Serafina and the Splintered Heart

Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Serafina #3)Serafina and the Splintered Heart by Robert Beatty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fans of the Serafina series won’t be disappointed with this final installment. It has all the fantastical, tantalizing elements as the first two books. There’s an interesting twist right off the bat that will intrigue readers and keep them turning the pages. One of the things I liked the most about this book is that we get to see Serafina grow into a young woman. She has to deal with a lot of change and struggles with how to handle things, so she asks her father – “But if everything is changing, what can we hold on to?” She gets some wise advice from her father that I found endearing. There are some good messages in this book about friendship, forgiveness, trust, and persevering through hardship. And as in previous books, there are wonderful tidbits of Biltmore history woven in. It was good to hear that Beatty is going to publish a new series about a twelve-year-old forest girl named Willa with special powers. Fans will have something new to look forward too.

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Binti Book Review – Sci-fi

Binti (Binti, #1)Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every now and again, I find a rare gem in a book. Binti is one of these books. This is a short read (90 pages), but it’s long enough to pull you into a unique world of sand and desert, Astrolabes and ancient Edans, and living creatures serving as ships. The various sects of people; Khoush, Himba, and Meduse are equally fascinating.

Sixteen-year-old Binti is a math genius—a girl who chooses to break long traditions by being the first Himba to leave her ancestral land and travel through space to a prestigious University—Oomza Uni. When the ship is attacked en-route, Binti finds that the ancient “Edan” (mysterious metal device) she’d found in the desert of her homeland, has powers she knows nothing about, and it becomes her protector from the Meduse attackers. The Meduse are large jellyfish like creatures that are blue and translucent. They have a stinger and blast out large plumes of gas to help them breathe (Love this so much). One of the Meduse, Okwu, tells Binti “I wish I could just kill you.” But her ancient Edan is keeping the Meduse at bay. A standoff begins, and Binti finds herself trying to broker peace between the Meduse and Oomza Uni before the ship arrives at the university and a bloodbath ensues. But the sacrifice she will make will change her in a way she never expects, and soon she finds herself on a journey that will transform her life.

The next book “Binti Home” is equally as wonderful. Can’t wait to see how Nnedi Okorafor continues this creative series. If you’re not a sci-fi fan, these books might change your mind.

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Top Ten All-Time Favorite Young Adult Fantasy & Sci-fi

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and today will be the first time I’ve participated. This weeks theme is Top Ten All-time Favorite book in a genre. I chose Young Adult, though technically, not all of these fall under the umbrella of YA. But since I also write YA, I find that all of these still fit nicely into the category. So let’s get to it. These are my favorite Top Ten Fantasy & Sci-fi


1) Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

 Because Sanderson gives us an amazing form of magic never seen before in a fantasy. Characters drink different metals that they “burn” to give them super-human abilities. An epic book series that I could talk about for hours. Oh—and did I mention that one of the main characters, Vin, is a girl that can kick some serious butt.

2) The Giver – Lois Lowry

Because in a world where everything seems perfect, it’s anything but. This is dystopian at its finest.

3) The Hobbit – J.R.R Tolkien

Because if you can’t quite handle the full Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit will give you a taste without tying you down to the three book fantasy.

4) Farenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Because Ray Bradbury was the genius that gave us our first glance into a world without books.


5) The Maze Runner – James Dashner

Because this is the first time we’ve seen a dystopian world of mazes, monsters, zombies, and a world on the brink of distinction that ends with one saying “Good that.”

6) Wool – Hugh Howey

Because a society living in a silo because the outside world is uninhabitable is an irresistible setting.

7) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

Because completely ridiculous, slapstick sci-fi that makes you laugh, is worth the read alone. And also, because a pessimistic robot with a dry sense of humor is funnier than you think.

8) The Host – Stephanie Myer

Because an alien invasion is even cooler when an alien-inhabited human is captured by real humans that live in caves, and a love triangle ensues.

9) Pathfinder – Orson Scott Card

Because a seemingly medieval world where a boy sees the paths (think traces of light) of every living thing that ever walked the face of planet Garden, has a strange connection to a ship carrying sleeping colonists headed for a new planet. Get ready for time manipulation that challenges all the time travel basics in the wrapper of a medieval sci-fi fantasy.

10) Theft of Swords – Michael J. Sullivan

Because two, dark and handsome mercenaries that take you with them into a world of kingdoms, wizards, and dragons, is everything you want in a great fantasy.

I’d love to see your favorites in the comments BECAUSE…there might be a book I need to read! (seriously though, leave a comment)

Creepy and Historical

Serafina and the Twisted Staff (Serafina, #2)Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to admit, one of the reasons I like the Serafina books are that they combine mystery and fantasy with a historical setting – the Biltmore House. Not only that, Beatty incorporates real people with a fantastical story. But, Beatty’s novels are not some boring historical, fact-riddled, snoozers. They’re creepy mysteries that revolve around kids. No wonder, kids love these books. The adults are the backdrop, and the kids take center stage.

In Beatty’s latest installment, Serafina picks up her adventures at the Biltmore estate three weeks after defeating the man in a black cloak. The book opens with Serafina in the woods, where she notices that the birds and animals appear to be fleeing the area. Then there’s the strange carriage without a driver headed straight toward Biltmore. Concealing herself, she watches as the carriage briefly stops, and a tall, bearded man in a black coat climbs down from the carriage holding a gnarled walking stick. Her heart quickens as five wolfhounds stand by their master, scanning the woods. It’s not long before Serafina and Braeden are once again caught up in a supernatural mystery. There’s a new character, 14-year-old Lady Rowena, which puts a little kink in Serafina and Braeden’s relationship and makes for some great moments of contrast between Serafina’s rough appearance/manners and Rowena’s expensive dresses and proper English up-bringing.

For some reason, I was getting the Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles feeling while reading this book, especially near the end. I think readers will continue to be enthralled with Serafina and her animal ways. We can only guess what Beatty will come up with next, but there’s no doubt that the Biltmore setting was a brilliant idea. There are not many books where the reader can actually imagine themselves in the actual place because they’ve been there. Genius.

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New Book Release! The Gladiator & The Guard

I am happy to be hosting Annie Douglass Lima on my blog to celebrate the release of her second book in the Krillonian series – The Gladiator & The Guard. (There’s a giveaway at the end, so be sure to check it out!) I’m including my review for both of the books in the series so you can get a good idea of what her books are about. Enjoy!

Book 1 – The Collar & The Cavvarach

Finding a book that is original is refreshing these days. Too often we see the popular books “reinvented” over and over again. So I was happy to see that The Collar & The Cavvarach provided something new for the imagination.

The story takes place in a time where slavery is legal. The year is 154. Jarreon is part of the Krillonian Empire. The setting would be best described as an alternate universe that’s more modern day. So, right away, the unique setting grabs your attention.

The main character, Bensin, is a fourteen-year-old slave who promised his mother on her deathbed that he would make sure that his younger sister would be free someday. His schemes and plans for freeing his sister ultimately land him in trouble. This is where we’re introduced to a free, thirty-something, down-on-his-luck, athletic instructor whose specialty is teaching Cavvarach Shil. I’m impressed that the author made up a new sport for the story. The best way I can describe it is part kickboxing, part dueling. The main weapon, the Cavvarach is unique—a sword with a hook. The instructor, Steene, ends up training Bensin in the hopes of getting him to the Grand Imperial tournament. During the process, Bensin never forgets about his sister and his promise to free her. His personal struggles often seem to mimic the battles he faces in the ring.

Even though this is a young adult book, I think middle school boys would love it. Especially those who like martial arts of any kind. It has that “Karate Kid” type of feel, and there’s plenty of action and adventure which makes it perfect for advanced young readers.

Click here to order The Collar and the Cavvarach from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through April 28th!


Book 2 – The Gladiator & The Guard

I was glad to see such a great follow-up to the The Collar & The Cavvarach. It’s been four years since the end of the first book. Bensin is now 18. He’s still a slave, though his younger sister has been adopted by his Cavvarach Shil, instructor, Steene. When Bensin is accused of assault, his future hangs in the balance. Slaves have very little rights and his outlook is grim. But Bensin is a good fighter, and is much more useful than the average slave. He becomes a gladiator in the imperial arena where fighting is entertainment and the battles are often bloody and deadly. But there’s nothing overly graphic here, and the author does a good job of drawing you into the fight sequences and the whole life of a gladiator inside the arena.

If you’re a fan of the “Gladiator” movie, then you’ll enjoy the battles, the training, and the jail like atmosphere of the arena. A good series for middle school boys or anyone who likes martial arts.

Click here to order The Gladiator and the Guard in Kindle format from Amazon


Now, enter to win an Amazon gift card or a free digital copy of The Collar and the Cavvarach!

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Twilight Reimagined Enters the Twilight Zone

Life and Death: Twilight ReimaginedLife and Death: Twilight Reimagined by Stephenie Meyer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m not going to even bother with a synopsis. Everyone knows this is a gender reversal of twilight. When I first heard the idea, I thought it was a horrible one, but then I reconsidered and thought maybe it could work if it was done right. It only took a few chapters for me to realize the rewrite was a disaster. But I soldiered on and read it until the bitter end – cringing all the way.

There were two major problems with this rewrite. First, Beau was not rewritten to act more male. Like another reviewer mentioned, it seemed like Meyers did a find and replace “Bella” with “Beau.” You now have a male character that acts like a female. Ugh. He’s clumsy, un-athletic, not even portrayed as remotely good-looking. Even if I could get past the fact that he acts like he’s in middle school, then you have the portrayal of Edythe to deal with. Frankly, she’s creepy. She treats Beau like a child. She’s worried that he’s cold, she’s worried that he’s not being safe, she’s worried that he might be hungry. At one point, she even buckles him into the harness seatbelt in Eleanor’s Jeep. Um…I’m pretty sure any 17-yr old boy can figure out how to buckle himself in a harness. Then she leans over and kisses him on the cheek? I was waiting for Beau to say, “Thanks, mom.” What’s worse, she undoes his harness for him when they arrive at their destination. At one point she says “Now, be a good boy.” Argh. I could go on from there with her hand to his forehead, to Beau grabbing a pullover before he leaves the house so that Edythe won’t worry about him getting cold. And I’m supposed to believe there is this inexplicable attraction going on here?

There is an alternate ending which does nothing to make up for the problems with the rest of the story. Trust me, by the ending you don’t care because you just can’t accept that there’s a romance between these two people. It doesn’t feel the same as Twilight, not even close. It’s a shame that Bella and Edward couldn’t just stay Bella and Edward. This version is too weird and too much like a ninety-year-old (Edythe’s real age) is in love with a twelve-year-old.

Revel in the fact that I’ve saved you from hours of reading and watching one of your favorite books be ruined forever with the reimagined Twilight. Not only that, but also the hours you would no doubt spend asking “Whyyyyyyyy?”

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Book Review – Seraphina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black CloakSerafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spooky, page-turner mystery that leaves you wanting more…

It’s 1899. 12-yr-old Serafina lives in secret in the basement of the Biltmore house with her father who maintains all the mechanical and electrical in the grand house. She stays hidden during the day, only coming out at night to do the job her father declared for her – Chief Rat Catcher. She takes pride in her nighttime basement hunts for the “four-legged vermin” and finds that she has a natural talent for it. At night, she rules the dark basement. Until… You guessed it — something mysterious this way comes. A man in a black cloak. And he’s up to no good. She follows him into the underbelly of the basement. What happens next changes everything. Suddenly, Serafina finds herself faced with a new foe, and it’s endangering the whole house. Desperate to do something, she travels to the main floor and hides in the shadows looking for a way to help. That is, until he sees her — Braeden Vanderbilt, Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt’s nephew. From there, an unlikely friendship is formed and the two of them work together to unveil the man in the black cloak.

I loved this book. I’m not sure if it’s because it took place at the Biltmore house or that the story was just simply that riveting. I’m guessing it’s a mixture of both. It was fun being able to pull up images of all the rooms in the book because I’ve been there and seen them. How many books can you say that about? Taking something historical and making it a supernatural mystery was genius. The story pulls you along right up to the surprise twist ending. Hint – there may be more to Serafina then meets the eye.

If you like supernatural mysteries, then this is the perfect read no matter what your age. It’s true that the story has scary elements, so I would say fifth-grade and up as far as recommended reading age.

I’m thrilled that there’s going to be another book (maybe more?). I can’t wait to see what happens next.

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Author Interview w/Amberly Clowe – AXEL & THEO: My Dog is The Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy


I’m excited to have Amberly Clowe stop by and answer some questions about her Sci-fi children’s book – Axel & Theo: My Dog is The Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy. Great read and so much fun. Let’s get started.


I love that your book is science fiction for kids. What drew you to this genre?

I’ve always loved the possibilities in this genre. Anything can happen with science fiction. That is so cool to me. And then I get to describe and compare these crazy things to the familiar that kids love. I enjoy doing this with silly similes and one-liners. On top of all this awesomeness that makes me seriously giddy, the guts of the story still come back to unforgettable characters experiencing, growing and transforming. It does not get more fun than that.

Give us some insight into your main character, Theo. What is it about him that you think kids, especially boys, can relate to?

I think we get in our adult worlds, paying bills and being responsible, and sometimes we forget that kids really can have it tough. Their problems are just different. Theo, the main character, is in the throws of uncomfortable. He has allof these big dreams but can’t seem to shake the bully right in front of him. He feels like a coward and throughout the story, he begins to find himself and discover that he’s actually pretty awesome. He has an admirable sense of right and wrong, especially when it comes to friendship and loyalty. I hope when the readers discover who they are, they’ll realize they’re just as awesome.  

Theo gets quite a surprise when his dog turns out to be an alien from the planet Doglin. I love the fact that Axel is a “weenie dog.” Why did you decide to use such a small dog to be an Emperor of the Thars Galaxy?

I have always loved weenie dogs. They are just so stinkin’ cute! As soon as the idea hit me to have this tiny dog hold such a huge title, that was it. There was no going back. It is such a metaphor for the concept that even the smallest can be the greatest.

There’s a lot of humor in your book. One of Theo’s first thoughts when he hears Axel talk for the first time is that his dog is a “crazy radioactive mutant.” How do you get into the mind of a ten-year-old boy?

That’s a great question. I remember when I decided to go into teaching elementary school. When I was around kids, I was always really interested in their take on things and perspectives. I think kids are fascinating. I adore how they learn and see the world. So it wasn’t really a giant leap for me, and I’m not really surprised I found my voice with the pre-adolescent group. They have so much knowledge already, but at the same time, they lack so much experience. It can kind of be a miserable period. —Yeah, that’s probably where the humor comes in.

When Axel gets kidnapped by alien cats, Theo follows and suddenly finds himself shooting through a beam of goop through space. You did a great job incorporating sci-fi elements at a level that kids can understand.

Thanks so much, Sherry! I so love figuring things like that out in the story. It just made sense for a goopy beam to taste like chocolate cake.  

One of the things that readers can look forward to in your book are that there’s not just cats and dogs in the Thars galaxy, but some interesting monster-like creatures. You have Spraykins that spit acid, Ocean razors with razor sharp teeth, and the mysterious Gattalyn. Are we going to see more of these awesome creatures in Axel and Theo’s next adventure?

Yes, yes and yes!! Spraykins, Razors and especially Gattalyns are all in the next book in the series (along with several new creatures). It gets pretty wild!

I must ask about the fizzy ocean of red water that taste like strawberries, purple lotion that makes you strong, and sense enhanced holograms. How do you come up with this stuff?

Haha. Most of the time while writing, I think, “What gadget or futuristic technology would take this scene to the next level?” That’s why I love sciencefiction. It’s way too much fun to go there.

Tell us about the cover and illustrations? Did you feel that illustrations were important for your story?

Definitely! The cover is out-of-this-world! J I adore Theo and his big glasses, Axel and his tiny, weenie-dog body, and the AMAZING galaxy picture in the background. As far as covers go, it really is top-notch! Even for this 6-10 age group, pictures are fun. Pretty much each chapter has one illustration and Katy did a wonderful job. I think my favorite is the illustration showing several cats busting into Theo’s room to kidnap Axel. It looks like a million fireworks explode from Theo’s closet. And one of the many things that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about my publisher is that they chose to do full-color illustrations. This is pretty rare for chapter books. They are usually done in blackand white, but I’m so glad Smooth Sailing made the decision to keep the color. It adds so much to the book.

What challenges do you face marketing your books to kids?

As far as my online presence, I’m really marketing Axel and Theo to parents. Adults have the Facebook and Twitter accounts, blogs, etc.. I think a big challenge is just that there are so many books flooding the market. I’m always trying to make Axel and Theo stand out and get noticed. In person, I’m often marketing to both kids and adults. Even though children might want a book, most of the time, their parents are making the purchase. That can feel a little tricky. I’ve never been much of a salesman, but I hope it at least shows how passionate I am about the story. This 6-10 age group is such a fun one. They’re beginning to have literary tastes and likes and really reading independently. I like that I can give them a unique option.

I know as an author, that reviews are important. How successful has your quest for reviews been so far?

I do think it has been successful. There are multiple on Amazon and Goodreads. What I really love is the content. Readers are enjoying the humor, zany characters and science fiction. That is beyond cool. Though I would love readers to keep those reviews comin’! J

What projects are you working on at the present? Do you have any future projects in mind?

I just wrapped up the second book in the Axel and Theo series. Axel and Theo battle new creatures in a new world, alongside a group of friends—mostly Doglins. I have a picture book coming out this year with the same publisher. It’s titled Miss Clara Lily’s Gift. This story is close to my heart. I combined some of my mom’s talents to create several unique characters. One, in particular, learns that it’s a good thing we all have different gifts, because together, we can create such beauty. I can’t wait for this one to hit stores!

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

I think one of the best things aspiring authors can do is to read, read, read all they can in the genre they wish to write. Try not to just read the stories, but try to also analyze what made the book successful. I think you can take what you learn and use this to help your own writing. It’s also a good idea to join a critique group. Others can catch mistakes that we sometimes miss. You may want to also read and stay up with the publishing industry as much as possible. You can see what has been done and better understand what agents and publishers expect. Also, remember to stay true to what you enjoy writing. It’s easy to try and join a fad, but usually the work just doesn’t seem as authentic if you aren’t as passionate about it.

How can readers discover more about you and your work? (ie; Website, Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, other)  

Thanks for dropping by Amberly. Looking forward to your next release.

Thanks, Sherry. It was fun.

Sixth Grade Writing Contest

Congratulations to Shaena Riddles – Winner of the 6th grade writing contest.

Here’s a sneek peek of FORBIDDEN:

The hot sand burns my feet, but it’s worth it.  Thomas is  coming home today.  He was chosen for the Docking last April and today the boat is bringing him home, no doubt jam packed with a million stories of his experience.
     My twin, home at last.
     “Violet Royal, step away from that water this instant!”  My mother, the beautiful Cynthia Royal, calls.  I take one last look at the horizon before stomping back up to where my parents are waiting.
     “He’s almost here.  I can feel it,” I say.


So proud of these girlsl too!

Rachel Goldin – How We Survived Sixth Grade

I look up at all the students embarrassed. Since I am late, I hand the tardy slip of paper to my new teacher, Mrs. Shuping. She takes the slip of paper with her pale, frail hand. I look up at her and she just smiles. My homeroom teacher is so pale!
      I look for a seat to sit, once I unpacked my book bag full of stuff. Crystal, my friend I’ve known since kindergarten, waves her hand to direct me to a spot across from her with two other boys across from each other. I glare at her with shame and Crystal just shrugs.
     Crystal has her shaggy dark brown hair in a pony-tail with a bright looking T-shirt that reads, Sixth Grade Rocks in a pink and neon glow.
     Crystal smiles as I sit down in my seat. The boys at our table are nuts and I have only known them for a few minutes! The boy that sits next to me keeps bouncing in his seat. He has blonde hair and is only four nine in height. He is also wearing Under Amour with shorts and black and white Nike shoes and socks.

Lillian Wiener- Careless Charlottte and the Curse of the Creepy Homework

It was a dark and mysterious morning on a not so ordinary Monday…….Just kidding! It’s me Charlotte Marie! It’s my first day of second grade and I have Ms. Grettleston!
      “CHARLOTTE!” yelled Charlotte’s mama. “Come down for breakfast!”
      “Okay mama!” Charlotte yelled back. Quick as a bee, Charlotte threw on her clothes, grabbed her book bag, and ran down the stairs.
      “Yuck, cereal” said Charlotte as she sat down.
      “Yum, cereal” said her mom. “Now hurry up and eat your breakfast, the bus will be here in two minutes.”
      “Yeah Charlotte!” Charlotte’s little brother, Carter said.
      “Now you two, stop the fighting, we need you both to be ready for school. NOW!” said Charlotte’s mom as she looked out the window. “Grab your lunches kids, mama loves you!”
      “Love you!” they yelled as they got on the school bus. But what Charlotte didn’t know was that Ms. Grettleston was the meanest and creepiest teacher in the school…

Author Spotlight – Intentional Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation

I recently took up yoga. I bought the mat, the cute workout gloves, and showed up to my first class making sure I was tucked away in the back near the door in case I needed to make a quick exit. I ended up needing that quick exit with ten minutes still left in the class. I just couldn’t push through. I had no stamina. I gave out of steam because I wasn’t physically fit.

Just like physical fitness, I have to work on keeping spiritually strong. Faith isn’t casual. It’s an everyday commitment for me.  If I don’t stay grounded in the truth, I quickly become defeated. There’s no “quick exit” from my life. I have to push through. 

You can read more about spiritual fitness by picking up Mary Scro’s new book “Spiritual Fitness: Working Out Your Salvation.” This author shares her very real struggle to find and accept God. If you know someone who is starting from a place where a relationship with God makes no sense and there seems to be more questions than answers, this book is a wonderful testimony to how God can transform a person’s life no matter where they are in their spiritual walk.


We live in a world that desperately needs Jesus, but can’t find Him. 

Why? Because many who bear His name (Christians) are not spiritually fit enough to walk in His ways. And how do you know what “fit” is in a world that is increasingly void of any mention of the name of Jesus? How do you hear His voice to know His ways with so much godless static assaulting you every day, from all directions? 

“Therefore, my dear friends . . . continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling . . .” Philippians 2:12 (NIV). 

Intentional Fitness compares physical fitness to spiritual fitness and discusses similarities. Only by being intentional about your own spiritual health can you live life to the full as Jesus created you to live and died to make possible for you. And only then can you bring the Kingdom of God and His love to a world in desperate need.

 Author Bio:

Mary Graziano Scro is an inspirational and lively author and speaker who intuitively weaves analogies and personal testimony with practical biblical teaching. A graduate of Christian Communicators Conference, Mary’s mission is to encourage others about the awesome life God has planned for them, if only they are willing to choose wisely in their everyday lives (John 8:31-32). Mary and her husband Don live in Marshall, Va.

You can connect with Mary on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter.