November 25, 2015

Review: Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset

Hillary Rodham Clinton Presidential Playset 10 Paper Dolls, Three Rooms of Fun, Republican Adversaries, Presidential Pantsuits, White House Ghosts, and More!
Illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald
Available now from Quirk Books
Review copy

I love paper dolls, so I couldn't resist the lure of a set of Hillary Clinton paper dolls.  This set has everything you need.  It unfolds into three backgrounds for your scenes.  It has a pouch for storing the pieces.  It has Hillary, with several outfits and even more faces.  It has Bill Clinton, a variety of Republicans, a Secret Service agent, Supreme Court Justices, and an eagle.  It even has a few props.

Each piece is on sturdy paper with thick tabs.  It is fairly easy to punch them out without ripping the pieces, although it takes a bit of care.  The pieces fit together well, even the facial expressions.  Caitlin Kuhwald's art captures the recognizable faces well.

We all know Hillary wants to tell Scott Walker to Faulkner himself.  Sticker courtesy of #ShutDownNouvella.
The HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL PLAYSET is cleverly designed and a great gift for anyone in your life who isn't afraid of having a little fun with politics.  Better yet, you can buy it for youself.  You know you love paper dolls too.

Bonus round:  Paper doll Ruth Bader Ginsburg meets tattoo Ruth Bader Ginsburg on my Instagram.  I apologize for my inability to take photos with my left hand.

November 23, 2015

Review: Shadows of Sherwood

Shadows of Sherwood The first Robyn Hoodlum book
By Kekla Magoon
Available now from Bloomsbury
Review copy

I love the concept of a futuristic Robin Hood story, with many of the main roles being women instead of men.  Robyn Loxley is a girl living in the rich sector of Nott City when her parents are disappeared by the Sheriff (also female in this story).  She barely manages to escape, and has to figure out how to live life on the margins with the help of some others who have been managing: Laurel, Scarlet, and Key.

It's right up my alley, but SHADOWS OF SHERWOOD never quite gelled for me.  Robyn's parents apparently followed a moon lore, an old religion that seems like magic.  It's a good way to add a folklore tie to the story, but I felt like the dystopia and fantasy elements didn't mesh very neatly.  The moon lore mostly seemed like a way for convenient things to happen.

There's also use of villainous point of view, which I find is difficult to pull of well.  The Sheriff's passages give some hints about Governor Crown's dastardly deeds but otherwise add little to the story.  Since this is a Robin Hood retelling it is particularly egregious, because everyone knows where the story is going.  Even younger readers can be assumed to know at least one version of the story, if only the Disney movie.

I think the class conflicts were done well, which is important since they are a central part of the legend.  Robyn has been part of the upper class and is now learning how bad everyone else in the city had it.  Rescuing her parents is a top priority, but she's learning that innocent bystanders could get hurt in her activities against the Sheriff - which leads her to question how she can help.

SHADOWS OF SHERWOOD has some nice heist scenes and an appealing cast, but it left me cold.  I'm just not sure the biggest departures from the traditional story worked for me.  It felt like a separate story welded on that didn't quite fit.  Does Robin Hood need a prophecy?  No, not really.

November 19, 2015

Amazing Book Sales

Amazon currently has several books that I highly recommend on sale.  Click on the cover to go to the book's Amazon page.

CrossingThirteen Chairs I thought THIRTEEN CHAIRS, a short anthology, of ghost stories delivered a nice amount of creepiness, as noted in my review.

The InfiniteGates of Thread and Stone I don't think CROSSING ever made it onto anyone's radar, but I gave it a strong review because I thought it was an unexpectedly affecting book.

GATES OF THREAD AND STONE and THE INFINITE are the first two books in a fantasy series set in a labyrinth that I've really been enjoying.


STORM, SPARK, and SECRET are on sale. These are books one, two, and four in Brigid Kemmerer's Elementals series. That's more than half of the series on sale!

Ella Enchanted

 And of course I have to recommend Ella Enchanted! It was one of my favorite books growing up.

Some Kind of NormalSimon vs. the Homo Sapiens AgendaThere are also some books on sale that I haven't read -- but want to.

SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA is a contemporary that came out this year to rave reviews.

 I reviewed BOYS LIKE YOU as part of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books' RITA Reader Challenge. I could see why it was nominated for an award. SOME KIND OF NORMAL is a companion novel and came out earlier this year.

November 17, 2015

Review: Kid Athletes: True Tales of Childhood from Sports Legends

Kid Athletes Part of the Kid Legends series
By David Stabler
Illustrated by Doogie Horner
Available now from Quirk Books
Review copy

The duo behind KID PRESIDENTS is back with KID ATHLETES.  One great thing about them moving into sports is that they can highlight a diverse range of inspirational people.  As great as the presidents are, only one of them isn't a white man.  The people chosen for KID ATHLETES range from reigning gymnastics Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas to sumo legend Jesse Kuhaulua (Takamiyama Daigoro).  There's a nice blend of current competitors and historical figures as well as a variety of sports represented.

The stories are kept short and simple.  I wasn't familiar with any of them, but I'm not a sports fan.  I found Jackie Robinson's childhood particularly interesting.  Each chapter ends with some career highlights, so I was sad that Billie Jean King's didn't mention the Battle of the Sexes.  Doogie Horner's sketch-like illustrations add a huge amount of appeal to KID ATHLETES.  They're very cute and give the book a personality beyond biography for kids.

I think KID ATHLETES would make a fantastic gift for any child interested in sports.  Not surprising, since Quirk Books has the books-that-make-great-gifts market cornered.  The biographies presents aren't particularly special, but the figures highlighted are truly interesting people and the presentation hits the sweet spot between bright and adorable.

I passed my copy onto my niece, who is in the second grade, because I thought she might enjoy it.  She's pretty athletic herself and does competitive dance.  She's been reading one biography a night and has one left to go.  When I took her out for breakfast this Sunday, she was excited to tell me how much she was enjoying the book.  She's also been reading parts of it out loud to my nephew, who is in Kindergarten and was MVP of his touch football team.  He likes it too!  There's definitely a range of appeal.

November 13, 2015

Review: A Thousand Nights

A Thousand NightsBy E.K. Johnston
Available now from Disney-Hyperion
Review copy

I've read two YA retellings of A Thousand and One Nights this year, and A THOUSAND NIGHTS is my favorite.  E.K. Johnston wowed me with The Story of Owen duology, and she continues to impress me here.  The tone and rhythm of this story aren't similar at all, but the control of them is.

Lo-Melkhiin has been marrying and killing his wives.  It has reached the tribes have instituted a policy that he has to rotate between them, to help keep one tribe from suffering too much.  When the heroine's tribe must offer a bride, she makes herself as beautiful as she can with flashy clothes and makeup.  For one day she outshines her sister and is picked instead.  In return, her sister starts worshiping her immediately until waiting for news of her death, that she has joined their ancestors.

That love between the sisters might be enough to save all of their people.

I liked the focus in A THOUSAND NIGHTS on women who are fed up and what they're doing about it.  Lo-Melkhiin has kept peace ever since he came back from the desert a changed man, but it is the women who pay the price.  The heroine and her sister are tired of that, and so are many other women living in fear of their lives.

The worldbuilding is also superb.  Johnston imparts the reader with a sense of how families are structured and how their religious traditions work.  We're shown the reasons the people would not rebel against a leader who slaughters so many of his people.  Then, there's the bits of strangeness around the edges.  There's a wig made out of a lion's mane made by Lo-Melkhiin for his mother.  There's a man compelled to make beautiful sculptures, even though it pains him.  There's a sense of the wrongness in the court beyond the deaths.

Then there is the battle of wits and wills between Lo-Melkhiin and his bride.  She may not fear as he wants her to, but that doesn't mean she isn't afraid.  There's wonderful interplay between them, as Lo-Melkhiin tries to find out why she can withstand him and she tries to figure out how she can solves the problem of Lo-Melkhiin before she's just another dead wife.

A THOUSAND NIGHTS is a story of terror and love in a desert that never was.  It's a book that kept me turning the pages, and I hope it will do the same for you.


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