Early Book Review: Nightwalker by Jacquelyn Frank

Nightwalker by Jacquelyn Frank is the final chapter in the Nightwalkers saga. It is currently scheduled for release on August 25 2015.  If you have not read the previous books in the series, do not start here. bonus points go to readers that have read other series by Frank, as you will see everything come together!

Kamen is a Bodywalker, an ancient soul reborn in one human host after another. He’s also a prisoner of his own kind and his own guilt because he is the one that released Apep, the deadly god who threatens the existence of their world. He just might have found a way to defeat Apep, but first he needs to convince the other nations of the Nightwalkers to set aside their centuries-old conflicts and band together. If he fails, all will be lost. Kamen makes first contact with a stunning, ghostly pale beauty named Geneviève. Part Wraith and part human, Viève shares the hunger for redemption and for connection. Her scintillating touch holds the kiss of death, and yet it makes Kamen feel more alive than ever. They find comfort, lust, and redemption in each other. However, they cannot lose site of the need to unite all the Nightwalkers and fast because Apep is ready for war.

Nightwalker tells the story I have wanted since first meeting the Bodywalkers, Kamen's story and redemption. he is filled with guilt, and redeems himself with hard work and putting the good of the world above his own safety at every turn. Vieve has always been looked down upon because she is a halfbreed, and finds acceptance and understanding in Kamen, who does not lie or mince words. the combination and quick attraction between them was very well done. As a whole i liked the book and that many questions were answered. Nightwalker brought all the Nightwalker races that we have met via Frank together in a single book. I think every character I have ever read about from her paranormal romances makes an appearance or gets a mention here. However, I was disappointed with the end, because there are still many questions and lives left hanging. I full expect a new, related series, to begin soon to pick up where this left off.

Nightwalker did a good job or wrapping up the Bodywalker story arc, but I think billing it as the conclusion of the larger series is a wee bit misleading. There are many newly discovered characters and stories that now need to be given some kind of closure. If you were hoping for a big splashy end, you do get the battle you are expecting. However, there are still many puzzle pieces not in their place and I am sure there will be a new series in the near future to wrap them up, or at least I hope so.

Early Book Review: My Highland Bride by Maeve Greyson

My Highland Bride is the second book in the Highland Hearts series by Maeve Greyson. This romance is currently scheduled for release on August 25 2015. I have not read the first book in the series, and while it might have made the acclimation to the premise and cast of characters easier, I felt like I could fully enjoy the story despite the lack.  Kenna Sinclair seems like just another pretty Kentucky girl. But she can also read minds, erase memories, and jump through time; a skill set that comes in handy when her matchmaking granny sends her back to thirteenth-century Scotland on the pretext of visiting her older sister. When she encounters the clan’s womanizing man-at-arms, a single electrifying touch makes Kenna see that playing hard to get will not be easy. Bewitched by the first lass who could ever resist him, Colum Garrison will do anything to prove his devotion, even ask for Kenna’s hand in marriage, and swear off his chosen form of recreation until their wedding night. The match might be perfect, but Colum's pride just might open the door to more trouble than either are prepared for.
My Highland Bride caught me interest quickly, but lost me for a bit in the middle. The love interest between Kenna and Colum was quick, and backed up by the Sinclair family's particular set of gifts. I enjoyed Colum's character, and development but after the initial introduction to Kenna (which I really liked and got my hopes up for a strong character) I found her to be less dynamic and interesting as the story went on. I did like that they did not go straight to a happy ending, and when the big conflict arose in the middle I was on board with it.I thought it was just the kick in the pants Colum needed to kick things into gear. However, In I think the conflict as a whole was more complicated and hard on Colum than it needed to be. If it had come together a little sooner, I would have felt a little more connection with the final resolution- but because of the additional problems I found myself impatient for the conclusion. I also found myself more interested in the characters I expect to star in the next book than with Kenna and Colum.

My Highland Bride was a decent story. There were parts that I really loved, but was disappointed in Kenna’s character over all and became impatient with the story. I will be reading the next book, because this one did make me very interested to see what happens with two of the secondary characters which I fully expect to be the main players in the near future.

Book Review: Prudence by Gail Carriger and Moira Quirk

Prudence is the first book in The Custard Protocol series written by Gail Carriger. I listened to the audiobook, which was narrated by Moira Quirk. This series can stand on its own, but Carriger fans that have already finished the The Parasol Protectorate Series and the The Finishing School Series will definitely be at an advantage. My personal disclaimer, I love the world Carriger created with her steampunk series. These books are my well loved and slightly addictive snack food, and I love them!

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances, she names it the Spotted Custard and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea. But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?

Prudence was both exactly what I expected, and a complete surprise. I will admit that I did not read any of the descriptions or reviews of this book. I knew that it was focused on the daughter of the main characters in the Parasol Protectorate series, and that she was a metanatural, and hence able to steal the supernatural abilities of anyone she touches. Where she was heading and why, I left all that as a surprise as I listened to the story. I enjoyed that Prudence went where none of her parents traveled and met creatures that had not appeared in previous books. I loved the looks at the characters remembered or mentioned in previous books, as characters in their own right. The politics and balances are just minor points to me, but getting to know the characters that I had only seen as children previously as capable and very independent adults made me very happy. I do not want to talk too much about the plots or character interactions, because discovering them piece by piece is part of the joy in reading this book.  My only disappointment is that now I will need to wait for the next book in the series.

Prudence is as much fun as I expected. I wished that I could have kept myself from listening to the audio book a little bit long, only so that my wait for the second book would be shorter. The reader does a great job with voices, accents, and inflection. This made the listening even better than expected. 

Early Book Review: Tremaines True Love by Grace Burrowes

Tremaines True Love is the first book in the True Gentlemen series by Grace Burrowes. This historical romance is currently scheduled for release on August 4th 2015. Tremaine St. Michael is firmly in trade and seeks only to negotiate the sale of some fancy sheep with the Earl of Haddonfield. The earl’s sister, Lady Nita, is pragmatic, hard-working, and selfless, though Tremaine senses she’s also tired of her charitable obligations and envious of her siblings’ marital bliss. Tremaine, having been raised among shepherds, can spot another lonely soul, no matter how easily she fools her own family. Neither Tremaine nor Nita is looking for love, but love comes looking for them.

Tremaines True Love is another winner from Burrowes. Nita is a smart, strong woman that still has a vulnerable heart. She has been healing the people in her village for years, at great risk to herself, because of the incompetence of the actual doctor. She has also been dealing with the scorn of that doctor, the village vicar, and society as well as her families worry and disapproval. Tremaine is a strong and thoughtful man with no plans to marry and some childhood issues to deal with. He sees a kindred soul in Nita, but is reluctant to pursue it, but love in these cases often has a mind of its own, particularly when other people and their problems are close at hand. I really loved that all of the secondary characters had stories of their own, rather than just being lost in the background or stereotypes. It left me satisfied on several levels and looking forward to see the larger story continue and other characters find their own happy endings.

Tremaines True Love is exactly what I expect from Burrowes, and is a must read for her many fans. Her characters, dialogue, and grander story arch capture the imagination and captivate. I am still thinking about the characters, even though i finished it and have read other books since reading the final pages. 

Books to Help Understand Social Media Safety

These days even the youngest kids have access to phones, computers, and tablets; and hence the internet. This means parents, teachers, caregivers, and children to to understand the dangers of being so connected with strangers, as well as the possibilities they offer for socialization, education, and entertainment. We do not want anyone to be afraid of the internet and its social opportunities, but we need to exercise caution and understand that not everyone and everything online is what it appears. Here are some books, a list of books to share with children and a list for parents and other caregivers, to master the tools they need to be safe and confident online.

For Kids:

Internet Safety (Rookie Read-About Safety) by Lisa M. Herrington

Internet Safety for Kids and Young Adults by Jeff Sechler

Smart Girl's Guide to the Internet (American Girl) by Sharon Cindrich and Ali Douglass

Children's Books: Gigabytes of Disaster by Jennifer Burrows and Joe Lorenzano

For Parents:

The Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age by Catherine Steiner-Adair, Ed. D. ; with Teresa H. Barker

Talking Back to Facebook: the Common Sense Guide to Raising Kids in the Digital Age by James P. Steyer ; with a foreword by Chelsea Clinton 

Early Book Review: Legs by Sarah J. Dodd, Giusi Capizzi

Legs: The Tale of a Verry Small Meerkat is a picture book written by Sarah J. Dodd and illustrated by Giusi Capizzi. It is currently scheduled for release on August 21 2015.  Miki is a baby meerkat who lives with his Mama in a zoo. He's happy at home with Mama and the kind keeper who cares for them, but soon he becomes curious about the wider world. The one day Miki ventures a bit too far out into the world, and he's not sure where he is anymore. Who do all these legs belong to? Soon the legs turn from animal legs to people legs - Miki really has gone too far! But just when Miki feels completely lost, there are the keepers familiar booted legs, and here's the keeper to bring him home; and from his vantage point in the keepers arms all the legs that seemed so intimidating on the way out are revealed to have friendly, happy faces with them!

Legs is a look at the life of a meerkat in a zoo, and at what childhood is often like. We, um vertically challenged, adults can still empathize with the feeling of being too small in the world to see the big picture, but many adults forget the feeling of seeing the world from a lower height. Young children will relate to Miki in both seeing the world only as legs as well as his desire to explore and see more. They will also understand the fear and anxiety of getting lost when never really meaning to stay so far. I think this is a great book for helping children understand that they are not alone, and the importance of not just wandering off to explore the world. The illustrations are very cute and draw the reader into Miki’s world while entertaining readers of all ages. 

I really enjoyed Legs, sand think my adventurous and animal mad children will enjoy it as well. This would make a great addition to library, preschool, and home collections.

Early Book Review: The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi

The Tea Party in the Woods is a picturebook by Akiko Miyakoshi which is currently scheduled for release on August 1 2015. Kikko sets out after her father with a forgotten pie for Grandma. She follows a trail to a strange house in the wintry woods, thinking it was her father.  A peek in the window reveals that the footprints Kikko had been following did not belong to her father at all, but to a bear in a long coat and hat! The day only gets stranger, and more wonderful for Kikko from there.

The Tea Party in the Woods is a creative and beautifully illustrated picturebook. I loved how the pencil illustrations convery the cold, snowy day and the fantasy found in Kikko's woodland hike. Kikko is bringing a forgotten goody to her grandmother's house, and like Little Red Riding Hood she strays from her path- thankfully the adventure Kikko finds is more like that of Goldilocks than Little Red. Instead of a big bad wolf Kikko finds an animal hosted tea party and help from that unexpected quarter. Her bravery and the kindness of the animals are beautiful on every level.

The Tea Party in the Woods is a delightful and visually attractive storybook. I do not know if I want to share it with my children, because they are already a wee be too willing to explore, but I think most everyone will be able to absolutely love this book. It would be good for one on one or small group storytimes, but I think the illustrations might be too delicate and light to be fully appreciated in a large group.

Early Book Review:Let's Eat Ramen and Other Doujinshi Short Stories by Nagumo, Aji-Ichi

Let's Eat Ramen and Other Doujinshi Short Stories by Nagumo and Aji-Ichi is a graphic novel that is currently scheduled for publication in the states on August 18 2015.  Doujinshi, otherwise known as independent manga in Japan, is rarely published in English and is typically considered underground. It begins with Let's East Ramen, a three-part tale of Saeki- a girl who loves ramen noodles. At last, she thinks that she has finally found the perfect ramen shop, but the problem is the shop is completely full of old regulars and she can't get in. Will the timid Saeki ever summon the willpower to reach out and get the ramen that she desperately wants? The other stories are about high school students and involve love, ghosts, and more.

I really enjoyed Let's Eat Ramen and Other Doujinshi Short Stories and my biggest issue with the volume is that I would have liked to see more of the title story. I want to see more of Saeki's story and will be pursuing that. The other stories ranged from 'huh?' because I was not quite ready to leave the Ramen story, to very good and wanting more. I really liked the story involving the swim team member and ghost rumors, and the opening story. I thought the volume was a good introduction to some manga that we rarely get our hands on here in the states, unless you are an enthusiast or have some connections. The artwork was charming and displayed the style and emotion that I expect from manga. I was very happy with this and loved every moment of the read. As I said, my only disappointment was with my desire for more.

I would recommend Let's Eat Ramen and Other Doujinshi Short Stories to anyone that is interested in manga, or general enjoys it. The stories are bite sized and wonderfully charming. I hope it inspires more people to explore the artwork and literature of other cultures, particularly the less available items.

Book Review: Jakes Monster Mess by Ken Spillman and Chris Nixon

Jakes Monster Mess is a picturebook written by Ken Spillman and illustrated by Chris Nixon. Jake's room is only slightly messy, until he tries to clean it! After he has cleared out his sock drawer, his jock drawer, and his toy cupboard and dragged all the dusty and forgotten clutter out from under the bed, he realizes all those things are piled high on his floor and worse, they seem to have expanded!

Jakes Monster Mess is a book that captures what often happens when anyone tries to tackle a small project, which seems to grow. I know it happens to me every time I try to sort through what clothes or toys can be given away and what should be kept. Jake tries to fold and put away his laundry, only to discover the drawer he needs in full. So he decides to move those clothes elsewhere, but that location is already taken and prompts more dumping, which brings his attention to something else that needs to be organized, and so on. I can sympathize, and think kids, teachers, care givers, and parents can all relate to that feeling and phenomenon as well.

Jakes Monster Mess is a fun and relate-able books for readers of all ages. It could be used in a story time or family sharing setting, with a great story and entertaining illustrations to match. A good read for anyone with organizational difficulties, myself included. 

Book Review: The Defiant Bride by Leslie Hachtel

The Defiant Bride by Leslie Hachtel is a historical romance. Dariana refuses to be forced into marriage, even if it has been ordered by the king. With few options she fakes her own death. Praying the king will not retaliate against her father, she seeks refuge in the forest and learns to fend for herself. When William, a warrior knight, is felled by an arrow, she saves his life and arranges his rescue before fleeing to avoid discovery. William awakes from his injury determined to make her his own, so he hunts her down and tricks her into marrying him, intent on turning her defiance into love. But even as he begins to succeed, their enemies join forces to end the marriage, even if it means that Dariana must die. When Dariana is abducted, William must track her down to fight for her life and their happiness. And, Dariana, once the most defiant of brides, must channel her own strength of will into survival.

The Defiant Bride started strong. Dariana is a strong, smart, and independent woman that cares about her father and friends, but cannot stand the idea of being sent away to marry a foreign stranger. So, she fakes her death and learns to survive with the help of a good friend.  She stumbles across a plot to kill a lord, saves him, and sends him on his way. But he searches her out, knowing she was not a fever dream. So far, so good right? Well, then it all goes wrong.He kidnaps her from the forest and tricks her into marrying him, even though he is already betrothed to another. They have some issues from there, but then there are added outside dangers because of people that think William and/or Dariana have taken what is rightfully theirs. Of course Dariana comes to her senses and is head over heals in love with William and forgives him, even though he never admits that he was wrong or even thinks that he was wrong in his high handed actions. While I loved the action and the majority of Dariana's character, this bit of handsome hero is right even if he is incredably wrong and arrogant just drove me crazy and rather ruined the rest of the book. Both Dariana and William’s sister tell him that he is wrong, but they all just shrug it aside and move on! If they ever had a real argument about it, without leaving it behind to fall into bed, and had William every really apologized rather than just having it land in the territory of “but I was right and you love me so it is okay” I would have felt much better about the whole thing. 

The Defiant Bride is a decent read overall, if you can get past the fact that Dariana ends up married without the opportunity to make the choice herself, then the book would be so much better. I could not move past that, since that was at odds with the strength of character she starts the story with. I had such high hopes when starting this book, and am disappointed in the path it takes.