Spring 2019 Book Review Round Up

I have been tracking my reading on Good Reads for the first time ever this year, and I’m obsessed! I hope to get to a point where he only social media app I use is Good Reads. Here’s a round up of the books I’ve reviewed lately – including some ARCs from NetGalley.

cove 1Much Ado About Shakespeare (April 2019)

This book is a combination of two things that I truly love: Shakespeare and Mean Girls. I expect that many others will feel the same extreme draw towards it. It is brilliantly written, with great respect for both Shakespeare and Mean Girls. In fact, it basically transcribes the movie line for line into Shakespearean language. It is a fun read. You can almost hear the actors’ voices while reading. The author did a great job of maintaining the characters’ voices within the Shakespearean language.

High school drama classes and millennial book clubs need this book in their lives.


cove 2Orange World by Karen Russell (May 2019)

The strange magic-realism I’ve come to expect from Karen Russell is in full force in this collection of short stories. The thing I love most about this book is the juxtaposition between the writing style and the subject matter. Her writing is always dreamy and romantic, as though she is writing about a dazzling royal ball. But the subject matter is often grotesque to the extreme: a room full of men who have been dead for years, a smitten teen carrying around a decomposing body everywhere he goes, a woman whose body has been commandeered by the spirit of a tree, a dog who runs away and breaks her own leg.

As with Vampires in the Lemon Grove, there are bright images in this book that have stayed with me, and randomly pop into my imagination. I love that about Russell. She knows how to stick with you.


cove 3With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo (May 2019)

Stunningly beautiful story told with thoughtful and poetic prose. Similar subject matter to On the Come Up, but the main character is a teen mom who wants to be a chef.

I finished this audiobook in two days, and couldn’t stop thinking about it the whole time. It was read by the author and her authentic emotion shone through her voice. If you love Philly and/or small town Spain like I do, know that those settings are a huge part of the story. If you liked On the Come Up by Angie Thomas or The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo, you have to read this.


cove 4Little Witches by Leigh Dragoon (August 2019)

A charming and creative spin on a classic story (the “Little Women” are magical witches), told in a cartoony graphic novel format that middle grade readers will love. Some pages are full of brown, antique-ish looking colours, reminiscent of the “classic” status of the original book. Others are bursting with bright colours and magic.

Magic is exposed to be influential in a few historical events, including slavery and the Black Plague. I see how this could be controversial, but I think it will spark interesting conversations and may inspire some child readers to expand their research on the topics.


cove 5Mermaid Dreams by Kate Pugsley (April 2019)

An adorable story with great art. A couple years ago I lamented that there weren’t enough picture books about mermaids to satisfy all the requests. This picture book would be a great addition to any library collection. It would also make a great read-a-loud for storytimes. There are points for children to guess what will happen next, and to name animals. I love the message about imaginative play and finding “your person.”


cove 6Art Masterclass with Gustav Klimt by Lucy Brownridge (April 2019)

What an incredible art education resource! Not only do we learn a touch of art history and theory, but we are given practical exercises to create art in the style of Klimt. The book is written with a child’s audience in mind, however parents, teachers, and librarians will gain plenty of inspiration. Educators could adapt the exercises and information in this book to be appropriate for any elementary school grade.

The book encourages kids to use the same materials that Klimt used – mainly tempura paint and gold leaf. However, it notes that you can use any material and do the exercises too. It doesn’t just cover Klimt’s most recognizable images. We learn how to make patterns like him, how to draw from nature, how to use outline, how to understand the depth of colours, and more. One of the most interesting exercises encourages kids to “paint a song like Klimt.”

I highly recommend for anyone running an art program or class for kids.


cove 7Making Dogs Happy by Paul McGreevy and Melissa Starling (April 2019)

This is a beautiful book filled with science-focused information. The main goal is to explore how owners can make their dogs happy. We learn about why dogs do certain behaviours and how humans can react.

I appreciate that the book begins by introducing us to the scientists who contributed to the book and the dogs they observed. It builds credibility, and also…the dogs were cute and who doesn’t want to see cute dogs? Actually “credibility and also…the dogs were cute” is a pretty good summary of this entire book.

Another thing I appreciate is that even though this book is packed with scientific words like “vomeronasal,” “antecedents,” and “anal sac,” the writers completely understand what it’s like to be a dog owner. I like that they don’t water the science parts down, and that they still include funny and relatable anecdotes.

Some things that I learned from this book: Why do dogs roll around in disgusting smells? Do dogs taste? How and when should I reinforce good behaviour?

Almost half of its 289 pages are full photographs featuring beautiful happy dogs. I highly recommend this book for any dog owner who wants to understand their furry pal a little better.


cove 8Draw 52 Animals and Make Them Cute by Heegyum Kim (March 2019)

I want this book for myself! But it would also be a wonderful and engaging resource for children. Because of the cute and quirky nature of the drawings, kids (and adults!) who might not usually be “good” at drawing, can create great looking doodles.

The variance of animals including is fantastic. There are quirky animals that you would not expect in a “normal” drawing book: alpaca, wombat, armadillo. There are also extremely specific animals that you would not expect: corgi, anglerfish, and java sparrow. Each animal includes one page with a step-by-step drawing guide, and one page called “Make it cute” with variances on the original. Many are giggle worthy.


How to Give Up Plastic by William McCallum (May 2019)

Succinct, enjoyable, and never condescending, this is a highly informative and motivational read. I learned a lot of surprising things about plastic pollution. For example, I knew about the dangers of fast fashion, but I didn’t realize that some types of fabrics give off thousands of plastic microfibers when washed. Read this!

Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (February 2019)

This book urges readers to take a deeper look at how and why they fill their time with technology. The main focus is social media. I appreciated the combination of philosophy, psychology, and practical advice. It’s potentially life changing, and doesn’t at all read like a self-help book.

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