Thursday, December 22, 2016

Picture Books You Should Definitely Read--Even If You're Not a Kid

As a kid's lead at Barnes & Noble, I read a lot of picture books. I try to look at all the new stuff coming is as I shelve it, but I also pick books for our weekly storytime. And, of course, I want to read books that I enjoy, and ones that my kids will like hearing. I mean, I've always liked picture books, but working with them so much for work has heightened my appreciation a lot.

So, here is a selection of picture books that I think are worth checking out, no matter what your age:

We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen - This is the third of Klassen's hat books, and they're all gems. The illustrations are simple but eye-catching, and you can get a little bit ridiculous reading aloud--and those are the best books

The Night Gardener by The Fan Brothers - This is one I've been in love with since first seeing the cover. The art in this is just captivating, and I'd love to have several pages as prints. The story is a simple and lovely one.

There Is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems - I've got serious love for the Elephant & Piggie books. They've all got sweet messages, but the text is very simple, so younger kids can enjoy it. The best part, though, is how fun they are to read aloud! There's yelling and weird sounds and funny voices--and it's the best. Obviously all of Mo Willems' books sell well, but I kind of think these are better than the Pigeon books? (Maybe that's just me...)

The Very Fluffy Kitty by A.N. Kang - I've been more than obsessed with this since I first saw it. I mean, look at that kitty! He's SO FLUFFY HE FLOATS. The art throughout is so precious, and it's just this happy little picture book that's absolutely charming.

Eloise by Kay Thompson - Honestly, I could never get through a picture book recommendation without mentioning Eloise. There is not a more fun picture book out there. Eloise is a character I always loved because she was messy and ridiculous. She lives the life all little girls would want, though, and she does it with joy. Plus, the illustrations are FAB.

John, Paul, George & Ben by Lane Smith - This is not a new book, but it was new to me this year. While it appealed to me, because there's so much humor in the illustrations and text that I knew the kids wouldn't get, I was afraid my kids wouldn't get it, since they're not even preschoolers. BUT, this book got the loudest laughs out of them I've ever had. That makes it great in my book!

I love picking for storytime, because it lets me read a bunch of books, plus I get the chance to read them aloud, which is exactly how picture books should be read. And these are just a small few of my favorites! What are some of your favorite picture books?

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Do You Want to Start a Scandal? by Tessa Dare

Release date: September 27, 2016
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Avon
Pages: 376
Format: Egalley
Source: Publisher provided for review through Edelweiss
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
On the night of the Parkhurst ball, someone had a scandalous tryst in the library.
•Was it Lord Canby, with the maid, on the divan?
•Or Miss Fairchild, with a rake, against the wall?
•Perhaps the butler did it.

All Charlotte Highwood knows is this: it wasn’t her. But rumors to the contrary are buzzing. Unless she can discover the lovers’ true identity, she’ll be forced to marry Piers Brandon, Lord Granville—the coldest, most arrogantly handsome gentleman she’s ever had the misfortune to embrace. When it comes to emotion, the man hasn’t got a clue.

But as they set about finding the mystery lovers, Piers reveals a few secrets of his own. The oh-so-proper marquess can pick locks, land punches, tease with sly wit … and melt a woman’s knees with a single kiss. The only thing he guards more fiercely than Charlotte’s safety is the truth about his dark past.

Their passion is intense. The danger is real. Soon Charlotte’s feeling torn. Will she risk all to prove her innocence? Or surrender it to a man who’s sworn to never love?
Unsurprisingly, Tessa Dare does it again. While this isn't my favorite of her books (That would be a tall order, really.), Do You Want to Start a Scandal? delivers Tessa Dare's signature witty and sweet romance. Her books are never not a complete joy to read--and it's clear why Tessa is the author that got me to start reading historical romance.

Do You Want to Start a Scandal? is actually a mashup of Tessa's two series Spindle Cove and Castles Ever After, bringing two former supporting characters into the spotlight. I've read all of the Castles Ever After books, so I knew Piers, but I've only read one Spindle Cove, and hadn't read about Charlotte yet.

Piers comes off, at first, as expected. He's controlled, and certainly cold, but as he and Charlotte come together, we see so much more of him--and Charlotte is the perfect foil. She's a firebrand, always off doing what she thinks must be done. Though, often what she's doing gets her into trouble.

I seriously loved watching them fall in love.

Of course, there is the mystery going on as well. I loved how it turned out--it's definitely a mystery, but it's really a (fun? Can I call it fun?) surprise. It's exactly what it should have been in a historical romance, and while the mystery plays an important part, this is first and foremost a romance.

So, if you like charming romances, you better be reading Tessa Dare's books. You'll close each book grinning like a fool--and who doesn't want that?

About the author:

Tessa Dare is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of fourteen historical romance novels and five novellas. Her books have won numerous accolades, including Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® award (twice) and the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence. Booklist magazine named her one of the “new stars of historical romance,” and her books have been contracted for translation in more than a dozen languages.

Mixing wit, sensuality, and emotion, Tessa writes Regency-set romance novels that feel relatable to modern readers. With her bestselling “Spindle Cove” and “Castles Ever After” series, she has had great fun creating heroines who defy the conventions of their time—engaging in “unladylike” pursuits that range from paleontology to beer-making—and dreaming up the strong-willed, sexy heroes who find their hearts ensnared by them.

A librarian by training and a booklover at heart, Tessa makes her home in Southern California, where she lives with her husband, their two children, and a trio of cosmic kitties.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Books I Waited Too Long to Read

I always do this, but I'm constantly coming across books I wanted to read (often quite desperately), even got pre-publication.... And then didn't get around to reading them. Yet, when I do read them, I love them and I'm upset that I didn't get to talk about them nearer to publication date. I've been catching up on a couple of series from authors I really like, and this keeps happening. I also have to dedicate some time to books I wish I could have been loving for longer, books by authors who quickly became favorites, even a genre I'm mad at myself for not starting to read sooner.

So, here are a few of my favorite books I got mad at myself for not reading ASAP:

The Books By Favorite Authors

Shadowfell by Juliet Marillier - Juliet Marillier is one of my favorite authors, and it's her first YA series (Wildwood Dancing and Cybele's Secret) that made me fall in love with her. Yet, it took me almost three years after publication to read it! Guess what--I loved it!

The Young Elites by Marie Lu - I just finished this and it's fabulous. I think I expected a different kind of book, but what I got was so much better. Plus the series is done--and I'm totally binging it!

The Diviners by Libba Bray - This is an intimidating book at 578 pages, but it's worth alllll that time. It's eerie, a little gruesome, a lot complicated, and totally awesome. This is one I might recommend waiting to read, in some ways, because there are only two out at this point, so you're stuck waiting a long time between books.

The Books I Was Dying For

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater - It's common in the YA blogging community to love this book, but I waited over a year from publication to read it! Lucky for me, The Dream Thieves was close at hand.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard - This is one I had long before it published, and I only just read it! Needless to say, Susan's world is fascinating, and one I can't wait to get back into.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - I remember freaking out a little when I originally read the synopsis for this, and yet it's another I took over a year to read. Why? Hype certainly got to me, and this is one I think benefited from distance from the hype--I'd forgotten all that people said and went in with few expectations. And I loved it!

The Books I Was Late Hearing About

Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier - You've seen Juliet Marillier on this list already (I told you she was a favorite!), but this is the book that made me fall in love with her. This was published in 1999, however, and I didn't read it till 2009. That's 10 years I could have had this love in my life, and I'd never heard of her! What a sad thought.

The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron - I had some knowledge of this before I read it, but it wasn't till I read Rook and so adored it that I had to have more from Sharon Cameron. 

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson - This was another one that it was about a year after publication, but I only read this because I got a deal on the ebook ($1.99, I believe). Who knows how long it might have taken me to find Elisa, had it not been on sale? And now, of course, Rae is among my top YA authors (top 5, at least!)

The Genre I Didn't Know I'd Love

I have to close out this post with a bit dedicated to historical romance. Since it's only become my obsession in the last year, I've got a lot of catching up to do, and these are the books I'm upset I'd not gotten to read earlier (among a lot of others, for sure).

The Duke and I by Julia Quinn - This could count for all of the Bridgerton books, but this is the one that made me fall in love with them. This family! They're the best and I'm upset I'm done with the series.

Devil in Winter by Lisa Kleypas - This is arguably my favorite historical romance I've read so far. Evie and Sebastian! My lord, I love them. I like the series, but I'm obsessed with this book in particular.

Falling Into Bed With a Duke by Lorraine Heath - This applies to Lorraine Heath in general. She has solidified herself as one of my favorite HR authors, and this is the first of her books I read. 

So that's it! There surely are plenty more books I could include, but these are books that have stood out to me over time, books that I've treasured since reading.

Now tell me: what are some books you got mad at yourself for not reading sooner?

Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: The Gilded Cage by Lucinda Gray

Release date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Pages: 245
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher provided for review
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
After growing up on a farm in Virginia, Walthingham Hall in England seems like another world to sixteen-year-old Katherine Randolph. Her new life, filled with the splendor of upper-class England in the 1820s, is shattered when her brother mysteriously drowns. Katherine is expected to observe the mourning customs and get on with her life, but she can't accept that her brother's death was an accident. 

A bitter poacher prowls the estate, and strange visitors threaten the occupants of the house. There's a rumor, too, that a wild animal stalks the woods of Walthingham. Can Katherine retain her sanity long enough to find out the truth? Or will her brother's killer claim her life, too?
Well. My cover lust got me again. Admittedly, The Gilded Cage wasn't completely cover lust, but, I mean, that's a pretty cover, yeah? I don't know what I was expecting from this... But it certainly wasn't what I got. Even had I known the type of story I was getting, I don't know that it would have saved the reading experience, though.

The Gilded Cage follows Katherine as she and her brother George are brought into the dazzling life of the rich and titled in England. But quickly, their new world loses its shine, for her brother is found dead. As Katherine questions the circumstances, she also begins to question her sanity...

And this sounds pretty good, yeah? Like a good old Gothic, where there are things that go bump in the night and a sense of foreboding surrounding the story. You can tell that's what The Gilded Cage is trying to evoke, but it misses the mark. Where the mood should be dark, it's...grey. Where the sense of doom should be heavy, it's there, but never feels imminent. Never did I feel like I got Katherine or her decisions, and I didn't find much to enjoy in any of the other characters.

Honestly, it's not often that I don't have, like, anything good to say about a book. I'm sure there's someone for it, but it left me feeling like I'd wasted my time--and I don't even have any strong feelings, good or bad, to account for that. If this sounds like something you'd like, I'd recommend reading Sharon Cameron's The Dark Unwinding instead (though it's got a touch of steampunk to it--which only makes it better in my book!)

About the author:

Lucinda Gray is the pseudonym of an American novelist who lives in New York.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Stacking the Shelves {161}

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews where we get to share the books we've bought, been gifted, or received for review!

Hellooo! How have y'all been? It's been a bit, but I'm still here. I'm super excited because I have one assignment left for this semester, and then I'm done! That means my first semester of grad school is nearly finished, if you can believe it! It's been kind of crazy at work with the Harry Potter Magical Ball on Friday (We had over 200 people in my little store--unheard of for us!) and Christmas coming, but I love retail holidays only because there are more of us working, so I get to see all of my work friends!

I'm saving for school next semester and Disney, so I'm really working not to spend money, aside from Christmas presents--and I'm not doing too badly! So, there aren't as many books as there would normally be... ANYWAY, on to the books! (I was too lazy to turn on another light, so these were really dark... And I just edited them. I'm that lazy--and that's why they don't look good!)

For review:

The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli


A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Why yes, I did take advantage of the signed books at work over Black Friday weekend! I did a really good job holding myself back, to be very honest. I could have come home with a lot more.

Books I read:
Notorious Pleasures by Elizabeth Hoyt
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahesi Coates
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

I'm currently reading:
The Young Elites by Marie Lu

I'm considering making these kinds of posts a monthly thing, rather than weekly. I've never loved putting them together, though I do love looking at everyone else's, and since I'm not buying much, I won't have as much to share. I may go to doing a monthly recap, which would include whatever books I get. I dunno. Just been mulling it over.

But hey! It's kind of cold here and I'm loving it! :D

Have a lovely Sunday and a fabulous week!