Live in Infamy (WW2 #3) by Caroline Tung Richmond

“For in the darkest of nights, we shall strike – and strike again.”

Return to the world of The Only Thing to Fear!

In the eighty years since the Axis powers won World War II with their genetically engineered super soldiers, America has changed drastically in the hands of the unforgiving victors. But there are still those who aspire to what the country used to stand for: freedom for all.

In the Western American Territories, Chinese American Ren Cabot has lost nearly everything to Imperial Japan’s rule. After the public execution of his mom for treason five years ago, Ren lives under constant scrutiny of the Empire, afraid that one wrong step will rip apart what remains of his family for good. However, when a chance encounter with a resistance group offers Ren an opportunity to save lives and quite possibly topple the government, he agrees to their deadly plot. But his role will lead him straight into the heart of enemy, and if caught, death would be a much better fate than what the Empire will do to him . . .

Book Links: Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

Live in Infamy is an alternate history where the United States lost World War II. Divided in different territories, America is under different regime. The Nazi held the Eastern States; the Japanese Imperial Court take the Western States; and Middle America states are under the rule of Italy.

Ren Cabot is a Chinese-American living in a Western American territories that is controlled by Imperial Japan. At a young age, he witnessed his mother executed for treason. Now at sixteen, he and his father lives under constant scrutiny of the Empire, waiting for their one wrong move. When an opportunity to help the resistance came to Ren, he pose as a tailor working inside the home of the Japanese leaders. There he help to plot a way to kidnap the Japanese Princess and infiltrate Alcatraz – a place where Japanese held their experiments to produced powerful soldiers for the Imperial Army.

This is my second foray to Caroline Tung Richmond’s works. The first one is her debut novel, The Darkest Hour, which I also devoured reading. In Live in Infamy, Caroline continue to write alternative history for young readers with ease. She clearly know what she is doing. Her writing not only shows how intensive her research but also her alternate version fit so well to all the historical backgrounds where her story dated. She easily created a believable versions of an alternate history in her novels.

Through Ren, Caroline Tung Richmond show the power of written words. The part where Ren fight the Imperial Japan under a pen name, sharing his words to inspire others to fight, reminds me of our own history here in the Philippines. Back when our country is still under different regime, some of our heroes also fought battle using the power of literature and written words. Ren’s fight become an echo of our own history, making his struggle easily close to heart.

Caraline Tung Richmond’s simple and straight-forward narrative will surely appeal to middle-grade readers, but older readers might find it more on the side of telling-than-showing, especially near the end when the story started to reveal things and tried to tie up loose ends.

Though alternate history, Live in Infamy is still a gritty and terrifying story that tells a reality of every wars. It is a glimpse of an alternate history that can easily be a looming future to some parts of the world.

* This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for my honest opinion about the book.


Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella

“The ones you hold dear never leave you.”

Twelve-year-old Stanly knows the bone growing in his yard is a little weird, but that’s okay, because now he’ll have the perfect photo to submit to the Young Discoverer’s Competition. With such a unique find, he’s sure to win the grand prize.

But, oddly, the bone doesn’t appear in any photos. Even stranger, it seems to be growing into a full skeleton . . . one that only children can see.

There’s just one person who doesn’t find any of this weird–Stanly’s little sister. Mischievous Miren adopts the skeleton as a friend, and soon, the two become inseparable playmates.

When Miren starts to grow sick, Stanly suspects that the skeleton is responsible and does everything in his power to drive the creature away. However, Miren is desperate not to lose her friend, forcing Stanly to question everything he’s ever believed about life, love, and the mysterious forces that connect us.

Book Links: Amazon | Book Depository | Goodreads | Publisher

Personal Thoughts:

With mystery, adventure, and resilient character, Skeleton Tree is a welcome experience for young readers.

Stanly found a skeleton bone in their backyard, which turns out not just an ordinary bone. The skeleton is growing from the ground like an actual tree with life of its own. Stanly thought this discovery will make him win a contest, and a chance to see his father again and travel with him. At first, he intend to keep the bone a secret, but soon without so much choice, he told about the bone to his younger sister, Miren, and his best friend, Jaxon. Even their caretaker Ms. Francine eventually knows about the Skeleton. The only person who isn’t aware about it is Stanly’s mother. For some reason, his mother cannot see the Skeleton, a mystery that Stanly did not understand at first.

Miren get to spend a lot of time with the skeleton, since she’s always at home due to her sickness. Miren seems enjoying her time with the Skeleton, and become friend with him. But Miren’s health condition is not getting better, and Stanley think that the Skeleton is to blame. Is there anything he can do to stop the Skeleton?

For a debut novel, Skeleton Tree is an impressive one. Kim Ventrella successfully delivered a sensitive topic for middle-grade readers with care. Death is inevitable, as an adult that is clear to many if not all of us. But for children, it is not an easy subject to deal with. So putting it out there with this book, give chance to openly discuss the topic. An imaginative story that can be useful for parents and children. With Skeleton Tree, Kim not only creatively and sensitively handle heavy topic, but also manage to be realistic and whimsical at the same time.

Few pages in, readers will see how Stanley taking care of his sister, Miren. Which makes Stanley adorable in my opinion. He tried to understand and even tolerate Miren. He even has Slurpy, an imaginary zombie in Stanley’s head whom he feed all his frustrations and anger.

At a very young age, Stanley is obviously smart and perceptive. He understand his family’s situation – how his mom is trying her best for them, his sister’s health condition, and his missing father. In his own ways he tried to help, like by tolerating his sister, understanding their situation, and trying his best not to add to his mother’s worries.

“She did the best she could, only keeping a whole family together wasn’t supposed to be a one-person job.”

But no matter how he tried to be a good boy, things doesn’t always go to his wishes. At a young age, Stanly learned that sometimes we have to accept the inevitable. Life happens and we have to embrace it.

“Love is a funny thing. Sometimes it is long and slow and rolling. A lazy river of love. Other times, it’s over so fast, you blink and you might miss it. Both things are love, Stanly. Don’t forget that.”

On the whole, Skeleton Tree is a bittersweet story about family, love, loss, and life. It’s a beautiful book that should be introduce to younger readers with parental presence to add more understanding about the important and heavy topic it sensitively delivered. This whimsical book is a welcome addition to the middle-grade shelves.

* This review is based on an ARC received from the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for my honest opinion about the book.

Quick Catch Up

Happy Friday Everyone!

I just want to write a quick post today as I try to catch up with my blogging and reading. I know I’ve been MIA for more than a month already and truth to be told, I miss blogging and reading so much. But honestly I don’t feel I have something creative or new to share to everyone lately. Plus the fact that I have crazy schedule outside the blogging world just doesn’t give me much room to even go on-line. If you are following me in my other social media accounts, I’m sure you probably notice my silence in the past few weeks. But here I am, trying a baby step to go back on-line by stealing a few minutes out of my busy schedule. Also, I’m hoping that after this I get my writing and reading mojo back soon.

On the side note, I received an early Christmas gifts yesterday from Scholastic Philippines. Thanks so much Ms. Joyce 🙂


Will try my best to be back again here hopefully before Christmas. I miss talking to everyone here and on twitter and instagram.  Thank you for sticking around.

What Things Mean by Sophia N. Lee


“Light always remains. The world  turns, and the days pass, and the sun warms the places that need it.”


What does it mean to be different? 14-year-old Olive is struggling to find out. Everything about her is so different from the rest of her family. She is big-haired, brown skinned, and clumsy in a family of cream-colored beauties who are all popular and Good At Sports. She closely resembles a father she has never known, and about whom her mother never speaks, and no one wants to tell her why. She turns to books and other things in her quest to find answers, and as a way to cope with her loneliness. When she learns the truth about her father, she must decide whether or not she will let the differences in her life define her forever.

A unique coming-of-age story unfolding through dictionary-style chapters, What Things Mean takes a closer look at the things that define a life, and the many ways in which we find meaning.

*Grand Prize Winner, Scholastic Asian Book Award 2014

Book Links: Author’s Site | Goodreads | Scholastic Asia

Personal Thoughts:

I actually read What Things Mean before reading Catherine Torres’ Sula’s Voyage, both books written by Filipina authors and showcases Filipino culture. What things mean reminds me that I haven’t actually read many stories set in my own country, Philippines. Though I’m sure there are many out there published both locally and internationally my reading pile doesn’t have much of those titles. I’m guilty for not really checking Filipino authors and their works as much as I’m supposed to. Support our own right?

Anyway, What Things Mean introduced readers to Olive Geurero, a young girl who is trying to find her place in her family. Being different from the rest of her mother’s clan from appearance to hobbies and interest makes her feel lonely and unaccepted. She is more like her father, though she never actually met him. The more she wants to fit in, the more she wants to meet her father to understand why she is so different. But what if meeting her father is not the key in uncovering her own identity?

The writing format reminds me of David Levithan’s Lover’s Dictionary wherein the story is told in a non-linear format of dictionary-entries. In What Thing Mean, Sophia N. Lee highlight each chapters using words and their dictionary meanings, then weaved all these words to Olive’s story.

“Like life. You can’t keep it from happening. You grow up. You change,”… “It’s just like those clothes you let go of because you get too big for them. Sometimes, your life just gets too small for you, and there’s nothing else you can do, but walk away.”

Olive as the main character is interesting. Her quiet and subtle approach of uncovering things to understand more why she is so different or just to find answers to most of her questions shows a different kind of strength. She is smart and humble. Even during her early age she clearly shows an inquisitive mind and an eager spirit. Readers will surely like Olive and her quiet tale of self-discovery to find meaning.

The story being set in the Philippines with Filipino characters showcase Filipino culture and values. Like the close family ties setup of living, where Olive lives in a house with her grandmother, her aunts, and cousins. Filipino readers will surely relate to Olive’s life and experiences. The book will easily remind us how colorful and unique Filipino culture is.

All in all, What Things Means is a quick read about a girl trying to find her place and meaning in life. It’s a unique book that show a closer look to Filipino culture and values, something that every Filipino readers will easily relate to and be proud of.


* This review is based on a copy I received courtesy of the publisher, Scholastic Press Philippines in exchange for an honest opinion.

Join Scholastic Philippines at MIBF

Whose joining MIBF (Manila International Book Fair) this year? Have you seen the line up of events from local and international publishers and book stores? Scholastic Philippines together with National Book Store is organizing two wonderful events for kids and kids at heart. Check the posters and details below.

geronimo stilton MIBF 2015

Fantastic news for Geronimo and Thea Stilton fans in the Philippines! The Stilton siblings will be at the National Book Store Booth at the 2015 Manila International Book Fair on September 20, 2015. Get a chance to take selfies with them, and have Geronimo and Thea stamp your books too. Just make sure that your books are purchased from National Book Store and don’t forget to bring the receipt as proof of purchase or make sure the NBS tag prize at the back of your book is still intact.

Goosebumps Poster MIBF 2015

To all Goosebumps fans here in the Philippines, there will be a scary Goosebumps villain at the National Book Store Booth at the 2015 Manila International Book Fair on September 20, 2015. Get a chance to take Halloween selfies with a larger-than-life monster as early as this month. Feel free to bring friends and family with you.

Enjoy MIBF!!!


First Published in 1963, Bridwell’s Clifford the Big Red Dog® Series Has 127 Million Books in Print, an Emmy® Award–Winning Television Series, a Motion Picture and More

New York, NY – December 16, 2014 – Norman Bridwell, the author/illustrator of the Clifford the Big Red Dog series of children’s books, died on Martha’s Vineyard on Friday, December 12, 2014. Bridwell created the character of Clifford in 1963 and went on to write and illustrate more than 150 titles, all published by Scholastic, that now boast 129 million books in print in 13languages. In 2000, everyone’s favorite BIG red dog made his television debut on PBS Kids and the animated series quickly became one of the network’s biggest children’s hits.

“Norman Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most loveable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor,” said Dick Robinson, Chairman, President and CEO, Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company. “Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children – kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude – through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than fifty years.”

“The magic of the character and stories Norman created with Clifford is that children can see themselves in this big dog who tries very hard to be good, but is somewhat clumsy and always bumping into things and making mistakes. What comforts the reader is that Clifford is always forgiven by Emily Elizabeth, who loves him unconditionally,” Robinson added. “At Scholastic, we are deeply saddened by the loss of our loyal and talented friend whose drawings and stories have inspired all of us and generations of children and their parents.”

Born in Kokomo, Indiana in 1928, Bridwell grew up loving to draw. He studied at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis and then moved to New York, where he took classes at Cooper Union for two years. Despite his passion for drawing, Bridwell struggled to enter the publishing world. His Clifford manuscript was turned down by nine publishers before landing at Scholastic, where Bridwell found a publishing home and remained for more than 50 years.

Clifford was originally to be called “Tiny,” but Bridwell’s wife of 56 years, Norma, instead suggested he be named “Clifford” after her childhood imaginary friend.The character Emily Elizabeth from the series is named after Norman and Norma Bridwell’s daughter Emily Elizabeth. For most of their life together, Norman and Norma Bridwell lived on Martha’s Vineyard, which some might say bears a rather striking resemblance to the “Birdwell Island” home of Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Norman Bridwell is survived by his wife, Norma, their daughter, Emily Elizabeth, son, Timothy, and three grandchildren. Before his death, Bridwell had completed two more Clifford books which will be released in 2015:  Clifford Goes to Kindergarten in May and Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah in October.

For more about Norman Bridwell and Clifford the Big Red Dog, visit:

A 50th anniversary video about Norman Bridwell and Clifford the Big Red Dog, including an interview with Bridwell, is available at:

* PR courtesy of Scholastic Philippines