Sunday, August 25, 2019

Kid Konnection: Code-Breaking Activity Adventure

Every weekend, I host Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a fantastic book for those kids who are interested in coding!

Summary: Unlock ancient puzzles and secrets introduced via supercool codes and ciphers in this companion book to the new Explorer Academy series.

In the first activity book based on the Explorer Academy, kids test their knowledge of ancient codes and ciphers in a series of head-scratching puzzles designed to outwit even the most clever cryptographers. When kids successfully navigate the codes, they are rewarded with a first-class tour of the Academy.

Kids will have a blast, teaming up with the characters from the series and learning firsthand from the world's most renowned scientists, explorers, conservationists, photographers, and journalists. It's a far-flung adventure, too, traveling to historic and majestic locations around the globe. - National Geographic


I know my nephews (and my sister!) had their eyes NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPLORER ACADEMY: CODE-BREAKING ACTIVITY ADVENTURE when I first posted it in a Mailbox Monday post. Like my son, they are huge fans of the National Geographic Kids books and that's with good reason. These books are just incredible -- beautiful photography, fun, and educational!

CODE-BREAKING ACTIVITY ADVENTURE is part of the Explorer Academy series of books and the first activity book. I just love how this book engages middle grade readers. The book begins with a letter from the "Explorer Academy President" welcoming them to the elite Explorer Academy. She goes further to explain that they will be participating in the first challenge -- the annual explorer scavenger hunt. There is a "unique series of missions that will test your codebreaking skills." Sounds fun, right?

As kids solve the puzzles/codes, they will receive a tour of the Academy. Along the way, they can "work with" teams made up of characters from the other Explorer Academy books. These characters include scientists, photographers, conservationists and more that will teach them about creative ways to unscramble encrypted maps and messages.

Over the past ten plus years that I've been reviewing kids' books, I have to admit that CODE BREAKING ACTIVITY ADVENTURE is one of the most unique books I've encountered. I would have enjoyed this book as a kid, and I know my kids would have too. The interactive nature of the book will appeal to the most reluctant of readers, and kids who are already interested in science and decoding will love it too!

This book has a lot going on! There are six different missions as well as an answer key in the back. There is an assortment of puzzles and codes on every page, some of which are challenging and some which seemed rather simple. There are also little side articles which teach kids about coding and problem solving tips.

Overall, CODE BREAKING ACTIVITY ADVENTURE is a fun way to learn problem solving and code-breaking skills. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the Media Masters for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Kid Konnection: I'm a Gnome!

Every weekend, I host Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a silly picture book with some enchanting characters!

Summary: Fans of Mo Willems and Dev Petty’s I Don’t Want to Be a Frog will love this humorous tale about one gnome’s journey to prove he is unlike the other magical creatures in the forest.

Join Gnome (that’s spelled G-N-O-M-E–don’t ask why the G is silent!) as he travels through the magical forest to attend the annual Gnome Festival.

Along the way he encounters elves, dwarves, trolls, and fairies. But don’t be mistaken. He is NOTHING like those magical creatures. Well, maybe he is . . . but only a little bit!

When Gnome finally arrives at the festival, he realizes that all the traits he thought made gnomes different from the others actually made them alike–and that’s just fine. -- Crown Books for Young Readers


I'M A GNOME! by Jessica Peill-Meininghaus and illustrated by Poly Bernatene is too darn cute from its cover, to its endpaper, to its characters, to its story! I can't help but smile every single time I take a look at this picture book. I mean how cute is this cover?

I'M A GNOME teaches kids about all things gnomes... and fairies and elves and dwarves and so on. The book begins with a gnome traveling through the enchanted forest on his way to show readers the Gnome Festival. Along the way, he introduces readers to all of the characters in the forest who can sometimes be mistaken for elves. But he makes it very clear that gnomes are quite different... or are they?

I'M A GNOME is a very fun book that's perfect for reading out loud. As I read this book to myself, I couldn't help but want to read it to a little one. As the gnome travels through the forest, he tries to stress to the reader that gnomes are very special indeed. However, he quickly learns that it's not as easy to describe a gnome as being unlike any other magical creature. It's extremely cute with lots of humor, and I'm certain that parents and kids alike with enjoy reading this picture book over and over again. Plus, there might be a nice message or two about stereotypes and inclusivity!

I'M A GNOME is absolutely adorable. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: Sunset Beach

Summary: Pull up a lounge chair and have a cocktail at Sunset Beach – it comes with a twist.

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

Sunset Beach is a compelling ride, full of Mary Kay Andrews' signature wit, heart, and charm. -- St. Martin's Press

I always look forward to reading a novel by Mary Kay Andrews every summer. This year was no exception. Her latest book is titled SUNSET BEACH, and it is perfect for beach or pool reading. This book is a terrific mix of mystery, family dynamics, and romance. What more could you ask for in a summer book?

SUNSET BEACH tells the story of Drue Campbell, a woman who is in a bit of bind. She's out of work and recovering from an injury that keeps her living life to the fullest, and then her mother dies. Things really take a turn when her estranged father shows up at the funeral, and he's married to a former friend of Drue's! She's not exactly in a good place if you know what I mean.

So when her father, who also happens to be a personal injury lawyer, offers her a job, Drue isn't sure she wants the help. However when she learns that she inherited a beach bungalow, she decides to stay in Sunset Beach and make some money to help her fix up the house she always loved. She hates working with her father and his wife (her ex-friend!), but she finds herself intrigued in a case after a suspicious death occurs with ties to her father's firm.

Drue decides to dig in and she what she can uncover about this case, and in the process also discovers a few secrets about her parents' past. With a mix of sleuthing, romance, and home improvement, Drue finds herself with more than enough on her plate to keep busy... and maybe even in a little trouble!

I thoroughly enjoyed SUNSET BEACH. The novel is a pageturner with quite a few surprises, and it also showcases what I've come to know and love about a Mary Kay Andrews' story -- charm and wit with memorable characters. At first, I wasn't too sure about Drue; however, I came to understand her rough-around-the-edges exterior and even grew to like her a lot! She was a fantastic main character who not only was determined enough to dig into these mysteries, but she also had a personal back-story that made her interesting.

I also appreciated the mysteries in SUNSET BEACH. There were a few story lines about mysteries that Drue was pursuing. It was interesting to see how everything came together at the end of the novel, and I have to say that I didn't see much of it coming. Ms. Andrews got her start in writing mysteries as Kathy Hogan Trocheck (whose books I also loved!), and her skills as a mystery writer were apparent in this novel.

SUNSET BEACH really is an ideal summer read. I realize that there isn't much time left in the summer, but if you're going to pick up one last summer book, then I highly recommend SUNSET BEACH. It's got a little something for everyone -- mystery, romance, friendship, beach setting, and charm!

Thanks to Tandem Literary and the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I received a nice assortment of books this week -- something for everyone!
THE LOYAL ONE by Shelley Shepard Gray came from Gallery Books

THE GOLDEN WOLF by Linnea Hartsuyker came from Harper Books

THE CHESTNUT MAN by Soren Sveistrup came from Harper Books

ONCE UPON A GOAT by Dan Richards and Eric Barclay came from Knopf Books for Young Readers

What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Kid Konnection: Up Up Up Down

Every weekend, I host Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you an adorable picture book from an author that has already received a starred review from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly for her book THE CLASS!


Summary: Follow an energetic toddler’s day with Dad that’s full of opposites – up and down, make and break, yum and yuck, and more.

From his first demand to be picked up and then immediately put down, opposites pop up all day long for this energetic boy. Breakfast is no, no, no, yes! At the sandbox, it’s make, make, make, break! And jumping into the pool goes from can’t, can’t, can’t, to can!

Kimberly Gee’s expressive illustrations emphasize the loving connection between a boy and his father in this clever concept book about everyday highs and lows that is sure to entertain little (and big!) members of the family. -- G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers 


UP UP UP DOWN by Kimberly Gee is a cute book that takes readers through a day-in-the-life of a toddler and his father. The book begins when the baby wakes up and wants, "Up, Up, Up" and then "Down!" It then follows the toddler through his day as he eats breakfast, gets dressed, swims, and more. The story demonstrates how the toddler initially demands one thing and then after he gets it, he immediately wants something else. Sound familiar, parents?

I liked the simplicity of this book and that it's perfect for even the most active toddlers. However, I also liked the humor in the story as well as the illustrations. I especially appreciated how the author was able to show the special relationship between the child and parent. 

UP UP UP DOWN is too cute! It's a picture book that toddlers and parents alike will want to read again and again!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Review: The Escape Room

Summary: Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive? -- St. Martin's Press

I've been excited to share THE ESCAPE ROOM by Megan Goldin with you for many months. I actually read this book when I traveled to Florida for the Penn State bowl game (obviously I had no idea when the publication date was!) And then, I was lucky enough at this year's Book Expo to participate in an escape room challenge with bloggers and none other than Ms. Goldin herself! I also had a drink with the group later in the evening and even sat next to Ms. Goldin. Of course, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to ask her a few questions about the book... and I was so glad that I had read it earlier!

THE ESCAPE ROOM tells the story of four co-workers who find themselves trapped in an elevator after they are called to work to participate in a team-building exercise. Each one of them is extremely competitive and wants to prove that he or she is deserving of kudos and maybe even a promotion. However, they quickly realize that this is one very unique team-building exercise because they are stuck in an elevator in the dark; and it seems like they are in a fight for their lives!

Much like an escape room challenge, these four must work together to figure out the clues, but there are definitely larger stakes. The co-workers are forced to work together, but they also are pitted against each other. These individuals are incredibly selfish and greedy, and their worst traits are gradually brought to light as they become more desperate. Just how far are they willing to go to save themselves?

I really enjoyed THE ESCAPE ROOM. It's a tense suspense story that definitely played on one of my biggest fears -- being stuck in an elevator; and it also a page-turner. The novel alternated between the four co-workers' saga in the present and the story of another employee which takes place in the past. The back-and-forth story sets up a dramatic conclusion; and even though I wasn't totally shocked, it was a well-crafted story!

I will be the first to admit that each of the four co-workers was more despicable than the next. I really couldn't stand any of them, but I loved how the author used these individuals to show the true meaning of greed. They really were willing to do anything to protect themselves and their reputation (not to mention their wealth!).

There are also quite a few twists in the novel that brought the story to the next level for me. Because I thoroughly enjoy mysteries and puzzles, the challenges the characters faced in the elevator were especially intriguing to me.

THE ESCAPE ROOM is a not-to-miss thriller. Highly recommended for fans of mysteries and suspense!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Mailbox Monday

Welcome back to another Mailbox Monday post! I had a wonderful book week! I got a few good books and a very special package!


THE DUCHESS IN HIS BED by Lorraine Heath came from Avon Books

THE LOST DAUGHTER by Gill Paul came from William Morrow Books

THE RIGHT SWIPE by Alisha Rai came from Avon Books

I also received a wonderful package from St. Martin's Press promoting UNDER CURRENTS by Nora Roberts. This gift box is so fun -- a hardcover copy of the book, a bath bomb, and a Sea Salt and Lotus Prosperity Candle that smells heavenly! Prosperity Candles are hand-poured candles by women who have been relocated from a refugee camp through UN resettlement programs.
What was in your mailbox?

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Kid Connection: How Do You Dance?

Every weekend, I host Kid Konnection -- a regular weekly feature about anything related to children's books. This week I'm going to share with you a cute picture book that celebrates all things dance!


Summary: There are so many ways to dance! You can jiggle or wiggle or stomp. You can bop or bounce or go completely nuts. You can dance at the market or the bus stop, with your fingers or your face. You can dance because you’re happy or even because you’re sad. 

But, what’s the best way to dance? 

Exactly how you want to! 

In How Do You Dance?, author-illustrator Thyra Heder explores dance in all of its creativity, humor, and—most of all—joy, in a picture-book celebration of personal expression that will inspire young and old readers alike to get up and get moving. -- Abrams

HOW DO YOU DANCE? by Thyra Heder is coming out on Tuesday, and it's one of those picture books that just makes you feel good. It's almost been awarded a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, and it's no wonder why. This book explores the wonder of dance and celebrates all of the different ways you can do it!

I adore HOW DO YOU DANCE? This picture book is so cute and I absolutely love each page shows a different way to dance. But I also appreciated how the one little boy is reluctant to dance. The ending has a cute little surprise about his dancing preferences that is guaranteed to bring a smile to your face!

The illustrations in this books are nothing short of terrific. I love how the author shows not only the variety of dances and places to dance, but she also includes all shapes, sizes, and colors of people! She somehow manages to also capture the joy in their faces as they let loose and express themselves with movement.

HOW DO YOU DANCE? is a beautiful (and fun!) celebration of dance. Highly recommended!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

If you'd like to participate in Kid Konnection and share a post about anything related to children's books (picture, middle grade, or young adult) from the past week, please leave a comment as well as a link below with your name/blog name and the title of the book! Feel free to grab the little button too!