness make her a character to cheer for to the very end. This, added with the entire question of women's place in a male driven world, give tons of depth to this novel. But sometimes, less is more.

While the author manages to masterfully maintain order in what could easily roll over into chaos, this book was still too packed for my taste. The historical elements wrap around each other, taking events and historical figures from multiple eras and fusing them together into one war. Each historical event was tremendous on its own, and this mixture threatened, at least for me, an overload. Add the mixture of steampunk technology and a dose of the feel of Game of Thrones, and it grows too rich. The last pinch of gender identity toppled it over the edge and made this a read I simply couldn't connect with. That the author is able to hold all of this together without a shake of doubt, speaks volumes about their talent.

Although this is a very well-crafted tale with tons of elements to promise an exciting read, it simply wasn't a book for me.

I received a copy of this one from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS!

Review: Spell Book & Scandal by Jen McConnel with Giveaway

Spell Book & Scandal

by Jen McConnel

October 31st 2017
YA Paranormal

Shelby King is tired of living in her sister’s shadow. Just because Christina is the most powerful caster in school doesn’t mean Shelby’s any good at magic; she’s a scribe, like her mom, and everyone expects her to write spells for her sister, the way her mom always has for her dad. But Shelby’s spells fail spectacularly, and by the time she’s a sophomore, Christina won’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole; their parents aren’t much better. Shelby is fed up, and she decides to show the world she doesn’t care if she isn’t as good as her stuck-up sister, or as talented as their powerful parents. In fact, she decides it’s time to break all the rules, magical and otherwise, and she starts sneaking out to meet Jeremiah Smallwood, the second-best caster in school at illegal pop-up spell battles around town. She may not be able to scribe for him, but she doesn’t mind letting him think that she could; Shelby’s been half in love with Miah as long as she can remember, but he’s never paid attention to her until now, and she’s not going to risk her chances worrying about a pesky thing like the truth. But when Christina rats her out to their parents, Shelby can’t control her anger, and words come pouring out of her that she can’t take back even if she wanted to, threatening Christina’s future…and Shelby’s own chances with Jeremiah. It’ll take more magic than Shelby’s ever dreamed of to set things right, but no scribe has that much magic…right?


High school and siblings become even more challenging when magic is thrown into the mix.

Shelby's sophomore year is beginning, which wouldn't be a problem if she wasn't a dud. Her family sits at the top of the magical pyramid—her older sister is on the way to be a great castor. Shelby should be a scribe, but her spells are miserable at best. When her crush suddenly takes an interest in her, she can't bring herself to tell him that she's lacking talent. But maybe she isn't, after all. Things start getting weird, and soon Shelby finds herself in the middle of a huge, magical mess.

This is a fun mixture of magic, crushes, sibling rivalry and high school drama with a teenage girl in the middle, who needs to figure out how to accept herself and deal with life. It's a fast-paced read with lots of action and spells. Shelby isn't comfortable in her own skin, tries her best but finds herself landing on her nose. The pressure from her parents' comes across familiar, as well as the uncertainty she faces when having to figure out what she wants to do with her future. There are lots of typical teenage problems, but with the magic added in.

The story flows well, not always perfect, but it's entertaining and isn't one easily set down. The relationship between Shelby and her sister is pretty harsh, and switches around a bit too fast in the end. The romantic interest also left guessing in the end. There are several familiar aspects along the way, but in general, it's a fresh, fun read. Fans of magic, romance, and high school drama with a little bit of adventure thrown in will enjoy this one.

And here she is. . .

Award-winning author Jen McConnel writes NA, YA, and nonfiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on her yoga mat or wandering off on another adventure. Visit to learn more!