Saturday, March 11, 2023

Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop Wars #3) by Brandon Mull


Carnival Quest (The Candy Shop War #3)
By Brandon Mull
Published by Shadow Mountain
Publication Date: March 14th, 2023


 Watch the Book Trailer: https://youtu.be/Yg-s1DladC0

Synopsis:
The Blue Falcons is a secret kid’s club that fights against a family of villainous magicians. Using an impressive arsenal of magical candy, Nate, Summer, Trevor, and Pigeon defeated Belinda White, a sinister candy shop owner who almost seized control of their town, and her brother, Jonas White, a maniacal arcade operator who tried to turn the planet into his personal puppet.
 
Now, the Blue Falcons believe they must battle the third sibling—Camilla, who has brought the Dreams and Screams International Carnival to their town of Colson, California.
 
Rumors are spreading about the new carnival. Those who visit feel compelled to return. Some who enter the labyrinthine Fun House disappear for days. And the Big Top is said to bewitch audience members.
 
The Blue Falcons think they know who is responsible and are ready to fight, but the carnival blocks any outside magic. Without their favorite enchanted treats, how can the kids save their town?
When weird dreams start to plague everyone who has visited the carnival, the worlds of magic and reality collide. With the help of a new magical enforcer, the Blue Falcons will need to learn to use the magic of the carnival against itself, including a host of new magical carnival candies, and tap into the power of their own dreams to battle their greatest adversary yet.
 
Review:
When I saw this book was available for review, I decided to request it, even though I hadn't read the other books in the series, because my nine-year-old son had read them--and I figured he'd think I was cool if one of the books I reviewed was one he was interested in! Haha, I really did request it because of my son's interest in this series, and he really was impressed that I got to read an advanced copy of the third book--he excitedly told his friends at school about it. (I DID read the other two books before I started this one, although I don't think it would have been entirely necessary to understand and enjoy this one.) 
For me as a reader, this is probably a 3-star book: the plot and setting are well-developed and very detailed; the characters are relatively flat (I'm a character-driven reader so that was a bit of let-down for me) and the language/writing style is all right. It's great that there's a carnival map at the beginning of the book to help readers see where everything is. There aren't as many new magic candies in this book, which was something I really enjoyed about the previous books. (The ones in this book also didn't seem as appealing--clown lips? YUCK!) So, as an adult reader of a middle grade book, this book is good; as a parent, this is definitely a book I'd give to my kids. And for the intended audience (at least my son), this book is a hit.
For my son, this is a 5-star book. This is his review:
"I liked how it's exciting and they have to use their brains to figure out what's happening and how to solve the problems. I liked how the carnival expanded and that there lots of hidden things about it. I like the names of the characters, and I think Nate is funny. I like that they can use magic to turn into different things and have different powers. I like the stuff about dreams. I like that there's a bunch of different characters, and it's really interesting."
So, he really enjoyed it and has started asking when Brandon Mull's next signing event is so he can see him and get his books signed! So, with it getting 3 stars from me and 5 stars from him, we'll average at 4 stars.
I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

About the Author: 
BRANDON MULL is the #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Fablehaven, Beyonders, and Five Kingdoms series. A kinetic thinker, Brandon enjoys bouncy balls, squeezable stress toys, and popping bubble wrap. He lives in a happy little valley in Utah with his wife, Erlyn, their eleven children, and a dog named Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Brandon loves meeting his readers and hearing about their experiences with his books. 

For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at chansen@shadowmountain.com 


Other Books by Brandon Mull: 
The Candy Shop War Series 
The Candy Shop War 
The Candy Shop War: Arcade Catastrophe 

Fablehaven Series 
Fablehaven 
Rise of the Evening Star 
Grip of the Shadow Plague 
Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary 
Keys to the Demon Prison 

Dragonwatch Series 
Dragonwatch 
Wrath of the Dragon King 
Master of the Phantom Isle 
Champion of the Titan Games 
Return of the Dragon Slayers 

Five Kingdoms Series 
Sky Raiders 
Rogue Knight 
Crystal Keepers 
Death Weavers 
Time Jumpers 

Beyonders Series 
A World without Heroes 
Seeds of Rebellion 
Chasing the Prophecy 

Advance Praise: “A fun fantasy novel in which plucky children explore an evil-infused carnival to save the world from its creepy embrace.” —Foreword Reviews 
“Magical minions of various (and sometimes gross) abilities, Mull trots his twist-laden plot forward to a well set-up climax. He dishes up a crowd-pleaser as delicious—if not so weird— as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." —Kirkus, from book 1 
“A delectable fantasy adventure where magical candies give four friends super powers to save their town.” —Foreword Reviews, from book 1 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Bash (vol 1) by Rudy Gobert


Bash! (vol. 1)
Written by Rudy Gobert and Hellef Bay
Illustrated by Vince Serrano
Published by Titan Books


Synopsis (from the publisher):
Young Rudy comes from the poor neighborhood of Nevilia, but dreams of a being a BASH star, and his talent might just make it happen: but can he make it while threats come from every corner of the galaxy? 

Throughout the universe, there’s one sport that everyone’s a fan of: BASH! A brutal, high-octane version of basketball: its players are rockstars, legends, gods, and for young Rudy, a poor kid from Nevilia, his only dream is to be one of them. 
Rudy’s got talent, but talent is nothing without practice and so he sets out to become the best BASH player in the galaxy, always training, always reaching for jut one more dunk. And while Rudy is starting to get noticed by the teams and the talent scouts, other, more sinister forces have started to creep out from the shadows, jealous of this rising young star. 

Review: 
I'll start out with a few disclaimers: my family are lifelong Utah Jazz fans and we were quite disappointed when Rudy Gobert was traded away in the off-season, and Gobert is my daughter's favorite player. So, I'm probably inclined to like this book--but at the same time, as a former librarian and an avid bibliophile, I've read a LOT of books and will be (kindly) honest if I don't like a book. So, that said, when I saw that Gobert had a graphic novel coming out, I immediately went to NetGalley to see if I could get an eARC to read it early; the publisher graciously granted my request. I did have issues with the formatting--the book displayed sideways and split pages into two--no matter what device I tried to read it on. So, it wasn't the smoothest reading experience, and I definitely want to get my hands on a physical copy to read, but I still got a good enough feel for the book to give an honest review. 

The book spent a lot of time on backstory (which makes sense, as it's the first volume in a series), so there's not a ton of action but enough to keep it interesting. There are appealing storylines--the main character wanting to excel at Bash, a hyped-up basketball-like sport; his father having left the family years before and the impact on him and his mother; as well as the political storm that he has no idea is coming, as earth's colonial rule Sybelius is sending a delegation to find that missing father, who is more than he seemed. All of those will draw readers in and want them to know more. There are really cool details--like the rules of bash, which include environmental changes during the game--and the illustrations are terrific. There were some clich├ęs--a parent who doesn't love the game that the main character loves, an opponent with a pretty girlfriend that he doesn't treat well--as well as some ideas that weren't developed as well as I would have liked (I didn't find the mother's reasons for blaming the bash to be strong enough, and the reason why so many people love this game even though it can lead to death didn't come through). Characters are mostly flat, and sometimes the writing felt stilted, with an over-reliance on dialogue to explain things that happened in the past, which didn't quite feel like realistic conversations, as well as moments that the language seemed to reflect the fact that English isn't Gobert's native tongue. None of those are huge problems, and readers who are looking solely for entertainment rather than planning to write a review might well skip right over them. 

Overall, I think it's an interesting book that will appeal to a lot of teenagers as well as fans of basketball and of Gobert himself. I definitely want to continue the series to see what happens next! 

4 stars!

I read an eARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Wyoming Wild by Sarah M. Eden


Wyoming Wild (Savage Wells #3) 
By Sarah M. Eden 
Published by Shadow Mountain 
Publication date: March 7, 2023

Synopsis:

Hearts collide when a sheriff’s daughter asks a hardened US Marshal to join her fight for justice and rid a small town of her corrupt father.

Wyoming Territory, 1876

US Marshal John “Hawk” Hawking is one of the most respected lawmen in the West, so when a telegram arrives from the small town of Sand Creek warning him of a death threat against him, he immediately begins an investigation.

Posing as a farmer, Hawk heads to Sand Creek, a town ruled by a violent and corrupt sheriff. Only one person is trying to stop him—Liesl, the sheriff’s own daughter. When she meets the self-assured and attractive new farmer, John, she hopes he might help her in the fight for justice.

John is completely unfazed by Sheriff Hodges’s attempts at intimidation, and Liesl is quickly swept up by Hawk’s courage and integrity. Just as quickly, Hawk finds himself falling for Liesl’s strength and bravery, as well as her grace and beauty.

When Liesl discovers John’s true identity, she feels betrayed. Despite her lingering distrust of him, Liesl agrees to work with him to enact a dangerous plan that will put the criminals away forever. Liesl must put her life, and her heart, in the hands of his lawman if she has any hope of saving her family and her town.


About the Author:

Sarah M. Eden is a USA Today best-selling author of witty and charming historical romances, including 2019’s Foreword Reviews INDIE Awards Gold Winner for Romance, The Lady and the Highwayman, and 2020 Holt Medallion finalist, Healing Hearts. She is a two-time “Best of State” Gold Medal winner for fiction and a three-time Whitney Award winner.

Combining her obsession with history and her affinity for tender love stories, Sarah loves crafting deep characters and heartfelt romances set against rich historical backdrops. She holds a bachelor’s degree in research and happily spends hours perusing the reference shelves of her local library.

For author interview requests, please contact Callie Hansen at chansen@shadowmountain.com


Advance Praise:

"Page-turning historical romance. The well-matched pair bond as they band together to fight crime, with gruff Hawk revealing his sweet side and admirable Liesl displaying her strength. Packed with memorable, complex characters, this thoroughly satisfying, G-rated romance will have readers on the edge of their seats." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"With lots of danger and intrigue, Eden's latest will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Fans of Eden's The Sheriffs of Savage Wells will be happy to see so many familiar faces return to action here."

Library Journal

My Review:

This is another terrific book by Sarah M. Eden! Hawk and Liesl are both such great characters, each with their own worries and burdens. I liked seeing how they worked together and were able to open up throughout the book. The chemistry between them wasn't quite as pronounced as it was between the couples in the previous books in the series, but they're such a good match for each other and they just felt right together. I love the secondary characters, too--I don't think it's possible to read one of her books and not find at least one character you hope will be getting his/her own book in the series soon, and that definitely happened here. The plot was really interesting and the pacing was good. Just all around totally enjoyable. After reading this one, I want to go back to the beginning of the series and re-read all three books! 
4.5 stars. 
 I read an ARC provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own. 


Upcoming Appearances: 
February 16, 2023 
 An Evening of Proper Romance 
6-9 PM 
Wadley Farms
 Lindon, UT 
Tickets sold out 

March 7, 2023 
12-2 PM CST 
Latter-day Book and Gifts 
Houston, TX 

March 8, 2023 
12-2 PM CST 
LDS Books 
Dallas, TX 

March 11, 2023 
1-3 PM MST
Deseret Book 
Denver, CO 

March 14, 2023 
5-7 PM MDT 
Seagull Book 
Spanish Fork, UT 

March 15, 2023 
5-7 PM MDT 
Seagull Book 
South Jordan, UT 

March 16, 2023 
4-6 PM MDT 
Deseret Book 
Layton, UT 

March 18, 2023 
11-1 PM MDT 
Deseret Book 
Logan, UT


Wyoming Wild is the 48th installment in the Proper Romance® series, a collection of award-winning, clean romance novels written by 12 authors across a wide spectrum of genres, including Regency, Victorian, and Contemporary. These stories feature relatable heroines, handsome heroes, obstacles to overcome and happy endings. Learn more at www.properromance.com

 Shadow Mountain Publishing is a publisher of New York Times bestselling books and series. We cultivate stories worth telling, questions worth exploring, and beauty worth sharing to improve the lives of families, children, and our society. Learn more at www.shadowmountain.com.



Thursday, January 19, 2023

A Match in the Making (The Matchmakers #1) by Jen Turano


A Match in the Making (The Matchmakers #1)
By Jen Turano 
Published by Bethany House 
Publication Date: February 21. 2013 

Description (from the author's website):
Miss Gwendolyn Brinley accepted a temporary paid companion position for the Newport summer season, believing it would be a lark to spend the summer in America’s most exclusive town. She suddenly finds her summer turning anything but amusing when her employer expects her to take over responsibilities as an assistant matchmaker. Tasked with the daunting prospect of attaining advantageous matches for her clients, Gwendolyn soon finds herself in the company of Mr. Walter Townsend, the catch of the Season, but a gentleman Gwendolyn finds beyond annoying.
Walter is reluctantly in search of a wife for the sake of his unruly motherless children. What he wasn’t expecting was Miss Brinley, who turns his quest for a new wife into a complete and utter debacle.
The more time they spend together throughout the Newport Season, the harder it is for Gwendolyn to find Walter a wife when she realizes his perfect match might be...her.
USA Today bestselling author Jen Turano’s trademark wit, sweet romance, and hilarious mischief will keep you turning the pages of this lively Gilded Age tale.


About the Author:
Named one of the funniest voices in inspirational romance by Booklist, Jen Turano is a USA Today bestselling author, known for penning quirky historical romances set in the Gilded Age. Her books have earned Publishers Weekly and Booklist starred reviews, top picks from Romantic Times, and praise from Library Journal. She's been a finalist twice for the RT Reviewers' Choice Awards and had two of her books listed in the top 100 romances of the past decade from Booklist. She and her family live outside of Denver, Colorado. Readers can find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and at jenturano.com.


Review:
Jen Turano's books are always a delight to read! They are so funny, and this one is no exception. In the hands of a lesser storyteller, the eccentricities of some characters and the shenanigans of others could quickly become tiresome, but Turano does a fabulous job of making even over-the-top situations believable and humorous rather than annoying. 
I'm very much a character-driven reader and I've read all of Turano's books, so it's pretty big thing when I say that Gwendolyn might very well be my favorite of ALL of her heroines. She is just my sort of person--intelligent, capable, and direct. I love how she says the things that need to be said without beating around the bush and how she so adeptly solves problem after problem and refuses to bow to society's expectations. Walter was a bit of a dolt initially (not a good parent, not believing in love, etc.), but in an endearing way, and I loved seeing him change throughout the book. Walter's children, especially Oscar, just stole my heart. I'm hoping we'll see more of secondary characters Gideon and Adelaide in the next book, especially as one another's love interests, because I really liked both of them as well.
I highly recommend this book to any fans of historical romance, rom-coms, and super fun books!
4.5 stars.

I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own. 


Buy your copy now:
Baker Book House (40% off and FREE shipping) 

Giveaway!! Enter to win a free copy of the book on Goodreads!


Can't wait for release day? Read a sneak peak! (Just look for the "Free Preview" button at the bottom.) And if you need more of Jen's writing to tide you over until the book comes out, check out my reviews of several of her other amazing stories!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

My First Veggie Bible Stories


My First Veggie Bible Stories
Written by by Pamela Kennedy and Anne Kennedy Brady
Illustrated by Jerry Pittenger
Published by Worthy Publishing


Description from the publisher:
Join the VeggieTales characters as they share favorite Bible stories and introduce young readers to the Bible.
Guaranteed to appeal to little ones, My First Veggie Bible Stories brings fans a collection of twelve favorite Bible stories. With retellings of stories selected from the Old and New Testaments, this book serves as an ideal introduction to the Bible for little ones, with the signature charm of a brand beloved by kids and long trusted by parents.
Told with simple, engaging language, the stories are accompanied by bright, colorful illustrations featuring Bob, Larry, Junior Asparagus, Laura Carrot, and other favorite VeggieTales characters. This padded board book is just the right companion for little ones, perfect for on-the-go reading or family storytime.

Review:
What a cute book! I pulled it out intending to read it with my three-year-old, but before I had a chance, my nine-year-old twins and my six-year-old each read it on their own! And when I did get a chance to read it with my three-year-old, my older children listened in, even though they'd previously read it. All of my children agreed that it has great pictures and they liked the stories that were chosen and that it was easy to understand what the stories were about. Even my three-year-old good recite back details from each story after we read them, so I love how it's helping her learn Bible stories at a young age. My nine-year-old son said it would be awesome if there were even more stories in the book because he wanted to read more! As a parent, I found it to be very accessible to young children as well as engaging for them. I love each of the twelve stories included and love this easy way to start a discussion with my children about what we can learn from them. The only thing I might have changed is to include the story of Jesus Christ's death because the final story talks about His resurrection (but it's not a big deal that it wasn't included; it was just a small thing that I noticed). All in all, I think the book is excellent, and my kids all agree!
5 stars.
 
I read a copy of the book provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Friday, January 13, 2023

Hearts of Steel (Blackstone Legacy #3) by Elizabeth Camden


Hearts of Steel (Blackstone Legacy #3)
By Elizabeth Camden
Published by Bethany House

Description from the publisher:
Maggie Molinaro survived a hardscrabble childhood in the downtrodden streets of Manhattan to become a successful businesswoman. After a decade of sacrifice, she now owns a celebrated ice cream company, but when she offends a corrupt banker, she unwittingly sets off a series of calamities that threaten to destroy her life's work.
Liam Blackstone is a charismatic steel magnate committed to overhauling factory conditions for the steelworkers of America. Standing in his way is the same villain determined to ruin Maggie. What begins as a practical alliance to defeat a common enemy soon evolves into a romance between two wounded people determined to beat the odds.
A spiraling circle of treachery grows increasingly dangerous as Liam and Maggie risk their lives and fortune for the good of the city. It will require all their wit and ingenuity to navigate the dangerous waters ahead, but their crusade could cost them everything.

Review:
I was already in the middle of three books when this one arrived in the mail, but I paused all of them and started this one because I've been eagerly awaiting Liam's story. I knew from the first book in the series that I would like his book the best, and I was totally right. Normally it takes me a few days to get through a book because I don't have large chunks of time to read, but I devoured this one and finished it in less than two days--every spare minute I had, I grabbed my copy to continue reading.
Liam and Maggie are quite possibly my favorite of Elizabeth Camden's characters ever (and I've read all of her books). I just loved them. Liam just felt so real, with his flaws and his temper and his numerous mistakes--and with his huge heart that keeps him fighting for those he cares about. Maggie was a great complement to him--hard-working and practical and determined. I loved them each individually as well as together.
I also loved the historical details--it was just fascinating to get a glimpse at how Maggie made ice cream, how ice was delivered, and how other businesses worked. I also found it fascinating that Liam and Maggie's enemy was actually a real person in history. The details were rich and woven so well into the story. This book hooked me from the start, and my interest never waned. Just an exciting, entertaining read from start to finish!
5 stars!

I read a copy of the book provided by the author/publisher. All opinions are my own.

Monday, January 2, 2023

The Earl's Hideaway, No Ladies Allowed (Romance of Rank #2) by Esther Hatch

The Earl's Hideaway, No Ladies Allowed (Romance of Rank #2)
By Esther Hatch

Description
If there is one woman Samson Rutherford, Earl of Riverton, can’t abide, it is his meddling sister. He has spent his whole life being a pawn in her plans and tricks, but when one of her schemes leaves him dressed in women’s clothing, he has finally had enough. He cannot beat her at her games, or even say no to her, his only option to save his sanity and pride is to run away--and fortunately, his solicitor knows just the place…
Catherine Wallace wasn’t born to be a governess, but with her family’s fall from grace, she has become one. A good one. However, when the chance arises to stay at her uncle’s home so she can care for his horticulture project while he is absent, she jumps at the chance. Leaving her position, she plans to gather her sisters together so they can be a family again--even if it is only for a little while.
But the last thing Catherine expected to find upon her arrival was her childhood friend. Samson has sequestered himself at the cottage and claims to have been invited to watch over her uncle’s business while he is away. But Catherine insists that’s what she’s been asked to do. The quiet retreat is what they both need, but who will get to stay?
Not Samson, because he has never gotten the better of a woman, not since… well, not since Catherine let him kiss her years ago…
Come to think of it, perhaps it is time for Samson to win after all.
 
Review:
Poor Samson! His sister really was a lot to handle! I would have gotten sick of her a lot sooner than he did! In fact, at the outset of the book, I think I felt more strongly (negatively) toward Dru than I did positively toward either Samson or Catherine; I just wasn't very invested in them early on. As I read on, I did connect with them more, and I really wanted to see them figure things out! I totally loved the ending of the book. If you like books that are humorous (in a bit of a madcap way) with great kissing scenes, this is for you! 
4 stars.

I read an ARC provided by the author. All opinions are my own.