TRAPPED IN ICE by Canadian Author Eric Walters – A 5 Star YA Historical Fiction Thriller based on a true story. A MUST READ.

Title: TRAPPED IN ICE

Author: ERIC WALTERS 

Genre: FICTION, HISTORICAL FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, MIDDLE-GRADE FICTION, CANADIAN FICTION

Length: 225 PAGES

Publisher: PUFFIN CANADA – A DIVISION OF PENGUIN RANDOM HOUSE 

Release Date: 1997

ISBN: 978-1-77049-994-2 (Softcover)

Price: $12.99 CDN ($8.91 on the Chapters.ca website)   

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I sometimes wonder why we don’t learn more Canadian history in high school. I am 100% sure that if TRAPPED IN ICE was read in history class, not one student would complain of boredom.

ERIC WALTERS has taken the tale of the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition and fictionalized it into a tale that everyone should read.

It doesn’t matter if you are a fan of historical fiction or not, this book will draw you in and you will find it nearly impossible to put down.

Thirteen year old Helen lost her father and her home all within the span of a single year. Her mother accepted a job as a seamstress on the Canadian Arctic Expedition and arranged for Helen and her younger brother to join the expedition as well.

Up until this trip, Helen has only ever experienced adventure through the many books she has read. What should have been a moderately scary trip becomes a nightmare when the ocean unexpectedly freezes over early. This catches everyone on board The Karluk by surprise, even the experienced and tough Captain Robert Bartlett. The ship becomes locked in the ice with no chance of a thaw for many months.

Actual photo of the Karluk stuck in the ice in 1913

In fact, it is likely that the ship will sink before the ice thaws enough for it to be released. What follows is a true tale of the ship’s Captain, crew and passengers and their terrifying trek across the ice flow to try to reach land.

Photo of Captain Robert Bartlett at home in Newfoundland before leaving for the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition

Readers will find themselves drawn into this harrowing tale of how Helen and the others push themselves beyond human endurance based solely on their will to survive.

This book is not very long, it consists of only 225 pages and readers will become so swept up in the story that they will want to read it in a single day.

I love the fact that author Eric Walters has chosen to bring to light a part of Canadian history that is largely unknown and I hope that he continues to write more books like this one.


I rate TRAPPED IN ICE as 5 out of 5 Stars and I highly recommend this book to all readers aged ten and older. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 

To learn more about The 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition and it’s true story click here

TRAPPED IN ICE won the 1999 Silver Birch Award. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

It all began in 1993 when Eric was teaching a Grade 5 class.  His students were reluctant readers and writers and Eric began to write to encourage them to become more involved in literature.  His first novel, Stand Your Ground, was created for this class.  It is set in the school where Eric was teaching, Vista Heights Public School, and some of the features of the community of Streetsville and many of the names of his students were incorporated into the story.

  

Since his first novel Eric has exploded on the children’s and young adult scene.  Over the following years he has published over 94 more novels and picture books with more than ten scheduled for the coming years.

These novels have been enthusiastically received by children and young adults and critically acclaimed by teachers, reviewers and parents.  Eric’s novels have won more than 100 awards including eleven separate children’s choice awards. 

He is the only three time winner of both the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch and Red Maple Awards – in which over 250,000 students participate and vote the winner.  In November 2013 he received the prestigious Children’s Africana Book Award – Best Book for young children – for his book The Matatu.  This American award was presented to Eric in a ceremony at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.

 https://youtu.be/yheY6Lut3iU   

Eric’s novels are now available in places as far award as New Zealand, Australia, India and Nepal and have been translated into more than a dozen languages including French, German, Japanese, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish and Portuguese.

Eric has presented to more than 1,500,000 students across North America and internationally in Japan and Germany.  His presentations blend drama, storytelling, audience participation and interaction.  He presents to students from K – Grade 12 as well as adult groups and keynote speeches.

 June 2013 Eric became ‘Dr. Walters’ when he was granted the honorary degree of Literarum Doctorem by Wilfred Laurier University.  He gave the address to graduating  B.Ed., B.A. students in the spring convocation.

Eric, along with his wife Anita, and Ruth and Henry Kyatha, are the co-founders of The Creation of Hope which provides for over 400 orphans and disadvantaged children throughout the Mbooni District of Kenya.

100% of money donated by schools goes directly to serve and through the website these schools are shown – school by school, dollar by dollar, item by item – how their donations are spent.

Eric is the father of three (Christina – born 1985, Nicholas – born 1988, and Julia – born 1992) and he and his wife live in Mississauga with their two dogs – Lola and Winnie the Poodle.  In his free time (what little of it he has) he walks, hikes, and plans his next adventure.  He spends time every summer in Kenya at his orphanage.

To learn more about Eric and his phenomenal books visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

GOODREADS    

TWITTER          

CHAPTERS / INDIGO BOOKS    

EMAIL: ericwaltersauthor@gmail.com   

 

A GIRL CALLED OWL by Amy Wilson releases on Thursday – A magical read for ages 8 and up

Title: A GIRL CALLED OWL 

Author: AMY WILSON     

Illustrator: HELEN CRAWFORD-WHITE    

Genre: MIDDLE GRADE FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION

Length: 336 PAGES

Publisher: MACMILLAN CHILDREN’S BOOKS

Release Date: JANUARY 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5098-3246-0

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS🌟🌟🌟🌟

“When you have a kid, don’t call it something stupid. Don’t call it Apple, or Pear, or Mung Bean. Don’t call it Owl. This advice is a bit late for me. Because she did. She did call me Owl. Thirteen years ago she looked down at a tiny little baby – me – and decided that Owl would be a good way to go.”   

This Middle-grade novel contains  everything that kids aged 8 to 12 want in a story.

Owl may be an unusual name, but it fits since her life is anything but ordinary.  Living in a single parent household, Owl has always been curious about her father. Throughout her childhood, she repeatedly asked her Mom for information about him and was told fairy tales about how wonderful he is and how he cannot leave his kingdom.

 Unfortunately, now that Owl is older, she doesn’t believe the crazy stories her Mom tells to explain his absence from their lives, she wants to know the truth.

But, when frost starts appearing on her skin and other strange things start happening, she begins to wonder if maybe her Mom was telling the truth when she said that her father was JACK FROST.

Readers will join Owl on a quest to find out more about her father which ultimately leads her to find out more about herself as well.

Releasing this book in January was a brilliant move on the part of the Publisher. This book is set in winter and filled with images of both the beauty and the wildness that the season can bring.

Kids who love books about magic, winter, fitting in, feeling different and books about family will love this book.

Not only is this is a wonderful quest-type story, it is also a book that proves that family doesn’t always look the way you think it should, and that ultimately it is love that matters.

I rate A GIRL CALLED OWL as 4 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟 

I highly recommend it to children ages 9 to 13.

❄Readers will never look at a snowstorm the same way again! ❄

* Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.

  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Amy Wilson has a background in journalism and lives in Bristol with her young family.

She is a graduate of the Bath Spa MA in Creative Writing and has many owls in her house, from drawer handles to cushions.

She is still waiting for them to speak to her…  

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

GOODREADS    

TWITTER       

AMAZON  



BOOK LAUNCH EVENT IN BRISTOL AT WATERSTONES ON THURSDAY, JANUARY 26th, 2017 – CLICK HERE

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

Living and working by the sea, she brings projects to life for a range of clients and industries. From publishing to branding, websites to illustration and everything in between.

Originally a graduate of Brighton University, she worked at the wonderful Crush Design for many years as an art director before setting up her own shop. Now with a small studio she is attempting to take over the world and over deliver on every project she gets her hands on.

To learn more about this amazing illustrator visit the following links:

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LINKEDIN 

MY LIFE HEREAFTER by Lynette Ferreira is a Young Adult book with an interesting take on what the afterlife looks like. 4 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟 

Title: MY LIFE HEREAFTER 

Author: LYNETTE FERREIRA  

Genre: FICTION, YOUNG ADULT FICTION, SUPERNATURAL FICTION

Length: 252 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Release Date: NOVEMBER 7, 2016

ISBN: 9781326846404

Price: PAPERBACK  $10.99 USD

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK (FROM NETGALLEY): 

EVERYTHING LOOKS THE SAME EVEN THOUGH IT SHOULDN’T. Everything is exactly the same as before that day which she can now only vaguely remember. The day her school bus ran over the cliff. The day she and most of her fellow students ended up here. The twins, Mark and David, were also on the bus, but David did not come here with them. David was sent across the valley to the other side. Mark convinces Sunel to help him find his brother, no matter what the dangers might be. Fiction: Supernatural Thriller

MY REVIEW: 

This is a Young Adult / Middle-grade fiction novel that imagines a possible scenario of just what is waiting for us in the afterlife.

When young teenager Sunel finds herself and sixty of her former classmates have died, she is initially in a state of shock. 

To make matters worse, she is the reason the bus crashed. This means she is the reason everyone is dead. 

As the shock wears off she finds herself in a world that is very similar and yet very different from the one she left behind.

My favorite scene is when the teens are led into the Hall of Judgment and are told they will be called in one at at a time. Upon entering the testing room Sunel sees three doors.

 “The first door says Recycle. Next to Recycle, there is Rehabilitation. And next to Rehabilitation, there is Rapture.” I thought this was very clever.

This book touches on many interesting and important topics. It is not often that you find a YA book that openly discusses the afterlife. It seems to be a topic that Young Adult authors do not embrace for some reason, and the few authors who do write about the topic choose ghost story-type tales. 

Kudos to Author Lynette Ferreira for tackling such a controversial topic.

This book also has elements of other issues important to today’s youth such as bullying and peer pressure as well as taking responsibility for one’s actions.

With the variety of characters, readers should be able to find at least one that they identify with. I think that young teens and middle grade readers will enjoy this book and hopefully it will open up dialogue about the issues detailed in it’s pages.


*Thank you to 
Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

 

Lynette Ferreira is the author of more than twenty fiction novels.

She writes stories about first love, really cute boys, kissing and all the drama.

Her stories always address social issues and are most times set in a supernatural world.

She does not really like the cold, is afraid of the dark, and loves anything in, on or smothered with chocolate.

She lives in Northern Ireland with her family.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE 

GOODREADS       

TWITTER    

FACEBOOK   

AMAZON   

4 Stars for the unique middle-grade novel BRAINWALKER – Ever wondered what it would be like inside your father’s brain? Now you can find out. 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Title: BRAINWALKER

Authors: ROBYN MUNDELL and STEPHAN LACAST

Genre: FICTION, MIDDLE-GRADE

Length: 260 PAGES

Publisher: DUALMIND PUBLISHING

Release Date: OCTOBER 1, 2016

ISBN: 9780997652505   

Price:  $9.99

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟


BOOK DESCRIPTION (From Amazon)

One teen’s incredible journey may just blow his father’s mind…

Fourteen-year-old Bernard thinks outside the box. The only problem is that neither his school nor his ultra-rational physicist father appreciate his unique ideas. When he reacts to a stressful situation at school by mooning the class, his suspension sends him straight to his father’s workplace. After his frustrated father leaves him unattended, Bernard does what any teen would do: wander into the particle accelerator and accidentally get transported through a wormhole! 

Edit It doesn’t take long for Bernard to realize he’s in deep trouble. Not only did the wormhole drop him in the middle of a civil war over a depleted resource, but the battle is actually taking place inside his father’s brain. Bernard has one chance to save the dying side of his father’s creative brain from the tyrannical left side. Can he use his outside-the-box thinking to save his father’s life?

Brainwalker is a young adult sci-fi fantasy novel that turns the world of neuroscience on its head. If you like incredible fantasy worlds, fast-paced entertainment, and the human mind, then you’ll love Robyn Mundell and Stephan Lacast’s amazing journey inside the brain. 


MY REVIEW:

 This middle grade novel is wonderfully written and readers from ages 8 – 12 will love this book.

The author has imagined an entire world inside the brain of a boy’s father.

I loved the fact that the boy and his father were very different and that they had trouble communicating and understanding each other.

When the boy is sucked through a wormhole and ends up inside his father’s brain, he finds himself on a mission to save his father’s life.

During his quest he ends up learning more about his father and more about himself in the process.


A great read with a terrific message.


I rate this as 4 out of 5 stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟

  


FAVORITE QUOTES:


“Blind faith is stronger than truth. Far stronger.”


“Remember, what you call luck is the meeting of opportunity and flexibility.”
 


ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

 

Robyn Mundell is an award winning playwright. A graduate of New York University, she performed in dozens of plays in New York. She studied with such theater legends as Uta Hagen, Lee Strasberg, and Stella Adler.

Robyn wrote and performed in several of her own plays including Pieces of Oand Traveling Bowls of Soup, produced by Pulitzer-prize winner Beth Henley.Traveling Bowls of Soup opened at the Met theater to rave reviews and received several Drama-Logue awards. Robyn has since been selling original screenplays and TV pilots to major film companies and networks. She is the daughter of Canadian Nobel laureate Robert A. Mundell, and is married to actor-playwright Raymond J. Barry. Together, they have four children.

STEPHAN LACAST

French-Born Stephan Lacast likes to think of himself as a geek, which depending on your  dictionary means either “knowledgeable about computers”, or “boring social misfit.” At the age of twelve his idea of fun was building computers and programming, and by fifteen he was a contributor to a computer magazine. A graduate of Paris-Dauphine University, he holds a Bachelor in Economics, a Master in Business Administration, and a Master of Advanced Studies in Information Systems.

After teaching at Dauphine University, Stephan went on to work as a consultant and engineer for one of the top ten Information Technology services companies in Europe, before deciding to leave Paris and move to the United States.

To learn more about BRAINWALKER visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE

TWITTER

FACEBOOK 

INSTAGRAM 


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5 Stars for Rémy Simard’s Children’s Graphic Novel: SIMONE: THE BEST MONSTER EVER – Perfect for all ages – Coming in April 2017 


Title: SIMONE: THE BEST MONSTER EVER 

Author: RÉMY SIMARD    

Illustrator: RÉMY SIMARD      

Translated from French to English by: KAREN LI   

Genre: CHILDREN’S FICTION, GRAPHIC NOVELS AND COMICS 

Length: 50 PAGES

Publisher: OWLKIDS BOOKS INC

Release Date: APRIL 15, 2017  

ISBN: 978-1-77147-293-7 (Hardcover)

Price: $16.95 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Morris is a green, googly-eyed monster. He loves zombie bowling, rain storms, and anything gross or disgusting.

Simone is a cute little girl. She loves sunshine, flowers and cute puppy dogs.

When Simone ends up in Morris’s world she is the scary one. The monsters run away from her horrifying cuteness and her happy smile. In this monster-world everything is topsy-turvey.

Despite his initial terror of Simone, she and Morris end up as best friends and the unlikely pair have a host of hilarious adventures.

Kids will be able to relate to each story. There is school, Halloween, Christmas, sports and much more.

These comics were originally published in French and luckily have now been translated into English. 

The illustrations in this beginner’s graphic novel are sheer perfection. The monsters still look like monsters, but they are not really scary. This will draw the children’s attention without causing nightmares or fear.

The colors are bright, vibrant and bold and the illustrations will make fans of not only the young children, but also their older siblings, and even their parents. 

Each page in this book is its own story, which is told in 4 to 6 comic panels. This format makes this book terrific for bedtime reading since parents can easily read a few pages per night and pick the book up again the next night.

This is an amazing book to introduce children to the joy and wonder of graphic novels without having to worry about non-age-appropriate content.


I rate this visual treat as 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 and I highly recommend it to children of any age from 4 to 99.


** Thank you to 
Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book.**

       



 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR and ILLUSTRATOR: 

 

RÉMY SIMARD is an award-winning illustrator and author of many books and comics for children.

When he is not busy creating, Rémy loves zooming around the streets of Montreal, Quebec on his motorcycle.

To learn more about him, click on the following links: 
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SCHIZO by Kim Firmston offers a glimpse into the life of a teen whose mother is mentally ill 

Title: SCHIZO 

Author: KIM FIRMSTON  

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, MENTAL HEALTH, BULLYING 

Length: 150 PAGES

Publisher: LORIMER  

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55277-871-5

Price: $9.95 CDN

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟  

Dan and his little brother Dustin live in a single-parent household. Dan is a fifteen year old boy who is just trying to live his life. He has all the normal teenage concerns and desires. There is a girl he really likes and his favourite thing to do is to play his base guitar.

BUT there is one thing that distinguishes him from the rest of the kids at his high school and it is so time-consuming and so emotionally draining that he is exhausted and sleep-deprived every single day. This is obviously affecting his grades.

The difference between Dan and his friends is his mother. She isn’t like the mothers that his friends complain about. They all think their mothers are psycho and  complain about them bitterly. If they only knew!

They may call their mothers “psycho” but they have no idea what life is actually like with a mentally ill mother.

Dan’s mother is a schizophrenic and she has recently stopped taking her medication. This makes her unpredictable and can lead to her becoming violent.

Dan feels powerless and as if he is all alone in the world:

“I wonder, sometimes, if anyone else has a life like mine. I’ve never heard of it. Not once.”

Dan is doing his best to hold his family together and to protect his brother. But soon things begin to spiral out of control. Will Dan be able to keep himself and his brother safe? Or is his mother’s schizophrenia going to tear the family apart?

WHEW!!! What a book. I started reading and couldn’t stop. I read the entire book in a single sitting.

Author Kim Firmston should be applauded for writing a book that directly tackles the issue of mental illness. Unfortunately, even though we are making progress in bringing the issue of mental health out of the shadows, there is still a long way to go.

In the story Dan is tormented by a bully who often says: “…You’re a schizo-nutbar. Like your schizo mom.”

Dan replies by saying: “Don’t call my Mom that. She’s sick. You wouldn’t call someone with cancer names, would you?”

Dan makes a great point. Schizophrenia is an illness, and until people start to believe that, things will not really change. Talking about it and having books like this one available is an important step towards understanding.

 According to Dan, “…mental illness isn’t just something you announce. People think it rubs off.”

As ridiculous as it seems to those of us who are aware that mental illness is NOT a choice, there is still a large segment of the population that believes that everyone can choose how they act and react. This needs to change.

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 stars. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

I highly recommend it to teens and other young adult readers. It is especially important that books like this are available in all high school libraries so that they are easily accessible to those who need them.

If this book reaches just a single young adult and makes him or her feel less alone then it has done its job.

Thank you to Canadian author Kim Firmston for providing me with a free copy of this book. 

To find out more about mental illnesses or to find links to places where you can seek help, click on the following logos:


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

WHO is this so called KIM FIRMSTON?

Kim says she is a real life mutant – though one without any cool powers. When she is not writing or cursing obvious villain mistakes, she warps young minds in her Reality is Optional Creative Kids’ Programming, at WordsWorth Writing Camp and through the ACS Dramantics Theatre Camp, among other places. 

Her short story, Life Before War, was short listed in the 2008 
CBC Literary Award and published in FreeFall MagazineReturning Home, was published in the Alexandra Reader Anthology. Her children’s plays (many of which were co-written with children) have been produced across North America, the Calgary Fringe Festival, and as far away as the UK and Egypt. She has published six YA books which can be seen here, has been the Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto, toured Labrador as part of TD Book Week, and was even interviewed on CJSW.


Kim is dedicated to sharing writing with children of all ages including those not able to write yet and promoting youth who wish to make it their career. 

Other websites where you can find Kim: 


http://www.boiledcat.com/

amazon.com/author/kimfirmston

GREAT by Glen Gretzky & Lauri Holmes Lives Up To It’s Title!!!

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Title: GREAT

Author: GLEN GRETZKY and LAURI HOLOMIS

Illustrator: KEVIN SYLVESTER

Genre: CHILDREN’S FICTION, SPORTS, INSPIRATIONAL, AGES 4-8

Length: 32 pages

Publisher: PUFFIN – An Imprint of PENGUIN CANADA BOOKS INC.

ISBN (Print Book) 978-0-670-06990-3

ISBN (EBook) 978-0-14-319494-1

Price: $16.99 HARDCOVER

Release Date: SEPTEMBER 13, 2016

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The second I set eyes on this book, I knew that I had to have it. Being both Canadian and the mother of two boys means that hockey is in my blood. Plus, no self-respecting Canadian parent would pass up the opportunity to purchase a children’s book that is not only about hockey, but also conveys a very important lesson for both kids and their parents.

Come on! The Foreward is written by “The Great One” himself – Wayne Gretzky. In it he states: “I am very proud of this book and the message it gives to kids. Our Foundation’s Mission Statement is about helping to equip kids for life and that begins at home. Let’s ensure our kids have the encouragement, love and support they need to grow up to be strong and confidant adults. Every child should know that they’re Great.”

What an awesome message! And, it is a message that I agree with 100%.

Most fans of Wayne Gretzky are aware that his father – Walter Gretzky dedicated himself to making his son into both the hockey player and the man that he grew up to be. GREAT is inspired by Walter Gretzky.

In the story a boy named Taylor is excited to have made the hockey team of his dreams. He is going to be playing with Wayne – a kid who everyone is already calling “The Great One”.

The coach is Walter (Wally) Gretzky. Taylor is so nervous to be on such a great team that he doesn’t play very well.

Taylor wants to be the star of the game and when he hogs the puck rather than passing, his team loses. He tells Coach Wally that he knows the loss was his fault and that he thinks he should quit.

Coach Wally’s response is the perfect one. He is the kind of coach that every child deserves to have and Taylor ends up learning lessons not just about hockey, but also about life.

The illustrations in this book are PERFECT. The cartoon showing Taylor leaving for an early morning practice while his bleary-eyed Mom looks on reminded me so much of my own time as a Hockey Mom. Another illustration showing Taylor shooting pucks at a battered garage door made me laugh out loud in remembrance. Throughout the entire book are illustrations that any hockey parent and their child will love. I rate the illustrations as 5 out of 5 stars.

In fact, I enjoyed GREAT so much that I rate the entire book as 5 out of 5 stars. 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book is set to be released on September 13, 2016 – just in time for hockey season. It would also make a great Christmas gift for any hockey fan (regardless of their age.)

* I received a free copy of this book from the Publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

GLEN GRETZKY:

GLEN GRETZKY is the Executive Director of the Wayne Gretzky Foundation, which raises money to help children and families across Canada and the United States. Glen is also the Brand Manager for Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and continues to be involved in community events and fundraising. He lives in Brantford, Ontario

LAURI HOLOMIS:

LAURI HOLOMIS has worked with the Gretzky Family and the Wayne Gretzky Foundation for many years. She continues to work in the sports world and is passionate about teaching kids confidence. She lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband, Ryan, and son, Wyatt. The author lives in Toronto, Ontario.

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:

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KEVIN SYLVESTER  is an illustrator, writer and broadcaster based in Toronto. His series, The Neil Flambe capers, is now out and loads of fun (according to him).

Neil Flambe and the Marco Polo Murders won the 2011 Silver Birch award for Fiction. Neil Flambe and the Aztec Abduction was runner-up in 2012. Neil Flambe and the Crusader’s Curse is up for the 2013 Silver Birch. Kevin’s picture book Splinters was nominated for the 2012 Blue Spruce! Cathy Rondina’s and I won the Silver Birch for Non-Fiction in 2012 for Don’t Touch that Toad. My book Gold Medal for Weird won the 2009 Silver Birch for Non-Fiction.

Kevin has also been a broadcaster with CBC Radio in Canada for years and years (although he is originally from Western New York). Kevin is willing to have people contact him with any questions or comments. His email address is:  atsylvesterartwork@gmail.com.

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Photos and illustrations were all obtained through Kevin Sylvester’s website.

5 Stars for LABYRINTH OF FIRE by Keith Robinson – AUDIOBOOK REVIEW

 

 
Title: LABYRINTH OF FIRE

Series: THE ISLAND OF FOG: Book Two

Author: Keith Robinson

Type of Book: Audiobook – Unabridged

Narrator: Fred Wolinsky 

Length: 9 hours and 53 minutes

Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy 

Release Date: July 6, 2015

Publisher: Audible 

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 



~ I received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review. 

This is the second audiobook in The Island of Fog series. This is a mixture of post-apocalyptic fiction mixed with pure fantasy aimed at middle grade audiobook listeners. This would be a terrific audiobook series to listen to in the car or on a plane during a family vacation. 

The main characters are all twelve years old and have recently left their home island where they had been sheltered in seclusion since birth. They discovered themselves to be shape-shifters. Each child has a specific form that they can change into at will. 

This is where the fantasy portion of the story takes over. One child is a dragon, one is a harpy, one is a centaur, one is a manticore and one an ogre. 

The Manticore

The kids are needed to communicate with the creatures of Miss Simone’s world, but some of them are apprehensive. 

They have good reason to be worried. The harpies and dragons are constantly attacking the human villages. Dragons have even been known to eat humans.

It is up to the kids including Lauren, Hal and Dewey to travel to the dragon stronghold which is located at the Labyrinth of Fire. 

Can they convince the dragons to cease and desist? Or will they end up making matters worse and starting an all-out war?

Fred Wolinksy has a talent for creating multiple distinct voices; one of the kids even speaks with a minor lisp. 

The story is fast-paced and will hold the attention of even the most restless middle-grade child. It has lots of action, kids that accomplish what adults can’t and lots of interesting creatures and characters. This is the perfect middle-grade adventure series. 

If you haven’t yet read ISLAND OF FOG or LABYRINTH OF FIRE, I suggest that you purchase these terrific audiobooks right away. 

I give this audiobook a rating of 5 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

Check out my review of the first book in the series ISLAND OF FOG. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

 

Keith Robinson is the author of the Island of Fog books, a children’s fantasy series chock full of mysteries, adventures and monsters. The novels have received extremely positive reviews across the board, including favorable comments from successful fantasy author Piers Anthony.

To learn more about Keith Robinson and his books visit http://www.unearthlytales.com/ 

ABOUT THE NARRATOR: 

 

Fred Wolinsky has narrated many, many audiobooks and has worked as a puppeteer. To find out more, visit his website at http://fredwolinsky.weebly.com/about.html

5 Stars for THE BLACKTHORN KEY by Kevin Sands – BOOK REVIEW

  
Title: THE BLACKTHORN KEY

Author: Kevin Sands

Type of Book: Hardcover

Length: 371 pages

Genre: Middle Grade Fiction 

Release Date: September 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4651-8

Price: $17.99 U.S. / $21.99 Canada 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 



~ I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. A review was not required, but it is appreciated. 

Wow! According to the publisher, this book is aimed at Middle Grade readers (ages 10-14) but I can easily see older young adult and adult readers absolutely loving this book, much as I did. 

I feel compelled to compare “The Blackthorn Key” to the Harry Potter series for a couple reasons. First, this book does not cater to kids of a lesser intelligence, nor does it patronize its readers. This book is aimed at articulate and intelligent readers who want a complex story with multiple plot twists and a smart but still likeable protagonist. Secondly, the lead character (Christopher Rowe) is extremely loyal and has a highly developed sense of right and wrong. Christopher has to make many choices throughout the book and he rarely jumps and makes rash decisions. When he needs to make a choice his sense of morality and loyalty to his master are factored into his decisions.

I love the choice of time and location, as well as the choice of apothecaries as central to the plot. Kids reading this book may not realize it, but they are being educated at the same time as they are being entertained. 

There is a King, a cult, baker’s and their sons with hidden talents (especially with rolling pins). There are orphans, beggars, noblemen and women. There are crazy people who talk to ghosts, corrupt officials, true friends, bitter enemies and even assassins. This book has it all. 

If you want a book that will both challenge and delight you, look no further than THE BLACKTHORN KEY. 

I cannot give this book anything other than a perfect 5 out of 5 Star rating. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

This book (if it isn’t already) is sure to make the bestseller lists. Christopher Rowe’s name may even come to be known on the same level as that of “Harry Potter” and Christopher’s friend Tom is the “Ron Weasley” of this historical world. 

I am hoping that the author plans to continue this series with many more tales of mystery, alchemy and adventure. I know I will be keeping my eye out for absolutely anything else that writer Kevin Sands publishes. 

It is hard for me to believe that this book is Kevin Sand’s debut novel. I am proud of the fact that this Canadian author has burst onto the literary scene with such a polished and professional work of fiction. 

This book needs to be on everyone’s MUST READ list. If you fail to buy this book you will definitely be missing out on an exquisitely crafted book. 

Watch a video preview of The Blackthorn Key
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

  
Since escaping from university with a pair of degrees in theoretical physics, Kevin Sands has worked as a researcher, a business consultant, and a teacher. He lives in Toronto, Canada. The Blackthorn Key is his first novel. – See more at: http://authors.simonandschuster.com/Kevin-Sands/501383023#sthash.HXZ5oPcg.dpuf 



READ AN EXCERPT: 

The Blackthorn Key  

CHAPTER 1  

“LET’S BUILD A CANNON,” I said.

Tom wasn’t listening. He was deep in concentration, tongue pinched between his teeth, as he steeled himself for combat with the stuffed black bear that ruled the front corner of my master’s shop. Tom stripped off his linen shirt and flung it heroically across the antimony cups gleaming on the display table near the fire. From the oak shelf nearest to him, he snatched the glazed lid of an apothecary jar—Blackthorn’s Wart-Be-Gone, according to the scrawl on the label—and held it on guard, a miniature ceramic shield. In his right hand, the rolling pin wobbled threateningly.

Tom Bailey, son of William the Baker, was the finest fake soldier I’d ever seen. Though only two months older than me, he was already a foot taller, and built like a blacksmith, albeit a slightly pudgy one, due to a steady pilfering of his father’s pies. And in the safety of my master’s shop, away from the horrors of battle like death, pain, or even a mild scolding, Tom’s courage held no equal.

He glared at the inanimate bear. The floorboards creaked as he stepped within range of its wickedly curved claws. Tom shoved the curio cabinet aside, making the brass balances jingle. Then he hoisted his flour-dusted club in salute. The frozen beast roared back silently, inch-long teeth promising death. Or several minutes of tedious polishing, at least.

I sat on the counter at the back, legs dangling, and clicked leather heels against the carved cedar. I could be patient. You had to be, sometimes, with Tom, whose mind worked as it pleased.

“Think you can steal my sheep, Mr. Bear?” he said. “I’ll give you no quarter this day.” Suddenly, he stopped, rolling pin held outward in midlunge. I could almost see the clockwork cranking between his ears. “Wait. What?” He looked back at me, puzzled. “What did you say?”

“Let’s build a cannon,” I said.

“What does that mean?”

“Just what you think it means. You and me. Build a cannon. You know.” I spread my hands. “Boom?”

Tom frowned. “We can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“Because people can’t just build cannons, Christopher.” He said it like he was explaining why you shouldn’t eat fire to a small, dull child.

“But that’s where cannons come from,” I said. “People build them. You think God sends cannons down from heaven for Lent?”

“You know what I mean.”

I folded my arms. “I don’t understand why you’re not more excited about this.”

“Maybe that’s because you’re never the one on the pointy end of your schemes.”

“What schemes? I don’t have any schemes.”

“I spent all night throwing up that ‘strength potion’ you invented,” he said.

He did look a little dark under the eyes today. “Ah. Yes. Sorry.” I winced. “I think I put in too much black snail. It needed less snail.”

“What it needed was less Tom.”

“Don’t be such a baby,” I said. “Vomiting is good for you, anyway. It balances the humors.”

“I like my humors the way they are,” he said.

“But I have a recipe this time.” I grabbed the parchment I’d leaned against the coin scales on the countertop and waved it at him. “A real one. From Master Benedict.” 

“How can a cannon have a recipe?”

“Not the whole cannon. Just the gunpowder.”

Tom got very still. He scanned the jars around him, as if among the hundreds of potions, herbs, and powders that ringed the shop was a remedy that would somehow get him out of this. “That’s illegal.”

“Knowing a recipe isn’t illegal,” I said.

“Making it is.”

That was true. Only masters, and only those with a royal charter, were allowed to mix gunpowder. I was a long way from either.

“And Lord Ashcombe is on the streets today,” Tom said.

Now that made me pause. “You saw him?”

Tom nodded. “On Cheapside, after church. He had two of the King’s Men with him.”

“What’d he look like?”

“Mean.” 

“Mean” was exactly what I’d imagined. Lord Richard Ashcombe, Baron of Chillingham, was King Charles’s loyal general, and His Majesty’s Warden here in London. He was in the city hunting for a pack of killers. In the past four months, five men had been butchered in their homes. Each of them had been tied up, tortured, then slit open at the stomach and left to bleed to death. 

Three of the victims had been apothecaries, a fact that had me seeing assassins in the shadows every night. No one was sure what the killers wanted, but sending in Lord Ashcombe meant the king was serious about stopping them. Lord Ashcombe had a reputation for getting rid of men hostile to the Crown—usually by sticking their heads on pikes in the public square.

Still, we didn’t need to be that cautious. “Lord Ashcombe’s not coming here,” I said, as much to myself as to Tom. “We haven’t killed anyone. And the King’s Warden isn’t likely to stop by for a suppository, is he?”

“What about your master?” Tom said. 

“He doesn’t need a suppository.”

Tom made a face. “I mean, isn’t he coming back? It’s getting close to dinnertime.” He said “dinnertime” with a certain wistfulness.

“Master Benedict just bought the new edition of Culpeper’s herbal,” I said. “He’s at the coffeehouse with Hugh. They’ll be gone for ages.”

Tom pressed his ceramic shield to his chest. “This is a bad idea.”

I hopped down from the counter and grinned.

•  •  •

To be an apothecary, you must understand this: The recipe is everything.

It isn’t like baking a cake. The potions, creams, jellies, and powders Master Benedict made—with my help—required an incredibly delicate touch. A spoonful too little niter, a pinch too much aniseed, and your brilliant new remedy for dropsy would congeal instead into worthless green goo.

But new recipes didn’t fall from the sky. You had to discover them. This took weeks, months, even years of hard work. It cost a fortune, too: ingredients, apparatus, coal to stoke the fire, ice to chill the bath. Most of all, it was dangerous. Blazing fires. Molten metals. Elixirs that smelled sweet but ate away your insides. Tinctures that looked as harmless as water but threw off deadly, invisible fumes. With each new experiment, you gambled with your life. So a working formula was better than gold.

If you could read it.

↓M08→

02160911101825261310092611221315240322132410220710092611221315141607011613010417261122131514142207151126152613021304092514261122132215260720080419 

Tom scratched his cheek. “I thought there’d be more words and things.”

“It’s in code,” I said.

He sighed. “Why is it always in code?”

“Because other apothecaries will do anything to steal your secrets. When I have my own shop,” I said proudly, “I’m putting everything in code. No one’s going to swipe my recipes.”

“No one will want your recipes. Except poisoners, I suppose.”

“I said I was sorry.”

“Maybe this is in code,” Tom said, “because Master Benedict doesn’t want anyone to read it. And by ‘anyone,’ I mean you.” 

“He teaches me new ciphers every week.” 

“Did he teach you this one?”

“I’m sure he’d planned to.” 

“Christopher.”

“But I figured it out. Look.” I pointed at the notation ↓M08→. “It’s a substitution cipher. Every two numbers stand for one letter. This tells you how to swap them. Start with ‘08,’ and replace it with M. Then count forward. So 08 is M, 09 is N, and so on. Like this.” 

I showed him the table I’d worked out.

A=20, B=21, C=22, D=23, E=01, F=02, G=03, H=04, I=05, K=06, L=07, M=08, N=09, O=10, P=11, Q=12, R=13, S=14, T=15, V=16, X=17, Y=18, Z=19 

Tom looked between the cipher and the block of numbers at the top of the page. “So if you replace the numbers with the right letters . . .” 

“. . . You get your message.” I flipped the parchment over to show the translation I’d inked on the back.

Gunpowder

One part charcoal. One part sulfur. Five parts saltpeter.

Grind separately. Mix.

Which is what we did. We set up on the larger display table, farther from the fireplace, based on Tom’s reasonable suggestion that gunpowder and flames weren’t friends. Tom moved the bleeding spoons from the table and got the mortars and pestles from the window near the bear while I pulled the ingredient jars from the shelves.

I ground the charcoal. Sooty clouds puffed into the air, mixing with the earthy scent of the dried roots and herbs hanging from the rafters. Tom, glancing uneasily at the front door for any sign of my master, took care of the saltpeter, crushing the crystals that looked just like ordinary table salt. The sulfur was already a fine yellow powder, so while Tom swirled the ingredients together, I got a length of brass pipe sealed at one end from the workshop in the back. I used a nail to widen a hole near the sealed end. Into that, I slipped a loop of woven, ash-colored cord.

Tom raised his eyebrows. “Master Benedict keeps cannon fuse?”

“We use it to light things from far away,” I said.

“You know,” Tom said, “things you have to light from far away probably shouldn’t be lit at all.”

The mixture we ended up with looked harmless, just a fine black powder. Tom poured it into the open end while I propped up the pipe. A narrow stream spilled over the side, scattering charcoal grains onto the floor. I stamped the powder in the tube down with cotton wadding. 

“What are we going to use for a cannonball?” Tom said.

Master Benedict didn’t keep anything in the store that would fit snugly in the pipe. The best I could come up with was a handful of lead shot we used for shavings to put in our remedies. They scraped down the brass and landed with a hollow thump on the cotton at the bottom.

Now we needed a target, and soon. It had taken a lot longer to put everything together than I thought it would, and though I’d assured Tom that my master wouldn’t return, his comings and goings weren’t exactly predictable.

“We’re not firing this thing outside,” Tom said.

He was right about that. The neighbors would not look kindly on lead shot flying through their parlors. And as tempting a target as the stuffed beaver on the mantel was, Master Benedict was even less likely to appreciate us going to war with the animals that decorated his shop.

“What about that?” I said. Hanging from the ceiling near the fireplace was a small iron cauldron. “We can shoot at the bottom of it.” 

Tom pushed aside the antimony cups on the other table, leaving enough space to put down the cauldron. I picked up our cannon and pressed it against my abdomen to hold it steady. Tom tore a scrap of parchment from our deciphered recipe and held it in the fire until it caught. Then he lit the cannon’s wick. Sparks fizzed, racing toward the pipe like a flaming hornet. Tom dived behind the counter and peeked over the top.

“Watch this,” I said.

The blast nearly blew my ears off. I saw a burst of flame, and a mound of smoke, then the pipe kicked back like an angry ox and nailed me right between the legs.” 

By Kevin Sands 

4 Stars for LADYBIRD by Gracie Bradford – BOOK REVIEW

  
Title: Ladybird: Shawn’s Sixth Sense 

Author: Gracie Bradford 

Type of Book: eBook 

Length: 77 pages 

Genre: Fiction, Special Needs Fiction 

Release Date: January 17, 2015 

Publisher: Outskirts Press, Inc. 

ISBN: 978-1-4787-4807-6

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~ I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

This book is part of a fictional series that describes what life is like for children with special needs. 

Ladybird is a dog; specifically a beagle. Her name was changed to “Ole Lady Bird” as she aged. In this story Lady Bird is ten years old which makes her sixty in human years. 

Shawn is Ladybird’s owner. Although it never specifically says so, I believe that Shawn is autistic. He uses his five senses to explore the world around him and Ladybird helps to keep him both safe and calm. 

I can honestly say that I have never read a book written as if it being narrated by an autistic boy. At times I found this writing style to be off-putting, but it was always unique. I did find some of the phrasing to be extremely awkward. For example: “My aunt is an anti-dog lover!” In my opinion it would have sounded better just to say: “My Aunt did not like dogs.” 

Aside from that I loved the fact that this book is different from any other book I have ever read. I also love the fact that Gracie Bradford has chosen special needs children as her main focus. Education and awareness of the needs of these children is an important issue in today’s society.

I  this book as 4 out of 5 stars. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 

See Ladybird on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/channel/Igets!j-gs42 

Learn more online at http://outskirtspress.com/webpage/isbn/9781478748076 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

  
Gracie Bradford is the author of three children books about students coping with life changes in an extraordinary way. She was born in Louisiana to a family in which most of her siblings became school teachers. Instead of following her sibling’s career paths, Gracie chose a profession in healthcare. Gracie is now a retired Senior Healthcare Executive and retired Pediatric Dietitian living in Texas. 

Learn more online at http://outskirtspress.com/webpage/isbn/9781478748076

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Visit Gracie’s Facebook page at: 

https://m.facebook.com/Gracie.bradford.58

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/graciebradfor10 

Buy online http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B00UNV91UQ?ie=UTF8&at=aw-iphone-pc-ca-20&force-full-site=1&ref_=aw_bottom_links