Review & Giveaway of Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher, by Maxine Sylvester

August 12, 2019
Alright, it's my first holiday review of the year! I kid, I kid. Well, sort of anyway. But if you are looking to find a fantastic series to buy for your child, I had the chance to read Ronaldo: The Phantom Carrot Snatcher and it's so charming and adorable with an incredible message for kids.

About the Book:

Prepare to laugh out loud at this fun winter tale of friendship, sledging and flying!

Ronaldo is the top cadet at Flying Academy. He is on course to win the coveted Golden Snowflake medal and break the speed record. After the first of three speed tests, he discovers his carrots have been stolen. Ronaldo and best friend, Rudi, are determined to catch the thief. However, Ronaldo doesn’t have far to look. The culprit is hiding outside his house … and it’ a creature feared by every reindeer – a wolf!

Ronaldo and Rudi are terrified, but the wolf cub, Ernie, is sad and lonely. She has lost her pack, and it’s the coldest winter in two hundred years. Ronaldo agrees to hide the wolf in his bedroom, but he and Rudi must come up with a superhero plan to return Ernie safely home before his parents find out.

Rudi suggests flying around the Forest of Doom and delivering a message to the wolf pack during the second speed test. But it’s dangerous and Ronaldo isn’t onboard with the idea. He desperately wants to break the record, and the plan means jeopardising his chance of becoming the champion.

Will Ronaldo discover the true meaning of friendship or will he succumb to ambition and become the youngest flyer ever to break the speed record?

My Review:

What a charming book! I loved the humor and personality in this book. While it's the second in the series, I didn't feel disconnected at all from the story. I also really liked the moral lesson in the story about friendship and ambition. It's such a touching one for kids - and adults who are kids at heart. The artwork in the book is black and white, but that didn't distract from the book at all. This story just made me feel like I was there and part of this world.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would absolutely recommend it! 

About the Author, Maxine Sylvester

Maxine Sylvester was born in London, England. She grew up with a passion for Winnie the Pooh and Paddington Bear. She also loved anything Disney and enjoyed drawing the characters. Maxine's love of 'fun' art grew and she had the privilege of being mentored by cartoonist and caricaturist, Steve Chadburn. She completed further studies in children's book illustration with talented artist and illustrator, Jan Nesbitt.
Add this book to your Goodreads list, follow the author on Amazon, follow her on Twitter, and check out her website.

Best of all, I am lucky enough to giveaway a digital copy to THREE of my lucky readers. Enter via Rafflecopter below. Open internationally. Ends 9/2.

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I received a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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Interview with Author Steven Max Russo

August 7, 2019

I am so excited to introduce my readers to the author Steven Max Russo. I'm interviewing him today as well as giving away a copy of his book Thieves. First, here's a bit about the book:

About the Book, Thieves

Esmeralda works for a housecleaning service during the day and as a restaurant hostess at night. Just out of high school, she is the sole support for her mother and two young siblings.

She has drive and ambition. What she doesn't have is money.

She knows of a home in the upscale town of Mendham, NJ, that will be empty for more than a month. The rich people who live there go away the same time every year to spend time at their vacation home. Having cleaned the house, she also knows it contains a fair amount of cash and valuables.

Sitting with Ray, one of her co-workers one night, she casually mentions a "what if" scenario; Ray tells Skooley, a white trash drifter who recently moved to New Jersey from south Florida, and a plan is hatched.

It isn't long before Esmeralda finds herself trapped by both circumstance and greed, forced to try and defend herself against one of her partners in crime, who she quickly discovers is far more dangerous than she ever thought possible.

So, I loved reading on your website how the idea for Thieves came about. Can you recount that for me?

Sure. The germ of the idea came to me in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I live in northern New Jersey, away from the coast, and around here we’re just not used to getting hurricanes. The damage was extensive with downed trees and power lines blocking the roads. We had the power out for over a week. Anyway, some friends of ours who live a few towns away were on vacation and they asked my wife and I to look in on their house. It took us over an hour to make what was normally about a ten-minute drive. I had to stop frequently to move trees and rubbish from the road. I had never seen anything like it. It felt like a war zone. When we got to the house, which is much like the home described in the book, I was struck by the thought of just how easy it would be for someone to break into the house. One night I just sat down in front of my computer and began typing. The very first line I wrote was “As a rule, Skooley did not like beaners.” I had no idea for a story at all, but that house just kept gnawing at the back of my brain and so I worked that into the opening scene and from there the story of Esmeralda and Ray and the deranged psychopath Lamar Skooley emerged.

I love those moments where an image won't leave you - that's always when the best ideas come about. You started out writing short stories until you made the decision to write novels. What was that transition like?

This may sound silly, but I’m not sure I actually made a definitive transition. Thieves didn’t start out as a novel so much as a long short story. I have written 3 complete novels to date, but I still mostly think of them as stories, not novels. Each story, start to finish, takes place over just a few days time. Even my writing style seems to lend itself to short chapters, which I feel keeps things moving at a nice pace. Each chapter, to me, often feels like a story unto itself and it seems much easier to write a bunch of short stories than one long novel. The trick is weaving these stories into a cohesive narrative and then coming up with a good ending.

I think of stories as the same way - not short stories, not novels - but stories! Do you consider yourself a “pantser” or a “plotter”? And why?

Well, to date anyway, I’ve been a pantser. As I mentioned above, I usually get one small thing stuck in my head that just keeps nagging at me. I simply can’t get it out of my head until I get something written down and that starts the process. For Thieves, it was the house that I went to check on right after Sandy. For my next novel, The Dead Don't Sleep, it was a day I spent shooting trap with a friend and his uncle from Maine. My friend’s uncle was in the Vietnam War and was supposedly involved in intelligence in some capacity. I never asked what he did during the war, but my imagination got the better of me and Uncle Frank became an aging, resurgent warrior. For my latest novel, the inspiration came from a memory I have from my college days of a guy I once saw walk into a liquor store to buy a bottle of vodka wearing nothing but his underpants. That was what inspired the opening scene of The Debt Collector, only I added a shotgun to go along with the underpants.

To be honest, I wish I were more of a plotter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been stymied while writing my stories not knowing where to go next. I envy people who can get an outline down and then write around that. At least they have a direction. On the other hand, I feel pretty good about what I’ve written so far, so I guess I’ll just keep doing it the way I have been until it doesn’t work for me anymore.

Makes sense to me! You have to do what works for you. What does a typical day of writing look like for you?

For me, writing is about persistence. Some days it’s easy, and some days not so easy. When I’m working on a novel, I try to write something every day. I read somewhere that Stephen King tries to write at least 1500 words a day and I figure if that’s good enough for him, then it’s good enough for me. So that’s my goal. But sometimes I write 300 words and sometimes I write 5,000. The most amazing feeling I’ve had as a writer is when I get really rolling. I’m writing a scene or several scenes that come one after the other and I suddenly stop typing and think I’ve been at it for maybe an hour or so and find that I’ve actually been sitting at my computer typing non-stop for 4 or 5 hours. The writing process is fun and exciting for me because when I write, I actually feel like I am a part of the scene. I’ve been told that I sometimes include too much detail or that scenes are sometimes too graphic. But when I’m writing, I just describe what I see in my head. What I hear and smell and taste and sense. It’s the only way I know how to write. It’s cool because just as reading a book can take you away to someplace different in your head, writing one can do the exact same thing.

What an amazing writing habit you've developed What are you working on next?

My third book titled The Debt Collector is with my new agent, Peter Rubie of FinePrint Literary. It’s the story of young woman named Abigail Barnes who makes her living collecting debts for low-end bookies and loan sharks. She’s pretty, petite – and deadly. She moves to a new town and gets a job collecting for a small-time bookmaker who winds up dead. Soon both the police and the mob are looking for her believing she committed the murder and she has to try and find the true killer before she ends up either in jail or dead herself. It was a fun book to write and I am working on a sequel.

I can't wait to see what you come out with next! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview and best of luck with your next book. 

About the Author

Steven Max Russo has spent most of his professional career as an advertising copywriter and agency owner. He got interested in writing fiction after one of his short stories was accepted by an online literary journal in 2013. Then he caught the bug and began writing seriously. The publication of his first novel, Thieves, has garnered praise from renowned crime and thriller authors from around the globe. With a gritty writing style and unique voice, he is quickly winning a legion of new fans. Steve is proud to call New Jersey his home.

Visit the author at

Readers, enter to win a copy of the book Thieves below via Rafflecopter. Giveaway ends on 8/26. US only.

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