Sep 30, 2021

Recent Reads: Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian

Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian 
Publisher: Ace
Publication Date:  July 6, 2021

Format: Hardback
Source: BOTM Pick - July 2021


Goodreads Synopsis: 
Everyone knows the legend. Of Arthur, destined to be a king. Of the beautiful Guinevere, who will betray him with his most loyal knight, Lancelot. Of the bitter sorceress, Morgana, who will turn against them all. But Elaine alone carries the burden of knowing what is to come--for Elaine of Shalott is cursed to see the future. 
On the mystical isle of Avalon, Elaine runs free and learns of the ancient prophecies surrounding her and her friends--countless possibilities, almost all of them tragic.

When their future comes to claim them, Elaine, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana accompany Arthur to take his throne in stifling Camelot, where magic is outlawed, the rules of society chain them, and enemies are everywhere. Yet the most dangerous threats may come from within their own circle.

As visions are fulfilled and an inevitable fate closes in, Elaine must decide how far she will go to change fate--and what she is willing to sacrifice along the way.

The Lady of Shalott reclaims her story in this bold feminist reimagining of the Arthurian myth from the New York Times bestselling author of Ash Princess.

I was super excited when I came across this book as a BOTM pick a few months ago. I have never read anything about Arthur, Camelot, or the Lady of Shalott and I really enjoyed this adaptation. 

The story follows Elaine, an Oracle, bound to see all the possible futures of those around her as well as her own fates. The story is told in a sequence of past, present, and possible futures, which can be a bit confusing at first but as the story progresses it becomes more manageable. 

I really enjoyed the story telling in this book. As the synopsis notes, we all kind of have an idea about the story of Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and Morgana, but I didn't realize there was a Lady of Shalott story. I love how the author wove her tale into a friendship with these iconic characters and retold the tale in several ways with possible visions of the future. I found that Elaine's character was a force. She grew exponentially throughout the book as she had to deal with more grief and demand in her environment. 

I found the politics of the world to be an interesting spin and made for a good part of the conflict, however the main conflict was the internal struggle that Elaine was having to deal with. Because of that internal conflict, this story was a slow build. It took a while to really get into it and feel out the characters and the influence they would have on the story and that coupled with the varying timelines might be a deterrent to some.

Overall, this was a beautiful fantasy world and I really enjoyed Elaine as the focus of this story, while not the normal Arthurian tale, she was real in many ways, broken at times, and showed a lot of love for her friends. 

Sep 29, 2021

Recent Reads: A Spot of Trouble by Teri Wilson

Source: From Sourcebooks Early Reads Program in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.

A Spot of Trouble by Teri Wilson
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date:  September 7, 2021

Format: Ebook


Goodreads Synopsis: 

Get ready to laugh out loud with this hilarious romantic comedy featuring:
• A grumpy firefighter who thinks his way is the only way
• A bubbly yoga teacher who prefers to go with the flow
• Adorable Dalmatians who swap places—and the chaos that ensues
• An opposites-attract romance that’ll warm your heart

Violet March and Sam Nash are as different as night and day and have been enemies ever since Violet accused Sam of dognapping her beloved Dalmatian. Sam knows that’s impossible—for one thing, his dog Cinder is a well-trained fire safety dog who never steps out of line. Violet’s dog Sprinkles, on the other hand, has never met a command that she didn’t ignore completely, much like her bubbly owner. So when Sprinkles and Cinder accidentally switch places during the annual police vs. fire department softball tournament, Violet is thrilled by her dog’s sudden perfect behavior, while stubborn-yet-charming Sam is horrified to find that his dog no longer listens.

But when the dogs are eventually switched back, Sam and Violet are shocked to find that not everything is as simple as it seems. And a little puppy love might be just the thing they’ve been missing...
A rom-com with a focus on doggos was something that I thought I would love, and granted I read this one super quick but it was just OK. The story follows a town sweetheart, daughter of the police chief, and Dalmatian-owner Violet as she meets the new guy in town Sam. Sam is new to town and working with the fire department and also has a Dalmatian. Immediately these two butt heads when Violet accuses Sam of dognapping.

I expected this to be an enemies to lovers type of rom-com but it really wasn't. While there was some general animosity between the characters it wasn't really an enemies thing, it was a lot more flirting and playful banter than loathing. 

While I really liked the pets in the book, the characters were meh. Violet seems like an entitled princess with everything revolving around her and her dog. I found it odd that she doesn't think that another Dalmatian can exist in her town ever, especially when the plot states that this is a vacation/ tourist town. Someone has to have brought another Dalmatian into town at SOME point. I also found her dog-owner abilities to be lacking. I understand that some people don't train their dogs in some ways but she seemingly didn't care when her dog ran off on the beach and was not paying enough attention to it - which leads to her mistaking Sam's dog for her own (and that is chapter 1). 

The synopsis for this book plays up a lot of the dog-swap but realistically it played second-fiddle to Violet obsessing over weird things and Sam's focus on the softball tournament. As much as the synopsis talks about the dogs I wanted more of them (there was a lot, but that wasn't the conlfict). 

The real conflict of the story is actually this annual police vs. fire department softball tournament and how Violet has been scorned during it before. The whole town takes sides and it seemed a bit over the top. 

Overall if you are looking for a rom-com that has some funny elements, some dogs, and is very PG, this one could be for you. Like I said, it was a quick read, but it wasn't the best enemies to love that I have read.

Sep 28, 2021

Early Reader Review: Beast Boy Love Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo

Source: From DC Comics in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review. 

Beast Boy Love Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo 

Series: Teen Titans #3
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date:  September 28, 2021

Format: Paperback Final Copy


Goodreads Synopsis: 
From #1 New York Times bestselling author KAMI GARCIA (Beautiful Creatures) and artist GABRIEL PICOLO, the creative duo behind the New York Times bestselling graphic novel Teen Titans: Raven, comes the romantic meet-up we have all been waiting for! 

It seems like years, but it’s only been a few days since Raven Roth recovered her memories, trapped her demon father, Trigon, into her amulet, and had her heart broken for the first time. But she doesn’t have time to think about the past…she has to focus on finding a way to get rid of Trigon for good.

Garfield Logan still can’t believe he has powers that allow him to change into different animals, but the price of knowing that his parents kept this secret hidden from him just feels too high. And what’s more, his difficulty controlling these abilities could have unexpected consequences.

Both are seeking answers from the one person who seems to have them all figured out: Slade Wilson.

When their paths converge in Nashville, Raven and Gar can’t help but feel a connection, despite the secrets they both try to hide. It will take a great amount of trust and courage to overcome the wounds of their pasts. But can they find acceptance for the darkest part of themselves? Or maybe even love?
I am really loving the Teen Titan series from DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults. This installment follows the focused Raven and Beast Boy graphic novels and is a great combination of the two. It also introduces more characters as well and makes for a great tie-in. 

Both Raven and Gar now know that they have powers and are on the hunt for answers, solutions, and maybe even curses and a mysterious man named Slade is telling them that he can help. When Raven and Gar meet they have no idea that they are both in New Orleans for the same person or reason, but they hit it off and pal around for a while before their meetings. Slade is not what he makes himself out to be and Raven and Gar are left fighting themselved and each other. 
I liked that Raven was a little less reserved in this installment. She and Gar hit it off and she is pretty open with him, all things considered. Gar on the other hand is more reserved than in his featured book and so the dynamic is interesting and fun. I liked that we had a bit of alternating point of view as well and I really enjoyed the overall plot of this one. 
This was a quick read and the illustrations were spot on, Picolo does a wonderful job with fitting sytle to the overall theme and characters and this was no exception to that. Overall, I think that is you enjoy Teen Titans, origin stories, or a cute/ clean romance, this would be a fun one to pick up.

Visual Assest provided by DC Comics

Sep 27, 2021

Building the Book Pile #359

Welcome to Building the Book Pile!

Hello Readers, Bloggers, and Awesome people! 

Hello Hello my reading friends! I hope you had a wonderful week of reading and autumn weather!

Oh this reading pile... it gets bigger and bigger and there just isnt enough time! I also worked about 15 hours of overtime this week.. because BUSY season so I am struggling a bit to get it all done. I am really hoping to find a spot to hide with books soon and binge. I need that.

This weekend we also did a lot though - we successfully completed the Great Vermont Corn Maze in 3 hours (my legs are killing me) and we had "Family" Dinner night where we rotate dinner 1/ month with friends and now that we are back we kicked off the season with non-meat burgers and lots of sides. (nom nom).

If you are interested in supporting my ability to stay awake and read please consider dontaing - Coffee (PSL!!) is appreciated ... Ko-fi

Coming up on the Blog

Early Reader Review: Teen Titans: Best Boy Loves Raven by Kami Garcia ( YA, GN)

Recent Reads: Half Sick of Shadows by Laura Sebastian (Adult)

Recent Reads: A Spot of Trouble by Teri Wilson (Adult)

Books Received Recently...

Nick and Noel's Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall - From Sourcebooks Early Reads Program for review.
Unicorn Night by Diana Murray  - From Sourcebooks Early Reads Program for review.

Comment or leave me a link and I will see you online again soon.
Happy Reading!

Sep 24, 2021

Recent Reads: Halloween is Coming! by Cal Everett

Source: From Sourcebooks Early Reads program in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.

Halloween is Coming! by Cal Everett, Illustrated by Lenny Wen 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Publication Date:   August 1, 2021

Format: Ebook


Goodreads Synopsis: 
A fun, rhyming read-aloud Halloween picture book that starts a new holiday tradition. Perfect for kids 4-8 or any young child wanting to celebrate the spookiest season of the year!

Marching in the school parade
in frightening costumes that we've made;
Look around, the signs are clear,
Halloween is getting near!

Halloween is Coming is a lyrical celebration of the building excitement that children—and adults!—feel as the magical and mysterious night of Halloween approaches.
Such a cute book about Halloween and autumn! Halloween is Coming is a rhyming picture book that talks about this time of year in activities and visuals that young readers will understand and enjoy. 

The illustrations are bright and on theme and the cast of children are not only diverse but they are also sometimes of the spooky variety - some in costumes but also just some that are mummies or franenstein's monster. These spooky characters are including along with all the other human children and it is a very cute way to showcase differences. 

If Halloween is a time of excitement in your household, I think that this would be a fun book to add to bedtime reading piles. Adults and kids alike will enjoy the whimical images, the diverse kids, and obviously talking all about the things that lead up to a great Halloween night.

Sep 22, 2021

Recent Reads: Lena, the Sea, and Me by Maria Parr

Source: From Librarything Early Reviewers program in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review. 

Lena, the Sea, and Me by Maria Parr, Guy Puzey (translator) 
Series: Vaffelhjarte #2
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date:  August 3, 2021

Format: Hardback


Goodreads Synopsis: 
In a charming sequel to Adventures with Waffles, Trille and Lena navigate the rough waters of friendship when a new soccer coach and a new girl in school disrupt their seaside escapades.

Trille and Lena may be getting older, but they still find everyday adventure--and trouble--in their coastal village, including sinking every raft they build, getting little sisters stuck up flag poles, and attending those dreaded music lessons. But that's not all. The arrival of a less-than-encouraging new soccer coach is putting twelve-year-old Lena's goalkeeping career in doubt. And Trille is wondering how to impress the girl who has just joined his class. As the best friends battle the elements and their own emotions, one thing is for sure: they're not giving up, not if Lena has anything to do with it! In Maria Parr's follow-up to Adventures with Waffles, the acclaimed author returns to Mathildewick Cove with a rib-tickling story of growing up.
I didn't even realize this was a sequel until I starting putting together a post for this review. That being said, you did not have to read the first book to follow along with this story. 

The book follows Trille and Lena best friends and a year together as they learn more about themselves and their friendship. It is a very cute almost day-to-day showcase of their lives in Mathildewick Cove. Lena is experiencing issues with the new soccer coach, there is a new girl in town and Trille really wants to be her friend, Trille's mom isn't feeling great, there is a raft adventure, and a boat adventure - so there is a lot to take in while reading this book. 

The book is divided up into 4 parts: Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring and follows Trille as the narrator of their times together and apart. There is a lot of emotion throughout this book and Trille and Lena's friendship is threatened at times as they want to do different things and try new things, but all in all it is a wonderful book that chronicles what a real friendship is like.

I really enjoyed the characters and learning about Norway from their adventures and descriptions. Overall, I think that middle grade readers will really like this book and all the fun that these friends have along the way.

Sep 20, 2021

Early Reader Review: Not a Unicorn by Dana Middleton

Source: Recieved from Netgalley and Chronicle Books in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.

Not a Unicorn by Dana Middleton 
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publication Date:  September 21, 2021

Format: Ebook

Rating: DNF Review

Goodreads Synopsis: 
Magic, adventure, and friendship collide in warm and funny novel about the power of self-acceptance to change the world.

Jewel's your average eighth grader. Awkward relationship with a cute boy, ex-BFFs with a popular girl, mom issues at home. You've read it all before. Except for one thing: Jewel has a unicorn horn on her head.

(Okay, and one other thing, but it's just too weird to mention here!)

Jewel tries to stay invisible at school, looking forward to the day when she can finally leave her small town behind, making art with her fellow weirdos, and obsessively reading graphic novels with her best friends. But when she's selected to represent her school at the regional French speaking competition, she decides she's had enough of the shy life. The horn needs to come off.

What happens when you have the ability to become the girl you've always wanted to be? When you don't know your true self, how do you know your true friends? What happens when everything in your life—your biggest struggle, your greatest joy, and your dearest friends—all combine in one calamitous adventure?

With a sparkle of magic, a treasure trove of true determination, and help from all her friends both real and invisible, Jewel just might survive this year with her heart—and her head—intact.

THE ULTIMATE EMPATHY READ: The unicorn horn in this book is a perfect symbol for all the ways every young person feels strange, different, or unusual in any way. While readers' specific situations may differ from Jewel's, her struggle for self-acceptance will resonate with readers of all stripes, circumstances, and backgrounds.

A RICH, FANTASTIC FANTASY: At the heart of this book is a rich, multi-layered fantasy adventure that will have all readers thinking twice about the stories they read, the friends they have, and the superpowers they may not even know they possess.

IRRESISTIBLE MIDDLE SCHOOL DRAMA: Catty ex-friends, terrifyingly unapproachable boys, embarrassing dance proposals, inspirational teachers—this book has all the hallmarks of everyone's favorite middle grade fare.

UNFORGETTABLE CHARACTERS: Readers won't want to leave this world behind! The main characters and the families in this book are real, warmly drawn, and endlessly relatable. Readers will return to the book just to live in the world for a little bit longer.

RELATABLE FAMILY ISSUES: Jewel's family deals with situations that will be very familiar to most readers: high hopes for the future, never having enough money, and the distance between what we want and what we have. The family dynamics are relatable, too: Jewel's single mom works a low-paying job, and they live in an apartment with Jewel's grandma. The warmth of this family despite their difficulties will stay with readers long after they close the cover.

Perfect for: tweens, fans of unicorns, fantasy readers, parents, educators
The above synopsis gives a really good overview of things that you might find in this book, however,  it was not for me. I gave this book a few chances and just was confused and could not hold my attention, so I had to throw in the towel and move on. 

Not a Unicorn is about a young girl with a unicorn horn on her head, she doesn't like it, it makes her an outcast. I got to about the 40% mark of this story so I don't know how it all comes together in the end, but Jewel has located a doctor to remove her horn. 

This book has some good qualities - Jewel having a horn and al her feelings surrounding it are how a lot of kids feel in middle school. Like they are too different, too much of an outcast, that they will never fit in and need to match to become popular. So as an visual representation of that aspect of tween years, I thought that this book did a good job. I really hope that the ending of this book (again, I didn't get there) was that unique is ok and that tansforming yourself to be seen as ok by others is not the answer... but I will never know. 

It lost me along the way with the addition of Carmen, a unicorn... a hallucination of a unicorn... a real unicorn.. and imaginary friend... I am still not sure exactly. Add to that  full cast of characters with little to differentiate them, it made reading this difficult to follow. Maybe it was because I was in ebook format, and a paper copy would have madethe flip back easier, but I still just had to set it aside. 

Sep 19, 2021

Building the Book Pile #358 - the evening edition

Welcome to Building the Book Pile!

Hello Readers, Bloggers, and Awesome people! 

Another week down. How is everyone doing? I took today to relax a little... but still cleaned a carpet and picked up around the house, so not the completely relaxing day I was looking for. I have another busy work week ahead but am hoping to take some time for reading too. We will see how that goes. 

I would love to do an October Readathon - does anyone know of any happening? I need a good kick in my reading butt and they always help.

If you are interested in supporting my ability to stay awake and read please consider dontaing - Coffee (PSL!!) is appreciated ... Ko-fi

Coming up on the Blog

DNF Review: Not a Unicorn by Dana Middleton (MG)

Recent Reads: Lena, The Sea, and Me by Maria Parr (MG)

Recent Reads: Halloween is Coming by Cal Evertt (Youth)

Recent Reads: Board Books from Osborne Books (Youth)

Books Received Recently...

Have you missed anything lately?

Comment or leave me a link and I will see you online again soon.
Happy Reading!

Sep 16, 2021

Recent Reads: You Are My Happy by Patricia Hegarty

 Source: From Sourcebook Early Reads in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.
You Are My Happy 
by Patricia Hegarty, Ilustrated by Thomas Elliott 
Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland
Publication Date:  August 3, 2021

Format: Ebook


Celebrate love and togetherness in this enchanting book for babies from bestselling author Patricia Hegarty!

Wake up, baby, it's a brand-new day! Join along with mamma turtle and her little one as they explore their big, beautiful world. Written with Patricia Hegarty's gentle rhyming text and the heartfelt message of love and togetherness, this rhyming board book will capture the hearts and minds of parents and toddlers. Featuring interactive die cuts for little ones to peek through and gorgeous full-color illustrations, You Are My Happy will inspire repeat reads for years to come!

This I love you book is a perfect gift for new parents, holiday stocking stuffer, first birthday gift, or bedtime read aloud for anytime of year!

Why readers love You Are My Happy:
  • Perfect for babies and toddlers 0-3. Made for their little hands!
  • Interactive die cut format and sweet baby animals makes for an engaging bedtime read aloud
  • Beautiful, full color illustrations
  • A heartfelt gift for new parents or baby showers
  • Perfect holiday stocking stuffer, Easter gift basket stuffer, or Valentine's Day gift for baby!

You Are My Happy follows a baby and momma turtle exploring the world around them, in all the wonder that littles have. I read this as an ebook which made it a little confusing since the description didn't really note that it would be a cut-out book, so on some pages it seemed like somethign was missing in the e-book version. All that said, this was a very cute book. 

The little turle is so excited to see that world and momma turtle is there to support his exploration and tell them that they are loved. The images were bright and engaging. The story is a good one to read aloud together and show your love. This would make a wonderful gift book, or nighttime tradition. 

Sep 14, 2021

Early Reader Review: Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera

Source: From DC Comics in exchange for an honest review. This in no way alters my opinion or review.

Unearthed: A Jessica Cruz Story by Lilliam Rivera 
Illustrated by Steph C. 
Publisher: DC Comics
Publication Date:  September 14, 2021

Format: Ebook


Goodreads Synopsis: 
Acclaimed author Lilliam Rivera and artist Steph C. reimagine one of DC's greatest Green Lanterns, Jessica Cruz, to tell a story about immigration, family, and overcoming fear to inspire hope.

Jessica Cruz has done everything right. She's a dedicated student, popular among her classmates, and has a loving family that has done everything they can to give her a better life in the United States. While Jessica is a part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, allowing her to go to school and live in the U.S., her parents are undocumented. Jessica usually worries for her parents, but her fears and anxiety escalate as a mayoral candidate with a strong anti-immigration stance runs for office.

As the xenophobia in Coast City increases, Jessica begins to debate whether it's worth renewing her status to stay in the U.S., or if her family would be safer and better off moving back to Mexico. And despite her attempts to lean on her friends and family, she finds herself constantly visited by visions of Aztec gods, one pulling her towards hope and the other towards anger.

But when her father is detained by I.C.E., Jessica finds herself being pulled into an abyss of fear. With her father gone and feeling helpless, Jessica must find her way out of her fears and ultimately become a voice for her community. 
This was an intense and eye-opening graphic novel about coming of age and self-discovery in a world of xenophobia. Jessica is just trying to be a normal high schooler when the city around her plagues her with fear for her and her family's safety. The plot of this graphic novel focuses on the arrest and deportation of non-residents in Jessica's city. When her father is detained it only increases her fear and she must decide how to help or if she should hide. 

This was a beautifully drawn graphic novel focusing on differing cultures and the emotions that they have around being undocumented. It was a realistic portrayal and filled me with anxiety as I read about Jessica and her family and the problems they were facing. 

As the more fantasical component, Jessica is seeing, dreaming and hearing visions of Aztec gods pulling her through feelings of hope and/or anger and rage. The inner turmoil is well portrayed through these visions and with her feelings.  

I didn't know much about Jessica before reading this book, but it is my understanding that she is also a part of the Green Lantern franchise. All that aside this is a great introduction to her and her character which highlights her background really well. If you are interested in the character or graphic novels that have a diversity focus, this would be a great one to pick up.

About the Author
Lilliam Rivera is an award-winning writer and the author of children's books Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit, Dealing in Dreams, and The Education of Margot Sanchez, and her recent young adult novel Never Look Back (September 2020) by Bloomsbury. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Elle, to name a few. A Bronx, New York, native, Lilliam currently lives in Los Angeles. 

About the Illustrator
Steph C. is a Mexico-based artist and illustrator known for her stylish and vibrant characters and sharp, geometric compositions and designs. She has created illustrations and character concepts for independent clients, magazines, local books, collaborations, and original artwork. She aims to inspire others through art and share stories of her own.