January 31, 2017

How to train as the #2 hero

I haven't read a large amount of middle grade fiction but I must say that I've really enjoyed John David Anderson's writing thus far. Sidekicked was a lot of fun and right after finishing it I added two more of Anderson's books to my TRL. The story revolves around Andrew "Drew" Macon Bean (admittedly a fantastic name) who is not your typical sidekick. His powers aren't the usual 'faster than light speed' or 'stronger than steel'. Nope. (I'm not going to reveal his powers because they are truly unusual and it'll be more fun for you to read it and found out for yourselves.) However, he is a typical nerdy kid just trying to make it through middle school unscathed. There's the usual pre-teen drama about who likes who and fitting in but on top of that is uncertainty about the safety of themselves, their families, and the town. Like Miss Bixby's Last Day, Anderson doesn't shy away from tough subjects. The drawbacks to having superpowers such as having to lie to one's parents, worrying about the mental health of one's mentor (the Super assigned to each Sidekick), and navigating adolescence are dealt with in a very loving, realistic way. Drew is a likable character and I think boys as well as girls will identify with him and become invested in his story. If you have kids in your life who are obsessed with superheroes but are not overly enthusiastic about reading maybe you could suggest that you read this one together. I have a feeling it will be a hit. :-) 9/10

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 27, 2017

The story of Winnie

Isn't it sad when a book comes out and people just seem to be completely unaware of 1. its existence and 2. its level of amazingness? Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World's Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick is one of those hidden gems. I've mentioned before that if a book doesn't circulate it's offered to another branch in the hope that it might do better in a different location. That's how this book landed in my hands (it was also on my TRL).  As the title suggests, this is the story of the bear named Winnie that spawned the Winnie-the-Pooh series by A.A. Milne. It's the heartwarming tale of a man who befriended a baby bear and their journeys together during the tumultuous times of WWI. It's also the story about how this same bear met a little boy who would eventually spur entire generations to hug their teddy bears just a little bit tighter. Additionally, the back of the book contains a really lovely surprise that I don't want to spoil for ya'll. :-) I think this would make a wonderful bedtime read-aloud. You could also encourage your child to read this book aloud to their teddy bear. (Then take lots of photos of it.) Believe it or not, this exercise will help to strengthen your child's confidence in reading aloud to others (or to themselves). As for me, I can't wait for the opportunity to read this one in a storytime. XD 9/10

I'm including an example of the illustration style below:
Source: Sophie Blackall (the illustrator)
**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 24, 2017

Moles in the city

I never knew that moles were adorable until I read Moletown by Torben Kuhlmann. (You may remember him from such posts as this one or this one.) I also had no idea that they would work as a perfect stand-in for humans. Kuhlmann once again knocks it right out of the park with this story of urbanization and industrialization. It's a sobering look at the way humanity has taken a seed of an idea which seemed perfectly innocent (or inevitable) and turned it into something suffocating and terrible. Yes, the advent of the modern age has done much to improve the lives of humans but it has also destroyed landscapes and wiped out entire species. Once again, this is a great way to open up a discussion with kids about a topic which they most likely only cover in relation to the atrocities inflicted upon Native Americans (if they even go into detail about that). It's so much more than that and I think it's important that kids start to think beyond their own small worlds. Of course, you have to decide if you think this is age appropriate but I think it would be good for second graders at the very least. 10/10 for awesome illustrations and a really awesome storyline that is sure to get little people (and the adults in their lives) thinking.

Source: SLJ Blog Network

Source: SLJ Blog Network


**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 20, 2017

Do you remember your favorite teacher?

Every year at the New York Public Library a list of the Best Books for Kids is crafted. I had a peek at this year's list and grabbed a few to read and review for the blog. For the most part, I grabbed a ton of picture books but there were a few chapter books that really caught my attention. :-)

I had a feeling that John David Anderson's Ms. Bixby's Last Day would be an emotional rollercoaster from the first couple of pages. The chapters alternate between the points of view of three middle school boys who are best friends. They have very different personalities but one thing they have in common is that Ms. Bixby is their favorite teacher. One of the best things about this book is that it shows that you never quite know what another person is going through and that each person has a unique set of abilities and talents. I think this is a particularly important message for middle grade readers because this is the time where you start feeling awkward, misunderstood, and alienated from your peers (and oftentimes your family). Adolescence can be difficult enough but it can be made even more so if your world is completely turned upside down. That's exactly what happens when these boys (and the rest of the school) discover that Ms. Bixby will have to leave school suddenly due to illness. The book focuses on how each of the boys reacts to the news and follows them on an epic quest to make Ms. Bixby's last day in town one that is made of pure awesomeness. This is one of those books that parents would probably think is 'too harsh' or 'too sad' for kids to read and that is exactly why kids should read it. Life isn't always sunshine and roses. Sometimes things are sad and challenging and it's important that kids see that this happens just as often as the fun, silly times. Another thing to point out is that these are 3 middle school boys who are not afraid to show their emotions and to be vulnerable. This is a fantastic message! I enjoyed this book so much that I picked up another book by John David Anderson which is on a very different wavelength (it's about superheroes) and I'll be posting that review up in a few weeks. Ms. Bixby's Last Day gets a 10/10 from me.

PS Make sure your seat-belt is tightened for the emotional rollercoaster you're about to be on if you embark on this book. You have been warned.

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 17, 2017

A Flight of Fancy

Every year at the New York Public Library a list of the Best Books for Kids is crafted. I had a peek at this year's list and grabbed a few to read and review for the blog. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of picture books in the coming weeks. :-)

I mentioned before that I went a little crazy over Torben Kuhlmann's books (go here for my review of Armstrong). So it should come as no surprise that I gobbled up Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse which as the title suggests is the story of the first solo flight across the Atlantic...by a mouse. This is kind of an alternate (and obviously fictional) historical account of aircraft engineering and one mouse's determination to be the forerunner in the field. Once again, the illustrations are sensational and evoke a sense of wonderment and delight. It's the end of Kuhlmann's books which I think are my favorite because he ties in the truth (Charles Lindbergh) to the fictional tale. He gives a brief history of flight which is a great way to get kids excited about an historical topic which might seem a bit 'old school' to them. The mouse must continue to persevere against all odds (there are dangers inherent to being a mouse on a mission) to achieve his dreams. This is a great message for all ages! Torben, you've reached the top 5 of my favorite graphic novelists. Congrats to you, sir. 10/10

Source: Himbeer Magazin
Source: Pinterest

**If you're interested in buying this book or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books (AbeBooks carries inexpensive used and out-of-print books and The Book Depository ships free everywhere in the world). Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 13, 2017

The pneumatic tube

Every year at the New York Public Library a list of the Best Books for Kids is crafted. I had a peek at this year's list and grabbed a few to read and review for the blog. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of picture books in the coming weeks. :-)

How could I not want to read The Secret Subway by Shana Corey while I'm living in New York City? Truthfully, it wasn't the setting of the story that drew me in. It was the front cover illustration by Red Nose Studio aka Chris Sickels that really caught my eye. His artwork reminds me of old school claymation. His creations are sculpted using materials found around his home and he makes not only books but stop motion animation with them. The Secret Subway is a fictionalized account of the creation of the New York Subway system. The imaginative inventiveness of Eli Beach is factual as is his idea of a subterranean transit system fueled by a pneumatic system. (Picture a giant fan pushing a train car and then reversing its flow to suck the car back the way it had come!) It's the minute details which have been slightly fudged by Corey to liven up the tale (which honestly doesn't really need much embellishment). The back of the book contains the facts of the event which I urge you to read as they are fascinating. It's so amazing seeing what the human imagination can create! This was a visually impressive book but if I'm honest it didn't really WOW me. I'd give it a solid 6/10 but if you're interested in the art (you will be) I urge you to check it out for yourself.

PS Aren't these sculptures gorgeous?!

Source: rednosestudio.com
**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 10, 2017

Murder most foul

Death Descends on Saturn Villa is the third book in the Gower Street Detective series by M.R.C. Kasasian. (Go here for the review of the first book and here for the second.) The tension continues to ratchet higher and higher between the famous detective Sidney Grice and his protege March Middleton as we inch closer and closer to the truth about Grice's past and his connection to March's mother. Kasasian is finally starting to clear up some of the mystery revolving around their pasts but he's still weaving webs of intrigue around them both (only fitting I suppose). This book centers on a case which is high stakes and multifaceted with March as the prime suspect. DUM DUM DUUUUUM (That's supposed to be menacingly tense music not a commentary on the intelligence of the storyline by the way.) Once again, I feel I need to caution readers who might have sensitive stomachs because Kasasian has a gift for detailed descriptions of gore. I must also mention that if you get triggered easily then you should approach this book with caution. (You'll probably be fine but I just want to make you aware.) This book ultimately raises more questions than it answers but one thing it does do is make Grice a little more human. If you've enjoyed the first two books in the series then you're sure to enjoy this continuation. The fourth book in the series, The Secrets of Gaslight Lane, is due out on April 4th of this year so get caught up while you still have plenty of time. XD

**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 7, 2017

Bonus post: Inkitt is global!

You might remember me posting about Inkitt and their new app for iPhones and iPads. If you don't then let me give you a little background on their site. The basic premise behind Inkitt is that anyone is welcome to submit their writing. Inkitt is a readers-driven publisher which means that once on the website readers (that's us!) are able to take a look at a wide variety of books and based on reading behavior (there are some mathematical calculations involved) Inkitt will decide if the novel is worth publishing. This means that tons of new and emerging writers are getting an opportunity to get their work out there and we're getting to see some new talent. Here are the Community Guidelines if you're interested in submitting something of your very own or you want to know how it all works. If, like me, you're not only interested in the mainstream publishing industry but also self-publishing then this is a really unique idea.

As of today, January 7th, you can access Inkitt globally. Huzzah! You can download it through the App Store by going to this link or if you have an Android (all the best people do) then you can go to this link and search for Inkitt. I highly encourage you guys to check them out (I'm not being paid to say any of this by the way. I just really like what they're doing and want to help them out.).

Inkitt for Android - 4 key features:

  1. Access to thousands of novels from all fiction genres: fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller, horror, romance, drama, action, adventure, YA and more
  2. Personalized reading suggestions: hand-picked novels based on a reader’s favorite fiction genres
  3. Customizable look to match user preferences (e.g. font size, color combinations)
  4. Online/Offline: readers can save novels to their offline library to access them anytime

Beyond being a platform connecting aspiring authors with book lovers, Inkitt’s mission is to become the world’s fairest publishing house: Its in-house developed algorithm analyzes reading behavior to determine the potential of a novel to become the next bestseller. Using this unique data-driven approach, Inkitt wants to ensure that great works by new and talented writers never again stay in the dark.

Since July, Inkitt has published 7 novels: Catalyst Moon: Incursion by Lauren L. Garcia (Fantasy), Just Juliet by Charlotte Reagan (YA Romance), I Was A Bitch by Emily Ruben (YA Romance Mystery), Esper Files by Egan Brass (SciFi) and Caged by Onaiza Khan (Psychological Thriller), King’s Lament by Lilia Blanc (Fantasy Romance) and Three Fat Singletons by J.M. Bartholomew (Humor Romance), six of which became bestsellers on Amazon.

To get an idea of what the app looks like here are a few screenshots:





As always, thanks for visiting the blog and I hope to see you back here on Monday. Happy reading!

January 6, 2017

Rocket Mouse

Every year at the New York Public Library a list of the Best Books for Kids is crafted. I had a peek at this year's list and grabbed a few to read and review for the blog. Don't be surprised if you see a lot of picture books in the coming weeks. :-)

When I saw the illustration style of Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann I knew that I had to get that book into my hands. By the time I got through the first couple of pages I was looking up the other books by him and requesting them to be sent my way. I understand that each person has a different idea of what is aesthetically pleasing to them and that not every person will find particular styles of illustration appealing. With that being said, I cannot see how someone could read anything by Kuhlmann and not instantly fall in love with his artistic technique and his unique storytelling style. His fascination with the way machines work and how industrialization has changed the course of history has led him to create fictional stories about real advances in technology using animals such as mice and moles. There's certainly an element of anthropomorphism being used here but the animals also exhibit those traits specific to them (the mice meet at a cheese shop for example). This is another author/illustrator whose work is so gorgeous that I want to hang it on my walls. This story specifically deals with a mouse who is mesmerized by the moon. He dreams of traveling there so that he can prove to the other mice that it is not made of cheese. There are obstacles to overcome not least of which is that it's dangerous to be a mice who wants to break the mold (and build a rocket that can actually get him into space). It's a story of perseverance, determination, and rocketry. I highly recommend this to little ones who are curious about how things work and that dream of one day being astronauts...or to people who just really love mice. 10/10

Source: Torben Kuhlmann's Book Trailer

I can't handle the cuteness! (source is same as above)
**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **

January 3, 2017

2016 Book Roundup

The following is a list of all of the books I read in 2016. It's double what I read last year but that makes sense as I doubled the amount of weekly posts I was doing. Also, you'll notice that some of these have no reviews. That is either because I decided not to review it (yet or maybe ever) or it's to be posted in the coming weeks. Once again, I didn't include rereads but if I had then you would see the entire Harry Potter series listed here. ;-) I mention this because in the future when I look back at this I can remember this was the year that I read all of those magical books and fell in love all over again. Now on to the main event!
  1. After Alice
  2. The 5th Wave
  3. The Man in the High Castle
  4. An Age of License: A Travelogue
  5. My Ears Are Bent
  6. My Life on the Road
  7. Displacement: A Travelogue
  8. We Were Liars
  9. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen
  10. Cavendon Hall
  11. A Day With Wilbur Robinson
  12. The Cavendon Women
  13. Left in the Wind
  14. The Color Purple
  15. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
  16. In Our Own Image
  17. The True Meaning of Smekday
  18. Barbara Baker
  19. Ian Pemberton
  20. Verity Xuereb-Smith
  21. The Hunt for Vulcan
  22. SuperMutant Magic Academy
  23. Me Before You
  24. This One Summer
  25. Baggage
  26. Skim
  27. Turik and the Lost Woman
  28. The Last Days of Magic
  29. Journey to Death
  30. Beware of the Dog
  31. Stitches
  32. Pebble in the Sky
  33. All About Love: New Visions
  34. The Painter of Souls
  35. The Reproductive System: A science fiction novel
  36. My Family and Other Animals
  37. Arcadia
  38. The Mind Club
  39. Another
  40. Birds, Beasts, and Relatives
  41. Attack on Titan Vol. 1
  42. Sleeping Giants
  43. The Currents of Space
  44. The Library at Mount Char
  45. Seconds
  46. Soppy
  47. Bad Feminist
  48. Fall of Man in Wilmslow
  49. Star Wars: Bloodline
  50. Nimona
  51. French Milk
  52. Arkwright
  53. Blankets
  54. The Argonauts
  55. How to Be a Woman
  56. The Twits
  57. The Magic Finger
  58. John Le Carré: The Biography
  59. The Great Mouse Plot
  60. The Vicar of Nibbleswicke
  61. The Minpins
  62. Theory of Irony
  63. Alien Next Door
  64. Pieces Like Pottery
  65. The Mudfog Papers
  66. Wandering Son: Volume One
  67. Choices
  68. The Complete Persepolis
  69. The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil
  70. A Dead Djinn in Cairo
  71. Proust: The Search
  72. Ten Days in a Mad-House
  73. The Fin
  74. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death
  75. The Tumbling Turner Sisters
  76. Everything Is Teeth
  77. Keep the Aspidistra Flying
  78. Captain to Captain
  79. Infinity's Prism
  80. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night
  81. Best Defense
  82. Heap House
  83. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (no review)
  84. Sidney Chambers and the Problem of Evil
  85. Foulsham
  86. Lungdon
  87. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
  88. Star Trek: First Contact
  89. Short Stories From Hogwarts: Power, Politics, and Pesky Poltergeists
  90. Short Stories From Hogwarts: Heroism, Hardship, and Dangerous Hobbies
  91. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide
  92. Purgatory's Key
  93. Sidney Chambers and the Forgiveness of Evil
  94. The Book With No Pictures
  95. Its a Tiger!
  96. Dragons Love Tacos
  97. Tales from Outer Suburbia
  98. The Gargoyle
  99. Sidney Chambers and the Dangers of Temptation
  100. The Library
  101. Wonder Women
  102. The Bird King: An Artist's Notebook
  103. The Arrival
  104. Echoes and Refractions
  105. Shattered Light
  106. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
  107. The Mangle Street Murders
  108. Rivers of London
  109. Penguin Problems
  110. The Singing Bones
  111. The Lair of the White Worm
  112. The Lady of the Shroud
  113. Three Shadows
  114. 84, Charing Cross Road
  115. Lost & Found
  116. Rules of Summer
  117. The Curse of the House of Foskett
  118. A Man Called Ove
  119. Furiously Happy
  120. Miss Brooks Loves Books (and I don't)
  121. Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon 
  122. Giant Squid
  123. The Princess Diarist
  124. Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse (not reviewed yet)
  125. Moletown (not reviewed yet)
  126. The Secret Subway (not reviewed yet)
  127. Finding Winnie (not reviewed yet)
  128. Death Descends on Saturn Villa 
Last year I took an inordinate amount of time including all of the review links in my roundup. I debated on whether or not I should do it again this year. I ultimately decided not to as you guys can simply utilize the search feature by using the titles to find the reviews (that's why I include such detailed tags after all). If nothing else, you can explore that feature by using other search terms to find your next read. :-)

**If you're interested in buying any of these books or any books really, you can click here or here. The first will re-direct you to AbeBooks and the second will re-direct you to The Book Depository. These are great websites for purchasing books. Full disclosure: I will receive a commission on all sales made by following either of these links. I wouldn't recommend a site that I didn't use and you are under no obligation to purchase anything. :-) **