Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey and Donkey's Kite by Liana-Melissa Allen(With Interview AND GIVEAWAY!!!!)

About The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey (Book 1):

A tale (based on the “Three Little Pigs”) about three little horse brothers who suddenly lose their house that is destroyed by a fire. The young horses are totally alone and thrust into the reality of having to depend on themselves and each other against a bully donkey, who wanders the forest wrecking homes and bullying the other animals. This warm-hearted tale promotes strong values and has a fun premise. Written and humorously illustrated in vivid color throughout by Liana-Melissa Allen, the story is a proven winner for reading aloud to children.
My Thoughts:

My Grasshopper fell in love with Max, Lax, and Jack! I read both books together, and afterwards, he wanted to go back and read the stories to me(through the pictures). I call that success!

As the description states, this is somewhat of a "3 Little Pigs" retelling. I love that I was able to get a lesson in laziness out of the story, along with a lesson in bullying. Although I didn't plan it so, reading this particular story when I did worked out perfectly. A little brother had just been shoved in the floor, and a tablet had been taken away as punishment, so I decided it was time for a reading break. This story was the perfect conversation starter concerning how we shouldn't hit or bully or laugh at someone when they're hurt.

Grasshopper loved the pictures, too. They're simple, but cute. He got lots of laughs out of them, and I loved how they followed the story so closely, capturing several humorous parts just perfectly.

We had fun getting to know Max, Lax, Jack, and even Donkey. After reading the "Llama Llama" adventure with the "bully goat", I've continuously told my boys that they don't want to be a "bully goat". After reading this book, Grasshopper has started saying we don't want to be a "bully donkey". These sweet books have ended up making quite the impression on him.


About Donkey's Kite (Book 2):

The three horses Jack, Max, Lax and their friend Donkey are back!

In Horse Valley, it's a perfect day to go kite flying. Jack, Max, Lax, and Donkey decide to get creative by putting together their own homemade kites. However, Donkey's kite doesn't work. No matter how hard he tries to get it to fly, it just keeps tumbling to the ground. How will poor Donkey get his kite to fly? A friendly goose named Gusty is delighted to help him out.

In this Horse Valley Adventure, Donkey learns not to give up when all seems hopeless. The friends all learn a lesson about helping others and true friendship.

My Thoughts:

As I mentioned above, we went straight into this book after finishing the first one. Grasshopper wanted to see more of Max, Lax, Jack, and Donkey. I recommend reading them in order, so you can see the character growth, and get to know each one better.

Once again, there was a lesson concerning bullying, but from a different character this time. This book mostly touched on helping those who need us, though. Sometimes it's easier said than done, but we should always drop what we're doing to help friends/loved ones when they need us. I always appreciate books that help me get little lessons into our day. (I call them conversation starters.) I appreciated getting so many mini lessons into our reading time with both of these books!

Grasshopper loved the pictures in this book, too. He got several more chuckles out of them.

Overall, we've really enjoyed spending time getting to know Max, Lax, Jack, and Donkey. If you enjoy reading books that open up conversation/mini lesson possibilities, definitely give these books a try. They're fun, sweet, and humorous!

*I was provided e-copies of both books, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Links:

On Author's Website


Barnes and Noble


About the Author:

Liana-Melissa Allen is a young author and illustrator of children's books and books for youth. She has written, illustrated and published six books. Her most recent one is the colorfully illustrated children's book "Donkey's Kite", the second book of "A Horse Valley Adventure" series. The first was "The Three Little Horses and the Big Bully Donkey". The lovable cartoon characters, Max, Lax, Jack and Donkey makes them a favorite of first and second grade students. She is now working on her third book of "A Horse Valley Adventure".

The magical world of fantasy has inspired Liana's imagination since as long as she can remember. Part of this was fueled by her dad reading aloud to her every day when she was younger. As a result, reading is her primary passion along with music. These two passions feed her imagination into stories and drawings, which she joyously sketches out into storyboards for a potential book.

Liana-Melissa is also a dedicated classical/jazz pianist, and mostly enjoys older music, especially from the big band era and the 1940's, 50's and 60's. While playing the piano, her imagination often leads to a great amount of improvising. Frequently, Liana will improvise a theme for one of the stories she is writing. Capturing this improvised music became a priority, which ultimately resulted in theme music for "A Horse Valley Adventure". The "Horse Valley" theme will be used for a short animated video featuring her Horse Valley characters.

Liana-Melissa loves to hear from her young readers. Please visit her website at for more information, and to contact her by email. Visit her on Facebook too.


Interview with Liana-Melissa:

Where do you get inspiration for your stories?

My childhood. I get inspired when I reminisce on how I used to look at the world as a kid. Through the eyes of my childlike self I lived my world with a sweet simple mindset. I looked at everyday as a fun adventure, which is the reason I call my series A Horse Valley Adventure.

What advice would you give budding writers?

Read as many books as you can and try to write everyday. Your craft should be tended to, not neglected. Think of it as if you are caring for a beloved pet.

If you could put yourself as a character in your book, who would you be?

I think I would say Jack. He likes to read and paint and puts a lot of importance on creativity.

In today’s tech savvy world, most writers use a computer or laptop. Have you ever written parts of your book on paper?

I like to write down my first rough drafts on paper. There’s something about just writing it down the old-fashioned way and getting all your cluttered and jumbled thoughts down. Then I type a second-draft on the computer and it seems to clean it up.

Favorite dessert?

Chocolate. Dark, white, milk chocolate, you name it. I love chocolate like my character Max loves carrots. Of course, his love is healthier.



Win one of ten sets of A Horse Valley Adventure books! One winner will also get a $30 Amazon gift card.

Open internationally.

Ends April 17.

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See what others are saying: Tour Schedule for Donkey's Kite

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook: Cub Friendly Cooking with an Adult by Mike Berenstain

Zonderkidz (February 10, 2015) 96 pages

About the Book:

It’s The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook! Bear lovers everywhere are sure to find favorite recipes for fun food in this new kid-friendly, cookbook—ranging from Bear favorites that use honey and berries to delicious main meals and breakfasts, and even Berenstain favorites like Jan Berenstain’s famous Green Lasagna.

Featuring breakfast, lunch, main meal, and dessert recipes as well as kid-friendly cooking tips such as food and measurement conversions, this is sure to become a go-to cookbook for delicious and fun recipes kids can cook with an adult.
My Thoughts:

When I first started collecting and reading the Berenstain Bears books with my little ones, I quickly learned that I had a love/hate relationship with them. I've loved some, and greatly disliked others. But, it seems the more we read of them, the more of them we like. My boys were super excited when this one arrived in the mail!

This cookbook definitely centers around the Berenstain bear family, as opposed to just smacking them on the cover and putting some recipes on the pages. The recipes are divided into Breakfast, Lunch, Main Dishes, and Desserts/Snacks. In the back, there's a few extras: a sample prayer to say before eating, some "sweet facts about honey", kitchen measurements, and the final page shows the Berenstain bears cooking as a family, along with a Bible verse. Before each recipe section, there's a *mini* story. Each recipe gets a 2-page spread, which includes a picture of at least part of the family, the ingredients and directions, and a full page color picture of the finished product.

I love that most of the included recipes are real cooking! Of course, there's one for peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is perfect for my littlest one to "cook" or when there's no power. Most of them involve a stove or oven or griddle, though. They vary in simplicity, making it perfect for a parent with various aged children. Some of them only have a few ingredients, but some of them have quite a few. As the title says, this is definitely recipes to do WITH an adult(at least for younger children). They're simple, though, and I'm all about simple. To keep some of them so simple, there is things like cans of mushroom soup or cans of biscuits, a scone mix, tator tots, etc, included in the ingredients. I'm perfectly fine with this, but I'll mention it in case that bothers any of you. The recipes DO tend to request whole wheat breads, and includes lots of fruits and veggies and herbs, though.

This is a precious cookbook to share with little ones. My kitchen is short and narrow, and just tiny, overall. I'm pretty stingy with it, unfortunately. As important as I believe cooking with children is, I still need encouragement to do so, and this book has done just that.

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

The Berenstain Bears' Country Cookbook: Cub-Friendly Cooking with an Adult (Berenstain Bears/Living Lights)


The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein

Random House Books for Young Readers (March 24, 2015) 256 pages


What if your favorite characters came to life? Billy’s spending the summer in a lakeside cabin that belongs to the mysterious Dr. Libris. But something strange is going on. Besides the security cameras everywhere, there’s Dr. Libris’s private bookcase. Whenever Billy opens the books inside, he can hear sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. The clash of swords. The twang of arrows. Sometimes he can even feel the ground shaking. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life! But that’s impossible . . . isn’t it?

My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

This book has a zany kookiness about it, which I like to refer to as "wonderfully weird", that reminds me a bit of Roald Dahl. There are lots of goofy lines and situations that made me snicker, and even laugh out loud. This book is a salute to the many worlds that can be visited and created through imagination. There's also a strong pull to read great classic books out there, especially one of the many mentioned within this story. With that combination, how can one go wrong with this book?!

On top of all that, there's a bit of mystery added in, as far as who Dr. Libris is and what exactly he's trying to accomplish, even if I was hoping for more concerning him. There's new friendships made, and favorite characters from classics reinvented. Even better, there's a bit of diversity added in. (Walter and his sister are African American. This is only mentioned briefly through descriptions, but I appreciated the diversity, either way.)

There's a side story that I know some parents won't care for. I appreciated the way it was done, though. Billy's parents are separated. He's determined to get them back together. The ending of this particular part is left open, so each reader can decide how happy to make their future, or make it to match their own family situation. Really, each reader can decide how much of the story, as a whole, is "real".

I had fun reading this book, and I won't hesitate to hand it over to my children down the road. I highly recommended it, as long as you don't mind a bit of silly corniness.

*I was provided an ARC, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Purchase Link:

The Island of Dr. Libris

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Cleaning Giveaway Hop

It's time for Spring cleaning, y'all! I decided to pass on these books to one of you:


Whisper Goodbye: Till We Meet Again by Myra Johnson (ARC)

For Love or Loyalty: The MacGregor Legacy by Jennifer Hudson Taylor (ARC)

A Company of Swans by Eva Ibbotson

Bees in the Butterfly Garden (The Gilded Legacy) by Maureen Lang

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund

The Heiress of Winterwood (Whispers On The Moors) by Sarah E. Ladd


The Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


-US only.
-Must be 13 or older.


Make sure you stop by and enter all the other giveaways!


Easter Stories and Prayers by Kathleen Long Bostrum, with Illustrations by Elena Kucharick

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 1, 2015) 144 pages

My Thoughts:

I ADORE this book! BUT, I've changed several words when I read the stories, so that they fit better with our family.

Easter Stories and Prayers is a 4 in 1 book. Inside, you'll find:

Why is There a Cross?
Who is Jesus?
What is Prayer?
What About Heaven?

Each of the stories(rhyming poems, really) read like children asking questions in the first part, and then a "let's see what the Bible says" response in the last part. There are Bible verses listed at the top of each page to show the reader where the answer came from.

Why did I choose to change several words?

You may or may not know that my family doesn't celebrate Easter(or Christmas) as religious holidays. We take the Lord's Supper every first day of the week, and we remember Christ's Death and Resurrection at that time(and try to remember every day!). I'm simply not comfortable celebrating Easter and Christmas the way most choose to. (I don't judge others for doing so, though!) Therefore, I changed the words "Easter" to "Resurrection" and "Good Friday" to "a Friday". Some of you may be wondering why I would choose a book with "Easter" in the title, despite my beliefs. My little ones are constantly asking questions, and I don't always know how to answer them. This book looked like a perfect way to help me out with some of those questions. And, it is! I have no regrets testing it out with them.

Also, especially within "Who is Jesus?", the poem is written as if Jesus is talking. I'm typically uncomfortable with words being put into Jesus/God's mouth. This is mostly why I'm uncomfortable with Christian allegories. Now this is completely hypocritical of me, because one of my most favorite poems does *just that*! I'm pretty sure I've posted it on my blog before, and I love to share it with others. I'm grateful for God's grace and mercy that it seems I held this poem more special than His word at one point in my life. I tell you this, so you know I'm not judging, nor do I hold my opinion and my conscious above all others. I just want to explain for those of you who know my beliefs and then see this book, and wonder. (For me, there's always the great struggle with explaining myself, and just keeping my opinions to myself...which is hard when reviewing books!) ;)

So, during those times that Jesus is supposed to be talking within the poems, I just change the words I/Me to He/Him. I'm more comfortable with it that way, and I LOVE the message of all the books, so changing a few words to make it work for my family is okay with me. Within that particular poem, it opens a little one's mind to the fact that Jesus was like them as a child. He probably had a favorite food, and he laughed and cried, just like any other child.

This whole book is super precious, and the illustrations just add more sweetness to the pages. It can work with/for various Christian beliefs. Therefore, I can highly recommend it if you're like me and struggle through some of the sweet and innocent questions that come from curious little minds. I'm now curious to see some of the other "Little Blessings" books!

*I was provided a review copy, in exchange for my honest opinion.


Purchase Link:

Easter Stories and Prayers (Little Blessings)


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Illusions of Fate by Kiersten White

HarperTeen (September 9, 2014) 288 pages


Jessamin has been an outcast since she moved from her island home of Melei to the dreary country of Albion. Everything changes when she meets the gorgeous, enigmatic Finn, who introduces her to the secret world of Albion's nobility, a world that has everything Jessamin doesn't—power, money, status . . . and magic. But Finn has secrets of his own, and the vicious Lord Downpike will do anything to possess them. Unless Jessamin, armed only with her wits, can stop him.


My Rating: 4/5 stars

My Thoughts:

I've heard awesome things about White's writing, so I've been wanting to give more of her books a try. Not too long ago, I read Mind Games. The writing style drove me insane, and rattled my nerves, even though I enjoyed the story. After reading this book, which didn't have the same nerve rattling writing, I realized what an awesome job White did for the personality of the main character in Mind Games.

This book was pure fun, though, and it also robbed me of sleep. There's little mysteries entwined in the story, and I couldn't wait to see how everything came together. There were some parts that I thought would be more mystery than there actually was, especially concerning a certain little bird. I couldn't help but be left disappointed with that whole situation. There were people that I knew had some sort of connection, but I couldn't figure out how.

Although I liked Jessamin, she was one of the most stubborn characters I've read about! I was shaking my head at some of her decisions. Her background, and the treatment of women that she's used to, made her stubbornness more bearable, though. Eleanor was the highlight of the story, though(aside from Sir Bird). She was fun and surprising.

The ending happens kind of quickly, and I would have liked it stretched out a bit more, but loose strings were tied decently. As far as I know, this is a standalone. As much as I appreciate standalones, the more I think about it, the more I hope we get another book with these characters. It's also a quick read, at less than 300 pages, so every little thing isn't explained. I really liked the story, though, so I'll attempt not to let that bother me. I would have liked more details, though.

Really, this is a whimsical kind of read, with dark parts, but mostly sweet and fun. There are snicker worthy moments throughout. It's perfect for a quick read for those that want a little romance, but not overkill. ;) (which is me more and more, the older I get) I'm now excited to read more by White!


Clean! There's no profanity or sex, just mild kissing. There is some violence.

*Thanks to my local library for lending me an e-copy!


Purchase Link:

Illusions of Fate