March 2022 Books in Review

March 2022 Books in Review

Galatea by Madeline Miller sits on a set of jean clad knees. It's a hardbound blue book with gold lettering and gold dots.

Now that I’m staring staring down the middle of May, I’ve finally caught up on all my March book reviews (and even managed to start on my April ones). Okay, I read a lot in March, which was great! Except that I slacked off on reviewing books and then had to catch up. Let’s not let me do that again. A bunch of ARC books this month, most of them kid’s lit, but a few I really think you should pick up! I really enjoyed the Spring Rabbit, it was so well written and illustrated (and is now out!) but I also think that there’s a couple others that are lovely, especially if they line up with your interests.

I also finally got around to getting Iron Widow from the library and it was just as amazing as everyone has said it is. I’m only mad I read it already because I know I’ll have to wait ages for the second one and the author left tottering on the edge of a cliff. Rude. Madeline Miller wrenched my heart out of my chest once again, and I can confirm that I’ll never look at a marble statue the same way ever again.

Books Read: 14
Pages Read: 3,243

 

Favorite books: Iron Widow, Galatea, The Spring Rabbit
Least favorite books: A Reaper at the Gates, My Lucky #13 (not posted)

An Ember in the Ashes Series (Books 2-4)

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa TahirFiction; Young Adult, Fantasy
A Torch Against the Night ⭐⭐⭐ 3.5 stars
A Reaper at the Gates ⭐⭐⭐ 3.0 stars
A Sky Beyond the Storm ⭐⭐⭐ 3.25 stars

I read the first book in this series at the end of February, and then devoured the next three over the next week and a half. The third book was a bit of a slog for me, mostly because I’d loved the first two books so much. I would still recommend the full series, but be aware that book three is long, and feels that way.

 
 

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhau

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay ZhaoFiction; Young Adult, Fantasy
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

Zetain becomes a concubine-pilot to get revenge for her sister, who was killed. Instead of killing him outright, she ends up killing him while they’re in battle, and sets off a domino affect of events that lead her somewhere she never imagined going. She ends up learning things that have been kept secret for eons, risking her life to change the world and save the concubines and their pilots, and falling in love – more than once. The only complaint I have about this book is that it ended, I wanted more!! Impatiently awaiting the second novel in this series.

 

The Physicists’ Daughter

The Physicists' Daughter by Mary Anna EvansFiction; Historical
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.0 stars

Justine is working in factory in New Orleans in 1944. She’s working on mysterious parts that are for the war effort, parts no one tells them anything about. And strange things keep happening at the factory. Machines breaking in ways they shouldn’t. So, she decides to investigate.

I love WW2 fiction, but I rarely read books that take place in the US during this era. Justine is an orphan, but before their death, her parents were physicists (hence the somewhat clunky title of the book), and they taught her to think like an academic. Which means, she’s realizing that things aren’t adding up. So, unable to trust anyone, she tries to solve the accidents (which she thinks are sabotage) all by herself.

Justine is a strong female lead, and the book tackles a not-so-often side of WW2. But I found the book very slow to start, where I had to force myself through the first third of it. If you like a good slow burning book, this is for you! But I like more action in my books, so it fell a bit flat for me.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me. The Physicists’ Daughter will be out on June 7, 2022.

 

 

Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf by Davide Cali & Marianna Balducci

Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf: A Counting Story by Marianna Balducci, Davide CalìFiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐ 3.5 stars

This story made me laugh, but my little reviewer declared it boring and asked for another story instead. I guess she didn’t find it as funny. Still, 4 stars from me, and I hope your tiny humans have a better sense of humor than mine did this week!

The narrator tells the story of the 3 little pigs, but the child listening wants a longer story. The narrator changes it up to add more pigs, to make them skateboarders and soccer players, and a whole list of them alphabetically. But nothing makes the child happy, even when, in the end, the wolf doesn’t eat any more pigs. All the pigs are lined up on an abacus, making it easy for your little story readers to work on their counting along with the wolf.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me. Too Many Pigs and One Big Bad Wolf will be out on September 27, 2022. Preorder today!

 

Abuelita and I Make Flan by Adriana Hernandez Bergstrom

Abuelita and I Make Flan by Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 stars

A lovely look at a Cuban dish and family tradition through the eyes of little Anita. It’s her Abeulo’s (grandfather’s) birthday, and today she gets to help her Abuelita (grandmother) make Flan for the party. Only, before they start, Anita accidently breaks the special serving tray they always use. And as she’s helping Abeulita make the flan, she’s nervous the whole time about what will happen when she tells Abeulo and Abeulita about the broken serving dish. In the end, everything works out and she learns a little bit about her Abeulo as well.

I loved this book, but as someone whose Spanish is very basic, I needed to reference the translations in the back quite a bit. Still an amazing read for our family, and my little now wants to use the Flan recipe to make our own flan sometime soon!

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me. Abuelita and I Make Flan will be out on August 9, 2022. Preorder it today!

 
 

The Spring Rabbit by Angela McAllister & Christopher Corr

The Spring Rabbit: An Easter Tale by Angela McAllister, Christopher CorrFiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars

First off, this book is stunningly illustrated. The cover was what first sucked me in when I saw this on NetGalley, and I was hopeful that the illustrations would be as beautiful inside as outside. I was not disappointed!! Christopher Corr’s illustrations pair wonderfully with Angela McAllister’s text. And, as someone who was raised religious but it not religious, I was very appreciative of how McAllister approached a usually religious holiday (Easter and the Easter Bunny) and brought it back to its’ non-religious roots. Spring saves a bird that has fallen from the trees by turning it into a bunny. In exchange, the other birds help the new bunny repay Spring for her generosity by giving her a basket of eggs, which she asks them to share with the children of a nearby town to show that them spring is coming.

5 out of 5 starts from me, and a “very very pretty” from my tiny reviewer. I would gladly add a physical copy of this book to my personal library!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group for this Advance Review Copy. The Spring Rabbit was published in April and is now available.

 

Galatea by Madeline Miller

Galatea by Madeline MillerFiction; Fantasy, Short Stories
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5.0 stars!

Galatea started her life as a marble sculpture, the work of her husband. But he got mad when she didn’t exist merely to be his arm candy. So he locks her away. Despite that, she finds a way to exact her revenge, and break free from him.

Look, I will read every single thing that Madeline Miller publishes, and every single time, I will get chills. This short story was, in my opinion, too short. I wanted more. And yet, it felt complete at the same time. Her prose is so beautiful, and each character feels so complete. I don’t want to comment much on the story – because it’s so short – for fear of giving it away. But grab this short story ASAP and read it. There is no happily ever after, but there is beauty and pain and acceptance of who you are.

 

Pugs Cause Traffic Jams by Jennifer McGrath & Kathryn Durst

Pugs Cause Traffic Jams by Kathryn Durst, Jennifer McGrathFiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 stars

Kirby the pug has gone missing, and as their owner searches for them, they see all different kinds of dogs. Each breed of dog is said to be something specific, like “Huskies are singers” (as the owner of a Husky mix, I can confirm this) but in the end, the author maintains that pugs cause traffic jams. And maybe become internet sensations?

The story is told through speech bubbles, as Kirby’s owner searches for them. The book is very well illustrated, and my little review (age 5, pet lover) giggled about all the different dog’s traits, and pointed out which ones reminded her of dogs in our own life. Not only would I get this for any kid who loves dogs, I am tempted to pick it up as a birthday gift for a couple of pug lovers in my own life because I know it would make them laugh.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and author for providing it to me. Pugs Cause Traffic Jams is out now!

 

Tayra’s Not Talking by Christine Battuz & Lana Button

Tayra's Not Talking by Christine Battuz, Lana ButtonFiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 stars

Tayra is new in school and she’s not saying a single word. Her classmates keep asking her questions, they even try speaking LOUDER and it really doesn’t work. Things get a little rough for a bit, but their teacher reminds them that sometimes people don’t feel ready to talk, and instead of listening to what they say with their words, perhaps the students should use their eyes to see what Tayra says with her actions.

My little reviewer (age 5) really loved this book. They are also sometimes a bit shy and overwhelmed, and don’t appreciate it when people try to get them to talk when they’re not ready. So seeing that Tayra was able to communicate with her friends without words was very neat for her. I’d recommend this to every single preschool and early elementary school teacher, because I think it’s super important. Highly, highly, recommend!

Spoilers here 😉

At the end of the book, Tayra doesn’t magically start speaking. She says nothing throughout the whole book, and I think that might be the most important lesson that this book imparts to kiddos. Because not everything is “fixed” by the end of the book and sometimes people can’t or won’t talk, for a myriad of reasons.

A huge thank you to the publisher and the author for providing me with an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review. Tayra’s Not Talking will be out on June 7, 2022.

 

Edward and Annie by Caryn Rivadeneira

Fiction; Children’s Lit, Educational
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 stars

Edward and Annie is the super cute, based on real penguins, tale from the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. The penguins know something is different, but can’t figure out what, when they follow their caretaker through the aquarium. They visit lots of different animals at Shedd, including sea otters, whales, and turtles. While wandering around, they realize that there are no people there to visit them!

The book is super cute and talks a bit about Shedd and the programs that they host at the end. I would 100% buy this if I was visiting Chicago, or Shedd, as a souvenir. I would also happily buy it to add to our library at home, since my zoo and aquarium loving 5 year old really enjoyed this book, and I loved how wonderfully it was illustrated! 4.5 stars from me, and 5 stars (“for the turtles!! and the penguins!!!” from my little reviewer.

My thanks to Netgalley for providing me with an ARC copy of this book for review. Edward and Annie is out now!

February Books in Review

February Books in Review

The book If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane is on a bookshelf. It's facing out with other books next to it with their spines showing. // Copyright Emily Wenzel

February, the shortest month of the year! At the end of January, we all went into isolation after positive tests. Thankfully, our cases were mild and my biggest symptom was a headache that wouldn’t quit. But by the time February rolled around, we were still in isolation and I was ready to devour some light books. I finished up one that I’d been reading before quarantine (Murder at Westminster) and then devoured the Stage Dive series. I ended up having quite a successful month of reading, with 13 new books read (10 adult + young adult, 3 children’s). Five of them were ARC copies, and only one was a physical book. Everything I read this month was fiction, but maybe next month I’ll finally crack one of the non-fiction books on my list?

Books Read: 13
Pages Read: 3,789

Favorite books: Project Hail Mary, The Girl with the Scarlet Ribbon
Least favorite books: Lead, Deep

Murder at Westminster by Magda Alexander

Fiction; Historical Mystery
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.25 stars

Kitty Worthington is an amateur sleuth and while she doesn’t ever mean to get involved in these things, it seems she can’t help herself. This is the second book in the Kitty Worthington Mysteries series, but I haven’t read the first novel. There are some light spoilers for the first book, but I think I would still feel surprised if I read it.

The book takes place in London in 1923. Kitty’s trying to avoid her debut season as much as possible, and then someone tangentially connected to her is murdered. And someone close to her is blamed for it. Kitty is positive that they couldn’t have done it, so she uses her connections to ask around, and even gets her maid and a Scotland Yard Inspector to help her a bit. Can she solve the murder? And what happens when she gets a little too close to things?

I’m not usually a fan of murder mysteries or thrillers, but I picked this one up anyways, because I have a weak spot for historical novels where women break the rules. This is a very light mystery, and it won’t have you jumping every time you hear a noise. I loved Kitty, even when I rolled my eyes at her, and I was excited by how the book ended.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.

 
 

The Stage Dive Series (1-4) by Kylie Scott

Lick by Kylie ScottFiction; Romance
Lick ⭐⭐⭐ 3.5 stars
Play ⭐⭐⭐ 3.0 stars
Lead ⭐⭐⭐ 3.25 stars
Deep ⭐⭐ 2.5 stars

At the beginning of the month, while coming out of a ten days of isolation due to catching Omicron, I powered through this spicy series in a couple of days. While they were full of expected tropes (a drunken Vegas wedding, fake dating, friends to lovers, and a one night stand resulting in a pregnancy), I appreciated how the author didn’t shy away from the darker side of rock and roll (paparazzi, drugs, rehab) and the characters weren’t all tall, blond, and skinny. Not much variety – they were all still white – but a couple female leads on the curvier side was nice. Lick and Lead were my favorite, and I finished Deep just to finish the series, but won’t reach for it again. Full reviews of all of them on Storygraph, linked above.

A Lot Like Adios by Alexis Daria

A Lot Like Adiós by Alexis DariaFiction; Romance
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.0 stars

I really liked the first book in this series by Alexis Daria, so when I saw she’d published a second one, I put it right on my TBR list. Alexis Daria makes her books like a perfect recipe. A dash of awkward friends who mutually crushed on each other, with a heavy dose of estranged family members, with two individuals driven to go their own way in their jobs, and a few cups of sneaking around makes for a super cute novel!

Childhood friends are torn apart by the choices one of them makes right as they head off to college, and they haven’t spoken to each other in years, when business brings them together. Gabe has to head back to New York (he’d rather be anywhere else) to open another branch of his very successful gym. His best friend from high school, Michelle (Mich), is hired to help with the marketing. Sparks fly when they reunite, but can they make it work this time? And how sexy is that dance at the quinceanera? Very, very sexy!

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlaneFiction; Romance
⭐⭐⭐ 3.5 stars

I picked this up on a whim at the bookstore and it was exactly what I needed to read on a weekend away. Laurie’s life gets rocked when her very long-term boyfriend (and coworker!) leaves her. Thinking he’d eventually find his way back to her, she’s shocked when things turn out very differently. She plots her revenge and with the help of another coworker, fakes a relationship, which sparks a bunch of changes in her looks, and life outlook. But Laurie and her coworker Jamie find out it can be hard to be in a fake relationship when you’re falling for the person you’re fake dating. Ends in a HEA!

The Girl with the Scarlet Ribbon by Suzanne Goldring

The Girl with the Scarlet Ribbon: An emotional and gripping World War 2 historical novel by Suzanne GoldringFiction; Historical
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 stars

The Girl with the Scarlet Ribbon tells the story of Gabriella and her younger brother, living in Florence in 1943. They’re struggling to survive, and when bad things happen, Gabriella is determined to right her wrongs and do what she can to make things better. It’s also the story of Sofia, who is mourning her recently deceased father, an Italian painter. Her father never said much about the inspirations behind his paintings, and as she struggled to catalog them, she realizes one painting is missing.

The book switches between the two times as the story is told, weaving the tales together, until you learn how Sofia and Gabriella are connected. Sofia and her mother take a trip to Florence, where they meet a sister that she never knew her father had, and learn about the missing painting. The two characters – Sofia and Gabriella – are welcome narrators, and the story weaves and bobs as you find the clues to what Sofia’s father shared in his paintings, and what he could never talk about after his time in Florence in 1943.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.

 
 
 

Brand-New Bubbe by Sarah Aronson

Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.5 stars

Jillian’s mom gets remarried, and her new stepdad comes with a brand-new (to her) grandma. And Jillian isn’t impressed. She’s already got two grandmas, and doesn’t see why she needs another one. But her new grandma, Bubbe, works hard to win her over. With a (not so gentle) nudge from her mom and stepdad, she agrees to give Bubbe a chance. Jillian feels a bit guilty though, because she worries that loving her new grandma will make her other grandmas feel left out. So she comes up with a plan to bring her whole family together. What could go wrong?

My little review gave this five (really really big) stars and I give it 4 1/2. The book is not only beautifully illustrated, it’s got a wonderful story that is so great for helping kids embrace blended families, and teaching all children that learning to love someone new doesn’t mean the people you already love will be loved less. It’s a delightfully multi-cultural book with three very different and fun grandmas, and I love that Sarah Aronson used the word “kvetch” in a kid’s book.

As an added bonus, the author includes three recipes that are mentioned in the book in the back. We didn’t make any of them but I get hungry every time I read the book!

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.  This book is available for preorder, and will be out in August 2022!

 

Bear With Me by David Michael Slater

Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐ 3.75 stars

Max is off to his first day of kindergarten, and even though he’s nervous, he’s not too worried. After all, he’s got his bear, Mr. Kalamazoo with him to help keep him safe. But his first day doesn’t go quite as planned. Max and Mr. Kalamazoo end up in a bit of trouble, and just when they think the worst is happening, a new friend reminds them that big changes are hard, and tomorrow is another day to start again.

My little reviewer (age 5) gives this no stars because the bear was “just too scary and mean looking” for her to like the book, even though she did think it was funny at times. I give it 4 stars, but I’m knocking off a quarter scaring my target audience. *If* your audience is not as tender hearted as mine, I think this is a great book for kids worried about making the transition to Kindergarten or a new school. It’s a cute story that shows that big changes can be scary, but can also be broken down into smaller steps. I think the book is both well written and well illustrated and I would recommend it to kids making the transition to Kindergarten as a way to open up conversations on how they feel about it.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.  This book is available for preorder, and will be out in April 2022!

The Boy and the Mountain by Mario Bellini & Marianna Coppo

Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.0 stars

This story is the tale of a little boy who lives near a mountain, and loves that mountain. He’s also a budding artist who draws the mountain. But no matter how many times he draws it, he can’t seem to get it right. So he fills a backpack and sets off to hike up the mountain for a closer look.

My little reviewer (age 5) gave this story 3 stars, saying that she thought it was pretty, but not very funny. She’s a tough critic. The illustrations in the book are beautiful, as one would expect for a tale about a little artist. So beautiful, that I would happily have prints made and hang them on my kiddo’s walls. And while the story is cute, it doesn’t flow as well as I would like. It meanders up the mountain slowly, but then rushes back down for dinner, much like the little boy. While I’m more generous than my little reviewer, I’d give this story 4 stars for the beautiful illustrations and cute story, but not more.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.  This book is available for preorder, and will be out in June 2022!

 

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Project Hail Mary by Andy WeirFiction; Science Fiction
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5.0 stars!

Ryland Grace wakes up feeling fuzzy, he can’t remember things. And as he slowly regains his physical strength and memories, he realizes he’s the sole survivor on a spaceship light years from Earth. And his job is to save the planet. No big deal, right? He’s just out in space all alone, trying to an entire planet. 

Project Hail Mary has been on my TBR pile since shortly after it came out, but I haven’t been able to start it until now. Usually I tear through books in a day or two, but this one. Whoa, this one needed me to stop and savor it. I cried, I laughed, and I got so invested in Ryland Grace and his trials and triumphs. On the surface, it’s a hilarous science fiction novel with a good amount of actual science in it. On the other hand, it’s a commentary on friendship, and the endurance of humanity as a single man faces a task that is too much for him alone, and yet, he does it anyways. The ending was beautiful and heartbreaking.

I haven’t read anything else by Andy Weir, but I would happily pick up another one of his novels again, but maybe not when I’m hoping to relax on vacation. Absolutely five stars for this one.

Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirFiction; Young Adult, Fantasy
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.75 stars

Laia is a Scholar in the Empire, which is ruled by the Martials. When her family is destroyed by the martials, she is forced to align herself with the Resistance in hopes of saving her brother. She’s fighting for her life and his. Elias is considered one of the best Martial soldiers of his time, he hates it. Taken from a life he loved to become an assassins, he’s trying to escape.

An Ember in the Ashes is based on Ancient Rome, and is griping. You alternate between Laia and Ellias’ perspectives and while they’re both main characters, they have very different goals. But both of them are trying to be better, to save the people they love and themselves. I couldn’t read fast enough. Then tension between the two main characters, as well as a host of secondary characters, had me staying up way too late to finish this novel, and immediately reaching for the second in the series.

The book is not light by any means, and I can’t check enough content warnings for it. But it’s griping, and wonderfully written, and shows that sometimes, the thing that makes us human, is our need to persevere, even when the odds are against us.

January Books in Review

January Books in Review

Fable by Adrienne Young with a Ammie Y'all rainbow mug and an open book underneath, on a light colored blanket

One of the things I’m endeavoring to do this year is be better about reviewing the books I read. For the past seven years, I’ve tracked the books I’ve read each year, but I haven’t reviewed them in any regular fashion. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve often forgotten to give them star ratings, and unless the book was wonderful or terrible, I couldn’t remember if I liked it enough to recommend it. But only recently, when I picked up a book at a used book sale here that I vaguely remembered reading about 20 years ago, (while tucked up in my grandma’s spare room, reading the romance novels I was most definitely not allowed to read) and started to reread it, I realized that reviewing my books might be useful. Because that nostalgic book from my teen years? Not only did it not age well, but it was poorly written. I could have saved myself a few Euros and a couple hours of eye rolling.

In addition, I’ve recently taken the next step as a crazy book lover, and gotten approved for ARC (advanced reader copy) books, and I need to review them. You can follow along with my reading progress in real time on The Storygraph. Here’s my profile, I’d love if you follow or friend me there. 

Books Read: 8

Favorite books: Fable, My Lala
Least favorite books: Monet and the Monster Magic

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore

Portrait of a Scotsman (A League of Extraordinary Women Book 3) by [Evie Dunmore]

Fiction; Historical Romance
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.0 stars

A well written novel, and the 3rd in this feminist set of historical romance novels. I didn’t love these characters as much as I did some of the other characters, but as usual, her writing is amazing and I enjoy the modern perspective on historical romance.

 

Shrinkage by Krystaelynne Sanders Diggs

Fiction; Children’s Literature
⭐⭐⭐ 3.5 stars

If you’ve read Hair Love, you’re going to enjoy reading Shrinkage. This book is a sweet, and beautifully illustrated, book about a young girl and her magical hair. She styles her hair in a myriad of ways that show that her hair is magic. Great for all kids, but as a curly haired (white) mom with a curly hair (white) daughter, we especially loved reading it. As my daughter and I read the book, we talked about which hairstyles would work on our hair, and which wouldn’t, and about how amazing curly hair is. While I think this book is beautifully illustrated, there wasn’t much plot, so while we enjoyed it, it wasn’t one that was requested for a reread. 3.5 stars for the topic and the illustrations though!

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.

Beyond: The Founding of Valdemar #1 by Mercedes Lackey

Beyond (The Founding of Valdemar Book 1) by [Mercedes Lackey]Fiction; Fantasy
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.25 stars

I’ve been hoping for a ‘this is how it all began’ since I first started reading these books 20 years ago. On the one hand, it was everything I had hoped for, and on the other, it fell a little short of the court drama that I had hoped for. All in all, I am excited to see where this series goes.
 
 
 

My Lala by Thomas King & Charlene Chua

Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4.0 stars

Lala is a mischievous little girl who has a box full of treasures and one day, decides to use one of those treasures to let everyone know what all in the world belongs to Lala. This short story is perfect for little adventurers, and features a main character of Asian heritage. It’s beautifully illustrated, and the writing flows really well. It was one that my daughter asked me to read again and again, and I was glad to do so.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me. This book is available for preorder, and will be out in June 2022!

Sweet by Elizabeth Hunter

Sweet: A Novella (Love Stories on 7th and Main Book 4) by [Elizabeth Hunter]Fiction; Romance
⭐⭐⭐ 3.75 stars

Super cute little novella, and a lovely way to read more about spider and daisy from the other books. I wish she’d written them a whole novel, their stories deserved more!
 
 
 

Monet and the Monster Magic – RE Lockett

Monet and the Monster Magic by [R.E. Lockett]Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐ 2.0 stars

I wanted to love this story based on the description of it, and the text, but unfortunately, the illustrations were really lacking. Monet is an adventurous child who sees a monster in the woods and goes off on adventures with them. The story is fantastic, and if I was judging this on the text alone, I would give it 4.5 stars. But the illustrations feel rushed and unfinished, and takes away from the story as a whole, leaving both myself and my age appropriate child disappointed with the tale.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me. This book is available for preorder and will be out in March 2022.

Bear Loves Music by Pang Shuo & Gan Yufang

Fiction; Children’s Lit
⭐⭐⭐ 3.5 stars

When I saw this book, I had high hopes for it, but in the end, it fell a bit flat. Little Bear plays her flute for her friends and neighbors, and some of them react poorly, but then some of them really like the music. While the illustrations in the book are lovely, and it flows fairly well, it didn’t capture the interest of myself or my daughter. And, there’s no real story or moral dilemma in the book, so a problem is never solved. Cute, and something I would enjoy checking out of the library, but not something that I would want to add to my home library.

I was provided an ARC copy of this book through Netgalley. My thanks to the publisher and the author for providing it to me.

Fable by Adrienne Young

Fable: A Novel by [Adrienne Young]Fiction; Young Adult, Fantasy
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5.0 stars!

I’ve seen this book around quite a bit since it was published, and I can’t believe it took me two years to read it. Absolutely breathtaking. The start was a bit slow, but the character development was good. You’re really pulled into Fable’s story. While most of the plot twists were somewhat predictable, the way the book ended was unexpected. Currently impatiently waiting for the second book to come up in my library holds so I can find out how the story ends! As an aside, while I love library books, I’m contemplating buying both Fable and Namesake just because the cover designs are SO PERFECT that I want them in my library.

Year End Review: 2021 Shopping Diary

Year End Review: 2021 Shopping Diary

babaa cardigan natural

Last spring, I wrote about how the pandemic and an international move had affected my wardrobe, and how I am working on slowly rebuilding my closet. My goal was to purchase less than 20 items this year, and for half of those items to be from small and/or ethical shops, or be used.

So, how am I doing? Back in April, I made a wish list of 19 items that I wanted to get in 2021. Of those, I purchased just 11 items, and spent 2/3 of the budget I set for myself. Five of the eleven items have been from small shops, and one additional item is from a company that I believe is fairly ethical (Prana). The most expensive item I’ve purchased this year was the sweater in the photo above. After a lot of dreaming and debating, I splurged on the gorgeous Babaa no 19 cardigan in July. It’s been a wonderful staple in my closet (paired above with a tank from Simply Merino and my trusty old Levi’s 711 jeans.

Narrowing down my closet and taking inventory has allowed me to really dial in exactly what I wanted to add to my wardrobe, and I’ve been super happy with my purchases because of that. If it wasn’t on the list, I had to stop and really evaluate whether I wanted to spend my budget on it or not. The Prana Cozy Up top above was a bit of a jump for me as far as a new color, but it’s quickly become a favorite piece. Of course, the weather has also dictated a few of my purchases. After a late summer rainstorm left me dripping in the hallway at preschool, my shoes squelching as I walked (oh yes), I realized I need some rain boots. But the abysmal summer (read: cold and rainy) meant I hadn’t purchased any sandals.

I’ve also realized that my car-free, apartment-dwelling-dog, life means I’m putting a lot more miles on my shoes than in years past. My shoes and boots are wearing out faster than I’d planned, so that is something I’ll need to take into account going forward. I desperately need to replace a couple pairs of shoes, but I’ve been indecisive about what will fit best in my closet. Last fall, I purchased a pair of Allbirds Mizzles, but I don’t find them to be as comfortable as my classic wool sneakers or my tree skippers, since the fabric is thicker and doesn’t breathe as well. Both my Tree Skippers and my Wool Runners are at the end of their life span, as are my Hausschule (slippers – a staple in German homes). While I can wait til next spring or summer to replace my Tree Skippers, I’ll need a new pair of casual sneakers quite soon. I had debated replacing my slippers, but instead mended the wool and will hopefully get another few months out of them.

Doc Marten’s were on my shopping wish list this fall, but I’ve been debating whether I need them. So, each time I’ve gotten ready to leave the house, I’ve asked myself if the shoes I’m wearing are the best choice (going for a run, absolutely, my running shoes are aces) or if something would be better (a little cold and rainy, maybe the docs would work better here) and that’s helped me dial in my wardrobe gaps as well.

I had planned a trip to Athens for December, and with it, I’d planned to purchase a pair of sandals or two, using up some of my remaining budget, at my favorite sandal maker in Athens. But the trip was cancelled and I didn’t end up buying anything else with the Christmas rush happening. I’m doing a no buy this month, and then in February, I’ll reevaluate my wardrobe again. I think I’ll even do a round up of all the things I bought in 2021, along with links, and then post my 2022 goals then.

I’d love to hear about your wardrobe staples, or if you have favorite cute but comfortable shoes!

Time in a Finite Resource

Time in a Finite Resource

Lahaina Maui Hawaii // Emily Wenzel Photography

Time is finite. You always think there will be more of it. That you’ll have one more chance to visit your favorite restaurant. To wear that dress you love (before it doesn’t fit again). That you’ll watch another sunset or sunrise or ride on a plane and stand in front of something that a group of people built hundreds or thousands of years ago.

But time is finite.

If we have learned nothing in the past two years, I hope we’ve learned how finite our time is. How quickly our days can go from before to after. It’s something I struggle with, every day. This is the last moment you’ll have that is exactly this moment. Think about it. Even if you feel like tomorrow will be the same as today, it won’t be. It’ll be tomorrow, not today. And today will become yesterday. And none of us know how many days we have here on this planet.

I am by no means encouraging you to do stupid shit, but I am saying that we need to embrace each good moment, and remember to be present in them. Remember that chances are worth taking and you can do impossible things too. Today, I’ll cross the 10k mark for my first novel. I feel like shouting from the top of the nearest church tower, and I feel like puking and deleting it. But the point is, I’ve been wanting to do this for years. What if I’d never had the chance?

“There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,
And you ask “What if I fall?”
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson

Time in finite. Take the trip, hug your friends, say I love you. Listen to the voice inside you that guides your heart, let go of the things that aren’t making your life better, and fight for the future. Because I’ve had more regrets about not doing things than I have from doing things.

 

Photo is from my personal collection, taken in Hawai’i.

Another Spin Around the Sun

Another Spin Around the Sun

The author and her daughter at the beach. She had dark curly hair and is wearing a blue-green tank, the daughter is blond with rainbow stripes on her top. All around them is white sand.

It was my birthday in August, and with it, I am squarely in my mid-30s now. In some ways, I feel very old (hello, TikTok stars, how are you all such babies?!) and in other ways, I feel like just gotten to a point in my life where I feel aware of who I am. I am more confident in making decisions based on my desires, and not the whims of the media or outside influences. This ability ebbs and flows though, I am not impervious to outside influence.

The last year was full of artistic and professional burnout. There was a point in there, when I debated never picking up a camera again. I couldn’t find joy in my chose craft at all. So, I stepped back from photography. I finished renovating, painting, and then sold the home I thought we’d live in for decades. I packed our lives into boxes, put them on a ship, and moved across the world. I started writing again, I went back to playing the piano, I started painting and designing and making digital art. I did nothing. I read a bunch of books. I danced in the kitchen.

We spent months without seeing anyone outside our home, with our only contact being on a screen. There were days in the past year when the weight of the world at large, and the world at home, was enough to crush me. To keep me from wanting to get out of bed. To make me question the very fabric of who I am, and what I’ve dreamed of. On those days, I questioned every decision I’d made in recent years, but especially the ones that led to us living abroad. And on other days, the path felt very clear and focused. Clarity in one area of my life often leads to clarity in another area as well.

As I posted earlier this year, I reevaluated my entire wardrobe after we moved. I’ve been working hard to slowly add only pieces I love to my wardrobe, and to shop from smaller, sustainable, and more local, brands as much as possible. It hasn’t been easy, but as much as it’s hard work, I do enjoy knowing that I’ve carefully selected all the pieces that I’m adding into my closet.

And as we venture out into the world at large, as things have reopened and we make more plans for the future, I am also reevaluating where I spend my time, my money, and my energy. Trying to figure out my next steps for work and life, and finding my own voice again. I’ve stopped fighting it when I have the urge to deep dive into something, and instead, embrace it. I research the heck out of something, and then, when I’ve found my answers, I can securely move forward.

I’ve made another trip around the sun and come to the realization that I’m most likely not neurotypical, and that it both makes quite a bit of sense, and doesn’t surprise me much at all. I’ve realized that making new friends is like speed dating and that’s made it easier. I’ve decided that I’m going to conquer my fears and say yes more. I’m going to try things and tell myself it’s okay to suck at them. I’m going remember to make mistakes and not get tangled up in mental self-flagellation afterwards. I’m going to teach myself – and the little human I’m raising – that mistakes are normal, that being perfect isn’t the goal, that joy can be found in the darkest of days, and that the little moments are the most important.

About a year ago, I started asking N to tell me a good thing every night, and we do a bad thing as well. At first, it started as a way to find small joys in the midst of a life changing pandemic. And then, it became a way to remind us both that happiness can be found in the darkest of times, if one remembers to turn on the light (Harry Potter). And then, it made me realize that it was a way to know my child better. To know what brings them joy, and to find ways to turn the bad moments around. To find the things that really matter (spoiler alert: it’s time with friends, ice cream, Story Time on Zoom, and calling her grandma) so that we can keep finding that joy in life.

So, in a way, I guess my 4 year old has taught me one of the greatest lessons of the past two years. Figure out what little things make you happy every day, and keep doing them. If you can’t think of one thing that made you happy that day, you need to reevaluate your priorities.