Category Archives: kids

Colony East: The Toucan Trilogy Book 2 by Scott Cramer #Review

In November of last year I was offered the chance to read and review the first book in this series, Night of the Purple Moon. I loved it. So I was excited to be offered the chance to read and review the second book a couple of weeks ago.

Scott Cramer has delivered a fantastic and moving sequel to that first book.

If you haven’t read the first book (go read it – now!) you can read my review here which will give you the background.

Colony East picks up almost exactly where we left off. Abby and Jordan have gone to get the pills that will save their lives and must journey back to the island to deliver them. Again the incredibly stark contrasts between the choices that each child left alone makes are startling and thought provoking. Abby and Jordan do make it back to the island but the cost of that journey is hard to quantify.

We then fast forward a year. The pitifully few remaining adults are trying to “rebuild society” and have 3 small enclaves on the North American continent into which they have brought the few children they deem worthy. The rest of children are left to fend for themselves.There is also a new threat in threat in the form of a mutated form of the sickness that killed the adults.

Abby and Jordan are both almost 2 years older than when we first met them. They have both lost people they had grown to love and in the process done more growing up than I can personally fathom. Their younger sister, Toucan, has grown up as well and shows quite brilliantly the innate resilience of children. She and the other youngest survivors do not carry the heavy burden of memory and loss that the older children do. Instead they are learning to thrive and succeed in this new world.

Colony East actually refers to one of these adult developed enclaves. Some inspiration was obviously drawn from many of the dystopian worlds that have been created before – but it never feels derivative or like it is overtly copying any of them. The adults have a plan and quite naturally while intentions maybe good – execution and results are not.

Along with further exploring this devastated world from the children’s point of view, we also begin to see it from the view of the few adults left. The contrasts between the two are massive and telling. Cramer manages to comment on modern society and preconceptions while not feeling preachy in the least. An impressive feat all by itself. Managing to do this in a beautifully written and youth friendly novel is breathtaking.

I look forward immensely to the third in this series and hope to read more from this author.



I was provided a copy of this book for the purpose of review.





Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by L.R.W. Lee #review

I am a sucker for dragons and fantasy and misunderstood kids. It is almost always a great combination.

I began to read this book with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Anticipation for the possibility that the book seemed to promise. The trepidation came because I had just finished a book that utterly disappointed me by not living up to the promise of the jacket blurb.

I am relieved to say that this book was not a disappointment.

It was a joy.

L.R.W. Lee writes a delightful story for a  younger audience.

Our newly minted hero, Andy, is relate-able. He is an imaginative kid who feels constantly misunderstood by his family. So it is with more excitement than fear that he finds himself transported to a magical land called Oomaldee. On arrival he is tasked with helping to break a curse for a centuries old king while being thwarted by a spiteful ghost. He makes new friends and grows as an individual while discovering secrets and battling dragons.

The intro to the book and the history of the curse is nicely done. A funny and fresh take on what awaits those who have passed on.

This book is intended for a younger reader than most of the YA fiction I review. As such it seemed at times to over simplify some situations and maybe underestimate the intended reader. I think that even the younger 8-11 year olds this seems geared towards could understand and appreciate a little more nuance.

The story is well crafted and enjoyable. As an adult I still found the story interesting. It was whimsically quirky without being patronizing or obvious. A very hard combination to achieve. I wanted to know more about this land.

I am hoping that some of the questions I had will be answered in the next book in the series. (How is Andy a descendant being the main one.)

I think this would be an excellent book for a parent and child to read together as both will enjoy it.

My advice to the author would be to trust the young reader and to fully explore the vivid world she is creating.


I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.


Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain #review


Tongue-in-cheek YA fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres.

Clever quips, eye-rolling puns and the like are sure to draw me in if done well.

Julian Rosado-Machain does them fairly well. He has created a quirky world with intriguing characters.

Thomas and his grandfather Morgan have only each other after the disappearance of Thomas’ parents while abroad. And it seems both of them have a unique skill set that can help ad ultra-secret ages old society to save the world.

Where this story becomes more intriguing than the slew of similar books in the genre is in how it ends up placing Thomas and Morgan on opposing sides of a race against time. This has set up what could become (and I hope does) a very precarious dynamic in future books.

And I now want gargoyles guarding my house as well.

At only 169 pages this is a very quick read and I imagine would easily hold the interest of most 8-12 year olds. I think it is also interesting enough to hold the attention of slightly older readers as well.

My only suggestion would be to perhaps slow it down just a tiny bit. At times it felt like we were speeding through exposition and plot at 80 mph when 50 mph might have been more appropriate.

New Lands: The Chronicles of Egg Book 2 by Geoff Rodkey

Egg, Millicent and Guts are back for their next adventure in the second offering from Geoff Rodkey in the Chronicles of Egg.

This adventure is just as quirky and fun as the first. And while their aren’t any field pirates, there are some fun new characters. We also learn quite a bit more about all of our main characters. In particular Guts becomes more of a rounded out real person. Rodkey gives us some beautiful glimpses into Guts’ soul and hints at his past. I can only hope the next installment will answer even more of the questions I have about this intriguing character.

Egg comes into his own more as well. In the first book we began to see him step out from the shadow of his family and their loss. Now we see him start to mature as he accepts the reality of what his family actually was. He finally begins to see his father, brother and sister as they really were – which allows him to shed the heavy weight of his past and begin to move forward. We learn more about the family as well, including a long lost uncle who makes himself known.

Millicent also does a lot of maturing in this book. Rodkey does a credible job of making a believable transition from adoring daughter to skeptical young woman for her. Her inner turmoil at accepting the character of her own father and rejecting that life is amazingly understated yet very present.

OH – and there are natives that want to sacrifice them, rumors of ancient weapons and some transcendental guitar playing. Yes you read that right.

The quirky sense of whimsy that pervaded the first book is just as evident in the second installment. The slightly macabre undertones to some of the scenes is also present. All in all this makes for an exciting read that will take you by surprise and keep you interested.

I was provided a gratis copy of the book for review.

Witch Twins by Adele Griffin


Witches are a hot subject for tween literature. Unfortunately this one doesn’t really stand out.

Claire and Luna are cute. But not very real. For a book that seems aimed at the tween girl market the tone is decidedly childish. The reader is often hit over the head with the lessons the twins are learning.

I have nothing against a story that teaches a lesson or has a moral, I just want it to be done with finesse. And tween girls do not need to have the lesson shoved in their face either. Place it naturally in a well written story and they will get it.

Once again the adult characters in the book suffered from a lack of dimensionality. This seems to be a recurring problem in the YA literature I have read lately. It is like they are caricatures without the humor.

Adele Griffin has a nice concept but hasn’t provided any history for the reader. We have been given no real structure or framework for the witch society she has created. This keeps it from feeling real. There needs to be more explanation and depth to the magic. The whys and why nots, cans and cannots  need to be defined so the reader feels there is a real basis for what happens.

This has potential and could be a decent, if light, tween series.

The Gold Dust Letters by Janet Taylor Lisle


“While searching for her fairy godmother, a young girl uncovers a world of magic” – I wish the books had lived up to the promise that tag line implied.

Three young girls, all friends yet very different, get caught up in the magic of believing there  really are fairy godmothers. Angela, Georgina and Poco (yes that is actually her name) are never fully realized. Each character is left feeling 2 dimensional. There is no depth or realness behind them.

The same is true of the main adult in the story, Angela’s father. He is a flat character whose sudden transformation makes absolutely no sense. We are given no believable background on which the story can play out.

It feels as if the reader has been dropped in the middle of a poorly done elementary school play.

Why does Angela decide to write to a fairy godmother? Why does Poco talk to animals? There are alot of whys that never get answered which adds to the sense of being dropped in the middle of something that no one bothers to explain.

The book also touches on the subject of divorce. But is does so without respecting the intelligence of the children it is written for. It feels like the writer is afraid to actually explore the subject which makes me wonder why she included it.

Afternoon of the Elves by Janet Taylor Lisle


Two girls bond over an elf village. Is it real? Are elves real? Is magic real? It could have been enjoyable and surprising, but it wasn’t.
Janet Taylor Lisle seems to have gotten so caught up in the idea of writing a story that is mysterious and relies on the reader’s imagination- that she forgot to actually finish the story. Two girls – one a misfit – sharing this secret elf world. Simple enough. Then she throws in a missing father, a “sick” mother and a disappearance that comes out of no where.
As a reader I was just left feeling bewildered and let down. It wasn’t like a cleverly done story where the reader is left to decide for themselves, but still feels fulfilled. I was just left to wonder why I had spent time reading it.

I think if I was a child reading this I would have been even more frustrated. There were several instances that seemed like they were leading to a real “moments” in the book, but those moments were never realized.

Review & a Chance To Win: The Night the Moon Ate My Room! by Jesse Wilson

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The Night the Moon Ate My Room by Jesse Wilson

The Night the Moon Ate My Room!
by Jesse Wilson
Released September 4, 2012 / Tate Publishing

ISBN: 1620241749 / ISBN13: 9781620241745

The moon was bright and full that night, bigger than I could ever even remember it.

Maybe because it was moving towards me…

After giving the worst violin recital of his life, and being laughed at by the entire school, the boy vows to never play music again. Later that night, when the moon swallows up his bedroom, it shares the secrets of being a true artist, helping the boy re-claim his self-confidence, overcome the pitfalls of perfectionism, and believe in his own dream.

Each of the five stories in The Night the Moon Ate My Room! is designed for young readers to experience the joy of self-discovery, valuable life lessons, and the adventure of turning their greatest dreams into reality.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Book Depository

“In lyrical prose Jesse Wilson explores fundamental childhood issues: overcoming adversity, discovering your courage, and the power of dreams.” – Laurel Schmidt, author of Seven Times Smarter: 50 Activities, Games, and Projects to Develop the Seven Intelligences of Your Child

Jesse Wilson

Jesse Wilson


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About the Jesse Wilson:

Jesse Wilson is an author, motivational performer, illustrator, and teacher.A life-long involvement with theatre and film as both performer and writer began early, growing up in Hollywood, CA, where he performed in plays, TV shows and commercials. A graduate of the LA High School for the Performing Arts, Jesse traveled east to attain a BFA for theatre in the prestigious Juilliard School. Remaining in New York, and later Philadelphia, he developed material for his one-man shows, performed throughout the region. His most recent production, “Face the City,” written for high school and college audiences, combines visual and animation projections in a multimedia presentation of the artist’s journey to find themselves in the “real world.” “The Night the Moon Ate My Room!” written and performed with music for young audiences to experience self-discovery, is created with the support of The Kennedy Center’s Imagination Celebration and Pikes Peak Library District.

Coming soon this year, building upon the success of “The Night the Moon Ate My Room!” a series of empowering books for children, written and illustrated by Jesse Wilson, will be published under the title “Brilliant Mistakes!”

My Review

The Night The Moon Ate My Room! is an engaging, lively story that really taps into the concerns and fears of our younger generation (and even the younger version of me!). The author does a really excellent job of drawing a line from the stories to real experiences and explaining to them how to find success even within the darkest points inside of us. Written in a voice accessible to children and adults alike, anyone reading this book will take away that we are all very capable of anything we put our minds to … regardless of the steps and stumbles along the way. There’s a lot of fun humor, wonderful illustrations, and the right amount of silly to keep kids interested in this fun story.


In addition to the Rafflecopter giveaway posted below, TwistedSense is giving away a free copy of the ebook of The Night The Moon Ate My Room! to a lucky reader chosen from those who leave comments below! Make sure you leave a blog comment here, and look for other chances to win at the other blogs along the tour!

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Review: Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries

Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries
Life is a Bowl Full of Cherries by Vanita Oelschlager
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very nicely illustrated children’s book that introduces kids to the world of idioms. The English language is chock full (see what I did there?) of these creative expressions and this book is an excellent beginner’s “manual”. The pictures are really fun and quirky, and the explanations do a pretty good job of making the idioms clear to children.

If I had a criticism, it would be that I would much prefer the explanations of the idioms to be right side up instead of small print and upside down. I don’t think the explanation would in any way detract from the illustrations.

View all my reviews

Kids Book Review: Super Surprise by Patricia Reilly Griff

Super Surprise Book CoverDestiny overheard something she wasn’t supposed to. Jake the Sweeper said that Ms Katz, a favorite and most beloved teacher of the children at ZigZag School, had to go (as in, leave the school for good) because she made too much of a mess. Desperate to save Ms Katz, Destiny gathers a diverse crew of friends — all who love Ms Katz fiercely — in an effort to save her job! Working hard and thinking creatively, the children of ZigZag School, together, find a way to showcase Ms. Katz and show how important she is to the children. But — can they save her job??

Super Surprise by Patricia Reilly Griff is a fun children’s book with age-appropriate intrigue, mystery, and problem-solving. Lively dialogue and illustrations pull the young reader deeply into the story. The clarity and detail of the pictures help the kids enjoy the chance to see new friends they’ve made and clearly imagine the events at the ZigZag Afternoon Center.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

PATRICIA REILLY GIFF is the author of many beloved books for children, including the Kids of the Polk Street School books. Her novels for older readers include the Newbery Honor books Lily’s Crossing and Pictures of Hollis Woods, and Willow Run, a companion to Lily’s Crossing. Her most recent books are the novels Storyteller and Wild Girl, and the Zigzag Kids titles, Number One Kid, Big Whopper, Flying Feet, and Star Time.

ALASDAIR BRIGHT has illustrated numerous books and advertising projects. He loves drawing and is never without his sketchbook.

Title: Super Surprise
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Imprint: Wendy Lamb Books
Pub Date: August 14, 2012
ISBN: 9780385738903

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