Review: Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch

Title: Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch
Author: Shana Gorian
Publisher: KDP
Release Date: September 2014
Length: 130 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Children’s


31752229On a sunny autumn day brother and sister James and Mandy head to the pumpkin patch with their friendly dog, Rosco, to choose a pumpkin for Halloween. While riding a hay wagon, visiting a petting zoo, and joining the kids on a scavenger hunt, Rosco sometimes makes mischief. But when the kids find trouble deep inside the corn maze, will Rosco shape up and help out? Join the kids and their rascally dog for fun and adventure in Rosco The Rascal Visits The Pumpkin Patch.  Recommended for grades K-3 (ages 6-9). Includes 15+ black and white interior illustrations.

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon


my review

The Skinny

James and Mandy McKendrick visit the pumpkin patch with their parents and their fairly new-to-the-family dog. Rosco is a German Shepard and is a good dog in general, but he can get distracted easily. The McKendricks are known for their awesome Halloween pumpkin carvings. Mr. McKendrick always selects an overly large pumpkin at the patch, and the kids enjoy the petting zoo and corn maze.

This year the duo have convinced their parents they can manage the maze on their own. There are just two stipulations: they must stay together using the same punch-card, and Rosco must go with them. The deal is sealed and the kids set out only to find trouble deep inside the corn maze.

The Players

Rosco – an 85 lb. German Shepard, recently adopted, enjoys being off the leash, always gets up to some mischief

Mandy – 7 year old sister to James, likes the chickens,

James – 10 year old brother to Mandy, likes the piglets, doesn’t enjoy arguing with Mandy

Luke – 4 year old cutie in the corn maze

The Quote

Their giant jack-o-lantern would be the jewel of the neighborhood, every year. Trick-or-treaters would marvel at the size of it. Dad always loved the compliments.

So this day was about more than just petting zoos and hay rides for the McKendrick family. It was about finding another outrageously large pumpkin in that patch. It was about art and tradition.

As the holiday approached, the whole block at home would be anxiously waiting to see what new creation Mr. McKendrick would come up with this year. And trick-or-treaters would come from far and wide to delight in the spectacle on Halloween night!

The Highs and Lows

  • + Family. I love that this children’s story focuses on the positive values of family. I don’t think there are enough examples of this in reading as children outgrow picture books. This is the kind of family you want to live on your street, be your neighbor, help you out if you’re in a bind and list them as an emergency contact for your child’s school.
  • + Values. When James and Mandy stumble upon Rosco and what he’s found in the maze, the siblings step up. They extend a hand, are kind and compassionate, and stand up for someone who has been wronged in the right way. Rosco also helped with that a bit. 🙂 This is a great teaching tool!
  • + Funny. While there wasn’t rip-roaring laughter, I giggled in outbursts over the antics of Rosco and some of the dialogue among the family. It is cute and clean and light-hearted.
  • Plot. The plot spanned the course of one day and all the adventures throughout it. For the most part, the activities of each character are reflected in each chapter. The POV is 3rd person omniscient, so it might throw off younger readers who have never seen this before.

The Take-Away

This was a cute and light read for fall. What I liked most was the family doing things together and nobody throwing a fit or not participating. This is a great book to read as a family and can even bridge some of those conversations about what you like to do and can do as a family.

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 




8567620Shana Gorian is the author of the chapter series for kids, Rosco the Rascal. Titles include Rosco the Rascal In the Land of Snow, Rosco the Rascal Goes to Camp, and Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch.

Originally from Western Pennsylvania, Shana has lived in Southern California for 20 years. She lives with her husband and two children, and the real Rosco, their German shepherd, Rugger.

Shana attended the University of Pittsburgh, earning her Bachelor of Arts in English Writing in 1994. She then attended San Diego City College, where she trained as a graphic designer. She went on to work as a website designer in San Diego for nearly a decade. But she always wanted to venture back to her love of the written word, and try her hand at fiction. Ten years into motherhood, she published her first children’s book. Shana is an avid lover of the great outdoors, and is always searching for more stories!

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Treasured Lies

I was very excited when I received a copy of Treasured Lies in my inbox about a month ago. It released October 22 and is the follow-up to Treasured Secrets. You can read my review of Treasured Secrets here.

 Treasured Lies
Author: Kendall Talbot
Publisher: Escape Publishing – Harlequin Enterprises
Release Date: October 2015
Length: 224 pages
Series?: yes
Genre: Romance

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

The discovery of The Flying Seahorse, a 13th century shipwreck, nearly killed Archer’s two best friends. Now, with their recovery assured and his fiancée back at his side, Archer can finally hunt for the treasure that has haunted him since his father’s death years before.

Rosalina learned things about herself that she didn’t expect: her capacity to love, her capacity to forgive and her capacity to do whatever it takes to protect the people she loves. Shooting Nox with a spear gun saved Archer’s life, and brought them back together — this time forever. Now she’s with her fiancé, in the beautiful Mediterranean, with a real chance of ending the guilt that’s tortured Archer for two decades.

But Nox isn’t dead, and he hasn’t given up. Archer and Rosalina may believe that they are safe, but nothing could be further from the truth. What once was about treasure is now about revenge — and it’s very, very personal.

***** Review *****

The story and the adventure continues in Kendall Tablot’s second installment of the series. It isn’t necessary to read the first book in the series in order to read Treasured Lies, but I found it very helpful. It lays out the foundation and backstory of Archer and his mother, as well as the character Nox.

The book alternated chapters between what was happening on board the Evangeline with Archer and Rosalina as they search for Calimala treasure with what was happening to Nox, who did indeed survive his injuries and is out for revenge.

Archer and Rosalina are now engaged, and they have their full crew set up in the Greek Islands back at the very spot where the catastrophic attack had happened. With all that had happened, it drew a lot of media attention and they are trying to fly under the radar quickly.

I liked the description of the characters sprinkled throughout the book. They each seemed to have their own spotlight moments, which I didn’t expect since the focal point is Archer and Rosalina and Alessandro. This brings a fullness to the secondary characters and makes them more well-rounded and a true part of the treasure hunt.

Helen – Archer’s mother

Helen rarely ventured from her bedroom. She barely did anything, for that matter; she was a tormented soul, trapped in a horrific past that now consumed her present. 

Jimmy – Archer’s right-hand man

From the moment Archer taught Jimmy how to dive, all that changed. Sure, he continued to enjoy the rum and the card playing, but once he’d experienced the pure tranquility of the ocean, Jimmy was a convert.

Jimmy was as steadfast as an old sea dog. His morals were built on dependability, backbone and loyalty.

The only character that didn’t seem to have a share of attention was Ginger, the “cook” Jimmy hired in book one. As an interesting turn of events happens, Rosalina questions Ginger’s place onboard, and later so does Archer.

Some of the interactions between Archer and Rosalina I found odd, at least in the dialogue that they shared with one another. It wasn’t what I remembered from the first book, and seemed unnatural at times. The closeness and connection that they forged seemed to have lost its glimmer, even though they are newly engaged.

The more he looked at them, the more he realized these two men were not normal. Everything from their disheveled appearance, their foul stench and their lack of communication, led him to believe they hand’t lived a normal life.

Meanwhile as chapters alternate, Nox seems to come back to life, although he is living through a version of his own personal hell. Frankly, he deserves every bit of it. The irony about him being stranded on an island and held captive did not elude me. The irony builds as he describes and condemns his island mates. It wasn’t unexpected, but the nerve of the man! When he, indeed, is probably more noxious than they. His name matches his personality to a T.

With a crazy man with a helicopter and a bucket load of money who was determined to get his hands on their treasure, reality had slipped into a horror movie.

Archer’s deceased father plays a significant role in his life. He is the reason for everything Archer does, and also what haunts and torments him as well as Helen. As they work to uncover what is at the seafloor of the site where his father died, they are interrupted by his father’s nemesis: Ignatius Montpellier. Iggy is a man of seemingly limitless funds, an incredible reach and extension of power in various legal and political circles, and without any scruples whatsoever.

The plot is very fast-paced and doesn’t take a moment of pause, unless you count Nox’s chapters. As I didn’t like Nox at all, I quickly skimmed most of his chapters to get back to the Evangeline. I thoroughly enjoyed the treasure hunt and the discoveries they made. The discoveries and the history that Alessandro details or pieces together was exciting and heightened by the mystery surrounding some of the find. Not to mention the crazy, helicopter-loving Iggy chasing them down.

Two things that surprised me were the growth of Helen and Nox. Never would I believe Nox to come anywhere close to compassion, but he finds himself in an unusual situation where he could find himself staying. There was a lot more of his character shown in those short chapters than in the whole of the two books. Helen also grew as a character, coming out of her deep and traumatic shell. Although slowly at first, she ends up providing valuable information about Archer’s father and some of his treasure hunting history.

I found the ending fell flat for me. I was expecting the two storylines – divided by point of view in the chapters – to converge, and they never did. I was expecting more. Things were left on the back burner, as if they will surface fully in the next book. The final chapter of the book made it clear there would be another book.

I do recommend this book because of the adventure and the backstory that comes out about Archer’s father. There is so much more than what is just on the surface, and the crew is vigorously piecing together the inconsistencies of the past. Time is of the essence, especially with that bozo Iggy hot on their heels.

***** About the Author *****

7141844Brisbane author Kendall Talbot’s used to daydream about robbing the bank she worked in. Thanks to her husband’s gift of writing lessons in 2008 she decided to write about it instead.

An adrenaline junkie and mum of two Kendall says, “I love the idea of screaming and the feeling you get when you are about to jump.” Now-a-days she gets the same rush writing action adventure scenes.

Next on Kendall’s hit list is the Crime novel she’s long dreamed of. Yes she’s robbing that bank! Set in Brisbane in 1992 “Double Take” is scheduled for release September 2015.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Eclair Goes Geocaching

Eclair Goes Geocaching
Cover Front - Cover 1 150dpi

When seven-year-old Éclair goes geocaching for the first time, she finds a treasure that isn’t the one she imagined.

Young readers will discover what geocaching is all about through Éclair’s journey with her eccentric grandma.

This book will be hidden in geocaching sites around the US as a fun read for early readers. My hope is that young readers all over the US will learn what geocaching is through Eclair’s antic with Grandma Stella.

Here’s what readers are saying:
“This heartwarming, educational story will show children that even though things don’t always turn out as we expect them to, sometimes they’re even better than we could ever have imagined.” Mel Finefrock, Patchwork Poetry.
“I loved it. The grandma was modern and fun! I liked how Éclair was curious and tender-hearted! Their relationship is touching and realistic!” Cindy Nash, Kindergarten Teacher
“I love how adventurous Éclair and Stella are! I love geocaching and it was super fun to read about the awesome treasure hunt Stella took Éclair on.” Olivia Rattie, 8 years old
“Éclair had so much fun geocaching that I would love to do that too. I can’t wait to read about her next adventure.” Katrena Strother, 8 years old
“Bored? Need something more exciting? Do what Éclair and Stella did. Try geocaching.” The Simon Mates, avid geocachers
Book available from…   Barnes and Noble   Kobo

Find out more about Geocaching from HERE 

Also Available
Eclair Goes to Stella’s

Hi, I’m Éclair and I’m seven. My sister Meggie is two. When mom got sick we had to go live with Stella, my dad’s mom, the one with maroon colored hair. I begged Dad not to make us stay with her because she beat her horse and was going to eat her rooster, but he didn’t believe me. Even after I pretended I was going to barf, he left us with Stella.So there we were, Meggie and me, on a strange pink farm with a skinny horse, a mean rooster, and Stinky Stella who had a living room filled with dead deer heads.What would she do to us?Would we end up on her wall too?

Book available from……

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Éclair goes on a geocaching adventure believing it is a true treasure hunt. She wants to use the money for a new house so that her parents can be closer to her. What else searches for treasure but a pirate?

The Players

  • Éclair – a seven year old
  • Meggie – Éclair’s baby sister
  • Stella – Éclair’s grandmother

Stella is funny. She isn’t like other grandmas. Her hair is reddish-purplish like Meggie’s PJ’s, and it’s in a ponytail on the top of her head. It looks like a flowing fountain. She sings country songs really loud and dances around the kitchen. Sometimes she takes out her pans and wooden spoons and lets Meggie and me pretend we’re drummers in a band. We sit on the floor with her, and she sings into a pretend microphone.

The Quote

“We hunt for treasure that’s hidden in a box,” she said.

I imagined gold and silver coins, bright-colored gems, and fancy jewelry.

“Is the GPS that lady who talks to Dad and tells him where to drive to?”

The Highs and Lows

  • Éclair. She’s hilarious. There are so many things she misunderstands or misinterprets, but she has the best of intentions at heart. 
  • Nature Setting. I love being outdoors, and Stella takes Éclair on a grand adventure in the outdoors.  She teaches Éclair so many things about being outside, like how to identify and avoid poison ivy.  Everyone needs to know that!
  • Stella. We only see her through Éclair’s eyes, but she is one pretty cool grandma. Stella never loses her patience or gets upset with Éclair. It all comes in strides to her.
  • The Length. This chapter book is the perfect length for new and beginning readers. The chapters are short and quickly move on to the next item. Overall, the book is also short enough so as to allow readers not to become frustrated.

The Take-Away

I like Éclair’s wonder. Everything about the book is filtered through Éclair, and she can be pretty funny at times!

Recommendation – Buy, Borrow or Skip? 

Unless you are keeping this for a young reader, I suggest borrowing. Otherwise, buy the book series for those youngster readers.


About the Author
GOLD Medal WINNER in the 2014 READERS’ FAVORITE International Awards.
Bronze Medal Winner in Dan Poytner’s Global eBook Awards.
Winner of the Kindle Book Promotion Awards
Michelle is a fulltime employee of God’s kingdom, writing and encouraging writers every day. She’s often a sucker for emotional stories, her sensitive side fueling the passion for her character’s plights, often giving her the ability to show readers the “other” side of the story.
She grew up in the burbs of Detroit with five brothers. No sisters. Each time her mom brought the boy bundle home from the hospital Michelle cried, certain her mom liked boys better than girls. But when her brothers pitched in with the cooking, cleaning, and babysitting–without drama, Michelle discovered having brothers wasn’t so bad. They even taught her how to take direct criticism without flinching, which might come in handy with book reviews.
Michelle is living her dream–writing every day and thanking God for the stories He puts in her path. When Michelle isn’t writing she’s winning ugly on the tennis court. She’s known as “Queen of the Rim Shots.” No joke. It’s ugly.
CACHE a PREDATOR is currently hidden in geocaching sites throughout the US. If you’d like to see where there might be a novel hidden in your area, please log in to and search for trackables at IN SCRIBE–that’s Michelle.
Eclair Goes Geocaching


I received this book to review through Beck Valley Books Book Tours, all the opinions above are 100% my own.




Eclair Giveaway


Giveaway #1: A Premium Geocaching Membership (worth $30) 
or $30 GC / Paypal Cash
(winner’s choice)
Ends Sunday December 13th at 11:59pm EST
Open Internationally
Giveaway #2: A SIGNED COPY from Goodreads
(10 winners)
Ends Tuesday December 15th
Open to US

Review: Mike and the Dog-Gone Labradoodle

Title: Mike and the Dog-Gone Labradoodle
Author: Emlyn Chand
Publisher: Evolved Publishing
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 43 pages
Series?: The Pet Shop Society #1
Genre: MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Mike Adams has always been a pretty average kid. He hates homework, loves sports, and spends a lot of his day bugging his twin sister Maddie—because, after all, she deserves it.

But one day, everything changes. Nic Chang’s dog goes missing.

Mike, his sister and their two best friends join forces to search for the truth and, with it, the missing pet. Will Mike and Maddie find a way to put their differences aside and save the day? And just where did that dog-gone labradoodle go?

Put your thinking caps on and prepare to find the answers in the premier installment of The Pet Shop Society, a brand new mystery series for readers aged 7-11

***** Review *****

The Players

Mike – one of the coolest kids in 6th grade; Maddie’s twin brother

Maddie – Mike’s twin sister; Mike thinks she’s weird

Tyler – Mike’s best friend; the other coolest kid in 6th grade

Bree – Maddie’s best friend

Nic – the new girl in town

The Skinny

This is a very quick read for younger MG readers. The plot is fairly simple and predictable, designed with budding readers in mind. The classic element of friendship is present, and there is a touch of a crush going on among two characters.

Mike and Maddie’s mother owns the pet shop in town. It is Nic Chang’s first stop when looking for her lost dog, Baxter. Mike, Maddie and their two best friends resolve to help Nic unravel the mystery of her lost dog, and they start at the scene of the crime.

Mike and Maddie, being twins and all, don’t get along all that much. They are very different from one another and Mike sees Maddie as just plain weird. She doesn’t like sports or anything he likes. She won’t be friends with the girls he likes. But the one thing I appreciated in Mike’s character was that the worst he called his sister was weird, and to him she’s just Maddie.

The plot moved along quickly, and readers discover why Nic Chang’s dog went missing and what she has been up to herself. The team reassembles at the pet shop and decide they have knack for this detective business. And The Pet Shop Society is born.

***** About the Author *****

From an early age, Emlyn Chand has counted books among her best friends. She loves to hear and tell stories and emerged from the womb with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Her affinity for the written word extends to absolutely every area of her life: she has published fiction across multiple genres, oversees and contributes as both an editor and an author to theNovel Publicity Guides for Writing & Marketing Fiction series, and loves the written word so much, she even married author Falcon Storm! Don’t forget that she is the founder and president of Novel Publicity too.

The book that changed Emlyn’s life is Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson. It opened her eyes to the world that could exist if only she was willing to create it—a lesson she has never forgotten. Maybe that’s why she loves writing her Bird Brain Book series for children so much!

Emlyn’s first novel, Farsighted, won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category. She now writes most of her fiction under her real name, Melissa Storm.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Magelica’s Voyage –The Rescue

Title: The Rescue
Author: Louise Courey Nadeau
Publisher: Magelica Inc.
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 48 pages
Series?: Magelica’s Voyage #2
Genre: Children’s

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

When Magelica dreams of the prince lost on a deserted island, she realizes that it could lead to his rescue. She returns to the Isle of Dreams to tell Queen Raya what she knows. Can they save Prince Will before it’s too late? Will the power of laughter and love be enough?

* Available in English / French / Spanish *

***** Book Preview *****

***** Review *****

The Players

Magelica – a green-haired, winged girl; on a journey to save Prince William

Gri – Magelica’s loving caretaker

Tris – Magelica’s pet dragon

Odin – messenger of the Isle of Dreams

Wally – the wizard of the Isle of Dreams

Queen Raya – ruler of Isle of Dreams; kind to Magelica; searching for her lost son

Prince William – Queen Raya’s son; missing for 9 days


This second installment in the Magelica series continues to build upon the first book. The chapters have gotten a little longer, but are still manageable for young independent readers beginning the transition into chapter books. The illustrations are just as beautiful as in the first book.

The story also builds upon itself. At the end of Magelica’s Voyage, Magelica returns home knowing one day she’ll go back to the Isle of Dreams. Who knew it would happen so soon?

Through a dream, Magelica realizes Prince William is lost and stranded. She and Tris quickly return to the Isle of Dreams to convene with Queen Raya. It is the beginning of a rescue plan, but all of the people of the island will need to be reminded what it is to laugh and love again.

Magelica’s bravery leads her closer to her own personal quest to find out who she is.

***** About the Author *****

Louise Courey Nadeau

Passionate about empowering and inspiring children around the world, Louise Courey Nadeau, born and raised in Montreal, Canada, and mother of two girls and two boys created her first fairy tale Magelica’s Voyage, with the second book in the series, The Rescue, launched June 2015.

“Through life’s trials and tribulations, I always believed I could. With theMagelica book series my goal is to take young girls and their parents and teachers on empowering adventures and to inspire and encourage them to believe that they are amazing just the way they are, and to discover the power of love, positivity, and believing in themselves.

Magelica’s Voyage is inspired by my life, my family, and the special people and places I love”, says Courey Nadeau. “All of the characters in the story, including Magelica are reflections of the person I am- the wacky part, the funny part, the philosopher, the teacher, the caretaker, the chosen mom, the giver, and of course the dreamer. What would Magelica do, I often ask, and I get the answer. When you fly with Magelica, the possibilities are endless and there is magic all around.”

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review: Magelica’s Voyage

Title: Magelica’s Voyage
Author: Louise Courey Nadeau
Publisher: Magelica Inc.
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 48 pages
Series?: Magelica’s Voyage #1
Genre: Children’s

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

Who ever heard of a girl being hatched from an egg the colour of sapphires? Magelica doesn’t know where she came from or who she really is. But when she’s transported to the Isle of Dreams in a flying bathtub, she launches into an adventure of discovery, and learns that wonderful things can happen when she uses her imagination, believes, opens her heart and trusts in love. Come fly with her and discover for yourself the power of imagination, gratitude, believing in yourself, and love! In this special first voyage, fantasy, adventure, magical illustrations, empowering messages, and a wonderful cast of enchanting characters come together as Magelica takes young girls and the special people in their lives on a fun, inspiring voyage about making your life magical.

* Available in English / French / Spanish *

***** Book Preview *****

***** Review *****

The Players

Magelica – a green-haired, winged girl hatched from a sapphire egg; wears a feather necklace; wonders where she came from

Gri – Magelica’s loving caretaker

Tris – Magelica’s pet dragon

Odin – a purple fuzz ball with crazy eyes from the Isle of Dreams

Wally – the wizard of the Isle of Dreams

Queen Raya – ruler of Isle of Dreams; kind to Magelica; searching for her lost son


The chapters are extraordinarily short – a couple pages (with full illustrations) at most. This is structured perfectly for a beginning independent reader getting ready for chapter books.

Magelica is a beautiful character, in illustration and heart. She wonders about her origins, and as always, Gri is open to telling the tale of how she was found in her sapphire egg by the Gatherers twelve years before. She wears a feather necklace, made out of a feather that she was found with.

One night while taking her bath, Magelica and Tris are whisked away in the flying tub. The magical feather is the key to Odin finding Magelica. He whisks her off on an adventure to save the Isle of Dreams, and Magelica learns it is the magic of fairies and that she must get Turtle moving to find the prince.

Magelica is kind and sensitive to Turtle’s feelings, and learns a wonderful lesson of what she needs to do to make of herself. She knows she will once again return to the Isle of Dreams.

I loved Magelica’s character. She is open and kind and sweet. Even when upended, she makes the best of the situation.

The illustrations are superb and flow with the story well.I particularly like the character forms of Magelica, Tris and Odin. Magelica’s illustration reminds me of a younger Odette from The Swan Princess. –>

This is the beginning of a beautiful coming-of-age story. Magelica discovers that wonderful things can happen when she uses her imagination, believes, opens her heart and trusts in love.

***** About the Author *****

Louise Courey Nadeau

Passionate about empowering and inspiring children around the world, Louise Courey Nadeau, born and raised in Montreal, Canada, and mother of two girls and two boys created her first fairy tale Magelica’s Voyage, with the second book in the series, The Rescue, launched June 2015.

“Through life’s trials and tribulations, I always believed I could. With theMagelica book series my goal is to take young girls and their parents and teachers on empowering adventures and to inspire and encourage them to believe that they are amazing just the way they are, and to discover the power of love, positivity, and believing in themselves.

Magelica’s Voyage is inspired by my life, my family, and the special people and places I love”, says Courey Nadeau. “All of the characters in the story, including Magelica are reflections of the person I am- the wacky part, the funny part, the philosopher, the teacher, the caretaker, the chosen mom, the giver, and of course the dreamer. What would Magelica do, I often ask, and I get the answer. When you fly with Magelica, the possibilities are endless and there is magic all around.”

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Review + Giveaway: Westly

Title: Westly: A Spider’s Tale
Author: Bryan Beus
Publisher: Shadow Mountain
Release Date: September 2015
Length: 176 pages
Series?: no
Genre: MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon

This is tale of a caterpillar named Westly who is destined to be a Monarch butterfly and the next king of the butterfly kingdom. But sometimes things don’t turn out the way we plan. When Westly emerges from his cocoon he is nothing like he expected. As a spider he must rediscover who he is. Adopted by the “dirt eaters,” Westly is determined to make a difference. He is determined to belong, to be loved, and most importantly, to become who he was born to be.

***** Review *****

The Skinny

Westly is a young caterpillar and the son of the king Monarch butterfly. He is intent on being the best butterfly he can be, but when he emerges from his cocoon it is not at all the transformation he wanted.  He is no butterfly, much to the shock of the butterflies in the chandelier of the menagerie. Instead of becoming the butterfly princeling, Westly is adopted down below by the “dirt eaters.” He is so unsure of himself and only wants to help, but he must learn how to use his new talents and make new friends in order to do so.

The Players

Westly – a young caterpillar-turned-spider trying to discover who he is

Sara – Westly’s closest caterpillar friend

Mr. Dragonfly – leader of the gardeners (“dirt eaters”)

Zug Zug – a fly and one of the gardeners

Mr. Raven – Westly’s raven friend who lives outside the menagerie

First Impressions

The cover and the synopsis sounded adorable. I knew to expect some type of coming-of-age story with an emphasis on differences.

Second Thoughts

The story – and Westly – are quite cute. This is definitely a story that speaks to a younger reading audience. The characters are all bugs and insects living in a menagerie.

“Dirt eater!” a classmate yelled, pointing at the empty air.

“Where?” Sara dropped her ivy and jumped to her feet. There was nothing to see, but the other caterpillars still formed a mock battalion.

Assuming it was part of a game, Sara played along. She gasped, putting her hands on her cheeks, and then called out, “Intruders! Fire the sprinklers!” And with that she ran off with the other caterpillars. 

Although the butterflies and the gardeners both live within the menagerie, there is a serious species divide. The butterflies live in the beautiful chandelier and are quite disdainful and snobbish about the creatures who live below on the ground. They refer to the gardeners as “dirt eaters,” who in turn refer to the butterflies as “fuzzheads.”

Since he had been a child, the sparkling chandelier had been the place he called home, the place where he thought he belonged. But his friends and family glaring at him in shock and disgust was more than he could bear.

After Westly’s botched transformation that lands him as an eight-legged arachnid, he traverses from the chandelier he has lived in all his life with the butterflies down to the ground floor with an eclectic group of insects.  Westly does not look like a butterfly so he no longer fits in at the chandelier. The embarrassment is enough to force him to find a home elsewhere. Westly looks like he fits in much better with the gardeners, but he struggles to actually fit into the gardener’s culture.

Living in the chandelier was the high life. When Westly first bumps into the rough-and-tumble group of gardeners, it is not what he would have expected of them. The perceptions he’s had of the “dirt eaters” all his life are nothing like the hard working gardeners he meets. As Westly struggles to find his way and find out who he is, he sets out on a little journey of his own.

Westly licked his lips and tapped his hands together. While he had always known there was a world outside the menagerie, it had never occurred to Westly that he would ever explore it. 

Westly makes all manner of new friends, including Mr. Raven who lives outside of the menagerie. The raven helps Westly understand who – or rather, what – he is; he teaches Westly how to be a spider and to use his abilities. Westly finds strength and comfort in this new friendship.

Even though Westly is settling in his role within the gardeners and continuing to learn about being a spider, there is a darkness that will strike the menagerie. Westly – the one creature who has lived in both worlds within the menagerie – is the only one who can set things right.

There is a defined lesson in Westly’s story that comes to be embodied in the creatures of the menagerie. Westly shows the “fuzzheads” and the “dirt eaters” that it is OK to be different. Sometimes it takes diversity to come together and solve problems for the good of all.

This is a great read for teaching a few life lessons to youngsters about judging others, differences, diversity and problem solving. Westly features a sense of adventure and courage, with themes that will appeal to young readers. It is a great read about diversity and differences.

***** About the Author *****

Bryan Beus – which rhymes with Zeus – is the winner of the Kirchoff/Wohlberg Award from The New York Society of Illustrators. He works full time as an illustrator for magazines, book covers, film and game conceptual art, and more. When not writing and drawing, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Amanda, mindful meditation, drinking root beer floats, and eating far too many Sour Patch Watermelons. Westly is his debut novel.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

$25 Amazon eGift Card or Paypal Cash
Ends 10/15/15

Review + Giveaway: Citadel of the Sky


Welcome to my tour stop for Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas! This is an adult epic fantasy (clean and appropriate for YA readers) and the tour runs June 1-12 with reviews only. As you can see, I am one of the first stops on the tour, so I hope you enjoy and check out the rest of what’s to follow on the tour schedule.

CitadelOfTheSkyBookImageTitle: Citadel of the Sky
Author: Chrysoula Tzavelas
Publisher: dreamfarmer press
Release Date: May 2015
Length: 162 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Fantasy

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

Her (not very) Serene Highness Princess Tiana tries her best not to think about the dark lords ravaging her country or how the magic in her bloodline makes her family go mad. The descendant of a legendary hero, she prefers bringing the myths of old to life on the theater stage, not on the battlefield.

Then a rash of suspicious deaths strikes the Regents—trusted advisors, friends, and guides to her troubled royal family—and the Noble’s Council tries to cover it all up. Tiana is determined to get to the bottom of the murders and the conspiracy, even if that means making a dangerous pact with a telepathic demon trapped in a magical sword. But he may just be the edge she needs to save the people she loves.Cursed sword in hand, Tiana and her friends prepare to face the encroaching darkness­—and the ultimate truth about her and her family.

***** Review *****

Great-Uncle Jant’s Regent died of old age, and Cousin Cathay’s Regent was thrown from his horse, and Uncle Yithiere’s Regent had a heart attack, but it was all just bad luck until the King’s Regent died. It took more than bad luck to tear somebody’s arm off. It took a fiend, or a team of horses, or somebody really spiteful.

Those are some pretty powerful words, and the opening paragraph of the book. Citadel of the Sky is an intriguing mix of royalty, politics, history, conspiracy and suspicion. It also has an immense fantasy aspect.

Despite having these wonderful elements, I struggled getting started. The author could have done a better job front-loading readers with the basics of Tiana’s world, the phantasmagory and the creatures. All of the characters were quickly thrown at readers, and for a while it was hard to make the connections between them. I discovered that there was a characters list and a family tree in the back of the book. It would have helped me tremendously if I’d seen it before I started reading.

However, don’t be fooled. The plot is strong and filled with imagination. Tzavelas definitely put creativity to the test, and the action builds and then hits a crescendo and becomes very fast-paced.

The characters are what make the story worthwhile. They are interesting, complex, and for a royal family in the midst of troubled times, resilient. The royal family (the Blood) are blessed with magic, but a magic that leads to madness. It is all very psychological and readers get to see this first-hand. The characters work together to protect the Blood and to discover the inconsistencies in which they all grew up knowing as truth.

There is a fairly wide cast of characters, and the POV shifts between Tiana and Kiar. Like the rest of the royal family members and attendants, they each have a role throughout the book. I feel that those who were prominently featured will have bigger roles in the following installments. I enjoyed the deviation from the female character trope of strength and perfection in order for them to be interesting. Each female character has her own set of flaws, and these anomalies are what makes each one her own person and not a hazy, glossed over character in the background.

Tiana is the main character of the novel, but she is by far not the main focus. She is a young woman who resents being seen and treated as fragile, and she tries to act normal. Her counterpart, Kiar, is a very introverted character. On the exterior she is poised and in control, of course by doing those introverted things such as avoiding others and emotions, but on the inside she is consumed with self-doubt.

Tiana’s father, King Shonathan, just kind of drifts along throughout life trying to avoid any painful memories. Another royal cousin, Shanasee, has the greatest magical power of any of the royals. Despite having the most intense and powerful magic, Shanasee refuses to use it due to the horrific results of her actions while trying to end the previous magical threat to their kingdom.

We have Regents, who are our keepers, and we need them, because we can’t control ourselves, because we are mad, lost, cursed. 

The Regents are another complexity within the book and royal clan. They are in a strange area of gray, where they are not royal, they are not court attendants or followers, and they are not commoners. Instead, the Regents substantiate the royals as friend and relative. They also fall along the lines of a caregiver in many ways. Those selected as Regents grew up alongside the royals and they serve to help the royals control their magic.

After a time she heard, **Do not banish me from your hand. It would not help you. You will hear my voice, no matter how far you go.**

Now the sword sounded desperate, and she felt the barest twinge of pity. But she said, “Cathay is drawn to swords, and when I’m lost in the phantasmagory, I’m unpredictable.” She considered, and added, “Besides, you just stole my body. I don’t want you near me.” 

The middle of the book is where I was hooked – particularly Tiana’s budding relationship with the magical sword, Jinriki, sent to protect and teach Tiana. It can read Tiana’s mind, her thoughts, and also respond in kind. They get off to a rocky start, but their banter is crafted well and quite a draw.

**…In any case, you are my bearer now, and pretty princesses are far more likely to encounter unwanted suitors, in many forms than thieves.**

“What about wanted suitors?” 

**Do you desire suitors?**

“Well, yes!”

**Ah. That could be awkward.**

The ending fell slightly flat for me. Personally, I don’t typically like cliffhangers, and the book closed on a major cliffhanger that just wasn’t satisfying. I wanted things to be a little bit more clearly defined, but this makes me confident that the second installment will start off with a bang.

***** About the Author *****

As an Air Force kid, Chrysoula went to twelve schools in twelve years and spent a lot of time wondering what made people tick. Books, it turned out, helped with that question. These days she lives in the Pacific Northwest with her family, which includes many small and demanding creatures who fight over her attention. Her first book, urban fantasy MATCHBOX GIRLS, was published in 2012 by the small press Candlemark & Gleam, followed annually by two more books in the same SENYAZA Series, all of which explore the impact of the supernatural on those who are— or who want to be— ordinary. Her next book, CITADEL OF THE SKY, is the first of a new series about the descendants of a Chosen One and the legacy of power and mental illness they’ve inherited. It’s also about Dark Lords and kicking butt in nice dresses.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

***** Giveaway *****

The author will be giving away $10 Gift Card to online bookseller of choice (INT) to three winners of the below Rafflecopter.  The giveaway ends June 16th.

Click here to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway!

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

Review: A Scaly Tale

Title: A Scaly Tale
Author: Kara Wilkins
Publisher: Ripley Publishing
Release Date: May 2010
Length: 125 pages
Series?: Ripley Bureau of Investigation #1
Genre: MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

The Florida swamplands are home to hungry gators, wild electrical storms, and a most unusual creature. Sightings of a strange lizard-like animal reach Ripley High and the RBI are sent to investigate. During their search, the RBI agents find themselves in the middle of a high-speed airboat chase, a swarm of rats, a mysterious treasure hunt, and DUL agents in disguise. But then that’s nothing unusual when you’re a member of the RBI!

***** Review *****

This is the first in the Ripley Bureau of Investigation series, also known as RBI: Fact or Fiction?. The RBI team is made up of a group of teenagers with a wide range of abilities and talents that are quite extraordinary. They are members of the elite and top secret RBI team at their school, Ripley High School, which is located in the home of Robert Ripley (creator of Ripley’s Believe It or Not!) on an island off of the East Coast.

The RBI team operates in similar fashion to that of the pals of Scooby Doo, except there’s no dog and only a few investigators are sent on each mission. The selection process for each mission is grounded in the student’s talents and abilities. Those who have the best to offer for each mission are the ones who are sent. Their objective for each mission is to investigate, gather information and determine if it is fact or fiction.

In this first installment, the investigators are sent to the swamplands of Florida to uncover the mystery surrounding the strange reports of a lizard-like man.  Jack, Zia and Kobe are all assigned to comb the Everglades for another sighting of the larger-than-life lizard.

Jack is a 14 year-old from Australia. He grew up on an animal park and has an uncanny bond with animals. He can “talk” with any creature.

Zia is a 13 year-old girl who was the only survivor of a tropical storm that destroyed her village. She was a baby then, and as a result of the storm she now has a white streak of hair among her dark locks. She doesn’t fully understand her abilities, but she can predict (and sometimes control) the weather, as well as having magnetic and electrical powers.

Kobe is a 15 year-old boy who is the product of two African tribes. He has excellent tracking abilities and is an expert on native cultures around the world. His most illustrious talent, though, is his telepathic abilities: he can tell the entire history of a person or object simply by touching it!

Before setting out, the gang is briefed on some high-tech and clever devices designed by their own teacher, Dr. Maxwell, who is the only faculty member who is privy to RBI. Along the way, they run into some devious and dangerous DUL agents who pursue them on airboats through the swampland. The RBI agents get bombarded by a swarm of rats, run into a treasure hunt and at last discover the lizard man.

The book includes a breakdown of all the characters in the book, along with their skills and special notes. There is a map of Ripley High School and other cool graphics relating to the investigation throughout the book. The author has set up the book in such a way that it could easily be transitioned into a TV show, with much of the technology-based devices and messages at the ready.

The dialogue and action are what make this book! I love the team of agents sent on this mission, and how they all work together to support one another. They are fully involved in solving the mission they have been sent on. This is a great example of teamwork and covers some history, culture and geography related to the region.

Review: Friends for Life

Title: Friends for Life
Author: Billi Tiner
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: May 2012
Length: 162 pages
Series?: no
Genre: Children’s, MG

Find the book: Goodreads | Amazon 

Bo and Rico are two puppies who meet at a pet store. The puppies are dognapped from the pet store by two goons. Realizing they are in danger, Bo and Rico must work together to escape the dognappers. After their escape, Bo and Rico find themselves scared and alone on the mean city streets. They are rescued by a streetwise stray named Tank. Tank takes the puppies under his wing and teaches them how to survive on the streets. Bo and Rico embark on several adventures including avoiding the local Animal Control officer, Jimmy; several run-ins with a pack of dogs led by a stray named Mongrel; and rescuing a beautiful lost Poodle named Pearl. Through it all, Bo and Rico form an incredible friendship that will last a lifetime. 

***** Review *****

This is a heartwarming story about friendship and loyalty, of course, from none other than man’s best friend! Bo is a purebred bulldog pup who has lived with his owners until they decide to sell him through the pet shop. After arriving, Bo is confused and Rico the Chihuahua becomes his friend. They bond and grow even closer after two goons kidnap them from the store!

Bo and Rico put their brains, brawn and paws together to escape from the dognappers, but they soon learn their fate on the street is perhaps worse that it was with their dognappers. The streets of the city are cold, hard and mean. They run into a fair share of dangerous situations, until they get rescued by a very street savvy stray. Tank has been around the block before and he knows Bo and Rico are good pups, so he takes them under his wing.

As Bo and Rico survive day by day on the streets, their friendship grows steadily. They are inseparable and always work to protect one another. They have a myriad of adventures, the scariest of which are avoiding the Animal Control officer Jimmy and some run-ins with Mongrel’s pack of strays. They also rescue a lost Poodle, Pearl, and help her find her way back home.

The book contains all the elements that are appealing and engaging to younger readers. Although it’s marketed as a children’s book, I’d really categorize it as a MG book because it is a chapter book of length, and the vocabulary is a little higher than what would be found in a children’s book.

***** About the Author *****

Dr. Billi Tiner is a veterinarian who lives with her husband and two children in Missouri. Dr. Tiner loves animals and has three dogs and three cats of her own.

Find the author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads