Tuesday, July 30, 2013


You only have ONE DAY left to enter to win a copy of Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats By the Red Mailbox, by Angela Shelton.

Click here to enter!

UPDATE: The giveaway for this book is closed. Winner(s) are being contacted now and will be announced shortly. Thank-you to everyone who entered!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt (illustrated by Oliver Jeffers)

The Day the Crayons Quit
Author: Drew Daywalt
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Philomel (Penguin)
Publication Date: June 27, 2013

Source: I received a review copy directly from the publisher (thank-you!), but this did not influence the content of my review in any way. All opinions expressed are strictly my own (with a little help from my daughter of course).

My three-year-old daughter Magda loved this book so much that she can't wait to start school just so she can bring it with her to show her teacher. It's about a boy named Duncan who has an unexpected discovery one day at school. His crayons have all written him letters of complaint! Grey crayon is tired of colouring in all those large animals--elephants hippos, whales; Black crayon is tired of only being used to outline other colours; Blue crayon is just plain tired; Green crayon is happy enough but he'd like to intervene on behalf of his friends, Orange and Yellow, who are currently not speaking to each other as each claims to be the true colour of the sun; and Pink and Beige feel frankly ignored. How will Duncan appease them all?

Magda loved this book because she found it funny to think of her crayons as having opinions and complaints. Of course, I've heard her arguing with her Lambie on more than one occasion, so maybe she didn't find it so hard to believe after all. 

I liked it because it's funny and clever, it encourages children to be creative with how they use their crayons (why not draw an orange whale or a yellow sky?) AND it's illustrated by the marvellous Oliver Jeffers (author/illustrator of The Incredible Book Eating Boy). 

You can see more of Oliver Jeffers in his video, "Oliver Jeffers, Picture Book Maker" below.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Can just talk about J.K. Rowling for a second?

By now everyone knows that J.K. Rowling has been revealed to be the author of the until-recently-wildly-unpopular crime novel, The Cuckoo's Calling. The book was supposed to have been a debut novel by ex-SIB (Special Investigative Branch, a plainclothes division of the Royal Military Police) Robert Galbraith, though that was admitted all along to be a pseudonym. The mysterious Galbraith was meant to have retired to civilian life and created the adventurous detective character Cormoran Strike, star of The Cuckoo's Calling. With sales of only 1500, it seems no one cared.

But then when it was revealed and confirmed on Sunday that J.K. Rowling was, in fact, Robert Galbraith, the internet proceeded to explode with the news. Sales immediately skyrocket more than 500,000%.

Author J.K. Rowling reads from ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' at the Easter Egg Roll at White House. Screenshot taken from official White House video. Source www.whitehouse.gov (via WikiCommons)

So I guess the question is: Did you read/buy/enjoy The Cuckoo's Calling before you knew who wrote it? (Answer: No, you probably did not.) And, just as importantly, are you going to read/buy/borrow it now that you know? (Answer: Statistically, yes. Yes you will.)

Is that hypocritical? Is that some sort of indictment on the state of the industry, as some articles have claimed? Are we all too fickle that we'll only give a chance to well-known authors but have no interest in debut writers without brand recognition?

My take? Meh. Let's not all be too hard on ourselves. Here's why:

First of all, it's not fickle to want to read new books by a beloved author. The Harry Potter series was freaking amazing and most fans (myself included) could--and have--read it over and over and over again. It's well written and well loved. So of course we all want to read more by Rowling. We love her!

Having said that, The Casual Vacancy, Rowling's previous Potter-free novel, was not so well received. Sure, it had high sales and a lot of Potter fans read it, but it was...well, it was okay. It had good points and bad points, but in the end it was hard for me (and a lot of readers and reviewers, I think) to know whether I was judging a good book too harshly because of my high expectations of the author, or whether I was judging a bad book too generously because of my great affection for the author. In the end, I couldn't separate the book from the author and I judged it as middle-of-the-road.

J.K. Rowling promoting The Casual Vacancy in 2012 (photo thanks to Snitch Seeker, via hypable.com)

So maybe that's the real reason Rowling chose to use a pseudonym for her crime novel. Maybe she wanted to see if it would stand on its own, without the benefit of her name. And it didn't really. The articles are all quick to point out that it was "well received by reviewers" but let's be honest. That's a bit of a stretch. It had VERY few reviews prior to July 13th, and those were warm, but mostly not "glowing." Not a lot of people read it, even amongst bloggers who read hundreds of books a year and were offered an advance copy on NetGalley. I myself was one of those bloggers who had access to a review copy and didn't bother to request it. Actually, I don't even remember seeing it on Net Galley, even though I check for new titles regularly, so I'm guessing it didn't make much of an impression.

Which brings me to my main point.

Maybe the reason J.K. Rowling's detective novel didn't originally sell well was because it looks like it sucks.

I mean, seriously. A mysterious debut author who prefers to remain anonymous but claims to be some kind of secret agent man? A one-legged private eye with a name like Cormoran Strike? A plot involving the death of a supermodel named Lula Landry, aka Cuckoo? A cover picture of a woman wearing a slinky gold peignoir amid a sea of flash bulbs? The whole thing looks awwwwwwwful.

The Cuckoo's Calling, by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

The whole thing reminds me of the sort of mediocre-looking books I get offered on a daily basis as a book blogger. Sure, there are some gems in there, but there are SOOOOOO many awful looking books that I have no desire to read, let alone review. The Cuckoo's Calling looks, at best, amateur.

And no, I haven't read it yet. I'm entirely judging the book by its cover. And its description and author bio. But isn't that how we all judge books? We have to be enticed to read them somehow, right?

And for me the only thing enticing about this book is that it was written by Harry Potter's mom.

But of course now that I know that, I'm SUPER excited about it...call me a hypocrite if you must.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Francis: Man of Prayer, by Mario Escobar

Francis: Man of Prayer
Author: Mario Escobar
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: May 14, 2013

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from Booksneeze. I was not required to write a favourable review and I was not otherwise compensated for my review. All opinions expressed are strictly my own.

This book really made me want to know more. Published long after the ordination of Pope Francis, the book serves as a brief biography of the former Jesuit priest who became pope after the shocking resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. But, as author Mario Escobar admits, much of what we really want to know about Pope Francis--namely, what kind of pope he will be and how he will lead the Catholic Church in the twenty-first century--remains to be seen.

But I like this book. I found it fair and pragmatic. Escobar expresses admiration for each of the last three popes without being blind to their flaws (though he is kinder than most when it comes to Pope Benedict XVI). He speaks the language of the religious historian rather than the apologist or critic. He is writing neither a sermon nor an exposé, but rather a simple background piece on the man who is currently capturing the world's attention.

Having said that, I was hoping for a little more insight into WHY exactly Pope Benedict XVI made the highly unusual decision to step down as pope, what the reaction was inside the Vatican, and how it is affecting the relationship between the former and current popes. I guess some questions we may never know the answers to, but in the meantime I'm going to use this book as a springboard for further reading.

The Man

Pope Francis was born Jorge Mario Bergoglio was born in 1936 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of Italian immigrants. He joined the order of the Jesuits in 1960 and eventually went on to become Archbishop of Buenos Aires. After his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI--formally Cardinal Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger--announced his resignation from the Holy See on February 11, 2013, Bergoglio was elected to the position by Papal enclave on March 13, 2013. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first pope in centuries to take a name not derived from previous popes.

The Author

Mario Escobar Golderos has a degree in History, with an advanced studies diploma in Modern History. He has written numerous books and articles about the Inquisition, the Protestant Reformation, and religious sects. He has published previous books with Thomas Nelson, including biographies of Martin Luther and Winston Churchill.

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The Year of Living Biblically
Pray the Gay Away
The Purpose Driven Life
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The Voice Bible
Peace Be With You


I'd like to thank my guest blogger today, Angela Shelton, author of Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats. I reviewed Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats: By the Red Tractor Mailbox (Book One) in yesterday's post, and announced a giveaway contest that runs until July 31 (get your entries in!). Today, Ms. Shelton talks a little bit more about how you can use dress up play--particularly with fun hats--to not only encourage creativity and self-expression, but also to teach the alphabet. 

Teach the Alphabet and New Vocabulary Through Dress Up! 

Tilda Pinkerton’s Magical Hats is written to expand the minds of little ones (K-3rd grade readers) and get them thinking about bigger words and ideas! 
Kids are WAY smarter than you think and a great way to get their little brains working is with dress up time! That goes for boys and girls, since they can dress up as anything from a princess to a cowboy.  
The easiest way to play dress up is with hats! Shoes are fun too but can be a tad dangerous with the little ones trying to walk a grownup’s footwear. Hats are another story and tell who you are immediately as far as the imagination of dress up goes. 
I happen to collect hats so I have a huge selection for little ones to choose from. (I keep the very delicate ones packed away from sticky hands though.) 
When a little boy puts on a cowboy hat for example and you say, “Yeeehaw, you’re a cowboy! That starts with C. C for cowboy!” It totally and completely gets that little one excited. You will shortly hear them yell out, “C is for cowboy!”  
If you don’t have a huge collection of hats, you can hit your local thrift store or make your own hats out of construction paper, glue and tape and add in some glitter. Here’s a list of hats that show up in the Tilda books. 

A is for Aviator Hat.  
You can fly high in the sky with this hat!  

B is for Baseball Cap.  
This hat helps you play really well. 

C is for Cowboy Hat. 
Yeehaw!  You can ride really fast in this hat. 

D is for Disco Hat. 
You can dance dance dance with this hat. 

E is for Easter Bonnet.  
This hat has flowers and butterflies. 

F is for Fireman’s Hat. 
Save the day and put out dangerous fires wearing this hat! 

G is for Goofy Hat that makes you laugh.  
Tilda’s hat has a fish tank in it for giggles. 

H is for Helmet to keep you safe. 
Where your helmet when you are riding very fast. 

I is for Intelligent Cap. 
This is a great thinking cap. It is fun to be smart.   

J is for Jester Cap.  
It has bells on the end to ring when you do something silly. 

K is for the King Crown.    
You can wear this and sit on a throne.  

L is for Lace Hat. 
You look very pretty in this hat.  

M is for Matador Hat.  
This one is shaped like a bull’s head with the horns for bull fighting.   

N is for Nurse Cap. 
Bandages don’t hurt when you have this hat on.  

O is for Opera Hat.  
Sing a song when you have this on! 

P is for a Peaked Cap. 
Military officers and police officers wear these.     

Q is for the Queen’s Crown. 
You can wear this and sit on a throne.

R is for Robin Hood Hat. 
This one has a long feather in the back. 

S is for Stocking Cap.  
This long hat has a pompom at the end. 

T is for Top Hat.  
You can wear this hat to go on a walk or to lead a circus. 

U is for Underwater Swimming Cap.  
You can swim with this hat on. 
V is for Visor. 
This is to shade your eyes. 

W is for Wizard’s Hat. 
This very long hat sparkles with magic stardust. 

X is for the Xylophone Musical Hat. 
This hat makes music when you walk. You can be a whole band! 

Y is for Your Favorite Hat!  
Which hats do you like best?  

Z is for Zebra Striped Nighttime Hat.  
Sometimes you need to wear this one to fall asleep. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

BLOG TOUR: REVIEW + GIVEAWAY! Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats: By the Red Tractor Mailbox (Book 1), by Angela Shelton (illustrated by James Murray)

UPDATE: The giveaway for this book is closed. Winner(s) are being contacted now and will be announced shortly. Thank-you to everyone who entered!


Hooray! It's time for another BLOG TOUR! I don't always love these, because a lot of times the organizers want you to promote all kinds of books on your blog, sight unseen, without giving you a review copy or any promotional materials to work with. What if the book sucks? I always wonder. Anyway, that's not how I roll. I never promote a book on my blog without reading it first, and I never give a book a positive review if I don't truly love the book. Which means I don't participate in many blog tours (it could get a little awkward if I interview an author and all my questions are, "Why did you book suck so much?" and "Did you know your book sucks?"). Luckily, when there's a book I really like and a virtual tour organizer who's really keen, BLOG TOURS CAN BE AWESOME. They can usually mean interviews or guest posts by the author and GIVEAWAYS!
In this case, it's ALL OF THE ABOVE.

I received a copy of Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats By the Red Tractor Mailbox (Book 1), by Angela Shelton (illustrated by James Murray) from Teddy Rose at Virtual Author Book Tours. The book is fantastic (you can read my review and my daughter's input below) AND the author is doing a guest post tomorrow AND the publisher is sponsoring a giveaway (scroll down to the bottom of this post to enter the giveaway).

The Book

Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats:
Book One: By the Red Tractor Mailbox
Author: Angela Shelton
Illustrator: James MurrayPublisher: Quiet Owl Books
Publication Date: April 1, 2013

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from Teddy Rose at Virtual Author Book Tours so I could review it and participate in this blog tour. I was not required to write a favourable review, nor was I otherwise compensated for my participation. All opinions expressed are strictly my own (with a little help from my three-year-old, Magda). The book giveaway will be sponsored by the publisher and will be open to U.S. residents only.

Tilda Pinkerton is the magical owner of a VERY magical hat shop (a magical milliner, if you will). She has thousands of hats of all shapes and sizes (even small enough for woodchucks and gnats!) which she gives away for free to anyone who wants or needs one. The catch is you have to use your magical hat to create something "wonderful, beautiful in the world." For Madison Mae and Albert it's an easy choice: they need hats that will help them come up with ways to save their grandparents' failing farm.

Tilda Pinkerton's Magical Hats is described as appropriate for Read-Aloud K-2, and Reading Level 3, but I was able to read it to my three-year-old with no problem (though Magda has a pretty high attention span for books and has been listening to chapter books for over a year already). The text is large and the story is relatively simple, but each chapter contains "bigger" words that are a little above the intended reading level. These words are then listed at the end of each chapter and explained in a glossary at the back. Most of the words were ones that Magda was able to pick up from context, but it was fantastic that Ms. Shelton included them to encourage children to expand their vocabulary. And Magda felt very clever when there were "bigger" words that she already knew ("taken aback," according to Magda, means "so startled, like you have to jump back and go Whoa!").

There are other nice touches about the book as well. The large line drawings are left intentionally simple so that children can colour them in themselves (if they own the book, of course!), and there are some blank pages on which readers are encouraged to draw their own favourite hats.

BONUS: Head over to The Bookish Elf to see my daughter Magda's review of this book (I interview her about it in a regular feature on that blog called "Magda's Take").

The Author

Come back tomorrow for a guest post by author Angela Shelton!

Not only is she an actor, a filmmaker and an author, she also has one of the most engaging author photos I've seen in a while. That's her on the right and also in the banner picture at the top of this post. It just makes me want to know her and hang out with her!

The Blog Tour

You can follow Tilda Pinkerton around the interweb:

So Many Precious Book July 2 Review & Giveaway
Books, Books & More Books  July 3 Review
Books, Books & More Books  July 5 Guest Post
Haunting of Orchid Forsythia July 8 Review
Sweeps4Bloggers July 9 Review & Giveaway
Sincerely Stacie July 10 Review
Library of Clean Reads July 11 Review
Cozy Little Book Journal & The Bookish Elf July 15 Review
Cozy Little Book Journal & The Bookish Elf July 16 G & Guest Post
Carole Rae’s Ramblings July 17 Review
Reading Novels Online  July 18 Review
Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms July 19 Review
Saving for 6 July 22 Review
Saving for 6 July 23 Guest Post
Thoughts in Progress July 23 Review & Giveaway
Joy Story July 25 Review
Haunting of Orchid Forsythia July 26 Interview
From L.A. to LA July 29 Review
Heck of a Bunch July 30 Review & Giveaway
Second Bookshelf July 31 Interview
Pragmatic Mom Aug 5 Review
Sweet Southern Home Aug 6 Review
VW Stitcher Aug 7 Review
Musing with Crayolakym Aug 8 Review    
DWED Blog Aug 9 Review
DWED Blog Aug 9 Interview
City Book Review Aug 12 Review
Giveaways & Glitter Aug 13 Review         

The Giveaway

I'm feeling pretty lazy this summer so this giveaway is (hopefully) super easy. All you have to do is either:

(a) like Cozy Little Book Journal on Facebook;
(b) follow @CozyBookJournal on Twitter;
(c) leave a blog post (either on Cozy Little Book Journal or The Bookish Elf) or Facebook comment telling me your favourite way to play dress up with your kids; or
(d) Tweet about the giveaway.

That's it. You can do any or all of those things. It doesn't matter. Just use the Rafflecopter widget below to let me know you entered.

The giveaway is for a print copy of the book to be sent by the publisher to one winner, so I'm not in charge of the shipping on this one. Unfortunately, that also means the contest is open to U.S. residents only (sorry everyone else...you can still enter my other giveaways though...check the sidewalk on the right for more info). Contest is only open from July 15-31, 2013 so get your entries in early!

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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: The Greening, by Margaret Coles

The Greening:

What if a Book Could Answer All Your Deepest Questions... if You Were Willing to Risk Everything?
Author: Margaret Coles
Publisher: Hay House
Publication Date: June 3, 2013
Available on Amazon.com
This is one of those books that I like more in theory than in execution. It's like on those competitive cooking shows when the judges tell the aspiring chefs that they had a great idea for a dish, but they made it over-complicated and then put too much chili in it so it overpowered everything else.

In this case the great idea was a novel inspired by the writings of medieval English mystic Julian of Norwich. I studied Julian quite a bit in university and I know a lot about her, so I was excited for this book. Where it gets over-complicated is the plot. A female reporter chances upon an antique diary written by another woman who had chanced upon the writings of Dame Julian. It's too many levels of separation and, I thought, needlessly complicated.

And if I can continue with the metaphor just a little longer, the overpowering "hit of chili" was the Christian message. It was not subtle. At all. Julian of Norwich was a mystic who had hallucinatory visions during a fevered bout of severe illness and wrote about things such as seeing Jesus as her divine mother, all during a time when women were being burned at the stake as witches, often for things far less radical than what she was writing. She's fascinating for so many reasons. Yet every character in the book acts as though the only possible interpretation of her writing is that Jesus loves us and has a plan for us all and that Julian's writing is a factual account of that plan. One character even goes so far as to say Julian "writes like a reporter" (I actually laughed out loud at that one).

I love Julian of Norwich and her writings (which she called "Divine Shewings") but I did not love this inelegant handling of them. By the end of the book all I wanted to do was what I should have done in the first place: put on some music by Hildegard von Bingen and curl up with The Revelation of Divine Love in Sixteen Showings Made to Dame Julian of Norwich, the original text on which The Greening is based. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free from Hay House for review purposes. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, nor was I otherwise compensated for my review. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

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