Picture Book Review: Rice & Rocks by Sandra L. Richards and Megan Kayleigh Sullivan

Title: Rice & Rocks
Author: Sandra L. Richards
Illustrator: Megan Kayleigh Sullivan
Genre: Kid Lit/ Picture Book
Publisher: Wise Ink Creative Publishing
Published:  August 23, 2016
Page Count:  32 pages
Format: eARC
Source: From publicist


Summary:
Tradition takes flight in Rice & Rocks, a picture book celebrating culture and diversity.

Giovanni’s friends are coming over for Sunday dinner, and his grandmother is serving rice and beans. Giovanni is embarrassed—he does not like “rice and rocks” and worries his friends will think the traditional Jamaican dish is weird. But his favorite Auntie comes to the rescue. She and Giovanni’s pet parrot, Jasper, take him on a magical journey across the globe, visiting places where people eat rice and rocks. This exciting story celebrates the varied traditions of every culture while also highlighting the delicious similarities that bring us all together.
*The Reader's Review*
My rating: 5/5 stars

Oh, you guys. I don't know if I've told you this but besides from YA books, I have a serious love for children's picture books. Maybe it's because they are the ones that helped me learn English quicker when I was in USA, or maybe because they are just too fun and incredible to look at, but either way, I really must tell you all how utterly amazing Rice & Rocks is.

I feel as if Rice & Rocks was written for the 7 year old me stuck in a foreign country. I wish I could have read it when I was a kid since it would have really helped me to feel a lot more comfortable with my roots, my traditions, in a foreign place with people of other colors & customs. I remember how I would feel embarrassed with the kind of food I ate, including Rice & Rocks a.k.a Rice and Beans. And it's such a silly thing because Rice and Beans were one of my favorite dishes when I was a kid (as long as they had chopped purple onions on top!) and it's still is (tho I can now eat with any type/color of onions now ;). But as a kid you want to blend in when in a different place and possibly show how you aren't any different from them. Even when it comes to food!

So I love the message that this book sends. I love how in just a few pages, it shows that you should never be embarrassed by your roots or your traditions. How they are beautiful, special, and part of who you are. I even learned that my Rice and Rocks (beans) are also shared and cherished all over the world - in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, New Orleans and all the way to Japan. ♥

However, not only the story is beautiful, but the art drawn in the 32 pages is simply stunning. The characters and the different cultures are richly represented, making Rice & Rocks a true joy to look at. Kudos to the talented Illustrator!

I truly  cannot recommend Rice & Rocks enough. Picture books lovers, you are in for a treat!

The Week's Entrée #112

Hi everyone! Welcome to another edition of The Week's Entrée!

As promised, here's a look at me and my birthday cake! Did you catch it on our bookstagram?


The Chef finally settled for a pink ombre cake (that I delightedly approved!) and it was vanilla with buttercream filling and icing. She also decorated it with whipped cream flowers on top. Plus many 30+ cupcakes too. It was so cool! ♥

And I had a lot of fun taking this pic. My parents took me to a candy shop in the morning and let me pick up candy, balloons, and party hats. It was kind of hard to believe that I turned 23 with how I was acting that morning LOL. It's just that for the last years I had not had the chance to properly celebrate a birthday since I'm usually traveling around the U.S. It was a nice change, though I should have gotten a piñata. :(
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How do you usually celebrate your birthdays? :)
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Latest book reviews in other sites:

I reviewed The French Impressionist by Rebecca Bischoff on YA Books Central

I enjoyed this YA Contemporary novel because it has a great colorful vibe, just like its bright cover. The MC was a bit immature but fun to be around with, though at times she does go a bit too far. Still, I liked how this novel touches how a communication disorder works--something I had never read about before! So overall, it's a 3.7 star read for me.

Here's the book's summary:

Rosemary is fifteen and gloriously free, on her own for the very first time. Part of an exchange program for aspiring artists, she arrives in southern France with one goal: she doesn t plan to leave, ever. She wants a new life and a new identity. But her situation, crafted from lies big and small, is precarious. As Rosemary struggles to hide her lack of artistic talent and obvious communication disorder from her new family, she must ultimately choose whether or not she ll tell the biggest lie of all, even if it means destroying the life of someone she cares about.
.......
New books!

{Purchased}


The only new addition to my digital library is The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. I've always wanted to read this series, so after I saw that it was on sale, I just had to get it. :D
.......

To Read This Week:

I just started reading Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven! Despite my initial hesitation to read it (didn't know it was the book that caused so much drama a few months ago because of its terrible blurb), I find myself enjoying it. I really like the female MC.
.......
And that's it for The Week's Entrée! What are you all reading? :)

Classic Fridays #3: 2016 Debuts


Hi everyone! Welcome to another post of CLASSIC FRIDAYS, a brand new weekly meme created by the wonderful Team Gray members of BBCP (Book Blogger Creativity Project).

What is Classic Fridays? A set of questions that can be answered about any book/series. A topic will be chosen every week and with each topic, there will be a set of questions. These topics will range from your TBR to Current Reads and everything bookish in-between! For more info about this meme and future topics, you can visit this page. You can also sign-up to receive next week's topic HERE.

This Week's Topic:

... 2016 Debuts ...

What are your top 5 favorite debuts of 2016 (so far)? (#ClassicFridays prompt for IG)


- Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (YA Historical Thriller)
- Liars and Losers Like US by Ami Allen-Vath (YA Contemporary)
- Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn (YA Contemporary)
- Summer of Supernovas by Darcy Woods (YA Contemporary)
- Adorkable by Cookie O'Gorman (YA Contemporary)
Which 2016 debuts where you highly anticipating but have not read yet?
- The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. It's on my shelf, for crying out loud! I must get on to it ASAP. ♥
- The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry. This one was my most anticipated read of all, and now that it has released, I have hesitated to pick it up and I don't know why :(
If you had a free pass ticket to 3 debut bookish worlds, which ones would you like to visit the most?
-I would love to step into the time period of Stalking Jack the Ripper. Despite the serial murders, I would brave it just to visit 1888 london for a while.
- Despite not having read The Star-Touched Queen yet, I am eager to visit Askaran & all the beautiful settings inspired by Indian mythology. I feel that it's such a colorful world, and it has a castle!!
- And I'd really like to hang around Adorkable's YA contemporary setting. It's a bright town with great people! And there's Becks too, of course ♥.♥

Favorite debut book boyfriend and why?
I LOVED, like, absolutely adored, Thomas from Stalking Jack the Ripper. He's like the perfect mix between Sherlock Holmes and Cricket from Lola and the Boy Next Door. I WANT ONE JUST LIKE HIM. ♥
Favorite cover of a debut author


Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers. Just look at that cover! It's so so pretty ♥
Who is your most favorite character from a debut novel?
It will have to be Bree from Liars and Losers Like Us. I liked that she was like a "normal" kind of character in the beginning of the book. Not popular or the invisible type, just... there. As the story progresses and she finds herself in the middle of a crisis that happens to a fellow classmate, she develops panic attacks that make life a lot harder to deal with. And yet she gets through (or not) and gets on with life. I feel that this person represents all of us and how, no matter how normal you are, it doesn't mean you can't be a main character of your own story, to be interesting. Also, she's a strong person in her own right.

A close second is Audrey from Stalking Jack the Ripper because she's totally kick-ass! Q’s about the latest debut read:


What made you pick this book up?
I'm not much of a thriller fan, but the cover and the blurb made Stalking Jack the Ripper quite irresistible!
How did you hear about the book?
All social media was going crazy after Stalking Jack the Ripper was announced so I obviously got extremely curious about it. I requested it on Edelweiss not really believing I had a chance to be approved and when I did, I FLIPPED. I then proceeded to read it and it was the best thing I have done in my entire year.

What genre was the book in? Is it something that you normally read?
It's a YA Historical Thriller! I do read historical books but not so much thrillers. Now I know better, I def need to read more thrillers if I get to read more books like this one. ♥

Would you read more books by this author? Why or why not?
YES! I am highly anticipating the rest of the books in the series, because yes, Stalking Jack the Ripper is a series and it will surely rock my socks off!

Don't forget to leave me a link to your Classic Fridays post if you participate! ♥

Bilingual Book Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

Title: And I Darken
Series: And I Darken #1
Author: Kiersten White
Genre: YA Historical
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Published:  June 28th, 2016
Page Count:  496 pages
Format:  eARC
Source: From publisher


Summary:
NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL.

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.
*The Reader's Review*
My rating: 4/5 stars
.This review can also be found on YA Books Central.

And I Darken is a definite work of art that will stay on the minds of every reader who comes upon its pages. It's wildly dark and alluring, a fierce read that reimagines the life of Vlad the Impaler but on the shoes of a young girl as vicious as a mighty dragon and her brother who is as gentle as the softest breeze.

I was unfamiliar with the story behind Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia before reading And I Darken, so I couldn't tell then if And I Darken stays historically accurate or not besides the gender switch, but after finishing it, I immediately researched a bit about this enigmatic character since I was left highly fascinated with Lada and I wanted to know more. I'm still no expert on the subject, but I can see now how certain things were tweaked to fit the storyline better and I'm in awe with the way Kiersten White pulled these changes.

My favorite aspect of this book is how the author handles the character growth between Lada and Radu. Both characters start off as opposites and they remain that way throughout the story, but they each find middle ground in their strengths by the end of this installment. The way I would describe their dynamics is by picturing them as a see-saw or scale. In the beginning you can can find Lada at the bottom since she is headstrong, defiant, ruthless and the one working hard to claim what is hers. Meanwhile, Radu can be found at the top of the scale or dangling his feet up high on the see-saw, weightless for his gentleness and kind soul who is only seeking to be loved and cared for. However, while the story progresses, they each level up and become stronger in their own ways, enhancing their skills and personalities for the better good.
  
I also love how this book portrays greatness. How even back in those times where women were only viewed as wives and replaceable, Lada manages to seek and forge her own power. Beauty is not on her side, yet this doesn't bring her down, even from finding someone worthy of her passion. She's not by all means a nice person, but she is someone that gains respect. The same goes for Radu, who wonderfully grows up into a charming man that uses this to his advantage, as a weapon.

Although the pacing of this book comes off as slow, and at times, uneventful, it doesn't ruin the chances for the reader to enjoy the story. The captivating words of Kiersten White make a full comeback in this tale about birth rights, vengeance, slow-burning passion, and the odds of embracing what you are meant to be.

*Spanish Book Review/ Reseña en Español*

And I Darken es sin duda una obra de arte que quedará en las mentes de cada lector.  Es una lectura oscura, seductora e intensa que re-imagina la vida de Vlad el Empalador (quien inspiró la famosa historia de Dracula por Bram Stoker, por cierto), pero esta vez en la piel de una joven tan viciosa como un poderoso dragón y su hermano que es tan suave como la brisa más gentil.

A decir verdad, yo no estaba familiarizada con la historia detrás de Vlad III, príncipe de Valaquia, antes de leer ésta novela, así que no puedo decir si And I Darken se mantiene históricamente exacta o no (sin contar con el cambio de género), pero después de terminarlo, inmediatamente investigué un poco más acerca de este enigmático personaje ya que quedé fascinada con Lada y quería saber más. Todavía no soy experta en el tema, pero puedo ver ahora cómo ciertas cosas se ajustaron para adaptarse mejor a la historia de Lada y no puedo más que admirar la creatividad de la autora Kiersten White.

Mi aspecto favorito de este libro es cómo la autora maneja el crecimiento de personalidades de Lada y Radu. Ambos personajes comienzan como opuestos y permanecen así durante toda la historia, pero cada uno llegan a un término medio en sus puntos fuertes para el final de esta entrega. La forma en que yo describiría su dinámica es imaginando como un sube y baja o una escala. En el principio me imagino  a Lada en la parte inferior ya que ella es terca, desafiante, implacable y trabajando duro para reclamar lo que es suyo. Mientras tanto, Radu se puede encontrar en la parte superior de la escala o colgando sus pies desde lo alto del sube y baja, sin peso por su dulzura y gentileza que solo busca ser amado y cuidado. Sin embargo, mientras que la historia avanza, cada uno de ellos se nivela y se hacen más fuertes en sus propios caminos, mejorando sus habilidades y personalidades (por lo menos en esta novela). ;)
  
También me encanta cómo este libro retrata la grandeza. Cómo incluso en aquellos momentos en los que las mujeres sólo se veían como esposas y reemplazables, Lada logra buscar y forjar su propio poder. La belleza no está de su lado, sin embargo, ésto no la desanima, ni para encontrar a alguien digno de su pasión. Debo recalcar que Lada no es una buena persona, pero ella es alguien que gana respeto. Lo mismo ocurre con Radu, quien gana respeto al crecer maravillosamente en un hombre encantador que utiliza su encanto como un arma.

Aunque el ritmo de And I Darken es en ocasiones lento, no arruina las posibilidades de que el lector disfrute la historia. Las palabras cautivantes de Kiersten White hacen una reaparición en esta historia acerca de los derechos de nacimiento, venganza, pasión, y sobre el arte de abrazar tu destino.