Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Armadillo Antics by Bill Martin Jr. & Michael Sampson
Illustrated by Nathalie Beauvois [Blog Tour: Review + Giveaway]

Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the Armadillo Antics blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by! If you would like to win a copy of this book, be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. ๐Ÿ‘‡ For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About The Book:

Author: Bill Martin Jr., Michael Sampson, Nathalie Beauvois (Illustrations)
Pub. Date: April 26, 2022
Publisher: Brown Books Kids
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 32
Find it: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, TBD, Bookshop.org

Join the Armadillo on His Nightly Romp!

Children will love the rhythm and rhyme that are hallmarks of the beloved author duo of Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 as they follow the adventurous armadillo through nighttime fun as dawn approaches.

Bill Martin Jr. was the beloved author of more than three hundred books for children and teachers, including the classics Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Michael Sampson taught kindergarten through fourth grade before meeting fellow literacy expert Bill Martin Jr at a conference in Tucson, Arizona in 1978. They established a lifelong friendship and collaborated on many bestselling and award-winning books for children, including Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?


"A wonderfully musical nighttime romp with stunning illustrations." --Matt de la Peรฑa, Newbery Medal-Winning, New York Times Bestselling Author

"Beauvois, whose elaborately textured, highly dimensional surfaces recognize the paper collage legacy of Eric Carle and Lois Ehlert, creates a series of striking contrasts to the repeating text's simple rhymes. As the mammals appear, ready to "romp and play till the night is done," they're shown in deep jewel tones with patterning reminiscent of a Missoni sweater... tagging along with this self-possessed, graphically stylish critter and chanting its name as it leaps, digs, and dines makes for a memorable outing." --Publishers Weekly, starred review

"For a romping night in the life of a roly-poly armadillo, pick up Armadillo Antics!"--Parade Magazine

"This short rhyming story about a night in the life of an armadillo is cozy and soothing. Beauvois's collage-style art, especially the armadillo curled up inside its next, gives Eric Carle vibes. A collection of eight facts on the final page will fascinate kids and grown-ups alike."--Parents Magazine

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom were two books I read to my kids when they were younger. They've mostly grown out of those stories now, but we still have them on our shelves. I'm sure I'll pack them away eventually and save them for any future grandkids I might have. Unfortunately, Armadillo Antics failed to meet my expectations. 

It starts off well enough . . . the story flows and paints a pretty picture. However, once the armadillo shows up, everything falls apart. The repetition was expected (if a little overdone), so there was a lot of Armadillo, Armadillo, Armadillo, _____. It mostly made sense. The armadillo ran, grinned, leapt, and ran again. It even dug a hole and danced a jig, but then it says, "Armadillo, Armadillo, Armadillo, MIGHT," and I have no idea what that's supposed to mean. It didn't mesh with the rest of the story. Additionally, when the armadillo was digging, he was digging into his burrow. How was he then leaping and whatnot if he was supposedly underground? 

I think if they rearranged the sequence of events, it might help the overall flow of the story. Also, at one point the armadillo is supposed to flee from an angry bee, but the book just said he had armor like a knight. What damage could a bee do to something with bone-like material covering its entire body? It was bit nonsensical. 

If you're reading Armadillo Antics to a baby (or potentially a toddler), I think it would work. It's no Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, but it's an okay read. Although, it's probably not one I'll be adding to our shelves. 

About Bill Martin Jr.:

BILL MARTIN JR. was the beloved author of more than 300 books for children and teachers, including the classics Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, which was illustrated by his friend Eric Carle, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Bill was elected to the Reading Hall of Fame by the International Literacy Association. The Bill Martin, Jr Picture Book Award, which is the Kansas State award for best children’s picture book, was established in his name in 1996. Bill wrote Armadillo Antics with Michael Sampson when he moved to Texas, in honor of the fun, inquisitive creatures that roamed the woods outside his house. Website | Goodreads

About Michael Sampson:

taught kindergarten through fourth grade before meeting fellow literacy expert Bill Martin Jr. at a conference in Tucson, Arizona in 1978. They established a lifelong friendship and collaborated on many bestselling and award-winning books for children, including Chicka Chicka 1, 2, 3 and Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See? Sampson often speaks at schools, book festivals, and literacy conferences, where he is known for his high-energy, entertaining performances. Dr. Sampson is a Fulbright Scholar and a professor of literacy at St. John’s University in New York City. Website | Twitter | Instagram | Goodreads

About Nathalie Beauvois:

NATHALIE BEAUVOIS has a graphic design background in advertising and has also studied industrial design. Nathalie started her career in the art departments of ad agencies and eventually transitioned into freelance illustrating. Since then, she has illustrated dozens of books and hundreds of magazines in countries all over the world. Her creations always start the traditional way — with paper and pencil. Depending on the visual task at hand, she mixes in techniques such as watercolor, collage, vector drawing and Photoshop coloring and texturizing. When not playing with the antics of armadillos, she is happily living and working in Argentina with her family. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a finished copy of ARMADILLO ANTICS, US Only.

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl by Julie Kagawa
[Blog Tour: Spotlight + Giveaway]


Halito! Welcome to the next stop on the Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours. Thanks for stopping by! If you would like to win a copy of this book, be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of this post. ๐Ÿ‘‡ For the full tour schedule, please visit the Rockstar Book Tours website.

About The Book:

Title: SHINJI TAKAHASHI AND THE MARK OF THE COATL (Society of Explorers and Adventurers, #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Pub. Date: April 5, 2022
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Formats: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Pages: 320

Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is the first book in a globe-trotting adventure that combines high-tech wizardry, old-world legends and a little bit of magic.

Shinji Takahashi is just an ordinary kid. An ordinary homeschooled smart-alecky orphan kid being raised by his aunt Yui. But when a magical guardian decides to use him as a conduit to awaken its power, Shinji’s life takes a turn for the extraordinary. Captured by the menacing Hightower Corporation, which is bent on using the guardian’s magic for its own nefarious purposes, Shinji must team up with a brilliant young tech whiz named Lucy and her robot mouse, Tinker, to escape the Corporation’s evil clutches.

Together Shinji and Lucy turn to the venerable Society of Explorers and Adventurers and its ragtag cast of spelunkers, hackers, mapmakers, pilots, and mythology experts (among other things) to return the guardian to its rightful home and release Shinji from its magic—which seems to be draining his life force. Time is ticking, the Hightower Corporation is hot on their tail, and success or failure might depend on one small thing—Shinji finally coming around to the belief that he is anything but ordinary.

Based on the Society of Explorers and Adventurers lore that exist across the Walt Disney Parks, Shinji Takahashi and the Mark of the Coatl is the first book in an all-new action-adventure series that brings S.E.A. into the twenty-first century through a blend of science and magic, and a focus on two young characters on an epic journey through time and place.

About Julie Kagawa:

Julie Kagawa is the New York Times bestselling author of the Iron Fey, Blood of Eden, Talon, and Shadow of the Fox series. She was born in Sacramento, California. But nothing exciting really happened to her there. So, at the age of nine she and her family moved to Hawaii, which she soon discovered was inhabited by large carnivorous insects, colonies of house geckos, and frequent hurricanes. She spent much of her time in the ocean, when she wasn’t getting chased out of it by reef sharks, jellyfish, and the odd eel. She worked as a professional dog trainer for several years, dodging Chihuahua bites and overly enthusiastic Labradors, until her first book sold and she stopped training to write full time. Julie now lives in North Carolina with her husband, two obnoxious cats, and a pair of Australian Shepherds that have more Instagram followers than she does. Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads | Amazon | BookBub

Giveaway Details:
1 winner will receive a finished copy of SHINJI TAKAHASHI AND THE MARK OF THE COATL, US Only.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Birds of California by Katie Cotugno

Synopsis (via Goodreads):  Sparks fly and things get real in this sharply sexy and whip-smart romantic comedy set against the backdrop of a post #metoo Hollywood from New York Times bestselling author Katie Cotugno--page-turning escapist fun in the spirit of Beach Read, The Kiss Quotient, and Red, White and Royal Blue.

Former child actor Fiona St. James dropped out of the spotlight after a spectacularly public crash and burn. The tabloids called her crazy and self-destructive and said she'd lost her mind. Now in her late twenties, Fiona believes her humiliating past is firmly behind her. She's finally regained a modicum of privacy, and she won't let anything--or anyone--mess it up.

Unlike Fiona, Sam Fox, who played her older brother on the popular television show Birds of California, loves the perks that come with being a successful Hollywood actor: fame, women, parties, money. When his current show gets cancelled and his agent starts to avoid his calls, the desperate actor enthusiastically signs on for a Birds of California revival. But to make it happen, he needs Fiona St. James.

Against her better judgment, Fiona agrees to have lunch with Sam. What happens next takes them both by surprise. Sam is enthralled by Fiona's take-no-prisoners attitude, and Fiona discovers a lovable goofball behind Sam's close-up-ready face. Long drives to the beach, late nights at dive bars . . . theirs is the kind of kitschy romance Hollywood sells. But just like in the rom-coms Fiona despises, there's a twist that threatens her new love. Sam doesn't know the full story behind her breakdown. What happens when she reveals the truth?

I was so excited when I received an early copy of Katie Cotugno's Birds of California in the mail. Unfortunately, it ended up being a huge waste of my time. The story, the characters, the conflict . . . it all grated on my nerves. I kept reading (although I should know better by now) hoping it would get better, but the conclusion was just as disappointing. There was zero resolution. Nothing was really addressed or discussed, no epilogue to let us know how events unfolded, just flipping from one page to the next and discovering there wasn't anything left to read. From the synopsis we get a clue as to how the story will unfold, so it was obvious from the start what had happened in Fiona's past, if not the specific details. 

"...set against the backdrop of a post #metoo Hollywood..."

Additionally, the synopsis was VERY misleading. Birds of California was in no way like Beach Read, The Kiss Quotient, or Red, While and Royal Blue (all books I loved). Those were terrible comparisons for this story. It's also NOT a romantic comedy. 

I know this was a review copy, but there were a ridiculous number of spelling and grammar errors in this book. I started marking them as I went along, but decided to give up after about twenty or so sticky notes.

"Would you mind you trying it again?"
"...can almost feel he squish of it underneath..."

Also, Sam masturbates all the time. Bored? Jerks off. Hungry? Jerks off twice and then eats some baby carrots. He watches porn and acts like a total dude, but it was still weird that the author felt the need to mention how often he decided to get himself off throughout the book. He also mentions his mouth "tasting" like jockstraps after he's been drinking (pretty sure he made this reference more than once), and I just want to know how he knew what that would taste like . . . Personal experience? 

Don't even get me started on the sex. It was weird and not at all relatable. I almost wish the author had chosen to fade-to-black instead of making me read through the nonsense that was their "romance" in this book. They were talking and sort of insulting each other as foreplay, and then suddenly it was "happening for him." Seriously, her whispering something about lying in his ear shouldn't have made him blow his load like that. Especially with how frequently he gets himself off . . . 

Sam Fox was a coward. He let his agent walk all over him and claimed it was due to inexperience and a lack of understanding, but that was a cop out. He just didn't want to put forth the effort required to learn and do something about it. He also sought Fiona out for purely selfish reasons, was embarrassed by her outbursts, and didn't even ask her what her nightmare was about. Sam only cared about himself and what he could gain (or lose) from a situation. He was a garbage person that didn't deserve what little time she gave him. He was a terrible friend, an awful brother, and an even worse son. He's broke, can't pay his rent, but cares A LOT about how the public perceives him. Immature, shallow, obnoxious - the list goes on. He definitely wasn't a heartthrob or anything to swoon over.

When I turned the last page, my first thought was: "What the fuck was that?" I couldn't understand how it had ended without actually ending. Other problems I had . . . 

1) Why did Fiona's dad suddenly decide to be present? What triggered his need to be involved again after checking out for nearly a decade? It wasn't believable, nor was it explained.

2) Does Sam eventually dump Russ and get an agent that actually gives a shit? Why was his agent being cagey and condescending to begin with??

3) How did Estelle get Sam's number? 

4) It's worth mentioning again that the sex was weird and not romantic AT ALL. 

5) Knew where the story was going even though we got a lackluster explanation from Fiona when she FINALLY decided to talk to Sam about it. 

6) WHAT HAPPENED WITH JAMIE? Were there repercussions? 

7) What were Fiona's nightmares about? Why did she like True Crime so much? Why was it helpful??

8) It feels like we learn absolutely nothing about Sam and Fiona. What makes them tick? I wanted more background information to explain why they were the way they were. We're basically forced to accept them as is, and they were both horrible. 

I really, really wanted to like this one, but it was bad. I wish I could get those hours back . . .  (★★⋆☆☆)

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts and opinions are my own. Any quotes I use are from an unpublished copy and may not reflect the finished product.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

DNF&Y [41]

DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative! 

Heartless (Immortal Enemies, #1) by Gena Showalter

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Vengeance is irresistible…

Kaysar the Unhinged One, fae King of Midnight, can drive anyone to madness with his song. A ruthless warrior forged in hate, he lives to force his enemies to their knees. He will stop at nothing to succeed—even abduct and seduce his foe’s beloved bride, ensuring his own child one day sits on the male’s throne. Except, his prize escapes to the mortal realm before the first kiss, her heart transplanted into a mortal beauty with dangerous secrets…

Chantel “Cookie” Bardot is a professional gamer girl great at trash talking, bad at peopling. After a long awaited surgery, she begins to morph into a powerful fae princess. Catapulted into a strange land ruled by a cruel but seductive villain, she must battle flesh and blood monsters and navigate royal intrigues. But the true danger is Kaysar, whose every wicked touch tempts her beyond reason. Should she run…or descend into the darkness with him?

When I saw a book by Gena Showalter on NetGalley, I immediately requested it. Unfortunately, it was the second book in a series (really wish they'd listed that somewhere in the description), and after doing a little research realized it would be better if I read them in order. Luckily, my library had a physical copy of Heartless that I was able to snag. Sadly, this book was a major flop, and not at all what I expected from Showalter. 

For starters, both of the main characters were fucking psychopaths that needed therapy and possibly a padded room somewhere. Chantel "Cookie" said she was "murder curious" before ever leaving the human realm, and didn't really balk when she inevitably killed others. Kaysar's vengeance was understandable, if a little over-the-top. Although, I wasn't sure why the need to destroy his enemies overpowered his desire to search for his sister. Sure, one was more easily accessible than the other, but he seemed like a pretty motivated dude. 

Also, Cookie??? Do you have any idea how distracting it is to be reading about blood and gore only to have the character referred to as a snack? Every time I read the word "Cookie" it lessened the severity of the story. I think it was a poor choice in character names, and the one Kaysar eventually gives her isn't much better. Briar Rose? Seriously? It was unoriginal and unimaginative. I also have no idea if I'm pronouncing his name correctly, and stopped trying to sound out his last name entirely. 

The worldbuilding was lacking, the characters were dull and simple, and the story was repetitive and unnecessarily long. Additionally, the mental whiplash from the main characters was exhausting and exasperating in equal measure. Basically, it went like this:

Chantel: "You lied to me! I'll never forgive you!"
Kaysar: "I promise to do better."
Chantel: "Okay! One more chance."
Kaysar: *allows another truth to surface*
Chantel: "You lied to me! I'm leaving!"
Kaysar: "I will give you jewels! Also, I will do better."
Chantel: "Of course! You're sexy! One more chance, okay?"
Chantel: *gleefully murders everyone*
Kaysar: "You are perfection."
Chantel: "I think I want to go home now."
Kaysar: "MINE."
Chantel: "You're so hot when you're angry."

It was basically this for 200+ pages. There was no character growth, no exploration of the world, and just mind-numbing dialogue between two unhinged people. Chantel assumes she can navigate Kaysar's world because - get this - she played a VIDEO GAME that was similar. Killing in the game and killing in real life? Why would that be different? It was obnoxious. Her understanding of the world was limited, yet she thought she could just survive without too many problems. I got about halfway before calling it quits. (★★⋆☆☆)

You Have a Match by Emma Lord
๐ŸŽง Narrated by Eva Kaminsky

Synopsis (via Goodreads): A new love, a secret sister, and a summer she'll never forget.

When Abby signs up for a DNA service, it’s mainly to give her friend and secret love interest, Leo, a nudge. After all, she knows who she is already: Avid photographer. Injury-prone tree climber. Best friend to Leo and Connie … although ever since the B.E.I. (Big Embarrassing Incident) with Leo, things have been awkward on that front.

But she didn’t know she’s a younger sister.

When the DNA service reveals Abby has a secret sister, shimmery-haired Instagram star Savannah Tully, it’s hard to believe they’re from the same planet, never mind the same parents—especially considering Savannah, queen of green smoothies, is only a year and a half older than Abby herself.

The logical course of action? Meet up at summer camp (obviously) and figure out why Abby’s parents gave Savvy up for adoption. But there are complications: Savvy is a rigid rule-follower and total narc. Leo is the camp’s co-chef, putting Abby's growing feelings for him on blast. And her parents have a secret that threatens to unravel everything.

But part of life is showing up, leaning in, and learning to fit all your awkward pieces together. Because sometimes, the hardest things can also be the best ones.

The lack of communication in this book was slowly driving me insane. There were soooo many secrets and "missed opportunities" for honest conversations. And it wasn't just the kids . . . the adults were equally shady and evasive. At one point I actually wanted to SCREAM IN FRUSTRATION. That's when I knew I needed to stop trying to finish this book. It clearly wasn't working for me, and I'm not going to force myself to continue something I'm not enjoying.

The narrator was great, so bonus points for that. 

Unfortunately, everything else about the book made me cringe. The awkwardness between Abby and Leo, her reluctance to confront anyone about anything, and even the relationship between her and Savvy. Abby had so many opportunities to talk to Leo, Connie, her parents, Savvy, and yet she chose to avoid, avoid, and avoid some more. Every time I thought a conversation was inevitable, something would conveniently happen that kept her from being able to talk about it. I can excuse one or two "unexpected" disruptions, but it can't happen over and over again and still be believable. (★★☆☆☆)

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Ice Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians, #1) by Ruby Dixon

Synopsis (via Goodreads): Fall in love with the out-of-this-world romance between Georgie Carruthers, a human woman, and Vektal, an alien from another planet, in this expanded edition with bonus materials and an exclusive epilogue--in print only!

You'd think being abducted by aliens would be the worst thing that could happen to me. And you'd be wrong. Because now the aliens are having ship trouble, and they've left their cargo of human women--including me--on an ice planet.

We're not equipped for life in this desolate winter wasteland. Since I'm the unofficial leader, I head out into the snow to look for help.

I find help all right. A big blue horned alien introduces himself in a rather . . . startling way. Vektal says that I'm his mate, his chosen female--and that the reason his chest is purring is because of my presence. He'll help me and my people survive, but this poses a new problem.

If Vektal helps us survive, I'm not sure he's going to want to let me go.

I love that Ice Planet Barbarians is something Ruby Dixon initially wrote just for herself. It took years for this book to spiral into the success it is today, and it was totally unexpected. (The power of TikTok, right?) Dixon loved Science Fiction but wanted something more. She wanted something she couldn't find in the books that were already written, so she decided to create her own world and write her own story. All of this is in the author's note. She didn't write this book with the intention of it becoming a bestseller, she wrote it because it made her happy to have blue, pussy-eating aliens with ridged dicks who are led by their khui's and live on a desolate ice planet.

Vektal and his fellow Sa-khui are massive and fierce, but they're also insanely protective of their women and mates. I really liked their reverence for Georgie and the other human women, and how they treated them with the utmost care and respect (initial, non-consensual oral sex aside). And the purring! The idea of a khui resonating in someone's chest - a vibration that rumbled throughout their body - was one that always made me smile. I like when characters are "fated mates" and thought the physical manifestation of their connection was a nice addition to the story.

Does this book have a super deep plot with various fleshed out secondary characters? No. Is that what I expected when I picked up this book? Nope. Ice Planet Barbarians is exactly what I thought it would be: a smutty sci-fi romance with steamy sex scenes and a tolerable storyline. The story wasn't bad, but it's definitely not believable. You absolutely have to suspend your disbelief for this one to work, and certain aspects of the book were entirely too convenient (like how their language barrier was resolved). Did any of that detract from my overall enjoyment of the book? Not even a little. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Ice Planet Barbarians, because I didn't go into it with any expectations other that hot alien sex.

I do dislike that the author changed part of her book because people found a certain aspect upsetting. She had her reasons for including it (she wanted to show how high the stakes were for Georgie and the others), but decided to remove the explicit details to make it more palatable. Dixon said she decided it didn't belong in the book, but she did originally publish it with the rape scene included, and it was there for years before being removed and only vaguely referred to. We all know what's happening even if the author only alludes to it. It's not like the act itself was removed from the book, just mentioned instead of outright explained. I wish the author hadn't changed her book because other people wanted her to, but I can also understand why she did it. (★★★★☆)

I plan on reading the next book in the series and want to thank Berkley Romance for the copies! I also want to thank Blissfully Bookish for the merch (picture originally posted on my Instagram).

Friday, April 1, 2022

State of the ARC [34]

State of the ARC is a monthly meme hosted by Avalinah at Avalinah's Books! It's an opportunity for readers to catch up on their long overdue ARCs, but right now I'm using it to keep up with my upcoming ARCs instead. It helps me stay organized! Edit: State of the ARC is currently being hosted by Sarah (All the Book Blog Names Are Taken) while Evelina is on hiatus.

At Least You Have Your Health by Madi Sinha (4/5)
The Sign for Home by Blair Fell (4/5)
This May End Badly by Samantha Markum (4/12)
Like a House on Fire by Lauren McBrayer (4/26)
Birds of California by Katie Cotugno (4/26)

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians (Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians, #1) by Brandon Sanderson (5/3)
I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (5/3)
Every Summer After by Carley Fortune (5/10)
Starry-Eyed Love (Spark House, #2) by Helena Hunting (5/10)

Primal Animals by Julia Lynn Rubin (5/24)
Desperately Seeking a Duchess (All the Duke's Sins, #2) by Christi Caldwell (5/24)

Fake It Till You Bake It by Jamie Wesley (6/21)
Gilt by Jamie Brenner (6/21)
This Vicious Grace (The Last Finestra, #1) by Emily Thiede (6/28)
One of the Girls by Lucy Clarke (6/28)
A Shoe Story by Jane L. Rosen (6/28)

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin (7/5)
Any Other Family by Eleanor Brown (7/12)
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (7/12)
Some of It Was Real by Nan Fischer (7/26)

The Stars Between Us by Cristin Terrill (8/2)
Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon  (8/9)
Ruthless (Immortal Enemies, #2) by Gena Showalter (8/9)
Luck and Last Resorts (Love, Lists & Fancy Ships, #2) by Sarah Grunder Ruiz (8/9)

Hear Me by Kerry O'Malley Cerra (9/6)
The Make-Up Test by Jenny L. Howe (9/13)