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I am Ava, Seeker in the Snow – Review – LSBBT

I AM JAX, 
PROTECTOR OF THE RANCH 
and 
I AM AVA, 
SEEKER IN THE SNOW
A Dog’s Day Series, Books 1 and 2
By CATHERINE STIER
Illustrated by Francesca Rosa
Animals / Adventure / Farm Life / Ranch Life / Chapter Books 
Date of Publication: April 1, 2020
Number of Pages: 96
Scroll down for the giveaway!
Spend a day in the life of a livestock guardian dog! Jax the Great Pyrenees has a big job. After the Texas sun goes down, it’s up to him and two other LGDs to protect their ranch from predators. But when the lead dog gets hurt, Jax and a young pup are the only ones left to protect the flock through the night. Told from the dog’s perspective, this story also includes back matter about the breed and role of the working dog.
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Spend a day in the life of an avalanche rescue dog! Ava is a chocolate Labrador retriever with a big job. She and her handler have trained for years to be ready to help people at their ski resort if an unexpected avalanche hits. But Ava quickly finds out there’s much more to being an avy dog than daring rescues. Told from the dog’s perspective, this riveting story also includes back matter about the breed and the role of the working dog.
       CLICK TO PURCHASE

I Am Ava is a short and sweet beginner Chapter Book that is both entertaining and informative. I spent 2 years of college working with the Aggie Service Dogs program that raises puppies, like Ava, to go and be service animals. Almost all of our service dogs went on to be companions to those with special needs. I knew there were other “jobs” for dogs, including search and rescue, but I didn’t know – and in Texas, never really thought about – that there are dogs specifically trained to help find people in the snow. Learning about Avalanche Search and Rescue dogs through the eyes of Ava was so fun!
Since this small chapter book is less than 100 pages, this will appeal to kids who both love reading, and those that are a little more hesitant. I love that this book is fiction through the eyes of a dog, because this will appeal to all the fiction loving kids, but at the same time this book is heavy on the information as well, which will appeal to the non-fiction loving kids. There is just a little something for everyone.
I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars because I was intrigued enough to finish it in just one sitting! Something that doesn’t happen very often, even with the shortest of books. I would recommend this to my 2nd and 3rd graders who love animals, especially dog lovers, and anyone who loves to know more about dog workers and helpers!

Catherine Stier, a former Midwesterner, now lives deep in the heart of Southwest Texas, on the edge of the beautiful Hill Country. Her children’s books have received honors and awards from the Society of School Librarians International, the International Reading Association, and the Bank Street College of Education. Stier has served as a frequent contributor to Woman’s Day Magazine and as a newspaper columnist. Her work has also appeared in Highlights for Children, My Friend, Child Life, and several newspapers, including the Chicago Sun-Times and the San Antonio Express-News. Stier’s lively and interactive Author’s Visit programs have entertained, educated, and inspired thousands of children. Visit Catherine Stier’s website at www.catherinestier.com for more information, activities, and free curriculum guides.
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ONE WINNER: Hardcover copy of I Am Jax, Protector of the Ranch (Book 1), hardcover copy of I Am Ava, Seeker in the Snow (Book 2), $15 gift card to The Twig Book Shop, stuffed animal – adorable “Ava” Lab dog toy, dog stickers, dog socks.  
September 17-27, 2020 
(US ONLY)
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9/17/20
BONUS Post
9/17/20
Review Jax
9/18/20
Character Interview
9/19/20
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9/20/20
Jax Scrapbook
9/21/20
Ava Scrapbook
9/22/20
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9/23/20
Review Ava
9/24/20
Sneak Peek Jax
9/25/20
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9/26/20
Review Ava
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Children's Lit Middle Grade Reads Weekly Reviews

Curse of the Night Witch (Emblem Island #1) by Alex Aster

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Title:Curse of the Night Witch
Author: Alex Aster
Publisher: Sourcebooks Young Readers
Publishing Date: June 9, 2020
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In the spirit of Percy Jackson, this epic fantasy adventure novel had me turning the pages as fast as I could! Emblem Island is a place of magic, but none like we have read about before. And when a young boy wishes for a future different that what he has been given, he ends up cursed along with his best friend, and a girl from his class. They must break the curse by finding the Night Witch.

What I found the most lovable about this trio is that they reminded me so much of Harry, Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter franchise. Tor, born with the leadership emblem, is our fearless hero, his best friend, Engle, is the lovable side kick, and Melda, is witty, brave, and sometimes annoying, but overall a wonderful friend to have by Tor’s side. This type of trio is often found in epic fantasies and is one of my favorite parts of the structure of these types of middle grade literature.

The most frustrating part was the ending… WHAT A CLIFF HANGER! I cannot wait to see what happens in book 2! I highly recommend this to fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, For readers ages 9- 14, and for anyone who needs a little magic and a little adventure in their lives.

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Children's Lit Weekly Reviews

Through the Night Sky by DK: Children’s Book Review

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Title: Through the Night Sky
Author: DK
Publisher: DK
Publishing Date: September 8, 2020
Sensitive Content: None
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Through the Night Sky offers a non-fiction narrative of different short entries about things that happen in the night. From what animals do, to bits and pieces about space to solar eclipses, comets, and the northern lights. This is the perfect book for young readers who love little snippets of facts about different subjects, especially science.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book is the way the pictures are laid out throughout this book. They are a mix of layered media art with photographs, painted collages similar to Eric Carle’s work, and splatter paints. I was amazed by the beauty in these pages and could look through them over and over again.

A solid 4.5 stars for this non fiction children’s book. Perfect for little scientists in the making ages 6 – 10.

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Children's Lit Weekly Reviews

Fussy Flamingo – Picture Book Review

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Fussy Flamingo by Shelly Vaughan James, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, for Grades PreK – 2

Fussy Flamingo is about a tiny child flamingo named Lola who lives in South America. Much like kids we all know and love, Lola is a PICKY eater. She does NOT want shrimp for dinner.

Throughout repetitive storytelling, Lola eats many different types of food that are not shrimp, and turns different colors that are not flamingo pink. Lola is sneaky and funny and her antics will make you giggle. There is a little spanish thrown in since this story takes place in Chile. In the back there are also some fact sheets on real flamingos which give this book more of an educational purpose as well.

I enjoyed Lola’s story and I think most kids will get a kick out of Lola and her silly story. I highly recommend this story to preschool and kindergarten students.

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eARC provided by Netgalley

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YA Reviews

The Evil Queen by Gena Showalter Review

Oh hey I’m baaaackkkk! I have been in a reading/writing slump this summer and that makes me SO SAD. I did finish The Evil Queen in June ) and it was fantastic. (ARC provided by InkyardPress at the TLA 2019 conference

Title: The Evil Queen
Author: Gena Showalter
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publishing Date: June 25, 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buy It: Amazon
Add It: Goodreads

Synopsis

The Evil Queen is a Snow White retelling from, you guessed it, The Evil Queen’s point of view. This book is set in modern day America at the beginning of the novel, but the two main characters soon learn that they are from an alternate universe where magic is real . They also learn of a prophecy involving them and several others their age which makes them the characters of the fairytale, Snow White.

Everly discovers on accident that she can communicate through mirrors, a very powerful magic that allows her to see what is happening in other places, and communicate with a different version of herself, Foreverly. When she is told that she actually has to take power from others to gain her own she realizes that this could be used for good or evil. Is she destined to become The Evil Queen from the fairytale, or can she make her own destiny?

Review

I LOVED this book. The beginning was a little slow, but I couldn’t set this down after I reached the midway point. I ended up staying up until 2 am to finish. Everly was a complicated character which I loved. She seemed to swing between Evil and Good as most people do, but had trouble accepting that she could be both and didn’t have to be one or the other.

I absolutely LOVED the world building in this novel. While most first in series spend so much time on setting up the characters for the series OR setting up the world for the characters Showalter did a good job doing both. We got to know the main cast really well and each character had a unique personality. While some characters had similar names that could be confusing, the characteristics of each one stood out.

The world was well built as magical and beautiful. I loved this setting with the castles and of course the magic forest. The setting played such an important role in the plot and it was nice that it was set up so well and easy to imagine as I read.

This is a YA fantasy but does have some references to sex and some light curse words. I recommend for 16+, for any fans of fairytale retellings, and for those in the mood for a somewhat dark fantasy tale.

The Evil Queen Bookstagram Props

I thought I might start adding some fun things to my reviews, like free downloads that go with them, some lists of fun things that go with book, If you liked this, read this lists etc. So today I found some perfect props for your bookstagram photos to go with this book and I have a free desktop wall paper at the end of this post for you to download with my favorite quote from the novel. Enjoy and thanks for reading!

This vintage hand mirror which you could use for multiple photos. I love the look of this one!

These golden apples!

This Evil Queen crown which looks like it came straight from the forest.

Here is a full look at my amazon affiliates page to show you everything I recommend and like on Amazon. Feel free to take a look around. Amazon affiliates get paid on purchases from their links. You don’t pay any extra, affiliates just get a small cut of Amazon’s profit.

If you made it this far CONGRATS. Here is a link to the download for this desktop quote wallpaper.

Download Here

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YA Reviews

Book Review : Scythe by Neal Schusterman

Title: Scythe
Author: Neal Schusterman
Publisher: Simon Schuster for Young Readers
Publishing Date: November 22, 2016
Series: Arc of a Scythe #1
Genre: YA Dystopian
Add It: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon

Summary

In a perfect world, people have overcome hunger, disease, accidents and therefore death. Just turn back the clock whenever you want and *poof* you are back in your 20s. There is only one problem, if no one ever dies, then the world will be over populated. Therefore the Scythdom is born completely separate from society. The Scythes are the ones who are chosen to be the killers in this seemingly Utopia version of the world. They are charged with the task of deciding who lives and who dies. In this novel we follow two young Scythe apprentices who have been taken under the wing of a very moral scythe. But when he disappears the 2 apprentices are separated for the remained of the apprenticeship to two very different Scythe mentors. One will become a scythe, and one will be killed by the other.
Review

I LOVED this book. There are so many interesting concepts to discuss around this novel which made me wistful for the days I was an English teacher. I recommended this to our high school English teacher as a companion study to The Hunger Games which she reads with our 9th graders. This novel is an amazing answer to the question: What if we could all live forever? What would happen?

The characters in this novel are all so different and unique and all though Scythe Goddard is the ultimate villain in this story, we can all see in him the terror we feel from those people on the news that cause mass murders. He is someone to fear in total awe. The two apprentices are different yet understand what the meaning of a scythe has to mean sometimes. I really related to Citra throughout the novel who lives mostly in fear of becoming a Scythe, but feels the duty of what she has been chosen to do. I cannot imagine being tasked with an awful and powerful, yet necessary (in this fictional world) job.

I would recommend this to fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopian novels as well as to fans of clean YA books. Would advise against to those sensitive to violence. There is nothing grisly visual in here like in a Stephen King novel, but there are several described mass shootings which I know can be a trigger to those who have experienced one.

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Lone Star Book Blog Tour Posts

The Shadow Writer by Eliza Maxwell – Review

THE SHADOW WRITER
by
ELIZA MAXWELL
Genre:  Psychological Suspense / Domestic Thriller
Publisher: Lake Union Press
Date of Publication: May 1, 2019

Number of Pages: 348

Scroll down for the giveaway!

Every writer has a story. Some are deadlier than others. 
Aspiring author Graye Templeton will do anything to escape the horrific childhood crime that haunts her. After a life lived in shadows, she’s accepted a new job as protégé to Laura West, influential book blogger and wife of an acclaimed novelist. Laura’s connections could make Graye’s publishing dreams a reality. But there’s more to Laura than meets the eye. 
Behind the veneer of a charmed life, Laura’s marriage is collapsing. Her once-lauded husband is descending into alcoholism and ruin and bringing Laura nearer to the edge. 
As the two women form a bond that seems meant to be, long-buried secrets claw their way into the present, and the line between friendship and obsession begins to blur, forcing each to decide where her loyalties lie. Running from the past is a dangerous game, and the loser could end up dead.

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Eliza Maxwell lives in Texas with her ever-patient husband and two kids. She’s an artist and writer, an introvert, and a British cop drama addict. She loves nothing more than to hear from readers.
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Review
Eliza Maxwell is the most underrated writer of this decade. I am continuously blown away by her writing and her novels. This was by far one of the best thrillers I have ever read, and don’t think I am just saying this, I truly mean it.
The Shadow Writer is dark, twisted, mysterious and enthralling. I was completely captivated by the mystery in the book and trying to figure out what characters did what. For the first time since college, I stayed up way too late past my bedtime to finish this book with more than 100 pages left. And then I couldn’t sleep because I was still reeling from the twists and turns in every chapter all the way to the end.
I pre-ordered this book months ago after knowing how much I loved The Widow’s Watcher last year and The Shadow Writer did not disappoint. The characters are so real and you feel empathy and sympathy for the majority of the book for a character that may or may not deserve it. Eliza Maxwell gives us every emotion possible to throw at one particular character that I cannot reveal because I don’t want to give too much away. You just need to pick up this book and read it. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars and recommend to any fans of thrillers.
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YA Reviews

Book Review – I am Number Four

Book Title: I am Number Four
Author: Pittacus Lore
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publishing Date: August 3, 2010
Series: Lorien Legacies #1 
Genre: Teen Sci Fi
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Buy It: Amazon

Synopsis

Years ago the remaining Lorien children came to Earth with their mentors. There were nine of them, and the first three have been murdered by the other alien race. Number Four has been on the run his entire life. He looks like a human and he and his mentor blend in as a father and son team while they wait for Four’s legacies to take hole. When they arrive in Paradise, Ohio, Four goes by John to blend in and soon makes a best friend and falls for the girl in his home ec class. He doesn’t want to leave, even when his legacies show up and when his life, and all those he cares about are in danger.

Review

This reads as a classic YA book with some obvious troups and fantasy elements. This is the classic origin story of a hero, with some death, some mistakes, the love of the girl next door, the dorky sidekick best friend. It has the works. Although this did come out in 2010 so this makes sense that all the classic troupes of YA would be there.

I did enjoy this story even if the characters were a little too far fetched. But this is sci-fi so anything can happen. I did really like the background information about the alien planets and their wars as well as all the action in this book. Normally books this length take me forever to read, but I raced through this one to find out what was going to happen next.

The only problems I had with this novel were some of the too neat wrap-ups including with the police and the house fire, the bully all of the sudden being nice and helpful, and the best friend and girlfriend being severely understanding of being lied to as well as finding out Four is really an alien.

I ended up giving this book 3.5 (rounded to 4) out of 5 stars. I am not sure I will follow up with this series even though I enjoyed the book. I do recommend it to fans of science fiction YA and to teens. There is hardly any curse words, and nothing sexually explicit in this book (some making out and kissing scenes but nothing beyond that) so it would be a good one for parents to recommend to their teenagers and young adults as well as a good pick for conservative high school libraries.

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Monthly Wrap-Up Uncategorized

April Wrap Up

I read 7 books this month, and with everything going on that feels like a HUGE feat. I was on several book tours this month and have been sent tons of books to review in May. I also attended TLA and brought home a ton of ARCs for this year and finished copies of books I am excited to read.

Here is what I read and some brief thoughts for each book

Arlo Finch

  1. Arlo Finch and the Valley of Fire by John August – MG Fantasy
    Read for Lectio Committee, Selected for 2019-2020 school year
    I loved this woodsy fantasy and had so much fun discovering the world that Arlo lives in with him. Would recommend to middle grade boy scouts, fans of camping books, and readers of MG fantasy. 5/5 Stars

    The Secret of Nightingale Wood

  2. The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange – MG Historical Fiction
    This story is set in the early 1900s and a girl is trying to rescue her mother from mental illness and a doctor who is clearly taking advantage of the family. This book was dark and I thought it would have been better played out with an older protagonist and as a YA novel instead of MG. 3 out of 5 stars.

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  3. Panic Point by Bill Briscoe – Adult Mystery 
    Read for Lone Star Book Blog Tours 
    Read my review here  

    The Rainwater Secret

  4. The Rainwater Secret by Monica Shaw – Adult Historical Fiction
    Read for Lone Star Book Blog Tours 
    Loved this historical fiction. The review will be up for the tour tomorrow so make sure you come back to find out why this was a 5 star read.

    Dumplin

  5. Dumplin by Julie Murphy – YA Contemporary
    This adorable body loving book made me remember all over again what it felt like to be a teenager. Julie Murphy does an excellent job writing all her characters. I have known what it has felt like to be each of them at one point or another. 5 out of 5 stars – Bonus! I met Julie Murphy this month and she is wonderful!!

    The Fountains of Silence

  6.  The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys – YA Historical Fiction
    FAVORITE READ OF THE MONTH – This will more than likely be in my top 10 of 2019. This book sucked me in and told an amazing story. Read my 5 star review here.

    scythe

  7. Scythe by Neal Schusterman – YA Dystopian/ Science Fiction
    Another amazing 5 star read. This book showcases what would happen if we actually achieved a Utopia type world and the consequences that it could bring. Absolutely recommend to fans of The Hunger Games and other dystopia fans.

 

What did you read this month? Have you read any of these books? What would you recommend to me since I enjoyed *almost* all of these!

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YA Reviews

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys Review

As soon as I picked up this book from this year’s TLA conference I knew I had to read it immediately. I am a huge fan of Sepetys novels. She writes so thoughtfully and you can tell how much research goes into each of her historical fiction novels.

The Fountains of Silence

Title: The Fountains of Silence
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Publishing Date: October 22, 2019
Publishing Company: Philomel Books
Add It: Goodreads
Order It: Amazon

Synopsis

The Fountains of Silence takes place in Madrid, Spain in 1957. In the aftermath of World War II, most European countries are no longer under dictatorship, but Spain is still at the mercy of their ruthless Catholic dictator Francisco Franco. Most of the Red Republicans from the war have been arrested, sentenced to death, or worked in labor camps to death. Their children and relatives are still suffering under Franco’s rule and things aren’t as they seem.

Daniel is recently 18. His dad is an oil tycoon in Texas and expects Daniel to follow suit with a petroleum degree from Texas A&M. Daniel loves photography and wants more than anything to travel the world and photograph the truth. He is applying for a prestigious scholarship to his dream photography program, much to the chagrin of his father who does not believe photography is the right career path for Daniel. Daniel’s mother is a native Spaniard so for Daniel’s last summer between high school and college Daniel’s mother takes them to the new Hilton hotel in Madrid.

The maid assigned to Daniel’s family is Ana who is around Daniel’s age. She is mysterious and beautiful. She is also the daughter of a Republican and lives in extreme poverty with her older sister, a seamstress, and her husband and their daughter as well as her brother who is a gravedigger by day and aspiring bull fighter promoter by night.

Review

This story is told in many alternating points of view which helps us get a good grasp on the mysterious backstory of both Ana and Daniel and their extremely different families. Though Ana and Daniel are the main characters we do get POV from many of their family members and friends in addition to their chapters. Sepetys also gives us snippets of documentation of the history of Spain during this time to help support the historical part of this novel.

Ana and Daniel were both very relateable characters. I was very excited about Daniel’s character in the beginning because he is from a Texas oil family (much like I am) and is suppose to be attending Texas A&M (my alma mater). He also loves photography which is one of my hobbies. I love the way the author would describe his photographs. Even though you couldn’t see them in the book her imagery made you be able to picture what his photographs must look like. Ana is also very relateable even though the majority of the readers of this book probably won’t be living like Ana. She is empathetic, hardworking, smart, courageous, and a typical teen who falls head over heels in love for the wrong boy.

There is so much mystery in the plot of this book sometimes you feel like you have no idea what is going on, but the author does a good job at giving you pieces of the answer to the mystery one at a time. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out the final twist in this book until the moment it was revealed. Even though the main twist is heart wrenching, there are also many smaller plot mysteries happening in this book that make you unable to put down this book despite the length.

I 1000% think everyone needs to pick up this book. I will not reveal the historical terror that this book is based upon because it will most likely give away the ending, but this is a piece of history I knew nothing about and don’t think many people do, because even though this happened in the 1950s the documentation of the horrible events in this book did not come about until the 2010s. You need to read this! Seriously, I gave this 5 stars.