Saturday, November 18, 2017

Review: The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

by Emily Barton
Tim Duggan Books
Coming of Age/Fantasy/Steampunk
448 pages

Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith.


This is a well-woven, tightly packed tale which hits on heavy themes such as faith, power, the value of diverse individuals and justice.

Esther is the daughter of the nation's adviser, well-educated and more than aware of what is expected of her in her position. She's only sixteen but is already promised to be wed to another powerful family—a marriage she's excited about. Her country stands on the brink of war with a very technically advanced Germania, one she's learned does not treat Jews or captives well. She sees the mistakes her country's about to make, and she's sure she can help in the upcoming battle. But she's a woman and, as such, must remain in her place. In hopes of saving her country, her beliefs, and those dear to her, she ventures to a far away land where she hopes to become a man and do what she as a woman is incapable of.

I was looking forward to reading this. Esther is an interesting historical figure, who's bravery and faith is often overlooked. Mix that with elements of steampunk, intrigue and threat of war, and this promises to be an engaging ride.

The writing in this is very solid. The author does a fantastic job at bringing an alternate dimension to life, while maintaining clarity in the very complex layers of characters, historical elements and intrigue. Esther comes across as a compassionate but brave young woman, who's determination to keep her country safe is simply an inspiration. She's tough, yet warm-hearted and even soft at moments. Her curiosity and cleverness make her a character to cheer for to the very end. This, added with the entire question of women's place in a male driven world, give tons of depth to this novel. But sometimes, less is more.

While the author manages to masterfully maintain order in what could easily roll over into chaos, this book was still too packed for my taste. The historical elements wrap around each other, taking events and historical figures from multiple eras and fusing them together into one war. Each historical event was tremendous on its own, and this mixture threatened, at least for me, an overload. Add the mixture of steampunk technology and a dose of the feel of Game of Thrones, and it grows too rich. The last pinch of gender identity toppled it over the edge and made this a read I simply couldn't connect with. That the author is able to hold all of this together without a shake of doubt, speaks volumes about their talent.

Although this is a very well-crafted tale with tons of elements to promise an exciting read, it simply wasn't a book for me.

I received a copy of this one from BLOGGING FOR BOOKS!

Review: Spell Book & Scandal by Jen McConnel with Giveaway

Spell Book & Scandal

by Jen McConnel

October 31st 2017
YA Paranormal

Shelby King is tired of living in her sister’s shadow. Just because Christina is the most powerful caster in school doesn’t mean Shelby’s any good at magic; she’s a scribe, like her mom, and everyone expects her to write spells for her sister, the way her mom always has for her dad. But Shelby’s spells fail spectacularly, and by the time she’s a sophomore, Christina won’t touch them with a ten-foot-pole; their parents aren’t much better. Shelby is fed up, and she decides to show the world she doesn’t care if she isn’t as good as her stuck-up sister, or as talented as their powerful parents. In fact, she decides it’s time to break all the rules, magical and otherwise, and she starts sneaking out to meet Jeremiah Smallwood, the second-best caster in school at illegal pop-up spell battles around town. She may not be able to scribe for him, but she doesn’t mind letting him think that she could; Shelby’s been half in love with Miah as long as she can remember, but he’s never paid attention to her until now, and she’s not going to risk her chances worrying about a pesky thing like the truth. But when Christina rats her out to their parents, Shelby can’t control her anger, and words come pouring out of her that she can’t take back even if she wanted to, threatening Christina’s future…and Shelby’s own chances with Jeremiah. It’ll take more magic than Shelby’s ever dreamed of to set things right, but no scribe has that much magic…right?


High school and siblings become even more challenging when magic is thrown into the mix.

Shelby's sophomore year is beginning, which wouldn't be a problem if she wasn't a dud. Her family sits at the top of the magical pyramid—her older sister is on the way to be a great castor. Shelby should be a scribe, but her spells are miserable at best. When her crush suddenly takes an interest in her, she can't bring herself to tell him that she's lacking talent. But maybe she isn't, after all. Things start getting weird, and soon Shelby finds herself in the middle of a huge, magical mess.

This is a fun mixture of magic, crushes, sibling rivalry and high school drama with a teenage girl in the middle, who needs to figure out how to accept herself and deal with life. It's a fast-paced read with lots of action and spells. Shelby isn't comfortable in her own skin, tries her best but finds herself landing on her nose. The pressure from her parents' comes across familiar, as well as the uncertainty she faces when having to figure out what she wants to do with her future. There are lots of typical teenage problems, but with the magic added in.

The story flows well, not always perfect, but it's entertaining and isn't one easily set down. The relationship between Shelby and her sister is pretty harsh, and switches around a bit too fast in the end. The romantic interest also left guessing in the end. There are several familiar aspects along the way, but in general, it's a fresh, fun read. Fans of magic, romance, and high school drama with a little bit of adventure thrown in will enjoy this one.

And here she is. . .

Award-winning author Jen McConnel writes NA, YA, and nonfiction. When she isn’t writing, she can be found on her yoga mat or wandering off on another adventure. Visit to learn more!


Sneak Peek: An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody by D.L. Gardner with Giveaway

An Unconventional Mr. Peadlebody
by D.L. Gardner
Paranormal Humor

Rockford Peadlebody dies in a train wreck while traveling with his family, (a rather dysfunctional lot of half-blood vampires) after a flood in Mississippi washes their home away. Once his brother Gerald, his wife Ginger, and son Raymond reach grandpa's estate in Ohio, they are surprised by the news that grandaddy Benjamin Peadlebody has also died. They are now heirs to the infamous Peadlebody manor and all its peculiarities, including the butler, a reserved, tattooed, muscle-man named Richard Cottlebone, 

It seems fishy to Gerald that two untimely deaths in the family happened within a week. Yes, Rockford's demise was of his own doing, but Benjamin's? Perhaps the butler, knows more than he's letting on?

To prove himself worthy, since he failed to live up to old Benjamin's standards when he was alive, Gerald goes about to unravel the thread of Papa's death. No help comes from Ginger. She's too busy trying to un-vampire herself. And Raymond is in love, but not with his relatives. Gerald soon discovers solving a murder mystery meets with a stone cold reception.


(Ginger's looking for a potion to releive her and her son Raymond from the curse of vampirism, and she's using the library as a resource.)
Once she gained her composure, she looked the librarian square in the face. It wasn't this young woman's fault, but Ginger couldn't hold back the angst.
"None of these books have any of the information that I'm looking for."
The librarian, a young lady in a pink tailored suit, painted fingernails, and a hairstyle that would have put Sandra Dee to shame, raised her eyebrow as she stacked the books neatly, turning each one right side up. She read the titles aloud, one by one, as she pulled the dated cards from the inside covers.
Dark Magic and the Evil Thereof
Alchemy for Dummies
Infusions 101
Science and the Supernatural
Vampires and their Victims?” She looked up. Ginger shrugged.
The Night of the Stalker.”
When she had finished reading the titles, she gave Ginger a scowl.

"Just exactly what are you looking for?"

With a passion for a good wholesome story, Gardner dives into the adult and young adult fantasy genres. She is both a best selling author and an award winning illustrator who lives in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Dabbling in screenwriting, she's won screenings and a trophy for some of her film projects. 

She loves a tale that ignites imaginations, strengthens friendships, spurs courage and applauds honor. Though she targets her stories for young adults, her books are enjoyed by all ages.

D.L. Gardner is a columnist for the science fiction and fantasy publication Amazing Stories Magazine

Follow the tour HERE for exclusive excerpts, guest posts and a giveaway!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: Purple Turtle Graded Readers Level 3 with Giveaway

Purple Turtle Graded Readers Level 3 (12 Titles)
Aadarsh Pvt. Ltd.
Children's Fiction - Educational
Released on April 1, 2017
Tour dates: Oct 30 to Nov 24, 2017
Content Rating: G (informative content intended for and available to children & their parents/educators to enhance and support learning. Suitable for: Family audiences with younger children.)

A1 Edutainment is all set to take you on an adventurous journey to the amazing world of Purple Turtle and his friends. Purple Turtle Graded Readers by A1 Edutainment is a new reading program especially for emerging readers. The third level includes a set of 12 books with engaging stories and fun-filled activities. It is based on the Lexile and ATOS reading level system and has a word count of 250-350. This level is for learners who have started reading with confidence.

To read more reviews, please visit Purple Turtle's page on iRead Book Tours.

Buy the Boxed Set: 


This is a sweet box set with 12 adventures for readers who are getting sure in their reading and ready to tackle some longer adventures on their own.

Flap back the lid on the colorful box, and three rows of books, four deep each, are ready to be taken out. The books are small (about 4 3/4 x 7 inches) and fit perfectly in young hands. The hard backs make them stable enough to read through time and again. Purple Turtle greets from the inside of the cover with a quick introduction to the theme of the book. And each one has its very own one. The tales center around treasure hunts, future job dreams, sailing adventures, learning about animals and so much more. In other words, there's something for every kid and enough to expand interests into other areas as well.

The first page offers young readers a check list to 3 different levels—read along, read aloud, and read alone—which lets them follow their own progress. The stories are fun, leading through a true plot. The text is kept short with familiar words, but also offers some new vocabulary along the way. At the end, there are various activities such as mazes and puzzles, which aren't only fun but help readers to learn as well.

Colorful illustrations accompany every page. Although this is about improving reading skills, these pictures make it a joy to follow the adventures and dive into the stories. Purple Turtle and his friends become very familiar, and readers will get to know them well.

Summed up, it's a cute box set which encourages readers to dive into simple, fun adventures and not be discouraged along the way.

Meet the Publisher. . .

Purple Turtle is India’s 1st International brand with its educational content in several languages sold in more than 30 countries including Russia, China, US and UK. The character of Purple Turtle has delighted children across the globe through beautifully created Purple Turtle books, rhymes and videos available on YouTube.

Purple Turtle was created with the idea to spread education through a wide range of innovative books for children. To give them the experience of convenient online learning, Purple Turtle also brings both learning and entertainment on a common platform to give a wholesome learning experience to young minds.

Connect with the publisher: Website ~ TwitterFacebook

Ends Dec 2

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: Dragonella by Elizabeth Varadan

by Elizabeth Varadan
Illustrated by Brian Belanger
Children's Fantasy
48 pages

Dragonella is the only dragon at her new school. Other students - trolls, griffins and ogres - are frightened when she breathes fire. The teacher isn't happy when Dragonella's laughter melts the filing cabinet. But when Dragonella's flames save the day during the class party on Legend Day, the teacher and other students learn they shouldn't be quick to judge someone who is different. 


Dragonella is a sweet dragon with tons of heart and a character kids are sure to love.

Dragonella has started school, but things are so exciting that she has a hard time controlling her flame. Not only does this cause mishaps in the classroom, but the others are a little frightened. To make matters worse, some of the students start picking on her. It's a lot for Dragonella to handle.

This is a quick, fun adventure with a lot of imagination and heart. Dragonella is a sweet, little dragon who couldn't hurt a fly, and her determination to fit in and enjoy school makes her easy to like from the very first page. As her first mishap occurs, it's hard not to feel sorry for her, especially since her parents are contacted by the school as well. Young readers and listeners will feel for Dragonella, and sympathize with her situation. When the bullying and teasing starts, it's hard not to root for her and wish she makes it through.

Imagination flows freely as not only Dragonella comes to life, but an entire classroom full of trolls, griffins and other fantastical creatures. They are familiar enough for readers to relate to but packed full of fun fantasy to help dreams take flight. The author does a great job at keeping the tale and writing simple enough for readers to follow, while introducing them to a rich world. The important message of bullying weaves into the story nicely, and the ending packs a treat.

It's a great book as either a read-a-loud or for readers who are hitting chapter book stage. I can only hope to see more of Dragonella and her classmates in the future.

And here she is. . .

I have always loved the written word. I can never leave a library or book store empty-handed and have been scribbling stories all my life.  
     My work for children has been published in Story Friends and Ladybug Magazine, and Skipping Stones Magazine. Even though I write mainly for young people, I’ve also had short stories and flash fiction for adults published in various magazines.
     I self-published a middle grade fantasy in 2008, The Fourth wish. (You can learn more about it at my primary blog: Elizabeth Varadan’s Fourth Wish.) My MG mystery — Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls —  set in Victorian England and involving Sherlock Holmes, was published in 2015 by MX Publishing.  My current picture book, Dragonella, was just released by Belanger Books.

Visit my blogs:    


Visit my picture book, Dragonella, at: Amazon  

Visit my MG mystery, Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls,  The Strand Magazine   Book Depository   Amazon   Kobo

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Review: I Wanna Be A Cowgirl by Angela DiTerlizzi, Illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic

by Angela DiTerlizzi
illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
Beach Lane Books
Picture Book
 40 pages
 ages 3 and up

Grab your boots and spurs and hat—it’s time to be a cowgirl!

Way out west, the warm winds blow.
The grass grows high, the sun hangs low.
I’ll find a farm, there I’ll go,
and I’ll become a cowgirl.

From sun up to sun down, the girl in this story pretends to be a cowgirl as she pulls on her (rain) boots, saddles up her (stick) horse, and gallops off through the (backyard) hills. Filled with humor and imaginative play, this sweet story from Angela DiTerlizzi captures the dream of zillions of little girls everywhere—the dream of being a cowgirl!


Riding, ropin' and Western fun gallops in full force for all those cowgirl dreamers.

One little girl wants to be a cowgirl, and she's determined to live a day as a real, cattle roping girl. Through role play, she rides her horse, milks cows, checks chickens and so much more.

This is a simple story, which leads through a little girl's imaginative day as she lives and experiences the thrills of being a cowgirl. Her enthusiasm—and a super, sweet dog partner—make the tale vibrant and enjoyable. Her adventures are told through written verse, which gives her endeavors a bit of a musical feel. It's easy to read and follow her as she goes from one cowgirl activity to the next. Younger girls who have a love for horses, farms and riding across the range will enjoy flipping through the pages.

The illustrations are cute and bring across this little character's energy nicely. While the text stays relatively poetic, the illustrations bring in a pinch of humor as this character's cowgirl attempts sometimes hit little snags. It's a gentle read with lots of cowgirl sunshine thrown in.  The pictures blend the imaginative world in with reality, and encourage young listeners/readers to play pretend on their own.

And here they are. . .

The Author. . .
Angela DiTerrlizzi is a mom, wife, and author who loves writing books for children. Her picture books include some Pets, Some Bugs, and baby Love. She and her husband, besteslling author/illustrator Tony Diterlizzi, reside with their daughter in Amherst, Massachusetts.

The Illustrator. . .
Elizabet Vukovic is a freelance illustrator born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where she still resides. As a kid she had quite an imagination, which she expressed mostly on paper, since acting out her ideas was an annoyance to her siblings. She now devotes herself fulltime to illustration for children and other venues. When not obsessing about art (which isn't very often) Elizabet enjoys long bicycle rides, traveling, and bugging her elderly cats.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Review: Bedtimeasnaurus by Mike Bayliss

by Mike Bayliss
Illustrated by Megan Egan
Bespoke Book Publishing
Picture Book 
ages 3 and up

A charming collection of gorgeously illustrated poems to encourage fun and bedtime bonding between parents and their children.
The bright pink flamingoasaurus spends its day standing on one leg looking for something to eat. The round and delicious tomotoasaurus sings a tune while soaking up the sun. These are just two of the imaginative and amusing dinosaurs dreamed up in The Bedtimeasnaurus, the sometimes naughty and always hilarious poetry collection for children by Mike Bayliss.
Developing the idea for over thirty years while working on other projects , Bayliss was encouraged to publish his collection after being diagnosed with stage IV non - Hodgkin lymphoma in April 2017, using his work as a positive outlet for his energy as he worked to battle the illness.
Complimented by charming illustrations, opportunities for kids to draw their own dinosaur creations and simple quizzes on each of the characters, The Bedtimeasnaurus not only provides an entertaining read for young children before they go to sleep but also offers a valuable chance for parents to connect and engage.

Purchase from Amazon UK / Amazon US


Dinosaurs reach a whole new level of fun, which is sure to have young listeners stretching their own imaginations too.

From the first page, this book dives into a whole new realm of dinosaurs. T-Rex and friends are nothing against fantastical dinosaurs such as Dippy-adocus or Long-armed-asaurus. There's absolutely nothing serious in these pages, allowing imagination and kid humor complete reign. The monsters have the most ridiculous variety of attributes and giggles are guaranteed.

Each dinosaur has its own two-page spread, which is colorfully illustrated and lets the best parts of each monster shine. The text is large and lets the words come to life through varied sizes, color and fonts. The rhymes flow nicely and the vocabulary is at the right level for kids ages four and up.

At the end of the book, kids are encouraged to discuss the monsters through a list of fun questions. Then they are given the opportunity to draw their very own creation and write a poem to fit.

It's a fun book for kids and parents/guardians to read together and let imagination take complete, quirky flight.

And here he is. . .

Born in Walsaill West Midland, UK, Mike Bayliss is an entrepreneur that owns companies in several industries including building supply and property development. He also owns Bespoke Brewery, which opened in 2012 and has since won a number of awards for its craft beer. He lives with his wife and three children in Forest Dean, UK. This is his first book. 
Facebook -