Book Review: Sweet Loving Cowboy (Kinky Boots) by Stacey Kennedy

Sweet Loving Cowboy is the second book in the Kinky Boots series by Stacey Kennedy. While those that are reading the series in order will have prior knowledge of the characters, and secondary characters, newcomers can still fully enjoy the read as a stand alone.

Harper McKinney finished culinary school with big dreams. Right now, she’s a bartender at Kinky Spurs. While she’s content with her life, her brother is determined that she make a name for herself, because he wants her far away from what he deems a trashy bar. But Harper refuses to go anywhere. She’s in love with her brother’s best friend, Chase Blackshaw, and that love is keeping her in River Rock. After the death of Chase’s father, he’s the one responsible for running the construction of the Blackshaw Cattle Company’s guest ranch. Back in the day, he had dreams of opening a construction company, but lack of finances kept him working for the family’s cattle ranch. Now with the responsibility of his family’s guest ranch on his shoulders those dreams seem far away. Though he has bigger problems. His build is failing the inspections. Now Chase has more trouble on his hands. Harper, the woman he’s forbidden to ever touch has decided to move to Las Vegas. She isn’t so little anymore, and Chase is finding her all too tempting. She’s also not shy about what she wants. Him. Naked. And giving her some sweet lovin’ in all the kinky ways he craves. But neither Chase nor Harper can anticipate the fate that awaits them if they dare give in to their desires, as Chase soon learns there is something far worse than not being able to live out his dreams. It’s being given the chance to live out his dreams but having to watch Harper lose hers.
Sweet Loving Cowboy started off right in the midst of the action, which made me wonder if I missed something at first. However, everything quickly becomes clear and even new readers to the series will pick up the tension between Harper and Chase, and why things have never crossed that line. I really enjoyed getting to know both characters more, and seeing them find their way. The obstacles they face are not standard, but and believable ad fit the story completely. I really love Harper, she is trying to find her way, and I will admit that I thought several things were going to end up differently, but I do enjoy surprises and if they had gone the way I thought things would have been way too easy. Chase is a good guy, with the drive to fight for things to be perfect. I think he would drive me crazy in real life, but reading about him did work for me because it worked for Harper. The puppy and construction issue just added real emotion and complications that made the pair's growth and relationship that much more real for me. Now I just need Nash and Megan to find their was together and I will be happy. 

Sweet Loving Cowboy is exactly what I was hoping for, with a few surprises along the way. Kennedy fans will not be disappointed.

Book Review: There Be Pirates!: Swashbucklers & Rogues of the Atlantic by Joann Hamilton-Barry

There Be Pirates!: Swashbucklers & Rogues of the Atlantic by Joann Hamilton-Barry is a children's full color, non fiction book. Did you know pirates once sailed the seas around Atlantic Canada? Pirates might seem like fun in the movies, but back in the 17th and 18th centuries--the Golden Age of Piracy--being a pirate was very serious business. From the Hackmatack award-shortlisted author of Oak Island and the Search for Buried Treasure comes the newest book from Nimbus's popular Compass series for young readers. Learn about what everyday life was like for some of the fiercest pirates of all time. Explore the history of piracy, from the ancient Romans and Greeks to modern-day pirates. How did pirates navigate the seas? What happened if they were caught? Did pirates really bury treasure?

There be Pirates is a interesting and informative read. Like most people I have a favorite pirate story and movie, and thought I knew a great deal about pirates due to the amount  have read on the subject. I was glad to refresh my memory on some information, and learn more about the real pirates, and some favorite fictional pirates. I enjoyed learning about the background for some early pirate literature, and how some stories differ throughout literature and historical texts. The images used did a good job of supporting the text and capturing the attention of readers. I found the endpages to be very helpful. There is a glossary, references, and suggested further reading for both children and adults. 

There be Pirates is a well research and informative book for children and adults alike. I learned much, and enjoyed the touch of light hearted information mixed in with the more intense information.  

Book Review: Girl in the Green Silk Gown (Ghost Roads) by Seanan McGuire

Girl in the Green Silk Gown is the second book in the Ghost Road series, set in the same world as the InCryptid series) by Seanan McGuire. I do recommend reading the series in order so that the relationships have more meaning to readers. You do not need to have read the related series however, to fully enjoy this one.

For Rose Marshall, death has long since become the only life she really knows.  She’s been sweet sixteen for more than sixty years, hitchhiking her way along the highways and byways of America, sometimes seen as an avenging angel, sometimes seen as a killer in her own right, but always Rose, the Phantom Prom Date, the Girl in the Green Silk Gown.The man who killed her is still out there, thanks to a crossroads bargain that won’t let him die, and he’s looking for the one who got away.  When Bobby Cross comes back into the picture, there’s going to be hell to pay—possibly literally. Rose has worked for decades to make a place for herself in the twilight.  Can she defend it, when Bobby Cross comes to take her down?  Can she find a way to navigate the worlds of the living and the dead, and make it home before her hitchhiker’s luck runs out? There’s only one way to know for sure.

Girl in the Green Silk Gown is the next chapter in Rose's story. I was glad to get more of her story, and to get a better understanding of Laura's character. I was so proud of Rose for her ability to resist temptation at several turns, it would have been so easy for her to end up at the crossroads. However, her struggles with the changes she faces during the trip alternated between being hysterical and a little annoying as she whined about things. I really enjoyed her journey, and the lengths she goes through not just to get back to where she could be, but to also help others when she can, had me eager to see how things would resolve this time around. I am still waiting for Bobby to earn his due, and for a few other bits to resolve, but I am surely enjoying the ride.

Girl in the Green Silk Gown is another fantastic book from McGuire. My only problem is that her audio book reader is too good, and so I often hold out for that version rather than reading right away. But, the wait is oh so worth it!

Book Review: Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves by Liesl Shurtliff

Grump: The (Fairly) True Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is the fourth twisted fairy tale by Liesl Shurtliff. They are set in the same fairy tale world, but each stands on its own. 

Ever since he was a dwarfling, Borlen (nicknamed "Grump") has dreamed of visiting The Surface, so when opportunity knocks, he leaves his cavern home behind. At first, life aboveground is a dream come true. Queen Elfrieda Veronika Ingrid Lenore (E.V.I.L.) is the best friend Grump always wanted, feeding him all the rubies he can eat and allowing him to rule at her side in exchange for magic and information. But as time goes on, Grump starts to suspect that Queen E.V.I.L. may not be as nice as she seems. When the queen commands him to carry out a horrible task against her stepdaughter Snow White, Grump is in over his head. He's bound by magic to help the queen, but also to protect Snow White. As if that wasn't stressful enough, the queen keeps bugging him for updates through her magic mirror! He'll have to dig deep to find a way out of this pickle, and that's enough to make any dwarf Grumpy.
Grump is an entertaining read, and one that offers a cool twist on the Snow White story, from the perspective of one dwarf. I like how the twists to the story explained some of the dwarf nicknames, and I really liked this version of how the magic mirror came to be. Snow was a flawed character, in the best way, and grew into herself as the story progressed. Borlen was flawed as well, but I felt many of his mistakes were ones born out of the desire to be appreciated, which might not have been an issue if he had more support from his family. Other characters were not as fleshed out, and felt more flat to me. The trolls and the dwarf that would be thought of as Dopey in the minds of Snow White fans were my favorite characters through the story. 
I did like the development of Borlen's character, and I was extremely sympathetic towards him. I think everyone, including his parents, treated him poorly. I spent most of the book being angry at those that could have supported or at least been civil toward Borlen and failed to.  One problem I had with the book is that at no point, aside for a brief moment with Snow, did anyone realize how unfair they had been and make an attempt to change or have any kind of consequence for their behavior or assumptions. This really ate at me and made it hard for me to enjoy the read, although it might not affect others quite the same way. 
Grump is a read that fans of the author and series will definitely enjoy. Those that have felt unappreciated or apart from others for things outside their control might enjoy it less so.

Book Review: Super Chill: A Year of Living Anxiously by Adam Ellis

Super Chill: A Year of Living Anxiously by Adam Ellis is a collection of comics that handle some tough
topics like seasonal affective disorder and struggles with self-esteem, while also touching on the silly and absurd—like his brief, but intense obsession with crystals. 

Super Chill is both funny and poignant. Those of us that are more introverted can relate to to his need to recharge at home, and his desire to avoid large groups of people. I could see a bit of myself in a good number of his comics, aside from the ones about drinking or being high- unless you count how I feel after a dose of cold or allergy medication. I enjoy his art style and think that anyone that has dealt with depression, anxiety, or just not wanting to go out in the world to deal with people will enjoy the read. All of the included comics are ones I had not seen, so I found it to be doubly entertaining and it inspired me to go out and follow Adam on more than just Facebook.

Super Chill is exactly what I was hoping for when I requested the title on Netgalley. I like Adam's art style and sense of humor- and can relate to most of his experiences. I have seen some of his work before, and was not disappointed in this collection.

Book Review: Ellie Engineer: The Next Level by Jackson Pearce

Ellie Engineer: The Next Level is the second book in the series by Jackson Pearce. While the first book explains the friendship and skills of the three main characters of the book, I think newcomers to the series will be able to catch up quickly.

After Ellie's first elevator build goes terribly wrong, her parents decide her "punishment" is to assist an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Curran, around the house. Ellie and her friends Kit and Toby are really only supposed to help with little things, but Ellie can't turn down the opportunity to use her engineering skills here and there where she sees a need--because that's what engineers do! It's no fun, though, when Mrs. Curran always gives Toby the credit for all the ingenious projects, and acts like Kit and Ellie were just helping him. Can Ellie come up with another great build to elevate Mrs. Curran's ideas about this girl engineer?
The Next Level is just as much fun as the first book of the series, and continues to look at stereotypes and assumptions. I like that Ellie's family supports her interest in engineering and make the effort to support her and teach her to be safe. I find the friendship between three very different kids to be fantastic, and think it shows young readers that differences are good, and help us find new ideas and solutions. Having Mrs. Curran be very different from expected but still thinking that others will fit in the expected roles was very realistic, since too often I find this is true in the real world as well. None of us want to fit in the expected mold, but still expect others too to a certain degree. I loved the problem solving and honesty in the story. As a parent I also love that the relationships between the kids and their parents include actual conversation and support- which is not all that common in children's literature. As an added bonus I love the information about simple machines included at the end of the book. I look forward to this series continuing for a long run.
The Next Level is a great read, and I love that it encourages looking past appearances, trying new things, and following your passions. 

Book Review: Don't Look Back (Unbroken Heroes) by Dawn Ryder

Don't Look Back is the sixth book in the Unbroken Heroes series by Dawn Ryder. I have read some, but not all, of the books in this series. Each book can stand up reasonably well on its own, but there are so many characters and interconnected plot-lines that I think returning fans will get the most out of this read since it ties up the loose ends from the entire series.

Shadow Ops Agent Thais Sinclair has sworn off falling in love for good. It’s what’s kept her calculated, steady, and on-task in a world dominated by men. She needs nothing and no one but her own wits and strength to guide her. But when she’s slated to shadow the one man who could reveal their entire operation, all bets are off. Dunn Bateson, illegitimate son of a Southern debutante, has always had to fight harder than the rest to get what he wants. Now, the last thing he needs is Thais following his every move. She is so strong, sly, seductive. . . No woman has ever captivated him so completely. Thais may only have room for her mission in her heart, but is Dunn up to the challenge of showing her that she’s worth every risk he is willing to take?
Don't Look Back is an entertaining read, but there is a lot going on here.  I do recommend reading this particular book as a stand alone- simply because there is a good portion of the story that is spent dealing with the consequences and reactions to everything that has happened earlier in the series. I really did enjoy the romance part of the story. I liked seeing Dunn and Thais face off and find their way through the walls they each had built, and share a little about their pasts. Dunn was a little too suave, and shared much less about himself than he knew about Thais, which bothered me a little. I think the danger and politics are very well done, scary, and frankly worrisome in this political climate. Made me more than a little worried about how much of this kind of stuff is really happening, because I really would not put it past some of the people currently in power. I was engaged in the story, and liked seeing some familiar characters return to the front lines. My biggest issue was with the number of voices used to tell the story. There seemed to be little to no indication as to when the narrator was changing, at least in the Kindle version, which sometimes became confusing. I had to go back and reread a few times just to figure out where those jumps happened to I could adjust with them.

Don't Look Back is a good conclusion to the story, and I was glad to see the loose ends all tied up, but with enough secondary characters still single that there could very well be a connecting series in the near future.

Book Review: Dive In: Exploring our Connection with the Ocean by Ann Eriksson

Dive In: Exploring our Connection with the Ocean by Ann Eriksson is a nonfiction book for children and adults. It starts with the idea that we are all connected to the ocean, and the ocean to us. The ocean provides half the oxygen we breathe; it feeds us, creates our weather and provides us with water. But people have not been as kind to the ocean in return. The problems are many: pollution, overfishing, rising seas and acid waters. What can be done? Don't despair; take action. 

Dive In explores the connection between mankind, our actions, and the oceans. We get a great deal from the ocean, and treat it like our private playground, drilling field, and dumping ground. Thankfully there are scientists and activists that spend their time studying the ocean and working to protect it, and everything that lives in, on, or near it. The book is text heavy, with some great information and photographs to engage readers. I liked that there were big and small things suggested for readers and their families to do in order to help the environment. The glossary and additional resources at the end of the book can help readers understand more, and hopefully encourage them to further explore the topic on their own. Some of the informational text boxes were hard to read because of the color choices, I was reading a pre publication galley, so that might have been fixed by the final printing. I think this is a great book for older children, or reading together as a family. Some of the text is more difficult than I think new or struggling readers might be happy tackling on their own.  I do think that parts came off as a little too preachy, and just how big the changes could or should be might be overwhelming to readers, even though the little changes are mentioned as well. I know that I was a little taken aback and felt a little preached at rather than encouraged to make bigger changes.

Dive In is an information and interesting read. I was fascinated by some of the statistics and details about the ocean itself and think it can help readers see how interconnected the environment is, and how even the smallest choices can have an impact. 

Book Review: Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup

Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein by Kathryn Harkup is an exploration of the history, science, and politics that played a role in the creation of this piece of classic literature. The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science fiction genres. The period of 1790–1820 saw huge advances in our understanding of electricity and physiology. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, and newspapers were full of tales of murderers and resurrectionists.

It is unlikely that Frankenstein would have been successful in his attempts to create life back in 1818. However, advances in medical science mean we have overcome many of the stumbling blocks that would have thwarted his ambition. We can resuscitate people using defibrillators, save lives using blood transfusions, and prolong life through organ transplants--these procedures are nowadays considered almost routine. Many of these modern achievements are a direct result of 19th century scientists conducting their gruesome experiments on the dead.
Making the Monster is a book that initially intrigued me, and that I learned a great deal from. I am a literary nerd, and thought I knew a good deal about Mary Shelley and those around her. I was glad to increase that knowledge base and to put in context with the political and social conflicts of the time. I also liked getting a better understanding of the scientific advancements and the way research was performed and thought about in her day. I will admit that after reading about half the information of the scientific evaluations and advancements my mind started to wander and I had a hard time focusing. I really wanted more understanding of how some of the scientific mindset grew and changed over the years, and who made which set of advancements, but I had a hard time getting through the middle portion of the book that dealt with this. I was much more engaged in the facts about Shelley's personal life. I liked the inclusion of the occasional image to support or enhance the text, and think they were used well.
Making the Monster is an informative read. I felt like my engagement level varied throughout the book, which might not be the case for everyone. I learned a great deal, and I think it might be fascinating for some and dry for others depending on their interests and learning styles. 

Book Review: This is a Whoopsie by Andrew Cangelose, Josh Shipley

This is a Whoopsie is a picturebook written by Andrew Cangelose and illustrated by Josh Shipley. It is supposed to be a book about all the different things moose can do, like leaping and jumping and being really tall. But maybe Whoopsie isn't the right moose for the job. You might want to pick a different moose for this book. Maybe instead we can do a book about falling down a lot? Yeah! Whoopsie would be great at that. 
This is a Whoopsie is from the same team that gave up This is a Taco, a book about a squirrel with a love for unexpected food. Just like the previous book, there is a good amount of factual information so readers do learn a bit about moose. There is also plenty of laughs, as Whoopsie the moose trips his way through the book. However, there is also a lesson in being yourself and finding value in the things that make you different without making the readers feel like they are being lectured. The illustrations do a great job of enhancing the story and the important lesson it teaches with upping the humor another notch. I liked the little Taco cameo, and think that this picturebook should find its way into relevant library collections, and will be a repeat read if it makes its way into a home library.