A Father’s Broken Heart: 8-Year-Old Gracie & The Save A Soul Prayer Team Book 1 by Paula-Rose ~ Review

A Father's Broken Heart pic

A Father’s Broken Heart: 8-Year-Old Gracie & the Save A Soul Prayer Team Book 1 by Paula-Rose

Paula Rose Michelson is an author I have read for the past couple of years. She has written books in a variety of genres including thriller-suspense, memoir, non-fiction and a series of Christian romance historical fiction. This children’s book is a new genre for her; in my opinion, she has finally come into the genre that should be her niche. She knows children and puts this knowledge and heart to pen in these books. I am looking forward to reading more in this new series.

Paula-Rose’s book about 8-year-old Gracie and the Save A Soul Prayer Team is a breath of fresh air. Most children’s books I have read in this age bracket are sweet, but a bit too fluffy. There is barely a theme, much less a purpose. Paula-Rose writes terrific stories with plenty of action that keeps children’s interest. In addition, the characters in the story learn about God’s personality and His ways without sounding like a Sunday School lesson. In this story, Gracie’s heart is touched when a friend’s family moves away. She wants to be a part of bringing the family together again.

A Father's Broken Heart quote1

Some people may object that children are just not like Gracie, and they will not relate to the characters. I disagree with that. In the years past when I taught school, whether secular or Christian, there were always a few within each class that stood out as having an especially sensitive heart. In their own way, they inspired others they met, even in the classroom. Gracie has a tender heart and is always willing to do something to help others. It’s this heart that makes this story, and consequently the entire series, so wonderfully enjoyable. If I were a parent or grandparent, I would definitely buy this book for the children.

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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
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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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Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagan ~Review~

Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle by George Hagan

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle

What a delightfully fun book! Filled with adventure, legends, evil vs. good, villains, quests and young heroes, this book is a great read for both guys and gals.

Gabriel Finley’s world was a normal human world just like yours and mine (almost). There was really nothing extraordinary about it at all (that he knew of). Gabriel lived with his Aunt Jasmine in a classic old brownstone house in Brooklyn. It had belonged to his grandparents and was filled with odd-looking furniture and pictures of odd-looking ancestors, including a creepy picture of his Uncle Corax. Gabriel didn’t remember his mother because she disappeared when he was very little. But he remembered his father very well. He had only gone missing three years ago, leaving behind a mysterious note Gabriel’s Aunt Jaz had found. He and his friends walked to school every day. Gabriel wasn’t exactly hero material. He was even bullied once in awhile at school. He had no special talents except for one…he loved riddles. It was something he had in common with his father, who always said riddles were good for the mind.

It was one of those normal days where Gabriel was trying to get more information about his father’s disappearance from his Aunt Jaz when she finally relented and gave him his father’s diary, called the Book of Ravens. Reading it was an eye opener because it related an experience his father had when he was Gabriel’s age. Unknown to most humans of the day, ravens and humans had a history together. At one time, they were close friends. They spoke together as equals. Ravens sang lullabies to their friends’ babies and accompanied their amicus everywhere. They even went to war and served as look-outs.

But then something horrible happened to change the camaraderie to fear. It started with one bad raven who recruited other ravens to the same evil fate he suffered through temptations to become like him. Since then, there have been two types of ravens, the good ones and the evil ones. The evil ravens, called valravens were doomed to eternal torment and inner coldness, unable to die. To tell them apart, ravens would ask a strange raven a riddle. If the unknown raven laughed, he was accepted. Valravens never laughed. Their world was miserable, dark and humorless.

Most of what he read didn’t seem real to Gabriel until one day a raven chick asked him a riddle and he answered it. Then its next cryptic statement brought to focus all he learned in this father’s diary, “Corax must not find the torc.” It seemed the young bird, Paladin, Gabriel and his friends were destined for a long and dangerous adventure.

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's Riddle quote1

As a parent, an elementary teacher, and a tutor, I know this would be a book that would appeal to most boys and girls and young teens. It begins with humorous adventures as we become acquainted with Gabriel, Abby, Pamela and Soams. Then the story moves more into the fantasy arena when the young people begin to interact with ravens and those who befriend the ravens. Finally, we catch a glimpse of a grander scheme–the quest to keep a valuable and deadly item, the torc, out of the hands of Evil, and the rescue of Gabriel’s father. The story moves from light and entertaining to more serious and intense activity. There is darkness, but never despair and hopelessness. The story moves along at a quick pace, and tension intensifies in the final third of the book. I would recommend this adventure for fourth graders up to young adults, although I enjoyed it myself. The caveat I have to mention is that the valravens are referred to as ghouls and they do participate in some ghoulish behavior. This may disturb more sensitive readers. However, there is no crude or lude language, no swearing or major moral complications. It is a great epic adventure.

In fact, Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle is a book with potential, in my opinion, to become a classic piece of literature. Not only does it read like a classic, I believe this book would make a wonderful children’s cartoon movie. In its sweeping epic theme, we find the time-honored clash between good and evil, opportunities for young heroes to rise up and save the world, and a classic scary villain. There are world shattering stakes involved and lots of adventure, magic, and character building events. All the right elements are present. The scope of the story reminds me of the movie, “The Legend of the Guardians.” I think this tale could become
a similar type of movie.

From what I read at the end, I believe there will be more to this book in a series. If so, I’m looking forward to reading it.

Visit George Hagan’s website.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf 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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The Prince of Alasia (The Annals of Alasia Book 1) by Annie Douglass Lima ~ Review ~

The Prince of Alasia (The Annals of Alasia Book 1) by Annie Douglass Lima

Prince of Alasia

The Prince of Alasia is one of three books in this series written for middle grade and young adults. The books in this series are not necessarily written in chronological order since their events overlap somewhat. The other books are: In the Enemy’s Service and The Prince of Malorn. According to a recent post on the author’s blog, a fourth book in this group is being worked on now and may be ready for publishing by the end of this year. It will be called The King of Malorn. It seems that The Prince of Malorn is the story of Prince Korram and the events that lead up to the invasion of Alasia. While knowing this story would be helpful in understanding the end portion of The Prince of Alasia, the book can be read and enjoyed on its own.

Jaymin, the young Prince of Alasia, woke up to the sound of clashing swords, yelling and screams. His bodyguard and best friend, Erik, was alert instantly, ready to protect His Highness when Sir Edmend, a loyal member of the King’s Counsel, burst into the room with his own bodyguard. The four slipped through the hallways, running for their lives from the enemy attackers. Entering the secret tunnel under the palace, they moved quickly away from the conflict and into the thick woods at the far end. The Prince had only to look at the grimness of Sir Edmend’s face to know that his royal family had not escaped alive.

Sir Edmend took the two boys to the remote village of Drall and established living quarters with an elderly woman who had an attic room she was willing to rent to them. Prince Jaymin and Erik were to dress and act like the common village lads to blend in. There they lived as long as it was necessary to stay hidden from the Malornian soldiers.

Jaymin and Erik experienced plenty of adventures trying to avoid the enemy troops stationed in the village. They became adept at dodging around corners and into dark alleys. Eventually it became necessary for them to attend school with the other local children. To blend in, they had to act dull and slow-witted to avoid calling attention to themselves. The Prince did not like living a lie, but he had no choice.

After school hours the two friends sought refuge in the surrounding forest where they practiced their combat skills and continued their physical training. Back in the dismal attic room, they quizzed each other on geography and history and complex mathematics problems to keep their minds sharp and alert. Jaymin was getting his eyes opened to the deplorable living conditions of the poor in his kingdom. The old woman’s cooking was wretched and the boys often went hungry because she too often spent the money given her by Sir Edmend on liquor instead of good food. The Prince kept all his observations in the back of his mind, just in case he returned some day to rule Alasia.

perfect time

I enjoyed reading this action-packed adventure. It is just the kind of story that would appeal to middle grade young people. The author successfully creates a world with just enough historical background to make an interesting world for two young boys to live in on their own. There is a reasonable amount of conflict to keep the Prince and his protector alert but not enough evil to overshadow the atmosphere of adventure.

In addition to the creation of believable circumstances, the author writes warm three-dimensional characters with dialogue that fits the historical context yet easy for a young reader to be comfortable with. Jaymin and Erik’s witty and playful interactions allow the reader to get to know the boys and feel the bond between them. I found it easy to see that their friendship would be one that would stay strong over the years ahead.

While the two blended in at school, Sir Edmend disguised himself as a common merchant and scouted the countryside for survivors of the attack. He slipped in and out of surrounding towns to gather information, locating the kingdom’s armies and providing them with food and supplies. From time to time he snuck back into Drall to bring information to the Prince and check on him. But suspense turned palpable when it became obvious that the invaders knew the young ruler was still alive and had escaped the palace. The military started scouring the villages for him. The boys barely escaped an attempt to search the school they were attending. Would young Prince Jaymin survive to govern his people?

My favorite character in this book is Erik, the skilled bodyguard. By necessity, the Prince’s character was fairly predictable while Erik, in contrast, sparkled with wit. He was wise but mischievous. He was always alert to danger yet a risk taker. He was intelligent but also street smart and a tough and scrappy fighter. His character was the perfect foil for the more serious and cautious Prince. I couldn’t help but be drawn to him.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a free copy of this book from Smashwords 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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Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida written by Robert Scott Thayer Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos; Little Ray books by V.R. Duin ~ Reviews~

Kobee Manatee: Heading Home to Florida written by Robert Scott Thayer and Illustrated by Lauren Gallegos

Kobee Manatee

Kobee Manatee by Robert Scott Thayer is a children’s picture book written with a purpose. This 34- page richly illustrated book tells us important facts about the manatee that normally lives off the warm coastlands south of the US. Kobee is a West Indian Manatee, although they are called Florida manatees as well. In the fiction portion of the book, Kobee has gone up to northern waters for the summer. But when it gets a bit colder in September, he is ready to head on south for the winter.

On his way back home to Blue Spring State Park, Florida, Kobee meets up with a seahorse and a hermit crab, Tess and Pablo. They travel together to the warmer climate and experience a few adventures while we learn all about manatees with the use of little notes called “Kobee’s Fun Facts.”

Kobee Manatee back cover

The illustrations by Lauren Gallegos are warm, friendly and vivid. They create an inviting atmosphere for Kobee’s good-hearted personality. Young children will love the gorgeous pages with the deep blue color of the northern waters and the lively sea green of the southern and warmer waters. Fantasy and fact meet amicably in this work of art.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley, on behalf of Thompson Mill Press. 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.”

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray

The Amazing Flight of Little Ray by V.R. Duin

What happens when a critter asks itself, “Why can’t I?” This is a great story for those of us who are parents, grandparents, or teachers of little ones who sometimes ask us, “Why can’t I?” One day, our friend, Little Ray does just that. He wants to do something more…he wants to fly like a bird. His wise but worried mother doesn’t say a thing as he sets out to try his “wings” over and over. She knows some lessons in life are best learned through experience. Then poor Little Ray has a mishap with the very creature he wants to emulate. But he has a secret that he knows will solve his problem and he escapes without injury. While he plunges down toward his wet and sandy home, he becomes so thankful for the safety of the shallows off the coast. But even in his relief to escape, he still wants to try his “wings” again…sometime.

What can we learn from this whimsical story? It’s OK to try something new. It’s OK to fail and try again. It takes time and experience to learn what is
realistic to aim for and what is not. Some of our experiences in life tell us what our limitations are. Others encourage us to take a risk and aim higher. And it’s up to us help our children find a balance between learning from experience and learning from the experience of others.

I think children of pre-reading age will love this book read to them. The pictures are bright and cheerful, and will help to draw them into the story.

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Little Ray and Shark Patch Things Up by V.R. Duin

Solving problems is a very important skill for children to learn. Little Ray turns tense to fun. I found this to be a delightful story. It is written in the type of rhyme that has rhythm. It wouldn’t take much for the children to chime in. I know my own children loved meter as well as rhyme. As a former teacher, I immediately thought of many ways to incorporate this story into some lesson plans. It’s a great launch piece and you could move right into a lesson pointing out how inaccurate first impressions can be. Another lesson would be on cooperation in solving problems. Little Ray and the shark worked together to solve the problem. Everyone deserves second chances. The shark wasn’t such a bad guy after all. And so on. The illustrations are bright and cheerful and whimsical. They are going to catch your child’s eye.

Little Ray website

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God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera ~ A Review

God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera and Illustrated by Matthew Sample II

“He’s praying for us and preparing a place
Where we’ll live forever with the God of all grace.”

Gods great plan
God’s Great Plan by Melissa Cutrera is a beautifully written picture book for young children. The illustrations by Matthew Sample II are vivid, detailed and full of meaning. They convey a sense of darkness when discussing the origin of sin, then warmth and comfort when you read about Jesus’ life and purpose. The author’s powerfully simple rhyming couplets communicate the heart of the gospel message from the beginning in the Garden of Eden to Christ’s resurrection.

Cross Focused Reviews

Cross Focused Reviews

Grandparents sit up and take notice. Aunts and uncles, friends and family, I have a gift idea for you. Share this gorgeous picture book with them. When you want to tell the basic simple outline for God’s wonderful plan for man, begin when they are young. Knowing that nothing in life is left up to chance endows our little ones with a sense of purpose and security. Knowing they are loved and cherished not only by their family but also by God and that they play a part in His plan is one of the greatest gifts we can bestow on them. This book communicates the message to our children and grandchildren lovingly and effectively. I know I will enjoy reading this to my grandchildren some day.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Shepherd Press and Cross Focused Reviews (A Service of Cross Focused Media, LLC). 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.”