Be Dazzled, By Ryan La Sala ~ 5.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: January 5th, 2021

384 Pages

Synopsis: Who’s ready to sparkle?

Project Runway goes to Comic Con in an epic queer love story about creativity, passion, and finding the courage to be your most authentic self.

Raffy has a passion for bedazzling. Not just bedazzling but sewing, stitching, draping, pattern making—for creation. He’s always chosen his art over everything—and everyone—else and is determined to make his mark at this year’s biggest cosplay competition. If we can wow there, it could lead to sponsorship, then art school, and finally earning real respect for his work. There’s only one small problem…Raffy’s ex-boyfriend, Luca, is his main competition.

Raffy tried to make it work with Luca. They almost made the perfect team last year after serendipitously in the rhinestone aisle at the local craft store—or at least Raffy thought they did. But Luca’s insecurities and Raffy’s insistence on crafting caused their relationship to crash and burn. Now Raffy is after the perfect comeback, one that Luca can’t ruin.

But when Raffy is forced to partner with Luca on his most ambitious build yet, he’ll have to juggle unresolved feelings for the boy who broke his heart and his own intense self-doubt, to get everything he’s ever wanted: choosing his art, his way.

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Oh my goodness! Are you looking for the perfect escape? Are you looking for a book that will cause uncontrollable smiles even after you’ve finished? Are you looking for a book that will give you ALL the feels? Do I sound like a car salesman? Ahem. Anyway, if you answered yes to any of those questions I enthusiastically suggest you mark your 2021 calendar for January 5th. That’s the day Ryan La Salla’s Be Dazzled is coming out, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off what will hopefully be a better year, than reading this adorably whimsical romance.

What can I say? Some kids do drugs. Some kids start fires. I embroider in the dead of night, for the attention of strangers.

Raffy is a seventeen-year-old misfit who you just can’t help falling in love with. While his artist mother, Evie, has no issues with him being gay, she is horrified at his proclivity for crafting and cosplay, feeling it’s completely beneath him. There are some genuinely funny moments between them, but underneath that is an intriguing layer of familial discord. On the surface, Luca is an all American jock, yet he’s so desperate not to let down his parents, he keeps his sexuality a secret from them. There’s a sweet odd couple chemistry between both boys, and the chapters alternate between present day and the past which details how they met, and what led to their initial breakup. The supporting cast is wonderfully fleshed out, and the main setting of a Comic-Con adds to the fun. Be Dazzled is a delightful, heartwarming love story, that’s screaming to be adapted to film. If you’re looking for a book that will charm your socks off I can’t recommend highly enough, particularly to fans of books like Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. 

Pre-Thanksgiving Address From President-Elect Biden

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As the current occupant of the White House continues to petulantly and fraudulently claim that the election was “rigged,” and implement a scorched earth policy during his weeks left as a lame duck president, President-elect Biden gave a sober and compassionate pre-Thanksgiving speech where he reminded everyone that “…we’re at war with the virus, not each other.” The contrast between these two men has never been clearer. In case you missed Biden’s address, here it is:

Reading Aloud “Ox-Cart Man”

For anyone not familiar with her blog, Jennie is a longtime teacher from my home state of MA. As a children’s librarian, I worked with many early childhood teachers during my 26-year career, and I’ve got to say, Jennie is representative of the very best of them. Her love and and enthusiasm for her students is always on display. Check out her sharing of the Caldecott winning classic Ox-Car Man, by Donald Hall and illustrated by Barbara Cooney. I guarantee it will bring a smile to your face!

A Teacher's Reflections

At the request of fellow bloggers, here is a video of me reading aloud the classic children’s picture book, “Ox-Cart Man.”

But first, I wanted to show you a mural the children made last year that hangs as a permanent display at school.  It depicts the start of his ten-day journey to Portsmouth.  This art was made with paint and tissue paper.  The making of the mural was a joy for children.  That speaks volumes for the book “Ox-Cart Man.”

I hope you enjoyed the story as much as the children did, and as much as I did.  Good books are meant to be read over and over again.

Jennie

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Finally!

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Trump, Washington, USA - 02 Oct 2019

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Evan Vucci/AP/Shutterstock Donald Trump, Sauli Niinisto. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington Trump, Washington, USA – 02 Oct 2019

Emily Murphy who is the administrator of the General Services Administration, has at long last acknowledged Joe Biden is indeed the President-elect and has cleared the way for the formal transition process to begin. I felt at the beginning that Trump had the right to contest the election within the law. However, what his legal team, headed by Rudy Giuliani, has been resorting to in the last couple of weeks is desperate and crazy, and their shenanigans are putting this country at risk. Now Biden and Harris can get the briefings and money they need so the new administration can hit the ground running on January 20th. Now, I really am not the type of person to kick someone when their down, but I hope you’ll allow me this small bit of snarkiness.

Now let’s just all pray he doesn’t do too much irreversible damage to the White House and the rest of the world on his way out.

The House on Vesper Sands, By Paraic O’Donnell ~ 4.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Tin House Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: January 12th, 2021

408 Pages

Synopsis:

London 1893: High up in a house, on a dark, snowy night, a lone seamstress stands by a window. So begins the swirling, serpentine world of Paraic O’Donnell’s Victorian-inspired mystery, the story of a city cloaked in shadow, but burning with questions: why does the seamstress choose to jump out of that window? Why is there a cryptic message sewn into her skin? And how is she connected to a rash of missing girls, all of whom seem to have disappeared under similar circumstances?

On the case is Gideon Bliss, a young Cambridge dropout who is in love with one of the missing girls, and his partner, Inspector Cutter, a detective as sharp and committed to his work as he is wryly hilarious. There is also Octavia Hillingdon, a young reporter determined to tell stories despite her employer’s preference that she write a woman’s society column. By turns, clever, surprising, and impossible to put down, The House on Vesper Sands peels back the mystery layer by layer, offering in the strange undertow of late 19th century London a startling glimpse at the secrets we all hold inside.

The House on Vesper Sands is a little slow in the beginning, but it gathers steam as it moves along, and turns out to be an imaginative Victorian mystery, touched with a bit of the supernatural. The characters are well written and I especially enjoyed the engaging repartee between Inspector Cutter and young Gideon Bliss. Their exchanges provided some much needed moments of levity amidst the darker, eerie tones of the story. While much of the action takes place in the final chapters of the book, I found O’Donnell’s atmospheric writing and quirky characters quite entertaining, and was thoroughly satisfied with the way the ending wrapped everything up. I’m actually hoping that O’Donnell turns this into a series because I’d love to see more of Cutter and Bliss. While it shares some similarities of other books in the sub-genre of Victorian Gothic, it contains many unique elements that make it stand out. I particularly recommend The House on Vesper Sands for fans of classic authors such as Wilkie Collins and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.