Thursday, July 16, 2020

Review: Gargantis by Thomas Taylor

Gargantis
by Thomas Taylor; illustrated by Tom Booth

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 352
Publisher: Walker Books US
Publication date: May 26, 2020
Suggested tags: middle grade, fantasy
Series: The Legends of Eerie-on-Sea (#2)
(You can read my review of Book #1, Malamander, here!)


From the publisher:
"In the second fantasy set in Eerie-on-Sea, Herbert and Violet team up to solve the mystery of Gargantis — an ancient creature of the deep with the power to create life-threatening storms.

There’s a storm brewing over Eerie-on-Sea, and the fisherfolk say a monster is the cause. Someone has woken the ancient Gargantis, who sleeps in the watery caves beneath this spooky seaside town where legends have a habit of coming to life. It seems the Gargantis is looking for something: a treasure stolen from her underwater lair. And it just might be in the Lost-and-Foundery at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, in the care of one Herbert Lemon, Lost-and-Founder. With the help of the daring Violet Parma, ever-reliable Herbie will do his best to figure out what the Gargantis wants and who stole her treasure in the first place. In a town full of suspicious, secretive characters, it could be anyone!"

It was SO GOOD to return to Eerie-on-Sea! I loved the first book in the series, Malamander, because it was adventurous and exciting and creepy and the setting was so wonderfully depicted. And I'm delighted to report that all my favorite elements of #1 reappear just as strongly in #2, Gargantis!

This installment of Herbert and Violet's story involves a huge storm, local fisherfolk lore, a sea monster, a clockwork crab, another terrifyingly not-quite-human bad guy, and some more hints revealed about the possible fates of Herbert and Violet's parents! All of my favorite characters from the first book appeared again - including Seegol and his seaside diner, which never fails to make me really crave a good batch of fish and chips.

I really cannot rave about this series enough. If you like your middle grade fiction chock full of adventure and mystery, featuring smart and capable characters, with just enough scary stuff to give you goosebumps without keeping you up all night, all set in the most fantastically developed and deliciously eerie seaside town, THIS IS FOR YOU.


Final verdict: I'm obsessed with it! I thought this book was amazing! It's now officially one of my favorite books! I shall be shouting about it from the rooftops for days and I am currently recommending it to everyone I come in contact with!



{ Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Monday, July 13, 2020

Review: Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

 https://www.turnerpublishing.com/books/detail/mammoth/Mammoth
by Jill Baguchinsky

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 333
Publisher: Turner Publishing
Publication date: November 6th 2018
Suggested tags: young adult, realistic fiction, paleontology



From the publisher:
"The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat.
But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.
"

Ok, a plus-size fashion blogger who is also a paleontology geek, who uses her smarts and talents to land an awesome internship? I am SOLD. I want to read more books about girls who have off-beat interests and are not afraid to follow their passions and do awesome things!!

I loved reading about Natalie and her friends at this paleontology internship. My undergrad degree was in Anthopology/Archaeology and I went to field school, so some of the paleontology parts of the book gave me some familiar vibes, and I really enjoyed reliving those memories! And I was crushed when she discovers her hero is not who he thought he was. Argh, what a devastating reality strike. I hurt alongside her - those sorts of life lessons are the worst.

The only thing that bothered me a bit was that some of Natalie's decisions made me want to pull my hair out. She landed this amazing internship, which she's really wanted and worked hard for, and then she's going to put it in jeopardy by *repeatedly* making some really poor choices that she knows she shouldn't, doing things that she knows would get her kicked out if she was discovered. I would allow *one* time, caving to peer pressure or just generally being an impulsive teen whose brain has not yet fully formed the decision-making parts. (No offense intended to any teens! Science says your brains are not done growing!) But multiple times? Girl! No!! Use your smarts and do what you know is right! You're sending my anxiety through the roof, you've come so far and I don't want you to fail!!

*deep breaths*

Ok... I'm good now. To sum it up, I did like this book and its amazingly talented main character, although I didn't like all the choices she made, and I am so serious about wanting to read more books about girls who have obscure interests and who follow those interests fiercely and bravely!  


Final verdict: I liked it! I thought this book was good! I enjoyed reading it and I would probably recommend it to others.


{ Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Quarantine update

Hello fellow bookworms... Hope you're all doing well and staying healthy and happy. Some reports I've seen are saying COVID-19 is starting to improve in some parts of the world, so congrats to you all for doing your part and I hope you get to enjoy your summer!

Where I am... we're not there yet. I'm still hunkering down at home, only going out for groceries. It's gonna be a long summer for us. But I'm trying to stay positive and look towards the light at the end of the tunnel.

I keep thinking, I could be doing so much reading. And reviewing, and blogging... But for some reason, I'm having a reeeeally hard time focusing on books. I'm doing better with fantasy books, books that are in no way realistic and are just total escapism reads. So I'm reading some books I've had on my TBR for forever, and some stuff I might not have picked up otherwise, and I'm enjoying it. I do want to make better use of my time and catch up on books that are waiting to be reviewed, and get back into a blogging routine, but I need my brain to get in the game and *focus*.

How about you? How are your reading habits this summer? Are you tearing through books at light speed? Or are you struggling a bit like I am? Trying some new books/genres or going back to old favorites?

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Review: Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror by Natasha Farrant

https://wwnorton.com/books/9781324015567Eight Princesses and a Magic Mirror
by Natasha Farrant; illustrated by Lydia Corry

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 224
Publisher: Norton Young Readers
Publication date: May 5, 2020
Suggested tags: young adult, middle grade, fantasy, short stories, strong girls



From the publisher:
"Here are princesses for the Rebel Girls generation: bold, empowered, and determined to be true to themselves.

“Mirror, mirror on the wall . . . what makes a princess excellent?” When an enchantress flings her magic mirror into our universe, its reflection reveals princesses who refuse to be just pretty, polite, and obedient. These are girls determined to do the rescuing themselves. Princess Leila of the desert protects her people from the king with the black-and-gold banner; Princess Tica takes a crocodile for a pet; Princess Ellen explores the high seas; Princess Abayome puts empathy and kindness above being royal; and in a tower block, Princess saves her community’s beloved garden from the hands of urban developers.

Connecting these stories is the magic mirror, which reveals itself when each girl needs it most, illuminating how a princess’s power comes not from her title or beauty, but from her own inner strength. These beautifully imagined stories, complemented by vibrant and inviting artwork, offer the pleasure and familiarity of traditional tales with refreshingly modern themes.
"

This was absolutely beautiful in every possible way! What a lovely little collection of stories about strong princesses from around the world, connected loosely by a magic mirror that finds its way to each one of them. The synopsis kind of generalizes what each girl does, but these princesses do much more in each of their stories than you could explain in one sentence - they are brave, bright girls with many varied talents, interests, and attributes.

Each story was very different - some more based in fantasy, like the princess who switches places with a fairy, and some are more realistic, like the princess who saves the community garden outside her apartment. Some princesses are focused on family, some want to go adventuring, some stand up bravely against wrongdoings. Honestly, I'm not sure I can pick a favorite - I loved each story and each princess for different reasons.

The time periods and areas these girls come from are rarely specifically identified, but I tried to piece it together based on clues like character names and descriptions of places. There was a medieval princess, a Middle Eastern princess, an African princess, a Latin American princess, and perhaps Russian princesses (definitely reminded me of the Romanovs) who fled to France, but I guessed on the others: Ireland, Scotland, and a big city like New York, maybe?

I can easily see this book being read aloud for bedtime or otherwise, and asked for repeatedly. I've read a lot of collections of stories in the "strong girls/princesses" category, so my expectations for this were not super high, but I was absolutely blown away. I would highly recommend this for any bright, brave, adventurous princess's bookshelf. (And I'll be reading this to my little prince too, when he's old enough.)


Final verdict: I'm obsessed with it! I thought this book was amazing! It's now officially one of my favorite books! I shall be shouting about it from the rooftops for days and I am currently recommending it to everyone I come in contact with!


{ Thank you to Edelweiss+ and the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Monday, April 27, 2020

Review: Mermaid Moon by Susann Cokal


Mermaid Moon
by Susann Cokal

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 336
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: March 3, 2020
Suggested tags: young adult, fantasy, mermaids



From the publisher:
"An award-winning author tells of a mermaid who leaves the sea in search of her landish mother in a captivating tale spun with beautiful prose, lush descriptions, empathy, and keen wit.

Blood calls to blood; charm calls to charm.
It is the way of the world.
Come close and tell us your dreams.

Sanna is a mermaid — but she is only half seavish. The night of her birth, a sea-witch cast a spell that made Sanna’s people, including her landish mother, forget how and where she was born. Now Sanna is sixteen and an outsider in the seavish matriarchy, and she is determined to find her mother and learn who she is. She apprentices herself to the witch to learn the magic of making and unmaking, and with a new pair of legs and a quest to complete for her teacher, she follows a clue that leads her ashore on the Thirty-Seven Dark Islands. There, as her fellow mermaids wait in the sea, Sanna stumbles into a wall of white roses thirsty for blood, a hardscrabble people hungry for miracles, and a baroness who will do anything to live forever.

From the author of the Michael L. Printz Honor Book
The Kingdom of Little Wounds comes a gorgeously told tale of belonging, sacrifice, fear, hope, and mortality."

Well, I've just discovered a new author whose words speak to my very soul. This story was so magical, a bit of a grown-up mermaid tale that edges just enough onto the dark side, and it was told in such an evocative way. I loved these seavish folk and their world, both on the shore and under the waves. And those mermaid songs... I wish I had a whole book of mermaid poetry to devour.

To be honest, I was expecting kind of a frilly mermaid story, but instead I got this intense, intricate, beautifully told masterpiece - and I'm so glad I did. If the synopsis sounds the least bit interesting to you, I would say definitely give this one a read - you might fall completely under its spell, like I did.


Final verdict: I'm obsessed with it! I thought this book was amazing! It's now officially one of my favorite books! I shall be shouting about it from the rooftops for days and I am currently recommending it to everyone I come in contact with!


{ Thank you to LibraryThing Early Reviewers and the publisher
for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Review: The Body under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn

The Body under the Piano
by Marthe Jocelyn; illustrated by Isabelle Follath

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition
Pages: 336
Publisher: Tundra Books
Publication date: February 2, 2020
Suggested tags: middle grade, historical fiction, mystery
Series: Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen (#1)



From the publisher:
"A smart and charming middle-grade mystery series starring young detective Aggie Morton and her friend Hector, inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child and her most popular creation, Hercule Poirot. For fans of Lemony Snicket and The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency.

Aggie Morton lives in a small town on the coast of England in 1902. Adventurous and imaginative but deeply shy, Aggie hasn’t got much to do since the death of her beloved father . . . until the fateful day when she crosses paths with twelve-year-old Belgian immigrant Hector Perot and discovers a dead body on the floor of the Mermaid Dance Room! As the number of suspects grows and the murder threatens to tear the town apart, Aggie and her new friend will need every tool at their disposal — including their insatiable curiosity, deductive skills and not a little help from their friends — to solve the case before Aggie’s beloved dance instructor is charged with a crime Aggie is sure she didn’t commit.

Filled with mystery, adventure, an unforgettable heroine and several helpings of tea and sweets,
The Body Under the Piano is the clever debut of a new series for middle-grade readers and Christie and Poirot fans everywhere, from a Governor General’s Award–nominated author of historical fiction for children."

A middle grade mystery series inspired by young Agatha Christie?? Yes yes YES. I was so excited to read this one! 

I think the historical setting and the characterizations were my favorite parts. I loved going around Aggie's turn-of-the-century town with her as she gathered clues. And Aggie and Hector are such cute little mystery-solving pals. It's fun to follow along as they try to do some important work in an age where all the adults were trying to get them to leave things alone. I loved young Hector/Hercule and his proper finicky ways even more than I loved young Aggie/Agatha, I think.

The mystery was well done, and I was definitely deceived at first! I did manage to piece it together before the reveal, but it was satisfying to see how it all came together. Some of the book I felt moved a little slowly, but I was definitely into the parts where it picked up.

There is quite a lot of detail put into some rather gruesome elements (the effects of a poisoning, dead bodies both human and animal, brains leaking out, etc) - Aggie is based on a mystery writer in the making, after all, and she does a lot of thinking about these shocking things she sees, describing them in her head with a mystery writer's touch. Some readers may be turned off by this, but I think most readers who are interested in a historical mystery are going to be just fine with it. My middle-grade-age self would have been ALL about this - I loved the morbid and macabre and all that good stuff (aaand maybe I still do).

Overall, I thought this was a brilliant idea for a book and I'm looking forward to joining Aggie and Hector for another mystery in the next book in the series, Peril at Owl Park, due out in September 2020!


Final verdict: I liked it! I thought this book was good! I enjoyed reading it and I would probably recommend it to others.


{ Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.
My reviews are honest and my opinions are my own; 
your reading experience may vary, so give it a read and see what you think. :) }

Monday, April 20, 2020

Picture Books to Celebrate National Park Week

I've been deep in quarantine mode for a while now, trying to entertain our little guy while my husband works from home, but I'm finally starting to find some time in the day to do a little reading. And when I saw that this week was National Park Week, I knew this was the perfect time to jump back into blogging! I love being outdoors, especially when I get the chance to visit National Parks, and I've got a long list of children's books about National Parks that are on my TBR. So I wanted to start celebrating National Park Week by sharing some of these with you!

NPS has a checklist of 20 ways to celebrate National Park Week virtually, including:

They also have a theme for each day of National Park Week:

I'm so excited to celebrate National Park Week! I'll be checking out all their virtual offerings, and I'm planning to read whatever National Park ebooks I can get my hands on through my library. I'll be sharing some books on my own TBR each day. To start with, here are some of the picture books on my list I'm most excited to read. Let me know what you'll be reading to celebrate!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53077036-bringing-back-the-wolveshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28649410-do-princesses-and-super-heroes-hit-the-trailshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/29102876-grand-canyonhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/41219465-if-i-were-a-park-rangerhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28160822-journey-around-our-national-parkshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27774529-mountain-chefhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38510042-national-parks-of-the-u-s-ahttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27413035-our-great-big-backyardhttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37881903-volcano-dreamshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22462198-we-re-going-to-the-mountainshttps://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42202034-you-are-home