Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Book Reviews

Wolf Camp (Book Review)

by Andrea Zuill
Humor – Picture Book

My Synopsis: 
Homer the dog gets an invitation to go to Wolf Camp for a week and he absolutely MUST go!


Why I Picked This Book:
I was watching Julie Hedlund‘s mini-lessons that she was offering to 12×12 members. (I highly recommend all of her lessons if you’re new to writing picture books.) She talked about this book briefly while teaching, and I quickly wrote it down knowing it was one I had to own.

What Was Disappointing: 
Absolutely nothing. Which is saying a lot since my expectations were pretty high.

Why I Kept Reading:
Ok so maybe this format I use for book reviews doesn’t really fit for Picture Books. But there are picture books that although I finish, it’s only because I know the end is near, not necessarily because I’m intrigued and need to find out what happens. With this book, I was simply enjoying every page, every page turn, every image, and every word.

Take Away: 
This book is certainly a great example of humourous Picture Books, but even more. It has fantastic scene changes, great page turns, and super fun illustrations. The reason Julie used it as an example was to discuss character changes and arcs. The goal of wanting to be a wolf and how he feels about being a wolf at the end are just fantastic.

Final Thoughts:
As a dog trainer and groomer some dog stories make me cringe. I don’t see the humor in most dog books because I tend to take things too seriously. I see issues with some dog behavior and worry owners will think it’s acceptable or even cute. I know picture books are harmless but being submerged in dog behavior and how they learn, I cannot help how I feel. This book however is perfection. I won’t dive into my theories of dogs being dogs or the methodology of the team I work with, but I will say this book could almost be an advertisement for one of our programs: Farm Dog. So kudos to Andrea Zuill for making me laugh and smile and fall in love with this book.  If  I’ve reread it as many times as I have, kids will certainly enjoy this one over and over again.

I hope Pixie and Rex stay in touch with Homer. 



Posted in Book Reviews, Middle Grade Book Reviews

The Serpent’s Secret (book review)

by Sayantani DasGupta
Fantasy – Middle Grade (book 1) 

Before I get started on this review, let me just say a quick personal note. I realize our current state of things as we all deal with the coronavirus presents writers and bloggers with new topics. Perhaps posts about dealing with our isolation, or tips to stay creative, how to make a mask, but that is not me. If I had any answers of any kind in this world, my life would be much different. Suffice it to say that I have my own struggles and this simple easy post about the most recent book I’ve read is my way of getting back into my creative brain. Plus, let’s be honest, this blog is still more for me than any readers. I have yet to have any such “readership” for various reasons which no one cares about. 

So let us begin. Here is my very simple book review format:

My Synopsis:

Kiranmala (or just Kiran) lives in New Jersey with her slightly odd parents. She wishes her parents were more “normal” and wishes they’d stop calling her a princess. Not only does she dislike the idea of helpless princesses, but she also hates the color pink. Unfortunately for her, she is, in fact, a very real Indian Princess from a very real other-dimensional world. This reality crashes in quite literally when a giant (and gross) demon smashes her home and two princes from another world show up to help. She needs help because mostly she is clueless as to why her parents are missing, how the heck she’s supposed to get them back, and how she could possibly be an actual princess.

Why I picked this book: 

Last June I attended the Rutgers Writing Conference (oddly enough in NJ) and it was a fascinating weekend of learning and meeting new people. One of the classes I took was taught by Sayantani DasGupta and she was absolutely amazing in so many ways. I was inspired by her and of course, needed to have a copy of her book (which she kindly signed for me). For no good reason, I hadn’t actually read the book until now. Books I purchase often stay on my shelf as the ones loaned from the library get priority due to the time limit I have with them. So this was the first quarantine book I choose once the library shut down.

What was disappointing: 

Nothing really. I mean, sure it starts out in New Jersey and I live in Philly so nothing exciting there. But New Jersey isn’t meant to be exciting and we certainly do not stay there very long. Maybe a part of me didn’t want to like this character at first because she seemed to try to hard to dislike princesses, but she is unswayed in her opinion and the reader is not forced into predictable clichés that you may expect.

Why I kept reading:

This is usually the part where I explain why I kept reading despite my a) slow start because I always have trouble getting emotionally attached, or b) feeling that things are rather predictable. But this had a very quick start, and I can honestly say I had no idea what was going to happen one page to the next. This was very refreshing in that it really does take you on a new journey.


The main character is twelve years old and most of the time I felt she was much older. That is not to say that the author did a poor job of depicting a 12-year-old. Actually, this character is very well rounded and has a nice balance of emotions perfect for that age, something I’m not used to seeing in books. There is also a lot of science in this book that was unexpected for me. By no means is this a STEM book and the author’s notes clearly state that this is NOT to be used as a reference for real science in any way. However, using scientific theories and ideas to back up a fantasy world was very interesting. It keeps with the tone the MC has about “magic worlds and princesses” in that she is always looking for some fact in all of the madness. Like if Alice actually questioned her trip down the rabbit hole with a bit more thought process than just “curiouser and curiouser”.  I don’t even need a lot of explanation while I read fantasy as long is it makes sense in that world, but this was a nice new way to be in a made-up realm.

Final Thoughts:

As a white female born in America, this was a very refreshing story. I have pretty much zero knowledge of the folklores and myths used for the basis of the author’s story so I had no idea what to expect from the demons or lands they encountered. Nothing at all was predictable for me and I LOVED that! New customs, new foods, new monsters, new everything – I was so happy to escape from the same familiar fairy tales and mythology so I highly recommend this book.  There are three books in this series and I am so glad for it. All the characters are well fleshed out and believable, the adventure and action is super fun, and yeah, Kiran is a great heroin that is much welcomed in the Middle-Grade Fantasy genre. I’m looking forward to the next two books that I’m sure will be just as endearing, funny, and action-packed!


I failed at all the riddles and definitely would not have survived. 




Posted in Adult Fiction, Book Reviews

Book Review: Women Of the Dunes

By Sarah Maine

Historical Fiction / Cultural; Scotland


Libby Snow is an archeologist with a passion for a Viking legend her grandmother passed onto her from her grandmother. When work takes her to Scotland to excavate a site believed to hold a body tied to the Viking legend, Libby is excited to unfold the truth. Instead, she finds a Victorian age body from what appears to be a crime scene that may have actually involved her great-great-grandmother or someone who knew her.

The legend, the crime, and Libby’s family history are all tied together in a terrible knot. She tries to untangle her own family mystery, but she is also dealing with the family on whose estate this excavation & crime has taken place. Their dark secrets are blocking Libby from unveiling the truth of both the legend and of her family.


I was preparing for a trip to Scotland and brought two books with me: ‘Kidnapped’ by Robert Louis Stevenson, and this book. The idea was to stay in Scotland even as I read, and should I not finish the books by the time I returned, I’d still be in Scotland via the book. Also, I really enjoy historical fiction and certainly love a decent crime novel. This had a lot of my favorite things all tied into one.


My typical complaint; it was too slow to start. I remember saying to my sister one night in our lovely B&B in the highlands, “I don’t know if I’m going to finish this book. It’s just not going anywhere and I’m feeling a lame romance coming on.”  Not to mention it took a while for the story to even get to Scotland. I very rarely am quick to take to a book so this is nothing new for me, but I really did think I was going to stop reading this one. I just didn’t care about Libby or her curiosities. Also, as the story shifted from one age to another telling one of three stories, I (with my short attention span) had a bit of a time keeping up and becoming emotionally attached at all. If I hadn’t been on vacation in lovely B&B’s every night I may not have continued – boy am I glad I did!


The body. Obviously I can’t give anything away, but there is a point when what I thought was going to turn into a lame romance turns into an interesting crime novel (and more). Plus Libby finally got to Scotland. There were more characters, more secrets, I was more emotionally invested, and just like that, I couldn’t put it down. The back and forth between the three stories became more interesting to me as they slowly revealed their connections to each other.


This is a beautiful novel that not only takes you to Scotland, but it also explores a lot about family more so than it does history. There is mystery and action and plenty of odd twists and turns that kept me involved with so many of the characters. The relationships here are so real, the setting so vivid, Sarah Maine does a fantastic job putting you right there with the other characters to feel their hopes and fears. You finish the story and end up missing their home, their faces, even their voices. Fantastic writing that has me wanting more of this writer’s work.


I finished this book back here at home in Philadelphia but it was a great way to stay overseas just a bit longer. This book, regardless of what seemed like a slow start for me, kept me in a place for a long time. I visualize the island and the house in my mind more like a memory of somewhere I have been rather than as a fictitious place I read about. I highly recommend this book to lovers of travel, mystery, and family dynamics.


I just want to have a cup of tea in that kitchen please.


Posted in Book Reviews, Middle Grade Book Reviews

Poppy Mayberry, Return to Power Academy

The Poppy Mayberry series is a Middle-Grade book written by Jennie K. Brown,  and “Return to Power Academy” is the second installment. I read this because her first Poppy story turned out to be so much fun. As I mentioned in a review, I was hesitant about the first book, but I dove into this one with few doubts. Continue reading “Poppy Mayberry, Return to Power Academy”

Posted in Book Reviews, Picture Book Reviews

Mary Wears What She Wants

Written and Illustrated by Keith Negley

I needed to own this book. A tribute to the real-life Mary Edwards Walker, one of the first woman to wear pants, this picture book recalls a time when pants were not allowed for females. I for one LOVE wearing pants. Friends may have heard me say how grateful I am that I can wear pants but I’m sure they assume it’s a joke and not a truth. I am absolutely serious every time I say it. Continue reading “Mary Wears What She Wants”