Book Review and Vintage Valentine Mood Board for LOVE by Matt De La Pena and Illustrated by Loren Long

Book Review and Vintage Valentine Mood Board for LOVE by Matt De La Pena and Illustrated by Loren LongLove by Matt de la Pena, Loren Long
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on January 9th 2018
Pages: 40

From Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña and bestselling illustrator Loren Long comes a story about the strongest bond there is and the diverse and powerful ways it connects us all.
"In the beginning there is light and two wide-eyed figures standing near the foot of your bed and the sound of their voices is love....A cab driver plays love softly on his radiowhile you bounce in back with the bumps of the city and everything smells new, and it smells like life."

In this heartfelt celebration of love, Matt de la Peña and illustrator Loren Long depict the many ways we experience this universal bond, which carries us from the day we are born throughout the years of our childhood and beyond. With a lyrical text that's soothing and inspiring, this tender tale is a needed comfort and a new classic that will resonate with readers of every age.

Welcome to the LOVE blog tour to celebrate the release of LOVE by Matt de la Peña and illustrated by Loren Long. Today is my turn to share my thoughts on this  beautifully crafted and magnificently illustrated book that captures the epitome and complexities of the sentiment.

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by old fashioned Valentines, and I thought it would be a fun to put together mood board of some of my favorite cards in celebration of LOVE. I am also attaching at the bottom, one of my favorite songs by Sarah Bareilles (“Bottle it Up”) because I think it captures  some of the book’s ideas quite well too.


In Love we are reminded of the sentiment’s  many faces, and that it comes in many forms. Though there are times  we suffer pain, there are also times of joy and laughter. Love shows us that it can be found in the simplest of moments, or even in the darkest ones.

The diverse and vivid illustrations perfectly showcase and illuminate Matt’s words. Love leads the reader through a cascade of emotions from reliving childhood glee, the sensation of wonder, the grief of loss, the understanding that comes with growing up, and the enchantment of being loved. Matt de la Peña’s tender words will touch your heart and that is LOVE.


One of the most touching pages (to me at least), above, reads:

“And in time you learn to recognize a love overlooked. A love that wakes at dawn and rides to work on the bus. A slice of burned toast that tastes like love.”

This page brought tears to my eyes, as I started to think about all the times my aunt would get up at the crack of down to head to work, in order to provide for me and my cousin. Or all the sacrifices my grandmother made for my wellbeing. It truly touched me.

LOVE is a glorious celebration of “love” and will appeal to all ages. I absolutely LOVED reading it and hope it will find a place in your heart too.


Favorite Quote: “And it’s love in the rustling leaves of gnarled trees line behind the flower fields”





Matt de la Peña is the author of Last Stop on Market Street, which won the Newbery Medal and was chosen for a Caldecott Honor. He is also the author the award-winning picture book A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis and six critically acclaimed young adult novels. Matt teaches creative writing and visits schools and colleges throughout the country. Matt lives in Brooklyn,




Illustrator Bio: Loren Long is the author and illustrator of the New York Times bestselling Otis series. He’s also the illustrator of the #1 New York Times bestseller Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama, as well as the re-illustrated, #1 New York Times bestseller The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper. He lives near Cincinnati with his wife, two sons, and two Weimaraners.




Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a finished copy in return for an honest review.




January 8 – Margie’s Must Reads – Mood Board

January 9 – DoodleMom’s Homeschooling Life – Review and Review and Creative (lesson plan/unit study)

January 10 – The Keepers of the Books – What Love Means to different age groups

January 11 – The Children’s Book Reviews – Creative

January 12 – Books4yourkids – Creative




January 15 – Happily Ever Elephants – Review + Kids quotes on what love is to them.

January 16 – Crayon Freckles – Creative Learning Activity

January 17 – My Book Bloom – Review and Craft

January 18 – My Little Poppies – Activity

January 19 – All Done Monkey – Lesson plan or activity.




January 22 – Mundie Moms – Ask 7th graders what they think of the definition of “love”

January 23 – Wandering Bark Books – Spotlight

January 24 – Little Lit Book Series – Arts and Crafts Post

January 25 – Between the Reads – Review AND exploring what love means in today’s society and what it means to me

January 26 – The Plot Bunny – Old Valentine’s Mood Board




January 29 – Just Commonly – “Love is” Collage

January 30 – Inspiration Laboratories – Artwork demonstrating love




YA Book Review: WARCROSS by Marie Lu

YA Book Review: WARCROSS by Marie LuWarcross (Warcross, #1) by Marie Lu
on September 12th 2017
Pages: 368

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire.

WARCROSS is such a thrill ride! The story reads so quickly I had to reign myself in from reading it in one sitting. However, Warcross had other ideas, and soon I found myself more than 2/3rds done with the book. Capturing your attention from the very first chapter, the book immerses you into the story, just like actual virtual reality.

WARCROSS is set between New York and Tokyo in the not so distant future where virtual reality is a “normal” part of daily life. In this world, everyone is obsessed with playing WARCROSS, a virtual reality game created by Hideo. Our heroine Emika Chen is a rainbow-haired code/hacker wiz trying to make ends meet by hunting down criminals in the cyber world/Dark web.

When Emika gets hired by Hideo Tanaka, I was pleased. He clearly appreciates her brilliance, and respects her for her abilities. Hideo himself is mainly a mystery to everyone. However, he does let his guard down when he is with Emika. The romance that sparks between them seems genuine, and a bit awkward as both characters have a hard time letting down their emotional firewalls.

Marie Lu does a lovely job executing her characters and giving them so much depth. I love what a badass gamer Emika is.  Usually people dismiss girls as being legit gamers. Which is why it is important that Emika can code, hack and is pretty much a cyber genius.

I love the world that Marie Lu creates in WARCROSS. It isn’t too far-fetched or even completely impossible to think that this could be our actual “real” world one day. With how technology is progressing it might even be closer than we think. I am curious to see where the next book might take the world building.

WARCROSS does have a few plot twists thrown into the story, and though one I pretty much guessed from the start, the second I did not see coming at all. The cliffhanger at the end had me going WHAT? NO! WHY??? OMG…I need to know what happens next!!!

Between the fantastic world building and the “life” that Marie Lu puts into her characters, WARCROSS is a book that all genders can truly appreciate and enjoy reading. Needless to say, I will definitely be reading the next book in the series.

WARCROSS is a fast read, jam packed with action and a super cool virtual reality world. I highly recommend it to lovers of YA and science fiction books.


Book Review: Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett

Book Review: Blood and Salt by Kim LiggettBlood and Salt (Blood and Salt, #1) by Kim Liggett
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 341

Romeo and Juliet meets Children of the Corn in this one-of-a-kind romantic horror.
“When you fall in love, you will carve out your heart and throw it into the deepest ocean. You will be all in—blood and salt.”
These are the last words Ash Larkin hears before her mother returns to the spiritual commune she escaped long ago. But when Ash follows her to Quivira, Kansas, something sinister and ancient waits among the rustling cornstalks of this village lost to time.
Ash is plagued by memories of her ancestor, Katia, which harken back to the town’s history of unrequited love and murder, alchemy and immortality. Charming traditions soon give way to a string of gruesome deaths, and Ash feels drawn to Dane, a forbidden boy with secrets of his own.
As the community prepares for a ceremony five hundred years in the making, Ash must fight not only to save her mother, but herself—and discover the truth about Quivira before it’s too late. Before she’s all in—blood and salt.

I first heard about Blood and Salt by Kim Liggett as I was preparing to attend BEA (BookExpo America). I was really excited when I found out the author was going to be there signing ARCs of Blood and Salt and she immediately went on my list of MUST meet authors. Meeting Kim was a pleasure, she is funny, friendly, and my kind of weird. I love a good scary story, and this one is definitely up there on the creepy meter. I ended up dreaming with cornfields, which will never look the same to me now that I finished reading this deliciously eerie story.

Blood and Salt has a little of everything in it. There is romance, unrequited love, magic, immortality, betrayal, horror, a “cult-like” society, ghosts, cornfields, murder, suspense and sacrifice. The story burrows into your skin, lingering and giving you the willies for days after you read it. To me, that’s awesome…but then again I’m a bit odd.

The Larkin family tree extends back many generations to one of the original founders of the Quivira society: Katia. The Quivira residents believe in immortality, and apparently Katia is still with them as one of these immortals. It is believed that when Katia finds two vessels (one for herself- a girl from the Larkin bloodline) and one for her lost love Alonso (a boy from the Mendoza bloodline) they will be able to once again reunite in the flesh and all the faithful of Quivira will also be granted immortality. Each year, for generations and generations a vessel from each of the two family lines are chosen to represent Katia and Alonso and they are sent to “walk the corn” together. The only problem is that they never return. The residents of Quivira believe that the reason for them not returning is because they weren’t the right vessels. They also believe that the un-chosen vessels are then released to the world outside of Quivira, but is that really what happens?

Ashlyn/Ash Larkin and her twin brother Rhys were raised by their eccentric mother who once belonged to the  cult-like commune of Quivira. Ashlyn is plagued by a vision of a dead girl, with a deep scar cut into her hand, hanging from the ceiling. (This is actually how the book starts…no trigger warning…just jumps right in with the blood and death). She has seen the vision for as long as she remembers and lately, the girl has started to look more and more like Ash and she has no idea why this is. Her mother insists on tattooing her with invisible ink with symbols of protection to help keep the visions at bay. Ash has always been more accepting of her mom’s dabblings with alchemy and magic but Rhys has never liked it. Rhys has always been the cautious one while Ash is more willing to explore. They come home one day to find that their mother is missing, and apparently heading back to Quivira.  Ash and Rhys immediately set out to find and bring their mother back home, but what they don’t realize is that the cornfields of Quivira has other plans for them.

While in Quivira and waiting to figure out where their mother is, Ash and Rhys befriend a girl named Beth, and Ash feels a strong pull towards a boy named Dane. Dane is of “Mixed” blood which means he has both Mendoza blood, and the evil Coronado family blood in him. Ash is drawn to him instantly, and she can’t help  but want to be with him.  The residents of Quivira make it clear that any type of relationship between them is impossible because Ash’s bloodline will never be mixed with anyone that has Coronado blood (for Coronado was the enemy and destroyer of the Larkin bloodline).  Even still, Ash desperately wants to be with Dane. Dane also clearly has feelings for Ash, but he also has secrets he’s holding onto. Usually, I am not a fan of instalove, but this didn’t feel like puppy love or lust, it was more a feeling of destiny, and it’s not like they were immediately making out or anything like that.

I don’t want to say any more about the story because I really don’t want to give anything away.  It kept me on the edge of my seat and I loved every chilling minute of it. It is the kind of book you should read at night, in bed and under your covers. Definitely the type of book perfect for reading in October, when there is a chill in the air, and plenty of darkness and corn to go around. Better yet, I dare you to read Blood and Salt, and go for a walk in a cornfield, at night.