Thursday, January 29, 2015

Meet Glitterbelle: A New Character from Parragon Publishing

I have two daughters and another one on the way.  Can you blame me if I squealed like one of them when the Glitterbelle box showed up in the mail?  I'm so excited about this new line from Parragon Publishing!

Here's some pics of my girls going through all their new Glitterbelle loot.  They were so excited when we opened the box and they saw all that purple goodness inside!  I was originally planning on doing a vlog to show off all the fun stuff in the box, but it turns out that I'm no good on camera. There was a lot of open-mouthed gaping and a lot of "Uhhh....", but not much else. So you're getting pictures instead.

One of my favorite things about this new series is the artwork. I know, I know, I say that a lot.  But I'm an artist!  I appreciate good art when I see it.

The artist actually hand crafted miniature sets, photographed them, then added the characters in later. The result is the unique blend of hand drawn illustrations and sculptures you see here:

But enough about my art obsession.  You are probably wondering what the books are like. I've included mini reviews on each of the new books below.  One is a story book and the others are activity books.  They are intended for girls ages 6+.  Enjoy!

Glitterbelle: The Sparkliest Princess Ever!

This is the only story book, but it's a keeper!  Glitterbelle is your typical princess, except that she doesn't like peas. She worries that she isn't a true princess unless she likes peas.  Her family and friends help her realize that she doesn't need to fit every stereotype in order to be a real princess.

Glitterbelle is a sweet, fun princess that modern girls can relate to.  She has good friends and a loving family.  My kids loved the book, especially my five year old.


Glitterbelle: Me and You

My girls call this little gem their "princess homework".  Glitterbelle talks about herself, her friends, and her interests.  There are spaces for a child to fill out their own information and add pictures.  My seven year old has already started filling it in and reading it to me.

This book is a lot of fun for girls who are able to read and write.  It's a little memory book that my daughter can work on all by herself.


Glitterbelle: Dazzling Dress-Up

This is a sticker book.  It has a bunch of pictures of Glitterbelle and her friends that kids can dress up with clothes and accessories.  It also came with a little nail file and some nail stickers.  The nail file wasn't very high quality, but I was surprised by the nail stickers.  They worked really well and stayed on my kids' nails for several days.

This book was perfect for my five year old.  She loves stickers, princesses, and fashion, so she has spent hours on end matching up outfits and accessorizing the characters.


Glitterbelle: Doodle, Dazzle, Create!

This is an activity book.  There is a story that flows through the book alongside activities where girls can cut, color, draw, and glue. There is also a little notebook in the front cover, which both my kids loved.

The activities are definitely for kids ages 6 and up that can work independently.  Some of the activities require some adult help, but most of them can be done without assistance. These are fun activities for any aspiring princess!


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

YA Review of Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

Age range: 12-18

Grade level: 7-12

Genre: Fantasy/science fiction

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: HarperTeen (February 10, 2015)

Source: Edelweiss

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

About the Book:

Graceling meets The Selection in debut novelist Victoria Aveyard's sweeping tale of seventeen-year-old Mare, a common girl whose once-latent magical power draws her into the dangerous intrigue of the king's palace. Will her power save her or condemn her?

Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver- blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. Before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own.

To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays, the only certainty is betrayal.

My Thoughts:

It was okay. I can't decide if my feelings on this book are mixed or simply non-existent.  The concept was interesting, but I've read this same story before in other YA books.  Red Queen didn't bring anything new to the table and I'm tired of angry, outspoken protagonists. I didn't connect with the characters, and none of the twists managed to surprise me. I almost quit reading several times, but I'm glad I didn't because the second half of the book was much better than the first.

Even though this book was predictable, it still managed to keep me turning pages. If you haven't read a lot of young adult novels, you may like this book better than I did. After all, the writing flows easily and the story follows a nice arc. There is plenty of action, betrayal, and emotional drama going on. It is violent, but not gory.  There are a couple of curse words, but the romantic element is kept very clean.

I'm chalking this one up to personal taste. I think a lot of people will like this book, but it didn't knock my socks off.

Content: Violence, 2 or 3 curse words.

Source: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Blog Tour and Giveaway of I Love You Just Like This (Sesame Street Scribbles)

I Love You Just Like This (Sesame Street Scribbles) by Lillian Jane, illustrated by Ernie Kwiat

Age Range: 3 - 7 years

Series: Sesame Street Scribbles

Hardcover: 32 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (January 1, 2015)

Genre: Picture book

Source: From publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:

“I love you, Mommy,” Elmo whispered in her ear. Elmo’s mommy smiled. “I love you too, my dear.”

“I’ve loved you all your life, every single day. I love you oh so much – I’ll tell you all the ways!”

There are lots of ways to say “I love you,” and Elmo and his Sesame Street friends are ready to tell you in as many ways as they can in I Love You Just Like This!

In this heartwarming Sesame Street Scribbles story, Elmo’s mommy tells Elmo “I love you” through numbers, colors, seasons, and more.

Join Elmo and the Sesame Street gang as they learn about and express love in ways that will appeal to any child.

The perfect picture book for Valentine’s Day, I Love You Just Like This! unites parent and child in a memorable reading experience.

My Thoughts:

This is such a sweet book. I tend to avoid licensed characters because the stories are usually long and bland, but I was very happy with I Love You Just Like This! My first grade daughter read it to her younger sister several times. There are only a couple of short sentences on each spread, making it a quick, feel-good read. My kids liked all the different ways you could love somebody, and they liked the familiar characters from Sesame Street.

This is a good book to read to your preschooler or toddler. It's well written and has a cozy, happy feeling to it. The illustrations are bright and colorful to engage young children and keep them interested. If your child likes Elmo, this is a great pick!

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.



Win a hardcover copy of I Love You Just Like This!

Open to the US and Canada

Ends Feb 10, 2015

Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Entrants must be 13 or older or have their parent/guardian enter for them. Winner will be chosen randomly. Winner must respond to my email within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Contest is void where prohibited. Good luck!

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Book Blast and Giveaway of Love, Lucy by April Lindner

LOVE, LUCY by April Lindner releases today!  If you haven’t heard about this new book by Author April Linder, keep reading for a guest post from the author and a giveaway!

About the Book:

Love, Lucy by April Lindner
Release date: January 27, 2015

Publisher: Poppy

Pages: 304

Formats: Hardcover, eBook 

While backpacking through Florence, Italy, during the summer before she heads off to college, Lucy Sommersworth finds herself falling in love with the culture, the architecture, the food...and Jesse Palladino, a handsome street musician. After a whirlwind romance, Lucy returns home, determined to move on from her "vacation flirtation." But just because summer is over doesn't mean Lucy and Jesse are over, too.
In this coming-of-age romance, April Lindner perfectly captures the highs and lows of a summer love that might just be meant to last beyond the season.

About the Author:

April Lindner is the author of three novels: Catherine, a modernization of Wuthering Heights; Jane, an update of Jane Eyre; and Love, Lucy, releasing January 27, 2015. She also has published two poetry collections, Skin and This Bed Our Bodies Shaped. She plays acoustic guitar badly, sees more rock concerts than she’d care to admit, travels whenever she can, cooks Italian food, and lavishes attention on her pets—two Labrador retriever mixes and two excitable guinea pigs. A professor of English at Saint Joseph’s University, April lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons.

Some Rules of the Road by April Lindner

Like Lucy Sommersworth, the heroine of Love, Lucy, my parents gave me the gift of a lifetime: a backpacking trip to Europe. I was a bit older than Lucy—22, and just out of
college—but when I arrived in Milan, Italy with a Eurail pass, a copy of Let’s Go: Europe, and a seventy-pound backpack I could barely lift, I was a wee bit terrified. Like Lucy, I spoke only a little bit of Italian, just barely enough to get by, and I wasn’t particularly good at
reading maps or train schedules. Unlike Lucy, I was travelling solo.

Luckily, my journey began with training wheels. I’d just taken a college Italian class, and my professor had offered a safe crash pad for the first few days of my trip—in her family home in the Alps. Less luckily, when I reached Malpensa airport, nobody was there to pick me up. Giddy with excitement and jet lag, I wandered around the airport, eavesdropping on Italians as they hugged each other hello and goodbye, and had noisy arguments. I’d never felt more alone in my life. Where would I sleep that night if my ride didn’t show up?

Luckily, my professor’s brother arrived at last to whisk me away to the family home in Domodossola. The extended family welcomed and fed me, gave me tours of their city with its charming medieval center, helped me practice my Italian, and, when the time was right, brought me to the train station where my solo travels began for real. It was time to take off the training wheels. 

If I’d felt alone back in the airport, I was even more so on that train to Verona, a city where I didn’t know a soul. In those pre-internet days, I could disappear into thin air and nobody would even notice I was gone. The thought was chilling, but oddly exciting.

By nightfall, I’d made it to Verona. I’d figured out the public transportation, found a youth hostel, and booked myself a bed. Best of all, I had introduced myself to a handful of other backpackers. We hung out together in the hostel’s common area, sharing bread and cheese, exchanging stories, discussing the rules of the road—those bits of practical wisdom our travels were teaching us. Here are a few.

Time passes differently on the road.  Spend a few very intense hours seeing the sites with strangers and by the end of the day, those strangers have become a part of your story. Years later you’ll see their faces in your photo album and still remember stray details of the adventures you shared together, even if you can’t quite recall their names. 

Spontaneity is key.  There are few things as magical as showing up at a train station with no idea where you’re headed next, picking a random
train, and hopping on.

Janis Joplin said it best: Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.  When you’re carrying all your possessions on your back in a city where you don’t know a soul, you’re absolutely free. You can go anywhere, do anything. That freedom has its lonely moments—but it can be the doorway to all kinds of adventures.

Embrace misadventure.  As carefully as you plan there will be crazy mistakes: wrong turns, slept-through train stops, multilingual misunderstandings, and all kinds of other blunders—and these will make the best stories. My misadventures are some of my favorite memories. The time I missed curfew and had to climb into my hostel through a second-story window. The morning when, hanging out my recently washed clothes to dry, I dropped my wet underthings out the window, onto a stranger’s head. The night when, with no room to stay in, I slept on Venice’s train station steps with about a hundred other backpackers, the stars above us and the Grand Canal stretched out before us.

Would I trade that last memory for a safe, comfy night in an actual bed?  Not on your life.

Giveaway Time!

Win 1 copy of LOVE, LUCY to be ordered from Amazon or The Book Depository – Int’l

3 JANE posters (signed) – US only

This is a blast-wide giveaway,

Ends February 6th at 11:59 p.m. Pacific,

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Weekly Update (1/26/15): What I'm Reading Now

I spent almost the entire weekend binge reading.  It was fabulous!  I wish I could do that every weekend. :)

What I read last week:
I finished up Mister Max and really enjoyed it.  I reread The Maze Runner, then gobbled up The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure.  What a wild ride!  Wow. 

What I'm currently reading:
My girls and I are about half way through Princess in Disguise and they love it!  My first grader asks for another chapter every night.  I just started Famous Phonies and it's so much fun!  It's really informative too.  I'm about 30% done with The Trouble with Magic.


What I'm Reading Next:
You can't read the entire Maze Runner series and not read the prequel afterwards.  I plan to read The Kill Order as soon as possible.  I need to read The Fault in Our Stars for an article for Brightly.  I can't believe I've never read this book before, but I'm excited to get to it now.  I'm also looking forward to The Secrets of Life and Death.

That's it for me!  What are you reading?

Giveaways to Enter:

MG Review of Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things

Mister Max: The Book of Lost Things by Cynthia Voigt

Age Range: 8 - 12 years

Grade Level: 3 - 7

Series: Mister Max (Book 1)

Hardcover: 400 pages

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; 8.11.2013 edition (September 10, 2013)

Genre: Mystery

Source: From publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About the Book:

Newbery medalist Cynthia Voigt presents a rollicking mystery in three acts!

Max's parents are missing. They are actors, and thus unpredictable, but sailing away, leaving Max with only a cryptic note, is unusual even for them. Did they intend to leave him behind? Have they been kidnapped?

Until he can figure it out, Max feels it's safer to keep a low profile. Hiding out is no problem for a child of the theater. Max has played many roles, he can be whoever he needs to be to blend in. But finding a job is tricky, no matter what costume he dons.

Ironically, it turns out Max has a talent for finding things. He finds a runaway child, a stray dog, a missing heirloom, a lost love. . . . So is he a finder? A detective? No, it's more. Max finds a way to solve people's problems—he engineers better outcomes for them. He becomes Mister Max, Solutioneer. 

Now if only he could find a solution to his own problems . . .

My Thoughts:

This was a fun book to read.  It's very well written.  It's about Max, a young boy who gets left behind when his parents go off on a mysterious (and possibly false) adventure.  He learns to fend for himself and solve problems — both his own and other people's. 

Max was a different character.  He was unique and odd in his own way.  He is very young, yet very mature for his age.  He gained a sort of independence when his parents left, and he desperately wants to hang on to it.  He is a master of disguise and nobody can ever seem to remember anything about him beyond his unusual eyes.

While parts of the book were a little slow, most of the adventures Max had were interesting and it was fun watching him solve all sorts of different problems.  The book ends in a bit of a cliff hanger, and I'm interested to see where the next book goes.  I've always loved middle grade mystery stories, and this one didn't disappoint me.

If your middle grade reader loves mysteries, they won't want to miss this quirky, brilliant problem solver!

Content: Clean

Source: I received a digital galley of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Stacking the Shelves #33: Meet My New Books!

Welcome to Stacking the Shelves, hosted by Tynga's Reviews.  This is where I share the new books I've gotten recently.

Once again, I failed miserably at my resolution to not acquire any new books.  In my defense, these are from the last two weeks instead of one.  I really have no other defense, but do I need one?  These books are awesome!  Some of them have already been read, and I can't wait to get started on the others.

Picture Books:

Cute attack!  This books are all for review and are all adorable! 

Chapter Books and Middle Grade:
Hissy Fitz has already been read and reviewed.  Stolen Magic will be coming out in a couple months and I'm excited to read it!  Gail Carson Levine is one of my favorite Middle Grade authors.  Anni Moon is a freebie that sounded good. :)

Young Adult Books:

The only review book in this bunch is Roomies. Intertwine and Alienated were both $0.99.  Until Midnight, From Gods, and Court were all free on Amazon and I couldn't restrain my "buy now with one click" finger from acting on them! 

What new books have you gotten recently?

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