Tag Archives: magic

The Living Christmas Tree by Kristin Sponaugle (Book Review)

THE LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE by Kristin Sponaugle

2021 Family Choice Award Winner

 

During the day, the Miller family’s Christmas tree stands tall in their living room, sparkling with lights and ornaments. Little does the family know that their Christmas tree is anything but ordinary. Each evening, the magic of Christmas brings their tree to life—much to the delight of Hannah and William Miller. Follow along as Hannah and William experience the magic of Christmas in a whole new way.
 
 
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 I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
 
 
Christmas is a magical time of year. The days, and especially the night before it, are filled with excitement for young children. They dream about Santa leaving them toys, gobbling up the cookies, and drinking the milk. Kristin Sponaugle made the holiday even more magical by bringing ornaments to life in The Living Christmas Tree. As you know from the success of the Toy Story franchise, kids love when their favorite items become “real” and interactive. 


Every child, young in body or heart, will adore the beautiful ornaments illustrated by Agus Prajogo. We loved every single one! They were cute, fun to watch at play, and brought a smile to our faces. 


My youngest doesn’t believe in Santa anymore, but we agreed you don’t have to believe in Christmas magic to enjoy The Living Christmas Tree


Imagination has no age limit. We sat and discussed what ornaments on our tree we’d like to see come to life. Since my youngest wants superhero ornaments on the tree this year, she picked those to become active at night. 🙂


Great story. 


Beautiful illustrations. 


A marvelous addition to any home, school, or library. 

 
 
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

 
 
 
 
 
 
Meet the Author:
Author Kristin Sponaugle

 
Kristin Sponaugle was born in Butler, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Duquesne University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in health sciences and her master’s degree in physician assistant studies. Kristin had always dreamed of becoming an author, and made that dream a reality with her two published children’s books, The Princess Puppy and The Living Christmas Tree. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, cross-stitching, and playing with her Maltese dog, Rosie. Kristin lives with her husband, daughter, and Rosie, and resides wherever the Air Force sends them.
 
 
Connect with the Author: website ~ facebook instagram
 
 

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War of the Staffs by Steve Stephenson and K.M. Tedrick (Book Review)

The goddess Adois brings a powerful vampire warlock named Taza through the void to turn Muiria into a planet of evil using her powerful staff. Needing an army, he turns a race of dark elves into vampires, but Prince Tarquin is born to fulfill a prophecy to stop Taza.

The prince cannot do it alone. The Wizard Celedant sends him to the Borderers, an elite group of dwarves to learn how to fight, while the wizard begins his search for the Staff of Adaman, the only thing capable of thwarting Taza and Adois’ Staff.

War of the Staffs is the search for two pieces of the ancient Staff of Adaman to counter Adois’ plans. The darkness is rising and using the black power of the Staff of Adois and his army of dark elves, giants, and orcs, Taza will begin a reign of terror the planet will not soon forget.

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

 

There were quite a few elements in War of the Staffs that reminded me of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. However, War of Staffs differed from the popular series (mentioned in the opening sentence) by incorporating vampires and unique magic abilities. Taza (warlock and vamp) used his specially acquired magical skills to infiltrate his enemies and summon beasts of all sizes. The creatures he controlled led us into some pretty epic battle scenes. You’ll witness clashes between dwarves and orcs, wizard versus wizard, powerful beasts descending from above, and those awaiting the heroes in dark caves. There were numerous entanglements, so you won’t have to wait long for action scenes! 

With the number of characters featured in War of the Staffs, this book could have its own trading card set. People would probably love to roleplay the book. However, I would suggest a Glossary of Characters and Terms. 

Heads up: War of the Staffs is book one in a series. 

 

Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤1/2

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KM Tedrick is a writer and ghostwriter in the fantasy, science fiction, adventure, Christian, and young adult genres with one book that was made into a movie, and over sixteen books published.
 
 
Author Steve Stephenson an admitted bibliophile collects rare fantasy and science fiction media. He obtained a B.A. in history and an M.A. in Library Science. He has written four books including the War of the Staffs trilogy.
 
 
You can connect with Steve Stephenson through his Facebook Link or at Linkedin
 

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Ponce: What Actually Happened at the Fountain of Youth by Jim Halverson (Book Review)

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Two Florida State geology students found the pages written by Ponce de Leon’s chronicler in a dry limestone cave in the northwest panhandle. The original Spanish papers, five hundred years old, were found in relatively good shape, protected from time and moisture in a heavy triple-walled leather case. They chronicle Ponce de Leon’s second expedition to Florida in search of the fountain of youth.
 
 
 
 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours.  I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
 
 
In history, it is pretty well-known explorers took land from the Natives. Power was the name of the game. Explorers wanted wealth and notoriety, while Kings aimed to increase their wealth, power, and control of lands. 


Speaking of explorers, readers will recognize the ones mentioned in the story. Most children study them in middle school; my daughter did, so she knew who Ponce de Leon was and about the Fountain of Youth. 


Through lessons, we know that when explorers traveled to new lands, they brought with them diseases. Ponce: What Actually Happened at the Fountain of Youth by Jim Halverson did note this and how the Natives got revenge on foreigners by giving them an STD, which they brought back to their homelands. (If you haven’t spoken to your child about STDs yet, then this might be a good time to explain it.)

There were no graphic scenes or questionable topics (besides the STD passages), so middle school children could read this on their own. At less than 160 pages, it shouldn’t take them too long to read it. If your family homeschools, maybe have your child write a review on the story or complete a book report. I’m sure they’ll have plenty to talk about: snake bites, runaway rooster, greed-filled men, “magic water,” and much more. 


While Ponce: What Actually Happened at the Fountain of Youth did lag for me a bit, I did find it amusing how the white men underestimated the Natives, and how Ponce was on the constant verge of having an absolute hissy fit. 


The ending was superb too! 

 
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

 
 
 
 
Meet the Author:

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​Jim Halverson grew up in the rural, gold-mining town of Mokelumne Hill, CA and received his MBA from Golden Gate University. He spent part of his life on a ranch and is an avid student of psychology. He recognizes the struggles of all men and women seeking equality and respect. Jim and his wife, Gail, spend their time traveling from their small farm in Forestville, CA.

 
connect with the author: 
 
 
 

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Peel Back and See by Mike Thorn (Book Review)

In spaces both familiar and strange, unknowable horrors lurk.

From the recesses of the Internet, where cosmic terror shows its face on an endless live feed, to a museum celebrating the sordid legacy of an occultist painter, this chilling collection of sixteen short stories will plunge you into the eerie, pessimistic imagination of Mike Thorn. Peel Back and See urges its readers to look closer, to push past surface-level appearances and face the things that stir below.

 

Amazon Purchase Link
Journalstone.com

 

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

 

Peel Back and See is a collection of sixteen (16) short stories that are heavy on unforgettable encounters with hungry creatures, blood and gore, fear, Satan, and (weirdly enough) sexual arousal. 

Some stories stuck with me more than others. Below are my top five (5). 

1.) Mr. Mucata’s Final Requests: Everyone knows you don’t try to double-cross Satan. I mean, come on, don’t even try. Deals with him are also a bad idea. Seriously, the worst possible choice a person can make. If you believe in the devil, demons, and hell, say NO to anything offered. Period!

2.) @GorgoYama2013: We’re raised to know you NEVER go into a stranger’s car. Horror movies have ingrained in us to NEVER go into a strange basement, especially alone. Victor broke all the rules. What he met could best be described as a horrific version of Krang (the brain) from TMNT. If you don’t know who I am talking about, look him up! 

3.) Vomitus Bacchanalius: Okay, people are vomiting. Aliens are eating the regurgitated food. There are goo-faced men. Ugh, this story was gross, BUT good! I loved the nod to Gordon Ramsay too. 🙂

4.) The Furnace Room Mutant: This story stood out more because you’d think an unnatural being would be the monster in the story. I like it when authors step out from the paranormal norm. 🙂

5.) Havoc: This was the first story in the collection, and it made me close my laptop and take one giant step back from it. Read the story, and you’ll understand why. There was only one part I wasn’t too keen on — a flashback scene between student and teacher. I don’t want to divulge too much, but it made my score drop from a five to a four. (for this story only, not the overall score of the anthology)

 

 In Peel Back and See, thirteen of the sixteen stories scored three and above. That’s impressive! I encourage others to read the collection and see which story has you cowering under the covers. 


Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: ❤❤

Amazon Purchase Link
Journalstone.com

 

 

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Mike Thorn is the author of the short story collection Darkest Hours. His fiction has appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies and podcasts, including Vastarien, Dark Moon Digest, The NoSleep Podcast, Tales to Terrify, and Prairie Gothic. His film criticism has been published in MUBI Notebook, The Film Stage, and Vague Visages. He completed his M.A. with a major in English literature at the University of Calgary, where he wrote a thesis on epistemophobia in John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness.

Connect with him on Twitter (@MikeThornWrites) or visit his website for more information: mikethornwrites.com.

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Bobos Babes Adventures: A Magical Halloween by Karen Bobos (Book Review / Guest Post)

BOBOS BABES ADVENTURES: A MAGICAL HALLOWEED by Karen Bobos

 
It’s Halloween time in the land of Harmony, and the Bobos Babes are ready for some fun!

When Angel Scarlett, Fairy Cora, and Princess Daphne visit Lily the Ladybug’s Boutique to look for Halloween costumes, they find Lily has left aside three special masks for them. The ladybug informs the sisters that they must wait until noon on Halloween to try on the mysterious masks but assures them they will have the best costumes in all of the land of Harmony.
The sisters can hardly wait, counting down the minutes on Halloween until they can don their curious masks. When the time comes, they learn their secret masks are enchanted, and the girls are magically transformed into the costumes of their dreams.

 
​After a fun outing Trick-or-Treating, the little monster, witch, and ghost — or sisters — agree that this was the best Halloween of all.
 
 
Buy the Book
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Bobos Babes
 
 
 
 
I received a complimentary copy of this book from iRead Book Tours. I voluntarily chose to read and post an honest review.
 
 
Children love Halloween. They adore selecting a costume, the excitement of getting candy, the decorations, and watching their loot grow with each knock on a door. 


While most kids can’t wait to dig into their stash, first, they must select what to wear on the spookiest night of the year. If your child is like mine, they start planning months in advance and change their mind about a thousand times. 


However, when the big night comes, they wake up and immediately dress up. Halloween allows their imagination to flourish, and it’s a magical day and night. 


Bobos Babes Adventures: A Magical Halloween by Karen Bobos made Halloween an even more magical event by allowing the sisters to transform into whatever mask they chose for the evening. 


Imagine if a kid put on a Hulk mask and then became the Hulk. I can already see my daughter transforming into a little Loki. 😀


If you’re like me and love reading holiday stories with your child, then I highly recommend picking up Bobos Babes Adventures: A Magical Halloween. The story is cute, and so are the illustrations. We especially liked the blue monster covered in pink dimples. 
 

Great job, Karen M. Bobos (author) and Jazinel Libranda (illustrator)!

Happy Halloween! 
 
Heart Rating System:
1 (lowest) and 5 (highest) 
Score: 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Meet the Author:
AUTHOR KAREN BOBOS

 
Bobos began writing poetry and stories at the early age of ten. She is a life-long Chicagoan who now raises her family in the downtown area. During the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, Chicago also became a city of unrest. Trying to keep her three young daughters in a world of magic during such scary times, the Bobos Babes Adventures were born. Her goal was to create a world of Harmony for her family and hopefully for others to escape, even if only for a moment. The first book of the series, The Case of the Giggles, was published in December 2020. The Missing Egg launched in March 2021. The The Lion’s Secret was published in June 2021, a tribute to her mother and late father’s incredible love story.  The Lovey that Came to Life and The Bobcat Birthday party will be releasing in the upcoming months.​
 
 
 
 
Creating a Harmonious World During a Life of Chaos
 
 
My family lives downtown Chicago. You can literally see the John Hancock out of our dining room window. During the beginning of the pandemic, we spent months in our condo without a balcony. I was definitely feeling cabin fever once we hit week three of not leaving the house.
 
 fIn May 2020, Chicago became a city of unrest. With the protests and riots directly out our front door, my husband and I packed up the family and escaped to my mother’s home in Northwest Indiana. We had one goal in mind: keep our daughters in a magical, beautiful world when the real world was in a state of chaos.
 
Once we arrived at my mother’s home, I worked night and day to clean her unfinished basement. Then I covered her walls with white rolling paper and put pink plush throw rugs on the floor. Living in a condo, we don’t have a basement or separate play area, so I wanted this to be incredibly special for them. I bought my daughters a pretend store, a little play coffee shop, and a cute kid’s pop-up ice cream shop. I designed signs that said Daphne’s Dynamite Deals, Scarlett’s Sweets, and Cora’s Coffee Shop. I put a Disney Barbie house in the corner and bought princess wall applications to stick to my white paper walls. I made a little lounge area and put tons of books for them relax and read. In the center, there was a little pink and white table. In the back of the basement, I created a little art studio for the girls to be as creative as they liked. At the entrance of it all, I put a sign that said “Bobos Babes’ World,” and we surprised the girls with this fun world to play in when the rest of the word was at a standstill.
 
My wellness company was barely operating. While I probably secretly cried most nights living in fear of the unknown, this was my outlet. Not only was this a project of making “Bobos Babes World” for the girls, but it a huge distraction for me as I wondered what was to come of our life and my career.
 
About a month later, I wrote “The Case of the Giggles” as a night time story to entertain my girls. They were the main characters with magical powers. My dad, who passed in 2016 was a main character and so was my mother. I made our Bernese Mountain dog, Luke, who is abnormally large for the breed, even bigger in my story. The girls rode him all over their magical land. The magical land was called Harmony because I desperately needed to have this land be somewhere where everyone co-existed and got along. We craved a land filled with love especially with what was going on in the world. Scarlett suggested that I write a new story every Friday. Her deadline was just the motivation that I needed to get my Bobos Babes Adventures on their way.
 
So that’s how the Bobos Babes Adventures started. But the best part is, if you ask my daughters about the pandemic and all the chaos that happened in 2020, they just remember our entire family at Gigi’s house, playing in her backyard, running through sprinklers, playing in this magical world their mom created for them in the basement and getting a new story every night starring them. Mission accomplished.
 
 
connect with the author: website ~ facebook ~ instagram ~ goodreads
 

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