Saturday, August 24, 2019

Review: Berserker by Emmy Laybourne

by Emmy Laybourne

Available as: hardcover, paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 352
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Publication date: October 10, 2017
Suggested tags: young adult, historical fantasy, western, Norse mythology

First in the Berserker series. From Goodreads:
"Are Hanne's powers a gift from the old Norse gods, or a curse?

Her brother Stieg swears their powers are a gift from the old gods, but Hanne Hemstad knows she is truly cursed. It's not Stieg's fault that their father is dead, their mother has left, and their brother Knut has been accused of a crime he didn't commit.

No, the fault lies with Hanne and her inability to control her murderous "gift"--she is a Berserker. When someone she loves is threatened, she flies into a killing state. The siblings must leave Norway for the American frontier or risk being brought to justice.

Aided by a young cowboy who agrees to be their guide, Hanne and her siblings use their powers to survive the perilous trail, where blizzards, wild animals, and vicious bounty hunters await.

Will they be able to reach their uncle, the one man Hanne believes may be able to teach her how to control her drive to kill? With
Berserker, Emmy Laybourne, the author of Monument 14, presents her vision of an American west studded with Viking glory."

I mean, I was sold at "American west studded with Viking glory," but I loved this one! Really well done historical fiction, making the small frontier American towns come alive with all their dust and dirt and hard-scrabbleness. ( that a word? meh, I like it, I'm keeping it.) There's also a lot of wild west type stuff - shootouts! saloons! loyal horses! dog companions! And with Norse mythology mixed in! I loved it all!!

It was so interesting to see how the siblings used their "gifts" and how they felt about them. There's just enough romance between Hanne and the "young cowboy," Owen - I was more into the siblings' story and their adventures traveling from Norway towards their uncle in Montana, but Owen's appearance in the story added to rather than distracted from their storyline, for me. Hanne truly was on her own adventure and just happened to find a guy she liked along the way, rather than being a character who only existed to have a romance, and I loved that.

The *only* small tiny thing that bothered me a bit was the author sometimes did just a liiiittle too much telling rather than showing for my taste - she would kind of spell out how a character was thinking or feeling rather than writing it in a way that let us learn it on our own, or feel it along with the character. But that didn't keep me from enjoying the book, just something that stood out to me here and there... Because when she did let us feel things with the characters, it was so powerful. Man, the regret and shame Hanne feels when her powers get away from her and she realizes what terrible violent things she's done... I really felt it along with her, and I love when an author can do that. 

All in all, I really enjoyed my first western historical fantasy! It sounded awesome but I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did, and I can't wait to get my hands on the second book in the duology, Ransacker, published in January 2019, where Hanne's sister Sissel discovers she has a gift too. (Not-so-spoiler alert: she's a Ransacker, which means she has a gift for finding precious metals... and here she is, right in the middle of Gold Rush era America, surrounded by some new characters who *shocker* may not have her best interests at heart... Yessss dramaaaaa I am here for it...)

Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.

{ I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.
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. :) }

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

{ WWW Wednesdays } : August 21, 2019
WWW Wednesdays is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. It’s a weekly blog meme to talk books by answering 3 questions:
  • What are you currently reading? 
  • What did you recently finish reading? 
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

I've participated in WWW Wednesdays in the past, but it's been a while since I've joined in... I'm excited to get back into it! :)

{ Currently reading } : The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg
Man, I love me a good collection of fairy tale retellings. So far this one is pretty good - some of them have confused me, or have ended kind of anticlamactically, but for the most part I'm enjoying them. Technically an adult book but I think YA readers who are into fairy tale retellings (especially those who are into unique retellings with an edge of horror) would probably enjoy giving this one a read.

{ Finished reading } :
Berserker by Emmy Laybourne
This was so good!! I've had this one for a while and it got buried in my TBR pile, but I'm so glad I finally pulled it back out! It's a historical fantasy/western, with Norse mythology. And yes, it's as awesome as it sounds.

{ Reading next } : Everything Must Go by Jenny Fran Davis
This is another one that's been stuck on my TBR for a while. It sounds like an interesting story - YA about a Quaker boarding school, told in epistolary style with letters, emails, journal entries, etc. I'm excited to start it! 

That's it for me this week! What did you read this week? Link to your WWW Wednesdays post in the comments - I'd love to come visit! :)

Monday, August 19, 2019

{ Let's Read About ... } The First Day of School

Hello everyone, and welcome back to school! Today was the first day of school where I live, but I know some others have been back for a week, some probably started sooner than that, and some may be starting soon. It's an exciting time! Below are some new picture books published in 2019 about the first day of school. If you've got school-age little ones, you could celebrate their first days of the new school year by taking them to your favorite library or bookstore and see how many of these you can find!

Friday, August 2, 2019

Review: Forest Club by Kris Hirschmann

Forest Club: A Year of Activities, Crafts, and Exploring Nature
by Kris Hirschmann; illustrated by Marta Antelo

Available as: hardcover, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 96
Publisher: words & pictures
Publication date: June 18, 2019
Suggested tags: children's (ages 7-10), nonfiction, nature, activities

From Goodreads:
"It's time to rewild the child! This book of outdoor activities, crafts, nature information, and inspiration ties into the burgeoning interest in forest schools and "rewilding the child," with the aim of reconnecting children to nature and the outdoors. The book is divided by season, providing a year-round resource for families. While all crafts and activities are designed to be carried out outside, these are interspersed with factual pages about forest flora and fauna, which can be enjoyed at home or used as a field guide while out and about. A beautifully illustrated and informative title to spark children’s imagination and free-thinking. With forest school-themed crafts and activities for all seasons, outdoor exploration can be enjoyed twelve months of the year, always with something new to see."

Forest Club is a great introduction for young readers and their caregivers who may be embarking on adventures into nature for the first time. Notes at the beginning and end of the book offer encouraging reminders that parents and caregivers can be children’s first nature guides, but it doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or intimidating: kids are born to be nature explorers! And this book is a great guide to begin exploring together.

The information is abundant, but presented in an easy-to-understand and attractive way – each page offers a lot of knowledge, but it never feels overwhelming. A diverse group of kids and caregivers are depicted enjoying nature. The illustrations are interesting, detailed, and pretty accurate: although not super-realistic, readers could probably still identify most plants and animals they find on their adventures by using the drawings in the book. On many pages, photographs of natural objects are included as well. The hands-on activity ideas are numerous and enticing, and with easy-to-follow instructions that don’t require a lot of materials or effort, they are perfect for a quick excursion into nature on a free afternoon for any level of experience (probably most useful for preschool age and up). Suggested activities include leaf rubbing, shelter building, berry painting, animal tracking, and many more.

You can use this book from season to season, or from setting to setting: from forest to pond, from day to night, from up in the sky to down on the ground. The book includes ideas for nature treasures to be found in every season, from seeds to nuts to fallen leaves to icicles. It offers suggestions of changes to notice from season to season, and encourages readers to experience nature with all their senses: the sights all around, the sounds of animal calls, the feel of different trees’ bark, the scents of different flowers, even the tastes of some berries (with a note of caution that some can be poisonous!).

I love this book’s encouraging, accessible tone: you don’t need special equipment or a nearby national park to go on a nature adventure. Anyone can get outside, explore, have fun, and learn – right in their own backyard with objects they’ve probably already got at home! The book encourages low-stress, easy access adventures: get out in your backyard, let your child explore at their pace as you supervise, and have fun and slow down together!

A list of suggested ways to further encourage a love of nature in children is included in the back matter, as well as an index and a list of resources about the Free Forest School and related programs. I can see this book being used as a household guide by parents and caregivers, but I can also see the “Club” part of the title put into action with a group of kids and caregivers – friends, play groups, scouts, homeschool groups, etc. – gathering over the course of a year to complete the activities. I’m looking forward to using this book with my own toddler, starting with the simple ideas and activities and adding more concepts and complexity as he grows up, as it’s definitely a book that can be useful across ages and stages.

Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely recommend it to others.

{ 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. :) }

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Review: A Is for Artichoke by America's Test Kitchen Kids

A Is for Artichoke: A Foodie Alphabet from Artichoke to Zest
by America's Test Kitchen Kids; illustrated by Maddie Frost

Available as: board book
Pages: 26
Publisher: Sourcebooks Explore
Publication date: October 16, 2018
Suggested tags: board book, alphabet, food

From Goodreads:
"The perfect book for your little future foodie―straight from the experts at America's Test Kitchen!

This is so much more than an alphabet book! From artichokes to ganache and from oven to zest, this is a whimsical and informative introduction to words and kitchen concepts. Future chefs and food fans of all ages will delight in reading about everything kitchen-related! Three levels of learning means this book will grow with your little one from foodie basics to kitchen confidence! No other board book features ABCs and food in this way―and no other board book features the expertise of the cooks at America's Test Kitchen!

What an adorable board book for foodie babies and their parents! The illustrations are adorable – smiley little vegetables strolling with their baby vegetables, caramelized onions sunbathing, the Umami Express bus (heading nonstop to Flavor Town, I can only assume)… It’s literally too precious for words.

I love that this can be used with various ages: it starts with the standard “[letter] is for [word],” then includes a one-sentence explanation of the word, and then has a whole paragraph below that to explain the concept more fully to older readers.

I don’t even like cooking all that much and this book makes it so appealing that I want to drop everything and go to cooking school. The concepts covered include foods, cooking tools, appliances, methods of cooking, and more. It’s a great primer on all things food, and it would make an adorable gift for expectant parents who love cooking and want to introduce that love to their tiny foodie-to-be.

Final verdict: I loved it! I thought this book was great! I might buy it for myself and I would definitely 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. :) }

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

{ Let's Read About ... } Food

Here's a reading list I put together that's all about one of my favorite things... FOOD! I tried to keep this one strictly about food itself: eating, types of food, where food comes from, etc. I'm planning other lists for cooking, baking, and other great food-related stuff! (And this was HARD, y'all. Evvvverything is about cooking or baking competitions! But we'll get there soon...) For now, hope you enjoy the list and bon app├ętit!

{ Board Books }

{ Picture Books }

{ Beginning Readers }

{ Chapter Books }

{ Middle Grade }

{ Young Adult }

And be sure to check out these booklists for more great books about food:
  • This list from The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art of books about food and farms for ages 0-8.
  • This list from Kitchen Concoctions of children's books about food, broken down into sections like "books made into movies" and "books about picky eaters".
  • This list from Publishers Weekly of books "food-infused fiction for kids".
  • Also this hilarious article from Paper Fury entitled "10 Reasons YA Books Should Mention Food".

Thursday, July 4, 2019

{ Let's Read About ... } The 4th of July

Happy 4th of July! To celebrate the day, I'm sharing some patriotic board books and picture books that I've discovered, and some booklists I've found around the web to lead you to more great books about America's Independence Day. If you're celebrating the 4th, I hope you have a happy and safe holiday!

{ Board Books }

{ Picture Books }

And be sure to check out these booklists for more great books about the 4th of July:
  • This list from Reading Rockets of books to celebrate America for ages 0-9.
  • This list from Pragmatic Mom of diverse picture books for the 4th of July.
  • This list from A Mighty Girl of books about patriotic girls and women, both fiction and nonfiction.