Friday, August 18, 2017

Children's Book Roundup (3)

This summer we have been reading many books together. As far as I am concerned, there's no better time to read together than during the summertime.  Here are some of our most recent reads and as usual, please let me know of any recommendations you have!

Early Readers:


Mummies in the Morning,  Pirates Past Noon, and Night of the Ninjas by Mary Pope Osborne 
We are loving the Magic Tree House series! It has so much adventure and the appeal of non-fiction elements (pirates, Ancient Egypt, dinosaurs, etc), which my son loves.  Jack is a bit more reserved whereas Annie, his sister, is extremely outgoing. We are enjoying their adventures and are looking forward to figuring out a few mysteries that they've come across, such as whose books are in the treehouse. 

Puppy's Big Day by Nick Bruel
We love the Bad Kitty books in our house and this is definitely a fun addition to the series. It's for older readers as it's not a picture book, but it includes many illustrations and some of the same laughs that we are familiar with from the other books.  My son loves that Uncle Murray is a main character in this book as he always gets into funny situations. This book is quite the adventure. Let's just say that Puppy ends up at the pound!

Picture Books:

Alexander Graham Bell Answers the Call by Mary Ann Fraser 
This book just came out a few days ago and we have been enjoying it in my house. It showcases Alexander's childhood and what inspired him to invent the telephone. I even learned a lot from this book and my son was very interested in what phones used to look like. If you have a child at home that loves to examine how things work and is a budding inventor, they will appreciate this book tremendously.  I also liked that it included sources for more information if you child wants to learn even more about this topic.

A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton
I am so glad that I came across this Usborne book. I love that it deals with different perspectives. The events are first told from the girl's point of view and then the events are told from the squirrel's. This book truly lends itself to an excellent discussion regarding other people's perspectives. The message is subtle though and not in your face. It's one of the best children's books that I've read in awhile.

Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt 
This is also an Usborne book and I was so pleasantly surprised by this one. In fact, it truly spoke to me! It's about Jonathan's Whatif Mosnter which makes him doubt himself and discourages him from trying new things. What if it isn't fun? What if people make fun of him? By the end of the story, he challenges this notion and thinks of the opposite outcome. What if it's fun? What if he hits a home run? What if he makes a new friend? I love this and it's a great reminder to put yourself out there and take a chance. Even adult can appreciate this novel.

Nibbles: The Book Monster by Emma Yarlett
This is another Usborne book that many people recommended to me.  Nibbles is such a cute monster and my son and I loved following along on his book eating adventures. This is truly a neat book as there are common fairy tales within this book and there are holes where Nibbles has eaten through the pages. It makes for a fun read-aloud!

How Do Dinosaurs Play with their Friends by Jane Yolen
I originally got this board book for my youngest son, but the message is an important one for all preschoolers. It reviews how to be a good friend and how to play nicely with others.  Of course Yolen uses dinosaurs to convey her message, which makes it a fun story.

B is for Bedtime by Margaret Hamilton
This Usborne book is another beautiful book that holds a special spot on my son's bookshelf. It's the perfect bed time book and I love that it reviews the alphabet as we go through the bedtime routine. I love the rhythmic verse and the gorgeous illustrations.

So, have you read any of these children's book? Do you have any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book Review: Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis

Pages: 416
Genre: Adult Fiction
Pub. Date: August 4, 2015
Publisher: NAL
Source: Library
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Pragmatic, independent Lily St. Claire has never been a beachgoer. But when her late father leaves her a small house on Hideaway Key—one neither her mother nor she knew he owned—she’s determined to visit the sleepy spit of land along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Expecting a quaint cottage, Lily instead finds a bungalow with peeling shutters and mountains of memorabilia. She also catches a glimpse of the architect who lives down the beach….  But it’s the carton of old journals in the front room that she finds most intriguing. The journals were written by her mother’s sister, an infamous beauty whose name has long been banned from the St. Claire home. The journals tell a family tale Lily has never heard, of her mother and her aunt as young girls in Tennessee and the secrets that followed them into adulthood. As she reads, Lily gains a new understanding: about her family and about herself. And she begins to open her heart—to this place, these people, and the man next door. But can she ever truly learn to trust, to believe that love is not a trap but a harbor? And is it true that hearts, even broken ones, can be forged anew?"

Lily St. Claire finds herself as the owner of a cottage on Hideaway Key located on Florida's Gulf Coast thanks to the fact that her father left her the house in his will.  She didn't even know that he owned the home though! When Lily visits the cottage, she finds out that it is filled with a lot of old items, specifically old journals written by her mother's sister. This is especially intriguing as her mother won't speak of her sister to this day, so Lily has many questions surrounding this.  As Lily starts reading the journals, she learns a lot of information about her mother and her sister's childhood and what they went through.  To top things off, she meets a new neighbor that catches her eye.  Barbara Davis's Summer at Hideaway Key is a charming beach read that fans of historical fiction with dual narratives will enjoy this.  

Lily's story was an interesting one in Summer at Hideaway Key, especially when she started reading the journals of her aunt Lily-Mae.  The most compelling aspect of this novel were, hands-down, the journals and Lily uncovering family secrets. I was very curious as to why her mother no longer speaks to her sister. I also thought her boy-next-door romance with Dean was a cute one and added to the beach read appeal of the novel. 

Speaking of Lily-Mae, I found her journals to be very compelling. I actually learned a lot about "poor farms" and their function in history as I really didn't know much about them.  Lily-Mae and her sister end up at one and things don't really go well for her there.  I don't want to give too much away, but it was definitely heartbreaking.  I was completely invested in Lily-Mae's story.

The setting of Summer at Hideaway Key is outstanding and perfect for a beach read. Davis truly captured Florida's Gulf Coast and I loved armchair traveling to such a tropical and serene location.

If you are a fan of historical fiction that is filled to the brim with family secrets as well as a gorgeous location, give Summer at Hideaway Key a try. This the first novel I've read by Barbara Davis, but definitely not my last.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Neighbors

This is a weekly meme hosted by Jill from Breaking the Spine.  "Waiting on Wednesday" spotlights upcoming releases that I'm eagerly anticipating.

The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon
Pub. Date: March 13, 2018

Goodreads says, "After a night of fun, Abby was responsible for the car crash that killed her beloved brother. It is a sin she can never forgive herself for, so she pushes away the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself. Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames, the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes. In a strange twist of fate, Liam (her old lover—possibly her true soulmate) moves in with his own family next door, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the dark secrets they’ve both been carrying…"
Neighbors and dark secrets...sort of reminds me of Big Little Lies in a good way. What do you guys think?

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My New Adventure with Usborne Books and More

Hey, all! I wanted to share my new adventure with you guys. I am an Independent Consultant for Usborne Books and More. My kids love these books and they have some of the best children's books that I've come across. 

Are you familiar with these books? Here are some of the bestsellers:

In our house we love Secrets of the Seashore, That's Not My Puppy, Jungle Sounds, Inside a Castle, and all of their incredible activity books. My son has been loving the 100 Paper Planes to Fold and Fly this summer.  

What I love about Usborne Books and More is that they offer engaging children's books for just about every age, genre and interest. My son goes through different phases of interests ranging from dinosaurs, pirates, castles to sea life and Usborne has books about each and every topic.  They also have incredible baby books that my littlest has been enjoying since birth.

If you are interested in checking out what we have to offer, please stop by my shopping site and don't hesitate to contact me on Twitter for book recommendations.  Also, if you are on Facebook and you'd like to learn more about hosting your own Usborne Books and More Facebook party in order to earn free books for the child in your life, let me know. It's very easy!

I've been LOVING connecting people with great books for their children! If you have any questions, drop me an email or find me on Twitter.

Have a great day and thanks for visiting!

Disclaimer: Usborne Publishing Ltd. (UK) has no connection with these pages and does not sponsor or support their content.  

Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Pages: 464
Genre: YA Sci-Fi
Pub. Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed. Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores. Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected.  This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom."

Imagine a world where a group of people, referred to as the Wolfpack, take over and throw everyone else into work camps.  Eden is alone, her father is dead, and her future looks bleak; that is until she decides to escape.  Along with three other girls, she is able to escape and they search for one of the only places left that promises freedom: Sanctuary Island.  Before Eden's father died, he left her a guidebook which has details about where exactly Sanctuary Island is located. Using this, the girls find the island.  While at the island, they meet other people resisting the Wolfpack and things seem to be going well at Sanctuary for Eden...that is until they aren't.  Finley, Eden's friend, disappears, so perhaps things aren't as good as they initially thought? Who can they trust? What secrets are hidden on this island? Kayla Olson's debut, The Sandcastle Empire, is a suspenseful dystopian novel that gives readers much to think about.

Eden's back story is an interesting one and I was especially intrigued about her father and what happened to him.  I liked that he left her behind a guidebook of sorts and she uses this to find the island.  However, I wish Eden was a bit more developed, as character development was lacking in The Sandcastle Novel; nonetheless, I still cared about her.

What Olson excels at in The Sandcastle Empire is the world-building.  It was truly an interesting as well as terrifying futuristic world that she created, but it seemed plausible at the same time. It made me think about the world we currently live in, our resources, and how we treat the planet as well as each other.

Dystopian novels aren't really my thing anymore, but I am glad I read The Sandcastle Empire. I can see why Paramount picked this novel up and why Leonardo DiCaprio is set to produce the movie. I think it will translate to the big screen very well as it definitely seemed like an action movie as I was reading it.

All in all, The Sandcastle Empire was entertaining, but it was not my favorite dystopian novel. I do like that it made me think about the future, but with all the upsetting events that are going on in the world, I didn't want to imagine a future Earth like this. So, I think you have to be in the mood for The Sandcastle Empire as well as a big fan of dystopian literature or survival stories.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sunday Post and Giveaway Winners (44)

Book Review and Giveaway: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvart
Waiting on Wednesday: The Mitford Murders
Book Review: Coming Up for Air by Miranda Kenneally

I'll be sharing my thoughts on The Sandcastle Empire, which is a debut novel by Kayla Olson. It's a sci-fi novel that's already been optioned by Paramount and Leonardo DiCaprio will be producing! I will also be sharing some of the children's books that we've been reading and hopefully I will get to post my review of Summer at Hideaway Key by Barbara Davis, which is a quintessential beach read. 


The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel - Thanks to St. Martin's
Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner - Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and NetGalley

Daughters of Castle Deverill (Deverill Chronicles #2) by Santa Montefiore

The winner of the ARC of All Things New by Lauren Miller goes to....


Congrats! I hope you enjoy the book.

Have you read any of these books? Are they on your TBR list? Let me know your thoughts. Thanks for visiting. This meme is hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review and Giveaway: Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts

Pages: 352
Genre: YA Fantasy
Pub. Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Source: Publisher for review
My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "Being a bastard blows. Tilla would know. Her father, Lord Kent of the Western Province, loved her as a child, but cast her aside as soon as he had trueborn children. At sixteen, Tilla spends her days exploring long-forgotten tunnels beneath the castle with her stablehand half brother, Jax, and her nights drinking with the servants, passing out on Jax’s floor while her castle bedroom collects dust. Tilla secretly longs to sit by her father’s side, resplendent in a sparkling gown, enjoying feasts with the rest of the family. Instead, she sits with the other bastards, like Miles of House Hampstedt, an awkward scholar who’s been in love with Tilla since they were children. Then, at a feast honoring the visiting princess Lyriana, the royal shocks everyone by choosing to sit at the Bastards’ Table. Before she knows it, Tilla is leading the sheltered princess on a late-night escapade. Along with Jax, Miles, and fellow bastard Zell, a Zitochi warrior from the north, they stumble upon a crime they were never meant to witness. Rebellion is brewing in the west, and a brutal coup leaves Lyriana’s uncle, the Royal Archmagus, dead—with Lyriana next on the list. The group flees for their lives, relentlessly pursued by murderous mercenaries; their own parents have put a price on their heads to prevent the king and his powerful Royal Mages from discovering their treachery." 

Tilla's father is Lord Kent, but she is considered a bastard and not one of his "true born" royal children.  Her half sibling, Jax, is also a bastard, so they spend their days hanging out together, exploring the castle and the tunnels.  Tilla says this doesn't bother her, but she secretly wishes she was growing up as a legitimate child living in the lap of luxury.  One day princess Lyriana is visiting the castle and decides to sit at the bastard's table during the feast instead of with the legitimate royals. This sets everyone off and sets many things into motion.  In fact, that evening Tilla and friends, along with the princess, witness a crime that sends them fleeing for their lives.  Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts is an adventurous debut that fans of fantasy will appreciate the most.

Tilla is an interesting character in Royal Bastards.  As the story continues, her character is developed a bit more, which I liked as I wasn't really connecting with her during the first half of the story.  I did appreciate her struggle of being a bastards vs. her true feelings of wanting to be recognized and treated fairly. She enjoys some privileges of being a "royal," but isn't exactly legitimate, so she is living in that in between state.

What stood out to me when reading Royal Bastards was the adventure. It's really action-packed and I think reluctant YA readers may enjoy this aspect of the novel. The world-buiding was pretty good and the pace, especially during the second half of the novel, was also quite quick.  It definitely held my attention!

I did have a few issues with dialogue as well as some of the fantasy elements that Shvarts included in the text.  It seemed like just about every aspect of fantasy was included, which made it feel a bit too much at times.

Overall, Royal Bastards was just a middle-of-the-road fantasy for me. It didn't stand out as I was hoping; nonetheless, if an adventure story is your thing, definitely give this first installment in a new series a try.

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion, I have an ARC of Royal Bastards to give away to one lucky US reader. The deadline is August 21st and please refer to my giveaway rules.  Good luck!

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