Smoke and Mirrors

If you’re looking for a new middle-grade read that combines the struggles of being the new kid with magic and mystery, K. D. Halbrook has a magical new read titled Smoke and Mirrors that is perfect for you.

The Story: For as long as she can remember, Sacha has grown up in the Cirque, a magical place where her parents are trapeze artists and Sacha’s imagination can take flight. Here, she is at home with her brother Toddy and all of the others who make up the circus. Unfortunately, Sacha will soon have to leave this idyllic world behind for the much more foreign land of school. She knows it’s going to be great for her and her little brother – that is, until she gets on the bus and discovers that the Islander kids are a lot meaner than they seemed at first. Life seems to be going from good to bad at an alarming rate and it is on one of these horrible days that Sacha makes a wish for everything to change. And change it does. When the Smoke comes and takes away her parents, Sacha realizes that she must face her fears if she is to save the people that matter most to her in the world.

My thoughts: This book is pretty different from a lot of what I’ve read. It reminds me a little of an Alice in Wonderland genre story where nothing is as it seems and a lot of odd happenings occur that never get a huge amount of explanation. Don’t get me wrong; I like the characters, especially the quirky caretakers that Sacha and Toddy find themselves stuck with after their parents disappear. I am just not sure that this is the story for you if you’re a super detail-oriented individual. Either way, Smoke and Mirrors is a pretty enjoyable read that takes you on a magical ride.

Parental Advisories: None! Mention is made of children swearing, but no language is to be found, though there are some mild depictions of schoolground violence and bullying.

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When Things Get Old…

So there was this idea.

An idea that all the best fairytales in the world could be mashed up, brought into one world, and interact together in a unique and fun way.

Sound familiar? Perhaps right now you’re thinking about the hit TV show Once Upon a Time, the ever popular book series The Lunar Chronicles, etc., etc. If you’re tired of it, I’m sorry.

But that’s not what I’m talking about.

Because today, I’d like to introduce you to the first ever book I ever wrote, The Silver Woods, a fairytale mashup written expressly for my little sister. If you’ve been here for a while, you probably remember reading some of the excerpts I posted once upon a time (eh, eh? Okay). Anyway, this was when I was about eight or ten before Once Upon a Time was ever really a thing back in 2009/2010-ish. My sister was/is obsessed with fairytales and I wanted to write a story that was meant for my family – one that my siblings could see themselves in, but could also learn from and would have familiar elements.

Enter The Silver Woods.

This book is a love letter to fantasy and fairytales alike. It is a love letter to my childhood passions, to Disney princess films, and to all the European history that I so indulged in. But mostly, it’s a love letter to my family, whom it was written for, about, and in some ways, almost by. This is my story, a story that will never be published because it is unoriginal by today’s standards. It’s not unique nor fresh and perhaps never will be. That’s okay; I had to get it out of my system.

So here’s what I want you to leave you guys with today: 1. Please, please, please do yourselves a favor and never give up on that story that you need to get out of you. Some stories are never marketable, but if you really love the craft and the tale, write it anyway. 2. I’d like to gift you guys with all three books of my trilogy. I’ll be posting them every week on Fridays. Please comment, let me know what you think, and critique. I want to know what is good about this and what is bad about this. I want to know what you loved and what you loathed. Most of all, I want it to show that I wrote what I loved.

(But also just so I can finally get it out there and prove that I did it first)

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Trilogy Book 1: Chapter One

Every Friday I will be posting a chapter of my never-to-be-published fantasy trilogy. Please comment and tell me what you think (keeping in mind that this was written several years back).

Click HERE for Chapter 1 of Book 1.

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Ogre Enchanted

If you were ever a fan of the original Ella Enchanted novel by Gail Carson Levine and wondered, “Hmm, I wonder whether there was ever a much more complicated story about a girl turned into an ogre by Lucinda pre-Ella who also runs into Ella’s parents and ends up being semi-involved in the set-up for that book!” then you’re in the right place. Today, we’re taking a look at Ogre Enchanted, a 2018 release from Gail Carson Levine that sets the stage for its predecessor, making it Levine’s first prequel.

The Story: Evie was happy where she was. Being a healer is her greatest passion and she loved serving others and spending time with her best friend, Wormy. But when Wormy unexpectedly surprised her with a proposal, Evie’s world was interrupted by one of the worst circumstances of all. Lucinda, meddling fairy that she is, appeared to ensure the happiness of the couple. The only problem? Evie’s not ready for marriage, not by a long shot; she’s too young and far too busy to even consider such a thing, but Lucinda won’t have it. Now Evie is an ogre, enchanted to stay that way unless she can find someone who is willing to propose to her and whom she can accept. What starts as a mission to find an alternative cure turns into an adventure of court intrigue and possible clashes between two different world as Evie meets the future Sir Peter of Frell, Lady Eleanor, and the true heir to the kingdom in a story where appearances are often the best mask for the truth.

My Thoughts: I’d never expected a sequel (or prequel) to Ella Enchanted, but was pleasantly surprised by this clever tale. Gail Carson Levine really outdoes herself in this book, spinning a charming narrative starring a clever heroine sure to make readers fall in love with her as much as Ella. I highly recommend you pick this one up!

Parental Advisories: None. This book is squeaky clean, unless you’ve got an objection to mild romance and/or mentions of eating humans.

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Lucky Luna

I really appreciate family stories, especially sister-sister tales or cousins, or whatever. Coming from a large Hispanic family myself, I recently picked up Diana Lopez’s latest book, Lucky Luna, which is pretty relatable and also tons of fun to read through.

The Story: Luna is one of many, many kids in her family, meaning she’s got a whole lot of primas. Most of them are older though, so it’s not exactly fun being one of the younger cousins, especially when she has to deal with goody-two-shoes, tattletale Claudia. To make matters worse, Claudia is going to be coming to Luna’s middle school soon, which means that she’s going to have to endure her ALL. SCHOOL. YEAR. Plus, Luna’s already upset because she can’t wear hats since her prima’s quince, which means the white streak in Luna’s hair – a birth defect – is going to be on display for everyone to see. Can Luna survive? And will she ever discover the true meaning of her abuela’s favorite saying, “La sangre es mas espesa que el agua.”?

My Thoughts: With wit, humor, and heart, authoress Diana Lopez manages to capture what it means to be part of such a big family, especially one that is Hispanic. I cannot tell you guys how many times I related to this book when reading through it. The only time I think I thought I was seeing my family more was when watching Pixar’s Coco! As for the story, I think middle-graders will enjoy Luna. She is a down-to-earth heroine who is easy to relate to, especially for those kids who feel just how annoying their families can get. For a good family story and a little bit of Hispanic wisdom, I’d advise picking up Lucky Luna!

Parental Advisories: None! Plus, this book is filled with abuelas, abuelos, and parents ready to tell both Luna (and by extension, the reader) the right thing to do.

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Happy New Year!

We’ve had an amazing year here at Little Reader Book Reviews & More. We’ve read a lot of amazing books and done a lot of amazing things. I certainly cannot wait to see all of the books waiting for me in the new year. There’s certainly a lot to read!

Wishing you all blessings and love,

Little Reader

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, readers! May you be blessed this holiday season and may we all remember what this season is truly about.

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25 Reads of Xmas #22

Every day in December leading up to Christmas we’ll be reading a book to enjoy the season. Join us as we enjoy seasonal reads that are perfect to celebrate the holidays!

For this last read of the 25 Reads of Xmas, we’re reading an exciting new book that’s sure to bring adventure and fun times to your Christmas.

Carol loves Christmas. Like, OMG, red, green, candy canes, Christmas lights, Rockefeller center, snow, the whole shibang! Even if she does live in Florida where snow is pretty much nonexistent and where her uncle, despite having a pretty sweet toy company, is a complete scrooge who hates the holidays, Carol – or Christmas Carol as she’s known – just knows every Christmas is going to be great. She may not have a lot of family left, what with her mom and dad both being gone, but she knows that it doesn’t matter, so long as she gets to celebrate the holidays. This year, though, things are going to get a little bit weirder, especially when Carol meets the one and only Santa himself. She’s about to discover a family legacy that’s tied to her favorite holiday of all, a legacy that’s now passed down to her, making Carol the enemy of the Masked Man, a friend to the North Pole, and something even more awesome: Christmas Carol, holiday defender!

With humor, thrills, and adventure to last a lifetime, Christmas Carol & The Defenders of Claus is a holiday treat to last a lifetime. Robert L. Fouch does an excellent job with this one, weaving a high-stakes adventure story, mixed with just a touch of fantasy and a dash of optimistic spirit. Sure to get you in the mood for this season and Christmas itself, this is the read you’ve been waiting to pick up.

As a personal side note to all of you readers, thank you so much for joining me on the 25 Reads of Xmas. It’s been a pleasure sharing with you some of the most unique reads I’ve been able to find and I definitely think these are some novels that I’ll be returning to year after year. I hope you all enjoyed your reading this holiday season and I wish you all a very merry Christmas tomorrow, wherever it may take you.

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25 Reads of Xmas #21

Every day in December leading up to Christmas we’ll be reading a book to enjoy the season. Join us as we enjoy seasonal reads that are perfect to celebrate the holidays!

Fans of historical fiction and the real life authors of acclaimed classics will flock to this new Christmas read:

Tru and Nelle were the best of friends before Truman the shrimp went away with his mother and stepfather. Now he’s locked between his mother and real father as they fight over who gets to keep and it sure ain’t as heck a great Christmas present. Matter of fact, it isn’t much of a Christmas present at all. Nelle hates it all too, because her best friend is acting more like a hoity-toity New Yorker than the imaginative partner in crime that she cares so much about. When Truman’s sent to an awful military school after the custody battle, the only thing he can think to do is to run. And where else to run to except back to the best friend who he’s had all the best adventures with? But while True and Nelle may be happy to see each other, both know that their time together can’t last. If they’re really going to enjoy Christmas, True and Nelle will have to team up to fix life for both of them, even if means confronting the prejudices of Monroeville, Tru’s family, and their biggest fears. Luckily, as Nelle says, “Don’t forget, we get to say what we make of our lives, not them.”

Not much is often written on the friendship between writers Truman Capote and Nelle Harper Lee. G. Neri manages to capture the freedom and fun of childhood while also managing to discuss complexity with the same delicacy that Harper Lee possessed when penning To Kill a Mockingbird. Tru & Nelle: A Christmas Tale discusses adult problems through a child’s eyes with tact and grace.

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25 Reads of Xmas #20

Every day in December leading up to Christmas we’ll be reading a book to enjoy the season. Join us as we enjoy seasonal reads that are perfect to celebrate the holidays!

If you’ve never read the original E. T. A. Hoffman Nutcracker, no worries. This new take on the original story by Sherri L. Smith is the perfect read this holiday season

Christian Drosselmeyer leads a pretty dreary life. Nuremburg is not exactly special, not by a long shot and with his mother’s recent death by scarlet fever, the last thing he wants to do is stick around. But when he decides to leave behind his old life, his new life sweeps in, arriving in the form of the uncle he never knew, Christian Drosselmeyer. With him comes Samir, the Persian guard and a mysterious tale of a kingdom far away where vermin and sorrows plague the court. Christian Drosselmeyer has come in need of help and it looks like Stefan may be the only one who can give it to him. As the rats begin to stage an uprising against the magical Drosselmeyer’s, the secret they hold, and Nuremburg itself, Stefan must face destiny and life as a nutcracker – a life he may live eternally if he’s too late.

With excellent pacing, beautiful language, and well-timed humor, Smith weaves a magical tale that feels timeless. It’s a perfect Christmas tale, especially if you’ve ever wondered about the truth of the Nutcracker. All your questions can easily be answered in this excellent read aimed for older readers (though parents might really get a kick out of this one as well). I highly recommend The Toymaker’s Apprentice. Give it a whirl; you won’t be disappointed!

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