Book Review and Giveaway: Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

Lock & Mori cover imageToday I’m taking part in a blog tour for a book that looks at how the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty would be different if they met as teenagers and if Moriarty was a girl. It’s interesting to see how the author plays with the well known crime-committing/crime solving duo. The book is called Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty, and I have one copy to give away to a reader in the U.S. If you’d like a chance to win a copy, just leave a comment below about your favorite Sherlock story. Just be sure to comment by midnight (PDT), Monday, September 14. Here’s my review:

Imagine Sherlock Holmes in high school in modern day London meeting a girl named James “Mori” Moriarty. The two geniuses are bound together in an effort to solve a murder in a nearby park. The have only one rule: They must tell each other everything they discover along the way. But Mori finds the murder hits closer to home than she would have thought, and soon enough she is hiding clues from Sherlock in the hopes of solving the case on her own. But getting to the bottom of things may just ruin the romance developing between the two of them.

Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty is an imaginative look at the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and his nemesis James Moriarty sure to delight teen readers. Creating Moriarty as a female character totally changes the way the two great minds approach each other. The book is told from Mori’s point of view, and while readers identify with her, they also see a glimpse of personality traits that hint at a future that could turn to crime.

While I was disappointed that the mystery was not very difficult to solve, the action remained compelling to read throughout until the end. I recommend Lock & Mori for readers aged 12 to 16.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review and Giveaway: Friends and Frenemies

Friends and Frenemies cover imageToday I’m taking part in a blog tour for a book that helps kids navigate the world of friendships. I have one copy to give away of Friends and Frenemies: The Good, The Bad, and The Awkward to a reader in the U.S. Just leave a comment here about what you appreciate in a friend. Be sure to comment by midnight, September 13 for a chance to win. Here’s my review:

Having good friends and being a good friend are some of the biggest issues kids face as they go through school. Questions kids may ask themselves include: How do I make new friends? What happens when my best friend and I have a fight? Is gossiping ever a good idea? Friends and Frenemies: The Good, The Bad and The Awkward by Jennifer Castle and Deborah Reber aims to answer those questions and more. In short, easy to digest chapters, the authors cover the basics of friendships along with interactive features such as quizzes, suggested journal entries, poll results and other interesting tidbits. The chapters are colorful, and illustrations by Kaela Graham enhance readability.

Friends and Frenemies is a great book for readers aged 9 to 12. They can easily read the book all the way through to the end and then go back to do activities as specific issues come up that they need to deal with. That way it becomes a reference that can help with friendship issues through the years.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: The Survival Guide to Bullying by Aija Mayrock

The Survival Guide to Bullying cover imageBullied during middle school and high school, Aija Mayrock decided to write a book to help others who may be suffering as well. The Survival Guide to Bullying: Written by a Teen is her small book with the potential for a big impact on its readers.

Drawing on her own experience and including advice from experts, Mayrock has created a guide that can be read straight through, or readers can choose the chapters that may be most relevant to them at the moment and start there. It’s easy to go back over any section for rereading as well.

Mayrock asks teens to answer questions that can help them assess the severity of the bullying they experience, and she offers suggestions on where they can find help. While her story inspired her to write the book, few details of her own experience are included, which helps anyone to see their own situations in what she describes. Also, Mayrock opens each chapter with a “roem,” a phrase she coined to describe the rap poems she wrote about her feelings of being bullied and finding strength to get through it.

The Survival Guide to Bullying has universal appeal, and it can help anyone see their own experience in its pages. It should be helpful for those being bullied as well as for those who seek to support them.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review and Giveaway: Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty

I am excited to be participating in a blog tour today for Serafina and the Black Cloak, a great mystery with a little bit of historical fiction added in for readers aged 9 to 12. As part of the tour I have a prize pack with an advanced readers copy, bookmark, stickers, pen, and a notebook to give away. If you’d like to have a chance to win, just leave a comment before midnight (PDT), Wednesday, July 22 about why you like to read mystery books.

Here’s a bit of info about the author:

Robert Beatty photo

Robert Beatty

Robert Beatty lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina with his wife and three daughters, who help create and refine his stories. He loves to explore the grand Biltmore Estate and the darkened forest trails where his novels take place. Robert’s Disney Hyperion novel Serafina and the Black Cloak will go on sale July 14, 2015. He writes full-time now, but in his past lives, Robert was one of the early pioneers of cloud computing, the founder/CEO of Plex Systems, the co-founder of Beatty Robotics, and the chairman/CTO of Narrative Magazine. In 2007, he was named an Entrepreneur of the Year. Answering a question about the inspiration for his book, Robert said, “Serafina’s journey grew out of my desire to write a story about an unusual and heroic young girl for my three daughters.” Visit him on the Web at Also, you may want to check out the book trailer.

Now, here’s my review:

Serafina and the Black Cloak cover imageSerafina lives in the basement of the enormous Biltmore estate in North Carolina, where her father tends to the electrical equipment. The castle has lots of places to hide, and Serafina knows all of them. Her dad keeps her a secret, and she knows there’s something different about her, but she’s not sure what. When Serafina encounters a man in a black cloak who takes children, she decides to come out of the shadows to stop him before he entraps her as well.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty combines a bit of history, a bit of mystery, and a bit of magic to create a page-turning story for young readers. As Serafina finds out about who she is and where she came from, she finds courage to face a supernatural force. She also finds her first friend in Braeden Vanderbilt, nephew of the owners, who has experienced tragedy of his own.

It’s fun for readers to learn details of the famed Biltmore estate and the rural area where it’s located. Serafina is courageous, curious, and talented at performing unusual tasks. Her story is sure to appeal to both moms and daughters in mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 13.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming cover imageGrowing up in the 1960s and 1970s, Jacqueline Woodson’s heart lived in two places: South Carolina, where she, her mother, and her siblings lived with her grandparents for several years, and Brooklyn, where she moved when she was still young. She captures her experience of living in both the North and the South in her memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming.

The free verse that Woodson writes is simple but profound in expressing both what happens in the author’s family as well as in the wide world around her. She loves her grandparents deeply, and grieves leaving them for New York, where there is opportunity, and the streets are supposed to have diamonds embedded in them. The third of four siblings, she tries to find what she excels at, and what she wants to be known for. She finds power is putting the stories in her mind down on paper.

Brown Girl Dreaming also offers a glimpse into the civil rights movement, and how a young girl perceived it. Despite the demise of Jim Crow laws, her grandparents don’t feel comfortable going into restaurants where before only whites were welcome. The North is more open, but prejudices linger. Woodson sees black women fighting for change and it gives her courage to find her own voice.

I highly recommend Brown Girl Dreaming for mother-daughter book clubs with girls aged 9 to 14. The book can spark discussion on the importance of family, religious beliefs, the civil rights movement, and more.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Silence by Deborah Lytton

Silence cover photoWhen a freak accident leaves Stella unable to hear it changes everything. She can no longer perform the lead role in her high school’s production of West Side Story and her dreams of Broadway fade with her hearing. But her unexpected silence brings unexpected surprises into her life, including Hayden, a boy who stutters and keeps to himself. Hayden harbors a secret about his past, but he puts aside his personal pain to help Stella see that she can thrive in a world without sound.

Silence by Deborah Lytton shows how love and understanding can go a long way in helping people overcome personal tragedy. Stella was already unsure of herself, unsettled after her parents’ divorce and her move to a new school. She felt she was just beginning to forge a new path for herself when the accident happened. Abused by his mother, Hayden has a hard time trusting anyone to get close. But as the two learn to trust each other, they also learn to look at others in a different light, allowing them to move forward despite personal pain.

Silence is a good book for mother-daughter book clubs with girls in high school to read. Issues to discuss include personal resiliency, finding joy even while recognizing loss, and the value of slowing down and being patient to achieve happiness.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


Book Review: Cast Off by Eve Yohalem

Cast Off cover imageTo escape her abusive father, a wealthy Amsterdam merchant, Petra de Winter seeks refuge on a ship setting sail to the East Indies. She fears dire consequences when Bram Broen, the ship’s carpenter’s son, finds her. Instead, together they come up with a plan that will help Petra escape and Bram find favor with the captain. As they sail they find adventure in fending off pirates, weathering storms, and navigating a mutiny.

Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen depicts life on a 17th century Dutch sailing ship in detail while telling a story of friendship and survival. Petra is used to hard work, but life on the ship will test her in new ways. She has to navigate living next to rats, eating meager rations, learning to climb up into the crow’s nest, and helping the ship’s surgeon tend to the sick and injured—all without giving away that she’s a girl.

Bram’s father is Dutch but his mother is Javanese, and as a mixed raced child he’s not allowed on shore in The Netherlands. With the recommendation of the captain, he may be able to earn the legitimacy he longs for. But talk of mutiny has him questioning whether his loyalties lie with the crew he works with or the captain in charge.

With the challenges they face, the friendship between Petra and Bram soon becomes the only thing they can count on.

Cast Off is a historical adventure that shines light on what life was like for cast offs and misfits in the early 1600s. It was a time when children had few options without the protection of legitimacy and loving parents. The action never stops and it is sure to satisfy adventurous girls and boys aged 10 and up.

The author provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Eve Yohalem, Author of Cast Off, Talks About the Relevance of Historical Fiction

Today I’m participating in the blog tour for Cast Off: The Strange Adventures of Petra de Winter and Bram Broen. Set on the high seas during the 1600s, Cast Off is a historical adventure tale sure to please both girls and boys. I have one copy to give away to a reader with a U.S. address. For a chance to win, just leave a comment about what you like about historical fiction. Be sure to get your comment in before midnight (PDT), Monday, June 22.

today I’m featuring a guest post by the author and tomorrow I will feature a review of the book. Here are the blog tour stops still to come in case you’d like to check those out:

Tues, June 9—Cracking the Cover
Wed, June 10—The Compulsive Reader
Thurs, June 11—The Children’s Book Review
Fri, June 12—I Read Banned Books

Also, here’s a bit of background information on the author: Eve Yohalem’s first book was Escape Under the Forever Sky, which Booklist called “riveting.” She lives with her family in New York City. To learn more, and download a free curriculum guide for Cast Off, visit her website:

Eve Yohalem photo

Author Eve Yohalem

Eve Yohalem on the Relevance of Historical Fiction for Modern Children

When Cindy asked me to write about the appeal and relevance of historical fiction for modern children, I got very happy (thank you, Cindy!). I don’t just write historical fiction, I love reading it, so I have a lot to say on this subject!

For me, the appeal of historical fiction begins with a burning need to answer the question What was it really like? Back in the 17th century, did pirates actually make people walk the plank? What did people use for toilet paper? How many minutes did it take to amputate a leg? And how long did it take to spin hemp into yarn, weave yarn into cloth, sew cloth into a shirt, get it from seamstress to market—and when you bought the shirt, did it feel super scratchy against your skin, or was your 17th century skin so used to scratchy that you didn’t even notice? When you read historical fiction, you find out the answers to questions like these.

Fiction is also one of my favorite ways to learn real history. We humans are storytellers. We process everything we see and experience by turning it into a story, from You’ll never believe what happened to me today! to Let me tell you how my great grandmother came here all the way from Poland with no shoes. Cast Off is an adventure story about two 17th century kids looking for their place in the world. But when you read it, you also see how goods were exported from Europe to Asia and you learn a lot about the truly disgusting medical practices of the day (like blistering, among other things!).

Historical fiction is relevant today because one of the ways we understand who we are is by understanding where we’re from. The Dutch colonized the New World for only forty years in the 1600s, and yet many of our most essential American values come from that time and culture: tolerance, meritocracy, and capitalism, to name just a few. But the thing that always strikes me most when reading stories about people who lived centuries before my own is that while the particulars of our lives may differ widely, our emotions are the same. People have always felt joy, grief, pride, shame, fear, and wonder, and we always will. I love that thrill of recognition, of being able to identify with someone who doesn’t wear underwear and rides a horse to work. Don’t you?

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