Friday, August 26, 2016

{Review} LET'S GO TO THE HARDWARE STORE by Anne Rockwell with illustrations by Melissa Iwai


O P E N I N G   L I N E:


WHEN WE MOVED INTO
our bigger house,
everything needed fixing.
That's what Mommy said.  

(pgs. 1-2, US Hardcover Edition)


LET'S GO TO THE HARDWARE STORE would have been my brother's FAVORITE BOOK IN THE ENTIRE WORLD when he was little. The boy was OBSESSED WITH TOOLS!!! He always wanted to help out Daddy and had his own little toolset and everything. My brother now has a son who is turning one next month, and for Christmas, he was already getting his own baby tools because we knew he'd love them as much as his daddy! When I heard about this book, I HAD to grab it so that I could introduce it to my nephew.

What struck me the most was the cover--There is both a boy AND a girl on the cover, and they are both having fun!!!! Y'all, tools aren't just for girls. There aren't enough books that feature girls who love inventing. I LOVE that there is a toy line called GoldieBlox (That began on Kickstarter, no less!) that you can find nationwide at Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, etc.

They even put together this great invention commercial, where three little girls build a whole lot of awesome together:


The book itself is from the little boy's POV, but he and his sister are on every page having fun together and helping Daddy pick out tools. Plus, they even get to buy a birdhouse kit that they can put together themselves!

I LOVE that Daddy is taking the kids to the store with him and having a Daddy and Me day. I love that he's fostering a love of tools in his kids so young and not only sharing that love with his son. Mommy stays home because there is an infant child (And there's even a scene where she's breastfeeding, which is pretty awesome!). The family is also interracial, so points there, too!

One thing I really enjoyed was the way the pages would portray images of the tools being talked about, such as:



If a kid is having trouble visualizing various tools (Such as types of hammers and screws!), they're pictured. If a kid is obsessed with tools and wants to know about types of hammers (Framing, tack, sledge, ball-peen, mallet, claw...), they're pictured and will help give that child the vocabulary and imagery they crave.

This book is also fun for kids moving to new houses, because it's about a family that moves, and all the cool things they get to do to make the new home THEIRS!!!!

I really love this book for both genders, and think it's a great story about a family going through a typical day!  It has so many awesome themes and should definitely be a storytime title at schools and libraries to expose more kids to this awesome concept!


(How can you help spread the word? 
Ask your local libraries and schools to order a copy to share with young readers!) 

O F F I C I A L   I N F O:


Title:  LET'S GO TO THE HARDWARE STORE
Author: Anne Rockwell
Illustrator: Melissa Iwai
Release Date: March 22, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) / Macmillan
Received: For Review
SUMMARY:

When the new house needs fixing up, it's off to the hardware store to find the tools and materials needed to get the job done—a hammer, a screwdriver, a shiny tape measure, and even a stepladder.

This family outing explores a familiar errand that fascinates plenty of young children: the hardware store. Anne Rockwell's perfectly pitched story and Melissa Iwai's child-friendly illustrations make this book ideal for the preschool audience.


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Summer of Sailor Scouts: The Book Tag Lives On!



Hey bookworms!

Sooooo a hundred million years ago, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books tagged me to do this because she was putting together The Summer of Sailor Scouts this past July. And....I wrote out the answers the same day!!! But then I left it in draft mode because I needed to format everything and was going to stage books and take pretty pictures....and then I had no time. And then I forgot.

The post sat. And sat. And SAT. I rediscovered it today! The tag is old now and Alexa's event is long gone, but I hope you still have fun reading my answers and tell me some of your own below!!! Or go ahead and host this on your own blog and link to me so I can see! I won't tag anyone specifically because the event is over, but it would be fun to keep this fun tag going, doing you think?

(And I am totally stealing the tag logos from one of the event's co-hosts, Girl in the Pages, because I never did get around to making anything and otherwise this post will be image-free.... ^^;;;)

A BOOK THAT MAKES YOU HUNGRY 


I have to go with either THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson or SILVER PHOENIX by Cindy Pon. Both books made me want to eat ALL THE FOOD because they are described SO WELL!!!!


A BOOK THAT FEATURES TECHNOLOGY 


The first two books to spring to my head are CINDER by Marissa Meyer and STITCHING SNOW by R.C. Lewis. Ironically, both are fairy tales set in space...but that's also what I love about them! The way both authors use technology to build their worlds is amazing and vast!


A BOOK THAT MADE YOU WANT TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES 


My answer is going to be SUPER non-traditional and unexpected here. I'm choosing RUINED by Amy Tintera--which isn't about video games at all!!! Shortly after I'd seen the cover reveal and gotten my hands on an ARC of RUINED, I had a really strange dream where you could reach into the cover of a book, drag out the weapon, and use it in-game if you were playing a video game (Sort of like you can with Skylanders, Disney Infinity, Amiibo, Lego Dimensions, etc). It was all inspired by the awesome cover of RUINED! I even created a whole post about the books I would use if such a game existed here!

If I had to choose something that made me legit play a video game (Though I do wish that book game existed!), I'd actually go with a movie. Disney's Wreck-It Ralph made me wish I could play Wreck-It Ralph...AND the Sugar Rush racing game, too!!! If only they existed!!!

A BOOK THAT IS INSPIRED BY MYTHOLOGY OR FOLKLORE 


I could go with soooooo many books here. I've read a TON, and loved so many. I decided to choose a lesser-known book that I adore, though: SOLSTICE by P.J. Hoover. This was originally self-published, and I read and adored it way back then. I even purchased the book when it first came out...and then I loaned it out and it STILL hasn't been read and given back to me, so I can't re-read it in its revised, "official" version. *weeps*

This one is a retelling of Persephone and Hades, which is a favorite of mine to begin with! It also deals with global warming and has a dystopian environment, and I loved it so much!!!

A BOOK THAT GIVES YOU STRONG FEELINGS 


EVERY SINGLE TIME I pick up MY SISTER'S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult and read it, I always trick myself into thinking things will end differently. This is my all-time favorite book by anyone and it destroys me every time I read it. I won't even see the movie because they changed SO MUCH, including THIS, and...I just can't.

While I haven't been able to bring myself to re-read it yet, I'm saving ALLEGIANT by Veronica Roth to re-read on an Ugly Cry Day. (You know, those days when you WANT a good cry???) I didn't hate the book like so many other people did because it came full circle.

If I were to mention a book that made me want to chuck it across the room because I hated the characters and their horrible decisions so much, I'd definitely go with GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn! I read an ARC back when the book wasn't very well-known and there was no movie deal because I'd read her before. My co-worker was the only other person I knew who had read it and she was OFF for two days and we couldn't commiserate together and complain about the characters, lol! Still can't forgive her for that... ^.~

A POST-APOCALYPTIC BOOK YOU LOVED 


You know what?? When I first prepped this tag, I chose THE PLEDGE by Kimberly Derting, though I wanted to research if it actually WAS post-apocalyptic or not because sometimes it can be hard to realize this.

But I actually have an answer that I never would have had if I'd done this tag in a timely manner. Now, I really have to go with The Remnant Chronicles series by Mary E. Pearson. You guys, I didn't even KNOW that these books were post-apocalyptic until I read the novella MORRIGHAN, and that came out AFTER the first two books in the trilogy, THE KISS OF DECEPTION and THE HEART OF BETRAYAL had been released--and read! I read MORRIGHAN for the first time before re-reading the first two books as I got ready for the release of THE BEAUTY OF DARKNESS earlier this month (Which I'll review sometime...I'm still gathering my thoughts!) Even after re-reading the first two books and reading the final book, it was SO HARD to realize that this world is OUR world. You only see it in MORRIGHAN. The "new world" is so many centuries away from when our world fell that the characters have NO concept of what the world once was. Absolutely EVERYTHING is gone.

How amazing is that??? Mary E. Pearson is brilliant, and I've never seen a post-apocalyptic world quite like this one!!!!!!

A TIME TRAVEL BOOK


I'm actually not a huge fan of time travel books. It has to be done right for me to enjoy it. That said, I really love the River of Time series by Lisa T. Bergren. If you like books such as Diana Gabaldon's popular Outlander series, you'll love this romantic YA series about sisters who travel back to 14th Century Italy and find themselves finally at home..... *swoon* I am due for a re-read of this series, especially since the author is releasing a new spin-off/companion series this year!!!

A BOOK THAT FEATURES ELEMENTAL MAGIC 


I LOVE books that feature elemental magic. It's a favorite genre of mine!!! So this topic is harddddddd. The first one to come to my mind is the brilliant trilogy by Sherry Thomas that begins with THE BURNING SKY. This series is best described as Avatar the Last Airbender meets Tamora Pierce's Song of the Lioness meets J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. PLUS, Thomas specializes in adult romance novels and The Elemental Trilogy was her first YA series...but it still packs plenty of heat!!

A BOOK THAT FEATURES MUSIC 


The first book I thought of was INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows. Sam is a musician who invented so much, and Ana is a new soul enraptured by music. The other book I thought of was OPEN ROAD SUMMER by Emery Lord because I wanted to HEAR the music of Reagan's best friend Dee, who is the Taylor Swift of our world, and I especially wanted to hear Matt Finch sing his song "Human." I was so bitterly disappointed that this music wasn't real and couldn't be obtained!!!

I'd also like to add one more book to the list that I couldn't have if I'd done the tag on time. There is a brilliant book coming out in early 2017, WINTERSONG by S. Jae Jones. (Check out that link for a sneak peek that's 100% spoiler-free! My review won't come until next year!) Music IS this book. It is the air the book breathes. It is life. It is EVERYTHING. This book would not and could not exist without music, and I would be remiss to leave it out of this tag!!!

A BOOK THAT FEATURES A MASQUERADE 

OR HIDDEN IDENTITIES 


I already talked about INCARNATE by Jodi Meadows, so I shouldn't tell you that one of my favorite scenes in the whole trilogy is this gorgeous masquerade from the first book....should I talk instead about Jodi Meadows' other series and the fact that Wil is hiding her identity in THE ORPHAN QUEEN? No?

Okay, okay.

Then I'm going to go with the physical MASK. I can think of two books where masks change the atmosphere of the book.

The first is FAIREST POISON by Lauren Skidmore, which I read earlier this year. The society is one where EVERYONE is masked. As in, ALL THE TIME. The color of your mask signifies your importance in society. Nobility is more masked and hidden than anyone else. It plays a huge part in the book, and I loved the non-traditional world and the issues that ensued!

The other big book where masks play a huge role is A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas. It's a huge spoiler to tell you WHY all the fae in the Spring Court are cursed to have masquerade masks welded to their faces day in and day out, but it plays a huge role in the book, so....!

A FAVORITE MIDDLE-GRADE BOOK 


Ackkkkk, I again have two. I am so bad at this choosing thing.

My absolute favorite series from today's MG authors is The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani. I reviewed the first and second book and posted about why the series is an all-time favorite (in lieu of a spoilery third-book review). I was so happy to hear that the author just announced he'll release a fourth book next summer--which will be the first in a new series, ahhh!!!

The other book I want to shout out to is OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper. It is a book I recommend ALL THE TIME and think every teacher needs in their classroom and every single kid needs to read. It takes a look at how we treat fellow classmates with disabilities and assume things that aren't true and forces us to examine ourselves and the people around us. If you know someone 5th-7th grade, GIVE THEM THIS BOOK.


A BOOK FOR ANIMAL LOVERS 


In high school, I discovered Tamora Pierce, and my world was never the same. Daine's quartet The Immortals is still one of my top series by Pierce. The quartet is about a girl who can talk to animals, and the war coming with immortal creatures thought to no longer exist (griffins, spidrens, undines, stormwings....need I go on? So many immortal creatures, some good, some bad!).

I've been wanting to re-read all of my favorite Tamora Pierce books for so long now, and this tag just makes me want to read them even more.....!


Monday, August 22, 2016

First "Hairspray Live!" Video Releases, and the Cast Looks AMAZING!!!

You guyyyyyyys!!!!!

Hairspray is one of my all-time favorite musicals. The music is so upbeat and fun, and never fails to put me in a good mood. I love both the stage production AND the musical movie.

When I heard that NBC had chosen it to air as their Winter 2016 Live! production, I was excited. Also hesitant, because, well, most of the NBC Live! shows have been so-so. But also anxious to see how the Fox release of Grease Live! earlier this year changed things, because love Grease or hate it, the Live! show set the bar REALLY high.

Have you seen the commercial that NBC released this past weekend highlighting some of the cast? It's so, SO fantastic. Take a peek!


When I first started hearing casting news, I was really excited. For one thing, Harvey Fierstein is in it, and he played Edna in the original Broadway production. Second, Kristin Chenoweth is in it, and I loooove her (And not just because of Wicked, though that show is definitely how I discovered her!). So much Broadway talent!!!!

Ariana Grande is in it, too, and like her or hate her, she is a REALLY talented singer. Very few singers have a 5 octave range. She can rival Mariah Carey in tone, and stunned the world when she left her Nickelodeon show and started belting professionally. (Have you seen this awesome SNL skit where she sings Britney Spears, Shakira, Rihanna, and Whitney Houston? Especially the Whitney Houston bc OMG, she slays it!!!) I wish her music producers showed off her range more. Most of her songs are junk, but a few are really stellar. Plus, she started out as a Broadway baby. I saw her in the Jason Robert Brown musical Thirteen before she'd been "discovered" by Nick. She's also done some awesome performances with Jason Robert Brown such as this. I'm excited to see her back doing a musical again!

Dove Cameron is an exciting casting choice because she will bring in a brand-new generation and introduce them to the world of musicals. She plays twin sisters on popular Disney Channel show Liv and Maddie and starred in last year's smash Disney Channel Movie hit Descendants as Maleficent's daughter Mal. I've never heard her sing without autotune, and the assumption is always that the majority of Disney Channel stars can't sing well without being autotuned, but I'm going to hold out faith that Dove Cameron can truly sing if she was cast in a Live! musical. And her casting is EXCELLENT for bringing in a much younger generation!!!

Plus, I think it's kind of awesome and funny and fantastic that Dove Cameron and Kristin Chenoweth play "evil" mother/daughter combos in both Descendants and Hairspray Live!

The rest of the cast is full of amazing names, too, from Jennifer Hudson to Martin Short to Rosie O'Donnell to....

After seeing this promo, I'm more excited to see this year's Live! NBC musical than ever!

How about you? ^.~


Thursday, August 18, 2016

{Review} WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand

Love fairy tales and mythology?
Fans of mermaids, dragons, unicorns, and other mythical creatures?
Enjoy when a beloved classic tale is retold?
A Twist in the Tail Thursdays features all this and more!



O P E N I N G   H O O K:

   OUR STORIES SAY THAT WHEN the human world was first made, not all of it fit.
   Pieces fell off the whole, like too much dough being stuffed into a small pan, and those bits dropped into cracks and were forgotten. Our stories, the oldest ones, the ones most people no longer remember, say that my country, Cane, is one of those forgotten places, hidden away in some cosmic pocket of existence, for the most part separated from the human world, but not entirely. Tenuous links connect the two worlds--like certain traveling songs and hidden doorways, and magic, if you're able to use it.
   Not everyone in Cane believes that legend, though. Why would they? Their world is their world, and why would there be another? Most commonfolk don't like to think about unsettling things. Doing so disrupts their feeling that they are quite wise, thank you very much, or at least wise enough to get by, to have nice meals and a warm bed at the end of the day, and to know that there are no other worlds besides their own.
   But I knew better.
(Page 2, US Hardcover Edition)

“LOOK THE WORLD STRAIGHT IN THE EYE, AND IT CAN DO NOTHING TO HURT YOU.” 

~ANISE , WINTERSPELL



I am going to start out this review by talking about what a huge fan I am of The Nutcracker. Even as an adult, I am never in the proper Christmas spirit until I've gone onto Youtube and found this old school animated film called The Nutcracker Prince. I've seen the ballet, I've read E.T.A Hoffmann's book, I have seen so many intriguing retellings of this tale.

NOTHING holds a candle to what Claire Legrand has created.


Now, Bonnie reviewed WINTERSPELL back when it first came out. It's an amazing review and if you want to check it out you can find it here. But my obsession with this book dictates that I have to fawn over it myself. So ready, set, here we go.

Let's start out with our heroine, Clara. Legrand had a lot of room to build here in this retelling, because in the books and the ballets, Clara's character has always been rather...generic. She's a girl, she gets a Nutcracker, mouse battles occur, they go watch Sugar Plum fairies dance. Visually it's beautiful, but it's never had much background. Enter Legrand, whose ability to give readers detailed and human characters is amazing. Clara is a perfect mixture of personality. She's growing up in New York City in 1899, and that's reflected in her very Victorian views on what thoughts should or shouldn't exist in her head, on the mannerisms society at that time has drilled into her. But you feel her strength right from the get-go. Her mother has been brutally murdered and she's looking after her father and sister. In her spare time, she's learning sparring and battle techniques from her mysterious Godfather Drosslemeyer. She is constantly in battle with her independent thoughts as a young woman, and the pressures of the world around her. And this is just where she starts off. The growth that Clara displays under Legrand's influence is just...it reels you in. I cried for Clara. I cheered out loud for her when she finds her strength and her sense of self. She's a main character you connect with on a deeply personal level; you find yourself never wanting to leave her head because the narration makes her feel so very real.


And of course, we can't just leave it at that. No, there are more amazing characters. All the familiar souls from the tale of The Nutcracker are present here, with new layers of interesting characterization that give them a whole new vibrancy. Nicholas, our Nutcracker, is not made of wood. Instead, he was cursed, trapped as a metal statue in Drosslemeyer's care. Even after the curse has been semi-lifted, he is left with curls of metal under his skin...and god, this is symbolic of how the curse remains to scar him. But not just the curse. In a way, Nicholas has been stained by his past, by his deeds, by the poisonous effects that war can have on hearts and souls. 


The other example of this is Anise, the fairy queen/Sugar Plum Fairy, ya'all. She was once innocent, but war took its toll on her, too. It's clear that she's meant to be the villain in this tale...but then, well...she's sort of as much a victim as anyone else. I felt bad for her: I felt sympathy and a sort of sad understanding of how she came to be who she is as a character. It's probably my favorite part about the characters in this book. There are moments where you question them, and moments where they question themselves, the delicate balance of good versus evil keeps you on your toes because it's a line that is always moving.

Aside from the kickass characters, there is so much gorgeous imagery in WINTERSPELL. Cane is a vivid world, with occasional steampunk qualities, a dark and war-torn land. Our time in Victorian England is dark and full of shadowy corners as well. The setting really lends to the theme of the story and Legrand is so good at having these moments where she lets the setting give you a taste of what's about to come. You find yourself paying attention to little things...what color is the sky, what is the wind doing? Every detail matters where this narration is concerned. Silver blood, the silver of metal weapons slashing, the stormclouds that fill the sky, god do I love me some good imagery. 


If I start getting into the plot, the delicate twists and turns, the ups and downs, the way the climax hits you in the stomach and drags you along after it...well, I probably wouldn't ever stop writing. And then there would be spoilers. The promise of engaging characters and vivid plot settings should be enough to get your fingers itching to turn the first page of WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand.
~*~
C O N T E N T R A T I N G S

Content Ratings: highlight between ( ) for details

Romance: PG15 ( kissing; innuendo/sexual discovery, but nothing explicit )
Language: PG13 ( mild; sexual innuendo )
Violence: PG15 ( fighting, battle death [sometimes violent]; torture )
Other:  ( An older man has an obsessive interest in Clara in "her" world; Clara's father is often drunk; the use of Sugar, which is like a drug; at one point, Clara takes refuge in a pleasure house )
~*~
C O V E R   D E S I G N:

This one is really nice to look at in person; a computer doesn't do this cover justice! There is a metallic shine to the book that adds to its icy air and suits the mood so well. It's great!

Can you see some of the metallic shine on the cover?
Pulled from Claire Legrand's Tumblr as a reblog!

Also adding to the feeling of cold I get looking at this cover is the shrug on the model's shoulders...WHY is she not wearing long sleeves? Brrr! I also get a hint of danger when I look at this; it's not everyday you see someone holding a knife like that...while being so innocently dressed!

Dark. Innocent. Creepy. Dangerous. Yep, this cover reflects the story well!

There's also a beautiful map inside. Here's a full-color rendition:

From an interview designer Catherine Scully did on Publishing Crawl
  ~*~
O F F I C I A   I N F O:

Title: WINTERSPELL
Author: Claire Legrand
Release Date: Sept. 30, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Received: Purchased
SUMMARY:

The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince . . . but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor's ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother's murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted--by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they're to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets--and a need she can't define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won't leave Cane unscathed--if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, WINTERSPELL is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Top 12 Books That Take Place in...NYC!!!




Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish.
Every once in a while I participate in this one when I either
1) Like the theme, and/or 2) Have the time!

This week's topic:
Top Ten Books With a Common Setting!

This week's Top Ten Tuesday allowed us to list our top ten books with a common setting. (Ummmm, and we came up with 12, so oops?)

Now, Bonnie and I could have thought of a MILLION settings, but we ended up settling on our favorite stories set in New York. 

Next month, we'll be traveling to NYC ourselves to see Hamilton and Waitress on Broadway (MY FIRST TRIP TO BROADWAY, YOU GUYS.) 

To celebrate, keep reading to find a roundup of our top books that have featured the Big Apple as a setting.


In no particular order...

1) DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan


(UM, and it takes place at the most amazing bookstore, THE STRAND, and the cover is so adorable, AND LOVE!!! Plus, NYC AT CHRISTMAS FTW!!!)

My Review (One of Bonnie's FIRST EVER blog reviews!)
 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7741325-dash-lily-s-book-of-dares

2) TITHE by Holly Black

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14358.A_Ring_of_Endless_Light

3) THE LIGHTNING THIEF (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan

 https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28187.The_Lightning_Thief

4) BEASTLY by Alex Flinn

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/544891.Beastly


5) THE PRINCESS DIARIES by Meg Cabot

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38980.The_Princess_Diaries

6) WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/5310515-when-you-reach-me

7) THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4671.The_Great_Gatsby

8) EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE by Jonathan Safran Foer 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4588.Extremely_Loud_and_Incredibly_Close

9) BORN OF ILLUSION by Teri Brown

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13000748-born-of-illusion

10) ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER by Stephanie Perkins


Check Out Bonnie's Review!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/9627755-isla-and-the-happily-ever-after

11) WHERE SHE WENT by Gayle Forman

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8492825-where-she-went


12) CITY OF BONES by Cassandra Clare

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24885537-city-of-bones

...What are some of your favorite books set in NYC?
 ^_^