Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Winter Reading 2024 Light Comes to Shadow Mountain


I was excited when I heard about this book for several reasons. First, I have enjoyed Toni's picture books and use them with my students in the library. Second, as someone who grew up in Appalachia, I love books set in the area. Third, the history of federal projects bringing electricity to the area is a favorite historical topic. There are displays about it in museums around the region and local knowledge about the Tennessee Valley Authority and tales from grandparents and great-grandparents about life before electricity was as ubiquitous as it is now have always intrigued me.

The story of Cora Mae and her determined efforts to help bring power lines and all the benefits of electricity to her neighbors and family draws the reader in and captures the feeling of life in 1937 in the rural hollers of the mountains. The division among residents about whether the Rural Electrification Act is a blessing or a burden accurately portrays how many felt at the time. The many pluses like electric lights and refrigeration are contrasted with the threat to the local ecosystem.

Cora Mae herself is not a subtle child. As her friend points out, her way of convincing people "is like a fox causing mayhem in the chicken coop." The R.E.A. is not the only change that has come to their community. The flu had recently caused the death of many, including Cora Mae's sister and grandparents. Her mother has struggled since that loss and resists any other alterations to their way of life. Can a bright and vivacious child find a way to help her family heal from their losses and also accept progress as a positive experience?

Back matter includes an author's note explaining how the idea for the story came together from several inspirational sources, information on the Pack Horse Library Project, the Frontier Nursing Service, the Rural Electrification Act, settlement schools, and plant and herbal medicine (like Cora Mae's mother uses to help the community). 

This is the perfect story to hand to historical fiction readers, but would also make a great read-aloud for a class studying the 1930s or the history of the Appalachian region.

Saturday, January 27, 2024

Winter Reading 2024 The Wyvern, the Pirate, and the Madman (The Celwyn Series Book 5)

Publisher's Synopsis:
It is 1870, and the immortal magician Celwyn, the automat Professor Xiau Kang, and Bartholomew, a scientist and widower from Sudan, set out on another adventure.

The adventurers leave the North Sea aboard Captain Nemo’s Nautilus, chasing a pirate ship and Captain Dearing. The pirates have kidnapped friend and vampire Simone Redifer, not to mention they have stolen something precious from Captain Nemo.

Meanwhile, in Prague a dastardly murder forces Professor Kang back home.

The Wyvern, the Pirate, and the Madman is a steampunk fantasy filled with murder, magic, and adventure.

My Review:

Having followed the characters throughout the series, I have become attached to them and curious about what lies in store for them at each new stage of their adventures. In previous books they have taken a train journey from Prague to Singapore, dealt with mysterious murders, traveled on Nemo's incredible Nautilus through underground rivers and seen sea monsters battle - just to name a few occurrences. Their friends and enemies include witches, vampires, pirates, inventors, writers, immortals, automatons, and nosy reporters. Life around Celwyn is not dull.

In this literary outing Celwyn and his friends are traveling with Nemo once more to rescue the kidnapped Simone Redifer. Tara (Celwyn's significant other) and her uncle Valentine are with the group because Simone is part of their family and they are assisting with the rescue. As the Nautilus pursues the pirate ship carrying her, the rescuers begin to learn a bit more of Nemo's backstory. While that part of the group harries pirates around Indonesia, there are troubles brewing back home. 

Celwyn's ward Annabelle, her husband Patrick, and Kang's wife Elizabeth are busy with the orphans the group has taken in. The home they share in Prague is busy, even with some of their extended family away on a high-seas adventure. But when tragedy strikes, the police can't seem to find the culprits and Patrick desperately sends telegrams to every port where the Nautilus may call. As the danger at home and on board the Nautilus becomes more tense, readers will be turning the pages as quickly as possible to see what happens next. 

I was describing the series to a friend recently and compared it to "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." Part of that similarity is easy to see - a group of remarkable individuals, each with distinctive skills, and all traveling with Captain Nemo as they chase down terrible villains. But it is much more than that. There are the historical fiction settings that the group explores; the supernatural elements of vampires and immortals; the steampunk feel of the submarine, flying machines, and automatons. Each scene seems to offer something new to capture the reader's attention, and just when it seems things are reaching a conclusion, a new threat appears. No rest yet for these weary travelers.

Recommended for those who enjoy adventures with an ensemble cast of characters, magic, mayhem, fantasy, steampunk, and historical fiction vibes. While the story can be read on its own, don't miss the rest of the series.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Virtual Book Tour Ralphy's Rules for Feelings


Ralphy's Rules for Feelings Book Giveaway


Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Written by Talar Hercuilian Coursey and Riley Herculian Coursey

Illustrated by Meri Andreasyan

Ages 4+ | 36 Pages

Publisher: Purple Butterfly Press (2024) | ISBN-13: 9781955119450

Publisher’s Book Summary: We have big feelings!

Sometimes we don’t know what to do with them or how to change our thoughts that cause these feelings. The first day of school can be scary, but “Furrapist” Jackson Johnson and cute pup Ralphy of Ralphy’s Rules for the Good Life are committed to helping a busload of kids understand and manage their big feelings. During the ride to school, Furrapist Jackson Johnson teaches the children that they can choose their emotions and decide how to respond to them. Ralphy and Jackson make the complicated subject of emotional intelligence accessible for kids to understand and, more importantly, implement in their everyday lives.

So hop on the bus with us, and let’s learn about how taking charge of our feelings can change our day!



Barnes and Noble



Readers may have met Ralphy before in his book, Ralphy's Rules for Living the Good Life, in which he helps out a very cranky squirrel named Joey. If not, then they will have the fun of meeting Ralphy as he drives the bus on the first day of school. Many children have first day jitters, but Ralphy and his “furrapist” friend Jackson Johnson make sure that the kids on their bus have the tools to have a happy and successful day. Brightly colored illustrations show a cheerful yellow bus with the two furry companions and their passengers. The boys and girls on the bus have a range of skin tones and hair colors, and they each come aboard with their own emoji to show the emotion they are dealing with. As anyone might expect, the first day of school has them feeling nervous, sad, scared, tired, embarrassed, and excited. Jackson Johnson explains to them, “You get to decide whether you want to keep feeling the feelings you brought on the bus or if you want to feel something else.” As each child works through the steps suggested by the furrapist, readers will learn skills to help deal with their own feelings. Parents and teachers can use this book to help youngsters practice visualizing positive thoughts to help them overcome negative emotions.


Talar Herculian Coursey is a lawyer by day and a children’s book author, Life Coach, and philanthropist by night (more like mornings). She has been a General Counsel since 2011 and recently joined ComplyAuto, a privacy/cybersecurity SAAS company. Before going in-house, she was a file clerk, associate, and partner at the national labor and employment law firm Fisher Phillips LLP. Talar is a co-author of both #Networked: How 20 Women Lawyers Overcame the Confines of COVID-19 Social Distancing to Create Connections, Cultivate Community, & Build Businesses in the Midst of a Global Pandemic and Women In Law: Discovering the True Meaning of Success. Her first children’s book, Ralphy’s Rules for Living the Good Life, was published in 2021.

Talar has served as the President of the Salt Lake City Chapter of the Society for Orphaned Armenian Relief (“SOAR”) since 2015. SOAR, founded in 2005, supports orphanages in Syria, Lebanon and Armenia. She runs the Salt Lake City Half Marathon every year to raise money for SOAR in memory of her father. Net proceeds from her children’s books also go to SOAR. In addition to being a mother, wife, lawyer, life coach, and philanthropist, she is also a runner, yogi, and Jesus, Eckhart Tolle, Peloton, and Brandon Flowers groupie.

For more information, visit talaresq.com.

Illustrator Meri Andreasyan


Monday, January 22, 2024

The Children’s Book Review

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Me Two Books

A Storytime Activity Paired with Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Life Is What It’s Called

Author Interview with Talar Herculian Coursey

Thursday, January 25, 2024

The Fairview Review

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Friday, January 26, 2024

Confessions of a Book Addict

Book Spotlight of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Monday, January 29, 2024

A Blue Box Full of Books

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings and Little Free Library Drop

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

icefairy’s Treasure Chest

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Cover Lover Book Review

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Friday, February 2, 2024

One More Exclamation

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Monday, February 5, 2024

Country Mamas with Kids

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

The Momma Spot

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Barbara Ann Mojica

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Thursday, February 8, 2024

Deliciously Savvy

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

Friday, February 9, 2024

Stargirls Magical Tale

Book Review of Ralphy’s Rules for Feelings

This post is sponsored by Purple Butterfly Press. The review and opinions expressed in this post are based on my personal view.

Monday, January 15, 2024

Winter Reading 2024 Random in Death: An Eve Dallas Novel (In Death, 58)


Isn't it incredible that Eve Dallas has been around for 58 books and is still going strong? Part of the secret to the longevity of the series would have to be the ingenious plots. This time there is seemingly a serial killer who is randomly targeting young women at social events like concerts or movie premieres. And if the victims truly are random, how will the police find the killer? The means of death and the painstaking arms of the investigation are detailed enough to satisfy those who enjoy some police procedure mixed in with the storyline.

But another reason we as readers keep coming back for more Dallas is the continuing growth of the characters. We see Eve open up her life to allow in friends and even love. Roarke sets aside his criminal ways (although not his skills), to be a part of her life. Peabody matures from a uniformed officer with a smart mouth to Eve's detective partner, etc. This time we see more of Eve with her friends at the house Mavis, Peabody, and significant others are renovating. Back in that first book, could we ever have imagined Eve taking time for a backyard barbecue and watching a preschooler play on a swing set? 

The way in which Eve's growing network of friends weaves in and out of the stories gives readers as much emotional support as they provide Dallas. Charles and Louise, Jake and Nadine, Peabody and McNabb, Mavis and Leonardo, even Jamie and Quilla help with investigations and insights, but also ground Eve in the other side of her life away from the job. As Dr. Mira often points out, opening up her life has made Dallas a better police officer - but that emotional depth also makes a better reading experience for us.

Due out on January 23. If you haven't already preordered it or put your name on the notification list at the library, do it now. Another successful case for J.D. Robb and fans.

Winter Reading 2024 The Lost Library


I admit, when I heard that Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass had teamed up to write a book about a library, I was all in. Then I saw the blurb,  "Told in turn by a ghost librarian named Al, an aging (but beautiful) cat named Mortimer, and Evan himself, The Lost Library is a timeless story from award-winning authors Rebecca Stead and Wendy Mass. It’s about owning your truth, choosing the life you want, and the power of a good book (and, of course, the librarian who gave it to you)." So I knew I had to read it.

The way in which Al, Evan, and Mortimer tell the story lets the reader try to puzzle out what is going on - just as Evan is trying to do. Where did the Little Free Library come from? Why are there books from the town library that burned down years ago? How did they survive the fire? Why is the name of Evan's father on one of the checkout cards; why is it the only name on the card? Al's relationship with the other ghosts in town, even the memories of Mortimer the cat's life in the library before its destruction all play a part in the larger mystery of what is going on in their town.

This is a great story about the power of books, about coming to terms with choices you have made, and about growing up and finding out that your parents were kids once who also had to grow up. Full of searching for answers, connecting with family, and seeing how the past shapes the present, readers will love this delightful tale.

Winter Reading 2024 West Heart Kill


If you enjoy twisty plots; a group of characters that all have secrets, intertwined relationships, and motives for bad behavior; and a secluded setting perfect for dark deeds - then try out West Heart Kill. The detective makes up stories to suit his audience, changing tack as it becomes necessary to gain confidences and fit in. Readers are left wondering exactly who he is and why he is there. 

The narrator often interrupts the story to comment on the conventions of detective fiction, or address the reader directly. For instance, within the first chapter: "You are alert - as a veteran of murder, you know that one of these new characters is likely to be the killer, but which one?" The reader's knowledge of the usual methods used by writers to drop clues that are easy to overlook or to point the attention elsewhere through sleight of hand are acknowledged, but also exploited to mislead and complicate. 

As Adam, our sleuth, moves deeper into the tangle of current situations and vendettas from the past, the number of affairs, grudges, and lies multiplies. And then the deaths start. We find out about earlier deaths, attempted suicides, and a tradition of keeping things within the group and hidden from the outside world. Who has sent Adam (or invited him in) and what do they expect him to find?

A Peyton Place in the woods with firearms, alcohol, drugs, sex, fireworks, and something darker simmering beneath it all, stirred and seasoned by an author determined to keep us guessing until the very end - and perhaps beyond. 

Winter Reading 2024 Valdemar: The Founding of Valdemar Book Three


Readers have followed along as Duke Kordas and his people flee the empire and travel into untamed lands seeking safety and a future. We have held our collective breath as they encountered hideous monsters and foul magics. And we have cheered as they found allies in the Tayledras. 

Now they are at a turning point. The city of Haven has been founded and fortified. The small groups of people already settled in the area are being approached with offers of peace and mutual aid. But many of the duke's people believe they would fare better as a recognized kingdom rather than a displaced duchy. They would like to negotiate from a position of strength, especially when they learn there is a powerful magician whose sights and soldiers are aimed at Haven. With the Tayledras only in reach through magical portals, will the fledgling settlement be able to defend itself?

I enjoy watching pieces of Valdemaran history fall into place. Seeing the arrival of the refugees, the palace taking shape, and other basics in previous books have still left many of us wondering about what has not yet been set in place. Will this be the book to explain the origin of Companions and Heralds? How will Kordas balance the people's desire for a king with his own dread of becoming an imitation of the evil empire they fled? (Especially since some courtiers and their offspring are already trying to assert their superiority over other citizens.)

And perhaps we can all learn some wisdom from Kordas. "Love every good day you get. Enjoy the peace. Accept that, for the moment, things around you are not exploding." Dive into this latest book to enjoy more magic, antics of Sydney the cat, encounters with terrifying magic, and even a pair of lifebonded lovers.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Winter Reading 2023 Nancy Bess Had a Dress


This story features the ingenuity and creativity of girls and women in the early 20th century who lived according to the maxim, "Waste not, want not." Nancy and her mother go to town and, although the store clerk rolls his eyes, Nancy picks the flour sack on the very bottom of the pile that has blue fabric decorated with a daisy pattern. After batches of  biscuits, pancakes, and homemade bread, the sack is empty and Nancy Bess can make it into a new dress or herself. When she outgrows it, she can cut it down to make an apron. When the apron is ripped, then she can make a satchel. As something befalls each new creation, there is always another way it can be put to use. 

The illustrations of pencil, watercolor, and digital ink capture the passage of time as well as the closeness of the family and community. Readers will see Nancy Bess grow taller, her mother's pregnancy becoming more evident, and the loving care put into each stitch of the baby quilt Nancy Bess makes for her new sibling. Other details that might catch the eye are the antics of her puppy - riding in her school satchel, accompanying her to the potluck, or covering its eyes with a paw as Nancy Bess gets her hair bobbed. There are also some mice who can be found watching from the mantel, the windowsill, and other vantage points around the house. The mice also do some sewing of their own like those furry seamstresses in Disney's "Cinderella." 

Back matter includes an explanation of flour sack dresses and their growing popularity through the 1930s and even after World War II. Fashion styles and daily activities reflect the time period shown. Nancy Bess and her family read as white and so do most of the characters shown in the illustrations. One of her friends does have thick curly hair and browner skin than the others. 

This is a sweetly homespun tale reminiscent of Simms Taback's Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and full of fun like Sunday socials and gathering treasures by the creek. A good read aloud to accompany lessons on reusing materials, open-ended thinking, or early twentieth century life.