ARC Review: The Thing Lenny Loves Most About Baseball by Andrew Larsen

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Synopsis:

Andrew Larsen evokes the eternal hope and joy of all true baseball fans — along with their love of facts — in this heartwarming story about a baseball-loving boy who doesn’t give up.Lenny can’t get enough of baseball. He loves to play. And he loves to pore over his Big Book of Baseball Facts. He wants to be in the big leagues someday, and, he figures, the more he knows, the better his chances. The only thing is, though he tries to keep his eye on the ball as it heads his way during a game, it somehow ends up by his feet. “You just need to practice,” his dad tells him. So they practice. And practice. Lenny doesn’t give up. And it pays off. Lenny makes a game-changing catch! Now he’s proven he can be great some of the time. Which, according to the facts, makes him just like the greatest Hall of Famers, right?In this endearing picture book, bestselling author Andrew Larsen celebrates the love of both the game of baseball and its countless facts — which for many fans go hand in hand. It offers a strong character-building portrait of perseverance and patience at work in skill development. It also underscores the importance of letting go of the idea of perfection. With energy and emotion in equal parts, Milan Pavlović’s illustrations capture Lenny’s (and baseball’s) highs and lows, and his loving supportive relationship with his father.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I read this with my 7-year-old who is currently obsessed with baseball. Here are our thoughts:

7-year-old: I really enjoyed this book. I would give it a 4 or a 5 because it’s about baseball and I love baseball. My favorite parts where when they were playing baseball on the baseball field. I think Lenny must have been frustrated in some parts like when he missed the ball or it went over the fence.

me: This is such a cute and sweet book! And it has a great message. No matter whether you’re a baseball great or just starting out, sometimes you’ll miss the catch or strike out, and sometimes you’ll catch the ball or hit a home run. No one is perfect and to get better, you just have to keep practicing. These messages were also cleverly told through a story in a way that felt organic — not like when a book really hits you over the head with the message. The story was easy to get caught up in and the main character very relatable.

The illustrations were also clear and made it easy to follow the story. The images and moments chosen to illustrate the story were perfect and definitely added to the overall delivery.

My 7-year-old has asked to read this many times since we first read it. It’s definitely a hit with them.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities by Rick Riordan Presents

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Synopsis:

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents ten new stories–including one of his own–about beloved heroes that sprang from the imaginations of some of the best middle grade authors working today.

A cave monster . . . an abandoned demon . . . a ghost who wants to erase history . . . a killer commandant . . . These are just some of the challenges confronting the young heroes in this highly entertaining anthology.

All but one of the heroes previously starred in a popular book from Rick Riordan Presents. You”ll be reunited with Aru Shah, Zane Obispo, Min the fox spirit, Sal and Gabi, Tristan Strong, Nizhoni Begay, Paola Santiago, Sikander Aziz, and Riley Oh. Who is the new hero? Read Rick Riordan”s short story to find out!

Ten bestselling and award-winning middle grade authors contributed to this collection: Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda, Graci Kim, and Rick Riordan, who also served as the editor.

The cultures represented by these own-voices stories are: Indian, Mesoamerican, Korean, Cuban, Black American, African, Navajo, Mexican, Mesopotamian, and Celtic.

There”s something for everyone in this collection of fast-paced and funny adventure stories that show what it takes to be a hero in any time, setting, and universe.

Read more about the heroes in these best-selling books:

Rick Riordan Presents: Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Rick Riordan Presents: The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes
Rick Riordan Presents: Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee
Rick Riordan Presents: Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez
Rick Riordan Presents: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
Rick Riordan Presents: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
Rick Riordan Presents: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
Rick Riordan Presents: City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda
Rick Riordan Presents: The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

My Review:

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I thought the stories were interesting and well-written, but I wasn’t familiar with the characters and so had no connection to them. I was hoping this would be a good introduction to the characters and worlds so that I could decide which series I wanted to read, but that would have required a lot more background not just dumping you in mid-story with a bunch of characters you’ve never encountered.

I did find the worldbuilding and nods to different cultures very interesting. They were also aimed a bit younger than I generally read, and the character voices were very similar across the stories which made them blur together a bit.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Disney Publishing Worldwide – Rick Riordan Presents for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

Synopsis:

The specter of graduation looms large as Naomi Novik’s groundbreaking, New York Times bestselling trilogy continues in the stunning sequel to A Deadly Education.

In Wisdom, Shelter. That’s the official motto of the Scholomance. I suppose you could even argue that it’s true—only the wisdom is hard to come by, so the shelter’s rather scant.

Our beloved school does its best to devour all its students—but now that I’ve reached my senior year and have actually won myself a handful of allies, it’s suddenly developed a very particular craving for me. And even if I somehow make it through the endless waves of maleficaria that it keeps throwing at me in between grueling homework assignments, I haven’t any idea how my allies and I are going to make it through the graduation hall alive.

Unless, of course, I finally accept my foretold destiny of dark sorcery and destruction. That would certainly let me sail straight out of here. The course of wisdom, surely.

But I’m not giving in—not to the mals, not to fate, and especially not to the Scholomance. I’m going to get myself and my friends out of this hideous place for good—even if it’s the last thing I do.

With keen insight and mordant humor, Novik reminds us that sometimes it is not enough to rewrite the rules—sometimes, you need to toss out the entire rulebook.

The magic of the Scholomance trilogy will continue in 2022

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I jumped right into this one immediately after finishing the first so they’ve blurred together a little bit, but I can say for sure that I absolutely loved it.

The writing style is gorgeous and I love El. She has the best sarcasm and knee-jerk angry reactions to things. Her default state is basically seething with fury. And having her as a narrator and seeing the Scholomance through her eyes made me love it so much more. She has such a vivid personality and is basically a force of nature that makes it impossible to look away from her.

I loved seeing El grow through the story as she learned how to be herself when not alone all the time, how to depend on (and like, and even care about) other people. I also love the incredibly wide variety of terrible monsters that Naomi Novik has dreamed up. It’s impressive, really, in a horrifying sort of way.

I saw the twist at the end coming from a ways off (really it was inevitable) but it still got me and that cliffhanger was terrible! I can’t believe I have to wait a year for the conclusion lol.

As with the first book, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I started, and I’ve spent rather a lot of time since finishing it dreaming up potential ways it could continue. Honestly I’ve got no clue where the story is going next but I will be happy to be along for the ride.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: A Reckless Match by Kate Bateman (Ruthless Rivals #1)

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Synopsis:

The first in a new regency romance series about two feuding families and reunited childhood enemies whose hatred turns to love.

Maddie Montgomery’s family is in debt, and her hope rests on the rival Davies clan missing their yearly “pledge of goodwill,” ceding the land that separates their estates. With Maddie’s teenage nemesis, Gryffud “Gryff” Davies, Earl of Powys, away, hope is in reach.

But then, Gryff shows up and is stunned that the tomboy he once teased is now a woman. When Gryff and Maddie discover contraband on their land, they realize it can benefit both families. But they’ve also uncovered a dangerous plot, and they need to work together to get out alive. Soon, their hatred for each other starts to feel more like attraction.

Kate Bateman brings crackling banter, steamy romance, and a dash of adventure into the first book in the Ruthless Rivals series.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I LOVED this. An enemies-to-lovers where they spent their entire childhoods antagonizing and teasing one another and eventually realize that their younger selves had actually been attracted to each other? Heck yeah. Not only that, but it’s clever and witty and extremely well-written.

Maddie was an opinionated, passionate, spitfire delight, and I loved how intelligent she was. Gryff was a perfect match for her, strong and steady and stubborn. I loved the familys’ long standing feud and can’t wait to read about Carys & Tristan and Harriet & Morgan. I forsee plenty of delightful banter and teasing and passion-disguised-as-hate-and-childhood-antagonism in this series and I am here for it.

I read a Kate Bateman book before and was disappointed in it (actually dnfed it) so I was hesitant to read this one, but OMG I loved it so much. Now I need to revisit the previous one. Maybe it was actually me. I will definitely be picking up Kate Bateman’s books in future.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Kissing Under the Mistletoe by Suzanne Enoch, Amelia Grey, Anna Bennett

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Synopsis:

In GREAT SCOT by Suzanne Enoch, Jane Bansil knows she will never have a fairy-tale life. But even at three-and-thirty and well past marriageable age, though, she has to admit that the architect the MacTaggerts have hired could turn even a confirmed spinster’s head.

In CHRISTMAS AT DEWBERRY HOLLOW by Amelia Grey, Isabelle Reed has no plans to ever fall in love. Certainly not with Gate, a man who doesn’t live in Dewberry Hollow. She will fulfill her duty and help him keep his promise to have his ill grandfather back in London in time for Christmas dinner. The last thing Isabelle wants is for Gate to take her heart with him when he goes.

In MY MISTLETOE BEAU by Anna Bennett, Miss Eva Tiding is determined to cheer her widowed father with the perfect Christmas gift. Even if it means breaking into the home of the rakish earl who swindled Papa out of his pocket watch and pretending to date the earl for the Christmas season.

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was an enjoyable anthology overall, though the three included novellas varied wildly in quality.

First up: Great Scot! by Suzanne Enoch – This was truly excellent. I was a bit confused at first because I didn’t recognize any of the characters and it seemed as if I should have — which made more sense once I realized this was actually part of a series. Oops. Once I accepted that, however, I had no issues. And it really didn’t seem to matter once the romance got going; the other characters faded into the background. As they should. The characters were lovely, the romance sweet and believable, and really it was just delightful. I’m rather shocked I haven’t read Suzanne Enoch’s work before and I’ll definitely be seeking it out in future. 5 stars

Next: Christmas at Dewberry Hollow by Amelia Grey – This was a severe disappointment compared to the other two novellas. The writing was definitely not of the same caliber, and I found myself having to read around the words and skimming just to get to the end. The story itself was lackluster though I did appreciate the characters. 2 stars

Finally: My Mistletoe Beau by Anna Bennett – I really enjoyed this one. It was a lovely fake relationship antagonistic relationship with two strong-willed people and plenty of sparks. Aside from a few questionable name choices — Frostbough? Rufflebum??? — it was great fun to read. I’ll be reading more by Anna Bennett for sure. 4.5 stars

So, like I said, a bit of a mixed bag, but there’s more than enough here to make reading this worthwhile, especially if you enjoy a wintry Christmas romance.

*Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic by Lilly Workneh

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Synopsis:

The latest installment in the New York Times bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, featuring 100 barrier-breaking Black women and girls who showcase the spirit of Black Girl Magic.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic, edited by award-winning journalist Lilly Workneh with a foreword by #BlackGirlMagic originator CaShawn Thompson, is dedicated to amplifying and celebrating the stories of Black women and girls from around the world; features the work of over 60 Black female and non-binary authors, illustrators, and editors; is designed to acknowledge, applaud, and amplify the incredible stories of Black women and girls from the past and present; and celebrates Black Girl Magic around the world. 

Amongst the women featured from over 30 countries are tennis player Naomi Osaka, astronaut Jeanette Epps, author Toni Morrison, filmmaker Ava DuVernay; aviator Bessie Coleman, Empress Taytu Betul, journalist Ida B. Wells, and many other inspiring leaders, champions, innovators, and creators. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic is the fourth volume of the New York Times bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series which originally launched in 2016. 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic is published by Rebel Girls, a global, multi-platform empowerment brand dedicated to helping raise the most inspired and confident global generation of girls through content, experiences, products, and community.

About Black Girl Magic
CaShawn Thompson, a proud third-generation native of Washington, DC, came up with the concept “Black Girls Are Magic” when she was a little girl growing up with her mother, grandmother, and aunts. It sprang forth fully formed from the mind of a poor little Black girl who didn’t yet have the words to describe the brilliance she saw in the women in her family, but had heard countless tales of fairies, witches, and magicians. It was just magic to her. And it still is. 

Black Girls Are Magic became wildly popular in 2013 after CaShawn began using the phrase online (it was later shortened to the hashtag #BlackGirlMagic) to uplift and praise the accomplishments, beauty, and other amazing qualities of Black women.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is a wonderful celebration of Black women – artists, poets, activists, athletes, doctors, and others who have changed the world in some way. Many of them I had never heard of and I look forward to reading this book with my own child. I think everyone needs a reminder of Black Girl Magic and how much good these women have done the world, no matter the obstacles stacked against them.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Rebel Girls for providing an e-arc for review

ARC Review: Create Beautiful by Lola Sanchez Herrero and Ana Sanchez-Gal

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Synopsis:

From the talented artist behind the art and lifestyle brand The Oliver Gal Artist Co. comes this gorgeous creativity workbook with 50 glam mixed-media projects, including coloring pages and step-by-step technique projects, to get your creative juices flowing. For instant glamour, it includes a finished artwork to frame.

In Create Beautiful,Oliver Gal’s unique aesthetic is made accessible to everyone, with projects incorporating the themes that keep their fans coming back for more, including: 
Fashion
Florals
Abstracts
Inspirational Sayings
Patterns
For beginner and advanced artists alike, this inspiring workbook includes stunning photos, clear instructions, tips and tricks, and information on tools and color palettes, along with project pages printed on thick, high-quality paper to handle a variety of media.

Add a pop of color, a dash of sparkle, and lots of inspiration to your life and home with Create Beautiful.

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was admittedly drawn to this book because of the cover. I adore the mix of pinks and teals and gold. It’s not really a how-to book, though it does have various projects inside. I see them as more useful as a jumping off point than projects to stick to though. I did get several ideas while flipping through it.

I love the unique mix of inspiration from fashion and color palettes. And glitz. The resultant pieces are glamorous and appealing to me.

My favorite part is the color palettes. They’re a gorgeous selection and give me so many ideas to start my own paintings. Also the idea of adding glitter to a painting. I love glitter, so this sparked a number of ideas.

I also really liked the example abstract pieces at the end. They use those color palettes to create some really beautiful pieces. I will be going back to those for sure.

I would have loved more example projects, as it’s a rather short book, but as an idea generator it’s quite useful and I’d recommend it if the colors on the front cover appeal to you.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – Rock Point for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: Expressive Little Animals by Amarylis Henderson

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Synopsis:

In this follow-up to Drawing and Painting Expressive Little Faces, author, artist, and popular Skillshare instructor Amarylis Henderson presents her practical and creative techniques for drawing and painting animals in a variety of mediums and styles, from realistic to cartoon.

Basic Supplies. Learn about the sketching and painting mediums you’ll use in your work, including watercolor, inks, markers, colored pencils, and cut paper.

Essential Elements. Discover the scope of sizes and shapes of animal features from nose to tail.

Emotions and Expressions. Learn to adjust basic shapes, postures, and poses to convey a range of animal emotions and expressions, from sly and sneaky to angry to curious.

Themes and Styles. Draw and paint more than 30 animals–from dogs, cats, and horses to cheetah, bison, and platypus–and investigate 18 different styles and treatments, including using color in unique ways, enhancing cuteness, and combining watercolor with other mediums.
As you explore your creative options, you’ll find that working small is an easy way to relieve pressure and open yourself to play as well as to learning the techniques and approaches that Amarilys shares in this book.

Find your favorite way to portray a variety of animals, from cute little critters to big, strong beasts, in Drawing and Painting Expressive Little Animals!

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve always struggle with drawing and painting animals and this book made it seem so easy! It offered some truly mind-blowing techniques — instead of focusing on details, draw the basic shapes first! and in watercolor! — and I can’t wait to try them.

I’ve always found watercolor to be a very intimidating medium, partly because I thought you had to perfect your sketch before ever touching paint to paper. But now I desperately want to try making the basic shape sketch with watercolor – it really feels like it’s going to be a gamechanger.

There are clear step-by-step instructions for painting several animals, with further tips to adapt those instructions to fit other animals by noticing similarities and differences. I’m feeling so inspired after reading it.

If you’ve ever wished you could draw or paint animals with more accuracy or more whimsy, this is the book for you.

Thanks to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – Quarry Books for providing an e-arc for review.

ARC Review: The Other Merlin by Robyn Schneider

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Synopsis:

Welcome to the great kingdom of Camelot. Prince Arthur’s a depressed botanist who would rather marry a library than a princess, Lancelot’s been demoted to castle guard after a terrible misunderstanding, and nothing is going according to plan. Then Arthur accidentally pulls the sword from the stone (in his defense, he was drunk and mostly kidding), and now everyone’s convinced he’s some prophesied hero.

Emry Merlin is stuck in her small town. Her father, the legendary court wizard, disappeared years ago, and Emry’s been peddling theater tricks to make ends meet. When a royal messenger arrives summoning her far less talented twin brother to serve as Prince Arthur’s right-hand wizard, Emry is understandably upset. But after Emmett becomes indisposed thanks to a bad spell, Emry disguises herself as her brother and travels to the royal court to impersonate him until they can switch.

Studying magic at the castle is everything Emry hoped for. But life in King Uther’s court is full of scandals, lies, and backstabbing courtiers. What’s a casually bisexual teen wizard masquerading as her twin brother to do? Other than fall for the handsome prince, stir trouble with the foppish Lord Gawain, offend Princess Guinevere, and make herself indispensable to the future of Camelot?

When the truth comes out with disastrous consequences, Emry has to decide whether she’ll risk everything for the boy she loves, or give up her potential to become the greatest wizard Camelot has ever known.

Channeling the modern humor of A Knight’s Tale, bestselling author Robyn Schneider creates a Camelot that becomes the ultimate teen rom-com hotspot in this ultra-fresh take on the Arthurian legend.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s obvious from the blurb that this is not trying to be a ‘historically accurate’ retelling of King Arthur, but rather a more modern version, with all the humor that entails. Which is a lot.

I found the story hilarious. I also found it to have great messages around gender and sexuality. Namely, it has a determinedly feminist heroine who knows she can do anything her brother can and do it ten times better and is also bisexual (or possibly pansexual) and thinks looking down on people for their sexuality is ridiculous.

The best part, I think, was the friendship that developed between Arthur, Emry (Merlin), and Lance. In fact, if I could have had the three of them adventuring for the entire novel I would have been happy. There’s a tease at the end of expanding their group to include Guinevere, Emmet, and Percival. I hope that continues in the second book.

Emry’s magical talent is astounding, especially compared with her brother’s, and I greatly enjoyed her penchant for cheekily showing it off.

I will definitely be picking up the next in the series as soon as it is available.

*Thanks to Bookishfirst and Penguin Teen for providing an advanced copy for review.

ARC Review: Mistletoe Christmas by Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, Erica Ridley

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Synopsis:

From four beloved writers—Eloisa James, Christi Caldwell, Janna MacGregor, and Erica Ridley—comes a hilarious tale of a Christmas house party that serves up love and scandal in equal measure!

The Duke of Greystoke’s Christmas Revelry is famous throughout the British Isles for its plays, dancing, magical grotto… not to mention scandals leading to the marriage licenses he hands out like confetti.

But not everyone welcomes a visit from Cupid.

Lady Cressida, the duke’s daughter, is too busy managing the entertainments—and besides, her own father has called her dowdy. Her cousin, Lady Isabelle Wilkshire, is directing Cinderella and has no interest in marriage. Lady Caroline Whitmore is already (unhappily) married; the fact that she and her estranged husband have to pretend to be together just makes her dread the party all the more.  But not as much as Miss Louisa Harcourt, whose mother bluntly tells her that this is her last chance to escape the horrors of being an old maid.

A house party so large, that mothers lose track of their charges, leads to a delightful, seductive quartet of stories that you will savor for the Season!

My Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This was an excellent anthology. I really enjoyed the theme of four stories set at the same house party and the different styles of the four authors. Romance Novellas can feel lacking because the love story has to happen in so few words, but these felt very substantial and I didn’t feel anything was missing.

The first story, A Mistletoe Kiss by Eloisa James, was sweet and enjoyable. I loved Cressie and her scatterbrained disregard of her own appearance but meticulous care in orchestrating her father’s grand Revelry. 4 stars

The second story, Wishing Under the Mistletoe by Christy Caldwell, started even better than the first. It was going to be a 5 star story for me until the sex scene which made me cringe. Not my style of writing there. I did really enjoy the second chance romance, the characters, and the writing of the rest of the story. 4.5 stars

The third, Compromise Under the Mistletoe by Janna MacGregor was… not to my taste. It was boring, the writing style was a touch clumsy, and I didn’t connect with or care for the characters at all. I dnfed this one. 2 stars

The fourth made the entire anthology worth it. I love Erica Ridley’s works and this was no exception. I feel like she packed more details and plot into her story than any of the others, and I connected best with her writing style. I loved Ewan and Louisa was delightful, and their secrets and connection despite them made it a very enjoyable read. 5 stars

*thanks to NetGalley and Avon & Harper Voyager for providing an e-arc for review.

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