Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Review: The Nutcracker by words&pictures

 The Nutcracker
by words&pictures; illustrated by Cynthia Alonso

Series: Step Into...
Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group – words & pictures
Publication date: November 17, 2020
Available as: board book
Pages: 12
Suggested tags: baby & toddler, Christmas, classics



From the publisher:

"Step inside the classic story of The Nutcracker. With gentle, engaging text, beautiful illustrations, die cut and layered pages, all of which encourage the reader to interact with the book and turn each page to delight in the increasingly expansive spreads."


I love reading Nutcracker retellings. It's just such a classic, dreamy story and I love seeing how different authors and illustrators choose to interpret it. This version is kind of a simplified, modernized Nutcracker, and it's super cute! 

This board book is formed from die-cut pages, giving you just a peek of each page visible from the front of the book. As you turn each page, a bit more of the story is revealed.


This version also feels very fresh and contemporary. The illustrations are simple yet beautiful with vibrant colors. Marie (aka: Clara) wears two-piece rainbow-print PJs instead of a frilly dress, something that many little readers themselves might be wearing while they read this. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her dancers add some diversity to the story.
The story is condensed and there is only a sentence or two on each page, which I think is perfect for a board book audience. It's a quick introduction to The Nutcracker to get little ones familiar with and interested in the story. I think the mix of the artwork, the simple text, and the die-cut pages will definitely make this a hit with tiny readers! 


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. :) }

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Weekly Wrap-Up: October 18-24, 2020

It has been A WHILE since I've posted one of these. I found my first "best of 2020" booklist this week and I got really excited, so I figured what better time to jump back in to sharing the news & such I've found lately. 

Here's my weekly collection of news, announcements, and booklists I've found while browsing around the internet. Hope you enjoy! :)



Awards

  • 2020 Little Rebels Award winner announced - the award "recognizes children’s fiction (for readers aged 0-12) which promotes social justice or social equality, challenges stereotypes or is informed by anti-discriminatory concerns" (source).

Booklists

Articles

New & Upcoming Books


I'm sharing my Weekly Wrap-Up posts on 
https://caffeinatedbookreviewer.com/the-sunday-post-meme

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. :) }