‘Blood Rose Rebellion’ by Rosalyn Eves is the first in a YA fantasy series

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It’s difficult to create a fantasy series that is unique in light of the plethora of fantasy series aimed at young adult readers. Rosalyn Eves’ “Blood Rose Rebellion” will remind the reader of other fantasy series wherein the main character lives in a world where magic rules.

In this world, those who have magic and are allowed to use it, the Luminate, are limited to the upper class. Anna Arden was born into this class, but when she was eight years old, at her Confirmation (when children are tested and allowed the connection to be able to use magic), it was discovered that she was Barren. She did not have the ability to use magic. Because of that, her chances at finding a husband or even being accepted by polite society were slim.

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‘Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family’ is a heartwarming story of hope and renewal


In “Penguin the Magpie: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family,” Cameron Bloom shares the story of two accidents — one that caused his wife to become paralyzed and another that brought a small baby bird into their lives. How the second accident made the first a bit more bearable is the basis of the story.

During a family vacation to Thailand, Bloom’s wife, Sam, the mother of their three boys, fell from a 20 foot height and was badly injured. Barely clinging to life, she was rushed to a series of hospitals. She was lucky to survive the fall, but she didn’t survive unscathed. When her condition finally was stable enough for a plane flight, she and her family went back home to Australia. There she continued to receive care at a hospital.

Sam’s spirits plummeted after she got home. Everything she was not able to do depressed her, and her family felt like there was little they could do to make her happy.

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10 Amazing dogs will be killed this Tuesday unless you help

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In a small, county shelter in Sebring, Florida, five wonderful dogs are waiting in concrete kennels. They have been waiting for someone to adopt them or for a rescue to pull them. Now, they have been waiting too long, and they all are scheduled to be killed on Tuesday if no one has saved them, and the shelter needs their kennel.

Sweet puppy brothers Mack and Marcus are going die. So will the lovely Matilda, and others.

How can people who are not even close to Florida help? How can people who cannot adopt or foster another dog help?

By simply sharing their story on social media, it increases the chance that a rescue somewhere will see them and decide to save one or two of them. Transport could be available for rescues.

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The Politics of Greed

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The New York Times ran a review of Ivanka Trump’s 2009 book. The review is titled “IVANKA TRUMP’S TERRIBLE BOOK HELPS EXPLAIN THE TRUMP-FAMILY ETHOS” and it says, in part:

When Ivanka was a kid, she got frustrated because she couldn’t set up a lemonade stand in Trump Tower. “We had no such advantages,” she writes, meaning, in this case, an ordinary home on an ordinary street. She and her brothers finally tried to sell lemonade at their summer place in Connecticut, but their neighborhood was so ritzy that there was no foot traffic. “As good fortune would have it, we had a bodyguard that summer,” she writes. They persuaded their bodyguard to buy lemonade, and then their driver, and then the maids, who “dug deep for their spare change.” The lesson, she says, is that the kids “made the best of a bad situation.” In another early business story, she and her brothers made fake Native American arrowheads, buried them in the woods, dug them up while playing with their friends, and sold the arrowheads to their friends for five dollars each.

Well, that paragraph says it all about Trump’s family and their ethos. It’s not complimentary, and it’s in Ivanka’s own words.

Complaining about not being able to have a lemonade stand? Seriously? So instead of trying to make money from strangers, they “persuaded” the family employees to shell out money so the kids could feel good. The maids — in her own words! — “dug deep for their spare change.” She should be ashamed that she forced the maids to part with their hard-earned money (because one thing is for certain — the Donald underpaid them and the work was not pleasant). In her words, that’s making the best of a bad situation? Fleecing the employees was a “bad situation”? Just for the employees, certainly not for the pampered, avaricious, grasping children of wealth.

Then there’s the story she shares about making fake arrowheads, burying them in the woods, and cheating their friends and selling them for five dollars each. This, apparently, is a story Ivanka is proud of. Again, who would be proud of cheating friends and making money? Apparently, anyone in the Trump family.

And now, Trump is cheating the nation by using his presidency to make Mar-A-Lago more visible (he doubled the membership fee when he was elected) and giving those who do belong a chance to meet heads of state. Only the extremely wealthy need apply.

Trump exploits his position to promote his golf courses by playing golf there often. This is the guy who excoriated Obama on Twitter for Obama’s golf games, but is shamelessly playing golf at a huge expense to taxpayers who must pay for his ridiculously high security costs.

Politifact reported that after the same number of days in Obama’s presidency, Obama had played golf once compared to Trump’s playing at least 14 rounds. The Independent reported that while Trump has spent 25 of the first 100 days (that’s one-quarter of his time as president) away from the White House, Obama only left the White House for one long weekend (four days).

This would not be notable except for the fact that in the past Trump has complained on Twitter, over and over, about any vacation Obama took and any golf he played.


The Trumpers certainly got what they asked for: Donald, Ivanka, Jared, and the rest of the hypocrites. Good luck, folks.

‘Bob, Not Bob!’ is a funny but also very touching picture book about a boy, a dog, and a cold


“Bob, Not Bob!” is written by Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick and very ably illustrated by Matthew Cordell, and it comes with instructions right on the front cover: “To be read as though you have the worst cold ever.”

And the title says it all. Does little Louie want his mom, or is he calling for his dog, Bob? Only Louie knows, although the illustrator cleverly gives readers a clue as to which one is the intended recipient of the “Bob!” call. Bob, aka “Mom” in cold-speak, is shown with the center of the “O” drawn as a heart, while the dog Bob is not.

Poor little Louie has a terrible cold! And even though he’s old enough that he doesn’t need his mom for everything, when he’s sick and feeling out of sorts, he wants her. The problem is that his cold is so bad, he can’t say “Mom,” instead it comes out sounding like “Bob,” which just happens to be the dog’s name.

The dog is obviously very sweet and loving (and slobbery). Everyone should have a dog like Bob. Every time that Louie calls out, his faithful dog comes running. Poor Louie. Poor Bob. Poor Mom.

The ending is pitch perfect and just wonderfully touching, and Cordell captures the contentment on the faces of the three — Mom, Louie, and yes, Bob — as they snuggle sweetly on the bed, together.

This is the perfect story for any child suffering from a cold, and even one who isn’t. It would be fun to talk with kids about how different people sound with colds. For teachers, a great classroom activity would be for the students to make up their own “Bob” book!

Please note: this review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for review purposes.

Two Children’s Picture Books Perfect for Summer and Water: ‘Vampirina at the Beach’ and ‘Holly’s Day at the Pool’

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Two new picture books are the perfect introduction to a water-filled summer of fun, be it at the pool or the beach.

“Holly’s Day at the Pool” is about a young hippo, Holly, who is shown on the title page playing catch with her younger sister, Dottie. When Dottie’s favorite toy gets stuck in a tree, Holly is the only one who can rescue it. The illustration of Holly retrieving the toy shows her climbing a huge mountain and saying she is very brave.

But when it’s time to go to the pool, Holly’s bravura abandons her. She explains her fears. “What if…”

“The water is too cold?” “I get water in my eyes? Or my nose? Or my ears?” “I sink, sink, sink to the bottom?” “A BIG, scary snapping turtle pinches me?”

But when Dottie’s toy falls in the pool, Holly comes to the rescue. Children will enjoy hollydatatpoolreading about Holly, the wonderful big sister. She’s a good role model for those who have younger siblings, and kids who might be frightened of pools will relate.

This book is part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase Books selection. According to Disney, “This series of original picture books puts the spotlight on the incredible artists of Disney Animation Studios. The pages of each book showcase the personal work of one of these talented artists and introduce a brand-new world and characters.”

vamprinia“Vampirina at the Beach” by Anne Marie Pace and illustrated by LeUyen Pham is another perfect read for summer. This is the third book in the series that started with “Vampirina Ballerina” and continued with “Vampirina Hosts a Sleepover.” Here, Vampirina and her family and friend head to the beach at night — of course! — so the not-too-scary monsters can enjoy some sandy adventures.

The illustrations show Vampirina and her friends, who are all monster-ish, but there is one family who look just like a normal family who happen to be mixed up with the monsters. In the beginning, they don’t interact with the monsters and appear to be looking at them as if they are strange.  The boy, who seems to be the same age as Vampirina, starts to have fun with her. And about a third of the way into the story, while the two are surfing together, the boy sprouts animal ears, then a tail, then paws. Turns out that he and his parents are werewolves — so they fit right in!

There is a lovely page that folds out to show the dancers during the beach dance contest. The illustrations manage to show the emotions on the faces of the different characters and are beautifully creepy.

The text gives no hint as to the monstrous nature of the characters in the illustrations. It’s simply about how to have fun at the beach and includes lessons on character. “It’s hard to be the best at something new,” and “Whether or not you come out on top, finishing with grace is what makes you a real winner.” And those lessons are just a couple of the reasons that this book is a real winner, too.

Please note, this review is based on the final hardcover books provided by Disney-Hyperion, the publisher, for review purposes. 

‘Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!’ by Bruce Hale is a Fabulous ‘Monstertown Mystery’ for Middle Grade Readers


Bruce Hale is a master when it comes to using colorful, figurative language in his writing. “Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies,” his sequel to “The Curse of the Were-Hyena,” is filled with great imagery. When narrator Carlos describes his best friend, Benny, and himself he says, “…we’d been just your typical comics nerds — as plain as white rice on an ivory plate.” He also noticed that “time was running out like Halloween candy in November.”

Similarly clever imagery is sprinkled throughout the story. Carlos is a diverse main character.  His abuelita (grandmother) lives with them during the week when Carlos’ mother is in Los Angeles with his budding television star younger sister. Abuelita is not only an amazing cook (she makes mole), but she plays the saxophone and sprinkles Spanish in her dialogue.

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‘A Darkness Absolute’ by Kelley Armstrong is a Chilling Sequel to ‘City of the Lost’


“A Darkness Absolute” is the sequel to the first book in the series, “City of the Lost.” Kelley Armstrong creates a place in northern Canada where those who want or need to hide go to escape from their problems for a while. It’s really far north, so the weather is usually cold — very cold. And the people in this little, hidden town all have their own issues.

While this book could be read as a stand alone novel, it’s much better enjoyed after reading “City of the Lost,” to meet all the quirky unique characters, including the main character, Casey Duncan.

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Fabulous Summer Picture Books with Dogs and Cats

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Three picture books worthy of purchase are “A Cat Named Swan” by Holly Hobbie, “A Greyhound, A Groundhog” by Emily Jenkins, and “Pig the Winner” by Aaron Blabey.

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“A Cat Named Swan” is written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie, and the illustrations, in watercolor, pencil and ink, areIMG_0845 magnificent. What is unusual about the story line is that unless the reader begins by really examining the title page with the illustration of the mama cat and several kittens cuddled in a box that is lined with a striped shirt, the first page of text doesn’t make sense. It’s an illustration of a tiny kitten in front of the same box, alone.

“Then he was alone. Where was his mother? What had happened to his brothers and sisters? They were gone.”

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‘Dream’ by Matthew Cordell is an Ode to Parents and Their Babies


Matthew Cordell’s “Dream” is a gorgeous and extraordinarily touching picture book evocation of the joys and fears of parenthood and childhood. New mom and dad gorillas adore their infant, and one of them dreams of his future and their own. That dream is rendered so movingly that every page commands our total emotional involvement in each stage of that baby’s growth. It’s as if each page is a poem of love and the book is a poetic ode in words and pictures to the power of parental care.

The details, both visual and verbal, are stunning in their virtuosity and tenderness. The very first page is a wordless picture of a gorilla arm drawing a green line — the beginning of a life. That green line will become the first of many trees of life that bloom and grow throughout the piece. And that baby will bloom and grow as well, as in a parent’s dream, he experiences the beauty and sadness that characterize the progress of each and every life, all under the watchful eyes of the adoring parents.

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Fabulous Picture Books by Steve Antony Kids Love that Teach Life Lessons


Steve Antony‘s picture books are brilliant. Each one is like a treasure filled with amazing animals, and each one teaches manners, patience and cooperation.

pleasemrpandaIt started with “Please, Mr. Panda,” in which Mr. Panda has a box of doughnuts he is willing to give away. He asks the animals one by one if they want doughnuts. When some say they want one or all of the doughnuts, Mr. Panda replies that he has changed his mind and they cannot have any doughnuts. This continues until one animal finally responds correctly, with the magic word “please.” That animal gets all the doughnuts. It turns out that Mr. Panda does not like doughnuts! Make sure that the endpapers are examined as part of the book reading. Each of them is different from the other, and both definitely add to the story! Continue reading

‘Saturdays at Sea’ by Jessica Day George is a Beautiful Ending to a Lovely Middle Grade Fantasy Series

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“Saturdays at Sea” by Jessica Day George is the last book in the five-book series that began with “Tuesdays at the Castle.” It’s a lovely fantasy series for middle grade readers who aren’t really interested in romance, but do love adventure and magical creatures.

“Saturdays at Sea” is the last episode, as Celie and her family leave their beloved Castle to meet the family of her sister Lilah’s bethrothed, Lulath, in their seaside country. In the last book, Celie found a ship’s figurehead, and they decided that a ship would be built as a wedding gift for the couple using wood from all parts of the different countries that have figured in the series — to unify them all — and the figurehead.

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