Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2019

I'm so excited to be joining the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge 2019, hosted by Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy! It's a great way to celebrate nonfiction in picture books and check out what others are reading and reviewing. You can find more info about it and the linkup to join in here!

My goal for this year is to read 12 nonfiction picture books! I decided at the beginning of the year that I was going to start highlighting some new topics and genres on my blog that I'm really into, and that includes picture book biographies and nonfiction picture books in general. I'd like to feature a different topic each week, which means each topic gets read once a month since I have 4 topics (picture book bios, nature, cultures, and strong girls). I'll probably end up reading more than 12, since some of my nature and culture books will probably be nonfiction picture books also. But 12 is the official goal!

I can't wait to get started! Look for my first nonfiction picture book review coming the first week of February! #nfpb2019

Monday, January 7, 2019

#ReadYourWorld: Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019!


I am so excited and honored to be participating in Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019! I'm looking forward to January 25 as a day to celebrate diversity and raise young readers' awareness of and appreciation for cultures that are different from their own by reviewing some great picture books!

The following authors very kindly sent me these books to review for MCBD 2019:

Albie Newton by Josh Funk


Ahni and Her Dancing Secret by Shereen Rahming

Look for my reviews here on my blog soon! Join in with the hashtag #ReadYourWorld! And there's a Twitter Party at 9pm on January 25 that I am SO excited for!! More information about the event can be found below or on my MCBD2019 blog page

Here's the official information about the event...

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2019 (1/25/19) is in its 6th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents, and educators.

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Medallion Sponsors on board

Medallion Level Sponsors

Honorary: Children’s Book Council, The Junior Library Guild, TheConsciousKid.org.

Super Platinum: Make A Way Media

GOLD: Bharat Babies, Candlewick Press, Chickasaw Press, Juan Guerra and The Little Doctor / El doctorcito, KidLitTV, Lerner Publishing Group, Plum Street Press,

SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Carole P. Roman, Author Charlotte Riggle, Huda Essa, The Pack-n-Go Girls,

BRONZE: Charlesbridge Publishing, Judy Dodge Cummings, Author Gwen Jackson, Kitaab World, Language Lizard – Bilingual & Multicultural Resources in 50+ Languages, Lee & Low Books, Miranda Paul and Baptiste Paul, Redfin, Author Gayle H. Swift, T.A. Debonis-Monkey King’s Daughter, TimTimTom Books, Lin Thomas, Sleeping Bear Press/Dow Phumiruk, Vivian Kirkfield,

MCBD 2019 is honored to have the following Author Sponsors on board

Honorary: Julie Flett, Mehrdokht Amini, Author Janet Balletta, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Josh Funk, Chitra Soundar, One Globe Kids – Friendship Stories, Sociosights Press and Almost a Minyan, Karen Leggett, Author Eugenia Chu, CultureGroove Books, Phelicia Lang and Me On The Page, L.L. Walters, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Hayley Barrett, Sonia Panigrah, Author Carolyn Wilhelm, Alva Sachs and Dancing Dreidels, Author Susan Bernardo, Milind Makwana and A Day in the Life of a Hindu Kid, Tara Williams, Veronica Appleton, Author Crystal Bowe, Dr. Claudia May, Author/Illustrator Aram Kim, Author Sandra L. Richards, Erin Dealey, Author Sanya Whittaker Gragg, Author Elsa Takaoka, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Anita Badhwar, Author Sylvia Liu, Feyi Fay Adventures, Author Ann Morris, Author Jacqueline Jules, CeCe & Roxy Books, Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, LEUYEN PHAM, Padma Venkatraman, Patricia Newman and Lightswitch Learning, Shoumi Sen, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Traci Sorell, Shereen Rahming, Blythe Stanfel, Christina Matula, Julie Rubini, Paula Chase, Erin Twamley, Afsaneh Moradian, Claudia Schwam, Lori DeMonia, Terri Birnbaum/ RealGirls Revolution, Soulful Sydney, Queen Girls Publications, LLC

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

Co-Hosts and Global Co-Hosts

A Crafty Arab, Agatha Rodi Books, All Done Monkey, Barefoot Mommy, Biracial Bookworms, Books My Kids Read, Crafty Moms Share, Colours of Us, Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes, Descendant of Poseidon Reads, Educators Spin on it, Growing Book by Book, Here Wee Read, Joy Sun Bear/ Shearin Lee, Jump Into a Book, Imagination Soup, Jenny Ward’s Class, Kid World Citizen, Kristi’s Book Nook, The Logonauts, Mama Smiles, Miss Panda Chinese, Multicultural Kid Blogs, Raising Race Conscious Children, Shoumi Sen, Spanish Playground

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media!

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Make A Way Media!

MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/25/19 at 9:00pm.E.S.T. TONS of prizes and book bundles will be given away during the party. GO HERE for more details.


Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: https://wp.me/P5tVud-1H

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians, and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom-empathy-kit/

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, New Blog!

(... ok, same blog, but some new blog policies!)

First of all, Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a very happy holiday season and that 2019 turns out to be a great one for you all!

I've been doing some thinking about how I could improve my blog this year. I would love to commit to posting daily, but since that hasn't worked out for me so far, I doubt that's going to work out anytime soon. I need to accept the fact that I'm a wife and mommy now, and I just do not have the spare time that I used to have, no matter how much I wish I did.

But, I can commit to posting some new types of things! There are certain topics and genres that are important to me, so I'd like to highlight those on my blog, such as...

  • picture book biographies (and nonfiction picture books in general!) - I love these! I'd love to read more, and I'd love to highlight the great ones I've discovered so other readers can enjoy them too. There's a weekly Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge that I'd love to join in on to share these types of books! I'll try to review one of these on the first week of each month.
  • books about nature for younger readers - I love books about nature... animals, plants, national parks, you name it - I will read it. I've had some jobs in environmental education and I've loved them all, so I'd really love to bring a little of that to my blog too by sharing awesome kidlit books about nature. I'll try to review one of these on the second week of each month.
  • books about different cultures for younger readers -  I have a lot of varied interests, and I also have a thing for learning about all the amazing cultures in the world. I love books that make learning about people and cultures who are different from yourself a really positive and exciting experience. I love reading folk tales and fairy tales from other cultures as well. I'll try to review one of these on the third week of each month.
  • books about strong girls - There are so many books coming out now with stories of girls today and in the past doing awesome things, written for younger readers, teens, and adults as well. I'd love to read some of them and share my favorites on my blog! I'll try to review one of these on the fourth week of each month.

I also have a pretty major policy change to announce. I've been doing some thinking about the kind of place I want my blog to be, and the kind of reviewer I want to be, and I realized I just want my blog to be a positive, happy place and that I want to be a reviewer who shouts from the rooftops about books that I love. With that in mind, I have decided not to post negative reviews on my blog. I'd rather spend my time and effort sharing books that I really loved, spreading the word about them and getting other readers excited to try reading them for themselves. So here's what that means:
  • My rating system won't involve stars anymore - each book will get a verdict of "I liked it," "I loved it," or "I'm obsessed with it." I'll be removing all the reviews from my blog that don't fall under "I liked it," "I loved it," or "I'm obsessed with it," and I'll be sorting my Reviews tab into those categories so it's easier to view.
  • My reviews will still be honest! If I don't like a book or don't have anything nice to say about it, I simply won't review it.
  • This does not mean that I won't be providing constructive criticism. If I think a book could improve somewhere, I will say it in what I hope is a nice and helpful way. It just means that I won't be bashing books or saying nothing but negative things about them.

I have nothing against blogs or reviewers that post reviews that bash a book - everyone is entitled to their opinion, and those reviews can be fun to read. But the world is feeling a bit unkind and angry to me right now, and I'm making my own small stand against that by pledging my blog to be a place of kindness and positivity.

Wishing you all a happy 2019! I'll leave you with one of my favorite quotes that I share each New Years - it helps me get in a positive, fresh-start mood, and I hope it helps you feel the same!

"May your year be filled with magic and dreams..., and I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." Neil Gaiman
From Pinterest

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Holiday Hiatus

Just wanted to let you lovely readers know that #1 I am still alive, and #2 I'm gonna be taking a blog break until the new year.

It kills me that I didn't have anything scheduled for my blog for holiday reading and posting, and now I'm fully consumed trying to shop for gifts for what feels like every person I have ever met, decorate the interior and exterior of our house in hopes of making spirits bright, and somehow overall manage to make Christmas magical for my toddler.

So I'm wishing you all the happiest of holidays, with hopes that you have a chance to sit and relax and read a bit during the season, and I shall see you in the new year! xoxox

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Thankful for Books

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who celebrate!

I have so much to be thankful for - a wonderful husband, our amazing son, close family, good friends... But, as silly as it may sound to many people, I am also thankful for books.

1. Books introduced me to some of my first friends. Amelia Bedelia, Curious George, Amanda Pig, Arthur, Madeline, Spot, Paddington Bear... Too many to count! I learned to love books and reading by hearing my mom read to me about these characters and their adventures.

2. Books taught me to love reading. This sounds kind of obvious. But I'm talking about teaching me to love the intentional act of reading. Of picking out a book and finding the perfect place to enjoy it. Of settling in and losing yourself for hours within its pages. Of surfacing on the other side and being in a book haze for a while where you've got one foot in the real world and one in the fictional world you just left.

3. Books gave me Harry Potter. I mean, I can't not acknowledge this one. It was my first obsession, my first fandom. I was 12 when the first book came out and 21 when the last book came out. I grew up with Harry and all his friends and I still return to that world as often as I can.

4. Books give me worlds to escape to whenever I need to run. Wonderland. Neverland. Oz. Red London, Grey London, White London, Black London. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children. And there are always new worlds to discover.

5. Books help me slow down and unplug. If you're like me, you often feel over-scheduled, over-worked, and connected to social media more often than you would like. It's hard to find a moment to take a breath and regroup. But books help me do that. Whether it's downloading a brand new ebook instantly on my phone to read anywhere and anytime I have a spare moment, or putting in my headphones and sitting down to listen to someone tell me a story over an audiobook, or snuggling in somewhere comfy to crack open a hardcover and lose myself in the black text on white pages... books help me recenter myself and find a moment of quiet in a world that often feels to me too loud and demanding.

So thank you, books, for these and many other gifts you have given me. And thank you, authors, for creating these magical words and worlds that give me peace and happiness. I am so grateful.

Monday, November 12, 2018

{ Something Old, Something New } November 2018

{ Something Old, Something New } is a meant to help us focus on the new releases in our TBR piles and also hand-pick some older books that we've been meaning to read.

On my reading list for October 2018 was...

{ Something Old }
Of Monsters and Madness
by Jessica Verday

Publication date: September 9, 2014
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 277
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), horror, gothic, retelling

You can read my review here! (2 stars)

{ Something New }
Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft
edited by Jessica Spotswood & Tess Sharpe

Publication date: August 28, 2018
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 405
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), short stories, witches, LGBTQ*

My review is coming soon! (spoiler alert: it was great!!)

On my reading list for November 2018 is...

{ Something Old }
A Great and Terrible Beauty
by Libba Bray

Publication date: December 9, 2003
Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 277
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), historical fiction, gothic

First in the Gemma Doyle series. From Goodreads:
"It's 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma's reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she's been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence's most powerful girls and their foray into the spiritual world's lead to?"

I'm in the mood for some historical fiction, and this one's been on my TBR for a long time. The spiritualism aspect really appeals to me - a reviewer described it as "gothic fantasy" and as soon as I read that I needed it in my hands. Like yesterday.

{ Something New }

The Wren Hunt

by Mary Watson

Publication date: November 6, 2018
Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 432
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), fantasy

From Goodreads:
"Every Christmas, Wren is chased through the woods near her isolated village by her family's enemies—the Judges—and there’s nothing that she can do to stop it. Once her people, the Augurs, controlled a powerful magic. But now that power lies with the Judges, who are set on destroying her kind for good.

In a desperate bid to save her family, Wren takes a dangerous undercover assignment—as an intern to an influential Judge named Cassa Harkness. Cassa has spent her life researching a transformative spell, which could bring the war between the factions to its absolute end. Caught in a web of deceit, Wren must decide whether or not to gamble on the spell and seal the Augurs’ fate.

This synopsis sucked me right in because tbh I have no idea what is going on... but it sounds magical and complicated and I can't wait!

What's on your { Something Old, Something New} reading list for this month? Pick a book that you've been meaning to read but haven't yet (your Something Old) and a new release or soon-to-be-released book (your Something New), read and/or review them, and share a link to your posts here or tweet it at me @PidginPea! I'd love to share your books and reviews when I do my { Something Old, Something New } post at the start of each month. If you'd like to read/review more than 2 books, be my guest! I'm hoping I can do { Something Old, Something New } AND a "something borrowed" and a "something blue" in the future too!

Want to put a { Something Old, Something New } button on your blog? I'd love that! Just copy and paste the code in the box below. I made the button using DeviantArt stock resources from flameshaft, gimei, and spiritsighs-stock and fonts from dafont.com and kevinandamanda.com.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Of Monsters and Madness
by Jessica Verday

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook, audiobook
Pages: 277
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Publication date: September 9, 2014
Suggested tags: young adult (ages 13-17), historical fiction, mystery, horror

First in the Of Monsters and Madness series. From Goodreads:
"A romantic, historical retelling of classic Gothic horror featuring Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee, from a New York Times best-selling author.

Summoned to her father's home in 1820's Philadelphia, a girl finds herself in the midst of a rash of gruesome murders in which he might be implicated. She is torn romantically between her father's assistants-one kind and proper, one mysterious and brooding-who share a dark secret and may have more to do with the violent events than they're letting on.

I can't help feeling a little misled by this one. That synopsis promises me "classic Gothic horror" with "Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee" ... but that's not exactly what is delivered, in my opinion. 

What I liked: It's a decent mystery story, and although I could kind of see what was happening as it unfolded, the way it was told kept me racing through it. I finished this one in two days, which only happens if I'm reeeally into a book. And I was - right up till the last few infuriating pages. More on that later...

I thought the author did a great job with the setting, making us feel like we were in this mysterious old house in dirty, dingy, 19th-century Philadelphia. I really like historical fiction, and this one didn't disappoint me in that aspect.

What I didn't: I feel like readers should know that there is nothing about Annabel Lee in this book, except for the character's name. It is not a retelling of Poe's poem. It literally has nothing to do with that poem, except for one of the characters quotes a line or two from the poem to Annabel, because her name is Annabel Lee. This is a problem for me, because I CAME HERE FOR AN ANNABEL LEE RETELLING, dangit. The synopsis promising me "Edgar Allan Poe and his character Annabel Lee" makes me think that the book will follow the poem, or something about it will play a large role in the story ... something more than just a character throwing out a line to Annabel, because that is her name and she happens to live somewhat by the sea.

Also, maybe this is just me... but it didn't really feel like a Gothic novel to me either. It came across more as, like, a penny dreadful? With "gruesome murder"! Dead bodies! Dismemberment! "The horrors--such horrors!--lie before me," says Annabel at one point. So to me, this felt more like a dark horror(ish) historical fiction. To be truly Gothic, in my interpretation anyway, I'd need a lot more detail given to me about the house and its grounds (since Gothic for me is all about the setting and the mood) and I'd need a lot more dark mysterious happenings (besides just, like, nighttime deliveries and strange books in the library). But that could just be me. *shrug*

And I gotta be honest - I was so disappointed to come here for Edgar Allan Poe and an Annabel Lee retelling and get (SPOILER - highlight to read: a Jekyll and Hyde retelling, with "Edgar" and "Allan" taking turns inhabiting Edgar Allan Poe's body) instead. Was not expecting that. Although I see that the synopsis kind of hints at it, now that I know what's going to happen. But I'm still bitter.

But the nail in the coffin (aha... Gothic humor) was when I got to the ending, because I hate to say it ... but I kind of wanted to throw the book against the wall. Everything is revealed to Annabel, and she's reeeeeally forgiving about it all to the one that caused her so much trouble. Which, good for her, if she can put (SPOILER - highlight to read: the burning of her house, the death of her grandfather, and, oh yeah, a string of murders) behind her, then great - she's a better person than I am, clearly. But what REALLY got me was in the final "two weeks later" chapter, when (SPOILER - highlight to read: she goes to Allan, in a psychiatric hospital, and freaking BRINGS HIM THE SERUM so he can turn into mass-murdering Edgar again, because this will somehow save her father who has been inexplicably kidnapped???) WHAT WHAT IS HAPPENING I DON'T

TL;DR: I went into this one expecting a retelling of Edgar Allan Poe's poem Annabel Lee in a Gothic setting, and I feel like that's not really what I received. If you go in with no expectations and just let the story go where it goes, you may like it better than I did. I just get grumpy when I'm promised something in a synopsis and I feel like it's not delivered.

Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

{ 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. :) }

{ Follow Jessica Verday }