Wednesday, July 19, 2023

*Review* Famous Seaweed Soup by Antoinette Truglio Martin


Genre: Children's 5-6 years
Published: May 9, 2023
Pages: 32

Beach days are the best days and Sara loves everything about the beach. Her favorite part is making her Famous Seaweed Soup. Collecting all the ingredients is a tough job but Sara thinks she’s up to the task!
Can she make it all by herself or will a busy family foil her recipe?

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is basically a modern retelling of The Little Red Hen, about a girl making seaweed soup while her family is at the beach. She spends all day asking her parents to help her gather the ingredients for the soup, but they are always busy with something else, so she has to do it all herself. But as this seaweed soup is not actually cooked, or particularly edible, instead of her keeping it all for herself since no one helped her, she decides that they must eat it, not her. I thought it was a cute twist. 

The illustrations were colorful, perfectly showing the steps of making the famous seaweed soup. And I felt sorry for the little girl in the story every time her parents said they were busy with someone else when she was wanting to play with them (which is super hypocritical of me as a parent because I've definitely been busy with other things when my kids have wanted to play at times too). This is a story that I'd definitely be able to read a few times before I wanted to hide the book from my kids. Overall I give it 4.154 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Antoinette Truglio Martin is a children’s book author, memoirist, and blogger. The memoir, Hug Everyone You Know: A Year of Community, Courage, and Cancer (She Writes Press 2017) chronicles her first year battling breast cancer as a wimpy patient. Becoming America’s Stories (Red Penguin Books), a middle-grade historical fiction series, debuted in 2020. The award-winning three-book series includes The Heart of Bakers and Artists (formally titled Daily Bread), The Dreams of Singers and Sluggers, and The Wishes of Sisters and Strangers. The stories take place in 1911 and follows nine-year-old Lily Taglia, an American-born child of Sicilian immigrants, coming of age in New York City’s Lower East Side tenement while important milestones of American history unfolds.

Currently, Antoinette’s beloved picture book, Famous Seaweed Soup, will be reissued in May 2023 with Purple Butterfly Press. This new edition will feature new illustrations by Penny Weber and updated content.

Antoinette proudly holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Stony Brook/Southampton University. Be sure to visit her website and blog, Stories Served Around The Table at She lives on Long Island with her husband and is surrounded by the sea and the people she loves.

*Review* Woven in Darkness by Lucy Holden


Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: June 4, 2023
Pages: 498


Her brother is lost to a Dark Rip.
Indigold lords have bought her sisters.
And now Zaria has been claimed by Harken, the infamous Savage King.

Harken trusts no-one, not even the immortal Weavers he is sworn to protect. He keeps his Savage Court locked away behind the Woven mists.

Along with his past.

And his heart.

But now Harken’s court is in danger from an old enemy. And whoever is behind the plot seems determined to kill Zaria, making her the most valuable piece in a savage game.

In a bid to expose his enemies, Harken offers Zaria a bargain: play the part of his slave for Astria’s glittering season of Revels, and in return, he will help her win freedom and riches in the Maverick’s Race.

But Zaria has secrets of her own. Secrets that bind her to Harken, body and soul, and show her the past he guards so fiercely.

Telling him the truth means losing her chance at freedom. Concealing it means betraying his trust—and the Savage King doesn’t tolerate betrayal.

But the darkness is coming, and when it does, Zaria’s secrets might be the only thing that can save them all.

I received a copy of this audiobook through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

I felt pretty freakin' lost for large parts of this book, but part of that is because there are a lot of things about her own life that Zaria doesn't know. And since the story is told from her POV, we only get to know things that she knows. Living as a shadow-woven slave in the Seam with no memories of how she even got there puts her at a serious disadvantage, especially among the Indigold lords she finds herself rubbing elbows with after Harken claims her. 

Even though the odds seemed impossibly stacked against her, I couldn't help but cheer for Zaria to achieve all of her goals. She has so much determination, it was unreal. I admire her ability to believe that she'll succeed no matter what. And I could even understand why she kept the secrets she did from Harken. The way she lived didn't breed a whole lot of trust in others. 

It took me a little bit to get accustomed to the narrators accent, so I actually had to slow down the speed of the audiobook from my usual 1.5 to 1 for the first couple of chapters, just until I got used to the accent. I don't recall being annoyed by the opposite gendered voices, but I think I'm mellowing on that front as I listen to more fiction audiobooks. 

I'm a little bit sad that there isn't a sequel to this book out at this time (I'm not sure if there's one coming, but I would 100 percent add it to my shelf). I just want more from this world. Overall I give Woven in Darkness 4.896 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Lucy Holden is a pseudonym used by Paula Constant, author of historical fiction and travel memoir, to write paranormal romance. Paula lives in Broome, a small pearling town in the remote far north west of Australia. She absolutely adores romance of all kinds, and magic in every form. She gets inspired by sitting beneath the full moon on beautiful Cable Beach with a shiraz gin martini, and talks all her books through with her friends at pool book club. You can become an advance reader of all Lucy Holden books at Paula's website,

*Review* Let's Go, Puppy! by Holly Rosensweig

 Genre: Children's 1-3
Published: April 1, 2023
Pages: 18

Let's follow Puppy throughout his day! From waking up for mealtime -- “Eat, eat, eat" -- to getting dirty in the yard -- “No, no, no!" -- Puppy's shenanigans provide fun opportunities to introduce early speech sounds, words, and actions. Written by a speech-language pathologist, this playful, interactive story helps enhance early communication development in babies and toddlers. Let's Go, Puppy! promotes babies' ability to recognize and imitate sounds, strengthens their familiarity through the repetition of words, enriches their basic vocabulary, and builds confidence through praise. Tips for caregivers as well as a list of the earliest-developing speech sounds are included. By clicking on "See All Buying Options", you can buy directly from Ninewise Publishing Foundation, a non-profit independent small press,

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a very simple story with very repetitive word choice, because it is targeted towards actual babies and small toddlers. It's aim is to help teach these tiny humans words, and I presume the best way to do that is through repetition (I'm not an expert by any means). It is a very fast read (because it's so short and has so few words in it), but that is expected from board books. 

The illustrations were big and colorful, but with a slightly wispy feeling to them. This is one of those books that as a parent, you will get tired of reading very quickly, but that your children are likely to request over and over again (even if those requests are simply them shoving said book in your face because they can't verbalize that they want you to read it yet). Although I didn't particularly enjoy the story because of it's intended purpose, I give it 4.75 out of 5 stars. 

Holly Rosensweig, M.A. CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist and educational resource creator with over a decade of experience providing pediatric evaluations and treatment in the private practice setting. She uses a play-based approach to therapy, incorporating books, toys, games, music, and movement into her sessions. Holly loves working on a team with families, teachers, and other professionals to help children progress. She lives in Maryland just outside of Washington, DC, where her two goofy pups keep her very busy!

*Review* The Bodysnatcher and Other Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson


Genre: Horror
Published: 1884
Pages: 32

In the Scottish canon to be placed alongside Robert Burns is high praise indeed but it’s a rightful place for one of Scotland’s finest novelists.

Born in 1850 he managed to cram much into his 44 years, travelling widely to France, The United States, Samoa and the South Seas. Of course he is widely feted for his classics Dr Jeckyll & Mr Hyde, Treasure Island and poetry volumes such as A Child’s Garden Of Verses.

This volume centres on his short stories. They are somewhat dark bringing a chill to the air and a race to the heart.

This comes to you courtesy of Miniature Masterpieces who have an excellent range of quality short stories from the masters of the craft. Do search for Miniature Masterpieces at any digital store for further information.

This audiobook is also duplicated in print as an ebook. Same title, same words. Perhaps a different experience but with Amazon’s whispersync you can pick up and put down on any device. Start on audio, continue in print and any which way after that. This, and these are, Miniature Masterpieces. Join us for the journey.

I received a copy of this audiobook through Audiofile Magazine's summer reading program for teens. This is my honest review. 

I listened to this audiobook while cooking dinner and doing dishes (it was fairly short even though it included several stories) and feel like I really ought to listen to it again. While I remember the list of most of the stories (I think), I feel like my attention was going in enough different directions that I don't really feel like I retained the stories as I prefer to. They largely don't feel like they landed for me. But the idea of doing that doesn't fill me with dread (although that may be partially because the audiobook is so short). 

The stories contained in this collection are very dated, but that's to be expected since the book is over 100 years old. It's possible that that separation is part of why the stories didn't really stick with me after the book was finished though. It's also possible that this is a case where I would have benefited more on a personal level from actively reading the stories rather than listening to them. 

Overall I give The Bodysnatcher and Other Stories 3.68 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Robert Louis Balfour Stevenson was a Scottish novelist, poet, and travel writer, and a leading representative of English literature. He was greatly admired by many authors, including Jorge Luis BorgesErnest HemingwayRudyard Kipling and Vladimir Nabokov.

Most modernist writers dismissed him, however, because he was popular and did not write within their narrow definition of literature. It is only recently that critics have begun to look beyond Stevenson's popularity and allow him a place in the Western canon.

*Review* Vivienne in Paris by Maria Castellucci Moore


Genre: Children's 4-8 years
Published: May 2, 2023
Pages: 38

Winner of the Mom's Choice Award

Vivienne in Paris follows a young Parisian girl on a journey through Paris to find what makes her tick. Join Vivienne as she discovers the sights, smells, tastes, and sounds of the city that make her feel alive. What better place to explore, observe, and delight in her senses than Paris?

This book tells a story of mindfulness and insight into how the surrounding world can really move you. It unites curiosity, wonder, and marvel to enlighten, surprise, and tickle your deepest spirit. Sometimes it’s the smallest things that bring you the greatest joy.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This is a story about how a young Parisian girl spends her day, at least when she doesn't have school. She goes all over Paris, it seems, although she probably remains in a single arrondissement. She visits her favorite shops and gets some of her favorite treats, and just spends the whole day wondering around this heavily populated city. As an American parent of a teenager and a tweenager, I have a hard time wrapping my head around this being allowed. But as an American who spent several years living in Germany, I recognize that things we would never consider allowing our children to do here in the US, are actually pretty commonplace elsewhere in the world. 

The illustrations had a soft, wispy feeling to them and did a wonderful job of showing all the places that Vivienne visits on her day wondering around her neighborhood. This is a book that I'd probably be okay reading a few times when requested without getting annoyed. Overall I give this book 4.165 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Entrepreneur, first-generation American, writer, and mother to four children, María strives to bring passion and enthusiasm to all her endeavors. A lover of all things European, María has found great passion through her travels to Paris, Italy, Spain, and South America. Her affection for winemaking, foreign languages, the arts, ballroom dancing, and traveling has given María a unique and grateful perspective on life. Her love for her family and helping others through charitable giving has enabled María to thoughtfully curate purposeful life adventures.

María Castellucci Moore earned her bachelor of arts degree in finance from Dominican University on a tennis scholarship, and later pursued studying at New York University and the London School of Economics with a focus on global affairs. In 2016, with her siblings, María founded Castellucci Napa Family, a luxury wine and real estate brand. María runs her wine label and a family real estate development company in the greater Bay Area. She is a board member of the San Francisco Opera Guild and is enthusiastic about building opportunity and community through the arts.

María resides in Saint Helena, California, with her husband and four young children. She enjoys writing; traveling; attending the opera, ballet, and symphony; flower arranging; winemaking; ballroom dancing; and playing tennis and the piano.

*Review* The House of Lincoln by Nancy Horan


Genre: Historical Fiction
Published: June 6, 2023
Pages: 346

Rich with historical detail, The House of Lincoln is an insightful account of Lincoln's transformative vision for democracy as observed through the eyes of a young immigrant who arrives in Lincoln's home of Springfield, Illinois from Madeira, Portugal.

Showing intelligence beyond society's expectations, fourteen-year-old Ana Ferreira is offered a job in the Lincoln household assisting Mary Lincoln with their boys and with the hosting duties borne by the wife of a rising political star. Ana bears witness to the evolution of Lincoln's views on equality and the Union and observes in full complexity the psyche and pain of his bold, polarizing wife, Mary. Yet, alongside her dearest friend in the Black community, Ana confronts the racial prejudice her friend encounters daily as she watches the inner workings of the Underground Railroad, and directly experiences how slavery contradicts the promise of freedom in her adopted country.

Culminating in an account of the little-known Springfield race riot of 1908, The House of Lincoln takes readers on a journey through the historic changes that reshaped America and continue to reverberate today.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

I think every kid in America knows that Lincoln is famous for freeing the slaves, the Emancipation Proclamation ranking up there with Jefferson's Declaration of Independence in noteworthy American documents. This story delves into the behind the scenes of Lincoln's rise to the White House, through the eyes of an immigrant girl who worked for his family. Relaying her backstory to explain how she came to her position in the Lincoln's household, but also what led to her personal political views took a while, which had left me wondering how much of the story could possibly relate to Lincoln. As it turns out, in this story, he was more of a background character. While his life and actions were a driving force for the narrative being portrayed, we didn't really see a whole lot of him as a person. 

Although I'm not an expert on life in Illinois leading up to the Civil War, this felt authentic. I felt like I was a witness to transportation on the Underground Railroad, as if I were being turned away from a department store as a child with my friend, whose skin tone is darker than my own, questioning if my father would be in danger from slave catchers even though we came to America as free people, because when he works in the sun, his skin darkens considerably. I was that solidly ensconced in Ana's shoes. 

I found it interesting getting this seemingly personal glimpse into life in America in the time leading up to Lincoln's election, and even the aftermath of the Civil War and the racial unrest that followed. As a mayonnaise melanated individual, these are experiences that myself and my family are pretty removed from, so this perspective was different and educational for me. 

Overall I give The House of Lincoln 3.978 out of 5 stars, because while I thoroughly enjoyed the story, I was a bit disappointed that Lincoln didn't play a more central role in it. - Katie 

Nancy Horan is the New York Times bestselling author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky. Loving Frank remained on the NYT list for over a year, has been translated into sixteen languages and received the 2009 Prize for Historical Fiction. A native Midwesterner, Horan was a teacher and journalist before turning to fiction. She lived for 25 years in Oak Park, Illinois, where she raised her two sons, and she now lives with her husband on an island in Puget Sound.

*Review* Toad-Ally Steam by Pocahontas Carter


Genre: Children's 3-7
Published: July 5, 2023
Pages: 33

The tale follows six adventurous little frogs on a journey to D.C. to pursue their dreams of becoming human and working in science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM). Along the way, they encounter various challenges but ultimately discover that their identity and abilities as frogs hold great value and importance and that they love themselves just as they are. The story reminds us that embracing our unique qualities and talents is essential rather than trying to be something we're not. TOAD-ALLY STEAM will inspire and delight readers of all ages.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This wasn't much of a story, but rather just a large group of toads that talk about the things in the STEAM field that interest them and that they'd like to study and become experts in. Even though it's not really a story, it does seem like a pretty good way to get kids interested in the STEAM fields, or even just to encourage them to explore what does interest them. 

The illustrations were bold and bright, showing the different areas of interest of the toads throughout. As this wasn't much of a story, I'd probably struggle with reading it multiple times, although if my children were showing particular interest in some of the fields, that might change my feelings on the matter. Overall I give this book 3.78 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

Pocahontas Carter is a glam-ma and a mother of four. She is a woman of color with plenty of life lessons to use as a pathway towards the nurturing, growing and expansion of little traveling minds. Traveling minds can take you places, and Pocahontas Carter invites you, the reader, to travel with her into a world where her creative thoughts turn into words on paper. She is a DC native, attended John Burroughs Elementary and Taft Junior High. A graduate of McKinley Tech Senior High School (“Go –Trainers!”), she writes in a rhyming fashion with colorful illustrations and promotes empowerment through children’s literature.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

*Review* Mortal Follies by Alexis Hall


Genre: Historical Fantasy/LGBTQ+
Published: June 6, 2023
Pages: 400

It is the year 1814, and life for a young lady of good breeding has many difficulties. There are balls to attend, fashions to follow, marriages to consider, and, of course, the tiny complication of existing in a world swarming with fairy spirits, interfering deities, and actual straight-up sorcerers.

Miss Maelys Mitchelmore finds her entry into high society hindered by an irritating curse. It begins innocuously enough with her dress slowly unmaking itself over the course of an evening at a high-profile ball, a scandal she narrowly manages to escape.

However, as the curse progresses to more fatal proportions, Miss Mitchelmore must seek out aid, even if that means mixing with undesirable company. And there are few less desirable than Lady Georgiana Landrake—a brooding, alluring young woman sardonically nicknamed “the Duke of Annadale”—who may or may not have murdered her own father and brothers to inherit their fortune. If one is to believe the gossip, she might be some kind of malign enchantress. Then again, a malign enchantress might be exactly what Miss Mitchelmore needs.

With the Duke’s help, Miss Mitchelmore delves into a world of angry gods and vindictive magic, keen to unmask the perpetrator of these otherworldly attacks. But Miss Mitchelmore’s reputation is not the only thing at risk in spending time with her new ally. For the reputed witch has her own secrets that may prove dangerous to Miss Mitchelmore’s heart—not to mention her life.

Or perhaps you're all just nostalgic for the staggering social inequality.

"But don't worry," added Miss Bickle eagerly, "when you are murdered, I have simply hundreds of plans for vengeance."

"You cannot simply replace a love affair for the ages with...with paid companionship."

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

When I started reading this book, I didn't realize it was a sapphic romance because one, I basically never read book blurbs before reading books, and two, although I requested the book because of the gorgeous cover, I didn't look at it that closely to really notice the two characters entwined at the top. So it was a pleasant surprise for me when I really got into the story in June (when I read the book) to realize it was a perfect read for Pride month. 

The narrator of this tale is a hoot. Although I found myself getting annoyed with some of the ways he made sure we the readers knew he was keeping himself well hidden. Like I'm not really sure all the form changes were really necessary for him to observe the characters, but he did, so we got to hear about it. He really came across as a person who wants more attention that they're getting, without wanting to draw attention to themself. 

My favorite character in this tale was Miss Bickle. She has some serious Luna Lovegood vibes about her in the best way possible. She's a real ride or die for Miss Mitchelmore, in spite of the obvious danger. She's just honestly the kind of friend everyone should have. 

There were so many quotable lines in this tale, that it was a wee bit difficult for me to narrow down my favorites. There were so many times I found myself giggling over the narrator's or one of the character's lines, making this book just a real joy to read. 

Overall I give Mortal Follies 4.875 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

*Review* Treasure Chest of Kisses by Sky Eiko


Genre: Children's 2-7
Published: May 13, 2023
Pages: 40

You are full of love, ALWAYS, no matter what! Help set your child up with a foundation of inner-love with this whimsical, magical debut picture book from Sky Eiko.

Child going off to camp or back to school? Help them know they’re always connected to you through their inner treasure chest that forever holds all the kisses and love you ever give them.

Little one with big feelings? Or preparing your child for a lifetime of emotional wellbeing? TREASURE CHEST OF KISSES is a heartwarming tale that guides children to discover & put-to-use their foundation of inner-love!

As parents, community members, and caregivers, we play the most critical role in helping our children know they are loved, and how the love within them can help them--how they can resource from that love. To that end, "Treasure Chest of Kisses" is, first, a love letter, and second, through its imagery, a guide to help children locate, imagine, sense, and feel the very love that they are made of.

The pages are sweet, rhyming, and whimsical, with a message so beneficial for children to soak up in the night! The book also emphasizes that we are all always connected to each other through love. If a child misses mama when at school, or a grandparent, pet, or any loved one who has passed, or a friend who moved away, they can close their eyes to feel all that love & affection from them that live forever in their treasure chest!

Each book comes with a QR code that links to a rotating trove of goodies for you to download and keep, which may include: the book's song; a self-resourcing guidebook; a meditation to connect with inner-love; a video of the book read by the author; and more.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This was a cute rhyming story to essentially teach young children that love is endless. It uses the imagery of a treasure chest that can grow day by day as more and more love is put into it, but in times of need you can take love out, but even when you take love out, your treasure chest won't run out of love as it refills itself and connects with those around us. 

The illustrations were bright and colorful, really drawing the reader into the story they're portraying. Since this story felt a bit simplistic with minimal plot to me, I'd probably not want to read it a whole bunch of times, but I would be okay reading it a few times at least. Overall I give Treasure Chest of Kisses 3.87 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

SKY EIKO, (formerly known as Tehya Sky), is a writer & mother devoted to living a life of simplicity, presence, artfulness, and love. Her debut book "A Ceremony Called Life: When Your Morning Coffee Is as Sacred as Holy Water," (a work of spiritual nonfiction), was published by Sounds True in 2016. Since giving birth to her son Sage, she has been writing children’s books aimed at helping parents raise resilient, autonomous, connected kids. “Treasure Chest of Kisses,” her debut picture book, will be released in April of 2023. For more, visit

*Review* The Witch of Woodland by Laurel Snyder


Genre: Middle Grade/Coming of Age
Published: May 16, 2023
Pages: 303

A young girl preparing for her bat mitzvah discovers she has mysterious abilities in this magical contemporary coming-of-age story from the beloved author of Orphan Island.

Hi, whoever is reading this. I’m Zipporah Chava McConnell, but everyone calls me Zippy.

Things used to be simple—until a few weeks ago. Now my best friend, Bea, is acting funny; everyone at school thinks I’m weird; and my mom is making me start preparing for my bat mitzvah, even though we barely ever go to synagogue. In fact, the only thing that still seems to make sense is magic.

See, the thing is, I’m a witch. I’ve been casting spells since I was little. And even if no one else wants to believe in magic anymore, it’s always made sense to me, always felt true. But I was still shocked the day I found a strange red book at the library and somehow...I conjured something. A girl, actually. A beautiful girl with no memory, and wings like an angel. You probably don’t believe me, but I swear it’s the truth.

Miriam is like no one else I’ve ever met. She’s proof that magic is real. And, it’s hard to explain this part, but I just know that we’re connected. That means it’s up to me to help Miriam figure out what she is and where she came from. If I can do that, maybe everything else in my life will start to make sense too.

Anyway, it’s worth a try.

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. This is my honest review. 

This book was one that my daughter picked for me to request as part of a round of request roulette, and it's one that I was hoping she'd pick based on the title and cover. In fact, this was the only book of the five she picked for me to request that I was actually excited to read. The story itself was not at all what I was expecting based on the title and cover (I am absolutely horrible at reading blurbs before I start reading books). In spite of that, of the books my daughter picked for me to request, this is the one I most want her to read. 

I don't really know what middle school is like for students these days, but it's exactly the age my daughter is, and this story seemed to be a pretty reasonable portrayal of it. Add in the fact that my kids attend a much larger school than I ever did, and there's only so much advice I can give about navigating middle school politics (and that's pretending like my children would actually believe I know what I'm talking about in the first place). This story touches on the way friendships can change and potentially deteriorate as children grow up and learn more about themselves. But sometimes those changes can help you find yourself. 

I felt like I learned a fair bit about the Jewish tradition of Bat Mitzvah, although I'm just assuming that it's portrayed accurately, or at least potentially accurately depending on the practitioner. It's a tradition I only had a vague understanding of before I read the book, and I got to learn about it in a way that felt less like learning. 

Overall I give The Witch of Woodland 4.36 out of 5 stars. - Katie 

I've been writing pretty devotedly, in one form or fashion, since I was about seven. In the fourth grade, I announced to the world that I planned to become "rich and famous writing books and plays for children!" Then I intended to adopt every stray dog and cat in the city of Baltimore and move them all into an old mansion, not far from where I lived.

Well, I'm not rich by any means, I live in a rather small brick house, and I only have one cat, but I am (blessedly) writing books for kids, and I couldn't be more amazed or delighted.

Most days I spend with my sons (who are tiny) smeared with peanut butter, finger paint, and silly joy. But late at night, I write these books... and I hope you'll read one...

And if you like that book, (or even if you don't) I hope you'll write to me, and say hello!