Book Review: Shelly’s Stocking Goes Missing by Anitha Rathod

About the Book:

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Publication date: Dec 4, 2018

Word count: 545

Age Group: 2-5

Shelly painstakingly makes a stocking from an old bag. The stocking then flies to the town and cannot find its way back. Read the book to know if Shelly’s Stocking returns and if Shelly gets her presents this Christmas.

 

 

Connect with the Author:

My Thoughts:
Shelly’s Stocking Goes Missing is a very simple and pleasant story of how Shelly makes a stocking for Christmas hoping to receive her present in it. The story is very simple and narrated in poetry form. The author show the reader that Shelly is resourceful and creative as she figures out how to convert a shopping bag into a stocking and decorate it. The pictures are well done and will ensure that children are drawn in to the story. It is quite an enjoyable read for little kids!

Round-up of the Goodreads Reading Challenge 2020!

At the beginning of the year I had planned to read around 50 books (keeping in mind my work schedules and timelines). However, as a result of the pandemic and work from home situation, I was able to increase this number up to 74!

As per the Goodreads stats, the longest book I read was Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer (671 pages), Edwards take on the events that occur in Twilight.

The shortest book read, with just 24 pages was a delightful children’s book titled Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember (Let’s Learn While Playing #2) by Kelly Santana-Banks

It also turns out that my average rating is 3.5 stars!

I love how Goodreads has summarized the books and my year. Check out my list here.

MY 2020 BOOKS
The Tower Lord by Anthony RyanA Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid KemmererShadow Trials by Isla FrostFirstborn Academy by Isla FrostFirstborn Academy by Isla Frost
The Selection by Kiera CassThe One by Kiera CassThe Elite by Kiera CassHouse of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. MaasTwo Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus
Inebriated by Katey TaylorLegendary by Stephanie GarberDragon Connection by Ava RichardsonFinale by Stephanie GarberSunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr
The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten WhiteQueen of Corvids by J.C. McKenzieRescuing Lord Inglewood by Sally BrittonPrejudice Meets Pride by Rachael AndersonA History of Hexing by Evie Wilde
Keep Forever by Alexa KingaardThe School for Good and Evil by Soman ChainaniThe Girl in the Corner by Amanda ProwseA Torch Against the Night by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa TahirAsh Princess by Laura SebastianLady Smoke by Laura SebastianEmber Queen by Laura SebastianWrong Place, Right Time by E.B. Roshan
Summer at Hope Haven by Kristin HarperLucy's Last Chance by Elle SweetMidnight Sun by Stephenie MeyerWho Threw Draco Down the Chimney? by Smita BhattacharyaThe Damned by Renée Ahdieh
The Beautiful by Renée AhdiehThe Guilty Die Twice by Don HartshornThorne Bay by Jeanine CroftProject Hackathon by Arushi AggarwalTwo Murders Too Many by Bluette Matthey
Return to Virgin River by Robyn CarrThe Pigeon Whisperer by Motaz H MatarHinterland by L.M. BrownThe Tech by Mark RavineDinosaur Adventure by Kelly Santana-Banks
Aunt Ivy's Cottage by Kristin HarperPrism by Nina WalkerThe Pageant by Leigh WalkerThe Gala by Leigh WalkerFracture by Nina Walker
The Finale by Leigh Walker337 by M. Jonathan LeeTen Days with a Duke by Erica RidleyThe Guardians of the Halahala by Shatrujeet NathRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Winter of the Wolf by Martha Hunt HandlerBeyond Belief by Ronald CrouchThe Eye of Ra by Ben GartnerSol Invictus by Ben GartnerThe Case of the Smuggler’s Curse by F.S. Dawson
Murder at the Lakeside Library by Holly DanversThe Violinist of Auschwitz by Ellie MidwoodNever Say No by Elizabeth NeepA ​Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir58 Farm End by Natasha Murray
Across the Lake by Nancy LiPetriWedding Bells on Victory Street by Pam HowesForever Your Duke by Erica RidleyChronicles of a Spell Caster by J.J. SingletonSummer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman
Midnight Train to Prague by Carol WindleyThe Lost Village by Daniela SacerdotiAlessia in Atlantis: The Forbidden VialMurder in the Snow (A Lady Eleanor Swift Mystery #4)

Do share your thoughts on the books I’ve read and don’t hesitate to leave recommendations for books to read in 2021!

Book Review: Summer of L.U.C.K. by Laura Segal Stegman

I was provided with a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review. Read on to know more about the books and my thoughts.

Summer of L.U.C.K.

 

Summer of L.U.C.K., a magical middle grade fantasy novel for ages 8 to 12 by Laura Segal Stegman, was released by INtense Publications on September 15, 2020, and will be followed by a sequel in 2021. Stegman is a Los Angeles-based arts publicist and author. Summer of L.U.C.K. is her debut, and it is available wherever books are sold.

THE STORY

Summer of L.U.C.K. is about three kids finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival.

View Book Trailer on YouTube HERE

Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices.

As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.

CONTACT:

INtense Publications
Laura Segal Stegman
Twitter: @LauraStegman
Instagram: @laura_stegman
Facebook: LauraSegalStegmanAuthor

My Thoughts:

Summer of L.U.C.K. is a wonderful story that focuses on three children and their problems. Darby speaks with a stutter and has a low self-esteem. Naz moves to America from Morocco and is trying to learn to speak English and mingle with children his age while dealing with missing his father. Justin is dealing with the loss of his father and his inability to voice his feelings or talk about his situation.

The three of them meet at summer camp, brought together by mysterious music that only the three of them seem to hear. On investigating, they end up at the adjoining property which used to be a carnival. The author brings to us a mix of magic and delight in this book as the children meet with the ghost of Mr. Leroy Usher, the owner of the carnival. Spurred into trying to save him and reunite him with his wife, the children are forced to confront their problems and try to come out of them, try to move forward and grow.

This is a story with a strong message which is woven very well into the story. The focus is on self-discovery and healing as well as forging friendships and creating bonds. A story of learning, the author brings to us a delightful set of characters who overcome their fears and inhibitions to help a whole lot of people including themselves! The story also pushes the reader to imagine a world of magic and all possibilities as anything can happen if you just believe.

This book is a great read not just for children, but for adults too! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I hope everyone else does too!

Round-up of 2020: Middle Grade and Children’s Fiction books!

Having read a whole lot of books this year, I have decided to do a sum up of the different genres and list my favourite books among those read in 2020! These posts will help me with the final round-up of favourite books read in 2020 at the end of the year (in another 15 days! :D)

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In this post, I am summarizing the list of middle grade fiction and children’s books that I read and enjoyed this year! They are not listed in any particular order and I truly enjoyed all of them.

Reading all these books took me back to my childhood and growing up with Enid Blyton’s novels! It’s wonderful to see how many authors have come out with such wonderful stories and even as an adult, I am glad that I have had the chance to enjoy these books!

The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner

Sol Invictus (The Eye of Ra #2) by Ben Gartner

The Case of the Smuggler’s Curse by F.S. Dawson

Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins by Ron Crouch

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

Project Hackathon (Coding Supergirls Book 1) by Arushi Aggarwal

Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or book recommendations in this Genre!

Book Review: The Case of the Smuggler’s Curse by F.S. Dawson

The Case of the Smuggler’s Curse (The After School Detective Club Book 1)

My Thoughts:

This book, written for children by author Mark Dawson under a pseudonym, is a fast-paced fun read! The story focuses on 4 children and a dog who initially don’t know each other very well, but form a special bond eventually. The children are inquisitive and get caught up in solving a mystery. This book reminds me of Enid Blyton’s Mystery series, but where the children have access to modern amenities and gadgets! A well-written book, this is definitely a series that children will enjoy reading!

In Conversation with Ronald Crouch

I have the pleasure of hosting author Ronald Crouch on the blog. I recently read his first book, a middle grade adventure book titled Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins.

The book truly is the beginning of an adventure for people of all ages and has an educational aspect to it.

Read on to know more about Ron and his experiences with writing this book.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a child psychologist, married 22 years, and I am the father of a little critical thinker who constantly fact-checks me and asks for evidence. That’s both wonderful and a lot of work. He keeps me on my toes. We are Americans but we live in Germany, where I work at a hospital. We live in a tiny little village on the edge of the black forest, which can be pretty spooky. We bought an old church and we are rehabbing it into a house, which can also be pretty spooky. It is a good thing that we like spooky.

What prompted you to start writing?

For my son’s tenth birthday I looked for a fun adventure story that had the themes he loved and which we often talked about in our family. Themes like critical thinking, cognitive biases, psychology, and being skeptical. It is something we have really emphasized for our son because the world seems to have transitioned from an information age into a misinformation age, and as parents we felt we have to prepare our kid for that. But when I looked for middle reader books with these themes there wasn’t anything that I could find that really dug into these topics and talked about them directly in the context of a fun story. I had a good idea of what an age-appropriate adventure story with those themes would be like. So I thought it would be fun to write one. I always wanted to write for kids, and so this was the perfect excuse to pursue that dream while meeting what I think is an important need.

How did the book “Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins” happen?

Because the book was originally a birthday gift for my son, I thought about what would be fun for him to read; what would make him excited. I remembered that before moving to Germany, when we lived in Washington, one of our favorite things to do was take what we called “critical thinking field trips.” We had this book, Weird Washington, and he would look up places where strange things were happening, choose a place, and then we would go on a road trip to investigate it. He absolutely loved it. For example, we visited a place called “gravity hill” just outside Prosser, Washington. It is one of those hills where cars are supposed to run uphill. And you know what? It worked! It really seemed like the car was rolling up the hill. But he figured out that the hill was very slight and that the wind was blowing strongly up the hill. We tested his idea by opening the car doors and using them like sails. If it was the wind, we thought, then the car would roll faster with the doors open. And it turned out it did. Afterward, we had lunch in Prosser and he told the story of that adventure to folks at the pizza parlor with so much excitement and pride. I kept thinking of that excitement and pride when I was coming up with the scenes and places in the book. I wanted the main character to feel that, and hopefully, the reader might catch a little of that too. 

Why did you choose to write middle-grade fiction?

I primarily work with children ages 6 to 13. I really enjoy the way their imaginations work and the things that fascinate that age group. Thanks to my work I also have a good sense of what they wish for and what developmental conflicts they have. So writing for that age group felt like a natural choice for me.

What is the ideal target age group for this book?

I think that most children from 8 to 12 will enjoy this book. But it isn’t too scary, so precocious young readers can enjoy it too. But to be totally honest, my ideal target group is actually adults! That is because I really want parents to read this book to their children so that they can have conversations about critical thinking, cognitive biases, and deeper things like how we know what is true. So sprinkled throughout the book are scenes and characters that I hope adults will love and find funny.

Why choose to write about paranormal investigation?

A paranormal investigation is a perfect thing for middle-grade readers because they have one foot in the world of a child and one foot in the world of an adolescent. For them, ghosts and scary things might still be real, but reality is coming into focus with each passing day. Part of the developmental task for this age group is to make that transition from the spooky world of magical thinking into a world that is grounded in reality. It is a hard transition to make. A big part of it is investigating, asking questions, testing assumptions, and finding how the world really works. So a paranormal investigation team seemed like a natural choice. Plus, I thought it was a lot of fun to write about.

How important do you think it is for children to start to relate to and understand psychology?

It is so much more important than most people understand. Psychology is all about knowing why we feel, think, and act the way that we do. If you listen to the kinds of questions that kids ask their parents and teachers, many of them are about exactly these things. The nice thing about psychology is that it actually has some answers to these questions that make sense and are rooted in science. If you give those to your kids then they can better understand themselves and others. 

How old would you say the main character is?

I purposely left that vague in the book so that kids could make the character the age that want him to be. I know that most young readers like to follow the adventures of a kid who is slightly older than themselves. But in my mind, he is ten because that is the age of my son and that is who that character really is to me.

How much research went into the writing of this book?

Most of the research went into studying the places and scenes where the book takes place. For example, there is a scene that takes place at the McMinnville UFO festival in Oregon. This is a festival that takes place once a year. Even though I have been to McMinnville, I have not been to the festival. So for my research, I got to watch hours of hijinks from the festival online. It was actually a lot of fun.

How easy or difficult was it to write this book and create the characters for it?

I found that it was surprisingly easy, and I think that is because these characters are all people that I know already, and they are either close family or famous people who inspire me. For instance, I based the character of Uncle Freeman on James “The Amazing” Randi, who sadly just passed away. I have read so much about him, watched hours of his magic acts and TED talks, and so when I wrote that character it was simple to do. Uncle Freeman was already a character in my life, so to speak. 

How much does your day to day life inspire your characters?

It has a big effect on my characters. The things that I hear my son say, the kinds of questions children ask in my work, the research I read on psychology for my job each day, all these things come together to make my characters come to life. 

How much time do you spend on your writing on average per day?

It varies considerably. I find that if I don’t write for at least half an hour a day then I begin to lose momentum in my writing and it starts to get hard to get back into the story when I return to it. But when I’m in the thick of writing I can spend five or six hours at a time really digging in. As a parent that is hard to do, and it means a lot of negotiating with my wife. Luckily, after 22 years of marriage, I have a lot of support from her.

What do you like best about writing a story?

This is the first book I’ve written, and what I have discovered is that, although writing is work and you have to discipline yourself to do it, I actually have a lot of fun coming up with the twists and turns in the story. That sense of fun is the thing I enjoyed the most and it is one of the things I look for now when I’m writing. I’m almost finished with the next book in the series and I used that emotional sense of whether I’m having fun writing it as a kind of north star guiding my process.

What kind of impact do your stories have on you?

This story brought me a lot of joy because it connected me to a lot of new people. Since publishing it I have heard from children that have read it that they love the book and can’t wait for the next one. One parent reached out and said that her son couldn’t stop talking about the book. Another said that her teenage son had “his mind blown” by how fun psychology could be. I laughed a lot at that one. I had a teacher in the states contact me because she wanted the children in her class to read the book and talk about its themes. We are trying to set up an online book reading for them, which I’m really excited about. I didn’t know how much those connections would mean to me, but I have really cherished them. For the next book in the series, I’ve reached out to these young fans and offered them a look at the next book. I’ve even had some of them become early readers, giving me their feedback. I think the value of that connection, and that chance it gives me to foster confidence and a love of reading in children, has been the most important thing for me. 

What do you do when you aren’t writing?

I am working on turning a former church into a proper home. That is a big job. When I’m not writing I’m often fixing old doors, building bookshelves, installing plumbing, or trying to get fifty-year-old lights to work. I also do a lot of hiking around the black forest, and I have a feeling that at least one book in this series is going to happen there.

Finally, what message do you want to share with us readers?

My message to readers, especially parents reading to their children, is don’t stop the conversation when you reach the end of the book. Use it as a springboard to learn more about critical thinking, psychology, and science. I know that children are naturally hungry to learn more about these things if they learn them through a story or with a parent. Keep the discussion going. That is really important because there is no sign that the misinformation out there is going to let up anytime soon. This book can be a chance to start the process of protecting your kids from it by teaching them to stay skeptical and think critically. And that is my final message: stay skeptical and think critically!

Book Review – Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins by Ron Crouch

About the Book:

 

Kenai’s parents taught him critical thinking skills before they disappeared. That was handy, because now he needs them.

He needs them right now because he is having a very strange night. He’s being chased by Men In Black. Weird. He is lost in a pitch black museum after hours. Definitely unusual. And, he doesn’t know it yet, but he will soon find himself breaking into a hidden safe in a haunted hotel. Not your normal evening. And the strangest things are yet to come. But that is the kind of thing that happens when you are the youngest ever investigator for “Beyond Belief,” the world’s premier debunker of the paranormal. Together with his Uncle Freeman and a very special drone named Tinkerbell, Kenai chases after werewolves, hunts ghosts, tracks sasquatch, and busts scammers at their game. But he is about to set out on his greatest adventure yet: finding his parents!

 

My Thoughts:

I was provided with a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins is the first in the series and also the first book written by author Ron Crouch. The book is mainly for children in middle school, introducing them to an adventure filled ride! Through this story, the author stresses on the concepts of critical thinking and the importance of asking questions. Inquisitiveness is not always a bad thing.

The story follows Kenai, as he travels with his uncle while looking for his missing parents. Throughout his journey we are introduced to different kinds of people and places. There is an element of paranormal activity and this contributes to the mystery around.

The story is written in a simple manner and is easy to understand. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the focus on psychology and a child’s perspective of the same. I also understand that it is important for children to have some idea about psychology and to learn to ask questions. It is not always right to just accept things as they are told to us. Consequently, I think this book is also a good fit for adults as it gives a perspective on guiding children towards critical thinking and similar concepts.

This is a fun filed adventure which has all the elements of a wonderful story as well as a strong message!

November 2020 – Book round-up!

A huge shoutout to all my readers and fellow bloggers.

I was inspired by other bloggers to post a recap of the books that I read or reviewed during November, 2020 and to highlight my favourite ones. I am hoping to continue this trend and post something similar every month.

I managed to read and review a good number of books last month. I usually do not manage to read so many due to time constraints. Nevertheless, some of them were wonderful and I truly enjoyed all the books!

Books read/reviewed in November 2020:

Finale (Caraval #3) by Stephanie Garber

The most awaited conclusion to the Caraval series, Stephanie Garber brings us a well-crafted ending! This is definitely one of the most talked about series in today’s world!

I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion and loved the way the author has crafted the plot of the entire series. A well-written fantasy fiction, this series will take the reader on an adventure that is amazing, with colorful characters whom we cannot help but fall in love with! This series is indeed a must-read and is well worth the time spent on it.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

This story can be used as a picture book for younger children and as an interactive learning book for older ones. It is truly well-written and interactive making it a wonderful teaching and learning aid.

Prism (The Color Alchemist #1) by Nina Walker

Prism by author Nina Walker introduces the reader to an intriguing concept of magic and magical abilities and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The story is well-written and fast paced, keeping the reader hooked until the very end.

337 by M. Jonathan Lee

A wonderfully written novel, the story follows Sam as he goes through the motions of living every day. However, not everything is at it seems, and this is a constant theme running in the background of the plot.

This latest book by the author is a pleasure to read and though it raises many questions that ensure the reader is kept engaged long after finishing the book. This book is a must read!

Vampire Royals (Books 1-3) by Leigh Walker

Overall, this series is fun and enjoyable especially for those who love the idea of vampires and human’s together, though there is not a lot of focus on the supernatural aspect of the characters. The books are short and easy to read. They can each be read in one sitting and are a good stress free read!

Ten Days with a Duke by Erica Ridley

This book is a pleasant and quick read set in the time of Christmas in a rather picturesque village! It is indeed the season of love!

The Guardians of the Halahala by Shatrujeet Nath

A truly fascinating story set during the rule of Samrat Vikramaditya, this book is the first in a series of four books. In this book, the author has taken a tiny part of mythology and merged it with a historical setting to bring us this entertaining plot.

The book pulls you in until the very end as each character’s personality unravels and their dynamics together are established and later shift.

This book is truly a wonderful start to a great series and I cannot wait to read further!

Book Review – Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

About the Book:

An Unforgettable Museum Expedition

Do you know which dinosaur had the most teeth? It was not the T-Rex, although the T-Rex’s teeth measured 12 inches. Which dinosaur had a tiny brain? Find out now.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember is the second book in the series Let’s Learn while Playing.

In this fun story, Miss Gina’s class is getting ready to explore dinosaurs: what they were called, how big they were, what they liked to eat. The pupils can’t hide their excitement and don’t want to waste a minute, eager to see those big creatures, especially him: the T-Rex.

They set on a quest in the dinosaur museum and had many questions for Miss Gina. While navigating the exhibition, the gang got lost but quickly found their way and had an exciting adventure.

Fans of Lily Lexington, Sally Hauss, and P. D. Eastman will not be disappointed. Children aged 3–7 will learn through play concepts of science, language arts, and math. Get yours now.

My Thoughts:

This is a simple, adventure filled story for children with a focus on Dinosaurs. The story is well-written and interspersed with pictures to provide a visual effect. Children who cannot read, can still enjoy the story as they observe the pictures and learn new words. For older children, the book focuses on teaching them new vocabulary as well as some facts interspersed into the story. I enjoyed how this short story flowed and took us on a field-trip to the Dinosaur museum. This book is definitely worth using as a teaching aid for children!

Book Review: The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

About the Book:

The School for Good and Evil (The School for Good and Evil #1)

A dark and enchanting fantasy adventure perfect for girls who prefer their fairytales with a twist.

Every four years, two girls are kidnapped from the village of Gavaldon. Legend has it these lost children are sent to the School for Good and Evil, the fabled institution where they become fairytale heroes or villains.

Sophie, the most beautiful girl in town, has always dreamed of her place at the School for Good while her friend Agatha, with her dark disposition seems destined for the School for Evil. But when the two are kidnapped they find their fortunes reversed…

My Thoughts:

Author Soman Chainani brings us a very dark take on fairytales with several twists and turns. the story follows Sophie and Agatha as they are kidnapped and brought to the School for Good and Evil. If we go by cliches, one would expect Sophie to end up at the school for Good and Agatha at the school for Evil. But fate has a different plan and the two are swapped. Struggling to accept the situation, Agatha feels out of place as she never wanted to be here in the first place. Sophie on the other hand has always dreamed of going here and finds it difficult to settle down at the School for Evil.

As the story progresses, we follow the children through their days, getting trained to be either heroes or villains. The author brings in several twists and drops several hints as to why these girls are where they are at the school. The story is a little slow and at times the content is repetitive which made me slow down while reading.

However, at the end of the day it was a decent read and I did enjoy the premise of the story. I liked the idea that children are trained to be a certain way and then they eventually end up as characters from the fairytales we know so well and love. The climax is interesting and leads to many questions which lay down a good base for the next book.

All in all, give this book a shot! It will take you on a rather enchanting journey!