A Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway!

Something lovely for the winter and holiday season: a chance to win one of four beautiful perfect-for-winter and holiday books! Courtesy of the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, I have four seasonal reads to share with you, and one lucky Canadian reader will have the chance to win their top picture book or board book pick. The details for the Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Let’s take a closer look at the books:

S is for Santa: A Christmas Alphabet (board book) by Greg Paprocki
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Gibbs Smith
From the creators of BabyLit, a Christmas board book for infants and toddlers, to evoke the wonder of Christmas. A collection of twenty-six illustrations featuring colorful Christmas-themed concepts sure to evoke a sense of wonderment for toddlers and nostalgia for parents, including Christmas carolers, kids playing in the snow, toys piled high under the tree, sparkling decorations and lights, flying reindeer, the gift of giving, more toys, and of course jolly ol’ St. Nick and his elves.

S is for Santa: A Christmas Alphabet is a bright and cheerful alphabet board book just right for the Christmas season. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki, the board book features vibrant full colour vintage-like Christmas-themed illustrations- a different scene for every letter of the alphabet. From A is for angel and B is for baking, to Y is for yummy and Z is for Zephyr, this stylish board book is perfect for those with infants and/or toddlers due to the short text. There is something so warm, happy and nostalgic about S is for Santa– it even took me back to my childhood when I would pore over my (now quite old!) Christmas-themed Little Golden Books. I have had a chance to read this one over multiple times (and a few times with my three year old who is obsessed with anything Christmas-related!) and there is something to appreciate and enjoy in every reading of it.

 

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. Richard Jones
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Snow is coming, and it’s time to get ready! The squirrel gathers nuts, the geese soar south, and the snowshoe hare puts on its new white coat. But what should the fox do? Each animal advises the fox that its own plan is best, but the fox thinks otherwise-yet it’s not until he meets a golden-eyed friend that he finds the perfect way to celebrate the snowfall. Stunning illustrations by the new talent Richard Jones are the perfect complement to the Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer’s lyrical and playful homage to the natural world.

Oh readers, this is a lovely, lovely picture book! With utterly gorgeous and mesmerizing illustrations by Richard Jones and lyrical text from Marion Dane Bauer, Winter Dance is a quiet gem of a picture book. With a glorious red fox as our guide, readers are taken on a journey to find out about what various animals do when the snow comes. Fox learns all about what bats and bears, and multiple other animals do- and all the various animals think the fox should follow their respective plans, but fox is not convinced! It is not until fox meets another similar red-furred friend that plans for the coming snow are decided. A beautiful read- in text and illustration- from start to finish.

 

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter written and illus. Kenard Pak
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.
As leaves fall from their trees, animals huddle against the cold, and frost creeps across windows, everyone knows—winter is on its way! Join a brother and sister as they explore nature and take a stroll through their twinkling town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious first snow of winter.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Kenard Pak’s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn will undoubtedly love to read and see what the talented author-illustrator brings with Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter. With numerous well-received and starred reviews to his name, Pak’s illustrative style has become more well-known and unmistakable as his own. Like Winter Dance above, Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter uses a quieter, more hushed kind of narrative that is just as evocative and bittersweet as something roaring for attention. The story follows an older sister and her younger brother as they say ‘Hello’ to animals and objects of the natural world and listen to the various replies. Pak’s illustrations are, as ever, just wonderful- dynamic yet restrained- and the story as a whole is perfect for readers on the lookout for a lulling, soft story.

 

Santa’s Magic Key by Eric James, illus. Simon Mendez
Publication: October 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Unlock the magic with this book and special keepsake key to start a new family tradition.

It’s an age-old question. How does Santa get into every house around the world… no matter what doors, locks, chimneys, or windows exist? Find the answer to this question in Santa’s Magic Key! In this unforgettable holiday story, a boy realizes on Christmas Eve that his new house does not have a chimney, and with the post office closed and Santa coming bythe end of the night, he has no way of telling Santa. But when the boy finds a mysterious key, he’ll soon discover just how this key will solve his problem. Add a new classic to your holiday collection with this magical tale that reveals how Santa can always spread gifts and joy on Christmas Eve by using his magical key. This beautiful book comes with Santa’s special key just for you to hang on your Christmas tree as an ornament or outside your door!

Santa’s Magic Key written by Eric James and illustrated by Simon Mendez is a seasonal parcel that contains a picture book as well as a keepsake item. In this case, the keepsake item is a special key for Santa that corresponds with the story of a young boy who discovers more magic of the season through a chance meeting with Santa and the giving of a golden key. The hope or idea of Santa’s Magic Key is to start a tradition of hanging the special keepsake key on your own tree or outside your door, as a way to welcome Santa into your home- no matter if you don’t have a chimney! For any families who have enjoyed Elf on the Shelf– and are perhaps looking for something lower maintenance or simpler- or families just looking for a kindhearted, sentimental Christmas read with a suggestion of new tradition, then Santa’s Magic Key might be one to try out!

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Giveaway Info:

The Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from December 12, 2017 to December 20, 2017. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one picture book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

 

I received copies of the four titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

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Picture Books: More Halloween Ready Reads!

A few years ago, I put together a book list just in time for Halloween called, ‘Picture Book Picks: Halloween Ready Reads‘. Given the number of spooky seasonal reads I’ve had the chance to pore over since then, I thought it high time to do an update of sorts!

Here are some of my newer picks- a mix of Halloween reads, as well as goofy, monsterly, fun and spooky selections. (The picks from the original post are single spaced at the bottom of the post!)

Pug & Pig Trick or Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion, illus. Joyce Wan

I Am Bat by Morag Hood

Superbat by Matt Carr

Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin

Monster Trucks by Joy Keller, illus. Misa Saburi

Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating by Laura Gehl, illus. Joyce Wan

Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School (Moonlight #1) by Simon Puttock, illus. Ali Pye

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown

Jampires by Sarah McIntyre, illus. David O’Connell

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illus. Zachariah OHora

Go to Sleep, Monster! by Kevin Cornell

Giant Pants by Mark Fearing

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illus. K.G. Campbell

Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon

What Is Chasing Duck? (The Giggle Gang #1) by Jan Thomas

The Baby That Roared by Simon Puttock

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers

Room on the Broom by by Julia Donaldson, illus. Axel Scheffler

Fright Club by Ethan Long

The Monsterator by Keith Graves

I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Scott Magoon

Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, illus. Bob Shea

I Want to Be In a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illus. Jean Jullien

The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea

The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell, illus. Charles Santoso

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia L. Andrews, illus. Jennifer Plecas

Eek! Halloween by Sandra Boynton (board book)

Boo Who? by Ben Clanton

If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed by Denise Vega, illus. Zachariah OHora

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illus. Christian Robinson

Little Blue Truck’s Halloween (A Lift-the-Flap Book) by Alice Schertle, illus. Jill McElmurry

 

Titles from original post:
Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! by Scott Magoon
The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illus. Dan Santat
Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Melissa Sweet
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas
There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty
Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas
Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play With Your Food by Bob Shea
Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon
Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Pacquette, illus. Adam Record
Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson, illus. Jane Chapman
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illus. Michael J. Stollin
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illus. Jon Klassen
Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea
Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illus. LeUyen Pham
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illus. Megan Lloyd

Halloween Picture Book Giveaway!

Comic by ‘The Little World of Liz Climo‘ author-illustrator Liz Climo

Something fun and not at all too scary for Halloween: a chance to win one of four perfect-for-Halloween picture books! Courtesy of the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, I have four new seasonal spooky reads to share with you, and one lucky reader will have the chance to win their top picture book pick. Halloween Picture Book Giveaway details are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Now let’s take a look at the books:

Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Stephen Henry
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Herbert is deeply doubtful about his first Halloween—but with a little help from his dad and a special tiger costume, Herbert might just find confidence on Halloween night. Together, father and son practice roaring, carve a pumpkin, and venture out in search of candy. And by the end of the night, Herbert finds his doubts have melted away. A sweet introduction to Halloween and to being brave, this book is sure to delight the youngest of trick-or-treaters.

Just right for any child a bit uncertain about Halloween and trick-or-treating, or skeptical about wearing a costume, Herbert’s First Halloween is a gentle and friendly story from beloved children’s author Cynthia Rylant and illustrator Stephen Henry about a young (adorable) piggy named Herbert getting ready for his first experience of Halloween night. With the help of his kind and patient dad- who shares memories of his own Halloween and favourite costume- Herbert discovers much to enjoy about Halloween.

How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace, illus. Andy Elkerton
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Get ready to laugh as a young ninja heads into the closet to meet the monster that’s been so scary night after night! But what if things aren’t whatthey seem and our monster isn’t scary at all? What if our ninja hero is about to make a friend of strangest sort? Is there a monster living in your closet? Are you brave enough to catch him? Parents and children will love sharing this fun and inventive picture book, which reminds us that things aren’t always as scary as they seem.

A goofy and totally fun rhyming picture book, Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton’s How to Catch a Monster is their Halloween offering in their popular ‘How to Catch…’ series. In How to Catch a Monster, a young child who recently got the role of a ninja master in a school play, decides to come face to face with the monster in their closet. Feeling “brave and strong, and full of courage, too”, our young ninja faces down a fuzzy green and blue monster, while discovering some very surprising facts about the possibly not-so-scary (maybe even sweet and fun!) monster!

Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna, The Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees, illus. Jed Henry
Publication: September 26, 2017 by Henry Holt
Tyrannosaurus Rex wants breakfast. He stomps and he roars and he gnashes his teeth―and he scares all the other dinosaurs right out of the forest. Only Edna, the very first chicken, is unafraid. She won’t let that bully T. rex push her around! But will Edna’s mighty beak and terrible flapping wings be a match for T. rex’s mighty claws and terrible jaws? This hilarious tale of bravery will have readers clucking in triumph! Jed Henry’s charming illustrations accompany Douglas Rees’ upROARious tale.

Okay, okay, so Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna, The Very First Chicken might not be Halloween book per se, but it’s got roaring dinosaurs and one very cool, very, very brave chicken facing down a terrifying T-Rex! In this story all about bravery, a cute and ferocious chicken named Edna goes face to face with a monstrous, bossy T-Rex who disturbs the other dinosaurs and yells about wanting breakfast and threatening to eat anyone is his path. Edna commands the T-Rex’s attention and fights her way to teach the T-Rex a few lessons. A tale from Douglas Rees and illustrator Jed Henry all about courage, filled with wackiness and laugh out loud moments, this one would make for a perfectly zany read aloud.

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illus. Eliza Wheeler
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
When a scary old tree blooms with the most beautiful pomegranates ever seen, the neighborhood kids’ mouths water with anticipation. But the tree isn’t theirs—and it has a protector! So begins the Pomegranate War, a fun, rollicking, rhyming tale of a battle between the sly, plucky young rascals and their wry, witchy neighbor who may have more than one trick up her sleeve. This delectable romp from award-winning children’s poet Denise Doyen and acclaimed illustrator Eliza Wheeler honors classic children’s literature and revels in nostalgia for free-to-roam days full of playful invention.

A perfect-for-Halloween story told in rhyme, Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler’s The Pomegranate Witch reads like a modern fairy tale. This is a tale about a haunted pomegranate tree on abandoned farmhouse land; a tree filled with the beautiful and delicious pomegranates ever seen and protected by the terrifying Pomegranate Witch. A group of brave children- and one fast-acting young boy- try to battle the witch for a taste of the elusive fruit. The Pomegranate Witch might make for a great witchy read aloud for elementary age and up students; Denise Doyen’s writing is atmospheric and fun, while Tell Me a Tattoo Story artist Eliza Wheeler continues to delight with her beautiful illustrative style.

Giveaway Info:

The Halloween Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from October 29, 2017 to November 5, 2017. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one picture book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Winning entry drawn via Rafflecopter is:

KIRSTEN N.!

Winner has been notified and has 48 hours to claim the prize or another entry will be drawn.

 

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

I received copies of the four picture book titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

Spotlight & Giveaway for Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes!

Be An Upside Down Thinker!

Welcome to a special post featuring Shelley Johannes’s debut children’s title Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker! Disney-Hyperion has very kindly sent me a copy of the book to check out and is partnering with me for a great giveaway.

Shelley Johannes’s debut is an early children’s fiction title with lots of zest and heart. Beatrice Zinker is one of three Zinker children, and she’s never felt like she’s quite fit in with her family- most especially with her older sister Kate, the spit of her very organized, right-side up mom. From an early age, Beatrice has been most fascinated by the ‘maybe’s’ of life, of adventure, of not quite doing the expected…and of doing her best thinking upside down (or hanging out in trees). When Beatrice is surprised with a special award for ‘Best Upside Down Thinker’ at the end of first grade- and makes a wonderful friend in classmate Lenny- Beatrice thinks things might actually be turning perfectly upside down in her favour. But then third grade starts and things start to go more than awry for Beatrice. With a stricter, unbending new teacher, and a best friend who seems to be drifting away from adventure and ‘what-ifs’, Beatrice finds herself in a terrible bind. With it looking like a disastrous, lonely year ahead, Beatrice decides to charge ahead with her top secret Operation Upside. Beatrice is an unusual, brave character who will likely find lots of young readers able to empathize with her and her growing pains. Tackling broader yet understandable issues like sibling drama, changing friendships and staying true to one’s self, Johannes creates something unique and winningly kooky with Beatrice and the Zinker family. While some of Beatrice’s motivations and actions through the middle of novel come off as a little haphazard or unexplored (well, kind like Beatrice herself, at times!), the story swirls beautifully towards a lovely ending. Readers who are enjoying series like Dory Fantasmagory, Mercy Watson, Princess Pistachio, Judy Moody, or Clementine, might especially adore Beatrice (and her family!) and look forward to more of her upside down adventures.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes, with illus. by the author
Release date: September 19, 2017
Recommended for ages 9-12

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.

Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!

Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shelley Johannes previously spent ten years in architecture—where she fell in love with felt-tip pens, tracing paper, and the greatness of black turtlenecks. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is the first book she’s written. Find her online at shelleyjohannes.com.

LEARN MORE

Visit the Official Site
Follow Disney-Hyperion on Twitter and Instagram
Like Disney Books on Facebook
Hashtags #BeatriceZinker #UpsideDownThinker

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

One (1) winner will receive:

-Copy of Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker
-“Upside Down Thinker” beanie
-Branded pencil case and notepad!

Open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney-Hyperion.

Update: GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED- Thank you to everyone who entered!

The winning name is: KELLY T.! Congratulations! Please confirm your win within 24 hours of notification to claim your prize.

The giveaway will run from October 6, 2017 to October 13, 2017, and is open to US residents. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. Winner has 48 hours to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com with their mailing address or a new entry will be drawn. Enter by clicking on the following link to Rafflecopter and follow the instructions to enter:

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Here’s our family guinea pig Wilbur hanging out with Beatrice, showing off his favourite way to read. He’s always been an awesome, unexpected kind of piggie…

 

A copy of this title was sent courtesy of Disney-Hyperion for the purposes of this post and giveaway. Disney-Hyperion is also providing a prize pack for one winner from my site. Review opinions and comments are my own.

Blog Tour Stop: Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life!

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Jennifer Honeybourn‘s contemporary YA debut, Wesley James Ruined My Life! Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a short Q & A with Jennifer!

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all-by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.

Jennifer Honeybourn’s debut novel, Wesley James Ruined My Life, is a contemporary young adult title that blends teen romance and comedy with some more serious issues. From the first-person narrative of sixteen-year-old Quinn, readers are taken into her world, where her once-best-friend/crush and now mortal enemy, Wesley James, has returned to town.

Quinn, as we learn, already has enough on her plate: trying to save up money for a band trip to her dream city- London, England- Quinn is balancing work at a medieval England-themed restaurant, dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s separation, her father’s gambling addiction, and her beloved grandmother’s seriously declining health. Into all of this walks Quinn’s once-upon-a-time former best friend and perhaps crush, Wesley James. Back in town after a few years, and suddenly everywhere Quinn turns, Wesley James is infuriatingly inescapable- and charming, sweet, kind, and stirring up feelings that Quinn does not want to have. In an intriguing turn, readers learn that Quinn’s now years-long despisement of Wesley stems from her holding him responsible for the break-up of her parent’s marriage. As the book description hints, Quinn turns her focus to try and make Wesley pay – somehow- for the perceived damage he has caused her; but, as we can guess, things don’t quite work out or reveal themselves the way Quinn anticipates!

While on the whole a lighter, often frothy and fun (and very cute) read, Honeybourn fortifies and freshens the more traditional rom-com story in a few ways. Namely, with a genuinely likable and cognizant protagonist/narrator in Quinn (Wesley is also very likable); weightier storylines in terms of family matters; and a peculiar, funny, and memorable story point with the themed Tudor Tymes restaurant. Likely to appeal to readers who enjoy YA rom-coms, and those who like the writing of authors such as Leila Sales, Jessica Brody, Sarah Ockler, or Huntley Fitzpatrick, Wesley James Ruined My Life makes for fun, yet rooted YA reading. Overall, Jennifer Honeybourn has done a very good job with her debut YA, crafting an endearing and self-aware protagonist with a sweet romantic element and thoughtful story.

Question & Answer with Jennifer!

Q: One aspect of the novel I really appreciated- and think made the novel stronger!- was the combination of fun and romance with more serious issues. Was there ever a version of Wesley James that did not include more serious subject matter- i.e. Quinn’s father’s gambling addition or declining grandparents? Or did you always set out to write a rooted, real contemporary YA romance that delved into some harder issues?

A: The bones of WESLEY JAMES RUINED MY LIFE were always there, even from the first draft. I don’t think I set out to write about specific issues, they just sort of presented themselves along the way, as I was drafting and learning more about the characters. I wanted romance to play a large role, but not be the only focus of the story, because I felt like there was more to Quinn’s life, things she was grappling with, and that made her more real to me.

 

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own. Q & A organized by Raincoast Books. Thank you!

Recently Read: Great Picture Books from Lucy Cousins, Mary Sullivan, Aaron Blabey & more!

Another spate of recently read wonderful picture books- with a board book tossed in for good measure! Everything from the new and terrifically vibrant, active read alouds, to cheeky and funny rhyming stories to the quietly gorgeous and interactive picture books. As ever ,I am in awe of the talent and innovation in picture books (and board books). I’ve starred the ones which I have used (and were a big hit!) at one of my storytimes.

Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins*
Publication: March 28, 2017 by Candlewick Press

Treat by Mary Sullivan
Publication: March 1, 2016 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey*
Publication: July 1, 2014 by Scholastic

Hello, Mr. Dodo! by Nicholas John Firth
Publication: January 31, 2017 by Arthur A. Levine Books

Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima*
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Patricia Hegarty, illus. Britta Teckentrup
Publication: February 9, 2016 by Doubleday Books for Young Readers (this edition)

Chicken Story Time by Sandy Asher, illus. Mark Fearing*
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Dial Books

Charlotte and the Rock by Stephen W. Martin, illus. Samantha Cotterill
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Dial Books

Bunnybear by Andrea J. Loney, illus. Carmen Saldana*
Publication: January 31st 2017 by Albert Whitman Company

Tickle My Ears by Jörg Mühle (board book)*
Publication: September 2016 by Gecko Press (this edition)

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

Review: Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada via First Reads. Thank you!
Publication: March 25, 2014 by Ballantine Books (Trade Paperback edition)
Book Description
:

It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.

Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.

You know when you consider yourself a fan of someone’s oeuvre- whether they are a singer, author, activist, actress, etc.- you tend to approach any new work with equal amounts delirious excitement and major trepidation? This is how I feel about Lauren Graham and her work. I will be honest here: Gilmore Girls is one of my all-time favourite shows, thus I have adored Lauren Graham (and her portrayal of character Lorelai Gilmore) for years now. I actually held off reading Someday, Someday, Maybe when it first came out because: excitement + trepidation. But when the opportunity came up recently to read Graham’s debut novel recently, I was finally ready to dive in.

As per the book’s description, Someday, Someday, Maybe tells the story of aspiring actress Franny Banks, who is on the last six months of her self-imposed deadline to make something of herself as an actress. Taking place in New York in the mid-90s, the novel is told in Franny’s  loquacious and witty first-person narrative. Similarly to her Gilmore Girls‘ character- known for making extensive and esoteric pop culture references- Graham crafts the character of Franny as a knowledgeable, educated, highly verbose and analytical person. Franny, however, is trying to forge into the entertainment world, and that strange, illogical and often insincere world (as portrayed in the book) does not often jibe with Franny’s heart or expectations. As readers go through the whirlwind of Franny’s six month countdown, we get to meet and know three major secondary characters: her roommates Jane (a production assistant) and Dan (struggling screenwriter), as well as fellow aspiring actor (and crush) James Franklin. Jane and Dan act as the sounding board/conscience to Franny’s moments of crazy and brushes with celebrity; James becomes the voice of sincere pretension and ‘I’m an AC-TOR‘- a character that you sincerely hope Franny doesn’t become enamored of. Dan is an especially lovely, supporting character, well-written and maintained, who grows more integral to the story as Franny’s impending deadline looms.

Graham spends much of the novel (as one would expect) exploring the sometimes truly bizarre processes of auditioning, working on stage, filming shows and commercials, working with actors, agents, and more. As a well-known actress with a solid stage/theatrical background herself, Graham likely has a treasure trove of entertainment stories and unbelievable experiences: I feel as though some were carried over, if not adapted, to fit directly into Franny’s story here. Additionally, I really appreciate that Franny’s story was not one of instant success or quickly fought minor setbacks. A winning story, and one full of comedy to be sure, but Franny’s story here is also one of struggle and persistence. Of small yet tremendous feats, and of crushing lows and major doubt. Someday, Someday, Maybe is also a story that interestingly shows so much love and respect to theatre and the study of acting, yet is simultaneously wary (if not loathing) of aspects regarding celebrity and fame.

Overall, a funny and thoughtful, appealing contemporary fiction read. Franny is an effervescent, deprecating yet sincere voice- a character to adore and root for. Readers who like their reads on the side of entertaining and/or packed with fascinating insight into ‘the business we call show‘, then Someday, Someday, Maybe might especially be your cup of tea. Fans of Graham’s work, or those who have enjoyed her non-fiction title Talking As Fast As I Can (great as an audiobook), have likely already read this title, but if you haven’t yet, I would give a whirl! A note that this trade paperback version includes a conversation between Lauren Graham and Parenthood costar (and terrific actress) Mae Whitman, and is quite delightful.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: If This Is Home by Kristine Scarrow

9781459736504Review: If This Is Home by Kristine Scarrow
Source: ARC courtesy of Dundurn Press. Thank you!
Canadian Publication: January 28, 2017 by Dundurn Press
Book Description:

When her mom is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Jayce searches for her estranged father, hoping he can fix everything.

Jayce Loewen has had to take on a lot of responsibility over the years. Her single mom works two jobs and long hours, leaving Jayce in charge of her four-year-old sister most of the time. When her mom is diagnosed with cancer, Jayce decides to track down her long-absent father in the hope that he will be able to make everything okay again.

Looking for her dad was one thing, but when she actually finds him, Jayce is in for a real shock. When everything in her life seems to be going wrong, Jayce has to figure out who her family really is, and how to live with the possibility of losing the person she loves most.

Canadian author Kristine Scarrow’s sophomore young adult novel, If This Is Home, is a contemporary story covering everything from terminal illness, complex teen friendships, sibling love and difficult family history. Taking place in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Scarrow’s compact novel embraces much of what I personally love about Canadian YA: the overwhelmingly fluid, uncluttered, quiet yet potent writing; rooted protagonists and secondary characters that read as genuine and free of veneer; and the presentation of unidealized concepts of teenagers and ‘the teenage years’.

In If This Is Home, we follow the first-person narrative of sixteen year old Jayce Loewen- known as J.J.- as she and her four year-old sister Joelle deal with beyond devastating news: their mother is sick with lung cancer. A tight-knit family of three, with a long-absent father and long-estranged grandparents, J.J.’s mom has been her everything. When a doctor gently states an unspeakable prognosis, J.J. is overwhelmed but determined that she and Joelle stay strong and stay together. In the midst of high school chaos with her less-than-considerate best friend, and worried about what might happen if they lose the only parent they’ve ever known and had, J.J. goes in search of her father. With the help of a boy she meets in detention, a teen named Kurt, J.J.’s life begins a complicated roller coaster of major revelations and disappointments.

In a plot move I really appreciate, Scarrow grows the relationship between J.J. and Kurt as platonic and heartfelt. Perhaps due to the more serious nature of the crux of the story- that of J.J.’s intense love and protectiveness for her sister and mom and the threat of it being torn apart- Scarrow decided to keep that story element more neutral. Arguably a more unconventional route to take in a teen novel, yet one that works so well here with the direction the story takes. Scarrow also writes and develops the relationship between J.J. and her mom and sister, and- later- another family member very well. I would have appreciated more by way of introduction and background to J.J. herself, Kurt (I feel he was introduced and then suddenly so involved with the family), and more about the Loewen’s family history. Certain aspects of the story came across as rushed or a little surprising, or in need of elucidation: as a whole, If This Is Home is absolutely moving and interesting, but I feel as though more detail would have been of benefit to add even further richness and depth to the story.

Overall, If This Is Home is a moving read, deftly written, propelled by a solid, well-written protagonist. As noted above, I would have liked more exposition about Kurt, as well as background exploration into J.J.’s mom and grandmother to add more foundation to the story, but in all, I truly enjoyed this read. Readers who enjoy contemporary Canadian YA lit, or readers who enjoy authors such as Susin Nielsen, Robin Stevenson or Sarah N. Harvey (all write so beautifully on family and serious subject matters), might especially appreciate this lovely book. Scarrow has published one YA title prior to If This Is Home called Throwaway Girl; it is one title I’ve seen in local bookshops and am now inspired to pick up.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Dundurn Press in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Blog Tour Stop: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti!

lizzielovett9781492636083Welcome to one of the stops on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Chelsea Sedoti’s contemporary YA debut, The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett!

Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a special Q & A with Chelsea!

The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett by Chelsea Sedoti
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Book Description:

Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment-which means the time for speculation is now.

So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously… at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her-or did he?

Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.

My relationship, if you will, to young adult novels- and contemporary YA especially- has been on a bit of a bumpy journey over the last five years or so. At one point in my life, it was a genre that I read almost exclusively- then drastically dropped to a minimal amount when I felt as though tropes and themes had been too often retread. Nowadays, my reading of YA titles is…careful…cautious…sometimes apprehensive. Thanks to authors such as Jeff Zentner, Kathryn Ormsbee, Lisa Moore, Jane Ozkowski, and J.M. Kelly as of late though, I’ve found much to love and look forward to in YA. Chelsea Sedoti is, I am happy to say, another new YA author that I can add to that refreshing roster.

In The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, we follow the sometimes meandering, unexpected and unusual first-person narrative of teenager Hawthorn Creely. At the centre of the story is Hawthorn’s fixation with the disappearance of a former high school classmate of her brother’s- the supposedly perfect Lizzie Lovett. To Hawthorn, Lizzie is many things. Perhaps too many things. The girl she remembers as always gorgeous, always popular, forever having other girls look up to her and forever having guys want to be with her. The older, amazing girl who let Hawthorn down years before. When Hawthorn learns that Lizzie has disappeared during the course of a camping trip- possibly murdered by her boyfriend, possibly run away, possibly killed by wild animals in the woods- she gets drawn in further and further into conducting her own investigation…and offering her arguably bizarre, mythical theory as to what happened to Lizzie. As she learns that the Lizzie Lovett she remembers, obsessed over and sometimes (or often) hated was not quite who she thought, Hawthorn becomes even more strangely enmeshed with Lizzie Lovett as she befriends Lizzie’s boyfriend- possible murder suspect- Enzo Calvetti.

Sedoti has, in Hawthorn, created quite an interesting young protagonist and narrator- one of those utterly compelling and exasperating, highly introspective yet oblivious teen characters that I have a tendency to appreciate. Readers may fall in love with Hawthorn, they may like her a lot or a little bit- they could even grow very frustrated with Hawthorn, especially as her friendship with Enzo heaves some major ups, major downs and moments of WHY. However you find Hawthorn, though, her voice is so terrifically imperfect and odd that you might find yourself quite hooked. I especially appreciate how Chelsea writes Hawthorn’s voice as the story leads to the discovery of what actually happened to Lizzie Lovett (we do indeed find out), the fallout from discovery, the manner(s) in which Hawthorn reacts and how the strange trajectory of Lizzie, Enzo and Hawthorn culminates before the close of the story.

Overall, a solid, thoughtful and offbeat read with genuinely felt moments of insight. Readers who have previously enjoyed the work of YA authors such as Jasmine Warga, Julie Halpern, Jessica Martinez or Leila Sales and enjoy contemporary teen reads featuring a stand-out and unusual voice might do very well to check out The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett.

Question Time with Chelsea Sedoti

Bloggers participating in The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett tour had, thanks to the awesomeness of Chelsea and Raincoast Books, the opportunity to ask one question of the author. I had a few brewing here and there but tried to narrow it down to one bigger question that kept percolating as I read the story…

Q: The idea of a ‘Lizzie Lovett’- that person that we think or assume is perfect, is adored, has an easy life, and thus someone we envy deep down- is something that I think most all of us can relate to. Did you have a Lizzie Lovett in your life growing up– and did your relationship to or understanding of that person ever change in surprising ways as you got older?

A:I have this bad habit where I compare myself to other people, then decide I don’t measure up.

The result: I haven’t had one Lizzie Lovett. I’ve had a million of them.

For example, my cousins. It’s an unlucky fact of my life that I’ve grown up with cousins who are basically superhuman. They’re smart. They’re attractive. They’re athletic which, in my sports-obsessed family, is maybe the biggest deal of all. (I should note that I was the kid who got picked last for teams and spent most of PE hiding.)

My cousins are easy-going. In school, they were popular—or at least generally well-liked. They were outgoing, unlike shy, quiet me. They weren’t “weird.” They weren’t “nerds.”

Eventually these cousins grew up and went to college where they quickly and successfully got degrees without bouncing between majors and wondering “But what do I really want to do with my life?” They got great jobs. They married people as awesome as them. They had beautiful kids.

It’s safe to say, I grew up feeling inferior. Constantly. That’s what happens when your family is perfect.

Except my cousins aren’t perfect, not really. I listed their successes, but didn’t bother mentioning their personal struggles. I cut out all the bad stuff that’s happened to them and made generalizations about their lives.

Recently one of these cousins commented to me that it’s amazing I’m getting a book published. That I actually accomplished what I always said I wanted to. That I get to spend my life doing what I’m passionate about.

And yeah, that is amazing.

It drives home the fact that you can spend your whole life envying another person, and never realize that maybe that person envies you too.

It’s hard to keep that in mind sometimes. But I try to remind myself that there’s always more going on with a person than what you see publicly. Even the people who are the most talented, the most beautiful, and the most successful, have struggles and flaws and times of deep unhappiness.

No one is perfect. And sometimes it’s our imperfections that make us the most fascinating.

Thank you so much for your time, Chelsea! It has been a pleasure, and so fascinating and interesting reading your thoughtful answer.

Interested in reading more Q&A’s with Chelsea and more on Lizzie Lovett? You can check out the other great blogs participating in the tour:

lizzie-lovett-blog-evite

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

the-woman-in-cabin-10-9781501151774_lgReview: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Source: ARC courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada. Thank you!
Publication: January 3, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Book Description:

From New York Times bestselling author of the “twisty-mystery” (Vulture) novel In a Dark, Dark Wood, comes The Woman in Cabin 10, an equally suspenseful and haunting novel from Ruth Ware—this time, set at sea.

In this tightly wound, enthralling story reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s works, Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea.

At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant, but as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the desk, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

With surprising twists, spine-tingling turns, and a setting that proves as uncomfortably claustrophobic as it is eerily beautiful, Ruth Ware offers up another taut and intense read in The Woman in Cabin 10—one that will leave even the most sure-footed reader restlessly uneasy long after the last page is turned.

While I have yet to read Ruth Ware’s debut mystery In a Dark, Dark Wood (it is on my must-read!), the author’s books are ones that I have been reading much buzz and acclaim about over the last year or so. When the opportunity came up to read and review Ware’s latest, The Woman in Cabin 10, I was definitely intrigued. Unsettling and eerie, with a claustrophobic air pervading the entire read, The Woman in Cabin 10 is a twisted mystery with some shockers.

Our protagonist and narrator is early-thirties Lo Blacklock, a journalist who is hoping to break out of the rut with her latest assignment: reporting and covering the maiden voyage of the premier, first class, ridiculously swank cruise ship the Aurora Borealis. Lo, from the get-go of the story, is someone who’s muddied by chaos. Dealing with the direct aftermath of a traumatic event in her home, she drinks too much, takes pills, doesn’t and can’t sleep well- in other words, has all the makings of an unreliable narrator. As more reveals come to light about Lo and her history, though, she becomes less of an unreliable and unlikable narrator- making the utterly terrifying situation she gets into all the more compelling.

As we learn from the description, there is indeed an incident that arises on the Aurora- an incident in which Lo, from the vantage point of her cabin veranda, witnesses someone from the cabin next door- cabin 10- being thrown overboard the ship. Lo is utterly terrified- what’s happening and where is the dark-haired woman from cabin 10 who lent her mascara earlier in the day? While raising alarm and trying to convince the tightly-knit ship staff of murder, Lo is thwarted in every attempt to convince everyone what she saw. No blood, no physical evidence…no individuals unaccounted for…no sign of anyone ever inhabiting cabin 10. But how is this possible? And had Lo really seen a woman in cabin 10? Lo, though, does not give up and begins an increasingly desperate, frantic search for the missing woman- the woman she knew she saw. Save for the brief unexpected terror at the story’s opening, Ware takes her time letting the story build. While slow on building plot tension and a little rough with easing into Lo’s voice, Ware does a super job with setting the atmosphere. She creates and builds that uneasy, confined, claustrophobic experience of being trapped in a moving vessel so well, one really feels that bilious, queasy discomfort that Lo has on the Aurora. Moreover, Ware quite makes up for a slower, bumpy beginning by taking Lo and the story into psychological terror and suspense worthy of a Paul Greengrass-directed film. No spoilers, but there are some shocking and slightly crazy moves that Ware pulls toward the end of story, making for one exhausting yet satisfying thrill-ride.

Overall, despite a slightly unevenly paced beginning and some bumps in flow, The Woman in Cabin 10 is good, thrilling fun. I love it when a mystery makes you gasp- when an author throws out a surprise or two you did not see coming- and kudos to Ware who made me gasp a few times with regard to the direction the novel took. Mystery readers who have previously enjoyed Ruth Ware’s debut will likely be much looking forward to this! Readers who enjoy the mystery/suspense work of authors such as Megan Miranda, Tana French, Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins, or Megan Abbott might especially enjoy The Woman in Cabin 10.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.