Otherworld: A YA Fantasy Adventure by Evan Ronan ~ Review~

Otherworld: A Young Adult Fantasy Adventure by Evan Ronan

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” –Albert Einstein

“Everybody knew I was the biggest daydreamer in the whole school.”

When you’ve been gifted with a wild imagination, anything can happen. This book is aOtherworld great example of where an abundant flight of imagination can take you. Readers are introduced to Aoife Finley, pronounced Eef-uh, daydreamer extraordinaire. The extraordinary events in the book all started when Erica saw the Lady in Green. No one was supposed to see the Lady in Green because she was a product of Aoife’s imagination. That was the first inkling that something was very wrong in Paxsum, Aoife’s imaginary world.

Aoife created Paxsum probably when she lost her mother many years ago. It was her
way of coping with sad reality, but was also a way to connect her to her father, who
wisely encouraged Aoife to use her imagination. Imagination created her first group of friends…Al the industrial-sized recycling container in her yard, B the barbecue on the back deck, and Rosie the sled. In the early days of loss, she talked with her friends daily.Otherworld quote1

Now that she was a little bit older, some of her classmates in school were her friends. Slob, a.k.a Sam, was her best friend. They could talk about anything, and he even understood her imaginary world and her imaginary friends because he was also fluent in imagination. His imaginary person was Steel Sunday, a structural engineer who went on adventures as if he were another Indiana Jones. Slob (a name given to him based on Bob the Builder) spent most of his waking time building things from blocks. He understood Aoife and so they spent time together, sometimes in silence that was comfortable. Others in her class were mostly annoyances such as Erica (nicknamed The Bank of Erica), Nestor (nicknamed Binky), Kris Miller (nicknamed Killer), and Robin (nicknamed Snail-smeller). Erica used to be a close friend, when suddenly she turned her back and became Aoife’s arch enemy. But it was these friends, when push came to shove, that saved not only Aoife’s imaginary world, but also the real world around them.

This book is one designed for the YA category. Because of some serious threats to
children in the imaginary town of Paxsum, I do not recommend reading this to children younger than 4th grade. It also may not appeal to upper age teens or older because the classroom scenario seems to center around 5th or 6th grade age-range interactions. I used to teach middle school age YA, and I believe this story is perfect for that spectrum. However, upper age students such as those who need lower reading level, high interest material would find this perfect as well.Otherworld quote2

Not only is this book about the imagination, it also features how friendship develops, what it is and what it is not, its imperfections, and its character. For the young readers, there’s a lot of action, imaginative events, suspense, and a little bit of danger. The author’s sense of humor adds a lot to this story. I loved the giggles and I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read this story all the way through. It was that good.Otherworld quote3

The one thing I loved most about this book is that it is not entirely dark in nature. So much of today’s literature is so dark, even among children’s books, that I’m happy when I run across something truly light-hearted and “childish”. Yes, there were characters with bad attitudes, but they changed eventually. Good characterization is also a hallmark in this book. Aoife especially had some life lessons to learn, but the way it happens is entirely painless to the reader (No groaning in the peanut gallery, please. I really do love books with substance). Two thumbs and two big toes up for this first work from the pen of Evan Ronan. I sincerely hope he has many more books like this to offer us!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade
Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and
Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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The Littlest Christmas Kitten by Leona Novy Jackson Illustrated by Kelly Dupre ~Review~

The Littlest Christmas Kitten by Leona Novy Jackson Illustrated by Kelly Dupre

Littlest Christmas Kitten

The Littlest Christmas Kitten is a child’s picture book which emphasizes the brief moments in a stable where something special happened–a baby was born–and only the animals were there to witness the event.

The illustrations done by Kelly Dupre reminded me of other picture books I’ve seen with a wood cut motif. Black is used as a contrasting outline color to the watercolor earth tones of the scenes. The cartoon-like drawings are light-hearted enough to catch a child’s eye. They are simple yet convey a great deal of emotion as the events unfold. The children reading this book would easily identify with the mother cat while she hunts for her missing kitten. In the meantime, the book successfully communicates the cozy atmosphere of the humble stable into which the Christ child was born. Without expressing the idea in words, the reader senses the anticipation of a few moments frozen in time: the tableau of the first Christmas.

Littlest Christmas kitten quote1

The most interesting part of the book for the adults is the section after the story which tell the story of the meaning of Christmas symbols, including the tradition of Christmas cats. This part is a great reminder to parents and grandparents and other caregivers to teach our children the true message of Christmas, that Jesus came to earth for a reason.

I highly recommend this picture book for your collection of Christmas related stories.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book from Book Crash on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm ~Review~

The Fourteenth Goldfish

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Who or what was the fourteenth goldfish? Well, the first thirteen were goldfish, of course. But the fourteenth was the impossible made possible, at least in this story.

Ellie had just entered the sixth grade. Everything was different yet very much the same–a different building and some new students but with the same attitudes she’d left behind. She felt like a nobody. She still sat alone for lunch. Even her childhood best friend had drifted away when her interest was snagged by volleyball.

The Fourteenth goldfish quote2

Then one day a new boy about Ellie’s age came home with her mom. Lissa was the school drama teacher; Ellie was used to students coming home with her. But this was not a typical drama student. His name was Marvin and he looked strangely familiar. He wore clothes we would associate with a 70-year-old man. He talked to her mother as if he knew her well. He reminded Ellie of her grandfather, who lived close by but whom they didn’t see often because he and her mom didn’t see eye- to-eye on much. He was a scientist. Her mom was an artist. Suddenly life became very interesting. Marvin was her grandfather in a thirteen-year-old’s body.

Perhaps because of her age, or maybe because of her grandfather’s influence, Ellie began to see the world in a different way. Marvin was interesting to talk to. He taught her about science and history–how big changes came to the world through inventions and discoveries. But the learning was a two-way street. Marvin had gotten stuck in a rut. He wasn’t thinking of the consequences of the experiment that allowed him to reverse aging. Frankly, he thought like a 76-year-old man. He needed fresh perspective, which is exactly what he got living with his daughter and granddaughter, forced to attend school with Ellie. Now, Ellie was a thinker, and she challenged him. In the end, all three learned valuable lessons from each other. Ahead of them, life was filled with possibilities.

The fourteenth goldfish quote1

The author writes this story from Ellie’s perspective. The humor is quirky, and sure to be enjoyed by middle school readers who like the off-the-wall type of viewpoint. The chapters are short and simple. Some of the chapters seem pointless and don’t move the story along very well, yet set the tone just the same. The reading level is low for a middle grade book so that I believe a younger good reader would enjoy it as well. There is no crude language in the book. Bullying is not an issue in this volume, and the student disparity is only lightly touched on. The book is written for entertainment purposes, not overly focused on the tough issues of life.

The author herself grew up in a home where science was a given. Both her parents were in the medical field. It wasn’t unusual for the cottage cheese and a bacterial culture growing in a petri dish to be side by side in the refrigerator. It was natural for her to incorporate a love of science into her writing as she did in this book. The theme is not overly intrusive or pushy. The author just uses Ellie’s natural curiosity and growing awareness of what the life of a scientist could be like to grow her character. It’s good writing. This is a book I would love a young scientist-to-be to read.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Random House Books for Young Readers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Zaci the Zebra is Very Brave by Pippa Wilson ~Review~

Zaci the Zebra is Very Brave by Pippa Wilson

Zaci the Zebra Is Very Brave  This book is available on Amazon kindles.

Zaci the zebra is very braveIn this bright, cheery picture book for toddlers and preschoolers, Zaci the Zebra leads a group of his animal friends on an adventure across the African plains. When a mischievous monkey leads them astray, it is Zaci to the rescue leading his friends home.

This book is written in charming rhyme and meter that trips along adding to the light-hearted tone of the story. For me, it is never too early to emphasize good character qualities in the stories we read to our children. Zaci demonstrates good leadership ability when he took responsibility to get his group of friends home safely. Discovering they were lost, he becomes an encourager when their fear overcomes them. He is inventive by creating several diverting games while leading them home. They didn’t have time to be afraid. He uses his natural abilities to lead the group back to familiar territory. And in all this time, Zaci thinks about others above himself. In the end, he even finds a little piece of himself that has grown up just a bit. Children will enjoy the happy, cozy ending. I know I did.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody ~Review~

Will in Scarlet by Matthew Cody

Will in Scarlet

According to Matthew Cody, author of this book, there really is no official version of the Robin Hood tale. The basic foundation of the folk lore surrounding this classic hero seems to change with the political climate often enough to suspect that perhaps the legend evolving over the years is more a conglomerate of characters and repeated among the downtrodden to keep hope alive. In any case, in his research the author found very little about young Will Shackley, a member of Robin’s Merry Men; he felt comfortable enough, then, to add his contribution to the plethora of tales about the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. I love the final product of this author’s fertile imagination. The story reads like a convincing historical fiction about the birth of a legendary character.

Will in Scarlet opens with an adventure that turns Will Shackley, the boy of 13, into Wolfslayer the young man, under the tutelage of Sir Osbert, an old knight in the service of the Shackley family. It was a time when boys had to grow up fast, especially young lordlings about to get kicked in the teeth by life. Will’s father, Lord Roderic Shackley, was at the side of his king, King Richard the Lionheart, sailing home after two years of fighting in the crusades in Jerusalem. News had just arrived of the capture and imprisonment of King Richard and his men. When Sir Guy of Gisborne shows up at the lad’s celebration, Will’s life is forever changed.

Will Scarlet quote1

The Shackley family friend, Mark Brewer, once a friend of the family, now Prince John’s appointed Sheriff of Nottingham, turns traitor and the Regent of Shackley Castle, Will’s Uncle Geoff Shackley is deceived and slain. Will and his mother narrowly escaped the ignoble Sir Guy through a secret underground tunnel and flee to safely. Will’s mother traveled to France and took refuge with her family. Will struck out on his own and ended up in Sherwood Forest where he was found by the Merry Men, nearly at the end of his life. Much the Miller’s son nursed him back to health. He takes up the mantle as Will Scarlet, eventually one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men. His adventures have only just begun.

I enjoyed the fast-paced adventures of Will and Much, the Miller’s son. The author tells the story so well that I quickly became engrossed in the tale. There’s suspense, danger, a touch of history, and a lot of imagination. The characterization of Will, Much, and Robin himself is well-written, each one maturing enough to find himself and the purpose for his existence. It is an appealing middle grade read, attractive for boys and girls alike, even to those who may be new to reading period books or historical fiction. I highly recommend it.

Will Scarlet quote2

One cautionary note: I found a tiny bit of crude language, something that would have been historically part of an outlaw’s language. But those moments are rare and not actual swear words. I believe most careful parents would find it of little concern. When my children were young, if I owned the book, the words became a topic of discussion and/or whited out.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Book Launch: Part 2 Incredible Edible Meg in the Medusa Eye Camera Obscura by Vincent Vinas

Incredible Edible Meg in the Medusa Eye Camera Obscura by Vincent Vinas
Incredible Edible Meg 1

By: Vincent Vinas

After looking for laughs in dark places with my debut novel, The Funeral Portrait, I’m now looking for laughs in silly places. My first children’s book, Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura, is part adventure, part fantasy, part steampunk, part sci-fi and all zany! In the peaceful town of Crabble Creek, the exceptionally devious Basil Blizzard wants nothing more than to be a “mad” scientist but he is missing one crucial element—he isn’t mad! His friends would probably describe him as fiercely sane, but he doesn’t have any friends. Nevertheless, Basil feels that like his ancestors before him, insanity will allow him to reach his full potential in his castle’s laboratory. Sounds insane already to me.

 

On the other side of town lives the most brilliant and kindest scientist, Dill DeMorrow. Dill doesn’t need insanity to achieve greatness, it just comes naturally. Some would say (including Dill) would say his greatest achievement was the creation of his daughter, Nutmeg. She is brilliant; she is adorable; she is made of cake. If that doesn’t make her special enough, just wait, there’s more! If you were to make a wish during the hour of your birth and blow out a candle that is planted in Nutmeg’s spongy little cake hand, your wish will actually come true.

 

As you can imagine, the moment Basil finds out about this he hatches an evil plan to obtain his elusive insanity through the use of Nutmeg’s powers, whether she likes it or not. This will set Nutmeg off on a journey into one wacky situation after another full of danger, candy and a snake-like camera that does more than take your picture.

Vincent-Vinas-Author-Pic-Wand-150x150

Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura is a silly escape for kids and adults alike who are in touch with their imaginations. Things aren’t always fun and laughs though and it’s nice to help out people in need whenever you can. Just as I donated proceeds from the first 45 days of sales from The Funeral Portrait to breast cancer research, I plan on doing similar with this new book. My charity this time around will be the Pacer Center, which offers help in many areas but the one particular area I’m focusing on is getting help for children when it comes to recognizing and dealing with bullying. Being a kid and growing up is hard enough without having to deal with bullying in any capacity.

The fundraiser has started May 22nd, 2014, and will continue through August 20th 2014. Our goal is to raise $1000 dollars. However much money I raise, Native Ink Press will match the donation!

 

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Book Launch: The Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura

Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura  By Vincent Viñas

Incredible Edible Meg 1

AUTHOR COMBINES STEAMPUNK, FANTASY, HUMOR AND SCI-FI IN UNIQUE CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE

Writer–and Pez dispenser lover– Vincent Viñas bakes up a sweet adventure that’s light on calories and heavy on wackiness, in his latest novel, Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura. Although Vincent enjoys writing fiction for adults, he finds writing for a younger audience even more challenging and rewarding. “My ideas typically lean towards the dark and quirky side but I’m essentially a big kid so writing material for children feels very natural and tremendously fun when I feel I have a story that young people can get a kick out of”, says Vincent Viñas. “This particular book gave me a chance to mix a number of genres I’ve always been a fan of and offer something that is hopefully new to some readers.”

The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura, the 1st title in the Incredible Edible Meg series, introduces us to Nutmeg DeMorrow, a very special girl with very special powers. Oh, yeah, she’s also made of cake. Vincent Viñas has a knack for making the reader feel very involved with the story by addressing them directly, thus creating the feeling that they’re not just reading but are actually being read to. “From a very young age I always loved sitting in a quiet corner somewhere and getting completely lost in a good book. However, having one of my school teachers read a story to the class was extra exciting because they could convey a mood that had you hanging on every word. The writer was speaking to us through them and it always made the story more memorable. By addressing the reader directly throughout The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura, I’m hoping that will create a greater connection between us and make for a more unforgettable experience.”

With its mix of ideas and genres, Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura explores:

● The concept of modern technology mixing with not so modern conventions.

● The idea that a girl made out of cake or a boy who is a living piñata is just as much a member of the family as someone born into it. Acceptance and a lack of prejudice can lead to much happiness.

● Friendship is priceless.

● Being a bully is no way to deal with people. Kindness is so much more inspiring.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to say there is a definite moral to this story but I think there are definitely important things to be learned within all the wackiness,” remarks Vincent Viñas. “My main focus with this book is to make children laugh and feel entertained—plain and simple. If somewhere along the way they can take something positive from this story and apply it to life for the benefit of themselves and those around them, I can’t say I’d be opposed to that.” Vincent Viñas has been writing since his childhood and has won numerous awards for his words, including such things as medals, certificates, publication, a private screening party for fifty friends and a guitar from one of his favorite musicians. Vincent’s dark comedy debut novel, The Funeral Portrait was published in 2013 by Ink Smith Publishing.

The Incredible Edible Meg in The Medusa Eye Camera Obscura is available at Native Ink Press and at other major online book selling sites.

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