Month: April 2023

Children’s Book Review: Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-El

Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North
: The Very, Very Far North #2
Dan Bar-El

Published: October 6, 2020
271 Pages

Reviewed By: Cristina

Book Description:

The adventures of Duane the polar bear and his arctic friends continue in this charming sequel to the modern-day classic The Very, Very Far North, which Booklist compared to Winnie the Pooh in a starred review.

Past the place where icebergs shiver, you will find the Very, Very Far North, where Duane and his friends are sure to make you feel right at home. You might like to share a delicious Snow Delight with warmhearted Duane. While you’re slurping away, if C.C. suddenly asks you where you’ve come from, it’s not because she’s nosy; she is simply gathering scientific data. If Handsome, the musk ox, pays a visit, a quick hair combing is highly recommended. Should you notice a quiet caribou grazing nearby, well, that’s just Boo’s way of saying hello.

And if a less-than-friendly visitor arrives to sneak, shove, and shake things up, Duane and the others might discover that life isn’t always as peaceful as mid-late-afternoon nap. Fortunately, they know that change is as much a part of life as picnics and Tuesdays and cozy stories shared among friends.

Cristina’s Review:

Duane is a polar bear. A kind one. He has a friend named Handsome who is a musk ox, and a vain one at that, C.C. the snowy owl, who is extremely scientific and a bit socially awkward, Twitch the artic hare who loves to bake, Magic the artic fox who is a bit mischievous and Major Puff, a puffin who may just have a crush on Twitch. Oh, and Boo! She’s a super shy reindeer with a secret talent. Together, they are learning about what it means to be a good friend and enjoy life in the Far North. And when a sneaky little weasel shows up to cause friction, this group of friends figures out how to work things out just fine.

At times I like to read a book or two that is simply warm and fuzzy. No crazy heart pounding adventures, no major mysteries, no dystopian governments to overthrow. Just a feel good story. Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North fit that bill perfectly. If you have a reader who enjoyed The Wild Robot or Winnie the Pooh, this story is for them. It was refreshing to read a story where kindness is valued, feelings are acknowledged–good or not so good–and community is valued as important. There is gentle humor throughout the book as well, and the narrator occasionally addresses the reader directly, a delightful “fourth wall” break used well. So, when you need a little break, settle in with Duane and his friends. Your heart will feel lighter for visiting with them.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

ARC Audiobook Review: French Holiday by Sarah Ready

French Holiday
Author: Sarah Ready

Narrator: Kelsey Navarro  
To Be Published: April 26, 2023
Audiobook: 12 hours 3 minutes

Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: April 5-13, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars     

Book Description:

One (crumbling) French castle. Two enemies-at-first-sight. The holiday of a lifetime.

Merry DeLuca has a problem—a big problem. Her sister just married her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved. Her life is rapidly spiraling down the drain and she doesn’t have an escape plan.

So when Merry is offered a three-month holiday living in a romantic castle in the French countryside she leaps at the chance. Merry knows her French holiday will fix everything—there will be mouthwatering pastries, delicious (meaningless) flirtations, and languid strolls through vineyards at sunset. Her holiday will be perfect.

At least, Merry believes that until she arrives and finds Noah Wright—the best man at her sister’s wedding and the worst man she’s ever known—staying in her castle.

Famous travel documentarian by day and arrogant devil by night, Noah refuses to leave the castle. Which means that Merry and Noah are stuck together in France, in a crumbling castle, in a holiday where nothing goes right. Not for Merry and not for Noah.

So they strike a truce—they’ll live as cohabitating friends for three-months, and then they’ll amicably part ways, never to see each other again.

But the thing about friendship? Sometimes secrets are uncovered. Mysteries revealed. Hearts laid bare. And friendship can start to feel a lot like caring. A lot like love. It can even make you wish that the holiday never has to end.

Jessica’s Review:

Look at this: Jessica listened to a romance book! Well chick-lit at least.  And it was an entertaining listen! It was a fun/fluffy book to listen to, and had several cliché tropes to it: unrequited love, best friend marries sister, and enemies to lovers. Of course, there are more that I am not giving away! Like all chick lit reads, you are in it for the light heartedness and a fun beach read type book. And you get that with French Holiday.

We experience the wedding of Merry’s sister to Leo and meet Noah, the guy she instantly hates. And he keeps popping back up in Merry’s life when she would rather never see him again! And one of those places is a French castle that she is staying at for three months!

Of course, you know where the story will end and we have a journey to get there. Some parts were a bit much for me- there is an over-the-top extended scene starring a lobster that was very similar to the scene from the Little Mermaid. It just went on way to long for me! But that lobster was entertaining to say the least! 

For most of the novel it was a three-star read for me, until we find out something about Noah, and then I was ready for the rest of the story! It picked up for me after that.  We also had a bit of a mystery involving a painting that pulls things together and gives some intrigue to the story.

This was a first novel for me from the author and narrator. I did enjoy the story and narration. If you enjoy romcom/ chick lit/ romance you should give it a try! Many thanks to the publisher for granting me an audio-arc to listen to.

Pre-order Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK


Children’s Book Review: Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Black Beauty
Author: Anna Sewell

First Published: November 24, 1877
140 Pages

Reviewed By: Cristina

Book Description:

Black Beauty spends his youth in a loving home, surrounded by friends and cared for by his owners. But when circumstances change, he learns that not all humans are so kind. Passed from hand to hand, Black Beauty witnesses love and cruelty, wealth and poverty, friendship and hardship . . . Will the handsome horse ever find a happy and lasting home? Carefully retold in clear contemporary language, and presented with delightful illustrations, these favorite classic stories capture the heart and imagination of young readers.

Cristina’s Review:

Black Beauty is considered a “classic” in the children’s book world. Originally published in 1877, it has stood the test of time as a great book. Anna Sewell wrote the book as she was an invalid in her later years; she died only five months after publication. It was a huge success at the time and is still a very successful book–over 50 million copies sold! So what makes it so great? This:

Black Beauty is told from the horse’s point of view, and makes the reader think about animal rights, kindness between humans and animals, integrity, courage and love. Beauty’s life begins in a beautiful way, with a loving mother, a good human master, and other horse friends. As he grows up, he is sold to different masters–some kind, some not–and shares his experiences with the reader. When a person is reading Black Beauty, it is as if they are sitting under the apple tree with him, listening to him share his life story. He shares lessons he has learned along the way, ones that the reader can ponder on as well. There is a happy ending, but there is sorrow and loss on the way there–as in many true life stories.

I recommend this book for all ages with one caveat: there is cruelty to animals described, and death is very real in this book. Make sure your reader is mature enough to handle these discussions. With that said, is a great read aloud and discuss book with first and second graders, age appropriate for advanced third and fourth graders, and wonderful thinking content for fifth graders and up. In fact, I would encourage it to be read as a family book club selection!

Enjoy a classic. This one deserves the title.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK