Saturday, August 31, 2013

Review: Graveyard Scavenger Hunt by Brian Barnett

What a fun and clever story I found me to
read! I am not a fan of scary stories, so I was glad when the author warned me: “It’s not horror…just spooky.” Well, it was more than spooky, it was entertaining and engaging. Young Pete Davidson is forced to spend a week at his Grandparents' house. He hadn’t seen them in a very long time and he didn’t remember how their house looked like… less that they lived next to a graveyard! Against his grandpa’s warning, Pete trespasses into the graveyard to pick up some papers that were blown by the wind. What could actually happen? It’s just an old, abandoned cemetery. Imagine his surprise when something grabs his foot from the ground and takes him into the land of the dead, ghosts and ghouls!  Now Pete has to win his way back home and save our world.

Graveyard Scavenger Hunt is a well written short chapter book. I really like the author’s narrative. He doesn’t fall into unnecessary descriptions or redundancies. He makes his characters believable and lively, with just enough action to keep readers turning pages. It also looks like this book is the first one of a series called NightScares for middle graders...can't wait for the next one. A job well done!
Author Brian Barnett is the author of several stories published online and in print. He lives in Kentucky with his wife and children.
This blog is part of the Amazon Affiliate Program.
*A Free PDF copy of the book was given to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: Begotten: with Love by Jo Ann V. Glim

Begotten: with Love is one of those books I am pleased I came across with. I not only enjoyed the story of five generations of family, I also learned a lesson of upholding and hope. The author’s descriptive prose transports the reader into the different times in history through short tales that give the book a staccato rhythm.

I am particularly fond of the Swedish Connection and the chapters that follow. As an immigrant myself, it’s easy to relate to the dreams and efforts of the Swedish immigrants and, despite the different circumstances, see that the principle remains: love and respect for the new Land that welcomes us and the eagerness to make it your own.

The story of Joanie was heart wrenching and in my opinion, a book on its own. Being a sentimental like I am, my heart ached for this girl, but at the end, my spirit was lifted by her bravery and courage. Quite a character she is! As a matter of fact, several stories throughout the book could easily stand on their own. Maybe author Jo Ann V. Glim will delight her audience with a next book where she’ll pick up on some of these interesting stories and compelling characters.
After reading a book like Begotten, you can’t help but reflect about your own family and their own battles, their demons, the heritage they passed on, their dreams and expectations. And it’s up to us to either dwell in the past flaws and mistakes or take those experiences and make for a better generation…just like the book says, every family has its story. We are continuously adding to that story.

I highly recommend this book not only for its contribution to American history (and literature) but for the values it transmits to readers: love, faith, family and forgiveness.

Author Jo Ann V. Glim lives in Florida with
her husband Bill. She is retired and spends her days helping the community, serving at church and writing. Her book is available in paperback through her website: 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Review: A Glimpse from Christmas Past by D.C. Donahue

You better get hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies ready; light the tree and hang the mistletoe by the doorway. Don’t forget to play Jingle Bells on your iPod. Snuggle in your most comfortable onesies and a blanket by the fireplace and get the children ready to hear a delightful Christmas story. Wait! I forgot it’s only August! A Glimpse from Christmas Past pulled me in the spirit of Christmas and reminded me of classics like A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life.

Told in first person, it narrates the story of a young man that goes shopping on Christmas Eve in his city, (because of the streets and landmarks named, we can guess it’s downtown Philadelphia). Strolling down the decorated and snowy streets, he stops to see a Santa Claus through a window shop, who is listening to children’s wishes and reminding them to keep off the naughty list. But something seems familiar and when his eyes meet with Santa’s he remembers a night many years ago, when that same old man and his reindeer visited his house!

This is definitely a nice story to read aloud to your children, perfect for getting in the mood for the upcoming holiday season. The illustrations are nicely done, with plenty of details to help the young minds follow the story and make their own story lines. And if it’s not Christmas but you’re nostalgic for it, this book will surely bring you the joy and warmth of the season, like it did to me!
Mariana Llanos
Author D.C. Donahue lives in Philadelphia with his wife and editor,

Nancy. He raised four children and currently has five grandchildren, who are the inspiration behind this, his first book.
This blog is part of the amazon Affiliate Program
*A free PDF copy of the book was provided by the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Review The Adventures of Blue Books 1 & 2 by Ronnie James

The Adventures of Blue, books 1 & 2 are a new series recommended for children 3 to 8 years old. The stories are very simple, engaging and cute. Blue is such a good dog that he is left free to wander around the countryside where he lives. He gets a new collar that turns out to be magical, and with it he goes on new adventures. On the first book he goes under water and on the second one, he floats over the river and goes to a farm.

The stories are simple enough for new readers to read on their own or younger readers to be read to, without losing attention. The illustrations are nice but I really wished it had more of them. That, in my opinion, would make this book even more child-friendly.  

Although a bit more editing is necessary (yes, that’s the author-me speaking), I recommend Blue, the very happy dog to your youngsters. I’m sure his happy spirit will steal their heart!

Mariana Llanos

Author Ronnie James lives in England with his dog Blue, who has inspired his books. He wrote his first children's story in 2007. He has a passion for dogs and to put smiles on people's faces.

This blog is part of the Amazon Affiliate Program.
A free PDF version of this book was provided to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Review: Arthur Pong and His Smelly Song by Jose Fernandez

It’s gotta be a boy thing. Everything that
has to do with farting, burping or gross bodily functions seem to fascinate them. And it doesn’t matter how old they are, most of them always find it amusing. Well, some girls too, but in my experience it’s more of a boy’s fixation. Nothing wrong with that! I think everybody needs a good laugh and this book gives us plenty of it.
Arthur is boy that sings like the angels,
hypnotizing his whole neighborhood with his
voice and the awful smell of his...farts.
The author tells us his story with witty
rhyme and humorous style. It includes and
audio download which is an obvious plus.
My boys (10 and 6) found it really funny. For me, it was a little odd, but in some way I enjoyed the author’s irreverence. So if you want to have a laugh, download Arthur Pong and his Smelly Song, a silly read well worth it of checking it out. The author also promises more funny books like this one, I wish him great success

Author Jose Fernandez was born and raised in England. He loves jokes about farting and such.
This blog is part of the Amazon Affiliate Program.
A complimentary copy of this book was given to me in exchange for my honest opinion.

Friday, August 9, 2013

At the Candy Shop with Author Jo Ann V. Glim

Tristan Wolf, our imaginative hero is eight years old when his adventure begins. He is as dreamy and clever as only a child can be. We were all Tristan once in our life and maybe now, we have one in it. My guests- smart, creative and inspiring personalities- have accepted the challenge to go back to those years, to go back to when they were around eight or ten to answer some questions about the world around them. 

Let me introduce you to author Jo Ann V. Glim, when she was eight.

Hi, Jo Ann, it’s very nice meeting you.  Where does Joanie live?

Thank you so much for this opportunity.  I’m looking forward to doing this interview and introducing you to Joanie.

Joanie grew up in a 3-room, cedar-shingled house that occupied ¾ of an acre of rich farmland in a little town called Anacortes on the Island of Fidalgo in the Pacific Northwest (90-miles north of Seattle).  The house was definitely a fixer-upper.  Dad added an indoor bathroom shortly before his tour of duty in Japan in 1948.  He was career Navy.  He also converted the wood-fueled kitchen stove to oil after Mom put the axe through her shin while splitting logs.

After Dad left, times were difficult!  To help make ends meet, my mother’s aging parents left all they knew in Chicago (including their younger daughter and her family) and moved in with us.  Our home was tiny and furnished only with the bare necessities.

Joanie was raised as an only child.  Her sister, born the year before her, died 3 days after birth; and her brother died in-utero in the 7th month of pregnancy.  You asked if she had any brothers or sisters…  Let’s see what she has to say about that…

“I wish I did!”  Joanie said as she blew her bangs out of her eyes.  “Mom won’t let me go play with my friends on Sundays.  She says that’s family day.”  Joanie crossed her arms and pursed her lips.  “On Saturday, I have to wait for Carolyn to finish her accordion lesson.  She’s my best friend, you know.”

“Carolyn and I have a secret.  Do you want to know what it is?” Joanie asked as an impish grin settled on her face.  But before Mariana can say anything, the little girl blurted it out, “Carolyn practices outside.  She lives down there,” Joanie added as she pointed over her shoulder.  “Her mom says that noise box is too loud for a house but this is our secret… she plays ‘Lady of Spain’ last, so I know when we can go play.”

What School do you go to?

"I go to Central Grade School.  Miss Davis is my teacher.  She’s very nice!  We had to write a story last week.  Anything we wanted.  I was really happy because I’m going to be a writer when I grow up, and a nurse, and an actress and maybe a teacher or a cowgirl… maybe not a writer.  Mom says I have writer’s block.  She said sometimes it’s contagious, so, don’t sit too close.  Anyway, I couldn’t think of a thing to write.  My friend Susan’s story was voted the best!  Mom said it’s my first rejection and writers get a lot of those.  She told me to never stop trying."

Joanie’s small for her age.  When she sits back in a chair, her feet don’t touch the ground.  Instead, her legs swing out in rapid motion, and today stopped only when she tapped the side of Mariana’s chair.  Her mother gave her that look.  Joanie stopped.

“Mom says I have to act like a lady,” she told Mariana as she smoothed her dress.  Grandma says, ‘if I don’t mind my manners, I’ll never dine with the Queen of England…’  Have you met her?  I wonder what Queen’s eat?”

Is there anything you hate about school?

"I hate report cards!  I don’t like math, either.   I like English and I love geography.  I’m going to travel around the world when I grow up!  I get good grades but I always get into trouble because I talk too much.  Red checks… that’s all I ever see.  Do you think I talk too much?  I don’t think I do… well, maybe… sometimes."

Joanie looked past Mariana’s shoulder toward the kitchen.  “Miss Mariana, Grandma wants to know if you’ll stay for lunch.  She’s a really good cook!”

What is the food you absolutely dislike eating?

"The only time I make a fuss about eating is on Christmas Eve when she makes Luté Fisk!  I can’t open my presents until I finish my dinner.  I hide it in my mashed potatoes and swallow really fast!  She says all good Swedes eat Luté Fisk. Even my dog, Boola, won’t eat it.  Why can’t Grandma be Italian?  I love spaghetti!"

Are you scared of the dark?

“Nooooo...  I don’t think I am…  When I go to sleep the lights are still on ‘cause I sleep on the hide-away sofa in the living room and grown-ups stay up late.  Mom lets me bring all my books to bed with me.  She reads me a chapter every night… the ‘Bobbsey Twins’ is one of my favorites.  I also love ‘Little Britches’ but it makes me toss-n-turn trying to figure out the ending, so, she reads that one to me after lunch.  My bestest memory of reading is from the first grade when I could finally read a story to Mom about Dick and Jane and Spot.  I felt so grown up."

Who is your favorite star?

Joanie’s eyes were wide as she reverently said, “The Lone Ranger… him and Tonto.”

“Would you like to see my favorite toys?” Joanie asked as she pulled them from her toy box.  “Here’s Howdy Doody and Clara Bell the clown marionettes.  Clara Bell can’t talk.  He has a horn I honk when he has something to say.  But I can’t find it… it’s been missing for weeks.  I don’t know what happened to it.”  Joanie didn’t notice the faint smile on her mother’s lips.  “Oh, and my doll, Blondie, whose hair is now brown because I gave her a haircut.  When mom sent her to the doll hospital, they were out of blonde wigs.  Now, I have to ask before I use the scissors.  Carolyn has a doll just like Blondie except her name is Nancy and she still has blonde hair.”

Do you think you’ll ever get married and have kids?

Joanie laughed and twirled around.  A muffled voice could be heard through the hands cupped over her face as she responded, “Someday.”

Thanks for sharing with me, Joanie.  I hope we can be friends for a long time!

“You betcha!”
And this is Jo Ann, now, in her own words:

My husband, Bill, and I live on the Sun Coast of Florida on the gulf
side (north of Sarasota and south of Tampa Bay); a far cry from where Joanie spent her childhood.

We both love Scotties and share our home with, Lucy, a sweet, 2-year-old rescue dog that’s nothing but unconditional love on 4 paws.  We’re both retired and spend our time doing what we love: volunteering in the community; serving in our church; and (for me) writing, (for Bill) singing with the church choir.  One of his biggest honors was singing at the Vatican in Rome for Pope John Paul.

Carolyn and I have remained friends all these years.  Carolyn was my maid of honor; Bill and I are god-parents to Carolyn’s younger son.  We may not play dolls anymore but every once in a while, have been known to play a round of Chutes and Ladders.  Now (ohhhh, help us all), we’re learning how to Skype.

I did become a writer.  My career began as a disc jockey/copywriter in Chicago.  I've written one-liners for well-known comedians, verses for Hallmark Cards, and an award-winning weekly column that appeared in 14 papers in the northern Illinois area (as well as hundreds of articles on an assortment of topics).

My book, “BEGOTTEN: With Love,” is gaining in popularity thanks to venues like Goodreads and bloggers like Mariana.  Thank you, Mariana for your support.

Copies are available in print through

When I was eight I used to daydream. I played pretend and I loved to write. I still remember my 8th birthday present and the feeling of joy it gave me. What was it? A journal, covered in beige leather, with a writing pad of white satin pages and a black fountain pen that attached to the inside of my elegant and beaming new friend. And this is me, at that age, when all I wanted to do was to tell stories.


Friday, August 2, 2013

REVIEW: Tommy the Courageous Bird by Victor Castelo

Tommy the Courageous Bird is a nice little
bedtime story with a lesson. Tommy the bird is afraid to fly. With the help of his parents he finally learns how to take to the air but he is still afraid of heights. One day he meets with grandpa, also known as The General, a notable brave bird. He will teach Tommy the real meaning of courage and will help him overcome his fears.

The moral of this story can be applied to any other fear, making it easy to relate to and take on the advice. My 6 year old read it with me and enjoyed it. We also talked about his own fears and how the advice in the book could be used in his particular situation. Another important lesson from the book is that Tommy’s parents were understanding about his fear and loved him the way he was. So, as you can see, there are several “conversation-starters” throughout the book. 

The book is the right length for a 4 to 8 years old audience that won’t sit through lengthy books. Well-written and beautifully illustrated, I find Tommy the Courageous Bird to be an enjoyable read to share with the family.
Mariana Llanos
You can find more about author Victor Castelo

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*I received a complimentary PDF of the book in exchange of my honest opinion.