Early Book Review: Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy, and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies by Julie Winterborn

Frightlopedia: An Encyclopedia of Everything Scary, Creepy, and Spine-Chilling, from Arachnids to Zombies by Julie Winterborn is scheduled for release on August 23 2016. It combines fact, fiction, and hands-on activities together to scare and entertain readers  with some of the world’s most frightening places, scariest stories, and gruesomest creatures, both real and imagined. Discover Borneo’s Gomantong Cave, where literally millions of bats, cockroaches, spiders, and rats coexist in pitch darkness. Learn about mythical creatures like the Mongolian Death Worm—and scarily real ones like killer bees, which were accidentally created by scientists in the 1950s. Visit New Orleans’s Beauregard-Keyes house, where Civil War soldiers are said to still clash in the front hall. Plus ghost stories from around the world, a cross-cultural study of vampires, and how to transform into a zombie with makeup. Each entry includes a “Fright Meter” measurement from 1 to 3, because while being scared is fun, everyone has their limit.

Frightlopedia is a fun and sometimes frightening read that will appeal too many readers. I like that the book is well organized, so readers looking for information on a certain type of monster or scary story can find the wanted information quickly. I think the scare-o-meter is a great aspect as well, since it forwards readers just how scary some of the stories might be for them. The variety of urban legends, well known stories and monsters, and those less known is nice. The inclusion of real creatures that some find scary, like spiders that eat birds and other sizable critters, rounded out the collection well. I even learned a few new bits of certain legends that I had not heard of before. I think readers that love all things masters or creepy will enjoy this book for multiple reads.

Frightlopedia is a great read for those that like scary stories and monsters, and not just to be scared. I liked the fright-o-meter so the least and most stalwart of readers can still enjoy the book and skip over bits that might not be conducive to bedtime. 

Book Review: Jordan’s Return by Samantha Chase

Jordan’s Return by Samantha Chase is a contemporary romance about healing and second chances. A summer on the Virginia coast is exactly what Jordan Manning needs to regroup and recover from a near-fatal accident at the hands of her abusive ex-husband. Wanting only to spend time bonding with her two sons and come up with a direction for their future, Jordan’s perfectly crafted plan is turned upside down when she runs in to Rob Tyler, the first man who ever broke her heart. He was content with his life; at least that’s what Rob had been telling himself until seeing Jordan again. Spending time with her and her boys has Rob re-evaluating his life. Making up for his past mistakes won’t be easy, but the chance of having Jordan back in his life makes him want to try.

Jordan’s Return is a story of second chances. Jordan has escaped an abusive marriage, even though even that was not her decision. However, she is looking for a fresh start and to do what is best for her two sons, who are the focus of her life, and her future. Rob is doing well for himself and thinks he is content, until he sees his first love, and the woman he regrets his mistakes with in his small town. The attraction and emotion between the two still lingers, and Rob is more than willing to rekindle the romance. Jordan is still nursing her wounds (quite literally) and is a little reluctant to jump into anything. Stubborn minds, pride, and lack of listening cause more problems than anything else. I liked the characters, but did not really get invested in the story. I liked the read, but never really connected with the characters, except for maybe each of the main character’s extended family. All the elements of a solid contemporary romance were there- it just did not speak to me, and thats okay.

Jordan’s Return is a sweet romance with characters facing issue and complications partially of their own making. I liked the secondary characters almost more than the main players, but found the story to be solid and worth a read for fans of Chase and contemporary romance. 

Book Review Summons (Fable Rangers #1) by A.L. Brown

Summons is the first book in the Fable Rangers series by A.L. Brown. This is a middle grade book that offers a fantasy story with pieces of stories you might think you already know. Twelve-year-old Casey doesn’t think life could get any more unfair. Plans for her special basketball tournament are tossed aside by her sister’s wedding plans.  All she wants is an escape, but she never imagined she’d be swept away to a world of Mother Goose rhymes, fairy tales, stories of Arabian Nights, and oh, by the way, all but one fairy godmother has been kidnapped. Casey learns she’s been summoned as the Fable Ranger to lead the search and rescue of the missing wish-makers. But she’s not the hero they want. In the world of fairy tales, damsels aren’t meant to swoop in and save the day. Now all Casey wants is to go home, but the veil between worlds is on lockdown. Taking fate into her own hands, she embarks on an airship flight to find the phoenix tears that can open her way home. Her journey would’ve gone as smooth as the perfect layup if it weren’t for that pesky bounty the evil Dovetail has placed on her head. If Casey fails, the Arabian Nights will disappear forever and she will be trapped in a world unraveling one fairy tale at a time.

Summons is a story that many readers will relate to on some level, and enjoy. Casey feels that life is unfair, and that she is the one making most of the changes and sacrifices in her family. When she is sucked into a world of stories through a book she borrowed from her father she finds herself facing much bigger problems than anything she faced at home. Fairy godmothers have been kidnapped, stories are unravelling, and danger is lurking around every corner. When the people she is called to help see that they got a young girl rather than the trained man they expected everyone’s plans are changed. Dealing with gender biases and working to save an entire world, not to mention trying to secure a way home, Casey not only proves herself but comes to some important realizations along the way. The story was fast paced with good character development for both Casey and the main supporting characters. World building was also p[aced well, although the opening with Casey’s family made me wonder if I had missed something prior to the start ofd this story.

Summons is a well written middle grade novel. I think fans of the Lands of Stories, Tale Dark and Grimm, and other fairy tale based series or the Once Upon a Time television series will particularly enjoy the read. Not completely new territory, but it is a well done and entraining read.  

Book Review: Devil and the Deep (Deep Six #2) by Julie Ann Walker

Devil and the Deep is the second book in the Deep Six by Julie Ann Walker. I do recommend reading Hell of High Water before this book, because it includes the first meeting of our leading couple and the personalities and dynamics of most of the characters, but newcomers would catch up pretty quickly.

Cocktail parties, political fundraisers, and charity events are Maddy Powers' way of life. But the daring man who appropriated her father's yacht a couple of months ago is still out there, somewhere, and she wants to pay him back for the scorching kiss they shared. Behind his suave smile and ladykiller eyes, Bran Palladino carries a dark secret that keeps him from pursuing Maddy, even though he can't get her out of his head. But when Maddy is kidnapped as part of a grand scheme, it's time to put up or shut up because Bran can't live without Maddy now.

Devil and the Deep is a faced paced book with plenty of danger, action, and more. Maddy and a group of scholarship students are at a nearby beach, a reward for hard work, when a group or mercenaries attempt to kidnap Maddy. Fueled by an email telling him of Maddy’s location Bran goes to visit, and interrupts the attempt. Fire fights, power plays, and deception are the words of the day as they struggle to get everyone out of there alive. The chemistry between Maddy and Bran is an added distraction, as is Brans past. A few moments of passion that could be much better timed and promises of no strings finally get the pair to talk, but with high stakes and everything on the line they might not be able to keep any promises. The action was intense, as was the danger. I had a few face palms when they decided to have alone time, not necessarily the best time for it, but when there is that much going on I guess you take what you can get. I really enjoyed the personalities and interactions of the secondary characters, and look forward to continuing the series to see what happens next.

Devil and the Deep is a high action, high emotion, edition to the world Walker has created in her interrelated romance series. If you are a fan of the Deep Six or Black Knights series you will enjoy this story.  

Early Book Review: Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger, Paul Dillinger

Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dillinger is currently scheduled for release on August 16 2016. When Max—Maxine Zealster—befriends her new robot classmate Fuzzy, part of Vanguard One Middle School’s new Robot Integration Program, she helps him learn everything he needs to know about surviving middle school—the good, the bad, and the really, really, ugly. Little do they know that surviving sixth grade is going to become a true matter of life and death, because Vanguard has an evil presence at its heart: a digital student evaluation system named BARBARA that might be taking its mission to shape the perfect student to extremes!

Fuzzy is a book that many kids will relate to despite not living in a time where robots are doing even more of our daily work for us. Max is a student that is trying her best, but seems unable to get ahead or please the people that matter to her most. Who cannot relate to that feeling, I think everyone has or is there right now- even us adults. Fuzzy is a robot programed to learn units own, using fuzzy logic and the ability to make its own choices and desertions. There is plenty of school and friend angst, the adventure of dealing with the technology and those with the money and power to control it, and some fun humor. However, there is also some bigger things going on here. I like there there is a body of community here on human nature and technology- but it does not overwhelm the rest of the story or come off as preachy or a lesson that was the reason for the story. I liked that balance, and many authors fail with that. No one like being preached at when they are reading for enjoyment- at least I do not and I do not expect your readers to either. I found myself lost in Max and Fuzzy’s adventures and wondering how BARBARA because the way she was and how our main characters would come out on top. I was occasionally surprised with the terms the book took, and highly enjoyed the journey. 

Fuzzy is an entertaining middle grade novel from Angleberger. The combination of humor, science fiction, and classic coming of age story will make this widely appealing and a great summer read. 

Book Review: Must Love Ghosts (Banchee Creek #1) by Ani Gonzalez

Must Love Ghosts is the first book in the Banchee Creek contemporary romance series by Ani Gonzalez. Abby Reed believes in folk songs and ghosts, but she doesn’t believe in love. She lost her soulmate when her fiancĂ© died while deployed in Afghanistan, but she still has her music, her crazy spectre-filled town, and her pen-pal-slash-best-friend, Mike Stone. It's a good life and she's happy, but when Mike arrives in Banshee Creek after his last tour of duty in Afghanistan, Abby starts to have doubts, about music, ghosts and, most importantly love. Like a good soldier, Mike Stone follows the rules, and Rule #1 is: Don't Fall For Your Buddy's FiancĂ©e. His relationship with Abby has been strictly platonic despite his long term infatuation. But when he arrives in Banshee Creek, a town where the impossible is an everyday occurrence, he'll find out that sometimes rules are meant to be broken.

Must Love Ghosts is a contemporary romance between two people that have been pen pals for years. Abby was engaged to Mike’s best friend, and that bond keeps them close, and apart at the same time. Mike has been longing for Abby since he first saw her, while she was engaged to his best friend. This makes for a challenge that is hard to overcome- but the lack of try to talk things out causes more issues than anything else. I did not really connect with either character, rather I though the secondary characters and a couple outside influences were much more entertaining than Abby and Mike. There were some hot moments, and more than one funny moment, and the story came together nicely. However, I just never really felt invested in the main players. I am tempted to read follow up books because I found the characters of Banshee Creek to be wacky and interesting, but worry that getting inside their heads will make them less entertaining.

Must Love Ghosts is good weekend read, but nothing that has me eagerly awaiting the next book. I liked the characters, and had a few good laughs, but did not love them or care about them much once I finished the story.  

Early Book Review: Me and My Cat by Michael Dahl

Me and My Cat by Michael Dahl is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on August 1 2016. Your cat loves you, and you love your cat. But you and your cat don not always like the same things. Using a combination of sweet art, relatable situations, and fact boxes this fun picturebook will help readers of all ages find the best ways to build a lasting friendship with your cat.

Me and My Cat is a simple picturebook that gets an important message about how to treat a pet across without it coming across as overbearing. The book uses simple but colorful images and basic text to explore things children like to do, things children like to do, and how the two match (or do not). I thought this would be great for a family getting their first cat, or visiting a family or friend with cats so that kids can enjoy the book, and learn how to treat the pets at the same time. While this is not groundbreaking work, it is certainly going to fulfill a need and serve its purpose well.  

Book Review: Babak the Beetle by Fred Paronuzzi, Andree Prigent

Babak the Beetle is a picture book written by Fred Paronuzzi and illustrated by Andree Prigent. It was originally published in France.  When Babak the little dung beetle finds an egg, he s determined to find the owner. But he soon finds that this mysterious egg does not belong to the ostrich, frog, or snake. What kind of egg is it?! 

Babak the Beetle is a well done and highly entertaining book. Babak is a good hearted beetle that finds an egg in his travels. Even though the egg is bigger than him, he rolls it from area to are asking every creature he runs across if the egg is theirs, and who it might belong to. When he finds the rightful home of the white, dimpled “egg” Babak is determined to care for it himself. Sweet and silly all wrapped up with a bit of nature information that animal lovers like my daughter would quickly absorb. 

Babak the Beetle is a charming picture book that is well drawn and is sure to bring on chuckles and big smiles as Babak looks for the owner of his oddly dimpled egg. 

Book Review: Jacked by Eric Kripke

Jacked by Eric Kripke is an adult graphic novel about Josh Jaffe, a man deep in his own mid-life crisis. Feeling like no one respects him, he takes the advise of his brother and tries out a pill that is supposed to help him be more focused and help him break out of a slump. However, while the pill certainly makes him feel healthier- it also gives him super strength and some crazy hallucinations and are highly addictive. This brutally honest story is from Eric Kripke (creator of the hit TV series Supernatural), Vertigo veterans John Higgins (HELLBLAZER), and Glenn Fabry (PREACHER) with a on the modern superhero in this new graphic novel thriller.

Jacked collects the entire current run of the story, issues one through six. It is a realistic look at life today, at least for some, and a different angle of becoming a superhero. I liked that the book was gritty and real. It showed the more depressing side of middle age, and how some people feel or cope. It also takes a look a society, and how looking for respect and trying to be better can lead down dangerous paths. There are graphic moments, and the trippy hallucinations were bright and bold. It came together very well and most adults will be able to relate to at least some of the emotions or situations that run through the story.

Jacked is a solid and well executed graphic novel. It was timely and realistic. However, while I liked it, I did not adore it.  

Book Review: Nightstruck by Jenna Black

Nightstruck by Jenna Black is a young to new adult novel. Becket, walking her dog one winter evening, fears it’s an abandoned baby left out in the cold. But it is something else—something evil—and it tricks Becket into opening a doorway to another realm, letting a darkness into our world, a corruption that begins transforming Philadelphia into a sinister and menacing version of itself, but only at night. The changes are subtle at first, causing Becket to doubt her senses and her sanity. But soon the nightmarish truth is impossible to deny: By day, the city is just a city, but at night it literally comes alive with malevolent purpose. Brick and steel become bone, streetlights turn into gallows, and hungry alleys wait to snare mortal victims. Terrified citizens huddle indoors after dusk, as others succumb to the siren song of the night, letting their darker sides run wild. Once, Becket’s biggest problems were living up to her police commissioner father’s high expectations and a secret crush on her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she must find a way to survive and protect her loved ones…before the darkness takes her as well.

Nightstruck is a solid opening to a new urban fantasy series from Black. Becket is an independent girl. Her parents are divorced, and her father is more than a little overprotective, but Becket still has a good deal of anonymity and a good head on her shoulders. When a strange night's adventure leads to much bigger problems in the town she needs to face up to her crush on her best friend's boyfriend, her friend's flaws, and her role in the destruction of her city. Her parent's divorce is nothing compare to the living nightmare she is now facing. There is a good deal of character and world building, but it is paced well and left me caring about Becket and more than her physical well being. My only complaint is how much was left unanswered at the end of the book. I hate waiting for such important details, and it was a little frustrating. Thankfully, most of the character crises were tied up, and left me satisfied enough that I did not throw my Kindle across the room.

Nightstruck is a reasonable fast paced novel that left me wanting more. There was a fairly satisfying conclusion, but also a huge cliffhanger that left me a little frustrated at the same time. Urban fantasy fans will enjoy the read, but I might wait until the second book in the series comes out so that you can find out what happens next right away. Although, who's to say book two will not end in a similar fashion?