Mini-Reviews: On a Sunbeam, Goldie Vance Vol. 1, & The Tea Dragon Society

On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
Source: Borrowed

An epic graphic novel about a girl who travels to the ends of the universe to find a long lost love, from acclaimed author Tillie Walden.

Throughout the deepest reaches of space, a crew rebuilds beautiful and broken-down structures, painstakingly putting the past together. As Mia, the newest member, gets to know her team, the story flashes back to her pivotal year in boarding school, where she fell in love with a mysterious new student. When Mia grows close to her new friends, she reveals her true purpose for joining their ship—to track down her long-lost love.

An inventive world, a breathtaking love story, and stunning art come together in this new work by award-winning artist Tillie Walden.

As I’ve come to expect with Tillie Walden, the art in On a Sunbeam is absolutely stunning. She has such a way with color palettes and using color to highlight emotion. Unfortunately, the art really stole the show, because the plot and characters left a lot to be desired.

The book really felt like 544 pages of really beautiful art with some words added in as an afterthought. Maybe that’s not a completely fair assessment, but I really felt like something was missing from this story. This was still a nice book, but at almost 550 pages, it’s pretty large to be missing a strong story.


Goldie Vance, Vol. 1 by Hope Larson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 11, 2016
Source: Borrowed

GOLDIE VANCE IS ON THE CASE

Sixteen-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance has an insatiable curiosity. She lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place, and it’s her dream to one day be the hotel’s in-house detective. When Walter, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, together they utilize her smarts, skills, and connections to solve the mystery…even if it means getting into a drag race, solving puzzles, or chasing a helicopter to do it!
 

Goldie Vance was the super cute detective story that I never knew I needed! I picked this one up from Hoopla on a whim and I’m so glad I did. Everything from the setting to the characters to the art was really well-done. My only criticism would be that everything that happened felt really convenient.

I’ve already borrowed the next volume and I’m hoping to read it soon!


The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: October 31, 2017
Source: Borrowed

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

I’d heard a lot about how cute The Tea Dragon Society was, and I have to say, it lived up to the hype. It was just so… nice. It’s very cute and full of casual diversity and characters who accept others just the way they are. And the dragons! These are the cutest little dragons I’ve ever seen in my life and I want one so badly.

This book was great, I just wish that it had been longer and more developed.


Have you read any of these books? Are any of them on your TBR?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-Reviews: Coraline, Dead Voices, & Ghost

Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 4, 2002
Source: Borrowed

The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring….

In Coraline’s family’s new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close.

The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own.

Only it’s different.

At first, things seem marvelous in the other flat. The food is better. The toy box is filled with wind-up angels that flutter around the bedroom, books whose pictures writhe and crawl and shimmer, little dinosaur skulls that chatter their teeth. But there’s another mother, and another father, and they want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go.

Other children are trapped there as well, lost souls behind the mirrors. Coraline is their only hope of rescue. She will have to fight with all her wits and all the tools she can find if she is to save the lost children, her ordinary life, and herself.

Critically acclaimed and award-winning author Neil Gaiman will delight readers with his first novel for all ages.

I was looking through Overdrive for a quick audiobook to listen to at work and came across Coraline. As a big fan of the movie, and having really enjoyed Gaiman’s narration of Norse Mythology, I figured I might as well give it a shot.

The book is very, very much like the movie. That’s a good thing. The movie is just the right amount of dark and creepy, and so is the book. The Other Mother, as I get older, is an even creepier character. I can totally understand Coraline’s feelings and motivation for going over to that other side, and despite already knowing how everything would end, it was still so creepy to hear about the subtle differences in the Other Mother’s house.

Coraline has just made me want to find more Gaiman books to love.

#wian20: a given/first name


Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
Series: Small Spaces #2
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 27, 2019
Source: Borrowed

Bestselling author Katherine Arden returns with another creepy, spine-tingling adventure in this follow-up to the critically acclaimed Small Spaces.

Having survived sinister scarecrows and the malevolent smiling man in Small Spaces, newly minted best friends Ollie, Coco, and Brian are ready to spend a relaxing winter break skiing together with their parents at Mount Hemlock Resort. But when a snowstorm sets in, causing the power to flicker out and the cold to creep closer and closer, the three are forced to settle for hot chocolate and board games by the fire.

Ollie, Coco, and Brian are determined to make the best of being snowed in, but odd things keep happening. Coco is convinced she has seen a ghost, and Ollie is having nightmares about frostbitten girls pleading for help. Then Mr. Voland, a mysterious ghost hunter, arrives in the midst of the storm to investigate the hauntings at Hemlock Lodge. Ollie, Coco, and Brian want to trust him, but Ollie’s watch, which once saved them from the smiling man, has a new cautionary message: BEWARE.

With Mr. Voland’s help, Ollie, Coco, and Brian reach out to the dead voices at Mount Hemlock. Maybe the ghosts need their help–or maybe not all ghosts can or should be trusted.

Dead Voices is a terrifying follow-up to Small Spaces with thrills and chills galore and the captive foreboding of a classic ghost story.

Let me tell you something — I love this series. Ollie, Coco, and Brian are back in a ski trip gone awry, this time facing some spooky ghosts instead of creepy scarecrows. The book was just the right amount of creepy for me, enough to keep me on my toes but not so much that I felt genuinely scared. (That said, I have no spooky tolerance and this is middle grade.)

I love how, in this series, Ollie, Coco, and Brian have to work together and trust each other to make it out of these crazy situations. In this book, the characters aren’t sure what’s real and what’s coming from the haunting, and that, to me, made this book a little spookier than its predecessor. They had to use their knowledge of each other (and their wits) to figure out the best thing to do with everything that was thrown at them.

I really never thought I’d enjoy a middle grade series so much, but I can’t wait for the next book.


Ghost by Jason Reynolds
Rating: ★★★☆☆
Links: Amazon • TBD • Goodreads
Publication Date: August 30, 2016
Source: Borrowed

Running. That’s all that Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But never for a track team. Nope, his game has always been ball. But when Ghost impulsively challenges an elite sprinter to a race — and wins — the Olympic medalist track coach sees he has something: crazy natural talent. Thing is, Ghost has something else: a lot of anger, and a past that he is trying to outrun. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed and meld with the team, or will his past finally catch up to him?

You know, this is my third Jason Reynolds book, and I have yet to connect with his writing. Objectively, I can recognize that a lot of young kids can probably see themselves in Ghost. He’s experienced things no kid should experience, he’s angry about it, and he wants to be a good kid but things just seem to happen around him. He’s a very well-written, well-rounded character.

I just feel like this was a lot to shove into a book that’s not even 200 pages. By the end, nothing felt very… resolved. I realize there are three more books in the series, but they’re focusing on other characters. I had planned to read the rest of the series, but I’m probably not going to enjoy it, so I’m just going to stop here.

As a series opener, there’s nothing wrong with this book. It just wasn’t for me.


Have you read any of these books? Have you read any good MG recently?
Let’s talk in the comments!

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Mini-review: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli & Francesca Cavallo
Series: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls #1
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: December 1, 2016
Source: Borrowed
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is a children’s book packed with 100 bedtime stories about the life of 100 extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world. This book inspires girls with the stories of great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams.

When I first saw Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls show up at my library, I knew that I had to read it. For the most part, I really enjoyed it. It’s a very quick read filled with stories about inspirational women throughout history. Women who’ve accomplished a wide variety of things are included, though it could’ve probably been a bit more diverse. (Most women included are American or European, but there is a second volume out now and maybe that’s a bit better.)

I think this would be a perfect gift for a young girl (or boy! boys should know about important women, too!) and I want to buy a copy for my niece and nephew when they get a little older.

Goodreads summer reading challenge: you have a lovely accent *

* I actually can’t find anything that tells me definitively whether this is a book that’s been translated to English, but Goodreads lists the original title as “Storie della buonanotte per bambine ribelli: 100 vite di donne straordinarie,” so I’m thinking it’s a pretty safe bet?


Do you ever read children’s books? Do you have little kids in your life?
Let’s talk in the comments!


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Anthology review: Flying Lessons & Other Stories by Ellen Oh

Flying Lessons & Other Stories, edited by Ellen Oh
Featuring: Kwame Alexander, Kelly J. Baptist, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson
Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: AmazonTBDGoodreads
Publication Date: January 3, 2017
Source: Borrowed from my library

Whether it is basketball dreams, family fiascos, first crushes, or new neighborhoods, this bold anthology—written by the best children’s authors—celebrates the uniqueness and universality in all of us.

In a partnership with We Need Diverse Books, industry giants Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Tim Federle, Grace Lin, Meg Medina, Walter Dean Myers, Tim Tingle, and Jacqueline Woodson join newcomer Kelly J. Baptist in a story collection that is as humorous as it is heartfelt. This impressive group of authors has earned among them every major award in children’s publishing and popularity as New York Times bestsellers.

From these distinguished authors come ten distinct and vibrant stories.

I always find it a little difficult to review anthologies. Especially in this one, there’s such a mix of stories. I’ve broken it down into each individual story and then done an average review at the end.

How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium by Matt de la Peña

This short story was so inspiring! The main character was so focused on succeeding in his dream of playing basketball even when the other players didn’t accept him. It took me a little while to adjust to the story being written in the second person, but it didn’t end up being as much of an issue for me as I would’ve expected. There was a great lesson at the end of this one.

Rating:  ★★★★☆

The Difficult Path by Grace Lin 

Overall, this kind of middle-grade historical fiction is probably one of my least favorite genres. (I probably would’ve loved it when I was actually considered middle-grade.) This was a good story, but it felt a little pushy in its lesson.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sol Painting Inc. by Meg Medina

Merci was so determined to be successful even though she’s so young! I loved her can-do attitude. Her father clearly loved her to pieces and it broke my heart a little bit that he was willing to do anything necessary to give her a good education.

The racist little white girls made me so upset! There’s definitely a good lesson to be had in this one.

Rating:  ★★★★☆

Secret Samantha by Tim Federle

Of all the short stories in this anthology, this is the one I liked the most. I would’ve loved to read a full-length novel about Sam!

Rating: ★★★★★

The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn by Kelly J. Baptist

This one was so sad. I suppose it was supposed to be heartwarming at the end, but there was never really any resolution.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Choctaw Bigfoot, Midnight in the Mountains by Tim Tingle

I couldn’t really connect with this one. I think this is for even younger than middle grade?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Main Street by Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson is the only author in this anthology that I’ve previously read. She’s a beautiful writer and this short story was no exception. It’s an incredibly well-written look at race, stereotypes, and friendship.

Rating: ★★★★★

Flying Lessons by Soman Chainani

I really liked this one! I can relate a lot to our protagonist, a nerdy boy who would rather read than interact with people his own age. His grandma actually has to set him up with a cute boy and it was so sweet!

Rating: ★★★★★

Seventy-Six Dollars and Forty-Nine Cents by Kwame Alexander 

I don’t really understand the more fantastical aspects of this story. Is it supposed to be real? It’s still a fun story, very different from the others, and I’m sure that middle-grade readers will really enjoy it!

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Sometimes a Dream Needs a Push by Walter Dean Myers

It’s interesting that this book starts and ends with basketball. This is a nice story about a father who decides to coach his son’s wheelchair basketball team. It was a little sports-heavy for me (see above about how I related most to the nerdy boy with his face in a book) but still a good story.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Overall

This anthology ended up being aimed a little younger than I was expecting, but I still enjoyed a lot of the short stories! My average rating was 3.7, so I’ll round up to 4.

Book review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Brown Girl Dreaming is one of those books that’s been on and off my TBR for years.  I really, really tried to read it for last year’s reading challenge and it had an endless list of holds at my library.  It fell off my radar for a bit, but then popped back up with my current reading challenge.

I’m kind of disappointed in myself for not reading this sooner.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of poetry or novels written in verse.  And, though I try my best to expand my horizons and read memoirs about interesting women, they so frequently fall short of my expectations.  Having just slogged my way through a pretty awful Pulitzer winner, my expectations for this Newbery winner were low.  Possibly non-existent, really.

But it was good.

Really good, in fact.

As I flew through the first fifty pages or so, all I could think was that the writing is absolutely beautiful.  I felt transported to Ohio, to South Carolina, to New York.  I was immersed in the time period.  In the current events.  In the political climate and Jacqueline’s home life.  As the book continued, I felt like I was growing up with her.

I never wanted to put this book down.  I never felt like I was reading a middle-grade book.  I can’t wait to explore this author’s other books.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mmdreading: a Newbery award winner or honor book