ARC: Witch Summer Night’s Cream

A quick review of A Witch Summer Night's Cream by H.Y. Hanna. #spon | Book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received this book from the author for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Caitlyn Le Fey is looking forward to celebrating Midsummer’s Eve in the tiny English village of Tillyhenge. But when a teenage girl is mysteriously murdered and a priceless love potion goes missing, she and her cousins are plunged into a puzzling mystery.

Is the girl’s death connected to the midnight bonfires at the ancient stone circle? What about the two strangers who recently visited the enchanted chocolate shop belonging to the “village witch”? With her naughty black kitten and toothless old vampire uncle – not to mention the dashing Lord James Fitzroy – all lending a helping hand, Caitlyn sets out to do some magical sleuthing.

But Midsummer’s Eve is fast approaching and spells are going disastrously wrong… Can Caitlyn use her newfound witch powers to find the killer – and maybe even mend a broken heart? (Summary via Amazon.com)

In the latest installment of the Bewitched by Chocolate series (you can see my previous reviews here and here), Caitlyn’s cousin is suspected of murder and Caitlyn has to use her wits and her magic to prove her innocence.

As in previous books, Caitlyn’s relationship with her cousin Pomona is hilarious. Whether they’re debating fashion or chasing murderers, they’re funny and supportive of each other, despite their many differences. There is less information revealed about Caitlyn’s birth family than I would have liked–when will she find out what happened to her birth mother? Why are her grandmother and aunt so reticent? But on the other hand, there is significantly more magic in this book, which was fun.

On the whole, I think this was one of the strongest installments in this series yet. It’s lighthearted and fun with interesting family relationships and a lot of magic.

Top Ten Book Series I Need to Finish Reading

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share the top ten series I need to finish reading. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve noticed lately that I’m really bad about reading the first book of a series, enjoying it, and then never getting around to reading the rest of the series. This year I’ve done my best to finish series, even ones I started years ago–which is why I just finished reading the wonderful Septimus Heap series. I would have missed so much by never reading anything beyond Magyk, so I’m taking this chance to list all of the series I still need to finish in the hopes that it will prompt me to read them soon!

  1. The Incorrigible Children
  2. Thursday Next
  3. Inspector Gamache
  4. Books of Bayern
  5. Princess Academy
  6. No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  7. Junior Bender
  8. The Last Dragonslayer
  9. Finishing School
  10. These Vicious Masks

What series are on your TBR list? Leave your links in the comments!

June Small Goals + What I’m Into

I'm sharing my June small goals and what I'm into this month. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my May small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

I can hardly believe May is over! Here’s how I did on my May goals:

  • Survive my dental appointment. I survived! Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll need a follow-up procedure as soon as my insurance kicks in, but the first part is over.
  • Plan something fun for Memorial Day weekend. Yes! My husband and I slept in, traveled to a nearby park, and had a cookout with friends. So fun.
  • Get all the free things to celebrate my birthday. Of course I did this! I took advantage of all the free meals and retail discounts I possibly could.

I took it pretty easy on myself for May because I knew it would be a busy month. Sadly it looks like this summer isn’t going to be any slower, so with that in mind (and the knowledge that we’ve only got three more weeks of June!), here are my June goals:

  • Finalize summer plans. We have a weekend away with friends, a week long trip to visit family, a pet sitting engagement, and all the regular work/church/home stuff to take care of. I need to get our plans down on paper so I can get organized and contact the people who are also affected by these plans.
  • Get back into cross stitching. I’ve mentioned this goal before, but it has been months since I sat down with my cross stitching and actually worked on it (oops).
  • Read through my backlog of books. Not only have I got a large stack of library books and Paperback Swap books, but I’ve also got several ARCs moldering on my Kindle. I need to read and review those soon!

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The final Septimus Heap book is just waiting for me to read it! I’ve sped my way through the rest of the series, and I’m so excited to finish it.

TV shows I’ve been watching: Death in Paradise just posted season 5 to Netflix, and I’ve been loving it.

Podcast I’m loving: I just started listening to Still Buffering. It’s a podcast with three sisters (two in their 30s, one still a teenager) who talk about teenage life in the past and the present. It is a really fun listen.

My favorite Instagram:

Why do I have this many books? Even I don’t know!

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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

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ARC: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles is the latest funny but dark installment in the Warlock Holmes series. #spon | Book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles is the second installment in the Warlock Holmes series, and I was excited to get my hands on it. The book opens where the last book left off–with Warlock Holmes in a deathlike state and Watson doing his best to revive him. Once the pair are back in action, they face a variety of paranormal and demonic enemies, using only Watson’s logic and Holmes’s magic. I’m not familiar enough with the Sherlock Holmes canon to remember if each of the stories in this book are based on those original stories, but certainly the title story (which takes up about half the book) is.

This book is really funny, but it’s darker than the first. It’s amusing to watch Watson as he uses deductive thinking and logic to solve problems, while Holmes uses whatever magical means–however ridiculous–are available to achieve the results he wants.  But eventually Warlock Holmes has to confront his past and the fact that his magic may be tearing apart the world he lives in.

Packed with hilarious characters, paranormal events, and callbacks to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, this book is a great choice if you’re into paranormal retellings of the classics.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

ABE: Wrap Up

Just like that, another Armchair Book Expo has come and gone! I had so much fun talking about books, reading about books, and participating in giveaways, but as always, the best part was interacting with my fellow book lovers!

If you missed any of my posts, you can check them out here:

Until I can make to to the Book Expo and BookCon in New York, I’ll keep participating in ABE. Thanks to everyone who made this experience so much fun!

ISO Books and Book Giveaway!

It’s book giveaway time for the Armchair Book Expo! I’m taking this opportunity to offer up some ARCs that are gathering dust in my house. Some of these I have read and reviewed, and I will provide links to those reviews; all other links will lead to Goodreads. Winners will be chosen and contacted by June 5th and books will be mailed shortly after that. Sorry, giveaway is only open to continental U.S. mailing addresses.

Also, I am in search of books in three categories. Please leave your recommendations in the comments!

  • Time travel historical fiction. You already know I’m into this.
  • Mysteries with diverse characters. I love mysteries of all kinds, but I’m very interested in diversifying my mystery reads.
  • Lighthearted YA/MG books. Not fluffy reads, necessarily, but nothing dark/depressing/heavy. I need some beach reads for the summer!

ABE: Dining With an Author

In today's ABE post, I'm discussing the authors I would like to have dinner with. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I talked a bit yesterday about my views on diversity in books (short version: more please!), so I’m going to switch gears in today’s post and talk about which authors I would like to share a meal with.

  • Jane Austen. This is my fantasy list, so of course I’ve got to start with Austen! Her books are classics for a reason–they are funny and insightful. I’ve read many books about Austen’s life and works, but I would love to ask the author herself about her novels and her life. She seems like a witty dinner companion.
  • Sharon Creech. Readers of this blog already know about my deep love for Sharon Creech’s works. She was one of my favorite authors as a child, and her sweet, quirky characters can still make me tear up as an adult. I’d love to get a cup of tea with Sharon Creech and tell her how much her books have meant to me over the years.
  • Connie Willis. This is another of my all-time favorite authors ever. Willis’s time travel historical fiction novels have captured my imagination since I first read To Say Nothing of the Dog. I would want to grab lunch with Connie Willis and ask her how she comes up with her amazing ideas.
  • Neil Gaiman. He just seems like a cool guy to hang out with. Even though he’s written some books that totally creeped me out, he has also written some of my favorites, and he can be really funny. If I could, I would go to a Gaiman reading–I love his accent!
  • Agatha Christie. Another of my lifelong favorites, I would love to have dinner in an old English country manor and hear Christie tell stories about her life. From her experiences as a nurse and chemist during the first World War to her time in the field as an archaeologist’s wife to her mysterious disappearance, I think Christie would have a lot of interesting things to say.

As always, leave your links in the comments below! I want to hear your thoughts on today’s Armchair Book Expo topics.

ABE: What Do Readers Want?

I'm continuing my participation in this year's Armchair Book Expo with a discussion of what readers want. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s day two of the Armchair Book Expo, and today’s prompt is about what readers want.

I’ve been a reader all my life, and I’ve consumed countless books, blog posts about books, and bookish podcasts. I’ve talked with friends, family members, and strangers about books and bookish events. Still, every reader wants something different from their reading experience, so while the things I list here are things I want, I realize that not every reader will agree. (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on which things you want or don’t want as a reader.)

What makes or breaks a book? For me, a book is all about the plot and the characters (in that order). Setting is a nice bonus, but it’s not a necessity–in fact, I tend to shy away from books that are described as “atmospheric” or “sweeping.” Beautiful writing is also a plus, but if the plot keeps my interest, I’ll put up with a just average level of writing.

How do we rate books? Again, I think this is a deeply personal decision. As I said above, my favorite books are heavy on attention-grabbing plots and likable, interesting, diverse characters. On my blog, I have a rating scale that is roughly equivalent to a 0-5 star rating, but gives me a little more flexibility because I rate my reads on how I felt about them and also on how much I remember about them after I put down the book. I tend to quickly forget things about the books I read, so I know a book is good when I’m still thinking about it weeks or months later.

What do we want from an author event? I’ll admit that I’ve never been to an event like this and I’ve never met a favorite author (maybe one day I’ll make it to the Book Expo in person!). I imagine I’d want something low-key where the author can spend some time talking about their books and their writing process, and maybe a time afterward for autographs or to make a more personal connection with fans. I can be pretty awkward when meeting people in person, so I don’t know if I would know what to say if I met a favorite author! (Top on my list of authors to meet would be Connie Willis, Sharon Creech, Shannon Hale, Marissa Meyer, Nicola Yoon, Neil Gaiman, and obviously J.K. Rowling.)

How does diversity representation fit into all of this? Every year, reading diversely becomes more important to me. As I did last year, I’m making an effort this year to read at least 25% books that are by or about (preferably both) people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTI people, people who follow a different religion than I do, or people from other countries. I love that every year it gets easier to find these voices in both fiction and nonfiction, and my TBR list is filled with new and backlist #ownvoices books that I’m really excited about reading. If I ever attend an in-person bookish event, I would expect and hope to see a lineup of authors and speakers of a variety of ethnicities, cultural and religious backgrounds, and life circumstances.

As always, please leave your links in the comments! I want to hear your thoughts on what readers want.

Armchair Book Expo: Introduction

It's the N&B introduction to Armchair Book Expo 2017! | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I participated in the Armchair Book Expo for the first time last year, and I had so much fun that I’ve been anticipating the next event ever since! Today’s post is just a quick introduction. Over the next few days, you can expect posts about what readers really want, diversity in books, dining with authors, and even a giveaway. Let’s get started!

  1. I am . . . an avid reader, a musician, and a teacher.
  2. My favorite . . . book so far this year has been The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.
  3. My least favorite . . . genre is typically fantasy (though there are some notable exceptions).
  4. My current read . . . is the entire Septimus Heap series–I’m on book four out of seven.
  5. My summer plans . . . involve lots of beach time and a trip to Harry Potter World at Universal.

Please leave your Armchair Book Expo links in the comments–I’d love to check them out!

Classic Books Roundup

Quick reviews of my latest classic reads, including Arabian Nights, Grimm's Fairy Tales, and Murder at the Vicarage. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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This just a brief check-in to let you all know how I’m doing on reading the classics. Unfortunately, these books aren’t the ones that have been on my list for ages; they’re just books that happened to cross my path. Still, I’m glad I read them.

Arabian Nights

This collection offers some interesting and strange stories. I’m not sure if my edition has all the stories of the original (I read the Amazon freebie version), but I enjoyed many of the ones contained within. The expanded story of Aladdin was definitely my favorite. (Caution: There are a fair amount of racist remarks within this book.)

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

For almost two centuries, the stories of magic and myth gathered by the Brothers Grimm have been part of the way children — and adults — learn about the vagaries of the real world.

Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow-White, Hänsel and Gretel, Little Red-Cap (a.k.a. Little Red Riding Hood), and Briar-Rose (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) are only a few of the enchanting characters included. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

I’m pretty sure I’ve read this collection before–if not the whole thing, at least many of the stories within the collection. Grimm offers all the classic fairy tales you know (of course, with a darker twist than the Disney version), along with some very strange, lesser-known stories. I wouldn’t give this to a child, but if you’ve never read the original collection of German fairy tales, you should check it out.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Murder at the Vicarage

Murder at the Vicarage marks the debut of Agatha Christie’s unflappable and much beloved female detective, Miss Jane Marple. With her gift for sniffing out the malevolent side of human nature, Miss Marple is led on her first case to a crime scene at the local vicarage. Colonel Protheroe, the magistrate whom everyone in town hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shot. There are no leads. Yet, everyone surrounding the vicarage seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It is a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer without so much as a bit of help from the local police. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

You know I love Agatha Christie, and while I don’t generally like Miss Marple, this first Miss Marple mystery was pretty fun. There are some great characters in this book–the vicar and his much younger and prettier wife, the artist and his lover, the disillusioned young woman searching for freedom, and of course nosy old Miss Marple. It’s not my favorite Agatha Christie, but I did enjoy it.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

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