Guest Post & Review: Crow Not Crow by Jane Yolen & Adam Stemple


Today we're honored to have author Jane Yolen guest posting about her new childrens book CROW NOT CROW!  And a quick fun fact, Jane is the author that inspired a love of reading for our Macy Kate through her childrens book How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight? 

📚 Welcome to I'd So Rather Be Reading, Jane! 📚
CROW NOT CROW began many years ago when my son Adam Stemple taught his girlfriend Betsy (soon to be wife) how to bird. Adam had been taught birding as a child by his father (the original Pa in my book OWL MOON.) But Betsy was a city girl—like me—though her city was Minneapolis and mine had been New York.

We had both needed help seeing birds as something more than pigeons.

So Adam invented a method he called “Crow Not Crow” by which he taught Betsy to bird.

Years later, when Adam was already a published author, and he and Betsy had two children, I said, “You should write that as a picture book.” He said, “I don’t know how to write picture books.” But he’d already had two solo adult novels published, 10 music books (with me) published, six middle grade novels (with me) plus published, poems and short stories. And dozens upon dozens of songs and song lyrics.

“We'll do it together,” I said.

And we did.

                                                                                                            🐦 Jane

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Summary: Tells the story of a child's first birding expedition on a golden autumn day.

Release Date: August 2018
Age Group: Childrens, Family, STEM, Picture
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat


Review:
I love gardening, flowers and birds... I kill 75% of what I garden. I buy WAY to many flowers from Hobby Lobby. And there are only two birds that I feel confident in identifying: a hummingbird and a crow.

Crow Not Crow was a sweet, simple introduction to the world of birding through the endearing perspective of a father-daughter outing.The simplicity and joy of identifying birds in nature was just great. I loved Crow Not Crow as a mother, as a birding novice and as a teacher.

This is the perfect book to use for a STEM science lesson for the classroom or even as an interactive library lesson for small group discussions. Once you finish the story, the last 5 pages are filled with bird facts and QR codes!

There are two QR codes for each bird discussed. One takes you to specific bird facts and another plays the call of the bird. It's really neat and exciting to listen to the different sounds and connect the image of the bird to the sound.

Highly recommend for ages 4-7. And I will be donating my copy to my sons' school library!




Book Review: The Crush Collision by Danielle Ellison (Southern Charmed #2)

Summary: Haley Howell has had a hopeless crush on her brother’s best friend, Jake Lexington, for as long as she can remember. Too bad to him, she’ll forever be off-limits. But with senior year and acceptance to a college outside their tiny southern town of Culler, South Carolina, comes new confidence. Haley’s ready to get Jake to notice her—whatever it takes.

No one in Culler notices the real Jake anymore—to them, he’s nothing more than the star football player or the kid with the family tragedy. When one mistake lands him in community service, he’s shocked to find his best friend’s little sister there, too, looking cute as hell and threatening all his no-friends-with-benefits rules. But Jake isn’t ready to take a chance, no matter how crafty Haley’s willing to get to prove him otherwise…


Release Date: February 2019
Age Group: YA, Contemporary (clean), Sports Romance
Source: Review Copy from Publisher (Entangled Teen Crush)
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
First off, I live in Southeast Texas where football is king. I have 8 football season passes for my family of 5 and no high school-er on the team. As a matter of fact, we are the last family that should be at a high school football game considering my kids are action sports athletes... but alas, we love it! #itsagreatdaytobeapirate

The Crush Collision was everything I hoped it would be (minus the cover). I am SO happy I did not see the cover of this book until now... STOP looking! I imagined Jake Lexington much different. Basically, Jake Lexington was loosely based off of the character Tim Riggins (Taylor Kitsch) from the hit TV series Friday Night Lights. And it was awesome. #fistpump


image source: google.com

I think teens will be drawn to this story because of the coming-of-age theme and relatability. Ellison nailed the feel of first love mixed with a nice dose of teen jealousy and tragedy. The characters are well developed and flawed. You'll both love and hate Jake, he's a real wreck... "put the beer down, son".

I also enjoyed the alternating POV's between Haley and Jake. The journey each one had to go through to discover who they wanted to become was very different and needed to be explored through their own voice. And of course one of my favorite plot points, neither one gave up a dream for love! 🎉🎉🎉 Points for both love & life goals!

The real gem in this story was the coach! He embodied everything you hope and pray for in a coach-- a role with so much power and influence, he was a real winner.

This is definitely a touchdown for fans of YA Contemporary and Sports Romances! It's an easy and engaging read with swoon worthy appeal.






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I read The Crush Collision as a standalone but it the second in the Southern Charmed series. I plan to snag book one, The Sweetheart Sham because I was introduced to Georgia Ann and I think I'm going to love her story!



Book Review: Sadie by Courtney Summers

Summary: A missing girl on a journey of revenge. A Serial―like podcast following the clues she's left behind. And an ending you won't be able to stop talking about.

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray―a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America―overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.


Release Date: September 2018
Age Group:Contemporary, True Crime, Podcast, YA (but I think more New Adult content)
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
Sadie was raw, gritty and relevant.

I listened to Sadie as an audiobook and I couldn’t be happier in that decision. Summers has an exceptional writing style that delivered a story partly as a podcast that bounced between past and present events- the reporter present day and Sadie’s POV.

It was an absolute treat to listen to all the different characters come to life! I felt like I was a part of a true crime story and was actively searching for Sadie.

The plot was so darn good. The imagery was both incredible and tormenting. With every word that Sadie stuttered or thought, I felt it. This story makes you feel so many different emotions: love, loss, hate, disgust, shock, empathy, anger and resolve. I was emotionally drained by the end, that is a clear sign of great writing.

Sadie, herself, hit me pretty hard. From her stutter to her internal monologue, I just loved her. I cheered with each triumph of justice she felt and mourned with each tragic revelation. Her story and character were executed in such a way that you were left punched in the gut and gasping for air as you cheered “keep going!”.

As I finished the last page, my first thought was this could be someone’s real story. That hurt. And I think that is was supposed too.

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I would not recommend this to a teen due to the language and nature of the violent crimes. I felt Sadie read more as New Adult lit versus YA.

I would recommend this read as an audiobook and for fans of Making a Murder and True Crime stories. It's not pretty and a solid reminder that there are ugly people who appear innocent-- the true monsters in the dark.
 

Book Review: Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Summary:  
Pride and Prejudice gets remixed in this smart, funny, gorgeous retelling of the classic, starring all characters of color, from Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award finalist and author of American Street.

Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.

When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.

But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.

In a timely update of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant re-imagining of this beloved classic.

 
Release Date: January 2019
Age Group: YA, Contemporary, Retelling
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I am always a sucker for a retelling of P&P. And about 50% of the time I’m disappointed with the conclusion, they always seem to fall flat. Why can’t they wrap up in blazing glory?!

Here’s what I loved:

  •           I really enjoyed Papi and Mama's strong relationship and presence. I especially loved Papi's voice--
"read to travel," Papi always says.
       The best advice. Ever. I swear I could shout that from the roof tops life a crazy woman
       and it still wouldn't be enough.

  •      The clash of culture within a culture (“the block”): Madringa herself and all that she represented, the meshing between Haitian and Dominican decent, and of course gentrification. 

  •         I enjoyed the poetry, haiku and metaphors that Zuri uses to express herself. They were clever and beautiful.

  •         The story is written in an easy manner that I think teens will enjoy.

  •         The characters fit into the basic blueprint of P&P but with a nice cultural twist. It was like stepping into another way of life. I loved learning all the common terms of the Benitez culture-- the corner bodega, the goddess Ochun, and what is bougee.

  •         For me this retelling kept reminding me of the short story “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker. I think they would actually pair well together for a high school setting or cultural study.

  •          The discussion of “privilege” was done really well. Benitez versus Darcy. Black versus Black. London roots versus Dominican-Haitian descents. This block versus that block.
You do know there are black people who have money out there in the world, Z, right?  ~Janae


Here’s what I didn’t enjoy:

  •          If you are going to bring Darcy to my door you better bring a strong broody hunk. Darius was a hunk but pretty weak. I don’t think I was ever convinced that he was madly in love with Zuri. And Zuri sure wasn’t in love, she flat out said she didn’t know what it was yet. Meh.

  •          I just didn’t like Zuri. I liked her poetry and seeing how her world was expanding with life experience but she herself was too judgmental and rude. 

  •          The story is truly a telling. No build up. Very anticlimactic and P&P needs the build up! I need the moment when Elizabeth and Darcy realize they are both madly in love with each other.

  •      Overall, I liked it. I’d recommend it to teens, teachers and P&P fans. It’s an easy read. I don’t think a teen audience will pick it apart like I did.

I actually read half the book and started over with the audiobook. I wanted to make sure I heard all the terms and language correctly and not in my butchered Southern drawl. I am so glad I listened and got the full effect of what it means when something is bougee. 

 

Keeper of the Bees (Black Bird of the Gallows #2) by Meg Kassel

Summary: A tale of two teens who are both beautiful and beastly, and whose pasts are entangled in surprising and heartbreaking ways.

Dresden is cursed. His chest houses a hive of bees that he can’t stop from stinging people with psychosis-inducing venom. His face is a shifting montage of all the people who have died because of those stings. And he has been this way for centuries—since he was eighteen and magic flowed through his homeland, corrupting its people.

He follows harbingers of death, so at least his curse only affects those about to die anyway. But when he arrives in a Midwest town marked for death, he encounters Essie, a seventeen-year-old girl who suffers from debilitating delusions and hallucinations. His bees want to sting her on sight. But Essie doesn’t see a monster when she looks at Dresden.

Essie is fascinated and delighted by his changing features. Risking his own life, he holds back his bees and spares her. What starts out as a simple act of mercy ends up unraveling Dresden’s solitary life and Essie’s tormented one. Their impossible romance might even be powerful enough to unravel a centuries-old curse.


Release Date: September 2018
Age Group: YA, Paranormal, Entangled Teen
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:

The cover got me. 

                I judged it. 

                      I went in blind. 
                       
                                    🐝'lieve me, it was a fantastic wild card.

Right off, I felt the sweeping romance of a Fear Street Saga by RL Stine... did you just have the feels?! Me too. 

I mean, come on, a small town, a beautiful crazy girl (certifiably nuts), a boy with a changing face and body full of bees AND a freaking straw man straight from your nightmares... It SERIOUSLY takes talent to make all that work.

I have read a lot of paranormal YA and it can feel repetitive but Keeper of the Bees was such a treat-- wonderfully odd, creepy and unique! The writing was engaging, the plot was fast-paced and the characters were so unbelievably interesting. It is sure to be a favorite for fans of paranormal YA.  

It MUST be on your TBR list!



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Now, here is the real kicker-- I had no idea that this was the second in a series. I have a very strict rule that I never read out of order! I didn't discover this little tragedy until I got on Goodreads to snag a picture of the cover! I was like what the WHAT!?! 🤔

Lucky for me KoB can be read as a standalone. THANK GOODNESS. But I will be reading the first, Black Bird of the Gallows, because I got a little taste of that story and wanted to know more. I'm coming for you Reece. 🐦🐝🐦🐝🐦
 

Book Review: Love and Other Secrets (The First Kiss Hypothesis #2) by Christina Mandelski

Summary: Star lacrosse player Alex “Kov” Koviak has it all. Or so everyone thinks. He’s real good at pretending his life is perfect...until he meets Bailey. The girl challenges him and pushes him and makes him laugh like he’s never laughed before. Their friendship is their little secret, and he’s happy to keep her to himself.

Between school, two jobs, and trying to get into NYU film school, Bailey Banfield has zero time for a social life. But then she meets Alex in her express lane at the grocery store, and their secret friendship becomes the only place she can breathe. She refuses to complicate that with more. No matter how charming Alex can be.

When Bailey decides to film outrageous promposals for her NYU application, she enlists Alex’s help to plan an over-the-top, epic promposal to someone else. Too bad the only prom date Alex wants anywhere near Bailey is him.

For a guy who seems to have it all, he’s about to lose the only thing he’s ever wanted.




Release Date: September 2018
Age Group: YA, Contemporary (clean), Sports Romance
Source: Review Copy from Publisher (Entangled Teen Crush)
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
It's no secret that I'm a fan of Entangled Crush reads and Mandelski's style of writing. It's fun, fast and a little predictable. If you like Sweet Valley High style books then you have found  new author and a new publisher! Stand tall friends, don't let people dim your light for SVH!

                                               Promposals. 🤔

I feel confident that if promposals existed when I was in high school, I would have been the girl watching on the side, turning beet red just witnessing the entire scene unfold, all while secretly hoping I had it happen to me (but NEVER revealing such a girly secret).
 
I've seen these proposals range from simple & sweet to holy-crap-that-was-more-expensive-than-my wedding. It really gives a new meaning to go big or go home. Love and Other Secrets really tapped into what it's like to be in high school right now. Secret crushes, promposals, popularity and coming of age pains all tied into public displays of {affection}.  Are promposals affectionate or a show?? 🙄

Teens will easily relate to the plot and teenage angst. Bailey and Kov were relatable and terrible at communicating. 👈🏽 C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-I-O-N kids! It really can solve world problems.

Love and Other Secrets is sure to be loved by YA contemporary fans. It's fast, funny, relatable and like everything else, it's all caught on film. You poor YouTube generation... I'm so glad all my teen fails were not recorded and archived for all of time. 









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Mailbox 9 3/4, Our FIRST Little Free Library!


I am so excited to finally announce that I'd So Rather Be Reading has opened our first Little Free Library in the tiny Texas town of Vidor. This is the first of three that I have planned and each one will have its own theme and the books will be age specific.

Mailbox 9 3/4 can be found HERE on the Global map (you can find it quickest by searching by our zip code, 77662). This library is obviously Harry Potter themed and is filled with Middle Grade & Children's books!


If you are not familiar with Little Free Libraries, visit HERE. The theme of this wonderful organization is Take a Book, Share a Book. To date there are over 75,000 Little Free Libraries across the globe and now we have one of our very own!

I saw my first #LFL while visiting my SIL in Daybreak, UT a couple years ago (#32633).
I literally squealed and made my entire family trudge through snow and investigate! I was instantly hooked and knew I wanted (needed) these in our hometown. I think I visited that box at least a dozen times. I had drank the literary KoolAid!

I've received a lot of books from publishers and authors over the years and I give a lot of them away but I had always wanted a better way to share a good book. This was it!

When we returned home, I quickly began my Honey Do list-- all my great ideas require extensive Honey Do's. Don't worry, I tell him he's hot stuff and bring him water while he works and makes my little dreams come true.

I had planned to have these up and running quickly. I went around town and scoped out the right spots, got permission and even ordered the official registration plates. And then Hurricane Harvey hit. Our tiny town received over 50 inches, to say it was a tragedy still doesn't do it justice. Our own Macy Kate lost her home and most over her books! So, I shelved the plans until we were rebuilt and ready.  Fast forward two years and...

🎉🎉 WE ARE READY! 🎉🎉

And to start off, I have filled Mailbox 9 3/4 with one of my favorite short stories that I read each Christmas, The Gift of the Magi.



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Obviously, many of you are not physically close and cannot visit our super awesome library, but you can find one near you and support it! Fill it up, visit it, #hashtag it and post important-- make getting a new book seem like the coolest event ever! There are always people watching you, let them see you excited about reading.
Visit the Map HERE

If there isn't a #LFL near you, consider starting your own. If you need help planning I will help! Send me an email and I will guide you through the process. iwouldratherbereading@gmail.com

A special thank you to: 
  • The Dulaney family for their support! You gave Mailbox 9 3/4 a home and a good start.
  • The Beaumont Enterprise for donating a newspaper stand.
  • All the publishers that send us great stories to share.
  • Ms. Leger for donating LOADS of books.
  • To Tailor Made Stamps for making such an awesome book stamp!
  • To The Bluebonnet Nook for designing our stamp image
  • To JK Rowling for creating one of the greatest escape, the ultimate world of Wizards!
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📫 WATCH FOR OUR NEXT TWO LIBRARIES:
  • FLY GUY to make his debut when we open our Childrens #LFL
  
  • YOUNG ADULT #LFL... we need a location and theme! SHARE YOUR IDEAS!




image sources: littlefreelibrary.org and google.com (fly guy)

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway & Blog Hop


Written with a blend of humor and practical wisdom, The Same Sweet Girl’s Guide to Life by Cassandra King offers inspiration and solid advice to new graduates that can sustain them through life’s inevitable ups and downs.  In this small book you will find advice that will only grow in meaning throughout the years. It can - and should - be read again and again, by thoughtful people of all ages.
 
Review HERE 
 
Enter below for a chance to win your very own copy!
 
❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️🎁❄️
 
a Rafflecopter giveaway



Book Review: Laugh Out Loud Christmas Jokes for Kids by Rob Elliott


The first-ever Christmas collection from the #1 bestselling author of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids is finally here with hundreds of holiday- and winter-themed jokes to make the season bright.


The holiday season just got a whole lot merrier now that Rob Elliott is back with another instant classic full of fresh, frosty fun to bring the whole family together. These pages are bursting with laughter to warm up the fireside, the sledding slopes, and everywhere in between.
 

Why don’t lobsters give Christmas presents?

      
Because they’re shellfish! 
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Release Date: September 2016
Age Group: Children, Family
Source:  Gifted
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:

This is a great family funny! I brought this book out at breakfast and read a few of the jokes out loud while my kids were fighting, wailing, gnashing their teeth getting ready for school. It started off with an eye roll and an "it's too early for this" but by the time we were ready to go, I'd gotten a few smirks and a "this are so corny but funny when you get all excited reading them". I'll take it thank you very much!

My first grader thought a few were so great that he tried memorizing a couple to re-tell to his friends at school. He really got a kick out of the knock, knock jokes too. 😂  
🎅🏽 What's Santa's favorite candy?
    Jolly Ranchers, of course!

And a little trivia too.
What do you have in December that's not in any other month?
    The letter "D" 🤓
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🎁🎁🎁 This little gem is a great gift for: any family, a children's book exchange, teacher gift or even a stocking stuffer. I found it on Amazon for less than $5 (and it's prime)! 🎁🎁🎁



Book Review: The Reader by MK Harkins (The Immortal Series #1)

Summary: Hunted, shot, and without her memory, eighteen-year-old Ann Baker wakes in shallow water on a deserted Pacific Northwest island. She is soon approached by two young men claiming to be her friends. Something isn’t right, but when gunshots sound, Ann is left with little choice but to allow Devon and Archer to help her escape. Soon she finds herself in their North Bend mountain compound, where the higher evolved humans claim to be mind-readers. While Ann heals, she realizes they believe her to be one of the last and most powerful of all – The Lost One.

She’s welcomed by most with opened arms, but not everyone is happy about her arrival. A jealous adversary has plans for Ann, which spirals the entire Reader community into chaos.

As lies, murder, and betrayal threaten to rip apart the once harmonious mountain dwellers, Ann is thrust into making a decision that could save or devastate not only The Readers, but all of mankind. But there’s just one glitch: by doing so it may require her to make the ultimate sacrifice.


Release Date: August 2016
Age Group: YA, Paranormal
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Reviewed By: Nat

Review:
I've read several Harkins contemporary books, I like the easy flow of words and the angst she gives her characters when it comes to love. However, the cover of The Reader is what initially caught my attention, the freckles reminded me of our middle grade reviewer Macy Kate. A simple, raw beauty. When I realized that it was Harkins work and her shift into the paranormal/dystopian genre I was interested!

Y'all, THE HOOK! Nothing like starting right off with a little amnesia, hot guys and bullets flying! This is the stuff YA dreams are made of... #allthefeels

At first the world building seemed simplistic and a bit mysterious but it didn't take long to realize that this was headed into a paranormal setting. The premise of genetically superior humans, divided by divine roles felt a tiny, tiny bit mythological/historical and it worked. The hidden city in the mountain was written very vividly and I really could picture the beauty of it all.

Humans with unique gifts, long life expectancy, bad guys, love triangles and mind reading is really what every woman YA teen girl pines for, right?!

The MC, Ann, is both strong and flawed. She isn't too go to be true but relatable... you know, she will scissor kick you in the throat if you cross her yet she can't make a decent judgment on a guy.

Devon & Archer were so Edward and Jacob for a hot minute but it worked. The character development was pretty steady and the plot twists kept making me love someone one minute and hate them the next. Good stuff.

The ending was a bit anti-climactic for me BUT that's because it isn't over yet! This is a duology and concludes with The Jack!

Overall, The Reader is a nice addition to the YA genre and fans of dystopian & paranormal lit. will enjoy its fast pacing and unique imagery.

If you liked: Gameboard of the Gods, Perfected, Uncharted  you will enjoy The Reader.









*I waited FOREVER for book 2... I started to loose hope. But one morning BAM! there it was on NetGalley, just waiting for me to download!-- review coming soon (*spoiler: it was better than The Reader #sorrynotsorry).