Genre: Middle Grade

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven” (Dawnhaven: Book One) by Owen Crane

Posted Saturday, 23 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 0 Comments

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: Right before #WyrdAndWonder, I received a review request directly from the author Owen Crane. It was good timing as I was starting to assemble my chat schedule of guest authors for @SatBookChat for May as I knew I wanted to highlight Indie Fantasy authors during the chat whilst Wyrd And Wonder was underway. As a bit of a meet-greet for participants and authors as well as for my regular chatters to gain some exposure and introduction to what Fantasy can provide as a reader and/or learn about the craft from a writer’s perspective. Thereby, I offered to host Mr Crane during #SatBookChat whilst accepting his novel for review.

I received a complimentary copy of “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven” direct from the author Owen Crane in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Reading and Chatting about Dawnhaven during #WyrdAndWonder:

I truly enjoyed being able to chat about this series, the debut of the author’s and to highlight another introductory conversation about Fantasy during #SatBookChat! It allowed me to present Fantasy in an approachable manner to my regular chatters who might not read as much Fantasy as I do but feel inclined to discuss it in case it might become a new niche of joy for them to chase after as well. It also gave the participants of Wyrd And Wonder a chance to ask an author direct questions about his writerly style of approaching Fantasy, why he personally loves the genre of Fantasy and what his plans were for the series which first begins with “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven”!

During the chat we were able to root out there are five books planned for this series which follows the five year Journey Ariella is undertaking with the Guardians. I felt this made the most sense when Crane disclosed it because it would allow for the most growth out of Ariella as well as the secondary cast of characters to have their chance to shine throughout the saga, too. I love long series in genres – it allows you to gain further knowledge about the world itself, the characters who live there and in a way, you get to stay longer in worlds you don’t wish to exit if it had only been a one-off story.

As we were chatting, we also discovered how much I appreciate reading Fantasy where the Light is not snuffed out by the Darkness. Nor do I seek out overtly gritty and gruesomely violent stories – (in Fantasy or other genres!) as I like to sink my teeth into stories which have quests for the characters to endure and/or there is something they need to either achieve or overcome but not to the point where the context of their stories are erasing the joy in which I pursue the stories I want to be reading. I was thankful a writer of Middle Grade Fantasy also felt this way because too often I am finding Middle Grade & Young Adult Fantasy are becoming a bit to adult in how they are either too darkly lit or too adult in their themes and story-lines.

There is a wonderment of joy seeking out Fantasy as a younger reader – that suspension of reality and the fantastical where innocent curiosity and joy can be nurtured through a story which doesn’t seek to erase that innocence but to capitalise on a well-told story in this ‘otherworld’ place which feels like ours but is wholly new & exciting to explore. I have oft felt Middle Grade & Young Adult stories should be focused more on encouraging younger readers to read well-rounded stories – where there can be adversity and challenge as well as growing transitions in their lives but not to the brink where it feels oppressively dire. This is one reason why I seek out a lot of coming-of age stories – as those can lend better to the kind of story I am seeking out of Children’s Literature.

Having the chance to discuss this series and to talk about Fantasy with Mr Crane was a true delight of joy for me because I like shining a light on Indie Authors who are curating the kind of stories which give me a wicked good time reading! If I could help encourage other readers to try his series and to give an Indie Fantasy series a chance at being one of their next favourite reads – I’ve happily passed forward the joy of discovering his novel! I am thankful he found my blog and submitted a review request – otherwise none of this would have been possible! 

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “Ariella and the Curse of Dawnhaven” (Dawnhaven: Book One) by Owen CraneAriella and the Curse of Dawnhaven
by Owen Crane
Source: Direct from Author

Ariella Lightharbour is heir to the crown with a nation at her feet but knows she’s meant for more. Forsaking her throne she chooses to become a Guardian. As she embarks on The Journey she must find the courage within herself to battle the deadly Ghost Raiders that murdered her father, discover the identity of the elusive shadow and fight to end the curse that threatens to overwhelm the land.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 979-8607648008

Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Fantasy


Published by Self Published

on 29th March, 2020

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 214

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This is a Self-Published Novel

The Original Title for this story was Ariella and the Blood Curse (2015)

Converse via: #Dawnhaven, #MGLit, #MGFantasy
as well as #MiddleGrade #Fantasy, #IndieAuthor/s, #WyrdAndWonder

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WyrdAndWonder
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Posted Saturday, 23 May, 2020 by jorielov in #Unboxing BookMail, #WyrdAndWonder, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Book Review (non-blog tour), Childhood Friendship, Coming-Of Age, Fantasy Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Life Shift, Light vs Dark, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

#WyrdAndWonder Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow” (Book Two of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Posted Tuesday, 19 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 1 Comment

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in [2015] whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in [2018] before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By [2020] as my health afflictions from 2018/19 started to recede I realised I could start to host for her authors with better confidence in being able to participate on the tours themselves. Thereby it was with the Dream Horse Adventures series I decided to mark my return and was quite thankful this was a series she was celebrating through her touring company.

I received a complimentary copy of “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow (Graphic Novel)” direct from the author Julia Devillers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I felt this would be a good series to showcase during #WyrdAndWonder:

I participated on my first Graphic Novel blog tour during #IndieApril – wherein I was first introduced to the Ultra Squad series. I felt the series had some positives going for it and a few choices within the context of the story which I felt were either irrelevant or missed the mark a bit for me. For instance – it has the marketing of being a diverse universe and thereby a diverse cast leads us into the stories themselves but there isn’t a lot of development within the characters (at least in book one) to where you can see those individualistic qualities and distinctions; each of the girls’ nearly collide into each other visually because their own voice wasn’t as strong as I had hoped they would become.

Also – there was a maze for the reader to solve in the middle of the story – which to me felt out of context with the overall vibe of the story itself. I hadn’t remembered those being inclusive of the previous graphic novels I’ve read in the past and how it was inserted just struck me as being rather odd. However, it did have a few strong points too – about friendship, finding leadership and living outside your comfort zones.

Part of hosting the original blog tour – I was given the option to read the sequel – which is why  I elected to run it during my #WyrdAndWonder showcases. The key reason is because this is a bit of a genre bender – it is part Science Fiction and part Fantasy; wherein I would deem this #SciFantasy as it has a few bits from both genres to give readers something to contemplate as their reading the series. It is also a perfect blend of ‘wyrd and wonder’ if you think about the origins of our event and why we started hosting it. It isn’t quite like what you’re expecting to find and it is in of itself a wholly new way of seeing a story come to life.

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What my takeaways were about the first Ultra Squad story:

There is definite cheeky humour – although also a few words I think had a few liberties taken with their usage – as studenting might have raised a few brows for me as a middle grade reader. The humour itself thought was how Devillers was referencing the danger imagery and how she was anchouring the foreshadowing into the action of the present within the series itself.

Ooh my dear ghouls – when the secretary requests the presence of the four girls’ in her office – this is when Ultra Squad meets Galaxy Quest! In such a stroke of genius really – as similar to what you love about the film transitioning seemingly regular and quite ordinary humans into outer space to counter-act against a reptilian terrorist – you now find yourself at the mercy of ULTRA and what this entails for the girls’ being recruited to aide in their missions!

The segue into meeting the girls’ families was lovely because you had the chance to see their different backgrounds – including how one of the girls’ has a military family. It also showed a bit of back-history of the Ultra Squad as it was implied this was a legacy appointment and not just a random bit of good news in the middle of an ordinary school day where your not expecting much except homework, class-time and a disappointing lunch!

There is a lot of verbiage in the storyline which is slightly more urban slang than contemporary cool – mostly as the context has to be understood before you proceed with reading it. I was never the kind of kid who was clued into contemporary slang or acronyms as they were difficult for me to process as a dyslexic reader and learner. Therefore as an adult dyslexic reader entering into this series – I’d have to say, if I were to give this to a middle grade reader I’d ask them a few questions about shortcuts in contemporary language patterns and if they knew shorthand for certain phrases as the wordplay is altered and is attempting to come across as ‘clued in’ to the language of younger children although for me, I felt it fell a bit short on that end of it. I almost thought the author was trying a bit too hard to pull that off and should have just kept the girls’ speaking in a language pattern which was more reflective of their own personalities than what would be considered the ‘best’ en-vogue collection of terms and phrases.

Where the story grows in empathy is showing how each of the girls’ have their own strengths and weaknesses – which proved to be a learning curve for their ‘sidekicks’ which were really quite the awkward collection of aliens! Their superhero strengths played off their own individual talents on Earth and thereby gave them superhuman qualities in space! I liked how the girls’ acted their actual age and showed how they still needed a bit of guidance to understand new situations and new experiences where they might have felt a bit overwhelmed by the circumstances.

The ending reminded me a heap of what happens in Back to the Future Part II – in fact, that was one of the films I loved watching at the age I would have naturally picked up this to read. There were some moments where I wish we could have understood more about the girls’ themselves – what made them unique and different from one another – I know the story focused on their individual talents and weaknesses, but I wanted a bit more back-story about the girls’ themselves. I would have preferred a lot less slang and shorthand as well – as again, even as an adult dyslexic reader I find half of that distracts from the story as I am constantly trying to sort out what the abbreviations are referencing and referring to whilst if the story just said what it had meant I would have been able to follow the story a bit easier.

Overall, the biggest surprise was really the unmasking of the villain which reminded me why we always looked forward to that reveal during an episode of Scooby Doo. I felt Ultra Squad borrowed a lot from other pop cultural stories and superheroes – wherein, it was struggling to have its own identity from the crowd. There are some good moments between the sidekicks and the girls’ but there was a bit of a downside in having them stay in-scene and not sound ridiculous too. I think this would be good for readers who might be even a bit younger than projected for the story itself as it is definitely geared towards newer readers who are not actively reading every week or month but might occasionally pick up a story.

-quoted from my review of Ultra Squad (Book One)

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#WyrdAndWonder Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad: Adventures under the Strangebow” (Book Two of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael RosadoUltra Squad
Subtitle: Adventures under the Strangebow
by Julia Devillers
Source: Author via Lola's Blog Tours

An evil, strange rainbow! A former nemesis! And four girls who look exactly like the UltraSquad! It’s an epic battle on an alternate universe for the UltraSquad, a secret superhero team, with a mission to save the universe through teamwork, positivity, and justice. Can the girls and their sidekicks, the Pallies, once again save the world and make it a better place through teamwork, positivity, and unstoppable fierce girl power?

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1732703025

Also by this author: Ultra Squad

Also in this series: Ultra Squad


Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Children's Literature, Graphic Novel, Illustrated Stories, Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade, Superhero Fiction


Published by Justice Studios

on 12th November, 2019

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 96

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The Ultra Squad series:

Ultra Squad (Book One) by Julia DevillersUltra Squad Under the Strangebow by Julia Devillers

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Ultra Squad (book one) – (see also Review)

Ultra Squad: Adventures Under the Strangebow(book two)

Ultra Squad: Galaxy Dance Off (book three)
← *forthcoming 1st March, 2021

Ultra Squad: Time After Slime (book four)

Available formats: Trade Paperback

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Converse via: #UltraSquad, #GraphicNovel & #SuperheroFiction
as well as #MiddleGrade, #MGLit and #diverselit or #WeNeedDiverseBooks

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Posted Tuesday, 19 May, 2020 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, Book Review (non-blog tour), Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Lola's Blog Tours, Middle Grade Novel, Science Fiction, Soft Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event

A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “The Monster Apprentice” (Rahana Trilogy: Book One) by Felicity Banks

Posted Saturday, 16 May, 2020 by jorielov , , , , 1 Comment

#WyrdAndWonder Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I first heard from Odyssey Books late last year, however, the timing of accepting their review request for “The Monster Apprentice” wasn’t the best timing for me due to my health and my migraines. As I was setting to mind what I wanted to do for Wyrd And Wonder this year, I decided to reach out to the publisher to see if I could schedule guest author features and perhaps finally accept the chance to read and review “The Monster Apprentice”. This sparked my idea of hosting Felicity Banks during @SatBookChat as 1 of 3 guest Indie Fantasy Authors for #SatBookChat (the bookish chat I host on the weekends featuring strong female characters across genres) and having the chance to read and review her novel. I was thankful I could put together a mixture of guest features (guest posts and interviews) as well as two reviews for this Indie publisher in New Zealand.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Monster Apprentice” direct from the author Felicity Banks and the publisher Odyssey Books in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Prior to finishing my readings of “The Monster Apprentice”

– I hosted the lovely Ms Banks during our first #SatBookChat during #WyrdAndWonder:

I love having the chance to feature Indie Authors on Jorie Loves A Story and during #SatBookChat – as it helps me showcase authors, publishers and stories I personally love seeking out myself who are on the Indie side of book world. I’ve been showcasing the Indies since I first started book blogging as at my heart as a reader is an Indie sensibility as I grew up having such a wonderful Indie bookstore in my city. Not to mention as a book blogger my knowledge of Indie publishers, press and authors is now on a world-wide scale of discovery.

Ever since Year One of #WyrdAndWonder, I’ve wanted to select Indie Authors and/or publishers to highlight, read and showcase as I want to help encourage other readers of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy to take a chance on an Indie novel and/or series. This is also the same mindset behind why I love hosting Indie Authors during #SatBookChat – whose roots were in hosting strictly Romance & Women’s Fiction novelists – however, in early 2020 I started to lay down the bones of change wherein we’re now featuring *all!* genres wherein you can find wicked strong female characters and/or stories which have a Feminist bent to them. We still focus on Romance & Women’s Fiction – however, I’m expanding it as my own readerly inclinations are more encompassing now that we’ve reached our six year of the chat!

What was so dearly delightful about Ms Banks is how she made the chat personable (sharing photos in the timeline of the chat) and how she answered questions directly about the world within the Rahana trilogy. To gain a bit of insight into how this world was constructed be sure to seek out the archive of our #SatBookChat.

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Ahead of discussing this lovely book on both #SatBookChat and on Jorie Loves A Story – I put together a short teaser of a #booktube #vlog #unboxing video which I shared on Twitter. I had a most delightful time answering one of the #WyrdAndWonder challenge prompts which was “The Best Things Come in Threes”.

I had planned to finish reading this novel and release my review last weekend – however, the hours escaped me and I wasn’t able to finish until now. I cannot wait to hear what my fellow #WyrdAndWonder readers will think once they find out about this intriguing world – wherein heroines step through ordinary lives into extraordinary circumstances!

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review | “The Monster Apprentice” (Rahana Trilogy: Book One) by Felicity BanksThe Monster Apprentice
by Felicity Banks
Source: Direct from Publisher

The only weapon Dance has is her name.

When pirates threaten the tiny hidden island of Luar, Dance knows her home has only one hope of survival: the magical monsters that killed her twin sister.

Dance loses her friends one by one as she attempts to prepare her strange apprentices for the showdown between monsters and pirates. Can she do it alone?

The Monster Apprentice is a powerful story of looking at the world differently and finding an answer in an unexpected place.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781925652130

Genres: Children's Literature, Fantasy Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle Grade Fantasy, Mythological Fantasy, Pirate Fiction


Published by Odyssey Books

on 1st May, 2018

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 139

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Published by: Odyssey Books (@OdysseyBooks)

Felicity Banks invented the fantasy world of Rahana while living in Indonesia. She grew up reading stories set in Narnia and Middle Earth, and she wanted to invent a fantasy world that was just as beautiful but didn’t feel British, or white, or male.

In Rahana the weather is tropical and the people are visually similar to Indonesians. Magic is common, and makes physical strength irrelevant. There are millions of islands both small and large, and sailing technology is more advanced that the other sciences. Rahana is a thriving tropical world where people are born with a love of the high seas.

Naturally, the world is full of pirates.

Available Formats: Trade Paperback and Ebook

Converse via: #TheMonsterApprentice, #MGLit, #MGFantasy
as well as #pirates and #MiddleGrade; #IndieAuthor, #IndieFantasy

About Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks

Felicity Banks is a Canberra author specialising in fantasy and interactive fiction, including her Antipodean Queen fantasy steampunk series, which is also published by Odyssey Books. All her interactive fiction is listed under “Felicity Banks” (visit site) and most of her interactive fiction can be read via an app.

She writes about all her various pirates tales (some appropriate for children, some definitely not) on her Facebook page as well as sharing stories and images that appeal to the not-so-secret pirate within all of us.

She met her husband at a pirate ball, and has two little pirates at home.

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • #WyrdAndWonder
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Posted Saturday, 16 May, 2020 by jorielov in #Unboxing BookMail, #WyrdAndWonder, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Book Review (non-blog tour), Childhood Friendship, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Death of a Sibling, Fantasy Fiction, Juvenile Fiction, Life Shift, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships, School Life & Situations, Siblings, Twin Siblings

#IndieApril Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad” (Book One of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Posted Sunday, 26 April, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in [2015] whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in [2018] before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By [2020] as my health afflictions from 2018/19 started to recede I realised I could start to host for her authors with better confidence in being able to participate on the tours themselves. Thereby it was with the Dream Horse Adventures series I decided to mark my return and was quite thankful this was a series she was celebrating through her touring company.

I received a complimentary copy of “Ultra Squad (Graphic Novel)” direct from the author Julia Devillers in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I wanted to read 2x Graphic Novels during #IndieApril:

I haven’t had the chance to read Graphic Novels in a long, long time – I felt this might be a good month to take a chance on a seemingly lovely series which showcases individuality & equality amongst girls who are striving to share not just friendship but adventures in life! I love series for Middle Grade readers which talk about collecting experiences & going on adventures because these are the roots of how all of us learn, grow and develop our understanding about the world round us. I love finding series which also talk about our uniqueness as individuals & how our differences do not need to become a dividing line to separate us – any story which features inclusivity and acceptance is a winner in my life!

When I was younger I would read Graphic Novels which were more like fan fiction narratives based on popular film franchises during the 1980s. I didn’t quite step into the full spectrum of Graphic Novels as I was a reader who was definitely a ‘mood reader’ as a child and young adult – as I would move in and out of both genres and areas of interest at the drop of a hat! My main mainstays though were the kind of genres I showcase through my Story Vault – Speculative Fiction played a strong role as did Mysteries & Suspense as well as INSPY narratives of Historical Fiction. When it comes to #HistRom & #HistFic alike – why it took becoming a book blogger to realise I’ve read more of those respective fields of literature than any Contemporary genre is still unknown to me!

I’ve researched Manga and other contemporary graphic novel styles – there are some artists & illustrators who truly gave my attention but overall, I haven’t truly found my niche in the Asian market of what is available. What I do enjoy are solid graphics, wicked illustrative plates which showcase dialogue & action sequences and of course, the layering of the story, the personality of the characters and how the story itself is tracking through the nature of how a graphic novel presents its subject and message. These are the areas I was looking at reviewing and using as talking points as I moved into reviewing this series for Lola’s Book Tours featured blog tour this April & May. (as my second review will be featured in May rather than the final week of April)

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#IndieApril Middle Grade Graphic Novel Book Review | “Ultra Squad” (Book One of the Ultra Squad series) by Julia Devillers, illustrated by Rafael RosadoUltra Squad
by Julia Devillers
Source: Author via Lola's Blog Tours

ULTRA-FIERCE
ULTRA-SMART
ULTRA-BRAVE
ULTRA-UNIQUE
ULTRA-UNSTOPPABLE
THEY ARE. . .THE ULTRASQUAD!

When an evil force from the far reaches of the galaxy threatens Earth, the UltraSquad, a secret superhero team, with a mission to save the universe through teamwork, positivity, and justice, is enlisted to battle the overly smug villain. Along with their bizarro-cute extra-terrestrial sidekicks the Pallies, the kick-butt girls employ their magical ultra-superpowers to save the universe! This first book in a new graphic novel series inspires girls to reach for their dreams, work together, and make a difference.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1732703001

Also by this author: Ultra Squad

Also in this series: Ultra Squad


Genres: Action & Adventure Fiction, Children's Literature, Graphic Novel, Illustrated Stories, Juvenile Fiction, Middle Grade, Superhero Fiction


Published by Justice Studios

on 12th November, 2019

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 96

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The Ultra Squad series:

Ultra Squad (Book One) by Julia DevillersUltra Squad Under the Strangebow by Julia Devillers

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Ultra Squad (book one) 

Ultra Squad: Adventures Under the Strangebow(book two)

Ultra Squad: Galaxy Dance Off (book three)
← *forthcoming 1st March, 2021

Ultra Squad: Time After Slime (book four)

Available formats: Trade Paperback

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.com

Converse via: #UltraSquad, #GraphicNovel & #SuperheroFiction
as well as #MiddleGrade, #MGLit and #diverselit or #WeNeedDiverseBooks

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Posted Sunday, 26 April, 2020 by jorielov in Blog Tour Host, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Lola's Blog Tours, Middle Grade Novel

#MiddleGradeMarch Book Review | “Selah’s Sweet Dream” (Book Two: the Dream Horse Adventures series) by Susan Count

Posted Saturday, 28 March, 2020 by jorielov , , , 0 Comments

Book Review banner created by Jorie in Canva.

Acquired Book By: I had to take a leave of absence hosting for this touring company in [2015] whilst I worked towards finding better balance in my blogging and personal life. I returnt to hosting for Lola’s Book Tours in [2018] before having to take a small hiatus from requesting future blog tours for a second time. By [2020] as my health afflictions from 2018/19 started to recede I realised I could start to host for her authors with better confidence in being able to participate on the tours themselves. Thereby it was with the Dream Horse Adventures series I decided to mark my return and was quite thankful this was a series she was celebrating through her touring company.

I received a complimentary copy of “Selah’s Sweet Dream” direct from the author Susan Court in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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What I enjoyed about my introduction to
the Dream Horse Adventures series whilst reading “Mary’s Song”:

We journey back to 1952 wherein a horse crazy twelve year old girl named Mary yearns to ride the horses she is fascinated with observing through the fence line at her house. Her father, a kindly man who sees the hope of the situation in regards to her medical condition rather than the frustrated anguish of his daughter’s lost faith in a solution to present itself to give her a future wherein she could gain back what she’s physically lost. His voice is portrayed as a humbled and empathetic compassionate man who simply wants the best for his girl who dreams of horses and the freedom which carries the rider into the currents of the wind.

She might not have the regular childhood of her peers but she has a keen insight into art and the ways in which she can project her dreams into a sketch. She openly talks to her father about her fears and the reasons why she loses her belief in having a day arrive where she is not confined to a chair without the ability to rise and walk. She chooses to focus on the horses – to observe their behaviour patterns and to treat them whenever she can with treats she can throw over the fence. The horses have their own unique personalities which Count allows Mary to talk about whilst giving you the impression that it is the horses who strengthen her resolve moreso than the efforts of her father to find a way to give his daughter a second chance at life.

One of my favourite passages rather early-on in the story is when Mr Gregory (Mary’s tutor) is asking Mary how she’s able to get him to discuss horses in the middle of her lessons! The response from Mary is not only one of the most heartfelt answers I’ve heard in a horse drama of this nature (the second favourite of mine is actually the essay shared about mustangs from the film Flicka) – but it gives keen insight into Mary’s own heart and where her mind alights the most in her joy of feeling a deep attachment to horses. She was quite right too – about how horses played such a central role in History, from working horses to war horses to everyday horses who aided commoners to get round their townes. You don’t have to go too far back into our living histories to find horses as the main method of transportation and recreation, either!

I had to grin when I heard the girls’ talking about Black Beauty – as there weren’t too many stories involving horses I hadn’t personally known about myself when I was their age! Plus, the horse neighs as measures of a segue between scenes was just too delightful for words! You almost felt like you were listening to the story in the barn awaiting Mary and Laura to come round the corner and tell you its time to go for a ride! Laura likes to compete in Equestrian games but she doesn’t quite understand how Mary isn’t as confident in what she can accomplish herself. Mary tends to hold herself back even though she has the courage to try new things – especially observed when Mary talked to Laura about Laura’s sport. This was a lovely compliment to the library Mary has wherein she was encouraged to pursue collecting stories and books about horses. I must admit, I was awe-struck by how inclusive her library was in that regard! You can just see yourself agape looking at all the titles and browsing through her collection!

Laura was a smart lass – she understood Mary in a way that most might not have picked up upon themselves as she knew that Mary needed a bit of nudging and encouragement round the edges to step outside her comfort zones. It was through their growing friendship that both girls’ started to make choices which would affect their own lives. Their willingness to put themselves on the line for a horse and to rebel against the established rules of their parents endeared them to me because of how convicted they were in their belief about what they were doing was the right way to fix a wrong. Their passion and their dedication to their cause is beyond heartwarming and it was one of my favourite parts of the overall story!

I honestly felt conflicted by Mary’s father – he had such a difficult personality! At times, he was harsh and too hard on Mary – in ways that didn’t feel like he had her best interests at heart. Other times? He was sweet and caring – almost like he had an dual personality! I was quite shocked by the ending, too – as I just didn’t see that ‘coming’ in regards to how her father finds a new bit of happiness. For me, the heart of this story truly was encompassing how Mary was self-persevering to re-write her own truth – to seek out a method of therapy which worked best for and for having the courage to defy the odds in order to find her own path back to solid ground.

Ms Count has provided such a wonderful stepping stone into this series – I hadn’t realised it focuses on Selah’s grandmother until I first started to listen to the audiobook; having read the overlooked bit of trivia! Thought it makes sense as when I was contemplating the series before starting to read and listen to it I was trying to sort out how do we go from focusing on Mary to Selah? It would make sense Mary is laying down the origin story for Selah and building on how this family generationally has a connection to horses! I do look forward to seeing how Selah is introduced and how we carry-on with the series from here. Despite a few wrinkles of angst for me as a reader, I thoroughly enjoyed the narrator’s performance of the story – Cavannaugh truly brought to life everyone within the novel!

-quoted from my review of Mary’s Song

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#MiddleGradeMarch Book Review | “Selah’s Sweet Dream” (Book Two: the Dream Horse Adventures series) by Susan CountSelah's Sweet Dream
Subtitle: Dream Horse Adventures Book Two
by Susan Count
Source: Author via Lola's Blog Tours

Twelve-year-old Selah’s quest to be equestrian superstar is impossible without a horse. Then she spots buzzards circling in the grasslands behind Grandpa’s farm. They’re stalking a horse trapped in wire and Selah is its only hope. But the mare she rescues might be a bigger challenge to her dream than not having a horse at all.

An old friend of Grandpa’s and a world renowned horse trainer offers to work with the wild and defiant mare. Selah jumps at the opportunity. She trains with a fierce determination to equal the equestrian talent of the deceased grandmother who instilled the love of horse in her. But when the horse causes mayhem at the trainer’s facility, he sends them home. Selah must gather her courage and face up to the trainer or watch her dreams gallop away.

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780997088304

Also by this author: Mary's Song (Book Spotlight), Selah's Sweet Dream (Book Spotlight), Selah's Painted Dream (Book Spotlight), Selah's Stolen Dream (Book Spotlight), Mary's Song

Also in this series: Mary's Song


Genres: Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction, Contemporary (Modern) Fiction (post 1945), Children's Literature, Middle Grade, Equestrian Fiction, Horse Drama


Published by Hastings Creations Group

on 15th December, 2015

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 187

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The Dream Horse Adventures series:

Mary's Song by Susan CountSelah's Sweet Dream by Susan CountSelah's Painted Dream by Susan CountSelah's Stolen Dream by Susan Count

Mary’s Song (book one) (see also Review)

Selah’s Sweet Dream (book two)

Selah’s Painted Dream (book three)

Selah’s Stolen Dream (book four)

Available formats: Ebook, Trade Paperback and Audiobook (for Book One)

Converse via: #DreamHorseAdventures and #SusanCourt + #MiddleGradeMarch
as well as #MiddleGrade, #MGLit, #HorseDrama and #Equestrian Fiction

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Posted Saturday, 28 March, 2020 by jorielov in #MiddleGradeMarch, 20th Century, Blog Tour Host, Blogosphere Events & Happenings, Children's Literature, Coming-Of Age, Indie Author, Juvenile Fiction, Lola's Blog Tours, Middle Grade Novel, Mother-Daughter Relationships