Blog Tour Review: The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities by Rick Riordan

Hello, friends! I’m thrilled to be taking part in my first blog tour hosted by Rockstar Book Tours for The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories about Mythic Heroes by Rick Riordan, Carlos Hernandez, Roshani Chkoshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda and Graci Kim.

Don’t forget to enter the GIVEAWAY (US only, sorry international friends)—details are at the end of my post, and don’t forget to check out the other blogs on tour in the schedule posted after my thoughts!

Special thanks to Rick Riordan Presents for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities
Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents
Publish Date: 28 September 2021
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents ten new stories–including one of his own–about beloved heroes that sprang from the imaginations of some of the best middle grade authors working today.

A cave monster . . . an abandoned demon . . . a ghost who wants to erase history . . . a killer commandant . . . These are just some of the challenges confronting the young heroes in this highly entertaining anthology.

All but one of the heroes previously starred in a popular book from Rick Riordan Presents. You”ll be reunited with Aru Shah, Zane Obispo, Min the fox spirit, Sal and Gabi, Tristan Strong, Nizhoni Begay, Paola Santiago, Sikander Aziz, and Riley Oh. Who is the new hero? Read Rick Riordan”s short story to find out!

Ten bestselling and award-winning middle grade authors contributed to this collection: Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda, Graci Kim, and Rick Riordan, who also served as the editor.

The cultures represented by these own-voices stories are: Indian, Mesoamerican, Korean, Cuban, Black American, African, Navajo, Mexican, Mesopotamian, and Celtic.

There’s something for everyone in this collection of fast-paced and funny adventure stories that show what it takes to be a hero in any time, setting, and universe.

GET A COPY:

Click on the author names to be taken to their websites!

TL;DR: For readers who are new to the worlds found in Rick Riordan Presents books, this will give you a wonderful taste of what lies in store when you finally dive into them head first! For those who are returning, these stories will take you on fun (mis)adventures with some of your favourite characters from your favourite stories! This was such a fun collection full of magic and it’s rich in diversity and cultural representation! Highly recommended for all readers but especially those who love action-packed (mis)adventures, an abundance of magic, diverse mythology, most likely demons and ghouls, and lots of cheeky and witty humour! 😊

I was completely immersed from the moment I set foot into this Multiverse Mansion and I was itching with eagerness to open each door to the different worlds held within. These stories are rich with diverse cultures and a wild kind of magic courses through each of the pages that hold you enthralled as the characters and their stories unfold. Honestly, these are the kind of stories that I wish had been available to younger me because it would’ve meant so much to see parts of myself in characters who look like me and have roots in parts of the world I’m from. Not to mention that it would’ve been amazing to learn about the different mythologies, too! Luckily, they’re stories that adult me can read and greatly appreciate and it makes me so happy knowing that such diverse heroic tales are available for younger generations to read and identify with!

We get small glimpses into magnificent worlds and we meet many new characters that I was eager to learn more about the minute their story ended. What makes me love a short story is when the story comes full circle, the questions are answered and it can essentially stand on its own, and the majority of stories in here did that! I often found myself going into deep(ish) dives on the interwebs to read up about the mythologies and creatures and I love when a story can pique my curiosity in that way because it makes the experience that much more unforgettable. While I enjoyed all of the stories my top three are: The Demon Drum by Rebecca Roanhorse, My Night at the Gifted Carnival by Graci Kim, and… it’s a tie between The Initiation by Yoon Ha Lee and Bruto and the Freaky Flower by Tehlor Kay Mejia (sorry, I really can’t choose)! 😜

Although I had only met the characters from one of the stories in this collection (Gum Baby forever!), I had no trouble following along with the adventures, so it’s okay to go into this without prior knowledge of the stories. I think it would be perfect for readers who want to get a taste of the worlds found in the Rick Riordan Presents books and I can guarantee that it will leave you wanting more as soon as possible!

3 WINNERS (US ONLY) WILL WIN A FINISHED COPY OF THE CURSED CARNIVAL AND OTHER CALAMITIES!

Tour Schedule

Week One:

9/1/2021YA Books CentralExcerpt
9/2/2021Kait Plus BooksExcerpt
9/3/2021Rajiv’s ReviewsReview
9/4/2021@CurlygrannylovestoreadReview

Week Two:

9/5/2021#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee BlogReview
9/6/2021A Dream Within A DreamReview
9/7/2021Nonbinary Knight ReadsReview
9/8/2021The Bookwyrm’s DenReview
9/9/2021Log Cabin LibraryReview
9/10/2021Lifestyle of MeReview
9/11/2021Emelie’s BooksReview

Week Three:

9/12/2021@pagesofyellowReview
9/13/2021Locks, Hooks and BooksReview
9/14/2021More Books Please blogReview
9/15/2021Little Red ReadsReview
9/16/2021Don’t Judge, ReadReview
9/17/2021Fyrekatz BlogReview
9/18/2021booksaremagictooReview

Week Four:

9/19/2021The Phantom ParagrapherReview
9/20/2021BookHounds YAExcerpt
9/21/2021Cindy’s Love of BooksReview
9/22/2021dinipandareadsReview
9/23/2021hauntedbybooksReview
9/24/2021Books a Plenty Book ReviewsReview
9/25/2021Books and Zebras @jypsylynnReview

Week Five:

9/26/2021The Momma SpotReview
9/27/2021Zainey LaneyReview
9/28/2021@fictitious.foxReview
9/29/2021Two Points of InterestReview
9/30/2021PopTheButterfly ReadsReview

Have you read The Curse Carnival and Other Calamities or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: Up All Night: 13 Stories between Sunset + Sunrise edited by Laura Silverman

Special thanks to Algonquin Young Readers for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: Up All Night: 13 Stories between Sunset + Sunrise
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publish Date: 13 July 2021
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

When everyone else goes to bed, the ones who stay up feel like they’re the only people in the world. As the hours tick by deeper into the night, the familiar drops away and the unfamiliar beckons. Adults are asleep, and a hush falls over the hum of daily life. Anything is possible.

It’s a time for romance and adventure. For prom night and ghost hunts. It’s a time for breaking up, for falling in love—for finding yourself.

Stay up all night with these thirteen short stories from bestselling and award-winning YA authors like Karen McManus, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nina LaCour, and Brandy Colbert, as they take readers deep into these rarely seen, magical hours

BUY A COPY:

TL;DR: Up All Night is a wonderful collection of inclusive and diverse stories with rich LGBTQ+, disability, and POC representation. The stories were a good mix of various genres and they ranged from uplifting and heartwarming, to heartbreaking and achingly bittersweet, and even to the chillingly spooky, but all were tied together with themes of love, friendship, family, and coming-of-age. I really enjoyed a lot of these stories and I would happily add this anthology to my shelves to revisit in the future if ever I want to read some heartwarming and nostalgic short stories!

To say I went into this anthology with a little trepidation would be an understatement as I generally don’t have a good track record with the anthologies that I’ve tried. This is definitely more of a ‘me’ thing as I tend to have difficulties connecting with or getting into short stories. That’s why it was such a surprise when I found myself really enjoying all of the stories in this collection! There were a few that were “just okay” and didn’t leave a big impression on me, but there were more that I really liked and even loved, and none that I gave less than 3/5 stars to (and no matter what you think, 3/5 is not a bad rating!). Many of these authors’ books are still on my TBR but I’m now even more excited to pick them up as soon as I can!

Up All Night is a wonderful collection of inclusive and diverse stories with rich LGBTQ+, disability, and POC representation. The stories were also from a good mix of genres including contemporary, romance, light SFF (superheroes!), thriller/mysteries, and horror. They ranged from uplifting and heartwarming, to heartbreaking and achingly bittersweet, and even to the chillingly spooky, but all were tied together with themes of love, friendship, family, and coming-of-age. I found myself experiencing strong bouts of nostalgia as most of these stories are set in the final year(s) of high school when the air is charged with that electric feeling of change and possibility that makes you feel brave enough to take chances—it’s simultaneously nauseating and thrilling and those feelings really came through in the stories. That feeling was also compounded by the stories being set in the night-to-dawn hours when possibilities not only feel endless but the world even feels a little bit more magical.

Individual story ratings:

  • Never Have I Ever: 4/5 (CW/TW: murder)
  • Like Before: 3.5/5
  • Old Rifts and Snow Drifts: 4/5
  • Con Nights, Parallel Hearts: 5/5 (CW/TW: mentions of parental abuse—physical and sexual)
  • Kiss the Boy: 4.5/5
  • Creature Capture: 4/5
  • Shark Bait: 3/5 (CW/TW: racist slur, infidelity, car accident)
  • A Place to Start: 3/5
  • When You Bring A Dog to Prom: 3.5/5
  • Missing: 4.5/5
  • What About Your Friends: 3.5/5 (CW/TW: racism, bigotry)
  • Under Our Masks: 5/5
  • The Ghosts of Goon Creek: 3.5/5

Out of the 13 stories, my favourites were: “Con Nights, Parallel Hearts“, “Under Our Masks”, “Kiss the Boy”, and “Missing”. Ha, trust me, The Ultimate Chicken™️, to end up liking the spookiest story in the collection! 😂 Was I thoroughly creeped out while reading Missing”? Absolutely! My heart was still racing and the back of my neck prickling uncomfortably as I started on the next one but I can appreciate a well-spun tale! “Con Nights, Parallel Hearts absolutely broke my heart and had me unexpectedly crying by the end. It was emotionally raw and powerful. I haven’t read many superhero novels but I was delighted by “Under Our Masks” and the tentative sweet romance that blooms. “Kiss the Boy” filled me to overflowing with nostalgia thinking back on the final days of senior year—absorbing the novelty of the last school event(s), acknowledging secret crushes and taking chances with your heart, mischief-making with the best of friends surrounding you… This was such a delightfully heartwarming story!

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable anthology and I’m so glad that I gave this a try!

Have you read Up All night or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron

Special thanks to Feiwel & Friends for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Magical Imperfect
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publish Date: 15 June 2021
Genre: Middle Grade, Historical Fiction

Panda Rating:

(3 pandas)

Etan has stopped speaking since his mother left. His father and grandfather don’t know how to help him. His friends have given up on him.

When Etan is asked to deliver a grocery order to the outskirts of town, he realizes he’s at the home of Malia Agbayani, also known as the Creature. Malia stopped going to school when her acute eczema spread to her face, and the bullying became too much.

As the two become friends, other kids tease Etan for knowing the Creature. But he believes he might have a cure for Malia’s condition, if only he can convince his family and hers to believe it too. Even if it works, will these two outcasts find where they fit in?

BUY A COPY:

TL;DR: Ultimately, while I might not recommend this for its disability rep, I appreciated the historical context and the representation of cultures and the immigrant perspective This was very different from what I expected after reading the blurb but I was pleasantly surprised by the nostalgic vibes it gave me. This did read a bit on the younger side of MG for me but I do think that it would be suitable and enjoyable for MG readers across all ages, even older readers such as myself.

This was a very different middle-grade read compared to what I normally pick up in this genre. It’s historical fiction but also has aspects of magical realism that leant the story an even more whimsical atmosphere. It’s written in verse and though the prose is simple and without unnecessary flair, it was also evocative and I could easily picture the neighbourhood form in front of my eyes. The community was diverse and there was a sense of camaraderie between all the neighbours that made the pages feel full of warmth and joy.

While I expected a touching story about the friendship between two young misfits, and we got that, it also went beyond that and there were many elements to the plot and setting that I didn’t expect to find—from religious to historical and cultural, and I was see it in a MG. I was intrigued by the late 80s setting in San Francisco and by the historical event that occurred during the time period of the story. What I found most refreshing though was seeing the Filipino representation in a historical setting and I was pleasantly surprised to read about the immigrant journey to America from a different (non-Western) perspective! Etan’s Jewish and Maia’s Filipina cultural heritage also played important roles in their story and as I grew up in the Philippines, I found reading about Maia’s family—her Lola and the food!—was comforting and made me a little nostalgic, too.

I found the friendship between Maia and Etan to be very sweet and full of youthful optimism and joy. As their bond grows closer, Etan finds the strength in his own voice again. Maia also finds joy in being able to have someone her age who doesn’t see her as “The Creature” but can look beyond her eczema to the loving, precocious and vibrant little girl she is. I really loved her sass and confidence, as well as her connection to nature and the trees surrounding her home.

Another aspect that I thought was interesting was the representation of Maia and Etan’s disabilities—severe eczema and selective mutism, respectively. I’ve never read a book with these disabilities represented (whether it be adult, YA or MG) so I found it interesting to read about and have it be part of these characters. However, what disappointed me was the use of the magical healing clay as a “cure” for these disabilities to make Maia and Etan ‘normal happy kids’. It made it seem like people with disabilities are not ‘normal’ and that you need to look and act like others to be happy. Yes, Maia wasn’t 100% ‘cured’ but the message is still the same and it’s not one that I would want any person to read and believe that they’re less than because they have a disability or live with chronic illness. The topic of mental health was also explored a bit through Etan’s mother but I wish it was done in more depth as it impacted Etan and his family so greatly.

Even though I didn’t end up loving it as much as I thought I would, it was still a quick, engaging and easy read. I loved the diversity and the historical context and in the future I’d be interested in seeing what else Baron has written.

Have you read The Magical Imperfect or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: Only When It’s Us by Chloe Liese

Goodreads: Only When It’s Us (Bergman Brothers #1)
Publish date: 01 April 2020
Publisher: NetGalley Connect
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance
Panda Rating:

2 Frenemies.
1 Disastrous prank.

Ryder
Ever since she sat next to me in class and gave me death eyes, Willa Sutter’s been on my shit list. Why she hates me, I don’t know. What I do know is that Willa is the kind of chaos I don’t need in my tidy life. She’s the next generation of women’s soccer. Wild hair, wilder eyes. Bee-stung lips that should be illegal. And a temper that makes the devil seem friendly. She’s a thorn in my side, a menacing, cantankerous, pain-in-the-ass who’s turned our Business Mathematics course into a goddamn gladiator arena. I’ll leave this war zone unscathed, coming out on top…And if I have my way with that crazy-haired, ball-busting hellion, that will be in more than one sense of the word.

Willa
Rather than give me the lecture notes I missed like every other instructor I’ve had, my asshole professor tells me to get them from the silent, surly flannel-wearing mountain man sitting next to me in class. Well, I tried. And what did I get from Ryder Bergman? Ignored. What a complete lumbersexual neanderthal. Mangy beard and mangier hair. Frayed ball cap that hides his eyes. And a stubborn refusal to acknowledge my existence. I’ve battled men before, but with Ryder, it’s war. I’ll get those notes and crack that Sasquatch nut if it’s the last thing I do, then I’ll have him at my mercy. Victory will have never tasted so sweet.

Holy slow burn and sexual tension, batman! *phew* I’m a big fan of slow burn romances especially when they’re done right and this one does not disappoint! I loved that this gave me so much more depth than I expected from a romcom! There was so much to both characters and oh mans, Ryder the lumbersexual is absolute PER-FEC-TION! I know I’m gushing but he made my heart all melty and my feelings all gooey and yep, I’m crushing hard on him and if you read this book, you’ll definitely get why!

Liese brings rep to her romance with Ryder, a character who lost his hearing after contracting bacterial meningitis as a college freshman. I’ve already mentioned how much I loved his character but really, his arc was so well done. He’s a bear of a man but with the softest and sweetest heart just looking to find his way back to “normal” after losing his hearing. I can’t even imagine how devastating it would be to lose your hearing because of an illness. In a way his hearing loss does define a big part of his life, but it’s not just who he is and the author did a wonderful job of showing his many sides. And as if I wasn’t already fully in love with him 30% through the book, the author had to have him reading JANE AUSTEN and that’s me 100% gone!

I was on the fence about how I felt for Willa. She’s physically strong as an athlete, she’s incredibly hardworking, and her love for her mother was so heartwarming. But Willa does literally everything to avoid opening up and being honest about her life with people she’s afraid to get close to. Her fear of confronting serious issues, while understandable, also became a bit too much for me at a certain point. I want to say that Ryder deserved better and for a good chunk of the story I did think that. In reality though they were perfect for each other because his patience, understanding and ability to be vulnerable with her was exactly what she needed to balance out and do the same. And as much as he balanced her, Willa’s acceptance of him as he is with no hesitation, disability or no, was exactly what he needed to feel normal. There were some pretty emotionally raw scenes that had me tearing up! Also, if it isn’t obvious by now, the chemistry between these two was absolute FIRE! It’s a (really) slow burn, but the way the connection builds between Ryder and Willa is SO good and it’s SO worth the wait! I’d put this at a 4/5 on the steamy scale.

One of the best things in this book was the family relationships. I loved the Bergman family and how they ribbed each other but how they were so openly affectionate and caring with each other. They’re a beautiful family and I can’t wait to follow the stories of the other Bergman brothers as the series continues!

Overall, this was a surprisingly deep romcom that had me laughing, squealing, swooning and cheering for both characters as they fought for a wonderful heart-stopping love. Also, I really liked that this came with a playlist for the book and songs per chapter. I enjoyed listening to some of them while reading! I can’t wait to continue with this series and I’m looking forward to checking out the other books the author has written. I’d highly recommend it!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. The book is out 01 April 2020!
Have you read Only When It’s Us or is it on your TBR?

eARC Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde

Goodreads: What the Other Three Don’t Know
Publish date: 03 March 2020
Publisher: Shadow Mountain Publishing
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary, LGBTQ+
Panda Rating:

Will I still be loved if I show people who I really am?
Four high school seniors. Four secrets about to be told.

If Indie had it her way, she would never choose to river raft with three other high school seniors, mostly strangers to each other, from her journalism class.

A loner, a jock, an outsider, an Instagram influencer. At first they can’t see anything that they have in common. As the trip unfolds, the unpredictable river forces them to rely on each other. Social masks start to fall as, one-by-one, each teen reveals a deep secret the other three don’t know.

One is harboring immense grief and unwilling to forgive after the death of a loved one. One is dealing with a new disability and an uncertain future. One is fearful of the repercussions of coming out. One is hiding behind a carefully curated “perfect” image on Instagram.

Before they get to the end of Hells Canyon, they’ll know the truth about each other and, more importantly, learn something new about themselves.

I requested this book because of the strong Breakfast Club vibes that I got from the synopsis but I was a little underwhelmed by the story. I really appreciated the author’s note at the start but I found it difficult to connect with the characters and I wasn’t all too sure about how I felt about the writing style.

Continue reading “eARC Review: What the Other Three Don’t Know by Spencer Hyde”