BookCase.Club for Kids

It is time for another unboxing, and who doesn’t like book mail? This one is perfect for introducing books to the little ones, and letting them explore their imaginations so stick around to learn more.

If you have no heard, BookCase.Club is a monthly subscription service that delivers books to your doorstep that are handpicked by their curators with your reading preferences in mind, based on the theme you choose. This month I have the pleasure of introducing and reviewing the latest addition to the service–BookCase.Club Kids!*

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Now children of all ages can experience the magic of reading, and receive a monthly shipment of books. You will see at the top of the homepage, there is a link to BookCase Kids–not to be confused with Read to Me, offered as one of the original 8 cases. To begin, you will pick a theme, and there are selections for every age group, offering kid cases from newborn up till pre-teen. The themes are Newborn-2, 2-4, 5-6, 7-8, and Pre-Teen. Each case contains 3, handpicked, gender specific books. The Pre-Teen contains 2 handpicked books.

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There are multiple payment plans, so whether you want month-to-month that costs $9.99, or a prepaid plan such as 3 Months for $28, 6 Months for $54, or 12 Months for $100, they gives you options. This is an affordable literary subscription service for the young readers in your life, and it is a great way to introduce your children to the written word while receiving fun packages in the mail monthly. All cases are shipped on the 1st of the month, and be sure to share the experience on social media with #BCCUnBoxing.

Below are the books that were in the December BookCase.Club Kid’s box for 7-8 years old. Summaries are sourced from Goodreads, and retail prices listed are from the title’s back cover.

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Boogie Knights by Lisa Wheeler, Mark Siegel ($16.99)

In this rip-roaring picture book, readers are invited to the party of the year, as all monsters large and small throw the most outrageous, most bodacious bash of them all–the Madcap Monster Ball.

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The Fires of Calderon by Lindsay Cummings ($16.99)

The first book in an epic middle grade fantasy adventure series that takes place in an underground society at the center of the earth. Packed with action, humor, magic, and mystery.

After following a mysterious map into the woods and then under the woods, eleven-year-old Albert Flynn learns he’s a Balance Keeper—someone with special magical skills for fixing problems in three underground Realms at the Core of the earth. His new job is important; if the realms fall out of balance, the world above could be in great danger.

Albert and his Balance Keeper teammates Birdie and Leroy arrive in the Core not a moment too soon. There’s an Imbalance in the Calderon Realm and it’s threatening to bury Albert’s hometown of New York City in a mountain of ash.

The three must train hard completing mental and physical challenges, but above all, they must harness the power of their Tiles—unique superpowers given to each Balance Keeper. So far, Albert’s mastered the art of not mastering his Tile….

With the situation in Calderon growing worse every day, can Albert, Leroy, and Birdie restore balance before New York is destroyed forever? Will Albert master his Tile before it’s too late?

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Wanderville by Wendy McClure ($16.99)

Jack, Frances, and Frances’s younger brother Harold have been ripped from the world they knew in New York and sent to Kansas on an orphan train at the turn of the century. As the train chugs closer and closer to its destination, the children begin to hear terrible rumors about the lives that await them. And so they decide to change their fate the only way they know how. . . .

They jump off the train.

There, in the middle of the woods, they meet a boy who will transform their lives forever. His name is Alexander, and he tells them they’ve come to a place nobody knows about—especially not adults—and “where all children in need of freedom are accepted.” It’s a place called Wanderville, Alexander says, and now Jack, Frances, and Harold are its very first citizens.

8 Other Genres on BookCase.Club

There are themes for everyone in the family! Below are the other cases available through BookCase.Club. You can subscribe to more than one theme; just select the genre you want, pick a payment plan, and it’ll be added to your cart for checkout– perfect if you have more than one reader in your home!

  1. Read to Me – 4 Children’s Picture books
  2. Blind Date – 2 Paranormal Romance novels
  3. Strange Worlds – 2 Sci-Fit/Fantasy novels
  4. Thrill Seeker – 2 Mystery/Thriller novels
  5. Booking for Love – 2 Romance novels
  6. Teenage Dreams – 2 Young Adult novels
  7. Quarterly Military History – 2 Military History novels delivered every three months
  8. Quarterly Cookbooks – 2 Cookbooks delivered every three months

The total retail value for all 3 books in this month’s box was just over $50! That is an incredible deal for just $9.99/month plus shipping. If you’re looking for a quality and well curated book subscription without the little trinkets, and gives you quite the deal and value for the cost, BookCase.Club is a great choice.

It is easy to switch age group/genre themes in your account, so it is a subscription that can grow with your child throughout the years when it comes to age appropriate books. A monthly book box that arrives on your doorstep will be a fun, new reading experience for both you and your child. It’s a great way to build their little library, and instill the love of reading from early on.

Join BookCase.Club!

*Disclaimer: I received this product in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. All opinions are my own. Thank you to BookCase.Club for giving me the opportunity to review the kid’s box!

Book Review: Before the Feast by Saša Stanišić

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★ ★ ★ ★

Saša Stanišić’s Before the Feast was a strange and whimsical story. It was one that had to be read in small portions, so it took me quite a while to get through despite thinking it would be a quick read. At times it was a challenging book because it required my full attention, but it was memorizing and beautifully written. Without giving too much detail away, it is about a long night in Fürstenfelde, a small East German village, on the eve of the feast–the feast that is not exactly defined. We learn about the history of Fürstenfelde, the mysteries and magic, we also follow the inhabitants of the village with their distinctive personalities and different circumstances. Told through short chapters and the town as the narrator, I enjoyed this story, although at times it was chaotic, and didn’t have a straightforward plot–if you go in expecting that, this may not be book for you. If you want to not just read, but experience a story that brings you into that world through captivating prose about old stories, myths, folklore, and fairy-tales, this would be a fine choice. This vibrant, odd, yet charming village full of its people both living and dead, of all backgrounds, that end up coming together.

Often I found myself putting the book down because I needed to pull myself from the story and read something a little more solid in terms of a plot. In a way it felt like I was in this dream land, though not completely in slumber–you know that middle, where you can’t seem to fully wake from the trance? I still feel like that when trying to form my thoughts around the story. I feel like while there is a vagueness to it, and a reader can easily be confused with where it is going, there is a lot up to the reader on interpretation and whether or not they think there is meaning or a point behind it. Take the time to appreciate how well crafted this story is, and don’t rush through it–travel through Fürstenfelde with a curious and open mind. Before the Feast was an unusual and riveting novel that I hope to come back to one day to relive.

Synopsis

Someone has opened the doors to the Village Archive, but what drives the sleepless out of their houses is not that which was stolen, but that which has escaped. Old stories, myths, and fairy tales are wandering about the streets with the people. They
come together in a novel about a long night, a mosaic of village life, in which the long-established and newcomers, the dead and the living, craftsmen, pensioners, and noble robbers in football shirts bump into each other. They all want to bring something to a close, in this night before the feast.

Paperback, 353 pages
Published June 14th 2016 by Tin House Books

Goodreads
Purchase on Amazon

I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Book Review: The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

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★ ★ ★ ★

In The One Hundred Nights of Hero, after a brief introduction into the prehistoric mythical world with three moons, we are transported to the empire of Migdal Bavel, where two friends make a bet: Manfred has one hundred nights to seduce Jerome’s wife, Cherry, while Jerome is out to sea–and if he wins, Jerome must forfeit the castle and his wife. Unknown to both men, Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women have a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred with mesmerizing tales for 100 nights, keeping him at bay until Jerome returns.

I am still trying to untangle my thoughts from this graphic novel, but without a doubt, this is a wonderful read, and beautifully illustrated. I read this in one sitting a few nights ago, and as soon as I closed the book, I went on ramble about each story, the characters, and meanings behind it all because it left me feeling so much. It is about brave women, independence, love, sisterhood, and exquisite storytelling. It contains stories within stories that come together in the end, and fill you with empowerment and inspiration.

The artwork is stunning with muted tones, splashes of color, and Greenberg’s unique style, and makes for brilliantly telling of ancient tales. Hero tells simple stories while weaving traditions, folklore, and myths throughout each one. While getting lost within the pages, you’ll encounter faraway lands, empires, supernatural beings, explorers–and always, strong-willed, determined women who take no bullshit from men and will overcome anything. It is a tapestry of folk tale and myth retellings with modern twists, and although somber at times, there is also humor, insight, and wit.

Synopsis 

In the tradition of The Arabian Nights, a beautifully illustrated tapestry of folk tales and myths about the secret legacy of female storytellers in an imagined medieval world.

In the Empire of Migdal Bavel, Cherry is married to Jerome, a wicked man who makes a diabolical wager with his friend Manfred: if Manfred can seduce Cherry in one hundred nights, he can have his castle–and Cherry.

But what Jerome doesn’t know is that Cherry is in love with her maid Hero. The two women hatch a plan: Hero, a member of the League of Secret Story Tellers, will distract Manfred by regaling him with a mesmerizing tale each night for 100 nights, keeping him at bay. Those tales are beautifully depicted here, touching on themes of love and betrayal and loyalty and madness.

Hardcover, 224 pages
Expected publication: December 6th 2016 by Little, Brown and Company
I received a copy in exchange for an unbiased review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Favorite Reads of 2016

It is that time again. The year is quickly coming to a close, and with that, it is time to wrap up my year in reading with the favorite books that I read in 2016. Next year is another chance to knock out another reading goal, along with plenty of new releases that I can’t wait to read! In no particular order, below are my favorite books of 2016.

The Gentleman by Forrest Leo

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The Gentleman is Forrest Leo’s debut novel, and it was one of the best of 2016. It is about a husband who conjures the Devil, and accidentally sells his wife, which results in planning a rescue mission to Hell. A variety of personas come along for the quest, and a whole lot of over-the-top encounters happen along the way that will have you laughing out loud.

This novel was so well crafted and the humor flowed so effortlessly in the story-line. If you’re looking for a fun and quick read that doesn’t require as much commitment, this is definitely the pick.

Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

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Twenty years ago Lucie Bowen left Marrow Island after fleeing the aftermath of an earthquake that compromised the local refinery, killing her father, and ravaging the island’s environment. It’s set in post-disaster Washington state as Lucie returns to the island that is slowly rebuilding to reconnect with her childhood friend, Kate, who lives within a mysterious group called Marrow Colony that is located on part of the island—a community that claims to be “ministering to the Earth.” As an environmental journalist, Lucie’s experience tells her that there is more to the Colony than their charismatic leader is letting her know, and Lucie sets out on uncovering the secrets even if it endangers more than their mission.

I adored this novel. It is beautifully written, captivating, and Smith has a way of bringing you into the story where you feel like you are Lucie. Marrow Island was a slow, but satisfying burn. If you’re looking for an eerie setting with vivid world-building, and lyrical prose that leaves you feeling unsettled, this is it.

Each Vagabond by Name by Margo Orlando Littell

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Shelk is quiet, peaceful Pennsylvania town in the Appalachian Mountains, where life of a small town is knowing everyone, circulating gossip and settled-into routines.That is until a group of teenage runaways settle in the hills and begin to invade homes and lives–quickly a line is drawn between those residents seeking to insulate themselves from the outside world and those reaching out for more. Caught in the middle due to newfound loyalty is the lonesome local bar owner, Zaccariah Ramsy–when tensions rise between the townspeople and the newcomers, he must choose a side.

Each Vagabond by Name is a story that brings you into their world, and when you finish, you feel like a piece of you is left behind within the pages. It Littell’s debut novel, about isolation, loneliness, but also survival and coping. It is slow-paced, but beautifully written with emotion, grit, and and complexity. It was a well deserving 5 stars, and one of my favorites of the year.

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

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After being knocked unconscious by a masked abductor, Jason wakes up to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounding by strangers in hazmat suits. In this world he awakes in, Jason’s life is not his own. His wife is not his wife, and his son was never born. He is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who achieved something remarkable and once thought unimaginable. Is there a way to make it back to the world he knows, the family he loves? He must battle a seemingly impossible and unpredictable foe to get back to the life he knows.

This book was overwhelming, thought-provoking, and made me feel so small the further I read. It is a complex novel with the concept of parallel universes, physics, and mind-boggling twists, but easy to follow along and understand for all readers. This was one of those books you think you have figured out, but in reality, you have no idea. Crouch has a brilliant way of writing, and this was a story where I felt Jason’s pain and emotions, that edge of defeat that he keeps inching towards but never giving up. I’m torn between wanting a sequel, and letting Jason’s story come to an end wherever it is that he ends up–you have to read to find out!

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder

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Yelena is about to be executed for murder, until she is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She will eat the best meals and have a room in the palace, but she will be the food taster–at risk of assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia. To prevent her from attempting to escape, the Chief of Security deliberately feeds Yelena Butterfly’s Dust, which requires a daily antidote to delay an agonizing death from the poison. While she tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep happening everywhere she turns. She develops magical powers that she can’t control, rebels plot to seize Ixia, and her life is threatened once again.

I read novels 1-3 in the Study series, and Poison Study was my favorite. It was a solid introduction into the story and characters, with exceptional world-building and character development from beginning to end. There were quite a few unexpected discoveries throughout, which left me on the edge of my seat. There wasn’t an aspect that I didn’t enjoy, and I recommend it to anyone that wants an action-packed story with fantasy and magic.

The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil by Stephen Collins

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The Gigantic Beard that was Evil is a graphic novel with Dahl and Burton-esque, about the island of Here, where everything from the lawns to citizens are tidy, neat, and in order until a single hair sends the island into an uproar. Dave, who is bald, but for a single hair, begins to grow a massive, unstoppable beard.

This was such a whimsical, darkly funny story with social and political themes and issues. It is beautifully illustrated and the narrative is similar to fairy-tales, so it brings forth a quirky fun read, but with an underlying message that is so important, and thought-provoking. It is a graphic novel that will always have a place on my shelf.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire is a memoir that tells the experience twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan went through when she started to experience symptoms that went from flu-like to memory loss and constant paranoia. It is a gripping yet terrifying read that was at times uncomfortable to read because it is a very real situation that took place, but it was also educational. While there is medical and psych discussion throughout, it is well-written in a way that those not in the fields can understand, and we aren’t left skimming through or stumped over explanations. It is a non-fiction that I would highly recommend.

Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia

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Everything You Want Me to Be is about high school senior Hattie Hoffman, who is the good student, the good daughter, and good citizen–or so it seems. When she is found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy shakes the small town community. As the local sheriff begins to try to solve her murder, he begins to find that Hattie’s acting runs far beyond the stage, and she isn’t the person she portrays herself to be. It is told in three different point of views- Del, the local sheriff who is a family friend, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is falling apart.

Now while this book was only a 4 star read for me, it was one that even months later, I am still thinking about. It was a complex and layered story with twists that you would not expect. I kept trying to figure out who killed Hattie, and when revealed, it was not at all what I expected. The expected publication for Everything You Want Me to Be is January 3rd 2017 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books.

The Telling by Alexandra Sirowy

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Set on an island near Seattle, Lana is trying to come to terms with the brutal murder of her step-brother, Ben, who was killed by an unknown man with a red painted face. The only witness to the crime is found dead, and Lana is the one who pulls the body out of the water. Lana and her group of friends are the likely suspects to the police, knowing that Maggie is Ben’s ex-girlfriend, and hated by Lana. The further they dig for the truth and to prove their innocence, more people are killed. Lana starts piecing together the stories Ben used to tell her as a child to the way the people (who have wronged her in some way) are being killed.

Is Lana committing the crimes and blacking out? Is she being framed for the murders? Is Ben’s ghost seeking revenge?

The Telling was one of those books that pulled me in at the very beginning, even though I seen the ending coming. I am not particularly fond of YA mystery, but this novel was exceptional with rich world-building, and realistic characters who developed naturally throughout the story. If you are expecting a horror novel, this is not it – it is a YA mystery that dips into thriller closer to the ending. It is twisted, dark, and one that you will not be able to put down.

The Beauty, Vol. 1 by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley

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Two years ago a new sexually transmitted disease, called The Beauty, started turning patients into perfect specimens. Everyone who contracted the STD ended up looking physically beautiful, and now almost the entire planet is willingly living with the disease. Suddenly people start internally combusting as a long-term effect of The Beauty, and government officials are trying to keep it unknown to the public. This is an original, action-packed story line that I thoroughly enjoyed, and now want to tell everyone to read it because it was unique, thought-provoking, and intriguing.

This comic is beautifully done with artwork that is moody and consistent. This is definitely a comic series aimed towards an older audience because of the subject matter, and there is some gore along with full frontal nudity. I am really interested in more backstory on the main characters, especially Mr. Calaveras who is a skull wearing crazed hitman. It is a great opening to a comic series with a lot of potential, which is why I am looking forward to reading the series.

Honorable Mentions

  • I Hate Fairyland, Volume 1: Madly Ever After by Skottie Young, Jean-François Beaulieu, Nate Piekos
  • Harrow County Volume 1-2 by Cullen Bunn, Tyler Crook
  • Giant Days, Vol. 1-3 by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar
  • The Amulet series 1-6 by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Dept. H #1 by Matt Kindt, Sharlene Kindt
  • There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales
    by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya, Keith Gessen, Anna Summers
  • Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson
  • The Trees by Ali Shaw