Leo’s Monster by Marcus Pfister- ARC Review

Thank you to Negalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on May 5th, 2020.

This little story is about two mice. There’s a country mouse named Zoe and, and her little buddy, Leo. Leo comes to visit Zoe, but discovers a terrifying monster. As he describes it to Zoe, she starts to suspect that the monster is, in fact, bovine in nature.

I thought the illustrations were cute, and the story was entertaining. My toddler, though had another opinion. He hated it. About three pages in, he looked at me and said, “It’s just a cow,” and the disdain with which he said it was actually a wee bit funny. I’m not sure what to make of his reaction. He gravitates toward history books anyway (seriously. This four year old has all the presidents memorized and can recognize them by face). Take his opinion with that in mind.

I guess that makes this review a mixed one. I liked the book, and think it would be great for toddlers. My toddler- the target demographic- seems to disagree. Take from that what you will.

I am Scary by Elise Gravel- ARC Review

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In this sweet little book, a monster tries to scare a young child. But the child insists the monster is not scary but actually quite huggable. (taken from Amazon)

                                  Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on March 17, 202

This book is so adorable! I requested it because I had a feeling my toddler would enjoy it. I read it aloud and he loved it.

The illustrations are charming in their simplicity. Told with very little dialogue, this book is about a monster who tries- and fails- to scare a child. He roars, growls, and shows off his horns and teeth. To the monster’s discomfiture, the child thinks he’s cute. What’s a monster to do?

What I liked best about this book was the ability to prompt my toddler to talk about the pictures and make conclusions based on what was happening. Because there isn’t much dialogue, my “little” made the monster sounds, talked about how cute the monster was, and had a lovely time. The book would probably be even more riveting to a slightly younger child, but my toddler still really liked it.

This would make a great baby shower gift. I recommend it for all little book lovers- in-training.

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency and the Case of the Missing Ghost by D.L. Dugger- ARC Review

The Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency: And the case of the missing ghost by [Dugger, D.L.]
When a ghost disappears from a local house he was haunting, his sister in the OtherWorld spirit realm hires the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency to find him. Eager to locate the missing ghost, the youthful sleuths, Abby, Toby and Billy, and their grumpy Medium Arthur Monsento jump right into the investigation. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available to purchase on November 11th.

What first drew me to this book was the old-school kids’ detective agency idea. I loved that sort of story when I was young, and this seemed a fresh take on an old favorite. There was a Scooby-Doo vibe, except that the ghosties happen to be actual ghosts.

This is the third installment in the Fantastic Phantasmic Detective Agency series, but it was easy to understand what was happening, thanks to explanations given throughout the book. The explanations didn’t necessarily fit into the storyline nicely; rather, they just sort of popped up. However, it was good to have them. I don’t think they are long enough to bore repeat readers, which is also a plus.

The premise of this particular mystery is the search for a missing ghost. He’s no longer haunting the house he normally appears at, and his recently deceased sister is concerned about him. I laughed pretty hard at that idea.

The detective agency consists of three kids (Abby, Billy, and Toby), and a cranky old medium. They follow clues of an unusual kind to attempt to find the missing ghost. I don’t want to give too many details away, since half the fun of a mystery is following the twists and turns.

This book is a lot of fun. It’s a new take on the usual trope and I quite enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read, this is a good one to check out. I’ll know I’ll be going back and reading the first two in this series.

Master of Sorrows by Justin T. Call- ARC Review

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You have heard the story before – of a young boy, orphaned through tragic circumstances, raised by a wise old man, who comes to a fuller knowledge of his magic and uses it to fight the great evil that threatens his world.

But what if the boy hero and the malevolent, threatening taint were one and the same?

What if the boy slowly came to realize he was the reincarnation of an evil god? Would he save the world . . . or destroy it?

Among the Academy’s warrior-thieves, Annev de Breth is an outlier. Unlike his classmates who were stolen as infants from the capital city, Annev was born in the small village of Chaenbalu, was believed to be executed, and then unknowingly raised by his parents’ killers.

Seventeen years later, Annev struggles with the burdens of a forbidden magic, a forgotten heritage, and a secret deformity. When he is subsequently caught between the warring ideologies of his priestly mentor and the Academy’s masters, he must choose between forfeiting his promising future at the Academy or betraying his closest friends. Each decision leads to a deeper dilemma, until Annev finds himself pressed into a quest he does not wish to fulfil.

Will he finally embrace the doctrine of his tutors, murder a stranger, and abandon his mentor? Or will he accept the more difficult truth of who he is . . . and the darker truth of what he may become . . . (taken from Amazon)

                        Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available in stores on February 25th, 2020.

I can sum up this book in one word: incredible. I am in awe of Justin T. Call’s writing. I opened the book and was immediately drawn into the story. I got major Name of the Wind vibes, which is high praise indeed.

Where should I start? Well, first off, the storytelling is masterful. There wasn’t a single misstep through the whole book. This book follows Annev as he learns who he is, both in a magical sense, and a moral one. Much like Name of the Wind, the book takes its time setting the tone for all that follows. And what follows is fantasy at its finest.

The solid foundation is what took this book a step above many other fantasies I’ve read. Each little tidbit mentioned fits like a puzzle piece, making a full picture. The trials at the beginning of the book were so interesting to read. I loved seeing Annev make decisions regarding his treatment of others. Would he betray them to get ahead? I’ll leave it to you, Reader, to find out.

I loved Sodar. He tried so hard to raise and protect Annev. He made mistakes and chose to be reticent when openness might have served him better, but that’s part of what made him so fascinating. He’s such a realistic character. Although, really, all the characters were utterly believable.

The world building was excellent, the characters fantastic, and I can’t wait to see where the story goes as it continues in the sequel. Basically-wow.

Grab this book the second you’re able to.

The Death of Mungo Blackwell by Lauren H. Brandenburg- ARC Review

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‘We all need to know what’s missing in our lives. At a funeral someone stands and describes everything a person has accomplished in their life. But what if they missed something? What if there was one thing they never got to do? And what if they had a chance to go back and do it?’ The Blackwells are a family with an extraordinary history and astounding traditions, which include attending their own funerals before they die! Their ways are questionable and their stories about deceased relatives are as bold as their red hair, but it is their eclectic wares that keep tourists coming back to their market in the town of Coraloo. Charlie Price, whose world has come crumbling down after a lapse in judgement leaves him unemployed, finds himself flung into the chaotic world of the Blackwells when he relocates to Coraloo with his socialite wife, Velveteen, and shy son, Gideon. Here Charlie attempts to make a living as a ‘picker’, reselling under-priced items he picks up at the market. Some of the Blackwells welcome him with open arms, but others resent pickers and want him thrown out of the market. Charlie soon finds this new way of life under threat and his quest for simplicity seems to be crumbling. Perhaps it’s time for Charlie to have a funeral of his own! This charming story of hope will warm your heart and make your imagination soar. (taken from Netgalley)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available for purchase now.

Peculiar, but highly entertaining, this is one that I’d file under “cozy books”.” After an incident involving a food truck leaves Charlie Price jobless, he moves to small Coraloo with his wife and son. They find themselves thrown in the middle of a feud between two old families: the Tofts and the Blackwells.

What originally drew me to the book was the part of the description that mentions the Blackwells attending their own funerals before they die. It sounded like a fun, quirky read. However, the funeral isn’t actually the focal point, or the thing that stuck with me. This book is full of small-town eccentricities and charm to spare. It’s not a trite book, though; it found a sweet, quiet way of talking about stress, adjusting to new and scary circumstances, and “blooming where you’re planted.”

Equally funny and touching, this book managed to warm my cold little heart. I highly recommend it.

The Night Country (Hazel Wood #2) by Melissa Albert- ARC Review

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                                            ****Spoilers for Hazel Wood below!***

                   In The Night Country, Alice Proserpine dives back into a menacing, mesmerizing world of dark fairy tales and hidden doors. Follow her and Ellery Finch as they learn The Hazel Wood was just the beginning, and that worlds die not with a whimper, but a bang.

With Finch’s help, Alice escaped the Hinterland and her reclusive grandmother’s dark legacy. Now she and the rest of the dregs of the fairy tale world have washed up in New York City, where Alice is trying to make a new, unmagical life. But something is stalking the Hinterland’s survivors―and she suspects their deaths may have a darker purpose. Meanwhile, in the winking out world of the Hinterland, Finch seeks his own adventure, and―if he can find it―a way back home… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book, in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on January 7th, 2020.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. Unfortunately, I can only muster a like. The thing that originally drew me to The Hazel Wood was the creepy, dark feel of the fairy tales (I’m still dying to know the story of Twice-Dead Katherine). This book didn’t have that feel for me. The sense of something lurking just outside of view wasn’t there. While there are some messed-up story characters, they were much more straight-forward, which lessened their impact for me.

The plot is interesting, continuing with a new threat to the Hinterland, and the ex-stories who have left the Hinterland behind. Alice is one of the few ex-stories who has managed to eke a normal human life for herself, and many others resent her for that. Also, there’s a small matter of some ritualistic-looking deaths, and no-one knows who is responsible, or who will be next.

If you have read my review of The Hazel Wood (which you can find here), you’ll know that my biggest complaint was that the relationship between Alice and Ellery felt a little one-note. Again, in this book, the relationships fell a little flat. I think that’s just a character development issue that will improve as Melissa Albert continues to write, which I hope she does. Even though I didn’t love this book, Melissa Albert is a creative voice and I look forward to seeing what else she comes up with.

 

One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten- ARC Review

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On New Year’s Day 2013, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Gene Weingarten asked three strangers to, literally, pluck a day, month, and year from a hat. That day—chosen completely at random—turned out to be Sunday, December 28, 1986, by any conventional measure a most ordinary day. Weingarten spent the next six years proving that there is no such thing.

That Sunday between Christmas and New Year’s turned out to be filled with comedy, tragedy, implausible irony, cosmic comeuppances, kindness, cruelty, heroism, cowardice, genius, idiocy, prejudice, selflessness, coincidence, and startling moments of human connection, along with evocative foreshadowing of momentous events yet to come. Lives were lost. Lives were saved. Lives were altered in overwhelming ways. Many of these events never made it into the news; they were private dramas in the lives of private people. They were utterly compelling.
 
One Day asks and answers the question of whether there is even such a thing as “ordinary” when we are talking about how we all lurch and stumble our way through the daily, daunting challenge of being human. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. It will be available on October 22nd.

I was immediately drawn to the idea of this book. I love things that remind us that, although the world is big, we are all part of it and we affect each other’s lives- often in ways we never even know about. When it comes right down to it, the world isn’t as big as it often seems. We all love, fear, grieve, and hope. This books is an excellent reminder of that.

At the beginning of the book, the author lamented the day that was picked. It was during what is normally a slow news week, and nothing of note was known to have happened on that day. However, as this book proved, there is no such thing as an unimportant day.

This isn’t a light read. It will make you think. It will make you question every interaction you’ve had during the day. Was that smile you gave a stranger what gave them the courage to call a suicide help-line? How do “insignificant moments” affect lives down the road? We will never know what’s going on with others around us behind closed doors, what people keep private, but we aren’t islands. This book was a reminder of that.

The writing was superb, the lengths the author went to in order to get first- hand accounts was astonishing, and the book was wonderful. This would make a great Christmas gift. While you’re at it, pick up a copy for yourself.

The Throne of the Five Winds by S.C. Emmett- ARC Review

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Two queens, two concubines, six princes. Innumerable secret agendas.A single hidden blade.
The imperial palace — full of ambitious royals, sly gossip, and unforeseen perils — is perhaps the most dangerous place in the Empire of Zhaon. Komor Yala, lady-in-waiting to the princess of the vanquished kingdom of Khir, has only her wits and her hidden blade to protect herself and her charge, who was sacrificed in marriage to the enemy as a hostage for her conquered people’s good behavior, to secure a tenuous peace.
But the Emperor is aging, and the Khir princess and her lady-in-waiting soon find themselves pawns in the six princes’ deadly schemes for the throne — and a single spark could ignite fresh rebellion in Khir.
Then, the Emperor falls ill — and a far bloodier game begins… (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book will be available on October 15th.

Admission: I judged a book based on its cover. The cover is incredible and immediately piqued my interest. That it’s a politically-charged fantasy didn’t hurt either. Beautifully written, if a bit dense, this east-Asian inspired fantasy was the only of its kind I’ve read this year.

It took me quite a while to become invested in this book. I was almost halfway through, and considering not finishing, before I found myself interested in the story. There’s that much setup. The pacing was much slower than with many fantasies, and takes some getting used to.

The writing was flowery, which alternated between annoying and impressing me. What can I say: sometimes I’m hard to please. That being said, I am of the opinion that if I had cloistered myself away for a few days and read this book straight through, I would have enjoyed it more. The subtle chess-like moves made throughout this book were very well done and it’s apparent that the author has an intricate plan for the series and knows exactly where everything is going.

My biggest complaint is less of a complaint than an observation: it was really difficult to keep track of all the characters for the first bit. Next time I pick up a book of this scope, I’ll write down character names and relationships if there isn’t a glossary of characters in the book.

If you like slow-building books, political intrigue, and flowing language, this is a fantasy to read.

The Bone Ships by R.J. Barker- ARC Review

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Two nations at war. One prize beyond compare.
For generations, the Hundred Isles have built their ships from the bones of ancient dragons to fight an endless war.
The dragons disappeared, but the battles for supremacy persisted.

Now the first dragon in centuries has been spotted in far-off waters, and both sides see a chance to shift the balance of power in their favour. Because whoever catches it will win not only glory, but the war. (taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. This book is available September 24th.

If you like a book with excellent story building, this one is for you! While never boring, this does have a slower start. Barker takes the time to create and explain an amazingly detailed world, one that is both stark yet inventive, much like the book itself.

I’ve enjoyed Barker’s previous books, so I was very excited to read this book. The fact that it’s so ship-heavy caused a bit of trepidation since, for some unknown reason, I don’t usually like books that take place mainly on ships. It could be because it often makes the book feel stifled to me.  However, this  book never felt small. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

The characters were so well developed that I really didn’t have one that I liked all the time. Just like real people, they all had strengths and weaknesses. The writing was superb in that way. In fact, I can only compare it to the incredible Tad Williams’ To Green Angel Tower as far as writing skill goes.

This is not a book to miss.

 

Being Sherlock: A Sherlockian’s Stroll Through the Best Sherlock Holmes Story by Ashley D. Polasek- ARC Review

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Being Sherlock shares the best collection of Sherlock Holmes stories fans have never had, until now. Shared by Sherlockian Ashley D. Polasek, she nimbly sets the stage for each story and shares interesting Sherlockian tidbits about the incredible evolution of this iconic character. Famous former and current Sherlocks include: William Gillette, Basil Rathbone, Christopher Lee, John Cleese, Robert Downey Jr., Sir Ian McKellen, and Benedict Cumberbatch among others. Featuring lesser-known photography and behind the scene shots, this book is for every Sherlock Holmes fan bookshelf. Unlike other Sherlockian guides, this book attempts to answer why the Sherlock narrative is so popular and decree the best and worst representations. (taken from Amazon)

                            I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion. This will be available on October first.

For those who don’t have the dubious pleasure of knowing me personally, let me say: I love Sherlock Holmes. I have read the Complete Sherlock Holmes multiple times. I’ve  enjoyed many different works in the Holmes pastiche, including (but not limited to) Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabaar and Anna Waterhouse, the Charlotte Holmes books by Brittany Cavallaro, and The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

This book is a superb addition to the list of Sherlockian books. It added a new angle to the lore and many iterations of Conan Doyle’s famous detective that have sprung from his original works.

I loved the addition of the photos and the author’s viewpoints, as well as her reasoning behind what she included in the book. She points out aspects of Conan Doyle’s writing that I’ve taken for granted up until now. It’s given me an even greater appreciation of the genius of his writing.

My only suggestion would be to read the full original works before picking up this book, simply because it will cause you to appreciate this introspective stroll through Sherlock even more. If you love Holmes, this book is for you.