Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Witches Protection Program - Blog Tour and Giveaway

Witches Protection Program
By Michael Okon
Republished June 3, 2019

Why I chose this book:
I was invited to participate in the blog awareness tour and the synopsis sounded fun, so I accepted. I am certainly glad I did! A review copy was provided.

Book Review

Witches Protection Program is a quirky paranormal mystery with action and romance thrown in, brewed til perfection.

Moving quickly, this short novel switches between two perspectives: Agent Rockville and Morgan Pendragon. Rockville is transferred to a secret department tasked with protecting witches, despite the fact that he doesn't believe in the supernatural. Morgan Pendragon is a reluctant witch and heiress to aWitches Protection Program allows the reader more information as the mystery unfolds, with exciting fights involving suspension bridges, enormous snakes, and shapeshifting witches. The action is intense, the mystery enjoyable, and the attraction between Rockville and Morgan adds a bit of spice.
global cosmetics company. Rockville must come to terms with the new-to-him reality and investigate suspicious dealings by the Pendragon corporation. Morgan must come to terms with her aunt's nefarious schemes involving a new facial cream that will be released en masse around the globe. With Rockville's official and Morgan's internal investigation,

What I particularly liked were the world building and the fights. Okon has the right balance between corporate evil, magic, secret government agencies, and budding attraction. Nothing is too serious, but neither is it ridiculous. Within the context of this world, the confrontation between steampunk-weapon-wielding police and witches who change into hawks or panthers to attack said police in the middle of New York City seems perfectly plausible. And oh! what a fight ensues. I couldn't turn the pages fast enough! Just when I thought our heroes were safe, they were assaulted again! The neatly wrapped-up ending thankfully provides for more books in the series.

If you like urban fantasy, paranormal intrigue, and quick, fun YA, then you will likely enjoy Witches Protection Program.

Enter For A Chance To Win An Autographed Copy Of Witches Protection Program And A $100 Amazon Gift Card!

One (1) grand prize winner receives:
• a copy of Witches Protection Program autographed by Michael Okon
• a $100 Amazon gift card

Three (3) winners receive:
• a copy of Witches Protection Program autographed by Michael Okon

Giveaway begins July 8, 2019, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends August 8, 2019, at 11:59 P.M. MT.

Open to legal residents of Canada, Great Britain, Australia, and the 50 United States and the District of Columbia, who are eighteen years of age or older in their state or territory of residence at the time of entry. Void where prohibited by law.

Michael Okon is responsible for prize fulfillment.

Per FTC guidelines, I disclose partnership with TCBR and Michael Okon.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Rider on the White Horse – Book Review

Book Review
The Rider on the White Horse
Written by Theodor Storm
Translated by James Wright
Originally published in 1888

Why I chose this book:
One of the short stories was highly recommended to me by my husband, and I couldn't pass up the others.

A collection of short stories set in nineteenth-century Germany, The Rider on the White Horse entrances the reader more with each story. With themes of death, love, sacrifice, and honor, the stories are made even more compelling by their frame narratives. It is as though the reader absorb's the narrator's passion and curiosity for each story (the narrators of several stories relate tales that they themselves heard, often in response to personal queries). In "Aquis Submersus," for example, the narrator has seen a painting of a child in his church; the expression of the child and the inscription on the painting have always intrigued him. Later in life, he comes upon an old journal written by the artist. Enhanced by the character's drive to learn the history of the child, the reader cannot help but be fully consumed by the tale. Readers who enjoy short stories, realism, or anecdotal history will likely fly through The Rider on the White Horse at breakneck speed. Read it with a friend – you'll want to talk to someone about it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Big Book of Birds – Book review

Book Review
The Big Book of Birds
By Yuval Zommer
Published June 4, 2019

Why we chose this book: 
We loved The Big Book of the Blue, and we love learning about birds! We just saw a great blue heron in our yard, sparking our interest in that particular species. We were so glad to have this on hand to look up how it catches its prey. Thames and Hudson provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Mom's Review
What is cozier than being side by side with your little one on the rug, perusing a giant picture book, with the sun streaming in? Not much in my book. And this is how T and I have read through The Big Book of Birds. The oversized publication takes up almost our whole field of vision when it's propped up in my lap and T is under my arm, pointing out what he wants me to read (or where a hidden egg can be found on different pages). Reading together was like being in our own little world. No distractions (despite the LEGO bricks surrounding us), no interruptions (the InstantPot was cooking away). Purely time enjoying a book together.

Whether you are reading it with a little one under your arm or your elementary schooler has it him/herself, if you are a fan of Yuval Zommer, you will not be disappointed with this latest Big Book. From bird families to migration to flightless birds to eggs, and from flamingos to great gray owl to kingfishers, The Big Book of Birds is a fascinating and lovely flight through the avian world.

There is a lot of information to take in, some of it familiar, but much of it new. Each two-page spread features stunning illustrations with snippets of text. The Big Book of Birds strikes the balance between entertaining and informing that I like so much. Flamingos pee on their own legs to cool down. Entertaining? My son is four. Potty humor is high comedy in this house (though we are trying to keep it to this house – wish us luck with that one). Informative? You bet! On top of the edifying(?) information, there's also a seek-and-find game: readers have to spot a particular egg throughout the book. Get those Where's Waldo? skills warmed up!

Note: The information covered includes basic bird information, specialized trivia, and tips for bird-watching. It's not all flamingo pee and kingfisher poop.

Son's Review
(Age: 4 years old)
Mom: What is your favorite section? Why?

Son: My favorite section is this page because it's eggs and the biggest egg is an ostrich egg. It takes up a bunch of space.

Mom: What is your favorite bird? Why?

Son: These [chicks] are two of my favorite birds because they can crack open their eggs like every kind of bird.

Mom: You learned lots of new information. What's your favorite thing you learned?

Son: Well, my favorite is: the ostrich is so big that the ostrich egg is so big. Too big. Giant. Massive. Enormous. Big!

Mom: I want to know more about those little flightless parrots in New Zealand. What do you want to know more about? Do you have a specific question?

Son: Probably everything. Why is migration a hard thing for birds?

Mom: Which bird do you most want to see? Why?

Son: There are some cute birds who don't live in this country.
(He's referring to the flightless parrots.)

Mom: Should Dad read this? ... Why should Dad or anyone read The Big Book of Birds?

Son: It's a great book!...Because it teaches you about birds, like things you don't know about birds.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Maybe He Just Likes You – Book Review

Book Review
Maybe He Just Likes You
By Barbara Dee
Expected Publication: October 1, 2019

Why I chose this book:
I would like to expand my coverage of chapter books, so when the opportunity arose to review such a timely book, I was delighted. A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Discomfiting. Empowering. Frustrating. Infuriating. Inspiring. Timely.

Seventh grade Mila is being sexually harassed by a group of boys at school. They have a "game" in which they score points for touching her, making obscene comments to her, and the like.
Mila's uncertainty is what rings so true. How do you know when someone crosses the line? Are you being overly sensitive to something that's just a joke? While Dee's novel does not offer concrete answers, it does follow Mila's experience, her friends' reactions, and the boys' escalating harassment with an authenticity that ever-critical middle-schoolers will likely appreciate. Discomfiting and frustrating as Mila flounders in her indecision, Maybe He Just Likes You forces readers to confront a victim's experience of sexual harassment. At first, Mila is uncomfortable and confused by her harassers'  treatment. As it escalates, however, she knows that they have crossed the line, but she is too uncomfortable with the situation to do much about it. Her mother knows nothing, the teachers do not see it happen, and her friends' reactions run the gamut. On the one end, Zara wants to know what Mila is doing to invite these flirtations; Zara seems almost jealous of the attention. On the other end, Max urges Mila to instantly report the bullying to the vice principal; he urges her again and again throughout the book, offering to go with her.

Eventually, and unrelated to the harassment, Mila joins a trial karate class. A fellow bandmember who has been in the karate class encourages her, and Mila enjoys the experience, so she continues to attend the class. Over the course of the novel, Mila gains some confidence, but she is still fearful of the boys. Ultimately, she brings a tormentor's wrongs to center-stage, quite literally, when she sabotages his solo at a band concert, leading her teacher to investigate the impetus for Mila's outburst. Mila then finds two unexpected allies; that band teacher who had been harassed herself, and another band member who had been the boys' previous target. A community meeting finally brings an end to the behavior. One boy is truly remorseful; he knew he was wrong the whole time. One boy's eyes are opened; he regrets the personal hurt he caused and is respectful from then on. Two boys simply stop; they do not seem remorseful, but they seem to know that further "games" aren't worth the consequences.

After reading Maybe He Just Likes You all in one day, I feel a bit in a muddle . This is timely, certainly. It's a page turner, but it also made my stomach turn. Overall, I must say that it is well worth reading. Victims and bystanders can identify with Mila and her friends, though Mila is more than just a victim in this book. She is a complex character with whom this reader alternately identified (ah, the joys of band), wanted to befriend (as my middle-school self), and found humorous to read about (did she turn into a "plaid-wearing person"?).

Everything about Maybe He Just Likes You feels authentic. I would suggest it for middle-schoolers. Girls or boys who are witnessing or experiencing sexual harassment may feel more empowered to act or speak out, having seen a similar situation play out in a well-written and compelling novel that is filled with characters that will resonate with readers.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Party: A Mystery – Book Review

Book Review
Party: A Mystery
Written by Jamaica Kincaid
Illustrated b Ricardo Cortés
Published June 4, 2019

Why we chose this book:
T is entranced at present by mystery-solvers. He has not abandoned his love of monster-lore, but expanded it to include monster-mysteries, which, in turn, led us to mysteries. On top of it, we return again and again to Cortés's Sea Creatures from the Sky, so seeing his work again held great appeal. A review copy was provided by Akashic Books in exchange for an honest review.

Mom's Review
Three girls are at a grown-up party, watching from the periphery and trying to figure out how to access the refreshments; two are friends and one is a younger sister. As older siblings are wont to do, the two exclude young Sue from their tete-a-tete. Sue's frustration, powerlessness, and disappointment are palpable as the girls witness but won't explain an unnamed something. Whatever it is, it is bilious. If you don't have a precise definition of bilious, prepare to look it up as we had to!

What I love best about Party is how seamlessly the illustrations and text meld. Cortés perfectly complements Kincaid's words. And together they convey the experience of a younger sibling so realistically that one must question whether this is fiction or non-fiction. The older girls not only have the self-satisfied look of those who relish having charge of a younger sibling (in a healthy, non-bullying way), but they sound like children who are trying on big words for size. And when the two older girls express disgust at how "bilious" what they observe is, I could feel my own stomach turn in reaction to their reaction. The expressions on the girls' faces are priceless!

Without spoiling the ending, I will say that it was the perfect capstone to Sue's party experience.

The illustrations and realism make Party a satisfying read that will resonate with younger siblings (or anyone who has experienced the frustration of ignorance). Two other aspects of Party enhance what is already a thoroughly satisfying book: the ending and the fact that the party is in celebration of Nancy Drew.

Son's Review
(Age: 4 years old)
Son: Let's start reading!

Mom: Are you excited? Why do you like mysteries?

Son: I am! 'Cuz they're spooky!
While reading:
Mom: Where does it look like they are? That kinda reminds me of stairs in the museum.

Son: Probably they are at the museum.

Son: What does "querulous" mean?
(My first guess was wrong; my vocabulary is expanding with this book.)

Mom: Would you go up those stairs by yourself?

Son: No, 'cuz that would be too spooky.

Mom: Does this look like a grown-up party or a kid party?

Son: A grown-up party.

Mom: How do you feel? How does she look?

Son: Excited! Concerned!

Mom: What would you do if you didn't know what they were talking about?

Son: I would ask them.

Mom: That's a good plan. How does she [Sue] feel? What would you do if you were there?

Son: Sad. I would comfort her. I would hug Sue.
After reading:
Son: What do you think they saw, Mom?

Mom: I don't know. They used two words to describe it: vile and bilious. What do you think they saw? A real thing or were they tricking Sue?

Son: Tricking her. To make her feel sad.

Mom: If the story kept going, what do you think the other girls will do? Do you think they will be nice to her?

Son: No, because they aren't nice. Maybe they'll write another story about those guys to tell us what happened.

Mom: This is a Nancy Drew book party.  Would you want to go to a book party?
(We looked at my Nancy Drew books afterward.)

Son: Of course. Can you read me these?

Mom: When you are older.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Little Kids First Big Book of Science – Book Review

Book Review
Little Kids First Big Book of Science
By Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld
Published March 26, 2019

Why we chose this book:
When we were invited to review this, we happily accepted the opportunity. It's science for T's age group, and it's from National Geographic. We love Nat'l Geo! A review copy was provided in exchange for an honest review.

Mom's Review
Little Kids First Big Book of Science is precisely that, and it is fun. Careful wording, games to play, conversation questions, and bright photographs create a tantalizing introduction to science.

The book starts at the most basic level: what science is. Little readers can progress from there to the branches of science, going more in-depth with a range of subjects from zoology to geology to chemistry. Alternatively, they can jump around, flipping pages until they come to different games like T's favorite "find objects made of rock" game in the geology section. Because the backgrounds and photographs are so vibrant, each page is exciting to look at. T likes to flip, flip, flip and finally select something to read. Afterwards, he is inspired to do different experiments, from making volcanoes in the kitchen to kitchen chemistry (aka cooking) to his own creation.

Flipping through, reading interesting bits (new vocab, cool experiments, field-specific facts, etc.), answering the questions, playing games, and extending into the kitchen and the yard –- First Big Book of Science is the epitome of kid-friendly science.

Son's Review
(Age: 4 years old)
Son, flipping and stopping: Why is he holding ice with no gloves?

Mom: Probably to feel it. Would you want to feel the ice?

Son: Barely any, but just a little smidge. Would you like to?

Mom: I would; I do like to touch snow.
Mom: What can you do with this book?

Son: Make science. Like make ubstances [substances]. That's what I want to do. Make ubstances!

Mom: What can you learn from this book? Can you name three things?

Son: 1. substances 2. animals, and last, 4.
(Here he broke down laughing at his counting joke.)

Mom: I learned something I didn't know...

Son: It's volcanoes!!! Me too!
(We learned that lava is the hot stuff flowing out of a volcano, but it's called magma when it's underground.)

Mom: Which part of the book did you like the best?

Son, acting out multiple animals in succession: Guessing!

Mom: What was your favorite thing that you learned?

Son, practically exploding: That...EXPLODE EXPLODE LAVA!!!

Mom: That's mine, too! What do you want to learn more about?

Son: Ubstances. Chemistry in the kitchen, this day!

Mom: I'll put your book review up for the summer reading book review challenge. What do you want the librarians to know about First Big Book of Science?

Son: They should know that it's better than any book because it has a bunch of science crafts.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

A Storytelling of Ravens Book Review

Book Review
A Storytelling of Ravens
Written by Kyle Lukoff
Illustrated by Natalie Nelson
Published May 2018

Why we chose this book:
Three words: animals and wordplay
Groundwood Books provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Mom's Review

Imagine a group of hippopotamuses, a bloat, to be precise, paddling down the river to a cupcake factory. How will they feel after indulging themselves? Bloated, perhaps? If you like this type of humor, then grab your copy of A Storytelling of Ravens. Each animal group name, from that bloat of hippos to a smack of jellyfish to an ostentation of peacocks, is used with double, hysterical meaning. T didn't understand that "nuisance," "smack," and "ostentation" referred to the animal groups at first; he just thought the cats were annoying the dog, the jellyfish were hitting a boat, and the peacocks were fancy. He enjoyed the silliness of the animals' exploits and the novelty of the illustrations. When I explained how the words had dual meanings, however, he enjoyed the book even more; he loves tricks and humor, and the idea of playing with words, of being a bit tricky, delighted him. The illustrations, likewise, were a source of amusement. Each illustration includes small portions of photographs, which became a seek-and-find game for him. The moon behind the parliament of owls, for example, is a photograph of the full moon.

Short and sweet and silly and sharp, A Storytelling of Ravens is a delight in wordplay and the nuances of the English language.

Son's Review
(Age: 4 years old)
Note: We have now read and discussed A Storytelling of Ravens countless times. T's favorite animal group changes every time.

Mom: What's your favorite page?

Son: My favorite page is the elephant one because some of the elephants want some peanuts and that's silly. / The cat part because I like cats.  The exaltation because I just like exalting. /  This page is my favorite page because I think that these guys [larks] are cuties.

Mom: What's fun about the pictures?

Son: That photographs are on each. So, it's not all photographs.  Look! This part's the photograph. And here. And here!
(T pointing to the spots on some of the giraffes.)

Mom: I like how they play with the words.

Son: Me too. I think that they [jellyfish] smack into the bottom of the glass boat. So FUNNY!!! 

Son, pointing to the sloth of bears: It looks like the bears have a little drink. So it's green and pink bears. Super silly! (turning the page) The duck is the intruder! Isn't it super silly?

Mom: So super silly! Is that what you like about the book?

Son: I'd say it's the best book in the world because it's so silly and I like silly things and a lot of my books are silly and that's the best thing in the world.

Mom: I also like how you can learn and how the author plays with words.

Son: Yeah. So the bloat is the group of hippos. You would get bloated! "Three words: Explosion at the cupcake factory!"
(This is *almost* a quote.)

The Big Book of the Blue

By Yuval Zommer Published June 5, 2018 Why we chose this book: To learn about the ocean! The cover art caught my eye and the synopsis...