Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Review: The Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold

About the Book

The Mosaic by Chris Keaton and Rick Taubold
Published on July 12, 2017

GoodReads Description

Twin girls discover a mystical world contained within a crumbling mosaic, and they must restore it before an evil witch seizes its power, even if doing so could tear their family apart. 

Secrets. It all started while looking for secret passages. Chloe Tozier’s impulsive twin, Zoe, insisted that all old mansions had them. Grandma denied the existence of any here. Except for the boarded-up service elevator that she conveniently forgot to mention before the girls discovered it, the elevator that didn’t seem to go anywhere. They had been living in this private museum with their grandparents since the death of their parents during an archaeology trip to Egypt.

Mysteries. Why have a museum in a tiny town in the middle of Kansas when what’s on display is nothing unusual? Sometimes packages arrived wrapped in plain brown paper that the girls never saw again. Grandpa disappeared overnight and they haven’t heard from him since. And before going to Egypt their parents had mentioned something about a mysterious mosaic. Maybe Zoe was right about family secrets. Maybe it was time to dig further.

My Thoughts

I really liked this book!  I had it on my TBR for a long time, but I just hadn't gotten to it.  Now that I have, I'm pretty excited that I did!  

Chloe Tozier was a phenomenal character.  She was someone that I could easily relate to as a curious bookworm.  Although she has a twin, she's just more believable.  I can't think of anyone as fearless or as reckless as Zoe Tozier, but I can think of several people who are as reserved and cautious as Chloe.  Together, they make a fabulous team because they balance each other out.

The world-building in this book was done excellently as well.  I loved that I could picture each place that the girls visited to retrieve pieces of the mosaic.  The descriptions of each of the mythical creatures came to life in very vivid ways.  

Unfortunately, I felt like a lot of the action was rushed through.  A lot of time is spent bringing Dahwen to the mosaic.  Once she arrives, however, the battle ends rather quickly.  I think that it would have been a huge improvement if the authors would have brought some more description to the battle.  The audience is so invested in the characters that it would have kept us on the edge of our seats were there more details.

Overall, I thought this was a really good book!  There were parts that made me want to cry and others that I thought were absolutely beautifully written.  I look forward to seeing what Keaton and Taubold give us next.

My Rating

Monday, May 27, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Kingdom of Sand and Wishes

Kingdom of Sand & Wishes: A Limited Edition Collection of Aladdin Retellings
Publication date: May 24th 2019
Genres: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, Young Adult
Aladdin, but not as you remember it….
On the dusty streets, around the bustling bazaars, being overlooked by a Sultan’s Palace was a land. A land of magic, secrets and treasures buried deep beneath the desert.
Through Arabian nights, dark forces are at work. Dark forces that can threaten the peace of everyone in the Kingdom. Watch our authors as they answer the question, can three wishes save the day?
Join our award winning and USA Today best selling authors for nine action packed fantasy and contemporary retellings with Sultans, sorcerers, romance and more magic than a genie’s lamp can hold.
One click now for your happily ever after….
Three Wishes by J.A.Armitage
Her future was mapped out…
She would one day be queen…
When a curse was cast, trapping Jini in an old lamp, her life ended along with everyone she had ever known and loved. Centuries of darkness passed and then a young man made a wish.
He wanted to be the Sultan.
So did she.
The only problem? There already was a Sultan and his mysterious son had already laid claim to the throne
Read this powerful new rendition of the age old classic, Aladdin, where things are not as they seem and magic might not be enough to save them all.
The Djinn Curse By Margo Ryerkerk
How far will you go to reclaim your freedom?
My name is Roxelana, and my human life was stolen from me.
Turned by force into a djinn, I’ve waited for 100 years for a shot at freedom.
My current assignment in Istanbul presents an opportunity to break the connection to my lamp and escape my eternal slavery. There’s just one problem. Doing so means sacrificing the sultan prince to the king of djinns. I shouldn’t care about the prince, but I can’t stop myself. He has a pull on me I can’t explain. Coupled with his kindness and the care he shows his people, I’m in deep trouble.
When push comes to shove, who will I choose? Him or myself?
Filled with adventure, love, magic, and a strong heroine, this clean YA Fairy Tale is the perfect read!
If you like K.M Shea, Melanie Cellier, and Kiera Cass, you’ll love this!
Granting Wishes (A Once Upon a Curse Prequel) by Kaitlyn Davis
She’s about to discover a whole new world…
“His words come back to me—magic is the law. I guess I’m making my own set of rules.”
Alanna thought rock climbing in Yosemite National Park would be the trip of a lifetime. Until an earthquake strikes and she finds herself plummeting to her death. But instead of slamming into the forest floor, Alanna drops into a secret underground cave where she’s confronted by the impossible—magic.
A mysterious man named Erick uses incredible powers to save her life, then tells her that his magical world has collided with earth, merging the two together. Alanna writes it off as crazy, until he shows her a vision of her brother being dragged down a sandy cobblestone street in chains. Crazy or not, she’ll do anything to save him.
As Alanna and Erick team up to rescue her brother from the clutches of a decrepit sorcerer king, fate intervenes in the form of a handsome prince. Alanna doesn’t know who to trust, but in this foreign land, flying solo just might get her killed…
Don’t miss GRANTING WISHES, a fantasy romance from bestselling author Kaitlyn Davis that reimagines the classic fairy tale of Aladdin.
Sultana of Amethyst Sands by Emma Savant
A beautiful genie craves her freedom. A handsome prince longs to heal his kingdom. And a con artist named Aladdah has big plans for them all.
Between theft, sleight of hand, and her indentured servitude to a powerful magician, Aladdah has always managed to survive the brutal streets of Citron. But survival isn’t enough for a woman of Aladdah’s ambition. She craves more—more food, more power, and more magic than her master has seen fit to teach her.
When she demands a greater challenge, her master sends her on a mission into an enchanted cavern beneath the desert sands. There, in an abandoned garden glittering with the lights of precious jewels, Aladdah discovers a genie whose power and beauty are matched only by her determination to escape the bonds of her servitude.
But the genie is bound by her magic lamp, subject to Aladdah’s every wish, and it’s an opportunity no self-respecting street rat could resist. Aladdah forms a plan to use the genie to destroy the sultan and establish herself as a new ruler who will turn the savage inequality of Citron on its head.
But the sultan has many protectors, from his court magicians to the beautiful, idealistic son who infuriates and enchants Aladdah in equal measure. Her genie fights her at every turn. And her old master will not be dismissed so easily, not when he has a plan to gain power the likes of which the kingdoms have never seen.
Sultana of Amethyst Sands is a romantic, fast-paced adventure through the sands of a faraway kingdom of magic, genies, and wishes come true.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Review: Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on August 21, 2007

GoodReads Description

Kek comes from Africa. In America he sees snow for the first time, and feels its sting. He's never walked on ice, and he falls. He wonders if the people in this new place will be like the winter – cold and unkind.

In Africa, Kek lived with his mother, father, and brother. But only he and his mother have survived, and now she's missing. Kek is on his own. Slowly, he makes friends: a girl who is in foster care; an old woman who owns a rundown farm, and a cow whose name means "family" in Kek's native language. As Kek awaits word of his mother's fate, he weathers the tough Minnesota winter by finding warmth in his new friendships, strength in his memories, and belief in his new country.

Bestselling author Katherine Applegate presents a beautifully wrought novel about an immigrant's journey from hardship to hope.

Home of the Brave is a 2008 Bank Street - Best Children's Book of the Year.

My Thoughts

I am definitely becoming a big fan of Applegate's writing!  I love that she finds ways to address important issues in ways that can be easily understood by younger students.  She not only teaches children about these issues, but finds ways to encourage empathy.  I think this is a phenomenal way to encourage our youth to become caring members of society.

I loved that Kek is such a complex character.  He wants to learn and he is so grateful for his new place in Minnesota.  In fact, he is so truly thankful for most things that are generally taken for granted.  Although he is overwhelmed by all that is new and exciting, he strives to hang on to the ways of Sudan.  He wants so badly to be considered a man by his people.  He wants to care for cows and be kind to people.  He is a strong little guy going through challenges that would be hard for most adults.  The fact that he takes it all in stride and does his best with every situation is absolutely inspiring.

I can't say that I had a least favorite character in this book.  However, I would have loved to have heard more from Ganwar.  He was definitely the strong and silent type, but something was eating away at his insides.  I would have loved to see him get a little more resolution as well.  I know that sometimes in life, that resolution just isn't coming.  Perhaps that was the point Applegate wanted to make here as well.

Overall, I absolutely devoured this book.  As a verse novel, it was a quick read.  It was a very meaningful read, however.  I definitely think that a lot of the substance and poignancy would have been lost if it had been in prose form.  I look forward to reading more from Applegate!

My Rating

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Book Blitz and Giveaway: Neliem by Clare DiLiscia

Clare DiLiscia
Published by: Month9Books
Publication date: May 21st 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Half the population of the island of Madera are dead, killed by an unforgiving and indiscriminate plague. Oriana dreams of escaping her life of ruthless cruelty from the people who now rule over those who remain. No telling whom the plague will strike next, Oriana means to find freedom for herself and her people. Drawing strength from ancient tales of her enemy, young Oriana transforms herself from victim to warrior with the help of a mysterious and powerful dagger given to her by a kind and dying boy.
Years later, during her enemy’s betrothal ritual, Ezra, a boy she has never before seen, selects her as his mate. With servitude her only option, Oriana accepts the offer. Whisked away to a seemingly perfect world, Oriana discovers sinister secrets at every turn, including the identity of Tristan, a boy with whom she shares an undeniable but impossible connection.
Why would a boy she doesn’t know wish her to be his betrothed? Why does she feel such a strong pull toward a stranger? Someone in Ezra’s family not only knows the answer to both those questions, but also about the dagger Oriana possesses. He will do anything to stop the union. Now, with everything on the line, Oriana turns inward to find the strength she needs to seize the full power of the dagger so that she may protect herself and save her people.
I cringe; not wanting to confess the extent of my obsession of finding the boy I’ve convinced myself for too long never existed. After I’d miraculously healed from the fever, I went half mad looking everywhere for him. Like a maniac, I searched in every room, closet and under every desk at the schoolhouse for any indication where he might’ve gone. Then I took it one step further. Dressed like Neliem himself, I snuck at the crack of dawn into the Untouchable section of town which we are forbidden to enter. I scourged the marketplace, the temples of their false gods, the fields, the hills, our cave, any place I could think of, going as far as to risk my own life for weeks to find him. Just for the chance to see him and touch him again, I would’ve done anything. Me, who hated to be touched, ached for this boy the way a dying man aches for water in the desert.

Author Bio:
Clare Di Liscia grew up near the hills surrounding Dodger's Stadium. For University, Clare attended KU Leuven, in Belgium. She graduated with a Film Degree from Cal State Northridge, earning Dean's List recognition. Neliem won 1st place HM in SCBWI's Sue Alexander.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

About the Book

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate
Published by Feiwel & Friends on September 22, 2015

GoodReads Description

In her first novel since winning the Newbery Medal, Katherine Applegate delivers an unforgettable and magical story about family, friendship, and resilience.

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

Beloved author Katherine Applegate proves in unexpected ways that friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

My Thoughts

After reading The One and Only Ivan, I was absolutely drawn to this book.  I knew that I would love it because I love Applegate's work.  I was a little nervous, though, because I don't usually read Middle Grade books.  I was concerned that it would be a bit too "young" for me.  I am pleased to report that I was absolutely amazed by this one.  In fact, I am looking into getting a full set of this novel for my classroom.

Growing up, life wasn't always perfect.  There were deaths and illness in our family, much like in every other family.  However, my parents strongly believed that my brother, sister, and I were kids and should be able to act like it.  We knew when people were sick and we were glad to help out, but it was not something that constantly burdened us.  If there were any financial troubles, I still don't know about them.  We were kids. They were the adults.  We had our places and our jobs.  I bring all of this up to explain the absolute shock and dismay I felt when I realized that Jackson knows exactly what's going on with his family and that he felt responsible for his family.  Jackson's ability to care for them and to do what he intuitively knew they needed him to impressed me.  I really struggled with the fact that any kid should have to live like that.  I'm not completely naive.  I know that there are several kids who are in the same position as Jackson, but it was a massive wake up call to see what that role might be like.  I am not the only person who needs this jolt, however. There are many people in our nation who strongly believe that the only reason a person would be homeless is if they are lazy.  Applegate's writing calls attention to the truth of the matter.  That homeless people may simply be suffering as a result of bad circumstances.  That we are all able to lend a helping hand.

Applegate's ability to build unbelievably dynamic characters permeates this novel.  Jackson is a funny kid with a very old soul.  He needs friends and he needs to be honest with himself and those around him.  He is a kid that any of my students would be able to relate to.  He demonstrates what youth is like in today's world.  Applegate's creation of such a realistic character was a wonderful pairing for his imaginary friend-a giant cat.  Jackson and Crenshaw represent the worlds of realism and imagination respectively and demonstrate the need for both parts of life.  

I am absolutely in love with this novel. Even though it has been a few days since I finished it, I am still considering the many themes that Applegate brings to life. Although this is a Middle Grade novel, Applegate makes sure that there is something for everyone.

My Rating

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: Silence the Echo by Alea Carroll

About the Book

Silence the Echo by Alea Carroll
Published by North Node Press on December 30, 2018

GoodReads Description

Humankind has forgotten its obligation to live lightly upon our planet.

Civilization is about to disappear.

Twelve thousand years ago, the ice age ends precipitously. Cataclysm looms. Unless preserved for the few who shall inherit Earth, twenty millennia of history and invention will be forever lost.

Gifted young telepaths are recruited from the old clans to learn the ancient physics of time travel. Their mission: teach people of the future how to access a crystalline Hall of Records.

As seas rise, storms rage, and tremors persist, spirited Seerce and her clever ally, Aaron, find evidence of experimental energy production. Why do the best minds of science accept a catastrophic fate, when they ought to intervene in what disturbs Earth?

Quickly, these two rebels and Seerce’s forbidden lover find themselves under the scrutiny of a powerful master of esoteric arts. He has his own design upon Seerce’s destiny.

My Thoughts

I am struggling with my review of this book.  There were a number of things that I considered very well done and that I would have loved to see more of.  There were also a number of things that annoyed me and that I thought should never have been in this book at all.  Unfortunately, there was no middle point with this book.  There were things that I hated and things that I loved, nothing that I simply liked. Please keep in mind that these lists are in no particular order.

What I Liked...

  • Seerce is a very well-written character.  I love that Carroll really gives you the opportunity to find out who she is.  Seerce is a strong minded, caring individual who truly seeks the best for those around her.  She is also a little selfish and she tends to let her pride get the better of her. I was excited to encounter such a human character.
  • I thought that the premise of this novel was very well thought out.  It was obvious that Carroll had a great big world in her mind that she wanted to put down on paper.  I appreciated the time and effort that she took to build this world.
  • I liked that this book was so inclusive.  Carroll could have chosen to abstain from writing any LGBTQ+ characters, but instead she chose to include a lesbian couple.  I felt like this added even more diversity to an already beautiful world.

What I Didn't Like As Much...

  • Although I have read the entire book, I'm really not sure what it was about.  I mean, there was so much that had to do with Seerce's schooling and the Order. The bits about their mission were glazed over, though.  And then there were the parts with her relationships that seemed to come and go.  Even those, however, seemed to make up only a small amount of the novel.  I finished this book a few days ago and even now I'm not sure what I'm supposed to be focused on.  I think that Carroll's goal was to show that there is a variety of elements in each person's life and that not a single one of these should overpower the rest.  I just don't think that point was well enough developed to stand out for most readers.
  • I have a serious love/hate relationship with the ending of this novel.  I liked that every loose end was tied up.  Unfortunately, I felt like the loose ends were tied so rapidly that it was more thrown together than tied in a neat bow.  
  • Carroll definitely knows how to write with adjectives.  Her work is colorful and vivid.  Her writing style, however, tends to cover a lot of this beauty up.  I felt like she so badly wanted to write with a flair of Tolkien's style that she forgot to add her own flair.  This means that the book reads a bit slow in several places that should have been exciting.  


I liked the basic plot of this book.  I loved that Carroll created a romance novel for scifi/fantasy nerds.  I especially loved that she created her own world.  I just wish that it was a bit more developed.  I believe that this is Carroll's first book and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.  I am excited to see how her writing style develops.

My Rating