I Love You More Than Moldy Ham by Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis


I Love You More Than Moldy Ham by Carey F. Armstrong-Ellis
Publisher: Abrams Books
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

When a young monster sets out to create a gourmet dinner for someone special, he squelches through marsh and muck to find just the right ingredients, from beetle knees to plump slugs to chicken teeth! But who is the dinner for? A surprise awaits his special loved one and readers alike!

Monsters aren’t always scary. In fact, some of them are downright sweet!

The narrator compared the love he had for his mother to all kinds of disgusting things, from boogers to sweaty feet. Reading about all of the strange items he were collecting as he talked about his feelings for his mom made me really curious to know what he was planning to do with all of it. The longer the list grew, the more impatient I became to see how it would all turn out.

I would have liked to see the main character be given a name at some point. While I definitely liked the fact that this character was relatable to both boys and girls, it felt odd to me to read about a friendly little monster without knowing something as basic as what his mom called him. They had such a special relationship that I would have loved to know that detail about him.

One of my favorite parts of this story was how much effort the writer put into rhyming words that I never would have thought to stick together. They were pretty clever, and they made it impossible for me to stop reading. While some of those words will probably be unfamiliar for this age group, there were plenty of clues in the illustrations and other parts of the rhyme to help them figure out it.

I Love You More Than Moldy Ham made me giggle. It should be read by anyone who is in the mood to get a little grossed out while talking about love.

She’s Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci


She’s Like a Rainbow by Eileen Colucci
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (299 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

“The summer I turned ten, my life took a fairy tale turn.” So begins Reema Ben Ghazi’s tale set in Morocco. Reema awakes one morning to find her skin has changed from whipped cream to dark chocolate. From then on, every few years she undergoes another metamorphosis, her color changing successively to red, yellow and ultimately brown. What is the cause of this strange condition and is there a cure? Does the legend of the White Buffalo have anything to do with it? As Reema struggles to find answers to these questions, she confronts the reactions of the people around her, including her strict and unsympathetic mother, Lalla Jamila; her timid younger sister, Zakia; and her two best friends, Batoul and Khalil. At the same time, she must deal with the trials of adolescence even as her friendship with Khalil turns to first love. One day, in her search for answers, Reema discovers a shocking secret – she may have been adopted at birth. As a result, Reema embarks on a quest to find her birth mother that takes her from twentieth-century Rabat to post-9/11 New York. Reema’s humanity shines through her story, reminding us of all we have in common regardless of our particular cultural heritage. SHE’S LIKE A RAINBOW, which will appeal to Teens as well as Adults, raises intriguing questions about identity and ethnicity.

 

As soon as Reema adjusts to one new skin color, her complexion changes yet again. Will she ever discover why this is happening?

While this book had a large cast of characters, I never had any trouble remembering who was who. I appreciated how much attention Ms. Colucci paid to all of the small details of her characters’ lives. She made them come to life so vividly in my mind that I was able to keep track of everyone even when multiple new people were introduced at the same time.

The pacing was slow. As fascinated as I was by the premise, it was difficult for me to stay interested in the storyline at times because it took so long for the main character to find any clues at all about what was happening to her skin or whether or not she had actually been adopted. It was interesting to read about the ordinary details of her daily routine like what she ate for meals, but there were so many of these scenes that they slowed down the plot and distracted me from the mysteries of this character’s life.

Reema had a complex and difficult relationship with her mother that included a lot of conflict between them as she was growing up. Some of the most memorable scenes were the ones that showed how this relationship evolved as the main character began to make her own decisions in life. I found it intriguing to see how things changed between mother and daughter over the years. Watching Reema attempt to understand why this part of her life was so complicated was one of my favorite parts of this tale.

I’d recommend She’s Like a Rainbow to anyone who is in the mood for something thought provoking.

Which is p and Which is q? by Gita V. Reddy


Which is p and Which is q? by Gita V. Reddy
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Childrens, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 3+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Grandpa brings a box of wooden letters for Minki to practice her ABCs. He spells out words and Minki picks out the letters from the set. She enjoys doing this except that she isn’t able to tell p and q apart. So when Grandpa spells out p-i-g, she picks q, i, and g. For q-u-e-e-n she picks p,u,e,e,n and for q-u-i-l-t, she takes out the letters p,u,i,l,t.

Because Minki has so much trouble with p and q, she throws them out of the window. Angry and hurt, p and q stomp away to Word Fairy and announce they are never going back.

With p and q missing, many words become meaningless. Now nobody can say ‘please’ because it has turned into ‘lease.’ The police station and the post office can’t function and the queen must go into hiding!

Which is p and Which is q? is a fun story about an important issue.

Children between the ages 3 to 7 make occasional letter reversals while reading or writing. This is more likely to happen with letters that are mirror images of each other – like p and q, b and d, n and u. It doesn’t mean the child is dyslexic or has a learning ability. With practice and some clues, as the letter shapes become more familiar, children get over the confusion.

Learning the letters of the alphabet isn’t always easy.

My favorite scenes happened after the letters p and q ran away to go live with Word Fairy. They were so determined to stay with her forever that I couldn’t wait to see how the fairy would respond to them once she realized that they never wanted to go back to Earth. This was a very creative spin on the topic, and it made me smile.

Minka mentioned some letters other than p and q that are easy to mix up. I would have liked to see her either spend more time talking about how to tell the difference between those other letter or save them for a sequel. Talking about them without going into detail seemed like it could be confusing for young readers. With that being said, exploring those letters would be a very good place to begin with a sequel if the author is hoping turn this into a series.

The memory trick that Minka’s grandfather shared at the end of this story to help her remember the difference between these two letters was a smart one. He made it easy to remember by turning that trick into something a kid can easily imagine happening. It’s not something I’d ever heard of before, but it made a lot of sense.

Which Is p and Which Is q? is an adorable picture book that I’d recommend to anyone who has a young child in their life who needs help remembering the differences between similar letters like these.

Pumpkinhead by Eric Rohmann


Pumpkinhead by Eric Rohmann
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Action/Adventure, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Otho was born with a pumpkin for a head. And despite what one might think, he was not seen as a curiosity by his family. So begins this brilliantly droll tale of a very unusual boy. Otho loses his pumpkin head–quite literally–when a bat decides it would make a good home. And despite what one might think, this is not the end for Otho, but the beginning of a great adventure. Is Otho’s story a parable? A cautionary tale? A celebration of the individual? A head trip? That is something each reader (and Otho) will have to decide. . . . .

There’s nothing wrong with being born a little different from everyone else. In fact, sometimes it’s the best possible thing that could happen to someone!

The dialogue was adorable. I especially liked seeing how other characters reacted to Otho when they met him. They often made funny, lighthearted comments about him. That wasn’t really something I was expecting to see happen at all when I first began reading, so it was nice to see him being treated so well.

I would have liked to see more details included in this book in general. Everything from how Otho’s parents reacted when they realized their child had been born with a pumpkin for a head to what happened to him when he lost his head was brushed over. The author had a lot of interesting material to work with, and yet he didn’t spend much time at all describing what Otho’s life was like before, during, or after the loss of his head. Had this happened, I would have chosen a much higher rating for it as the storyline itself was fantastic.

With that being said, this was one of the most quirky and creative Halloween tales I’ve read recently. The plot twists were handled beautifully, especially when it came to what happened to Otho while his head and body were separated. No, those scenes were never gross or scary. They were playful instead, and that was a great choice for this age group.

Pumpkinhead was an imaginative adventure that I’d recommend to anyone who is looking for a non-frightening Halloween story.

I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House by Laurie Friedman


I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House by Laurie Friedman
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (32 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

Simon Lester Henry Strauss is not in the least afraid of any haunted house, but there is something else that terrifies him.

Not everyone is afraid of the same thing, but just about everyone is frightened by something.

I really liked the balanced way the narrator handled fear. None of the characters were ever treated poorly because of what scared them. Their fears and their emotions in general were treated like the normal part of life that they are, but there were also examples of characters facing things that others found too alarming to deal with. It was interesting to see how all of the characters responded to scary things and what happened when they disagreed on how they should respond to certain experiences.

The imagery was a little scarier than what I’d typically see for this age group. There were references to stuff like blood, guts, and veins. While none of the illustrations for those sentences were gory, this would make me a little cautious about who I handled this tale to. Some kids would love it. Others might find it too frightening, though.

The ending was fantastic. I was expecting there to be a twist in it based on how the main character reacted to the monsters in all of the earlier scenes. It was interesting to see if my theories about what that twist would be turned out to be correct and what would happen to the characters next. This is something I wouldn’t mind reading aloud over and over again. That’s always a nice thing to find in picture books.

I’m Not Afraid of This Haunted House is a good choice for young fans of the horror genre.

Halloween Night on Shivermore Street by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso


Halloween Night on Shivermore Street by Pam Pollack and Meg Belviso
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genre: Children’s, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Holiday, Paranormal, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (33 pages)
Age Recommendation: 6+
Rating: 4 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

There’s a Halloween party on Shivermore Street, and everyone—from dancing mummies to musical witches—is coming. There’ll be whipped-cream-covered ants, pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, and a special surprise when the masks come off at the end of the night. This is a party you don’t want to miss!

Anything can happen on Halloween, especially for kids who’ve stumbled upon a special party being thrown for it.

The descriptions of the party these characters attended were fantastic. The food was every bit as odd as I’d expect for something thrown for witches, ghosts, and werewolves. In fact, the only part of it that I liked more than the descriptions of what they ate were the games they played. With such a wide variety of magical creatures hanging around, there had to be something for everyone to enjoy. Luckily, there was!

I would have liked to see a little more attention paid to the rhyme scheme. There were a few times when narrator tried to get words to rhyme that didn’t quite fit together or that were slightly off beat for what was going on in that scene. The plot would have worked even better if the authors hadn’t stuck to this pattern so firmly, although this was a mild criticism of a story that I otherwise enjoyed quite a bit.

Wow, the ending was fantastic. It matched the tone of the rest of the book beautifully. The twist in it made me grin, especially once everything was revealed and the characters reacted to what had just happened to them. This is the sort of book I’d love to read to my young relatives because of how much fun it would be to see their reactions to the final scene.

If you’re in the market for something deliciously spooky and creative, Halloween Night on Shivermore Street is a great choice.

Day Moon by Brett Armstrong


Day Moon by Brett Armstrong
Tomorrow’s Edge Book One

Publisher: Clean Reads
Genre: Inspirational, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full (376 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Stargazer

BoM LASR YA copy

In A.D. 2039, a prodigious seventeen year old, Elliott, is assigned to work on a global soft-ware initiative his deceased grandfather helped found. Project Alexandria is intended to provide the entire world secure and equal access to all accumulated human knowledge. All forms of print are destroyed in good faith, to ensure everyone has equal footing, and Elliott knows he must soon part with his final treasure: a book of Shakespeare’s complete works gifted him by his grandfather. Before it is destroyed, Elliott notices something is amiss with the book, or rather Project Alexandria. The two do not match, including an extra sonnet titled “Day Moon”. When Elliott investigates, he uncovers far more than he bargained for. There are sinister forces backing Project Alexandria who have no intention of using it for its public purpose. Elliott soon finds himself on the run from federal authorities and facing betrayals and deceit from those closest to him. Following clues left by his grandfather, with agents close at hand, Elliott desperately hopes to find a way to stop Project Alexandria. All of history past and yet to be depend on it.

In making the world accessible for everyone-sometimes there are those who manipulate that accessibility to ensure their own motives are achieved.

Day Moon is an extraordinarily written book that follows Elliott, a college student, working on adding written books to Project Alexandria, a computer system designed to make all human knowledge accessible to all throughout the world. Through the course of his work, Elliott begins to notice that an original copy he possesses of Shakespeare’s plays is startlingly different than the electronic copy in Project Alexandria. It is not a huge jump to realize that there are those that would alter human records to reflect a different body of knowledge than one currently possessed.

I love the mystery and suspense surrounding Elliott. The plot unfolds so smoothly and seamlessly that it envelopes the reader in mystery and suspense without the overtones of immediate suspense. The strengthening and breaking of friendships between Elliott and his friends throughout the journey also leads to must suspense and suspicion. In a world where science and electronics have all but pushed out religion, Elliott finds himself looking deeper and deeper inward to understand the various riddles within Project Alexandria.

The dialogue is strong and the descriptions are thorough; in fact, some of the best character interaction involves the look or action rather than words. Brett Armstrong shows a definite understanding and appreciation for human communication, especially when cloaked within suspicion. The story is not overly violent or graphic, but finds the right amount of description and suspense to catch the reader and propel them into the story without going over the top.

The reality behind Day Moon is one that should seriously be considered since the similarities with our own technology and records certainly follow a similar path to the one described within Day Moon. The technological impact within the society and culture of the story could very well be on the horizon for our own society as well. While Day Moon is the first of the Tomorrow’s Edge Trilogy, it ends at a point that leaves the reader desiring to go to the next book, but not feeling unfulfilled as some trilogies do. It stops at a point that is perfect to give the reader an opportunity to pause, catch their breath, and then make the move to pick up the next in the trilogy!

If you are into an enveloping suspense story that shows you what could be with just a hint of human manipulation, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Day Moon!

Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer


Justice Unending by Elizabeth Spencer
Publisher: Evernight Teen
Genre: Paranormal, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (185 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Poinsettia

Within the walls of the Bastion, it’s an honor to become a host for an Unending—the bodiless, immortal spirits who rule the country. But for Faye, it meant her sister would have to die. When Faye sneaks into the Mother Duchess’s manor, she just wanted to see her sister one last time. Instead, Faye finds a manor in chaos, a murdered man, and an Unending assassin named Aris who needs a new body—Faye’s body—to bring the Bastion to its knees. Now Faye’s harboring the Bastion’s most wanted criminal. And if she wants to live, she’ll have to escape the Duchess and her immortals, all while keeping Aris from harming anyone else. There’s just one problem—Aris is not the villain. And now Faye is the only one who can help her stop the Duchess before anyone else—and especially Faye—has to die for the Unendings’ whims.

Faye just wanted to say goodbye.

The Unending rule Faye’s world, but she never imagined that her sister would be claimed by one. Everything happens quickly and Justine is whisked away before Faye’s had a chance to properly say goodbye. Sneaking into the manor brings her face to face with Aris, the mad immortal. Is Aris really the villain, or is something sinister going on in the Mother Duchess’ manor? Will Faye discover the truth or is she simply a pawn in an ancient feud?

Faye is a very likable character. She’s very willful and stubborn, which isn’t always convenient for those around her, but I count this as her greatest strength. She has a strong sense of right and wrong, and her determination to stand up for what she believes is impressive. I do wish that Faye had been more willing to listen to Aris. They were sharing the same body, but Faye seemed determined to close herself off from Aris as much as possible. I think they could have avoided a lot of trouble had Faye been willing to listen. On the other hand, I also believe that the journey Faye and Aris take helped form their bond and understanding of each other. The glimpses into Aris’ past were particularly interesting, and I believe that as Faye learns more about Aris, they will be a great team.

The secondary characters definitely have potential, but haven’t been developed fully. At this point, they are mostly a background to Faye and Aris and I never felt that I got to know any of them well. The villains are also interesting, but I would like to know more about them and their motivations as well. The Mother Duchess in particular has piqued my curiosity. She seems to have had good intentions at one time, but her own wants and needs have blinded her to the horror of the society she has created.

I thoroughly enjoyed Justice Unending. The main characters are realistic, their story is compelling, and the pacing is excellent. I sincerely hope that Ms. Spencer has plans for a sequel because I would love to learn more about Faye, Aris, and the Unending.

Harvest Moon by Tonya Coffey


Harvest Moon by Tonya Coffey
A New World – Book one

Publisher: Saguaro Books, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (218 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by: Orchid

Seventeen-year-old Jessa lives in the remote mountains of Kentucky and has always found peace in the forest. Close to her eighteenth birthday, her dad buys her a book and things begin to happen. With her dreams leading her, she uncovers a world within her own with Faeries. They look and act like people she grew up with but she quickly finds she is the one who is different. She is the hidden heir to the throne and the Faeries need her to come home and save them from the Trolls.

If it wasn’t difficult enough for Jessa to move to a different world, she has to marry the man who saved her from the Trolls when all she wants to do is run to his best friend, Micha. With so much to worry about, how can she keep the Faery realm from falling into the hands of the evil Trolls and the Ancients?

Jessa, a seventeen year old girl, lives with her father in the woods. Despite going to school, she leads a lonely life and spends most of her time wandering through the trees or reading books about the faerie world. Immediately before her eighteenth birthday she is kidnapped by trolls then rescued by the faeries. From then on her life takes a totally new path.

Roderick her protector, doesn’t seem to do a brilliant job as she gets kidnapped a few times, although he’s not too bad at rescuing her as long as she helps him.

This is a pleasant book with Jessa finding the truth about her parents and her struggles at coming to terms with who she really is, but despite this being pleasant to read, I couldn’t really get into it. Things weren’t well fleshed out and Jessa didn’t seem to be in any real danger which took away the suspense and excitement. However, this is a good book to read as an afternoon distraction and amusement.

Fox in the City by Daniel Cabrera


Fox in the City by Daniel Cabrera
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (172 pages)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe

This is the story of a fox–a fox named Tom. A fox who couldn’t in his wildest dreams imagine what it would be like to stand up on two. To behold and experience all the wonders of the world of man. The lights that light up the ground: The hum of the engines that roar and the fervor that engulfs everyone in the impassioned pursuit of happiness. Could he understand that the most amazing part is not in what we built?

The dividing line between human and animal isn’t always a clear one.

Tom’s character development was well done. It was especially interesting to see how he made the adjustment from being a fox to living as a human child. There are so many differences between those two species that he couldn’t take anything for granted. Everything he knew about the world had been turned on its head, and that made his emotional transformation something I had to keep following until I knew how it would end.

There were many grammatical and punctuation errors. I also noticed a sentences that were missing key words. It was hard to tell what they meant without knowing which word the author intended to use in that sentence. While I enjoyed the storyline itself quite a bit, another round of editing would have made a huge difference in my final rating for this book.

The friendship between Tom and Nora, the human girl he met soon after he was transformed, was beautiful. They were supportive of each other from the beginning. I really enjoyed watching her show him how to survive in the city and seeing how their feelings for each other slowly began to shift as they got to know each other even better. I thought they made a great team and couldn’t wait to see what would happen to them next.

Fox in the City was a creative tale that I’d recommend to anyone who has ever wondered what animals would say if they somehow learned how to speak.