Author Archives: Kam Brook

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The Fall Gauntlet: BEAR by J. A. Merkel (Book Review)

Benji and Soren will do anything to save their family, but the Crown isn’t going to make it easy . . .

Ten years after his mother was thrown into her off-world prison, Benji finally has a chance to save her. All he has to do is win the Fall Gauntlet, a fight-to-the-death tournament on the planet of Calypso, designed to please the gods and goddesses and keep them at bay. Benji’s success will usher in a new era of science and innovation, and he’s come too far to lose now.

But the Crown is three steps ahead. They’ve orchestrated every move, pushing Benji to the victory that will serve their own agenda. Winning the deathmatch will grant his wish to save his mother, but the Crown has other plans and won’t let go of Benji so easily.

As Benji learns the truth about the Crown‚Äôs desires, he is forced to make impossible choices, especially when he learns that his final opponent‚ÄĒthe hulking young man behind the bear mask‚ÄĒis his brother, Soren.

J.A. Merkel’s Bear is part of The Fall Gauntlet, a collection of short stories about Benji and Soren’s adventures on the planet of Calypso.


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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

Ten years ago, the Crown imprisoned Soren and Benji’s mother for treason. Seven years ago, the Crown jailed their father and separated the two brothers. Now, the Crown is forcing Soren and Benji to fight in the Fall Gauntlet tournament, where only one will win, or so that was the Crown’s plan.¬†

Thanks to D, a guard, Benji was notified his opponent was none other than his brother, Soren the Bear. Benji could never take his brother’s life and had to devise a way to unveil his identity to Soren. Representing the lynx, Benji was a genius when it came to technology. Through his apprenticeship with Master Gherus, he furthered his understanding of the principles of physics and helped develop weaponry and tech for the Crown. He used his knowledge to find a way to break the technologically advanced mask he wore in battle and turn the tables on the Crown.¬†

For sci-fi or tech fans, you’ll love the author’s attention to detail when they describe what the arena sees when looking at the opponents: “two masked humans representing both a bear and a lynx, human-shaped with the ability to walk upright, but phospho-imaged to imitate those beasts, our masks morphing and sprouting hair, and our gauntlets growing retractable claws and fur.” The platform is impressive, as intimidating as the opponent standing before you: one hundred feet off the ground with spikes jutting into the air like giant shark teeth as deadly as a Megalodon’s. Fans of this genre will also love the fighter’s two prime weapons. Lynx carried a 6-foot-long gem staff while the Bear wielded a massive spiked club that could slaughter a whale.¬†

The Fall Gauntlet: BEAR¬†is a non-stop thrill ride featuring exhilarating fight scenes and futuristic tech. It’s a novella I know gamers will want to see made into a game so they can play it for hours and hours. Brother versus brother. It’s a story that would captivate teens and adults on the big screen!

With the humorous final line of dialogue and cliffhanger ending, you’ll be ready to tackle the next book in the series (The Fall Gauntlet: Rat).¬†

J. A. Merkel is a master of imagery and a terrific storyteller. I recommend giving this new series a chance! 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

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Meet the Author

J. A. Merkel writes speculative and science fiction filled with anti-heroes and tragic reversals. For Merkel, writing isn’t a chore. It’s a fantastical kingdom with thousands of doors where readers can stumble into their own special adventures, laughing, shouting, and journeying to find home.

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Three Little Pigs and The Good Wolf by Avery Smart (Book Review)

In this charming retelling of the classic tale,¬†“The Three Little Pigs and The Good Wolf”¬†the author weaves a delightful narrative filled with whimsy, humor, and unexpected twists. The three little pigs, each with their distinct personalities, set out to build their homes, unaware of the lurking danger posed by the big ‘bad’ wolf.

As the story unfolds, readers are treated to a heartwarming journey of friendship, resilience, and the realization that sometimes, appearances can be deceiving. The author infuses the narrative with valuable life lessons, emphasizing the importance of not judging others based on preconceived notions. The unexpected alliance between the pigs and the wolf adds a unique and refreshing twist to the familiar fable, making this book a captivating read.

The storytelling is complemented by vibrant illustrations that bring the characters and their world to life. The author’s vivid descriptions and engaging dialogue capture the imagination,¬†making it an ideal bedtime or classroom read. Beyond the surface-level narrative, the book encourages readers to reflect on themes of¬†empathy, kindness, and the potential for unlikely friendships. It’s a must-read for those seeking a fresh perspective on a beloved classic.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

Most of us know the classic children’s story¬†The Three Little Pigs.¬†In it, the wolf intentionally blows down the piglets’ homes made of straw and sticks and attempts to knock down the brick house as well. The famous wolf is labeled a villain for good reason. Readers will be introduced to a more thoughtful animal in¬†Three Little Pigs and The Good Wolf. Children will discover this wolf is a sweet, caring canine, not a scary beast.¬†

This story contains some elements that the original fable possessed. Three pigs do go off to build their homes from the same materials found in the famed edition. A wolf goes to each home and asks to come inside. However, this wolf didn’t huff, puff, and knock down their homes with sinister intentions. He did not want to make them his late-night snack. Yes, he accidentally dismantled the straw and stick home. He tried to extinguish a fire, not cause the straw structure to fall. The stick home tumbled down, too, but again, the wolf didn’t have food on the brain. No, he had an important story and item to share!¬†

The three little pigs judged the wolf by his outward appearance. They reacted based on old fairytales and didn’t think twice about giving the wolf the benefit of the doubt. They were filled with shame once they realized the error in their ways. This was not an angry, hungry beast wanting to satisfy his hunger; it was just a friendly animal trying to do the right thing. The wolf found something that didn’t belong to him and wanted to return it to its rightful owner: the three pigs’ grandma.¬†

This story teaches valuable lessons. One, don’t judge a book by its cover. Second, friends come in all sizes, colors, and forms. Lastly, don’t be quick to dismiss someone. Listen and be kind.¬†

The artwork was out of this world! I can’t rave enough about it. The artist did a masterful job updating the piggies’ look from the famed story we’ve grown accustomed to. I loved how expressive their faces became, especially when the wolf came knockin’, or the oinkers went a runnin’. The artist didn’t stop with the three little pigs; they painted many emotions on the wolf’s face, showing a softer and friendlier side of the famous, menacing, canine breed. While I loved the illustrator’s skill, the text sometimes became muddled. On occasion, the background overpowered the text in the foreground. Despite that, I highly recommend sharing this story with your family or class!¬†¬†

Amazon’s recommended reading age is baby-5 years. I would change that scale to 2-6 year olds.¬†

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

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Meet the Author

Avery Smart, a vibrant author who resides in the heart of the lively family chaos with her three energetic kids. Nestled in the midst of parenting, she channels her passion for nurturing well-mannered children into delightful tales.

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Say Please, Ellie: Learning How To Say The Magic Word (Ellie The Chick Book 2) by Avery Smart (Book Review)

Ellie is a little chick who wants to do many things at once.

She often struggles with expressing her many wants politely. Can you lend a hand with her manners?

In this edition of Ellie the Little Chick series, the story walks us into essential moral lesson for young children who may struggle with courtesy. The emphasis is clear: always remember to say “please” before asking for something.

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(review request submitted by the author for an honest critique) 

 

How could anyone resist reading Say Please, Ellie after viewing the cover!? Ellie is super cute with her little round body, big, bright blue eyes, and beak that appears to be smiling. The artist did a phenomenal job illustrating the chick in different situations and poses. I loved them all, but as a mother with a child who loves playing dress-up, my favorite was the chick dressed as a mini version of her mommy. What a fashionista! 

Cute illustrations aside, this book is on an important mission: to teach or remind children to say “please.” When a child speaks a few words, it’s important to introduce basic politeness terms into their vocabulary: please and thank you. As children grow, they should understand to add¬†kind words¬†to sentences. If we instill kindness and politeness at a young age, kids will grow up as kinder adults and then pass on the values/manners learned to their own children. Plus, asking instead of demanding makes a person sound nice, not rude.

 

Join Ellie as she scratches items off her to-do list:

  • Build a blanket fort
  • Make paper airplanes
  • Have a tea party
  • Go on a bug hunt.
  • Play dress-up.

Be sure to make your fun list, and don’t forget to say “please” and “thank you” as you carry out each activity!¬†

I recommend sharing  Say Please, Ellie with children six years and under. 

 

Words to ponder…

“Politeness and consideration for others is like investing pennies and getting dollars back.” ‚Ā†‚ÄĒThomas Sowell.

“Good manners are just a way of showing other people that we have respect for them.” ‚Ā†‚ÄĒBill Kelly.

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

Amazon Purchase Link

 

 

Meet the Author

Avery Smart, a vibrant author who resides in the heart of the lively family chaos with her three energetic kids. Nestled in the midst of parenting, she channels her passion for nurturing well-mannered children into delightful tales.

It is within this dynamic environment that she draws inspiration, transforming her deep-seated passion for fostering well-mannered children into captivating tales.

Avery’s writing becomes a heartfelt expression of her commitment to instilling values in the younger generation. Her three lively kids not only serve as a source of inspiration but also as eager test subjects for the lessons embedded in her stories.

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Kris & The Pirates: The Adventures of Kris by Art Blegen (Book Review)

It was supposed to be a fun day at the beach.

In the middle of the ocean, Kris finds an island with beautiful, sandy beaches. The ideal place to go swimming! Once she can teach the biggest, strongest sailor not to be afraid of the water, that is.
The perfect day is interrupted when a bunch of pirates appear out of the jungle. They capture the crew and chase Kris through the jungle. Now the pirates are trying to steal the ship and leave Kris and the crew stranded on the island.

Can Kris escape the Pirates?
Can she rescue the crew?
Can they steal their own ship back and get home?

Kris & The Pirates is the next installment of The Adventures of Kris, where imagination and friendship can overcome any obstacle.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

Have you been so engrossed in a book that you felt like living it? Could you picture the characters and the locations or even hear a foreign accent as dialogue is exchanged? Kris, the heroine, gave new meaning to being immersed in a good book! In the real world, she was a typical kid, complaining about not wanting to do something a parent, her dad, asked her to do. In this case, that would be attending a costume party in March. She understood dressing up for Halloween, but a costume party in March was stupid, according to her. Kris would rather get lost in a good book. Me too! 

When Kris cracked open her current read, she found herself smack dab in the thick of things. She felt the breeze on her face, watched in amazement as dolphins played, and moved around the ship as easily as she did her bedroom in the real world. Kris’s biggest problem was the captain’s annoying son, James. That soon quickly changed when they went ashore, and they were given an unfriendly welcome by several stranded pirates who were ready to leave.

As Kris searched for food, her path crossed with several¬†talking¬†animals. Stevie, the sloth, spoke as slowly as he moved. Sam, the snake, stretched out every “s” and gave kisses. Kris met Michael, king of monkeys, who was always in the mood to play a game. Other animals were present on the island‚ÄĒsome who aided Kris and one particular animal that was just plain mean, like those awful pirates.¬†

Kris and The Pirates was two stories in one. In the pirate world, Kris seeks help from the multiple talking jungle animals she met while searching for food and a hiding spot! The real world was not as exciting as the island, but one encounter did cause her to scream in fright. How and why will only be unveiled if you read the book, and I highly recommend you read the book!

After I finished the story, I wondered if Kris’s time as a sailor was real or if it was just a person’s imagination gone wild. Whatever the answer is, I (again) recommend you read the book. Why? Because it’s that good!¬†It has action, suspense, humor, and (let’s not forget) talking animals!¬†

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

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Meet the Author

Art Blegen is the author of imaginative chapter books for readers from 6 to 10 years old. He is an advocate for children to ensure they have a balance of positive examples in their lives. Wholesome stories and a healthy imagination can lay the foundation they will use for the rest of their lives.

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Influenced Innocence: A Fictional Novella for Gambling Addictions in Young Adults by Jacob Martin (Book Review)

Sports gambling has flourished in the shadows of American society for decades. For some, it becomes a life altering addiction. Influenced Innocence is a fictional story that emphasizes how casual betting can turn into an uncontrollable urge.

The novella focuses on a group of middle school students forming a recess football league. The league is designed for students to have fun, healthy competition. With the introduction of ‚ÄúNether Bucks‚ÄĚ, a currency students can earn from getting good grades, the league inevitably becomes corrupt as students use the currency to bet on games.

Eventually Justin, the protagonist, recognizes the negative impact the gambling has on his group of friends. After witnessing suspicious incidents, he also begins to believe that those in charge of the league may be fixing the games in their favor.

Throughout the story, there are multiple topics discussed such as real scandals that happened in the professional sports world, sports psychology for athletes, the rapid development of a gambling addiction, how the addiction affects relationships between friends and family, and how a child’s upbringing influences their behaviors.

The story also emphasizes how the American sports industry and its relation with gambling companies and media outlets collectively prey on the individuals seeking to make money through sports gambling.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book from Reedsy Discovery. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.

 

As I read the young adult chapter book, I was left speechless several times. It was disturbing how quickly a casual pickup game at recess could turn so dark. Relationships became strained, some ending altogether. Players intentionally injured opposing teams. And why? Greed. 

As a new year started at Netherfield Middle School, Principal Oli addressed the students about a learning incentive. For every B on a test, a student would receive Nether Bucks. The higher the grade, the more bucks a student would earn. Students could cash in the fake bucks for items in the gift shop located in the school’s library. Jewelry. BMX bikes. Game consoles. There were numerous prizes up for grabs, and kids who would lie, cheat, and hurt others to fatten their wallets to purchase an item.¬†

No matter which of the four teams was facing off, the writer made you feel like you were watching the game on the sidelines and listening to hurtful taunts from the crowd. Not surprisingly, the hate-filled words took place on social media, too. What made this book a page-turner was the real-life elements. Adult sports spectators do lose control of their emotions and scream at players and coaches, and sometimes let their fists do their talking. Kids see this volatile behavior as normal and begin mimicking it, just like in this story. 

I was stunned by how many kids developed a gambling problem and how they craved violence and asked for it. The fate of one particular student stocked me. I was surprised by the depths students would go to win a football game. I couldn’t fathom how the faculty, especially the principal, failed to see what occurred at recess. With all the STARTLING scenes comes a lesson learned. Maybe reading how gambling can ruin a life and how unsportsmanlike behavior can lead to devastating results will teach readers NOT to take sports so seriously and to think twice about gambling.¬†

I recommend sharing this book with your elementary students, followed by a nice chat about the dangers of gambling, bullying, and unsportsmanlike conduct! 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score:¬†‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧‚̧

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