Early Book Review: Wildflowers of New England by Ted Elliman and the New England Wild Flower Society

Wildflowers of New England by Ted Elliman and the New England Wild Flower Society is currently scheduled for release on March 9 2016. This book is a comprehensive guide which describes and illustrates more than 900 species of wildflowers commonly encountered in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. It includes perennials, annuals, and bulbs; both native and naturalized. The plants are organized first by flower color and then by petal shape.  this helpful guide boasts thousands of color photographs.

Wildflowers of New England has thousand of color photographs showing the details needed to positively identify any of the over 900 included species. There is a good amount of introductory information for those using the guide. This information includes an explanation of plant parts, keys to the plants, and information on plant names. Each plant's photograph is paired with the scientific and more common information about the species such as state they are found in, whether parts of the plant are toxic, and so much more. There is so much information included in each entry, and the organization and detail make this a wonderfully helpful guide for anyone interested in identifying the plants that might spring up in their yards or that they might discover on a hike or while foraging.

Wildflowers of New England is a great tool for those looking to identify plants, and to get detailed information on the species that they see around them. 

Early Book Review: We Just Had A Baby by Stephen Krensky

We Just Had A Baby by Stephen Kerensky is a picture book currently scheduled for release on March 1 2016. It is not easy getting used to a new baby in the house. Everyone in the world thinks whatever the baby does is amazing! And if you aren t the baby, everyone acts like you re invisible. This picture book is told from a slightly older sibling s point of view, with observations about living with a new sister or brother. 

We Just Had A Baby is a realistic and well balanced book about the addition of a baby to the household. The older sibling notes that everyone ohh and ahh over the new baby’s every move, and their attention is decreased. However, the book also notes that the baby can do nothing for themselves, and how much they can teach the new family member. It is a sweet and fun book that can help prepare young children for an upcoming or recent addition to the family in a positive way.

We Just Had A Baby is a good picture book to share with young children about to become a big brother or sister. The observations about being an older sibling are honest and combine both the good and bad about the change. I like the hope and fun that the book ends with, encouraging the soon to be older sibling to be a teacher rather than tormentor.  

Book Review: Silver Bullet (Preternatural Affairs #2) by S.M. Reine

Silver Bullet is the second book in the Preternatural Affairs urban fantasy series by S.M. Reine. I listened to the audiobook which is read by Jeffrey Kafer. This series does have major plot points that build upon each other. I do not recommend skipping ahead. If this sounds book interesting to you, I would start at the beginning with Witch Hunt. Knowing who everyone is, and the intricacies of their connections, is key to fully understanding and enjoying the read.

Former private investigator Cèsar Hawke has one rule: He doesn't deal with dead bodies. That's why he enlisted with the Magical Violations Department in the Office of Preternatural Affairs. He's happy tracking down witches that commit petty crimes, but he leaves the homicides to other agents. Except that he's been assigned to a new team and the job has suddenly changed. Now Cèsar has to deal with dead bodies. He also has to deal with necromancers, murderous cults, and demons that can stop a man's heart with fear. This isn't the job he signed up for, but it's the job he needs to do. If he survives the first week.

Silver Bullet picks up right after Witch Hunt ends. Cèsar and crew on an investigation trying to find the source of a flux in demonic energy. This leads them into a casino run by demons, and on the tail of werewolves, a cult, and an ancient power that seems to be waking up. Between the living nightmare demons, the giant spiders, and the apple cult hunting for stones of power no one is happy. The additional help of a few Union members adds a little back up for a team that received little to no training on demons, and is now deep in demons. I like that the character building and action continue in high gear, with magic is less important this time around. I liked getting deeper into the psyche of Cèsar, Fritz and Suzy- although Isobel is still a bit of a mystery. I also like that while there are hints of attraction between characters romance is a back burner storyline, rather than taking over the entire story.  I find this to be a grittier series than my much loved Dresden Files from Jim Butcher, but about equal in wit and smart alekcy comments.

Silver Bullet is a great balance of the paranormal and mystery. There is plenty of sardonic wit, action, hold your breath moments, and silliness to boot. A fast and fun serious to keep happy readers up well past their bedtime.  Listeners get the bonus of being able to listen to the talented Jeffrey Kafer do some high class voice acting at the some time as they get lost in Cèsar's world.

Early Book Review: Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance

Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance is a middle grade novel that is currently scheduled for release on February 23 2016.  Claudia Miravista loves art but only sees what is on the surface, until the Dutch boy Pim appears in her painting. Pim has been trapped in the world behind the canvas for centuries by a power-hungry witch, and now believes that Claudia is his only hope for escape. Fueled by the help of an ancient artist and some microwaveable magic, Claudia enters the wondrous and terrifying world, intent on destroying the witch's most cherished possession and setting Pim free. But in that world nothing is quite as it appears on the surface. Not even friendship.

Behind the Canvas is a story with a great concept and characters that have some depth. Claudia loves art, but does not have confidence in her own work, or her ability to make friends. She is happy with time in an art museum with her art book and ideas. Pim is a boy stuck on the other side of the canvas. He says he was trapped there by a witch, but is that the whole truth? Discovering a world of art, quite literally, and having a life altering adventure helps Claudia discover her own strengths and talent in a way she never would have otherwise. I liked that friendship, intelligence, and trusting your instincts were more important than physical strength, numbers, or just about anything else. I really enjoyed the read. I will admit that as the story progressed I rather wanted things to move along a little quicker. However, there was lots of action and death defying moments at that point, so I think that was more a product of my mental to do list of books I needed to read and review next rather than any actual lack in the storytelling.

Behind the Canvas  is a story with a wonderful concept, complex characters, and some high action. It was a great middle grade read with a wonderful balance of adventure and the essential aspects of a going of age tale.  

Book Review: The 13-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton, Stig Wemyss

The 13-Storey Treehouse is a children's book written by Andy Griffiths, illustrated by Terry Denton, and the audiobook is narrated by Stig Wemyss. Both formats have something to recommend them, but I will save that for the end of the review. 

Who wouldn't want to live in a treehouse? Especially a treehouse that has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, a secret underground laboratory, a games room, self-making beds, vines you can swing on, a vegetable vaporiser and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots your favorite flavored marshmallows into your mouth whenever it discerns you're hungry. Andy and Terry  live here, make books together, and have a series of completely nutty adventures. 

The 13-Storey Treehouse is a zany story that will appeal to readers that like high action, silly humor, and crazy illustrations. The treehouse is pretty insane, and the adventures that Terry and Andy have in the process of trying to get their next book written will entertain just about everyone. There are man eating sharks, a cat painted yellow (like a canary) that can fly, a marshmallow shooter, and a variety of insanity hidden away in a treehouse. I think the combination of story and illustrations (or voice acting) in this book make it a great pick for anyone interested in picking it up. There are jokes that might go over the heads of younger readers, but older readers will enjoy it. This is a great pick for reluctant readers and those that claim that they do not like to read, because they just have not found the right books for their tastes and skill. 

The 13-Storey Treehouse is a book high in silliness, action, and eye catching humor (or fantastic voice acting and sound effects). My son is now a huge fan, and any time that he picks up a book rather than his DS I know that it is a winner for readers that crave this kind of reading material. 

My nine year old has read the books with me, and my seven year old has listened to the audiobook with both of us. I would recommend both formats, because they are fantastic. The illustrations and text art in the printed format is wonderful fun, but Stig Wemyss’s voice acting is fantastic. I say buy the paper version, and have the kiddos read along as you listen to the audiobook- that way you get the best of both worlds!

Book Review: Boundary Lines by Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Lines by Melissa F. Olson second book in Boundary Magic series. While I have not read the previous book in the series (though I plan top now) I felt like I bought up pretty quickly and was still able to enjoy the story. 

Fitting into the Old World isn’t going very well for Boulder boundary witch Allison “Lex” Luther. She may have earned a place in a vampire’s service, but now it seems as if every supernatural creature in town has found a reason to hate her. And when Lex and her partner are assigned to investigate the suspicious disappearance of two vampires during the night of the full moon, they find themselves with more questions than answers. The crusade for answers will lead Lex all over the Colorado Old World, from a prison cell for a broken werewolf to a haunted Denver brothel. And when Lex determines the responsible party, the hunt is just beginning: something has been awakened in Boulder, something as old and powerful as it is terrifying. Only the woman with death in her blood can stop what’s coming.

Boundary Lines had a good balance of action, world building, and a touch of romance. While I missed most of the set up by not reading the first book, I feel like there was enough refresher information for returning readers that I got the gist of what had happened, and it was not so much that those returning readers would have been bored. Lex is making the best of a bad situation, trying to do the right things to keep everyone safe, even if they do not like her. The tension between Lex and the vampires and witch community is strong, and Lex’s dislike of social situations in general made me like her immediately. I liked the mystery, the danger, and the character development for Lex and the circle of people in her life. The compassion and need to protect others is a diving force in her, one that trumps all else, which made me like her even more. I need to go back and read the first book, not because I need holes filled, but because I want to know more. The characters are complex, and their connections even more so. 

Boundary Lines is the perfect pick for anyone that likes urban fantasy or mysteries but want complex characters and situations. The pacing is steady, and there are plenty of twists and turns coupled with tough choices that will keep those pages turning well past bed time.

Melissa F. Olson was raised in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and studied film and literature at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. After a brief stint in the Hollywood studio system, Melissa moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where she eventually acquired a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, a husband, a mortgage, a teaching gig, two kids, and two comically oversized dogs—not at all in that order. Learn more about Melissa, her work, and her dogs at www.MelissaFOlson.com.

Early Book Review: Animals That Make Me Say Ewww! by Dawn Cusick

Animals That Make Me Say Ewww! by Dawn Cusick is children's nonfiction book currently scheduled for release on March 1 2016. This book details some of the less appealing aspects of the animal world. From blood-squirting reptiles to blood-sweating mammals to nose-picking primates, learn about some of the most disgusting creatures in the animal kingdom. Animals have developed some weird, wacky, and just plain gross habits and skills that help them survive.

Animals That Make Me Say Ewww! has a host of interesting facts about the bizarre habits and skills that animals have developed to help them survive. some are disgusting defenses to protect them from predators, others are symbiotic relationships or grooming habits that help keep them comfortable and healthy, and some are to help them find and devour their own prey. Some of the facts I already knew, like the teamwork between certain birds or fish and much larger animals that might otherwise consider them food or pests, but I did learn some new things as well. I liked the detail about the whys of the gross facts, rather than just the information about what each animal does and why it is gross. This would be a great book for readers that love learning about animals, and those looking for some information on the icky side.

Animals That Make Me Say Ewww! is a wonderful resource and I think it will be appreciated by animal and ick lovers alike. A great addition to home, school, and library collections. 

Early Book Review: A Friend for Mole by Nancy Armo

A Friend for Mole by Nancy Armo is a picture book that is currently scheduled for release on March 1 2016. An accidental encounter throws Mole and Wolf together. One is afraid of the light, the other is afraid of the dark. Together they learn that friends are all they need to conquer their fears.

A Friend for Mole follows a mole that gets lost after looking out of its hole to see what is going on above ground. After getting lost he finds his way into a different hole, only to find it occupied by a wolf. The odd pair each have their own fears and find comfort in being together. The odd couple helps each other and become friends. The illustrations are bright and do a wonderful job of showing the emotions and hope inherent in the story.

A Friend for Mole is a great odd couple story that includes overcoming fears and facing new things.  

Early Book Review: Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! by Bob Shea

Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! is the latest easy reader by Bob Shea. It is currently scheduled for release on February 2 2016. Ballet Cat is getting her friend Butter Bear ready for her big ballet debut. Butter Bear would prefer to just point her toe, rather than take big leaps like Cat. When Ballet Cat keeps pushing, Butter Bear gets hungry, then thirsty, then sleepy, making up all sorts of excuses. Butter Bear would rather do almost anything to avoid making a big leap. Why? Because her bottom is covered in silly underpants and she is afraid to be laughed at.
Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! is a funny easy reader, and holds up to my expectations of Shea. I like that Cat and Bear enjoy their rehearsing, and that in the end Cat understands Bear's fears and encourages her friend to ignore the peanut gallery and do what really makes her happy, and what is best for her. The fact that Bear's underpants are simply awesome and almost as cool as her big leap- and that Cat's underpants are just as colorful- make the story even better. The illustrations are typical Shea, which means they are a great match to the story and perfect in their cuteness and simplicity. 

Ballet Cat: Dance! Dance! Underpants! is the second book in Shea's Ballet Cat series. If you liked the first, or the author's style in any way, then this will be another fun read for you.

Book Review: Hedgehogs by Steve Wilson and Lucy Trapper

Hedgehogs by Steve Wilson and Lucy Trapper is a picture book about the troubles of hedgehogs that want to show affection, but are stymied by their features. Horace and Hattie are hedgehogs, and the very best of friends. Together, they make daisy chains, splash in puddles, and have tea parties. But there is one thing they want to do, but cannot. The cannot hug each other! They are just too spiky. Throughout the seasons, these two hedgehogs will try many different ways of hugging. But will Horace and Hattie find a hug that feels just right?

Hedgehogs a sweet and fun story that had me flipping through the book several times, even though I should have already moved on to other things. Horace and Hattie just want to hug each other. They try  a variety of methods and tools, some logical and some silly. They just keep trying, until they accidentally find the answer. The illustration and text pair together perfectly and make the reader empathize with the prickly hedgehogs, and cheer them on. There are some giggles, and some aww moments to boot. I really like that the final solution offers the answer to another mystery of life. 

Hedgehogs is a must read for picture book fans. The illustrations and story are simply adorable, and I loved it. Take a peek, you will thank me later!