Guest Book Review: Arabella, the Moon and the Magic Mongongo Nut by Hamilton Wende



Length: 126 pages
Publisher: Tafelberg; 1 edition (July 20, 2013)
Genre: Juvenile Fiction, ages 9+

Stars: 4.5

Arabella lives with her mom and dad in Parkview, Johannesburg, South Africa. She has a happy, stable life, with all the love anyone could imagine from her parents and (four!) grandparents. Her eleventh birthday is the turning point in her life. She receives some unusual gifts, which change Arabella’s life forever.  But then things go horribly wrong. Her dad dies, and life turns dark, bleak, and hopeless. Thanks to her unusual birthday gifts, Arabella discovers a magical world at the bottom of her garden and amazing things happen. She is able to speak to the animals there, and discovers she has a special role to play once she is given a magic Mongongo nut by Khanyi, the mealie lady. Suddenly, the ordinary becomes the extraordinary and Arabella and her new friends must battle against the evil hadedas, led by their nasty king, Ozymandias, who has a wicked plan. At the same time, Arabella finds hope in the Book of Echoes; hope that with this new-found magic, she can turn back the clock to the happy times before her dad died. Is the magic this strong? Can Arabella defeat the hadedas’ nefarious plans?

Although all young readers will love this charming book, young South African readers will particularly relish it. Familiar names, places, creatures, and cultural references will resonate with readers, bringing this adventure right into their own back gardens. Arabella faces enormous challenges, and the biggest one is within. As the use of magic changes her, perhaps bringing out selfish desires, she has to learn to do what is right. Acceptance of grief is very difficult for a young person, and this is one of Arabella’s saddest tests. Self-sacrifice, loyalty, the meaning of friendship, and doing the right thing are also highlighted as Arabella’s final choice will sway the outcome of the battle. Author Hamilton Wende has perfectly captured Arabella’s character, giving poignant insight into just how difficult life choices are at that age. The hadedas are brilliantly malevolent … but fun! Lovely atmospherics abound, painting the most incredible pictures for a young imagination to enjoy. The author has a real gift for scenarios and I am sure this book will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page has been read. I would suggest a glossary at the back for non South African readers to understand several local terms. I must mention the superb cover by Rob Foote which adds to the ethereal, magical quality of the book.

First reviewed for Jozi Kids, South Africa

Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.

The Funny Adventures of Little Nani by Cinta Garcia de la Rosa


Typically I read the first chapter of a book, but with this short story collection, I am reading the first story in the book and discussing it.


BLURB: Little Nani is a little girl who likes helping people. However, when she helps people the results can be a bit unexpected. Why is that? Little Nani is a witch! Or at least she wants to be a witch. With her magic wand, she will try to cast different spells to help her friends, but she won’t be successful all the time. Follow Little Nani in her funny adventures and meet her extraordinary friends. Funny ostriches, horses that love reading, super-fast turtles, grumpy zombies… Little Nani has lots of friends! You can also draw your own characters! Little Nani is willing to become a good witch. Will she manage to do it? Who knows? Read the stories and discover what happens next!

COVER: Since the top illustration comes from the first story, I’m guessing these postage stamp or postcard type bordered illustrations contain drawings from different stories in the collection. I love the color scheme and the darker contrasting colors of the borders.

FIRST CHAPTER: The Funny Adventures of Little Nani is about a girl with a magic wand whose spells often go awry. In this opening story, “Little Nani and Some Unexpected Events,” Little Nani tries out the wand she got from a correspondence course and tries to make her friends, Big Billy and Skinny Nikki, grow up faster. That’s definitely not what happens.

This looks like it will be a cute book. I can only judge it based upon the first story I read, but all the characters have unique personalities and lovers of magic and fantasy will enjoy the horse who loves to read. Little Nani appears to be an independent-minded girl who leaps before she looks, which tends to create a bit of chaos for her and her friends. By including pauses in the story called “Drawing Time!” the author makes this an interactive adventure for young readers, who are asked to draw certain scenes from the book. I haven’t seen this before in a book, but I like it.

KEEP READING: If I were basing this review solely upon the uniquely crafted characters and the interactive aspect of it, I would say definitely. The thing that gives me pause is the dragged out dialogue. Big Billy appears riding a horse, which he tries to convince Little Nani to ride. She declines because she’s allergic to horses and can’t touch them. But as Big Billy points out, she’s stroking the horse’s head. It goes back and forth like this for a few seconds, before Skinny Nikki arrives. Skinny Nikki wants to ride, but Big Billy says no because he wants Little Nani to ride with him, to which Skinny Nikki replies, “But Little Nani won’t ride with you. She’s allergic to horses.” And then they start going on and on about how Little Nani wants to ride an ostrich, but she doesn’t have an ostrich, so she can’t ride one.

What I ended up doing is downloading another short story in the series for my Kindle (this book has all the stories in it, but they can also be purchased separately). It appears this dragged out conversation might be the way Little Nani interacts with others. In “Little Nani and The Flying Muffin” it is about how bored she is on a rainy day. She whines “I’m bored!” three times while Big Billy and Skinny Nikki get aggravated over her whining and Horse tries to convince her to listen to the story he’s reading to her.

Children probably won’t notice it. I just didn’t care for this style of conversation. I would probably still keep going. It’s one of those “don’t bite your nose off to spite your face” moments. If you like the characters and the story is funny, is it worth abandoning the book simply because one of the characters is a bit repetitive? No, you keep going and enjoy the rest.

Overall, this is a really cute story and I’m thinking it will be a hit with youngsters, especially those who enjoy humor.

File Size: 1577 KB
Print Length: 144 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

I downloaded a free sample of this book to my Kindle. This review contains my honest opinions, which I have not been compensated for in any way.


Interview with Yves Robichaud, Author of Tomes of Taria: Kaylen’s Rising

Yves Robichaud is originally from the small Acadian community of Grand-Barachois, New Brunswick, Canada. He has studied Business Administration and Information Technology, currently works for the federal government, and is the proud father of one son: Jeremy. Inspired by a love of fantastical, magical tales, Kaylen’s Rising is Yves’ first attempt to share this literary passion with his son and the rest of the world.

Thank you for joining us today, Yves. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

Sure, I’m a 40 year-old French-speaking Canadian of Acadian descent. I live near the city of Moncton, New Brunswick, on the East coast of Canada. I literally live a two-minute walk from the beach. It’s beautiful here in the summertime. I love sports, mainly softball, golf and hockey. I also enjoy reading, jogging, traveling and playing poker. I have a university degree in business and also a course in IT from a private college. Most of my work experience has been in the fields of business or IT. I currently work for the federal government. I’m also the proud father of a 13 year-old son, Jérémy.

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I think that my writing experience is a bit different than most. You see, I never really wanted to be a writer. It’s just kind of something that happened. I know this sounds silly, but it’s true. You know how sometimes a song repeats in your head over and over and you can’t get rid of it? Well for me, this story popped into my head and just wouldn’t go away. Every time I thought about it, I would add a bit to the story. I had the entire plot mapped out in my head even before I started writing anything down. Once my son was old enough, I decided that it would be a great idea for me to share this story with him. It’s only when I started typing it all up that I realized that I truly enjoyed writing. I guess you could say that I caught the writing bug at that point.

Why did you decide to write stories for children?

I decided to write the story for my son. I wanted to share it with him. Given that he is currently 13 years old, the book ended up targeting that age group.

Do you believe it is harder to write books for a younger audience?

No, I don’t think so. I think it’s important to be able to relate to your audience. Whether you’re writing for children, adults or seniors, the important thing is to be able to put yourself in their shoes and write about something that would interest them in a way that they understand. Besides, kids are way more fun! J

What is your favorite part of writing for young people?

For me, the best part about writing for children is seeing their reaction. Kids don’t have much for filters so they don’t hesitate to tell you (or show you) how they feel. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to present my book at local schools. Seeing the reactions from the kids made it all worthwhile. My son was so proud of me presenting at his school that he walked over and gave me a high five after the presentation. It was a great feeling. I’ve witnessed kids rushing over to see me after the presentations so that I could sign their bookmarks. It’s also touching to receive an email or Facebook message from a child explaining how they loved your book.

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?Tomes-of-Taria

Kaylen’s Rising is coming-of-age story about a young elf named Kaylen who lives in a city built underground. Kaylen envies most kids his age because he sees them wielding weapons and learning magic. His parents forbid him to do such things. The other kids pick on Kaylen and label him an outcast. Kaylen’s parents finally relent and allow him to attend school for the first time. There, he learns that his people are at war with the humans. He also learns that he has a very unique magical ability to summon skeletons. Kaylen’s life will never be the same.

What inspired you to write it?

Initially, I decided to write the story to share it with my son. He motivated me to put it on paper. Once I started writing and discovered my passion for it, I decided to share this passion with my son too. He played a huge part in the writing and editing processes. I enjoyed reading to him the evolving storyline as it unfolded. Without a doubt, he was my inspiration.

Where can readers purchase a copy?

For now the books are only stocked at local bookstores in Moncton, NB. The book is available for order at several websites online such as Amazon, Smashwords and the Friesenpress bookstore.

Do you have a website and/or blog where readers can find out more?

My website/blog is On there you will find out more on Kaylen’s Rising such as the book trailer, reviews, pictures, etc. I also write book reviews, so that’s something that might interest readers.

What is up next for you?

I’m still working hard on the marketing of Kaylen’s Rising. I have a book launch party coming up. I also have an author-signing event at a local bookstore. Finally, I am continuing to do presentations at local schools. At the same time, I have already started on the sequel and have plans to do a trilogy.

Do you have anything else to add?

As part of Kaylen’s Rising’s book launch, I’m having a giveaway of amazing prizes such as a Kindle Fire HD and Amazon gift cards. For more information, please check out my website at

Thank you for spending time with us today, Yves. We wish you much success.


Interview with Jon Thomason, author of Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud (Giveaway)


Jon Thomason lives with his family in San Diego, after many years in the beautiful Seattle area. He has a successful career in high tech where he’s been fortunate enough to participate in many big-name industry releases.

Storytelling permeates everything he does. In the moments when Jon is not helping build the story of the tech world, he can almost always be found working on a project: writing, photography, videography, graphics design, or 3D art.

And he’s always careful to conceal his jinni magic abilities, though perhaps might slip one day and be discovered…

You can join the conversation with him at or on Twitter at @jonthomason.

Thank you for joining us today, Jon. Can you please start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

I’m thrilled to be able to call myself a writer. People would ask, and I had a hard time saying it until the novel was real. Finished. And now it is!

I have a successful career in the high tech industry, where I’ve been able to use my creative side more than you’d stereotypically think. But books have always been a passion for me, as is storytelling. I’ve written a number of stories over the years, but this is my first attempt at novel-length fiction.

I’ve never shaken the feeling of being a kid. I’ve always asked myself, “when exactly do I grow up?” 

When did you first get bit by the writing bug?

I don’t remember exactly, but it was very young. My mother taught me to read at an exceptionally young age, and I have always read anything and everything I could get my hands on. Perhaps it’s ego, but I would say to myself, “I could do this.” So, I’d write my own stories. But it wasn’t until I took some extended time off work that I got serious and tackled something novel-length. 

Why did you decide to write stories for this market?

Like I mentioned, I have never been able to escape the feeling of being a kid. So, writing where I could pretend to still be one is the most natural thing ever. 

What is your favorite part of writing for this group? What is the greatest challenge?

My favorite part of writing for middle grade is that you can add in some goofy things that would make a kid laugh. The book doesn’t have to be so terribly serious and uptight. The biggest challenge for me is restricting vocabulary and making sure the concepts don’t go over the head of the middle grade reader. What I try to do is make sure that the story elements are layered. The lower-end of the middle grade readers see one level, but the upper end (and adults) see something deeper. That’s what I strive to do across the board to span the range of readers. 

Can you tell us what your latest book is all about?

Shhh! I shouldn’t tell you this, Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud is not fiction. They got to it and spun everything I wrote to sound like a novel, but it’s not. It’s all true. I’ve been there. To Zumuruud, that is. I can’t tell you much about it here, but it blows your mind.

I’ve met Max. She’s good-hearted, but don’t get on her bad side! I saw Philip once on his skatecarpet getting chased by some men in long black coats, but I bolted. I want nothing to do with that action.

In real life, people think of me as your average, boring, high-tech engineer. Little do they know of my secrets.

I’m just afraid one day I’ll slip and my jinni powers will be discovered…and I’ll be taken and experimented on by the guys in white coats and long syringes. Gulp.

Just read the book. It will explain everything. And remember: shhh!  

What inspired you to write it? max

I am a vivid daydreamer. I have loved to read from quite a young age and always imagined what it would be like to be able to do magic–really do the magic. What would it feel like to make something across the room move? Or what would it be like to play a trick on an unsuspecting classmate? While I love creatively constructed worlds, I’m generally more interested in things happening just next door. The idea of intrigue and conspiracy and hidden things fascinate me. Might there be a shadowy group pulling the strings somewhere? Powerful people behind the scenes? And then one of our children had a form of leukemia as a child, and the powerlessness of this gave way to the idea of good from evil, and of being transformed. I’m also well acquainted with anger management issues of the teen female, and contrite, bland dialogue, just doesn’t work. Throw in some cynical sarcasm from our villain, and the story just poured out. 

Where can readers purchase a copy?

Max Xylander and the Island of Zumuruud is available on both as a paperback and as an Amazon Kindle e-book. An easy way to find it is to go to

 What is up next for you?

I’m already working on the sequel to Max. I can’t share the title yet, but suffice it to say that while the story wound down at the end of the first book, there are many more adventures remaining for Max, Aaron, and Brynn. And don’t think Philip is out of the picture yet, even though he might seem to be… 

Do you have anything else to add?

It’s so energizing hearing all the positive feedback! The reason I like to write is to be able to share stories with other people, and to hear that people actually like the story and are begging for the sequel makes me feel great and propels the work on the remainder of the trilogy. 

Thank you for spending time with us today, Jon. We wish you much success.

And thank you for listening and for the opportunity to share my book with your readers!


GIVEAWAY! Visit the book’s tour page at for details on how you can enter to win great prizes!


max tour

Lucas Trent 3: Grand Theft Magic by Richard Blunt Book Tour and Kindle Fire HD Giveaway

Grand Theft Magic 2

After a field trip suddenly turns into a near catastrophe Lucas and the others shift into high gear to avenge their injured friend. But when an unexpected foe arrives at the scene they quickly find themselves in a life or death situation that not even their extraordinary skills can solve. Realizing that they have bitten off more than they can chew Lucas desperately starts looking for trustworthy allies, just to find out once again that things are never as easy as they appear at first.

Can they survive the battles at hand? Will they be able to tell friend from foe? Or will the epic quest they have stumbled into be too much for them to handle?

Follow Lucas Trent and his friends through an action-paced story of mysteries, secrets and deceptions and find out…

Purchase at Amazon!

Publishing under a pen name to keep his personal life separate from his writing life, Richard Blunt was raised in the heart of Europe, in a nation where English is not the native language. Like his heroes, Richard blunt is nothing more than a shadow – a specter that whispers a story for everyone to hear.

His latest book is Lucas Trent 3: Grand Theft Magic.

You can visit his website at and his blog at


Pump Up Your Book and Richard Blunt are teaming up to give you a chance to win a new Kindle Fire HD!

Each person will enter this giveaway by liking, following, subscribing and tweeting about this giveaway through the Rafflecopter form placed on blogs throughout the tour. This promotion will run from December 3 – March 15. The winner will be chosen randomly by Rafflecopter, contacted by email and announced on March 16, 2013.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If the Rafflecopter form does not load, please visit the Lucas Trent 3: Grand Theft Magic Tour Page at for your chance to enter and win. Good luck!

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5) by Mary Cunningham (Review)

Cynthia and Gus are traveling through time again. Having solved many mysteries in the past, they soon discover something is very wrong and things are unraveling. Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! Is Blackie still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie?

The girls journey into a strange woods with disastrous results. They find scary creatures and dark secrets along the way. Though someone or something seems to have reversed the good work they have done during their previous time travels, the girls are determined to set things right again, meeting new friends along the way.

I haven’t read all the books in this series. Book 4, The Magician’s Castle, introduced me to Cynthia and Gus and the magic attic that helps them travel through time. Like the fourth book, this new one has tons of time-traveling adventure for everyone. From 2014 to 1964 to 1914 and hopefully back home again, Cynthia, Gus, Nicole and Leeza find themselves trying to track down what is happening when they discover Aunt Belle is missing again and great-grandfather Beau was never found.

This is a light and fun read. A perfect stand-alone story, but I’m eager to read the first three books now so I can see where Cynthia and Gus’s adventures started. Readers will enjoy unlocking this mystery along with the girls as they seek to make things right again. Mary Cunningham has created a fabulous set of characters with distinct personalities. They complement the engaging plot perfectly. This is a fantastic book. I’m sorry to see the Cynthia’s Attic series end, but I’m eager to see what Cunningham comes up with next.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Mary Cunningham Books



Smashwords Ebooks

B & N Book Nook


See The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5) Tour Schedule at


I received a free e-copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no monetary compensation of any kind for this review.

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5) by Mary Cunningham

Author, Mary Cunningham, is excited to announce the release of the 5th and final book in the award-winning series, Cynthia’s Attic.

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5) Book Blurb

Cynthia and Gus have solved a lot of mysteries across time, but something is seriously wrong and things are beginning to unravel.

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie.

This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.

From Aunt Belle’s cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

Read an excerpt from Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods

My back pressed against a small tree as I peered over one shoulder, then the other. More blackness. I pulled my knees tight to my chest to create as small a target as possible. If I could keep still until morning,  this place might be less formidable.

Those eyes …did they just move? Hair stood straight up on my neck as a low growl inched ever closer. I sucked in one last breath and hid my face waiting for a fatal blow or bite.

“Well, well. What do we have here?” My head jerked skyward. Yellow eyes hovered over me. “Cat got your tongue?”

The creature bent down and poked my upper arm with a furry finger. I wanted so badly to run, but sheer terror kept me plastered to the tree.

The hulking figure straightened and chuckled. “I’m not planning to hurt you. What are you doing in Lupin?”

Lupin? I tried to answer, but dryness gripped my throat as if I’d swallowed an entire sandbox. Plus, an ominous word jumped into my brain. I’d heard something that sounded a lot like lupin once before. It was at the movies! Wolfman. Oh, no. Lupine is another name for wolf! Was I in a wolf forest?

My eyes scanned the treetops. I might be saved if the sun rose soon, but light would have to pass through the dense canopy, and from where I sat, that seemed doubtful. The beast must’ve read my mind.

“If you’re waiting for sunrise, you’ll be disappointed.” It smiled–or made a weak attempt–revealing huge, pointy teeth. “Instead of night and day, around here we have night and black.”

I gulped and finally manufactured enough spit to choke out four words. “Why-am-I-here?”

Visit Cynthia’s Attic Blog for a schedule of The Legend of Lupin Woods Blog Tour!

Mary Cunningham, author

Cynthia’s Attic Series

The Missing Locket

The Magic Medallion

Curse of the Bayou

The Magician’s Castle

The Legend of Lupin Woods 

Bio: Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations on gathering ideas and the writing process to schools and libraries.

Mary Cunningham Books



Smashwords Ebooks

B & N Book Nook


Look for my review of The Legend of Lupin Woods coming tomorrow!