36 Books for Kids
Grab Bag

36 Books for Kids Under $25

Give your child a head start in life. Teach them to read.

36 Books for Kids

I get a commission for clicks & purchases made through links in this post at no cost to you.


Humans have told stories for hundreds of thousands of years. And they have a powerful influence on our everyday lives. You want the best for your child, so giving them the gift of literacy is a no-brainer. Here are some books that can help your child on their journey to fluent reading.

(Click the arrow on the right-hand side of the 4th row to see more.)

My Absolute Favorite Books I Read This Year
Book Reviews

My Absolute Favorite Books I Read This Year

Brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite books.

My Absolute Favorite Books I Read This Year

I get a commission for purchases made through links in this post at no cost to you.

As we approach the end of the year, I’ve been reflecting on the books I’ve read over the past several months. Most have been good or okay. A few were so horrible they made me want to scream or cry or both. But several of them were outstanding for a variety of reasons. Here is a list of books I would totally, absolutely, 100% recommend. They are listed in no particular order.

1. Fool Moon

I am a huge fan of the Harry Dresden, or Dresden Files, series by Jim Butcher. These books always have great pacing, action, and plenty of humor. For any of you who’ve read my blog for a while, you know that I rarely read a series in order. This is actually my 6th or 7th Dresden book, even though it’s technically the 2nd in the series. Oops? Haha. It’s still great.

Get It Now

Genres: Urban Fantasy, Werewolves & Shifters, Witches & Wizards, Private Detective


2. The Book of Taltos

Yet another book series that I’ve read willy-nilly. The Book of Taltos by Steven Brust is one of the Vlad Taltos series. There’s wry humor, magic, and a shoulder dragon. Need I say more?

Get It Now

Genres: Fantasy, Epic, Sword & Sorcery


3. When the Future Comes Too Soon

And here is another book from the middle of a series. When the Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke is a powerful novel. Definitely not as light-hearted as the previous two books, but it’s packed with insight.

Get It Now

Genres: Historical Fiction, Asian American, Cultural Heritage, Family Life


4. Don Quixote and Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age

This book had me literally laughing out loud. It smushes a whole bunch of classic literary and pop culture characters together in weird and wacky ways. If you don’t know the characters, though, it might be considerably less funny.

Get It Now

Genres: Humorous, Fantasy


5. Known Shippable, Will Not Fix

I loved this indie book to bits. You might find some really negative reviews for this book, but most of them are from before it was re-edited. This book is hilarious, zany, and really inventive.

Get It Now

Genre: Humorous, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Video & Electronic Games


6. Kat Cubed

This book combines two things I love to think about: multiverses and quantum mechanics. It also helps that the author has a Ph.D in Particle Physics.

Get It Now

Genres: Science Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, New Adult Fiction


7. Smoke City

This book is entirely different from everything on this list. It has some vaguely Hunter S. Thompson vibes and a unique spin on novel structure.

Get It Now

Genres: Magical Realism, Ghosts, Paranormal and Urban

A futuristic and dystopian YA book
Book Reviews

A Futuristic and Dystopian YA Book

It’s a good thing we don’t live in a dystopian society. *cough* *cough*

A futuristic and dystopian YA book


This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you.


This week’s book is the second in a series. And anyone who’s been following my blog for some time knows that I’m notorious for reading things out of order. I admit that this habit doesn’t allow me to experience the full history of a fictional world or its characters when I jump right into the middle of things. But, it also gives me a good sense of how coherent the world is. As soon as I opened this book, I knew the characters had a history together. And the author included sufficient descriptive details which kept me from becoming disoriented.

So what is today’s book?

The Stolen Sky, by Heather Hansen, hits the ground running. It takes place in a sunless city. More specifically, the city has been divided into multiple levels with the majority of the population dwelling underground. Those on the surface hold all the power and most of the wealth. Meanwhile, those living underground need supplements of VitD (vitamin D, which we get from the sun) in order to avoid a grisly death.

Hansen’s writing really shines in its worldbuilding. The social hierarchy and subtle political machinations are well-planned. It feels like a real living, breathing (or gasping) world.

I would have enjoyed this book even better if the romance between the two main characters didn’t interrupt the action. Because this book has some pretty amazing action scenes. And, overall, I didn’t feel that invested in their relationship. Part of this might be because I haven’t read the first book in the series, so I’m not holding that against this book. But the whole romantic-moment-interrupting-a-life-or-death-situation-with-a-short-timer-on-it is a common trope in books and television. Especially television. To me, it feels forced and unnatural even with two hormone-addled teens.

However, Arden and Dade (the main characters) make other pretty adolescent choices fueled by fear. And this aspect of the characters feels incredibly honest to me. Living in a stressful, dystopian nightmare doesn’t help your brain make great decisions. Even more so when you’re a young adult and your prefrontal cortex is restructuring (think: moodiness and lack of inhibition). All things considered, these characters are resourceful, highly adaptive, and realistic.

Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars




Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story · The Touch: A Supernatural Story · Jake & The Dragons of Asheville · Kat Cubed · Transgender Manifesto

Grab Bag

10 Lovely Book Covers

Aren’t these designs lovely?


Isn’t is satisfying when you find a really lovely book cover? Good design can lift my mood. And it communicates a story. Really great covers suck us in. This post features ten covers that recently caught my eye.

Before we dig in, this post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something from these links, I will receive a commission. There is absolutely no cost to you. Cool? Sweet, let’s get started.

1. Alex and Eliza: A Love Story

It only makes sense that the first lovely cover is an actual love story. I like how the figures melt into the heart, especially with the dress on the left. The background also adds some visual interest with floral texturing.

2. Geekerella: A Fangirl Fairy Tale

This cover has a wonderful illustrated feel to it. The gradient in the sky is beautiful. And the modernized “magic pumpkin” is cute clever.

3. Our Dark Duet

There is so much to love about this cover. The typography is layered and gorgeous. And I love the musical instrument cut-out.

4. Warcross

The colors here caught my eye. And the metallic lighting and three-dimensional quality create a lot of visual interest.

5. The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic

The ornate floral and thorny decorations on each corner are eye-catching. And the contrasting orange details have textured centers. In fact, all non-text details give the appearance of embroidery or sewn patches.

6. Genuine Fraud

These simple golden locks against a deep blue background produce a powerful effect. And having a few strands overlap letters in the title is a nice touch.

7. The Hate U Give

And here is another brilliant use of negative space. Even though there are no borders, the eye is fooled into picturing a sign in the person’s hands. Simple, elegant, lovely.

8. When Dimple Met Rishi

Well, this is a cover that looks like it came straight from Instagram. And isn’t the handwritten text on the cup a cool touch?

9. The Sun is Also a Star

And this cover explodes with color. Not only that, but the color field resembles thread and pins. And the title is actually more negative space left between the pins and strings.

10. Everything, Everything

Isn’t this a lovely cover? The first word of the title feels handpainted or hand-drawn. And I love the airplane zooming across the ‘R.’ The second word of the title couches itself in a mass of floral doodles. Well, maybe some of the doodles spill over onto the letters, too. Either way, this cover rocks.

What did you think of this list? Which covers did you love? Were there any that you disliked? Let me know in the comments below!

Want to See More Lovely Book Covers?

10 Gorgeous Book Covers

10 Stunning Red Book Covers

odd couple
Writing Tips

Wacky Writing Prompt: The Odd Couple

What an odd couple…

odd couple

If You’re New

Welcome to the weekly Wacky Writing Prompt! Each Saturday, I’ll post a new weird and quirky prompt to get your creative juices flowing. To participate, all you have to do is write flash fiction, a short story, or a poem based on the prompt. If you’ve posted your writing somewhere online, please post a link in the comments below so I can add your stories to next week’s prompt. Who knows, your unique take may break through someone else’s writer’s block!

The Odd Couple

An elf and a samurai meet in a bar. What happens next?


How I Chatted Online and Earned Over $100 in 2 Weeks
Grab Bag

I Chatted Online & Earned over $100 in 2 Weeks

This isn’t a get rich quick scheme. Success is earned.

How I Chatted Online and Earned Over $100 in 2 Weeks

This post contains my referral link. If you use my link to join italki and use some of your teaching funds to take a lesson, we’ll both earn $10. Pretty sweet, right?

I was in a tough spot. Student loans were breathing down my neck. My other projects weren’t making money. I’d spend 8 hours crafting an article, only to have it rejected (no publication = no income). And I needed something stable, a little more secure to tide me over.

Enter: italki. (Yes, it’s all lowercase. I checked 3 times.)

Question Mark

What is it?

It’s a platform for language learners to connect with instructors. People from all over the world can view teacher profiles and decide to sign up. You have complete control over your schedule, and you don’t have to worry about timezones, either. italki takes care of all of that for you.

Whoa, whoa. Teacher? I’m not a teacher.

Don’t worry. If you have a verbal native language, you’re more than qualified. At italki, there are 2 kinds of lessons language learners can sign up for. One is a professional lesson with tutors who are certified in teaching their language to non-native speakers. And the second kind is what I do: informal tutoring. These are simply normal conversations with students in your native language. Easy peasy. Right?

Sounds Cool. How Do I Start?

Joining italki is pretty easy. Everyone starts out with a free student account. But the teacher profile has to be earned. You’ll have to apply for it from your student account. The application process involves filling out a profile and creating a 1-3 minute introduction video. And then the waiting begins. It takes about 10 business days to get approved. But, if you follow all of the guidelines they provide during the application process, you shouldn’t have a problem getting approved.


And, How Do I Find Students?

This was honestly the part I was the most worried about when I started this venture. But as soon as I set my availability and lesson rates, lesson requests flooded my inbox. Trust me. If you do everything right, the students will find YOU.

But What About the Money?

You control what your prices are and how often to teach. So, how much you make is up to you. And keep in mind that italki will take a 15% cut from each lesson.

Students on italki purchase credits based on the American dollar. So, if you live in another country, keep in mind that your earnings are in USD.


Also, the payout timing is a little different depending on which payment system you use. Skrill, Paypal, Payoneer, and Bank Transfer via Payoneer work on a bi-monthly system, while other withdrawal methods are only processed at the end of the month. Withdrawals do not happen automatically. This is because you have the option of transferring funds to your wallet to buy lessons. But be careful, because transferring money to your wallet can’t be undone. I’d hate for you to do that by mistake and lose some of your hard-earned money. 🙁

Because withdrawals aren’t automatic, you need to manually request a withdrawal of your earnings. This request will be processed on either the 15th or the end of the month. And then it will take about 10 business days after processing for the funds to make it to you.

Long story short? This is not for anyone who needs quick cash yesterday.


My italki Strategy

Some of my students have told me horror stories about past tutors who were disrespectful or unreliable. Naturally, they stopped scheduling lessons with these tutors. The ideal italki tutor is reliable, punctual, empathetic, fluent, and patient. Remember, your students are doing something brave! Speaking a language you don’t know very well can be embarrassing and demoralizing. Put yourself in their shoes.

The Price is Right

When you first start out, italki recommends charging a low price to attract new students. This helps you pick up ratings and testimonials so you can start charging more. italki has guidelines for the minimum and maximum you can charge for one lesson. These are higher for certified teachers and lower for informal tutors.

I followed this advice and raised my prices after the deluge of requests.

The hitch?

Many of my students come from countries with currencies that can’t compete with the U.S. dollar. My personal opinion is that it would be unfair to raise my current students’ prices because it’d be a bait and switch. Plus, I’d rather have the lower income from students I have a relationship with who will come to me for lessons again and again. Luckily, there’s a way to give your students discounts so none of them got charged more than they could afford.

There are also instant lessons which allow me to charge full price. And new students can sign up for trial lessons to decide if I’m worth the money. I’ve done one trial lesson so far. They decided I was worth the money. 🙂 Because…


You Have to Care

No two students are the same. Everyone has different struggles. You have to listen to each student and figure out what they need to work on most. By figure out, I mean ask them. Get them to practice, and try not to interrupt them too much. That can get super frustrating and a little demoralizing.

You Have to Be Respectful

italki has guidelines on topics that cannot be discussed in lessons. Remember that your students come from all over the world. Some topics may be sensitive and uncomfortable for your students. And speaking in a new language is uncomfortable enough!

Also, be punctual. Be awake. Have a nice clean, quiet space dedicated to lessons. Don’t try to multi-task by doing other household chores while you talk. Students notice, and it doesn’t make them feel great.


Be Prepared

Your student may have topics they’d like to discuss, but sometimes they won’t. Have a few topics on hand to ask them questions about. Take notes so you can track what you’ve already talked about.

Speak Clearly

Even though italki allows people to teach any language they are fluent in, students generally prefer native speakers. If your region has a strong accent, try to adjust so your student can understand you. If a student is having trouble, speak slower. Use shorter sentences. Write out what you said in chat. Adapt to the moment. Simplify.

Global hands

What I Love Most…

italki gives me the chance to tell stories, help people, AND make an income. Tutoring has taught me so much about the rest of the world. And it’s a great way to rediscover how quirky the English language really is. 🙂

Does this sound like something you’d be interested in doing? Or maybe you’d like to learn a new language?

Get started


One Book Every Cisgender Person Should Read
Book Reviews

Transgender Manifesto

Transgender people have been around a long time and are here to stay.

One Book Every Cisgender Person Should Read

This week’s read is nonfiction, which is rare for me. It’s also written by a transgender woman about civil rights from the transgender community’s point of view. If this makes you uncomfortable, then you should really read this book. At the very least, you can walk away from it with a better understanding of what transgender people deal with every day.

Before I dive into the review portion of this post, know that I get a commission for purchases made through some links in this post.


The Transgender Manifesto, by Ian Thomas Malone (she/her), opens with a flashy celebration of transgender people and an open defiance against the gender binary. Structure-wise, the book is divided into many bite-sized chapters. In each chapter, she addresses various components of life as a transgender person. From discussing the validity of non-binary genders to tackling the all-too-common discrimination transgender people face in society to this day. Malone also inserts tidbits from LGBTQ+ history. And she delves into contemporary politics.

Perhaps most interesting is how she tackles prejudice. She outlines the most common arguments flung against the transgender community. And then? Malone systematically refutes them. The author doggedly breaks down each point, one by one. In this book, she goes from fiery to philosophical and back again. It’s pretty fabulous.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story · The Touch: A Supernatural Story · Jake & The Dragons of Asheville · Kat Cubed

10 Gifts for the Fairy Lover in Your Life
Grab Bag

10 Holiday Gifts for the Fairy Lover in Your Life

I think I saw a fairy!


10 Gifts for the Fairy Lover in Your Life

Described as a devious and dangerous lot, the fey of ancient myth have come a long way. Once a magical creature to be feared, fairies are now associated with glitter and happiness. And with that shift, our fascination with the mystical beings has grown. From Peter Pan to Cinderella, there are plenty of stories about the fairy folk. I mean, they’re called fairy tales for a reason, right?

In this post, you’ll find a variety of fairy-themed gifts full of glitter and magic. Whether you’re shopping for a Christmas, wedding, birthday, or baby shower present, you’ll find something for that special someone on your list. (Also, I get a commission for purchases or clicks made through links in this post.)

1. Crystal Fairy Necklace

Crystal Fairy Necklace

These lovely fairy crystals come from LotusFairy’s Etsy shop. For less than 30 bucks, you can bring some sparkle to your loved one’s life. There are over 20 crystals to choose from. Plus, you have the option of buying other crystals separately. That way, you can switch the pendants to whatever suits your mood. There’s also a fun list of each crystal’s properties listed here.

2. Wedding Centerpiece Lights

Wedding Fairy Lights

These magical lights are from OneStepTimers’ Etsy shop. Help the bride and groom add a bit of romance to their special day with these fairy lights. They come with a battery pack that can be easily taped to the lid of a mason jar to create this lantern effect. Mason jars aren’t included with this product, which means you can feel free to decorate with these lights any way you’d like. They would also be perfect for an anniversary dinner or an elegant sweet sixteen birthday party.

3. Only the Best Friends Get Promoted to Fairy Godmother: Glitter-Dipped Stemless Wineglass

Glitter Dipped Stemless Wineglass

This glitzy wineglass comes from the Glitter & Grace Canadian Etsy shop. For well under $20, you can order this fun glass for your bff. You can choose from 9 different glitter colors and even customize the design colors. Better yet? The glass is BPA-free and eco-friendly. I’m sure the fairies approve. 🙂

4. Tiny Fairy Necklace

Tiny Fairy Necklace

This silver necklace is handmade by Smitten Kitten Kendall. Imagine the look on your loved one’s face when they find this under the Christmas tree! You can even customize the necklace to have their first or last initial. Even better? The shop will gift wrap the necklace for you, 100% free of charge. If your gift-wrapping skills are anything like mine, that’s a super huge bonus!

5. Fairy Dust Necklace

Fairy Dust Necklace

This vial of wonder is from OneRedCanoe’s Etsy shop. It comes with five mini cards and a teeny tiny metal key as well as a healthy dose of pixie dust (a.k.a. glitter). This would be a great gift for a child (though not recommended for small children and toddlers). And the cool part? The shop owner can personalize these pendants with any small note you’d like to add.

6. Glitter Fairy Cupcake Toppers

Glitter Fairy Cupcake Toppers

These customizable cupcake toppers are from Shaylo & Lolli’s Etsy shop. Perfect for a birthday party, a baby shower, or even a bridal shower. They come in packs of 6, 12, 24, and 36 so you’ll never run out. And you can choose from five different colors.

7. Watercolor Print

Pink and Gold Fairy Watercolor Print

This gorgeous print is by EllowDee. Great for brightening up a dorm room or for giving as a housewarming gift. And you can choose between the print going on glossy paper with linen texture or on a non-reflective deep matte paper.

8. Silhouette Decal

Fairy Silhouette Decal

This cute little decal is from My Vinyl Touch. Decals range in size from 3 to 5 inches. And you can choose from one of 13 different colors. That’s enough to make an entire rainbow!

9. Personalized Stationery Set

Personalized Fairy Stationery

Take your letters to a whole new level with this custom stationery from The Drifting Thistle. You can choose from 28 ink colors for the text, most of which have matching envelopes. Each set has a stack of 10 flat note cards and envelopes. These personalized note cards are perfect for children or stationery lovers everywhere.

10. Wall Decal

Fairy Wall Decal

This fanciful wall decal is from WallCrafters. There are over 30 color options, so you can match it to any room. The design features a fairy along with some text that reads, “I love you to the moon and back.” Lovely.

Check Out These Other Great Gift Ideas

20 Cool Pirate Items

19 Dragon Blankets