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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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…

Axel & Theo – My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy

Axel Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway GalaxyAxel Theo: My Dog is the Emperor of a Faraway Galaxy by Amberly Kristen Clowe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I saw the subheading of this book — My dog is the Emperor of a faraway galaxy, I knew I had to read it. After all, how often do you see a sci-fi kid’s book? Being the sci-fi nut that I am, I couldn’t pass this one up. I was not disappointed.

First of all, I love that Axel is a “weenie dog” and an alien. Awesome. Theo is this insecure, fourth-grade boy who wants to be an astronaut. Theo thought his dog was just a normal, everyday dog until the dog saved him from being beat up by a school bully. Theo is thrilled to learn that his dog, “Axelo Lackfer Tharsdon III” is from another galaxy, another planet — Doglin. This is where the story takes off and becomes a space adventure. Axel and Theo get a big surprise when two alien cats show up unexpectedly in a rainbow flash of color right out of Theo’s closet. Theo’s reaction is great – “Usually, I’m all about petting black and white fur that fluffy, but not on a ninja-like beast with a shiny bodysuit. And definitely not with a giant bazooka strapped to his back.”

Adorable. Right?

Needless to say, Axel and Theo are whisked away to the “Tharsdon” galaxy and have to face a stadium of angry cats. How great is that? The classic cats hate dogs turned into a sci-fi adventure. I love it. There are some cool monster-like creatures, holograms that smell like ribeye steaks, an ocean of strawberry soda, and lots of other cool stuff that any fourth-grade boy is going to love.

Great start to a new series for kids.

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The Silent Deal Book Review

The Silent Deal (The Card Game, #1)The Silent Deal by Levi Stack

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

14-year-old Viktor lives in Aryk, Russia. There are three laws — no playing cards, no graffiti, no firearms. Males work in mines, and females in textile mills, unless you’re chosen for the three-year school program, like Viktor. Their lives are controlled by a reclusive Russian overlord that lives in the haunted Staryl Castle. When Viktor sneaks into a large gathering in town square, he’s horrified when he witnesses a man hang to death for possession of a playing card. The hanging haunts his dreams and Viktor is left with burning questions about the cards and a past no one will talk about. The cryptic card graffiti in town seems to be the only clue left about the mysterious past of the playing cards.

Things take an unexpected turn when an orphaned boy of the forest – Romulus, shows up on the first day of school wearing feathers in his tangled hair and a fur coat made from animal pelts. Viktor and his friends are shocked when Romulus shows them a card — an illegal playing card. From there, an unlikely friendship is formed between Viktor and Romulus. Together, they embark on a search to uncover the truth about the cards and what happened to Romulus’s parents. Sprinkle in some fun stuff like Romulus’s homemade weapons that have cool names like Orange Split, Blackbirds, and Fire Wire, some Gypsies that help them piece together the town’s past, and you get a wonderful tale that ultimately leads back to the book’s catchy title, “The Silent Deal”.

A unique, creative story for all ages…Wonderful debut.

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Book Review – The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide

The Self-Publisher's Ultimate Resource GuideThe Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide by Joel Friedlander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A must have for indie authors…

If you’re writing a book or have already written one, no doubt you have spent countless hours digging through the mass amounts of information on the Internet looking for help. I know I have. Now, with this resource guide, you have instant access to just about anything a self-publisher needs. Tired of hunting for the perfect proofreader or copyeditor? The book lists thirty-five – some international. Need a cool writing software to enhance your writing? Choose from forty-nine. Want to know what publishing platforms are available for your book? How about contacts for organizing a blog tour? Looking for great books on writing? There are many more categories. I can’t wait to explore all the possibilities.

If you’re planning on writing and publishing your own book, this is a wonderful place to start. If only I’d had this book three years ago when I was writing my first book, it would have saved me countless hours of research. Thank you to the authors for putting together all their years of experience and sharing it.

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Book Review – Exploring Biblical Prayer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A must read if you’re seeking to understand prayer…

What should a prayer life look like? What meaning does it have? And why should we care?

Shennan gives you 26 chapters of thought-provoking, scripturally based, convicting chapters that delves into these very questions. He also effectively deals with the disappointment that often comes from unanswered prayer and how prayer and other biblical doctrines have become “shadows in the shifting world of opinion.” It seems we haven’t given prayer the power which it deserves. We limit God with our unbelief, our desire for quick and easy answers.

“We are plagued by faint hearts and doubting dispositions. Temptations to put our trust in things seen rather than the unseen lie profusely in our path.”

Yeah, been there.

This book…I just don’t have any words for how wonderful it is. Shennan does a beautiful job of pulling in scripture and Bible stories that look at all types of prayer. I was amazed at some of the things that he pulled from the Bible that I had never even considered. Here are just a few of the great chapter titles: “Desperation in Prayer”, “Dangerous Prayer”, “Argument in Prayer”, “Persistence in Prayer”, “Earthshaking Prayer, “Burnout in Prayer”.

Exploring biblical prayer has renewed my spirit, my desire to pray, and has already changed my perspective on a topic that can be difficult at best. If I could afford to give copies to everybody I know, I would. This WILL change your prayer life!

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Dive Deeper Book Review

Dive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow ReligionDive Deeper: Finding Deep Faith Beyond Shallow Religion by Jenifer Jernigan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When being introduced to this book, it was described to me as a Bible study + book. Two of my favorite things combined!

The author guides you through a verse by verse study of Ephesians. But it’s not a typical “telling” you what the truth is, but a wonderful “showing” and allowing the revelation of truth to unfold through discovery. The author helps you to explore each verse’s meaning through original Greek definition of words, different bible translations, and supporting scriptures. It’s like looking at scripture through a magnifying glass and being able to see things you hadn’t seen before.

I also like that the author shares examples of her weaknesses. By humbling herself, God was given all the glory in this wonderful piece of work.

If you find reading the Bible difficult at times, struggle to see how God sees you, or want to understand what He has done to secure your future, give Dive Deeper a try. I feel blessed by having completed the study. I never knew Ephesians had so much to teach me. Now these truths have become alive to me instead of just being words on a page.

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