Wednesday, June 24, 2015

We All Need A Friend: Petey Possum's Story

Gabany, S. and Berry, A. (2015). We All Need A Friend: Petey Possum's Story. Paducah, KY: No Name Press.

Children's Picture Book / Rhyming / Problem Solving

I gave this book 5 out of 5 Stars

In this We All Need A Friend story, readers meet Petey Possum, whose father is a woodchuck, mother is a muskrat, and who has badger and ferret siblings. Petey and his siblings are adopted and the story shows that his family is just like any other loving family. And Petey is just like any other kid, sleeping-in, oblivious to the sounds outside and the calls of his mom. Petey's home life is really just a sideline to the main story, which is that Margie Mouse's dad has gone missing. Margie turns to her good friend Petey, and as good friends do, Petey rallies all the farm animals to help find Margie's dad.

Through nicely balanced rhyming, author Steve Gabany manages to tell an interesting, multi-part story that also teaches several good lessons. By bringing in a variety of animals, in all different shapes and sizes, the best lesson is that all creatures can work together, for a common good, if they're just willing. This point can parlay nicely into discussions about the human world and how people from all walks of life can also work together, if they're just willing.  

Gabany has again partnered with the incredibly talented Arlene Berry, who provides the multimedia illustrations that are a real treat for the eyes. There is no white space to be found, and the wide variety of colors, textures, and images are sure to keep kids studying the pages. I especially enjoyed the use of post cards and letters with cursive writing, which may pique younger readers' curiosity since cursive writing is practically a thing of the past. 

I recommend this book, like the others from Gabany & Berry, for young ones up to first or second grade and further recommend purchasing the print version for the best experience - the pages are best viewed in full spread, so two gorgeous pages are viewed seamlessly, side-by-side.  
Thank you to the author for providing me an eBook copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give.

To learn more, follow author Steve Gabany on FacebookTwitter, or Goodreads!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Death Wish (Ceruleans Book 1)

Tayte, M. (2015). Death Wish (The Ceruleans Book 1). Self-published.

Young Adult / Paranormal / Mystery / Romance

I gave this book 5 of 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb:
Seventeen-year-old Scarlett Blake is haunted by death. Her estranged sister has made the ultimate dramatic exit. Running away from school, joining a surfing fraternity, partying hard: that sounds like Sienna. But suicide? It makes no sense.

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Scarlett comes to an isolated English cove with grand plans to uncover the truth. Alone. But she hasn’t reckoned on meeting two boys who are determined to help her. Luke: the blue-eyed surfer who’ll see the real Scarlett, who’ll challenge her, who’ll save her. And Jude: the elusive drifter with a knack for turning up whenever Scarlett’s in need.

As Scarlett’s quest for the truth unravels, so too does her grip on reality as she’s always known it. Because there’s something strange going on in this little cove. A dead magpie circles the skies. A dead deer watches from the undergrowth. Hands glow with light. Warmth. Power.

What transpires is a summer of discovery. Of what it means to conquer fear. To fall in love. To choose life. To choose death.

To believe the impossible.


I did not plan for this book. It came across my email from Feed Your Reader as a Featured Freebie, I went to Amazon and read the sneak peek pages, immediately downloaded it, and read it straight through. Author Megan Tayte is a gifted writer who made her story and characters come to life with vivid descriptions and depth that will keep readers engaged, interested, and even invested by the end.  I am amazed that this book was self-published; it is expertly written and edited.  

What makes this book work so well is the believability of the characters and how naturally the relationships and events unfold. Even the paranormal element is just a suspicion for most of the book, intentionally vague around the edges.  Readers will enjoy that Death Wish doesn't neatly fit into any one category because none of the elements overwhelms the story. Rather, there is mystery, romance, friendship, family dysfunction,coming-of-age, surfing, and paranormal all in somewhat equal parts. The pacing is perfect, steadily building to reveal some game-changing plot twists and setting the stage for the next book, Forget Me Not. 

I recommend this book for older young adults, as the main character is eighteen by the book's conclusion and is living as an adult.  Though there isn't any sex (lots of kissing, not overly descriptive and refreshing that the romance is developing slowly), there are hints that the relationship may become more intimate in future books. There are references to drug use, as well as overindulging in alcohol.  It should be noted that the author is British, as are the characters and setting, so American readers will need to adjust to unfamiliar language and different writing conventions -- all of which make the book more interesting and authentic.

Thank you to Feed Your Reader for passing on this jewel of a book.  I have already read the sneak peek of book 2 and will download it as soon as my iPad is recharged from my reading frenzy of book 1. 





Saturday, June 20, 2015

The Cuneiform Caper

Jewell, R. (2014). The Cuneiform Caper. Self-published.

Adult / Romance / Mystery / Novella

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars
Reese Walker, a professor at Stanford, has found not only the archeological discovery of a life time, but also a relationship that just might take her out of the dating circuit for good.  She hopes that her good fortunes in her career and personal life can take away the pain of the past, but just as everything seems to be coming together, it all falls apart. The artifact is stolen, and a long buried secret threatens to destroy her relationship and her grasp of her past. Reese must choose whether or not she has the strength or will to fight for her future and reclaim her out of control life. 

By the title of the book and the start to the story, readers will think that The Cuneiform Caper is going to be an archeological mystery.  Though the artifact does play a background part in the story, the book is really a romance, with the artifact playing an important role in how that romance ultimately develops.  Readers seeking a mystery will find only a minor one with a predictable solution. The romance is clean -- maybe a bit too much so -- as there are only hints at any real passion between the characters, and some of the behaviors didn't seem natural for the situations. The premise behind the romance is sweet and satisfying, though, and readers will enjoy its development.

Author Roselyn Jewell does a good job of fleshing out the two main characters, Reese and Caleb, so that readers will understand their personalities. Reese is a mess, and at times, it was hard to believe that she had managed to be so successful given how she deals with adversity; it was as if she didn't have the ability to focus on more than one thing at a time, instead neatly compartmentalizing and forgetting anything that wasn't right in front of her. Several of the secondary characters will elicit definite responses from the readers, as just enough is revealed and described for definite opinions to form -- and some of those characters are downright despicable.

There is a definite plot line, though it is sometimes mired down with too much, often unnecessary detail that distracts and detracts from the story, making it a bit tedious to read.  Additionally, there are several times when the story takes a turn that seems like it will reveal something new, but these turns ultimately go nowhere, leaving questions and not moving the story forward in any way.  The resolution of the story works fine and gives readers enough information to see how things will settle without spelling it out. 
The Cuneiform Caper is a light, quick, and interesting story, but it needs extensive professional editing to fix grammar, punctuation, and plot errors. As such, readers for whom this is a deal-breaker be warned.  Thank you to the author for providing me an eBook copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 

Roselyn Jewell is the author of 7 books currently on the market. All are romance, some have mystery/thriller elements as well. Ratings go from PG-XXX. 


Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Toothless Tooth Fairy

Hicks, S. and Budeanu, A. (2014). The Toothless Tooth Fairy. Milwaukee: Mirror Publishing. 

Children's Picture Book / Fiction / Fantasy

I gave this book 5 of 5 stars.

When kind fairy Bella loses a tooth due to mean fairy Zelda playing a trick, Bella is devastated and thinks she's too ugly to be in the smile contest. Bella uses the fairy data base and goes on a quest to borrow a soon-to-be-lost tooth so that her smile will be beautiful -- but will she succeed? Will Zelda's meanness stand in the way?  

In The Toothless Tooth Fairy, author Shanelle Hicks and illustrator Anca Delia Budeanu have teamed up to make an adorable book that teaches important lessons and is a feast for the eyes.  The lessons are plentiful, including kindness is always the right answer, smiles are always beautiful, ugliness inside can produce ugliness outside, and pretty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  Budeanu's illustrations are expressive with soft, muted colors and show great diversity in the representations of the different fairies. Readers will easily identify with at least one of the fairies and will love the story, too.

I read this along with my eight-year-old niece, and she giggled a bunch (especially with the evil "Muah ha ah ha ha" laugh) and was surprised by Bella's treatment of Zelda. This fostered a discussion about the power of kindness. Interestingly enough, she found the parts that introduced ways to get a loose tooth out slightly creepy -- but informative!  There was a small bit of confusion with the title of the award at the end, but it didn't interfere with the enjoyment of the story.

I recommend this to children second grade and younger, to be read independently or as a read-along for the younger ones. Thank you to the author for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give. 


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Return to Sleepy Hollow

Varley, D. (2014). Return to Sleepy Hollow. Missouri City, TX: Garden Gate Press.

New Adult / Fantasy / Paranormal

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars

In this sequel (which can be read as a stand-alone) to Severed/Sleepy Hollow, the story picks-up a few months after Katrina and Ichabod have fled Sleepy Hollow. Now in Philadelphia, Katrina has taken a false identity and is working for a pie maker in exchange for room and board.  She and Ichabod, who is an overworked apprentice at a law firm, see each other only secretly once a week, waiting for the hunt for Katrina to subside and biding their time until Ichabod makes some money for them to start a life together.  Just when it seems Katrina may have escaped the dangers of Sleepy Hollow, her security is compromised in numerous ways. Worse than threats from the living, it is the call of the Horseman that could be too much for Katrina to overcome. Desperate to save not only her own life, but any chance of a life with Ichabod, Katrina returns to Sleepy Hollow where she must avoid the noose -- and the Horseman.

Return to Sleepy Hollow introduces a bunch of new characters -- both honorable and ornery.  Violet and Seth, in particular, are richly drawn so that you love and loathe them, respectively.  Author Dax Varley has written the dialogues in a way that readers hear the characters' speech: Violet has an Irish accent, Seth and his mother sound more working class, and of course Ichabod and Katrina more educated.  This style gave each of the characters a unique stamp, making them more memorable and realistic.  Though there were a few typos that another editing sweep would catch, the writing was consistently well done, cohesive, and moved the story along. 

The story was divided into two parts, with the first to establish new characters and Katrina's dilemmas and the second focusing on her acting on the threats. For readers hoping for a focus on the Katrina/Ichabod romance -- this is not that kind of book. For readers for whom the Horseman is the real draw, patience is required as there's not much of him until the second part of the story.  It is well worth the wait, though, as part two really kicks the action into high gear, and much of what readers loved from the first book is revisited. Best of all, questions are answered about the Horseman, his past, and his motives, and some great unexpected twists come along.  

Personally, since very few of the characters introduced are ultimately important, I would have enjoyed a much shorter part one and a more extensive part two, which felt a bit rushed. The ending is satisfying and readers can imagine what comes next, but Varley has introduced some new information that could easily make a fantastic prequel revolving around the Horseman! Fingers crossed. 

Readers should be aware that there are sexual encounters (not explicit), crude humor, sexual harassment and a near rape. This is promoted as a young adult book, but I would recommend it for older young adult readers or more suitably, as a new adult book, given the age of our main character and her sexual activity. 

Thank you to the author for providing me a signed print copy in exchange for my honest opinion -- the only kind I give.  

Dax Varley writes the kind of young adult novels she wishes were around when she was a teen. She's a lover of humor, horror and all things paranormal. 
When Dax isn't writing, she's collecting odd photos online, reading recaps of her favorite shows or kicked back with a good book. She lives in Richmond, Texas with her husband, a shelf full of action figures and about a dozen imaginary friends.
Real or imaginary, you can find her at the following locations

Click for Hall Ways Review

Friday, June 12, 2015

Fuzzy Buzzy's Treasure

Baker, M. (2015). Fuzzy Buzzy's Treasure. Self-published.

Children's Picture Book / Informational / Lesson

I gave this book 4 of 5 stars

When Fuzzy Buzzy discovers a field of flowers, she decides to keep the location a secret from her sister bumblebees -- after all, finders keepers! Soon Fuzzy Buzzy realizes that she can't possibly pollinate all the flowers and that there's more nectar than she can ever drink, but it's not until she sees that the flowers are suffering that she realizes the right thing to do. 

Children will absolutely love this beautifully illustrated story!  Fuzzy Buzzy's Treasure not only informs readers about bumblebees and the pollination process, but it also manages to gently teach a lesson about the consequences of greed and the benefits of sharing.  The illustrations by K.A. King are precious and make viewing every page a pleasure. (I just want to hug those little baby bumblebees!)  Additionally, as a supplement at the end of the story, author Misty Baker has included some fast facts about bumblebees as well as links to websites to learn more about bumblebees and ways to help them. 

Given the target audience for the book, I did feel like some pages were text heavy, and there were some lengthy sentences that younger readers might struggle to read. As such, it may best be used as a read-along, which is ideal anyhow so that adults can discuss Fuzzy Buzzy's actions and also what is real and what is fantasy in the bumblebee world.  I would have liked to see a few more pages added and a little more editing so that the overall presentation was more balanced and simpler to read.

Fuzzy Buzzy's Treasure can be enjoyed by kids of all ages since the bees are presented in a non-threatening, friendly way.  Thank you to the author for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest review -- the only kind I give!


Click to read Hall Ways review!