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Animal Friendship + A Book for Growing Young Readers ⇉ Review of The Moonlight Meeting by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling

Tuesday, January 9, 2018
It's been almost a year since I was first introduced to The Nocturnals. Some of favorite books growing up were books featured animals in prominent roles (e.g. Animal Ark, Hank the CowdogWarriors, Guardians of Ga'Hoole, to name a few).

What makes The Nocturnals unique is that it introduces Australian wildlife. Throughout The Nocturnals series, I've enjoyed learning more about the different wildlife that populate Australian forests. This adaptation for younger readers is my new Nocturnals favorite!


Full-Color Illustrations
The full-color illustrations bring the characters to life. I enjoyed seeing the characters' expressions and body language paired with their dialogue. They are adorable. (Especially those of Bismark. He's such a character.)

Lively Dialogue
Partly because this book targets a younger audience and partly because this book narrows down its focus to Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn's first meeting, more expression is put into the dialogue and character expressions. The pacing was rhythmic and made for an enjoyable read. I can easily imagine this book being reader aloud to entertain a younger reader (and having the younger reader read it back or join in on certain words/phrases).

A Book on Friendship
From the beginning, it's clear that this book is about making friends. I like how each of the protagonists has his or her unique personality. It shows how friends do not necessarily need to be alike in order to be friends but that friendship is about mutually intending to and taking action to be friends.

Fun Facts
At the end of the book, there is a section explaining what type of animals are Tobin, Bismark, and Dawn as well as what is a pomelo. I appreciate having this information to give me a better understanding of the protagonists. (And it's the type of information I would have geeked over as a kid, being the animal lover that I was.)


Where's Book Two?
To be honest, there wasn't anything that I disliked about this book. While I did have some issues with the original book form which this story was taken, the problems have been smoothed over for this one. The characters didn't feel superficial, and Bismark's over-the-top personality works for this shorter story.

If anything, I loved this book and want to read the next one right now!


The Moonlight Meeting is a highly enjoyable read featuring endearing characters and lively dialogue that are brought to life through rhythmic pacing and animated, full-color illustrations. Those who enjoy books with animal protagonists will especially enjoy this book for beginning readers. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the next Nocturnals release!

For more information and resources, such as educator and book club kits, check out the Grow and Read website here. For more about the Nocturnals, check out the Nocturnals website here.

Additional note: I was sent some swag along with this book. The swag included a bookmark, paper art to recreate the protagonists, and a fox stuffed animal wearing a snake-skin printed handkerchief with the Nocturnals logo on it. It is adorable and would make a lovely addition alongside of the book for a present. I haven't heard anything about this fox plushie/handkerchief combination being on sale, but maybe it'll happen in the future :)

Thank you to Fabled Films for sending me a copy for my honest review.


In The Moonlight Meeting, Tobin, a sweet pangolin, Bismark, a loud-mouthed sugar glider, and Dawn, a series fox, introduce The Nocturnals' nighttime world with friendship, sharing, and humor.

Bonus Content includes Fun Facts about the Nocturnals.


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What are your favorite bookish animals?

Publication Info
  • The Moonlight Meeting by Tracey Hecht & Rumur Dowling
  • Published by Fabled Films Press
  • On September 12, 2017
  • Genres: Children's Book
  • Pages: 64 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
  • The Moonlight Meeting
  • The Slithery Shakedown
  • N/A

Keepsakes for Little House Fans and Their Young Readers ⇉ Mini Reviews of A Little House Picture Book Treasury and Christmas Stories

Thursday, January 4, 2018
I loved reading the Little House books growing up. The books that I'm reviewing today are ones that I'll be saving to enjoy with young readers, especially when the next holiday season rolls around.

This hardcover, full-color treasury includes six picture book stories adapted from the classic Little House books.

The Little House series introduced generations of readers to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life on the frontier. Now with this illustrated storybook collection, the youngest readers can share in her world as well.

Laura Ingalls lives in a snug little log cabin with her ma, her pa, her sisters, Mary and Carrie, and their dog, Jack. Almanzo Wilder lives on a farm with his family and lots of animals. These pioneer children have all sorts of adventures, including trips to town, county fairs, cozy winter days, and holidays with family.

I love how the Little House stories have been adapted to picture book format to share with beginning readers. The full-color illustrations on each page are gorgeous and bring the Little House world to life. The illustrations are reminiscent of the original artwork; they gave me nostalgia for my childhood days when I first discovered the Little House books. This treasury features six short stories that may also be purchased as separate entities.


Publication Info
  • A Little House Picture Book Treasury: Six Stories of Life on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Published by Harper Collins
  • On September 19 2017
  • Genres: Historical
  • Pages: 208 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
    • Compilation of 6 Books from the "My First Little House Books" collection. For more, click here.
          • N/A

          For Laura Ingalls, Christmas means good things to eat, visits from friends, and special gifts to give and receive. As Laura grows up, every Christmas is better than the one before.

          Join the original pioneer girl in this Little House chapter book, adapted for younger readers from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved classics. Illustrated with beautiful new black-and-white artwork, this repackaged edition includes bonus material such as games, activities, and more!

          Christmas Stories features nine Christmas stories along with some fun Christmas-themed activities and an author introduction in the back of the book. It's been a while since I've read the original Little House books, but the reading level for this book felt similar to the original books. The only difference is that this book is smaller since it only includes select stories. This makes it more accessible to younger readers who would feel daunted by a larger chapter book.

          That said, this book would make a great introduction for young readers to the Little House world. I'll be saving this one to enjoy with young readers during the Christmas holidays!


          CHAT WITH ME

          Are you a Little House reader? What is your favorite story from the series?

          Publication Info
          • Christmas Stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder
          • Published by Harper Collins
          • On September 19 2017
          • Genres: Historical
          • Pages: 112 Pages
          • Format: Paperback
          Series: Little House Chapter Book Collection
          • The Adventures of Laura & Jack
          • Pioneer Sisters
          • Animal Adventures
          • Laura & Nellie
          • Christmas Stories
          • School Days
          • N/A

          Endearing Characters + Magical World = Fantasy Adventure ⇉ Review of The Adventurer's Guild by Zach Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

          Tuesday, January 2, 2018
          Fantasy adventures are my first love in the book world. Though I've "grown up," in recent years, I've felt drawn back towards MG fantasies, so I was ecstatic to receive a copy of The Adventurer's Guild for review.

          WHAT I LIKED

          The World Building
          Monsters. Best friends. Mages. Elves. Dwarves . . . an Adventurer's Guild and a conspiracy in the works. Not to mention the history between the humans and the elves. The existence of the Adventurer's Guild provides the opportunity for exploring the world, and the authors deliver.

          Endearing Characters
          I love the main cast—even the potential turncoat lurking in their midst. The authors do a good job portraying their strengths and weaknesses. In the end, I believe they'll have to work together to overcome the situation that they're in, and I look forward to seeing their growth.

          A Fantasy Adventure
          I jumped in looking for a fantasy adventure, and I got a fantasy adventure. Though the plot is predictable, the story stays true to what it is. I felt immersed in Zed's experiences and enjoyed exploring the world with him. (Though I confess that I got really creeped out reading about his encounters with monsters late at night.)


          Static Characters
          The dialogue is stiff, and the character don't show much complexity. They're packaged into stereotypes. That said, there is a range of characters. Readers will find their favorite characters to cheer on.

          Predictable Plot
          The plot is formulaic. If you've read enough fantasy adventures, it's easy to predict where the story will head. However, it does mean that you don't have to think too hard reading this novel. I read this in the middle of my first semester of grad school; it provided fun, light-hearted entertainment in the midst of the busyness.


          While the characters are stereotypical and the plot is formulaic, The Adventurer's Guild is an entertaining fantasy adventure that stays true to what it is: a fantasy adventure. I enjoyed exploring the world with Zed and co. Their story provided lighthearted entertainment in the middle of a busy time of year where it's all too easy to fall prey to burnout. I look forward to continuing their journey with them in the sequel!


          Few ever asked to join the Adventurers Guild. . . . Their members often died young.

          In one of the last cities standing after the world fell to monsters, best friends Zed Kagari and Brock Dunderfel have high hopes for the future. Zed desperately wishes to join the ranks of the Mages Guild, where his status as Freestone's only half elf might finally be an asset. Brock, the roguishly handsome son of merchants, is confident he'll be welcomed into the ranks of the Merchants Guild.

          But just as it seems the boys' dreams have come true, their lives take a startling turn . . . and they find themselves members of the perilous Adventurers Guild.

          Led by the fearsome Alabasel Frond, the guild acts as the last line of defense against the Dangers-hungry, unnatural beasts from otherworldly planes. And when the boys uncover a conspiracy that threatens all of Freestone, Zed, Brock, and their new allies-Liza, a fierce noble, and Jett, a brave dwarf-must prove their worth once and for all.

          YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE...

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          CHAT WITH ME

          For whom would you put your life on the line?

          Publication Info
          • The Adventurer's Guild byZack Loran Clark and Nick Elipulos
          • Published by Disney-Hyperion
          • On October 3, 2017
          • Genres: Fantasy
          • Pages: 340 Pages
          • Format: Hardback
          Series: The Adventurer's Guild
          • The Adventurer's Guild
          • TBD
          Mature Content
          • Creepy creatures
          • Some violence

          2017 Reading Challenge Results

          Friday, December 29, 2017


          << Click title link to read full review >>

          A Newberry Award winner or Honor book

          A coming-of-age novel that traces the lives of several young people (and some older members of the community), Criss Cross is a whimsical read about growing up, exploring new possibilities, and gaining new life experiences. This novel isn't packed with action or drama, but it's an important read for its message that may not know where we're going, but the future is filled with limitless possibilities. So stop and appreciate the moment.

          A book in translation: Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak?

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          A book that's more than 600 pages

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          A book of poetry, a play, or an essay collection

          There are many secular reads out there that talk about sex. There are few Christian reads in comparison. Phylicia compiles some of her most popular blog posts that highlight Biblical truths on sex. She is one of my favorite Christian bloggers because her posts are relatable; she's been in our position before, and she's combines research with her personal experience to provide the Biblical perspective on on sex.

          A book of any genre that addresses current events

          A good read about different ways to listen and learn from God's revelations.

          An immigrant story:

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          A book published before I was born:

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge

          NEIL GAIMAN
          Three books by the same author: The Graveyard Book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and


          I read and loved Coraline as a child, and I watched Stardust. I actually have the latter on my bookshelf, though I have yet to read it. I've heard a lot about Neil Gaiman's writing. This reading challenge provided a good opportunity to finally read some of his other books.

          The Graveyard Book is a beautiful coming of age story with a well-thought-out plot and storyline that readers of all ages can enjoy. I appreciate how it focuses on Bod's life as he matures; the supernatural elements are a natural part of the setting, not the focus.

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

          A book by an #ownvoices or #diversebooks author

          It's easy to point fingers and judge others. If we took the time to get to know someone, however, what would their story reveal to us? Allegedly raises these questions even as it draws us into some of the heavy-hitting issues of contemporary society. Due to the nature of these issues, mature content is pervasive in this story. If you can get through it, however, this would be worth a read.

          What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum
          A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending

          Read my review on the blog.

          A book nominated for an award in 2017: Newberry Medal winner

          A cute, whimsical story with a fairytale feel. It reminds me of the types of fantasy reads that I used to read as a child.

          A Pulitzer Prize or National Book Award winner: All the Pretty Horses?

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge.


          A book I chose for the cover

          The drawing on the cover reminded me of anime art; the title suggests that the MC creates worlds. Being an anime lover and a writer (mostly in my head), I felt drawn to read this book.

          I love how the story deals with issues of learning to love yourself and what you do and how family is present (though there are missed opportunities for the MC to mature).

          A book with a reputation for being un-put-down-able

          I first heard about this memoir from the ladies in my church group. Many loved it so much that they bought additional copies as Christmas presents for friends and family. Virginia's story testifies to the power of faith and the redeeming love of Christ. Set in the last years of Nicolae Ceaușescu's communist regime, it gives us a glimpse into Romanian persecution of Christians and raises concern over the increasing persecution of Christians in other countries that, like Ceaușescu's regime, outwardly support religious freedom.

          The Fallen Star by Tracey Hecht
          A book set somewhere I've never been but would like to visit

          Tracey Hecht's The Nocturnals series takes place in Australia. I discovered this series when I received a review request in my inbox. Being a longtime animal lover, I knew I was in!

          I love this series because it provides a safe place for young readers to explore real world issues, and it teaches them to look at a situation from the other party's point of view. (The enemies always turn out to be good guys handling a situation the wrong way.)

          A book I've already read

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge.

          The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
          A juicy memoir

          DNFed. I read half but couldn't get into it.

          A book about books or reading

          I purchased this book for a class on Bible study. What made this stand out compared to the other book that I could have purchased is the way Yarbrough uses to open each chapter:  highly entertaining anecdotes that help readers understand concepts for Bible study. The best part? These stories come from Yarbrough's personal life.

          A book in a genre I usually avoid

          I'm not a big horror fan, but I heard that this is a novel to read if you're interested in seeing how vampires used to be before . . . well, Twilight. There's a lot of mature content with which I was uncomfortable in this novel (click on the title link above for a full list), but Anne Rice has a talent for poetic writing in prose and has built an entrancing world with compelling characters. She is a literary talent.

          Dreamland by Sarah Dessen
          A book I don't want to admit I'm dying to read

          I enjoyed this one a lot more than I was expecting! Read my full review here.

          A book in the backlist of a new favorite author

          Migrated to 2018 reading challenge.

          A book recommended by someone with great taste: recommended by Phylicia Masonheimer
          Read half of this book.

          A book I was excited to buy or borrow but haven't read yet

          I fell in love with Dessen's writing several years in The Truth About Forever and Just Listen. I bought this book along with several others soon after but never got around to reading it until now.

          While this isn't a book that I would reread, it's definitely worth the first read. Dreamland addresses relationship issues with which many women can relate and / or should educate themselves about. (Like how to say no and how to recognize when a relationship is turning abusive.)

          A book about a topic or subject I already love

          I love Asian mythology. When I received an email about the second novel of this series, I immediately requested a copy of this book for review along with the new release.

          This novel features strong family relations, gorgeous artwork, and of course, asian mythology. I especially appreciate the theme that heroes aren't born but forged through trials.

          What were some of your favorite reads in 2017? Feel free to link to your reading challenge. I'd love to take a look!

          Christmas Books for Young Readers ⇉ Mini Reviews of Danny and the Dinosaur: A Very Dino Christmas & Bear's Merry Book of Hidden Things

          Tuesday, December 12, 2017
          Christmastime is special because of the opportunity to share books you love with young readers in the family. Today, I'm sharing my two favorite Christmas books for children that I received for review this year.

          Celebrate Christmas dino-style with Danny the Dinosaur!

          Danny’s friend the dinosaur has never experienced Christmas before, so he and Danny decide to celebrate—dino-style! But what will happen when the museum director isn’t so happy with the new museum decorations?

          Find out in this Danny and the Dinosaur 8x8 adventure, complete with 8 holiday cards, a poster, and stickers. This brand-new story is based on Syd Hoff’s beloved classic.

          The Dinosaur has never experienced Christmas before, so Danny sets off to introduce his friend to Christmas. And to decorate the museum for him. Through the friends' adventures (and some mishaps when they're discovered), Danny and the Dinosaur: A Very Dino Christmas introduces Christmas traditions and the joyful spirit of the holidays to young readers. I can picture an older reader reading this book with a young reader and making connections between the book and their own Christmas traditions.


          Publication Info
          • Danny and the Dinosaur: A Very Dino Christmas by Syd Hoff
          • Published by Harper Collins
          • On September 19, 2017
          • Genres: Children's Book
          • Pages: 24 Pages
          • Format: Paperback
            • Danny and the Dinosaur
            • Happy Birthday, Danny and the Dinosaur!
            • Danny and the Dinosaur Go to Camp
                  • N/A

                  Bear loves the holidays, and this year he's throwing a party for all his animal friends. But there's so much to do to get ready—and he is only one very little bear! Can you help Bear find all the secret treasures he needs for his party?

                  I love how this book both tells a story and invites readers to participate by helping bear find the treasures he needs for his party. To top it off, the last party brings all of the treasures together, which makes for an enjoyable endgame of trying to find where everything goes! I can see this book being a fun adventure for the family to do together as members compete to see who can find bear's treasures first.


                  Publication Info
                  • Bear's Merry Book of Hidden Things: Christmas Seek-and-Find by Gergely Dudas
                  • Published by Harper Collins
                  • On September 19, 2017
                  • Genres: Children's Book
                  • Pages: 32 Pages
                  • Format: Hardback
                    • Bear's Merry Book of Hidden Things: Christmas Seek-and-Find
                    • Bear's Spooky Book of Hidden Things: Halloween Seek-and-Find (upcoming)
                          • N/A

                          CHAT WITH ME

                          What are your favorite Christmas reads?

                          An Unwilling Heroine, a Ruthless Champion, a Dying Queen . . . and Epicness ⇉ Review of The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

                          Thursday, August 10, 2017
                          A world where the very elements of the land are out for human blood? Where young women must put their lives on the line to train to become the next queen that protects humanity? Speak no more and let me read this awesome book in peace.

                          That's how I started my review of The Queen of Blood. The feelings hold strong for The Reluctant Queen, the second novel in the Queens of Renthia series by Sarah Beth Durst.

                          Even better? Because the main heroine is new, you don't necessarily have to have read book one to read this one. (But I highly recommend reading it because it is wonderful.) I love books that combine the perspectives of new characters while keeping us in touch with the old. Some series I love that do this include Tamora Pierce's Tortall books and Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles.

                          WHAT I LIKED

                          Don't trust the fire, for it will burn you.
                          Don't trust the ice, for it will freeze you.
                          Don't trust the water, for it will drown you.
                          Don't trust the air, for it will choke you.
                          Don't trust the earth, for it will bury you.
                          Don't trust the trees, for they will rip you, rend you, tear you, kill you dead.

                          - a child's chant in Renthia

                          A Believable World
                          Sarah Beth Durst does solid work building the world that the people inhabit. It has its lores, its rival countries (well, there's one other country that's beginning to exert itself), and its people and their concerns.

                          With the introduction of Naelin, we get to learn about people who don't care about the politics of this world and just want to live their lives in peace. And we get to peer, if only for a short while, into the lives of people living on the outskirts. Daleina was in a hurry to start training, so we didn't get to look much into outside life.

                          Some other new characters are introduced as well (with some old ones returning for a more prominent role). Through them, the story is rounded out even more. I enjoyed seeing how different characters contribute to the plot and keep it moving forward.

                          An Unwilling Heroine

                          I love books where characters go on epic quests and do great things for their people. Alanna from Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness and Daleina from The Queen of Blood are two such people. They want to do great things and serve their country. If I personally had to choose, however, I want to keep my peaceful life. I want to make a change in peoples' lives but on a smaller scale in my local community (and possibly farther out through my blog, but that doesn't require leaving the comfort of my home).

                          Naelin is an unwilling heroine because she doesn't want any fame or glory. From her perspective, such people live short lives, and all she wants to do is live a quiet life with her children. I can relate to Naelin, but I also understand why the country needs her. Our new heroine is another complex character that will appeal to readers.

                          Another Complex Villain(?) (Who I Actually Want to Like)
                          This time around, one of our old friends and rivals comes back to haunt us. This is a young woman that I want to like; she's charismatic, and I want her to be a friend. For a while, we're kept guessing as to how the situation will turn out, and I still feel like it could go in several different directions. I understand her situation, and I wish that something can be done to help her while keeping the peace.

                          THE FAMILY IS STRONG IN THIS ONE!!! (#familygirl)
                          Longtime readers of the blog know that I love books with strong familial ties. That hasn't changed. Family is so important to who we are. More often than not, people tend to like their family, and it's always been weird to me how family often disappears in novels.

                          I love how family is such a strong force in this book. We have members from several different families featured in this book, and family influences the decisions of some other characters.

                          A Breathtaking Cover 
                          I love the gorgeous artwork that's been done with this series. As I mentioned in my review of the first book, I believe in fantasy covers that showcase the world and give us insight into the world that the people inhabit. I'm looking forward to the cover for the third book!!

                          WHAT I DISLIKED

                          Do we really need a guy to make us feel alive?
                          There's a situation where a character asks her romantic interest to help her feel alive; they start kissing, and it's implied that they have sex. I'm not opposed to romantic relationships, but I do believe that our sense of purpose can't depend on love. If we're in a situation where we feel dead (or fear death), sex isn't going to solve the problem. We need to find purpose elsewhere.

                          That Plot Armor
                          The ending felt a bit happy go lucky and cheery for what I'd come to expect following the tragic end to book one. (The outcome is strange and novel.) That said, it does feel like the plot is moving forward, and I'm most definitely interested in seeing where Sarah Beth Durst takes us next.

                          FINAL THOUGHTS

                          Things are rushed in this novel, but they have to be given the circumstances. That said, I didn't feel rushed as I did in the first novel, where time would fast forward without warning. Sarah Beth Durst has created an interesting world with characters I want to like (as terrible the deeds they have done are) and a story that is hard to put down until I have read all that I have in my hands. (Where's book three???) The ending has me asking many, many questions that I hope to see answered in the next book.

                          I recommend this series to fantasy lovers, especially those who enjoy good world building and epic adventures (though we don't travel very far in this one).


                          Everything has a spirit: the willow tree with leaves that kiss the pond, the stream that feeds the river, the wind that exhales fresh snow . . .
                          And those spirits want to kill you.
                          It’s the first lesson that every Renthian learns.

                          Not long ago, Daleina used her strength and skill to survive those spirits and assume the royal throne. Since then, the new queen has kept the peace and protected the humans of her land. But now for all her power, she is hiding a terrible secret: she is dying. And if she leaves the world before a new heir is ready, the spirits that inhabit her beloved realm will run wild, destroying her cities and slaughtering her people.

                          Naelin is one such person, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Queen—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Her world is her two children, her husband, and the remote village tucked deep in the forest that is her home, and that’s all she needs. But when Ven, the Queens champion, passes through the village, Naelin’s ambitious husband proudly tells him of his wife’s ability to control spirits—magic that Naelin fervently denies. She knows that if the truth of her abilities is known, it will bring only death and separation from those she loves.

                          But Ven has a single task: to find the best possible candidate to protect the people of Aratay. He did it once when he discovered Daleina, and he’s certain he’s done it again. Yet for all his appeals to duty, Naelin is a mother, and she knows her duty is to her children first and foremost. Only as the Queen’s power begins to wane and the spirits become emboldened—even as ominous rumors trickle down from the north—does she realize that the best way to keep her son and daughter safe is to risk everything.

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                          For whom would you lay down your life to protect?

                          Publication Info
                          • The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst
                          • Published by Harper Voyager
                          • On July 4, 2017
                          • Genres: Fantasy
                          • Pages: 400 Pages
                          • Format: Hardback
                          Series: Queens of Renthia
                          Mature Content
                          • Kissing, making out
                          • Implied sex
                          • Violence & death