Sunday, August 31, 2014

A Sad Goodbye

It is with a heavy heart that I am announcing the end of Cozy Little Book Journal. I will no longer be reviewing, tweeting about, or blogging about books. Period. This means the end of all of my secondary blogs as well, I'm afraid.

I'm so sorry to all of the authors and publishers who were counting on me to promote the countless books they've sent me over the years, and I'm sorry to all of the readers who have come back to my blog again and again. I appreciate all of your support and encouragement and I'm so sorry to disappoint anyone. I assure you I did not take this decision lightly.

Most people don't realize this but I've not been well for several months now. I've had medical issues that have impacted my life in various ways and I really need to focus on my health now. For a long time, blogging seemed like a good fit for me. I could read and review books even when I was too ill to do much else. Lately, however, the stress of all of my book-related commitments, combined with feeling physically ill and emotionally exhausted, has made it a hobby that I dread more than I treasure. I've hated having reading turn into a chore instead of a joy.

Apart from health concerns, I've also gotten tired of a lot of other aspects of having a book blog. I'm sick of having authors' friends call me an idiot on Amazon because I didn't like a book. I'm tired of being sent dozens of crappy book files every month, despite repeatedly telling self-published authors that I'm in no way interested in their Christian children's books or their vampire YA. I'm tired of always being a few hundred books behind in my reading list, then feeling guilty if I choose to read a library book instead of one I'm "obligated" to read. I miss re-reading my favourite books just because I feel like it, instead of trying to speed-read the endless book files I have on my Kobo.

Don't get me wrong. I've loved so much about book blogging. I'd say I've loved it way more than I've hated it. I've loved being a part of a community of committed readers who discuss books with the enthusiasm of sports fans discussing a big game. I've loved interacting with authors, illustrators, publishers and publicists, the majority of whom have been the most amazing and lovely people. I've treasured the moments when my honest excitement for a book can make an author's day, and I've loved when they've taken the time to tell me that. I've been in awe of so many authors and artists and I've felt like I was backstage at a rock concert, getting to exchange letters and emails with my literary heroes.

I've loved sharing this experience with my daughter. She's five, but she never starts a new book without reading not only the title, but also the name of the author, the illustrator and the publisher. I didn't do that when I was her age. She's only a beginner reader herself, but she can already easily identify when a book is written or illustrated by someone she knows because she's come to recognize art styles, writing styles, and author photos. She thinks computers are mostly for downloading book files. I love that.

Nonetheless, I've decided that it is time to take a break from blogging. My daughter is starting school in a few days and I'm trying to stay healthy enough to share each day with her. Of course we'll still be reading and discussing all our favourite books. We just won't be doing it online.

Thank-you again to everyone who has supported and participated in my book blog, in every capacity, over the past four years. Unfortunately it's goodbye for now (possibly forever) but I really appreciate all of you. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

No Such Thing, by Ella Bailey

As with all books from Nobrow and Flying Eye Books, if you like some of them you'll like all of them. They share a particular style that is easy to identify and is consistent throughout most of their catalogue. It's all about the muted retro colours and the general nostalgic appeal of the illustrations. If you love that, you'll likely be eagerly awaiting each new title.

The thing is, I want to love them. Every time I see the cover of one of these books, I have a momentary attraction to it, but I just can't connect with them in the end. I may end up abandoning the imprint altogether, to be honest.

To be fair, if you or your child connects with these pictures and love them, you'll probably love the whole book. My daughter and I just didn't love them quite enough to overcome our ambivalence about the story, which we both found a little hollow.



Thursday, August 7, 2014

Movies and TV Top Tens, by Sandy Donovan

I like the idea of this book a lot. True to the description, it contains lists of things like the highest grossing movies of all time, the youngest actors to ever win an Oscar for a lead role, and the highest paid performers on TV. Unfortunately, at only 32 pages, that's about ALL it contains. There are only a handful of lists in this tiny book, and then it's finished. As much as I adore entertainment trivia, I was hoping for so much more from this book. I just don't think this subject matter is best suited to a page count typically reserved for preschool picture books. It's like reading the main page of Buzzfeed and then not being allowed to get any more information. Such a disappointment.




Sunday, August 3, 2014

Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun, by Amanda Kingloff

This is a great book for rainy day projects because almost all of them can be made at the spur of the moment with crap you have lying around the house. I say 'crap' because most of the materials required can be found in your garbage can: juice boxes, toilet paper rolls, empty bottles, unmatched socks.

Of course the results still look like things made out of random garbage (you probably won't be showing off your results on Pinterest) but kids will like them.

And when it's raining for the fifth day in a row and school doesn't start for another month and your kid is complaining that she's borrrrrrrred, it's nice to have a book of handy ideas to get her to be quiet for a few minutes so you can watch Project Runway already keep her entertained. And if your child is a little older, like eight or nine, you can probably send her and a friend loose on their own with the book for extra time to check your Facebook and see what everyone else thought about Project Runway this week an added sense of independence.

A wise investment for any parent who lives in a rainy part of the world and forgot to take the recycling out this week has lots of bits and pieces lying around, waiting to be turned into random crap upcycled.

BOOK DETAILS:
Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun
Smart and Surprising Projects to Make with and for Your Kids
Author: Amanda Kingloff
Publisher: Artisan Books
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
View on Amazon

Source: NetGalley





Great Little Gifts to Knit: 30 Quick and Colorful Patterns, by Jean Moss

I was happy to see this book offered for review on NetGalley because I've come to love knitting and I'm always looking for new ideas. I'm not sure when I'll stop thinking of myself as "just a little bit past a total beginner" (maybe when I finally get the hang of circular needles?) but I have managed to make quite a few gifts, mostly dolls and toys. This book looked like it was right up my alley.

Because I requested it from a review site instead of browsing it in a store or library, I wasn't able to flip through it first to see if I liked the look of the projects themselves. To be honest, I'm not sure I did. They all seem easy enough (for the most part...I think I could handle the majority of them) but I just don't think they're to my personal taste.

There are a lot of old-fashioned "grandma's knits" types of things here -- bobbly baby booties, oversized mittens, big wool socks, drawstring bags-- that may appeal to some, but seemed dowdy to me. The photos are nice, but the projects just didn't seem current enough. Of course, if the same items had been photographed on a twenty-something wearing giant black glasses and skinny jeans, it might have at least captured some hipster appeal (not that I'm the target demographic for that either...).



Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Angry Little Puffin, by Timothy Young

Bahahaha! This book had me at the cover. "The Happy Little Penguin" with the words crossed out and re-written as "The Angry Little Puffin" in red paint (although the digital file I got from NetGalley showed the puffin with a marker instead of paint...different covers? or just the inside cover picture?).

The puffin in question lives in some sort of zoo/aquarium/biodome and is sick to death of always being mistaken for a penguin. "Look at the funny little penguin," people say. "What a cute little penguin!" Nobody seems to even know what a puffin is. It's maddening!

Just when the puffin thinks he's going to scream, a little girl finally comes along who not only knows lots about puffins, but absolutely adores them (she must be a Canadian girl...we have lots of puffins here). Finally! Vindication for the little penguin...I mean puffin.

Like all of the Timothy Young books I've read, I loved it. It reminds me of I Hate Picture Books! in that it has an adorably angry main character who softens by the end. It also showcases Young's love for picture books, as he depicts several real-life books (as well as DVDs and toys) about penguins during the puffin's tirade that penguins get all the attention. [Scroll down for a complete list of the books and movies depicted in the book!]

Keep reading for more, including Magda's Take!


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Who Was Here? Discovering Wild Animal Tracks, by Mia Posada

My daughter and I had a lot of fun reading this book. It's like a puzzle. First there is a double page illustration of an animal track (or multiple tracks) in its natural environment, along with a little verse describing the animal (or animals) who made it. The clues are in the poetic description, the type of ground on which it's found, and of course, the size and shape of the track itself. The reader then has to try to guess "Who Was Here?"

Magda and I had just finished reading the wonderful animal poetry book, Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems From the Water Hole, so she kept wanting to guess African savanna animals for every page. I'd tell her, "Look at the snow around the tracks" but when we turned the page, she'd still be surprised it wasn't a jackal or something.


Keep reading for more, including some illustrations from inside the book...


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Mr. Zidderdeedee, by Diane Page and Bruce Bigelow (illustrated by Bruce Bigelow)

Oh my no. If there's one aspect of book blogging that I dread, it's having to write a review for a children's book I didn't enjoy. Since I receive a lot of review copies from publishers with the understanding that I will post an honest review, I don't feel like I can just skip reviewing it altogether.

I also can't sugarcoat it. If I didn't like a book, I have to be honest or else my favourable reviews of books that I DID like will be less meaningful. How would anybody believe I was being honest if I can't be honest about what I don't like, as well as what I do?

Anyway, I didn't like this book. At all. If it had been a book for adults, it probably wouldn't have been so hard for me to be blunt, but for some reason I worry about hurting the feelings of children's book authors and illustrators more than other authors. But I need to get over that because this book was terrible.



Dear Wandering Wildebeest And Other Poems from the Water Hole, by Irene Latham (Illustrated by Anna Wadham)

Huzzah! I enjoyed this book so much that I have to gather my thoughts first before I just start gushing about it.

Okay.

First of all, my enjoyment was amplified by the fact that five minutes before I read it I had just finished reading a truly atrocious book with terrible illustrations and tortured rhymes, only to discover this gem immediately after. I know it's not fair to either book to let a side-by-side comparison flavour my review, so I won't mention the name of the other book (but if you're really curious, you can probably figure it out by looking at what I reviewed just before or just after this one), but I know I would have loved this book no matter what. I just happened to love it MORE because I was in need of a great book to cleanse my reading palette.