Early Book Review: Tangled Up In You by Christina Lauren

Tangled Up In You by Christina Lauren is currently scheduled for release on June 25 2024. It is a modern reimagining of Disney’s Tangled and part of the Meant to Be collection. She has a dream. He has a plan. Together they’ll take a leap of faith.

Ren has never held an iPhone, googled the answer to a question, or followed a crush on social media. What she has done: Read a book or two, or three (okay, hundreds). Taught herself to paint. Built a working wind power system from scratch. But for all the books she’s read, Ren has never found one that’s taught a woman raised on a homestead and off the grid for most of her twenty-two years how to live in the real world. So when she finally achieves her lifelong dream of attending Corona College, it feels like her life is finally beginning. Fitz has the rest of his life mapped out: Graduate from Corona at the top of his class, get his criminal record wiped clean, and pass himself off as the rich, handsome player everyone thinks he is. He’s a few short months from checking off step one of his plans when Ren Gylden, with her cascading blonde hair and encyclopedic brain, crashes into his life, and for the first time Fitz’s plan is in jeopardy. But a simple assignment in their immunology seminar changes the course of both their lives, and suddenly they’re thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire on a road trip that will lead them in the most unexpected directions. Out on the open road, the world somehow shifts, and the unlikely pair realize that, maybe, the key to the dreams they've both been chasing have been sitting next to them the whole time.

Tangled Up In You is a fun and engaging take on Tangled. I liked the nods o the names and temperaments to the Tangled universe, and I thought the differences were well chosen and helped make the story in into modern society very well. I though the give and take between Ren and Fitz was very well done, and highly entertaining. The shared vulnerability and trying circumstances for the pair had me rooting for them both through the whole book.  I thought the character development and building through the story was very well done- and even though I know the story well I was still surprised a could of times with the reveals. I enjoyed the read, and can appreciate the craft that went into it.

Early Book Review: Owls in Our Yard!: The Story of Alfie by Carl Safina

Owls in Our Yard!: The Story of Alfie by Carl Safina is currently scheduled for release on June 25 2024. In the spring of 2019, ecologist Carl Safina and his wife, Patricia, took in little Alfie, a bedraggled Eastern Screech Owl chick who quickly became part of their family. With the Safinas’ care and expertise, the little owl grew, learned to hunt on her own, and eventually found her own family in a mate and chicks. As time passed, Carl realized that his bond with Alfie was greater than just saving her life—it offered wisdom, joy, and magic to him in return.

Owls in Our Yard! is a sweet and informational read about rescuing a baby owl and how the life of one rescued screech owl has gone so far. I enjoyed the mix of adorableness and learning about the real life happenings of little Alfie. I had never thought about how other birds might react to owls in the area and learned quite a bit about the life of screech owls. I do like that the author suggested getting information about local bird rescues to already have the information if one finds an injured bird, although I would have liked more guidance about finding an active rescue- although I do know that this information is always subject to change so I completely understand why they might not have done so. 


Early Book Review: Cryptids, Creatures & Critters: A Manual of Monsters & Mythos from Around the World by Rachel Quinney

Cryptids, Creatures & Critters: A Manual of Monsters & Mythos from Around the World by Rachel Quinney is currently scheduled for release on June 18 2024. While written by Rachel Quinney and mainly illustrated by her, there are twelve guest artists featured within the book, too.

Cryptids, Creatures & Critters features 90 different creatures from around the world, each with their own researched description and full-color illustrations. The book is divided into three sections: cryptids, folklore, and mythology. It features popular cryptid favorites, such as Mothman and the Flatwoods Monster, and some lesser-known cryptids, such as the Enfield Horror and the Montauk Monster. For folklore, there are kelpies, selkies, cat sidhes, and grimalkins, along with the dobarchu and the vampiric pumpkin! In mythology, you'll find Medusa, sphinx, Pegasus, and the bukavac!

Cryptids, Creatures & Critters is a book that offers readers snapshots of different creatures from a variety of origins and cultures. I thought the organization of the book was well done- and I appreciated the authors attempt to root out, and call out, the ways things like racism, colonialism, and imperialism might have changed the perceptions of the featured creatures. I also liked the efforts to cross reference the entries that heavily relate to other entries and  also giving readers a warning when an entry might hold content that might be disturbing or triggering. I appreciated the awareness. Best of all, even with all of this, there is a sense of humor and fun throughout the book as well.
I found both the text and illustrations to be charming. Most of the information on the creature I knew about matched up with what I already knew, with some additional background on the legends that I never knew before. I also liked seeing some creatures covered (like the cactus cat) that I had never heard of. I thought the book was thoroughly, and conscientiously researched. It is written with respect and humor and I think a wide range of readers will enjoy it. 

Book Review: Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu (Volume 2) by Natsuya Semikawa, Virginia Nitouhei

Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu (Volume 2) by Natsuya Semikawa, Virginia Nitouhei is a manga style graphic novel. Japanese-style pub “Nobu” is open for business in an odd, foreign world, and the ever-welcoming Shinobu and Chief are happy to serve up unusually tasty bar food to an array of strange customers. A little thief, an obnoxious messenger, and a pair of squabbling craftsmen are all ready to chow down! Kisu tempura, sashimi, omusoba, and shuto and more are on the menu... The delicious aromas of food and drink bring everyone together in this gourmet tale of humanity!

The second volume of Otherworldly Izakaya Nobu is just as charming and entertaining as the first. I enjoy seeing how the food of the Japanese and German cultures might be very different- but there are still some things that seem universal. I love that good food and good people always come out ahead and that the less pleasant characters discover that as well. I was happy to see favorite characters make a return, and to meet some new clients and staff at Nobu. The story is well written and drawn and is a lovely, cozy read. 

Book Review: Turns Out My Online Friend is My Real-Life Boss! (Volume 1) by Nmura

Turns Out My Online Friend is My Real-Life Boss! (Volume 1) by Nmura is a manga style graphic novel that was originally published in short form online.

Hashimoto is a perfectly average salaryman, working a repetitive office job, made all the worse by his stylish, strait-laced boss, who insists everything be done by the book. Whatever he does for this perfectionist, it's just not good enough! Thankfully, Hashimoto can go home to his favorite online video game, where he can unload on the forgiving shoulders of his best friend, whom he knows only by the name "Uma." The duo make plans to meet in person, but when they do, Hashimoto is horrified by a revelation that will change his entire life.

Turns Out My Online Friend is My Real-Life Boss! is a fun and engaging graphic novel. I thought the characters were interesting and I enjoyed the layers of interaction. I thought the artwork was well matched with the story and added many little extra bits of important information. I really enjoyed the story and will be looking forward to the next installment- or looking up the author's online postings to get a head start on reading the next volume. 

Book Review: Tied to You (Volume 1) by Art by WHAT, Original story by Chelliace

Tied to You (Volume 1) by Art by WHAT, Original story by Chelliace is a manga style graphic novel. Wooseo Shin was never one to believe in fate, until a ring of red thread appears around his finger that is! This ring marks a person’s meeting of their soulmate, and with it, neither can fall asleep if the other is absent. This development is not a welcome one for Wooseo, who decides to keep it from his close friend and crush Jiseok Kang at all costs. Because as fate would have it, the person with Wooseo’s matching set is Jigeon Kang—Jiseok’s older brother! When Jigeon proposes that they start sharing a bed, if only to combat their joint insomnia, Wooseo reluctantly accepts. As the two spend more and more time together, feelings start to get messy. Will Wooseo be able to survive his new life tangled up in between these two brothers?!

Tied to You is a well drawn and written story that left me eager for the next volume. I enjoyed getting to know the three major players in this little triangle. I feel like I understand Wooseo and Jigeon, and a bit of where they are coming from and how they feel. I liked getting the multiple points of view and the way things all come together. I love how careful they all are with each other- even in arguments and misunderstandings they never purposefully cause harm to each other, which is a nice change from some of the darker romance that I have read. I wish I had more than hints as to how Jiseok felt- and that I had the next volume in my hands already. 

Early Book Review: Barely Even Friends by Mae Bennett

Barely Even Friends by Mae Bennett is currently scheduled for release on June 4 2024.

Bellamy Price has just been offered the job of a lifetime: lead contractor on the restoration of the mysterious and sprawling Killington Estate. If she meets the owner’s ridiculous timeline, she’ll finally make a name for herself in this male-dominated industry. After a traumatic car accident that left his parents dead and himself injured, Oliver Killington, heir to the Killington empire, took up residence as the grumpy caretaker of his grandfather’s mansion. When Bellamy discovers Oliver’s facing his own ultimatum from his grandfather, the two form a cautious truce, which leads to flying sparks that are definitely not from faulty wiring. As Bellamy restores the gleam to the Killington Estate, she’ll have to decide if the walls she’s built around herself are worth knocking down to make space for someone else.

Barely Even Friends is a contemporary romance with a lot going for it. I loved the characters. I thought the character building for the main and secondary characters was very well done- and frankly I want more from several of those characters. I thought the conversations and relationship building between Bellamy and Oliver was also well done. The only issue I had with the book had me flipping back to the previous pages on several occasions, which took me out of the story a little. There was some trouble with transitions, there were time or movement jumps that did not quite flow with the story. It felt like they had been editing a sentence and then forgot to get it back in, which very well might be the case and be resolved in the final publication copy. The problem was that it happened more than once, and it just irked me. I loved so much about this read and will definitely be looking to see what the author does next because there is so much potential here. I think they will be an author to watch as they keep going and I look forward to having a front row seat. 

Book Review: A Window into the Ocean Twilight Zone: Twenty-Four Days of Science at Sea by Michelle Cusolito

A Window into the Ocean Twilight Zone: Twenty-Four Days of Science at Sea by Michelle Cusolito is a children's nonfiction book that offers readers a front-row seat to cutting-edge ocean twilight zone technology. Join scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and international partner organizations on a research trip to study the ocean twilight zone using the newest technologies. From moving onto the ship and unpacking equipment to facing massive storms while in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, this book details the fascinating equipment used to study the deep ocean as well as day-to-day details such as what you eat on a Spanish research ship. Meet people and animals and learn more at sea than you ever imagined!

A Window into the Ocean Twilight Zone is a detailed description of one scientific expedition. I learned a great deal about some of the scientific tools and equipment that were being used, and the way carbon behaves in the ocean. I think science and technical minded readers will get the most out of this, as it does get very in depth (ha!) at times and younger or less interested readers might lose interest. I like that the book detailed the experiments and efforts to get data that can be correlated and studied as well as the very hard work that is involved in making something like this happen. The interpersonal relations, and how important each and every person was to making the research trip safe and successful- regardless of what their title was. I really appreciated the detailed information on where interested readers can find more information about this trip, the research it is a part of, and the field in general. I thought it was a great way to encourage readers to take things to the next level. I also appreciated the encouragement that anyone with curiosity can be a scientist. It is not straight A's, but the effort and interest that make a scientist.


Book Review: Miss Miyazen Would Love to Get Closer to You (Volume 1) by Akitaka

Miss Miyazen Would Love to Get Closer to You (Volume 1) by Akitaka is a manga style graphic novel. Two high school classmates, Sakura Miyazen and Sota Matsubayashi, are polar opposites: Miyazen is a prim and proper young lady, while Matsubayashi is a brusque former troublemaker. They’re secretly dying to talk to each other, but their backgrounds are so different, they can’t seem to strike up a conversation! And why does a simple greeting make the both of them turn red?!

Miss Miyazen Would Love to Get Closer to You is a sweet opposites attract story. I loved that we get the points of view from both our main characters- and they are both so earnest and self doubting. I felt like the inner dialogue was very realistic, especially for the high school age group. Doesn't everyone overthink how the people they want to get closer to take the things they say and do and then get so lost in those thoughts that they miss other things going on arounds them? No, just me?  I thought this was a cute story- and I look forward to following the story as it continues. 

Early Book Review: Whales & Dolphins by Tom Jackson

Whales & Dolphins by Tom Jackson is a nonfiction book currently scheduled for release on May 14 2024. Whales and dolphins alike are renowned for their intelligent nature and fascinating social rituals. Like us humans, they use vocalizations to communicate. They both have distinctive, streamlined body shapes and propel themselves through water using powerful tails and flippers. These magnificent mammals are frequently described as ‘sentinels’ of ocean health, providing key insight into marine dynamics and ecosystem quality. Whales are the largest marine mammals belonging to the Cetacea order (whales, dolphins and porpoises). Their incredible size continues to amaze us, the blue whale reaching an astounding 100ft (30.48 meters) and weighing as much as 200 tons. Dolphins, found in both oceans and freshwater, are actually classed as small- toothed whales. They are esteemed around the world for their sleek physical appearance and intriguing sounds used to communicate with each other. Did you know that porpoises are often shy creatures and therefore most of us will very rarely encounter them in the wild? Among their species is the vaquita, tragically the most endangered species of any whale, dolphin or porpoise.

Whales & Dolphins is a visually attention grabbing book. I found the chosen photographs to be wonderful, and the book is worth a look just or the images alone. I thought the text was well done as well, and I learned quite a bit about the featured animals. There were full captions explaining the different species, as well as their behavior and feeding habits. I was fascinated by whales when I was young, and was thrilled to revisit the subject matter. Also, I can finally say that I understand the differences between porpoises and dolphins and just how some outliers like narwhales and belugas fit in the family tree.