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Review! 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up By Bianca Schulze Blog Tour! AND GIVEAWAY!!!

12 Oct


101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up

Series: 101 series for Kids

By Bianca Schulze

Published by Walter Foster Jr on October 1, 2016

144 pages / ages 8-12

Synopsis from the publisher: 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up provides a comprehensive list of kid-friendly books for children to read before they grow up. This must-read review list acts as an interactive journal where kids can document the books they read, why they like them, and how they rate them. Divided into sections by subject, from fairy tales and fantasy to sports and nonfiction, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up celebrates the importance of reading and encourages family participation to develop lifelong readers. The perfect reference guide for book lovers of all ages, 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up helps both kids and parents decide which books to read next!

What I thought: This is a nice addition to the 101 Series for Kids. When I first saw the title of this – 101 Books to Read Before You Grow Up – I immediately thought – come on, how can you possibly come up with this list? There are SO MANY books you should read before you grow up! Then I read the following author’s note –

“There are so many amazing books to be discovered and read—and far too many to list in one fun book. The 101 awesome books contained in these pages have one collective message: Be kind, be brave, and make good choices. Remember the struggles of those that came before you and those who will come after you. Be true to yourself, and with every page you turn, live your life like an epic adventure.”

Makes sense.

Plus, Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review so she knows what she is talking about. Scanning through the table of contents, yes I did see some books I think should have been listed, but I can’t argue against any of the books Schulze lists (well maybe one). And, she only got to name 101 (although in the “What to Read Next?” section following each book description Schulze got to list a few more).


As with all the books in the 101 Series for Kids, the pages are well-organized and colorful. Schulze gives a brief synopsis of each book and some comments as to why the book belongs on the list. There is also a section below each book named for kids to record that they read it and write what they thought of it. The variety of books Schulze suggests is wonderful – ranging from classics to adventure, humor to historical fiction. Schulze even gives a nod to graphic novels. There is a nice selection of culturally diverse books and I was happy with the mix of classic and more modern titles represented.



Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review, a resource devoted to children’s literature and recognized by the American Library Association as a “Great Website for Kids.” She is a reader, reviewer, mother, and children’s book lover. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s bookseller, Bianca’s goal is to share her passion to help grow readers.


To enter the giveaway to win this book, all you need to do is comment telling us what book you think everyone should read!

Review, Interview & Giveaway! Diary of a Tokyo Teen by Christine Mari Inzer

22 Sep

tokyoteen1Diary of a Tokyo Teen: A Japanese-American Girl Travels to the Land of Trendy Fashion, High-Tech Toilets and Maid Cafes

Written and Illustrated by Christine Mari Inzer

128 pages – ages 12+

Published by Tuttle Publishing on September 6, 2016

Synopsis from Publisher- “Born in Tokyo to a Japanese mother and an American father in 1997, Christine Mari Inzer spent her early years in Japan and relocated to the United States in 2003. The summer before she turned sixteen, she returned to Tokyo, making a solo journey to get reacquainted with her birthplace. Through illustrations, photos, and musings, Inzer documented her journey.

In Diary of a Tokyo Teen, Inzer explores the cutting-edge fashions of Tokyo’s trendy Harajuku district, eats the best sushi of her life at the renowned Tsukiji fish market, and hunts down geisha in the ancient city of Kyoto. As she shares the trials and pleasures of travel from one end of a trip to the other, Inzer introduces the host of interesting characters she meets and offers a unique—and often hilarious—look at a fascinating country and an engaging tale of one girl rediscovering her roots.”

What I Thought- This was a rather interesting book, chronicling the time that the author as a teen went to Japan by herself to visit her grandparents, and her experiences there. The book is funny, as the American-ized Inzer experiences the differences in the two cultures first hand. There are hand-drawn comics and illustrations throughout the book, providing a lot of humor and information at the same time.


One thing I liked was how she combined the actual photos of the time she went along with her illustrations. It was a nice blend and created a cool contrast on the page. There are some really good thought-provoking quotes in there – like in the end when Inzer gets back to America and says “I guess I will always feel halfway home.” That’s a sentiment many kids who identify with two different places will connect with. There were some really great funny moments too so the whole story has a great balance. Inzer’s writing style blends seamlessly into her comic illustrations, making the story feel less like a comic or graphic novel, and more of a traditional novel.  The book is also a wonderful informal travel guide, and Japanophiles will like hearing about places to see – I know I did! I will be looking for more titles coming from this promising young author!

Five out of five bookworms for this book!fivebooks

For a complete preview of Diary of a Tokyo Teen, visit Tuttle’s website HERE

Christine Mari Inzer was kind enough to agree to an interview with me!

bloglogo When did you decide to publish your musings from your trip? Why?


tokyoteenBefore I had even left for Japan, I decided that I wanted to create a book about my experiences there. My mom is Japanese and I was born in Tokyo, so it holds a special place in my heart. I also love the travelogue genre and combining comics with my love of Japan was something that came natural to me.

bloglogo Have you gone back to Japan since the time the book was written?


tokyoteenYes, I have actually gone back twice since the book was first written, most recently in August. My grandparents live near Tokyo, so we try to visit every other year. I’m always excited to return.


bloglogo Your book is funny, while also being an informal travel guide for Japan, with most of the humor being supplied from the illustrations. What made you decide to have the book be partly in comic form? Did it make it easier to write in information on Japan?


tokyoteenI feel like drawing has always been the easiest way to express myself. In a way I do think that it also made it easier for people to visualize Japanese culture, which is so colorful and vibrant in itself.


bloglogo If you could write another book like this, say for another country, would you?


tokyoteenI would love to make another book like this! I would definitely love to have an opportunity to travel to Europe and do the same thing, especially someplace like France or Spain.


bloglogo What aspect of Japan interests you the most? What would you say someone MUST see if they go to Japan?


tokyoteenFor me, going to Japan is a multidimensional experience, and there’s never really been a single aspect of it that I like the most. I love everything! However, if I can share one thing I love to experience in Japan, it would be Shibuya Crossing at night.


Thank you Ms. Inzer!

Now for some exciting news!

You can enter a giveaway to win a copy of this book courtesy of Tuttle Publishing by commenting below on something you love about Japan or something that you really enjoyed when visiting another country and discovering a new culture!

The winner will be chosen on 9/29 (and announced on 9/30) by random draw out of all the comments – good luck!

Review! Jet Black and the Ninja Wind by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani

25 Aug

jetblackJet Black and the Ninja Wind

Co-written by Leza Lowitz and Shogo Oketani

320 pages – ages 12+

Published by Tuttle Publishing on July 26, 2016

Synopsis- Jet Black has always been different. She doesn’t go to parties, she doesn’t wear designer clothes, and she most definitely does not have a normal pastime. You see, Jet Black is training to be a ninja – don’t laugh. You’ll never see your demise coming. Just like she didn’t expect her mother to die. Or how, when she gets to her grandfather’s house in Japan, he ends up dead as well. Now Jet must go and stop the single man who will go to any length that her mother spent her entire life hiding from. And only one will walk away…

What I Thought- Bottom line – I really liked the book.  I wasn’t quite sure I would review it when the publisher sent it to me. I think what threw me off was the cover (I really dislike it – it needs more ninja – to me it looks like a teenage vampire romance – I know, I know don’t judge a book based on it’s cover…). One day I picked it up and started paging through it and what I found was a really good action story with good characters. I found myself wrapped up in it enough to finish the story and I enjoyed it. I like how the book gave insights into another culture (actually two – Japanese and Ninja) while the story was evolving. While the story keeps the reader involved, I thought it could be tightened up a bit especially at the end. Never-the-less, the book is definitely worth picking up. The story about Jet Black and the personal struggles which she faces coming to terms with this responsibility of being a ninja really sold the book for me.

I give this book four out of five bookworms.fourbooks

Review and Taste Test! Katie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook by Katie Chin

13 Jul

katiechinKatie Chin’s Everyday Chinese Cookbook: 101 Delicious Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen
Written by Katie Chin, recipes by Leeann Chin and Katie Chin
Photography by Masano Kawana
Foreword by Raghavan Iyer
160 pages – ages 12+
Published by Tuttle Publishing on April 26, 2016

Publisher’s Synopsis – “Author Katie Chin’s love of cooking blossomed at an early age—watching and later helping her renowned mother, Leeann Chin, prepare delicious Chinese dishes in her popular restaurants. Born in China, Leeann was an award-winning restaurateur and author revered for her ability to demystify Chinese cooking for the American home cook. Katie inherited her mom’s passion and talent, and has become a respected food writer and television personality in her own right. Sadly, Leeann passed away in 2010, but her recipes live on. Katie is eager to share her mother’s food legacy with you in this book—an homage to Leeann’s mastery of all that Chinese cooking has to offer.
This treasury of family recipes includes many unique dishes that Leeann developed during a six-decade career in the food business, including time-honored classics that she herself learned from her mother in China. Some dishes reflect Leeann’s Chinese-American childhood or are recipes which Katie and Leeann developed while together. Others are creations that Katie has developed more recently. Woven throughout the book are fond memories and anecdotes from Katie’s childhood, always involving cooking and eating with her mom.”

What I Thought- First, I just want to say that the reason I suggested ages 12+ for this book is just because that is around the age where I think it is reasonable to start cooking without omnipresent supervision (of course, this is up to the parents). These recipes can be made by younger kids, but parental supervision should be present throughout the cooking. That being said, the book is an excellent cookbook, with clear instructions. I liked that Ms. Chin did not assume that the reader/cook already knew information, including things such as “Basic Cooking Techniques and Tips” and “Understanding Chinese Ingredients” so the reader/cook is not left in the dark. All of the back material was very interesting and is a great help in learning to cook Chinese food. The recipes themselves are easy to read, and include simple ways to cook and prepare the food. The anecdotes into Ms. Chin, her mother, and how she gets her kids to eat things like mushrooms and spinach really make the book more personal. The book is filled with great color photos of the steps and finished dishes. This was a great cookbook!

I give this book five out of five bookworms! fivebooks

Knowing me, you probably aren’t surprised that I decided to cook something with my family from the cookbook. We chose to make the “Crystal Shrimp Dumplings” found on page 30-31. My sister Josie helped make the dumplings too.



We started by making the filling with cilantro, egg white, cornstarch, sugar, pepper and sesame oil.


We prepared the shrimp as it said in the cookbook so it won’t taste “fishy.”


We minced the shrimp in a food processor and added it to the filling mix.


Then it was time to fill the dumplings.


I don’t think our wrap job was as pretty as the ones in the book – but pretty good for beginners!



Next we cooked the dumplings!





They were delicious! The soy sauce had balsamic vinegar in it, and it gave it a nice citrus-y flavor somehow. Ms. Chin really knows how to make a meal!

Review! The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery

31 May

soulThe Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness

By Sy Montgomery

272 pages – ages 14+

Published by Atria Books on May 12, 2015

Synopsis- What makes you think? What makes you have your own thought process, that is different from all other animals? Wait. What if animals do think? How could we tell? Sy Montgomery was determined to find the answer – and to look in the most unlikely place: an octopus. Could these creatures really have an independent, unique thought process?

What I Thought- This was an interesting book. I was given it as a gift and at first I wasn’t really jazzed about reading a nonfiction book about octopuses – but I gave it a try. As I was reading, I felt that the book was enlightening. I was seeing things in a different perspective. The book is a chronicle of Ms. Montgomery’s experiences with octopuses, and how they are different from us, yet similar in so many ways. I found that I enjoyed it thoroughly. Montgomery’s writing style has an enjoyable flow to it. She mixes science with narration and spins it into a story-like product that kept me entranced. The text itself brings up a lot of questions  that are thought-provoking, and makes you appreciate the odd lifeforms that are octopuses.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

9 May

stayaliveTo Stay Alive: Mary Ann Graves and the Tragic Journey of the Donner Party

By Skila Brown

304 pages – ages 12+

Will be published by Candlewick on October 11, 2016

Synopsis- It was 1846, and Mary Ann Graves was 19 when her father and her entire family decided to move west. Her 21-year-old sister (and her husband) were coming as well. They had to go from Illinois all the way to California. They would see most of the country as they traveled through the land. They met up with several other families when they were traveling, including the Reed family, and the Donner family. All they need to do is make it through the infamous Rocky Mountains before it snows…

What I Thought- This was a slightly disturbing book. It is a historical fiction of the infamous Donner Party, and for the most part it was telling the story of their journey westward. The novel-in-verse format is interesting, and makes it a rather fast read. It was odd reading the part where they started eating the dead flesh (which honestly, didn’t bother me – some consider it a valid survival technique (when there is nothing else, of course)) – it was the part where they started killing the weaker travelers for food that grossed me out a little, but it is part of history and needs to be told. That aside, the book was very good, and I enjoyed reading about the journey westward. Ms. Brown’s poems stir an emotional impact with the reader, while still telling of the lives of the families going west. I liked that she included an Epilogue, Author’s Note, and a list of the members of the Donner Party, with facts as to what happened afterward, during, and other such things. All-in-all, a very compelling read with solid writing and having it in verse makes the story even more surreal. I’d just recommend for a more mature kid-reader.

I give this book five out of five bookworms.fivebooks

Review! The Rampart Guards by Wendy Terrien

24 Feb

I am part of a virtual book tour today and I am very excited to tell you about this book because this is one that the story really stuck with me.

THE RAMPART GUARDS will be published this Friday, February 26th!


Here is the publisher’s summary – After his mom disappears, Jason Lex and his family move to a small town where he has no friends, no fun, no life. Things get worse when he’s chased  by weird flying creatures that only he can see—Jason thinks he’s losing it. But when Jason discovers new information about his family, he’s stunned  to learn that creatures like Skyfish, Kappa, and the Mongolian Death Worm aren’t just stories on the Internet—they’re real and they live unseen  longside the human race. Many of these creatures naturally emit energy capable of incinerating humans. An invisible shield keeps these creatures  hidden and protects the human race from their threatening force, but someone, or some thing , is trying to destroy it. Unsure who he can trust, Jason  is drawn into the fight to save the people closest to him, and he finds help in surprising places. Confronted with loss, uncertainty, and a devastating betrayal, Jason must make a gut-wrenching decision: Who lives, and who dies.

The series is a planned trilogy, but Ms. Terrien has an interesting concept for the next book:

The series will continue with three more books. Terrien plans to simultaneously release book two in two parts – telling different stories, but told concurrently – and will conclude the trilogy with the final chapter told from the point of view of two of her main characters.



Wendy Terrien

Wendy Terrien has been writing stories since she was in grade school. Her debut novel The Rampart Guards (February 26, 2016) is the first in her   intriguing urban fantasy series. Inspired by an episode of B ones that suspected a killer to be a fabled chupacabra, Wendy was fascinated and dove into  research about cryptozoology – the study of animals that may or may not exist, or cryptids. Pouring over stories, videos and photographs of  creatures others had seen all over the world, Wendy developed her own story to share with middle grade, young adult and grown-up readers.

Wendy lives in Colorado with her husband Kevin and their three dogs: Maggie, Shea and Boon. All three of her dogs are rescues and Wendy is  passionate about promoting shelter adoptions. If you’re ever in Colorado, you may even be able to spot her by her “Adopt a Shelter Pet” license plates.




RampartGuards_CVR_MEDThe Rampart Guards
By Wendy Terrien
268 pages – ages 12+
Published by Camashea Press on February 26, 2016

Synopsis- Jason’s life has taken a turn for the worse – his mom disappeared. They sold their house and moved to a small town where everyone knows everything and everyone. The town’s crazy guy just so happens to be his uncle that he never knew existed. And there are these things that only Jason can see. But what if the things, the cryptids, are only on the edge of our reality? And what if they were at the point of breaking through the invisible barrier? And what if that would kill every human?

What I Thought- I absolutely loved this book! Ms. Terrien has written a book that rivets you to your seat – I read this book in about 2 hours, not that it was short or an easy read but it was that good! The plot just hooks you right in. Jason’s mother is missing, presumably dead. He moves. He’s seeing things. He’s got a loony uncle. Life’s bad on him. But throw in the fact that his mother may not be dead… and you understand why Jason is unsure of what to do. Jason’s character is one I identified with immediately. I love stories with great characters. The fact that there are “real-life” cryptids used throughout the book is fun. The book is being marketed for middle grade and young adult, I’d say it leans more towards early YA than middle grade. The story is pretty dark and intense for middle grade and there is a fair amount of language (nothing bad, but h***, s***, a**, and d***, with allusions to f***). Terrien’s writing skills shine through as she skates between the two worlds she created in the novel. The fantastic possibility of alternate realities comes to life in this exciting adventurous paranormal roller-coaster of a story! Sign me up for book two!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! The Legend Comes To Life by Debbie Brown

16 Feb

amethyst2The Legend Comes To Life

By Debbie Brown

228 pages  – ages 12+

Published by Howling Wolf / Ravenswood Publishing on October 25, 2014

Synopsis- Tommy has been living with his father on the Phoenix for three years now, and is starting his cadet training. The Phoenix is an interplanetary vessel that helps worlds in danger of natural extinction and helps colonize other planets. When a new botanist named Fardoc destroys the arboretum where they contain plant life, and injures Tommy as well, something is awry. But then other things happen that make it seems that there is a plot to undo the Phoenix’s work. Things like Tommy’s father, the commander, returning unconscious. What if Fardoc isn’t just a jerk, but something much worse?

What I Thought- I liked this story. It captured the feel of the first book (see my review HERE) perfectly. The science-fiction world is believable, and I felt like I could live in it. Tommy is a character other teens can relate to. Not only is he adapting to a world that he’s not used to, but he’s also changing it for the better while learning about being the leader. What I like about the book is that even though Tommy is 18, the book is still appropriate for 12-year-olds. Ms. Brown has a writing style that engages you. The plot has a lot of twists and turns and action that keep you on the edge of your beanbag chair. There is a lot of mystique happening throughout the book. I really hope that there is a book 3, and that it is as fun as this!

I give this five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Review! The Letter for the King by Tonke Dragt

12 Oct

letterkingThe Letter for the King

Written by Tonke Dragt

Translated from Dutch by Laura Watkinson

528 pages – ages 12+

Published by David Fickling Books on August 25th, 2015

(Originally published in Dutch in 1962)

Synopsis- From The Publisher: “Sixteen-year-old Tiuri must spend hours locked in a chapel in silent contemplation if he is to be knighted the next day. But as he waits by the light of a flickering candle, he hears a knock at the door and a voice desperately asking for help.

A secret letter must be delivered to King Unauwen across the Great Mountains–a letter upon which the fate of the entire kingdom depends. Tiuri has a vital role to play, one that might cost him his knighthood. He must trust no one. He must keep his true identity secret. Above all, he must never reveal what is in the letter . . .

Tiuri’s journey will take him through dark, menacing forests, across treacherous rivers, to sinister castles and strange cities. He will encounter evil enemies who would kill to get the letter, but also the best of friends in the most unexpected places.”

What I Thought- I love books with a medieval setting like this. When done correctly, they can really insert you into the story line. Ms. Dragt does a great job of creating a realistic world with a code of chivalry. There are pretty neat black-and-white sketches for the different sections of the book. I really enjoyed the story. Tiuri is a marvelous character who you connected with. He is *this* close to becoming a knight, but, by doing the right thing, may lose his entire chance to become a doer of good, full-time. You feel for him, as he is conflicted by this question of character. Ms. Dragt is a masterful author, and Ms. Watkinson did a great job translating it into English. I really recommend this book to everyone who likes a good coming-of-age book!

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks

Confessions of an Imaginary Friend by Michelle Cuevas

24 Sep

jackieConfessions of an Imaginary Friend – a memoir by Jacques Papier

As told to Michelle Cuevas

176 pages – ages 9+

Published by Dial Books on Dial Books, September 8, 2015

Synopsis- Somewhere in France, there lived an evil wiener dog named François. In François’ house, there lived a young girl named Fleur Papier, and she had a twin brother named Jacques. This book is about Jacques. Jacques is a good brother. Polite, fun, imaginative, and so much more. That is, until Jacques accidentally overhears his parents talking and learns that… Fleur has an imaginary friend. How could she have one, and if anything, not tell him? That wasn’t a nice thing! Well, two can play at that game. But when Jacques’ imaginary friend is huge, and takes up a lot of room, his parents yell out that an imaginary friend having an imaginary friend was “too much imagination” – and that was saying a lot, as they work in the imagination business. Wait. What? Can it be true? That Jacques is… An imaginary friend? Jacques soon realizes it is true, but he has a hard time adjusting. What if that by finding out he was an imaginary friend ends up driving him away from Fleur?

What I Thought- This was an amazing book about learning who you really are. Jacques (who we thinks is based off of Jackie Paper from Puff the Magic Dragon) is a memorable character who tugs at your heart strings. You really feel for him as he realizes that he is really his “sister’s” imaginary friend. The sad thing is, she didn’t even know he was imaginary! At least it explains how no one paid attention to him. Imagine if you were ignored all of your life, and then suddenly find out that you aren’t real. There are some simple illustrations in the book that add a lot to the story. I would really recommend this book to anyone looking for a really meaningful story that makes you think. I think that this book is good for an older audience (at least 12+), as they will get the impact behind it, but the story is all clean, and good for younger kids.

I give this book five out of five bookworms!fivebooks


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