Book Review: Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color by Julie Dachez

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color is a graphic novel by Julie Dachez that has been translated for the very first time in English. Mademoiselle Caroline did the adaptation, illustrations, and color, and the story was inspire by and done in collaboration with Fabienne Vaslet. The translation was done by Edward Gauvin.

Marguerite feels awkward, struggling every day to stay productive at work and keep up appearances with friends. She's sensitive, irritable at times. She makes her environment a fluffy, comforting cocoon, alienating her boyfriend. The everyday noise and stimuli assaults her senses, the constant chatter of her coworkers working her last nerve. Then, when one big fight with her boyfriend finds her frustrated and dejected, Marguerite finally investigates the root of her discomfort: after a journey of tough conversations with her loved ones, doctors, and the internet, she discovers that she has Aspergers. Her life is profoundly changed – for the better.

Invisible Differences: A Story of Asperger's, Adulting, and Living a Life in Full Color is a wonderful book that can help people understand what dealing with Asperger's can feel like, both before and after diagnosis. It can also help readers that have Asperger's see that they are far from alone. I could empathize with Marguerite right from the first page, and my connection only grew through the entire read.I could understand her frustration and disappointment when those around her dismissed her needs or concerns, even after she made the effort to meet them halfway or try to explain. I was angry on her behalf through a good part of this book. I think the artwork does a very good job of capturing the details and emotion in each panel. I especially liked the use of red in the noise and problematic aspects of the world. I thought the addition of facts about Autism in general, and Asperger's specifically, in the endpages of the book. Offering further details to readers is always a good thing to me. I think this is a book that young adults and older will be able to get a great deal out of, whether they are on the autism spectrum or not, it is for anyone interested in learning more about how others think and feel. 

Book Review: The Flexible Family Cookbook: 75 Quick and Easy Recipes with Over 200 Options to Keep the Whole Family Happy by Jo Pratt

The Flexible Family Cookbook: 75 Quick and Easy Recipes with Over 200 Options to Keep the Whole Family Happy by Jo Pratt is full of simple and delicious recipes to keep the whole family happy. Jo Pratt provides flexible adaptations for each recipe to account for allergies, intolerances, and lifestyle choices. Traybakes and one-pot roasts make for easy and convenient time-savers, whilst scrumptious puds and simple bakes help get smaller hands involved in the cooking. Covering everything from gluten-free, nut-free, dairy-free cooking and veganism, to suggestions for flavor and spice adjustments for younger or fussier palettes, this book will be a lifesaver in the kitchen and a crowd-pleaser at the table.

The Flexible Family Cookbook is an well organized and attractive cookbook. I thought the recipes and instructions were clearly written and easy to follow. I liked the options, suggestions, and adjustments that were included with most recipes to account for allergies, picky eaters, and personal tastes. The photographs of the food were very appealing, and I think they put a good light on the selected dishes. I just wish that more of the dishes were more centered on ingredients families are likely to already have on hand, or would readily find (at a reasonable price) in the average grocery store. While there are substitutions, I just felt like the ingredients were often a little to upscale for me, and possibly many other households. I am interested in broadening my family's culinary appreciation and the dishes that  make everyone happy, but not when it means stretching our already tight budget and patients to find pomegranate molasses, no matter how good that picture looked. 

Book Review: The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the best-kept secrets of space by DK Children

The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the Best-Kept Secrets of Space is from the publishing team at DK Children.From planets and asteroids to black holes and galaxies, every page will captivate young readers as they journey through the vastness of space. Each celestial body is shown both photographically and illustrated, and children will love poring over the detailed close-up images. Engaging storybook-style descriptions of each object allow readers to delve into myths, legends, trivia, and key discoveries about the solar system and beyond. Wonder at the rocky rings around Saturn, discover the tale behind the constellation Centaurus, and gaze at the fountains gushing from Jupiter's moon Enceladus. With reference pages packed with fascinating information, you'll go away knowing something you didn't before, and you'll return time and again.
The Mysteries of the Universe: Discover the Best-Kept Secrets of Space is an accessible and interesting read. The information is organized well, with single page-spread layouts for each concept explained. The images are splendid; they are bold, bright, and offer visual interest and further insight on almost every page. I thought that the information included as well chosen, and understandable for a wide range of ages. I really enjoyed the details that were included, and the I enjoyed looking at each page, taking my time to enjoy the image details paired with the text. The visual guides in the endpages made me particularly happy, offering further information in a way that inspires rather than boring younger readers. I think this text could become a well loved volume in a home library, or a much view part of a public, school, or classroom library collection.

Book Review: To Dream In Daylight by Candace J. Thomas


To Dream In Daylight by Candace J. Thomas is a new adult novel. From childhood, Adri and Simon have always been there for each other, through every loss, triumph, joy and heartbreak. They’re perfect for each other, but there’s an unfortunate catch — they’ve only ever met in their dreams. Each of them thinks the other one is just a figment of their imagination, but what if they weren’t? All it takes is one video clip to change their lives forever. When timid Adri finds herself going viral overnight thanks to an embarrassing video, all she wants to do is disappear forever. But on the other side of the country in Portland, Simon sees the video and realizes for the first time that his soulmate — the girl of his actual dreams — is real. Simon’s desperate search for Adri leads him through the streets of Chicago, hoping against all odds that they will finally find each other in the waking world instead of losing one another forever to the haze of their dreams.

To Dream In Daylight is as much about both Adri and Simon figuring out what is important to them as it is their finding each other. I got lost in Simon's search for Adri, and felt for Adri as she struggled with figuring out just what she wants to do. I liked Adri, and her quirky nature even if she seemed to let others override her good sense a little too often. I enjoyed getting know them both, and I really enjoyed the cast of secondary characters. I thought Simon's sister and Adri's found family were such interesting people- and some that I might have like to know myself. Simon's physical journey, just missing Adri at so many points, was almost as stressful for me as it was for him. As Adri faced her demons, and Simon searched and had panic attacks, I found myself wanting to read faster to see how it all worked out and trying to look away because something else was going to keep them apart or cause some kind if pain in mere moments. This was a very compelling read, and it had me hooked from beginning to end. My only complaint is that I was left wanting more. Once they find each other, what's next? So many decisions and choices- and I want to know where they go from here. I am greedy like that.

To Dream In Daylight is a sweet contemporary romance and coming of age story.

Early Book Review: Julia's House Moves On by Ben Hatke

Julia's House Moves On by Ben Hatke is a follow up to Julia’s House for Lost Creatures, and is currently scheduled for release on September 29 2020. Julia's house is restless. Julia and her family of lost creatures are ready to move on. But where will they go? And how will they get there? Don’t worry—Julia has a plan for that! Julia always has a plan. But when Julia's plans all fail what's left for her?
Julia's House Moves On is another charming graphic novel from Hatke. Some might consider this series picturebooks, others might consider them graphic novels. It does not matter what labels you want to slap on them, they are wonderful. Julia has a plan for everything. She wants to help and care for all creatures that need her and her house, and struggles when things do not fit into any plan and when plans go awry. Her angst is palpable, and understandable, to just about every reader. And the artwork, Hatke does not disappoint. I'll admit it- I have never seen a art from Hatke that I have not loved, so I might be a wee bit biased. However, I think all early graphic novel readers and picturebook lovers will find something worth a second and third read here.

Book Review: The Moon: A Beginner’s Guide to Lunar Features and Photography by James Harrop

The Moon: A Beginner’s Guide to Lunar Features and Photographby James Harrop is a practical guide aimed at beginners interested in learning about the Moon and how to image our closest satellite neighbor. The book contains the complete photographic process including equipment, settings, capture techniques, stacking and image processing, each of which is vitally important to producing a good image. The information is laid out in a visual and easy-to-understand format so that even the dark art of image processing will not seem quite so daunting. There are many high-quality color photos of the Moon to help you learn about different lunar features and a list of 100 lunar targets identified as a challenge for you to find. All the targets have been captured by the author who provides a brief description of each feature and where it is located on the lunar surface. You will be surprised to discover the fine level of lunar detail which you can see from your back garden and once you start imaging, you will realize there is more to the Moon than meets the eye.
The Moon: A Beginner’s Guide to Lunar Features and Photography is a valuable read and resource for those looking to photograph the moon, and those looking to examine and explore the work involved in getting those photographs. The explanations are well done, and the information was accessible. The equipment, skills, and techniques are well described and the book offers solid insight for those interested in expanding their skill set. I have to admit, I have always been more interested in the images  themselves than the ability to take pictures myself. However, I liked learning about what goes into taking the pictures that have also fascinated me. I think those interested in learning more about the doing, rather than just enjoying their hard work on our behalf, will get the most out of this book. 

Book Review: Girl on Fire (School for Extraterrestrial Girls) by Jeremy Whitley

 Girl on Fire is the first volume of the School for Extraterrestrial Girls graphic novel series by Jeremy Whitley. Tara Smith’s parents are super strict with all their rules and routines, and Tara is a dutiful daughter. Rule #1: No friends her own age. Rule #2: keep her bracelet on, or else. But when she breaks her routine and then loses her bracelet she is in trouble. Outed as an extraterrestrial after wielding fire and losing her humanoid form, Tara is captured by the government. She’s given two options: get shipped far away where she won’t be a danger to anyone or stay on Earth and join a school for other extraterrestrial girls like her. Things at the school aren’t easy, especially for the girl whose only friends were textbooks. But Tara’s goal to learn how to control her powers is soon sidelined by the discovery that the people she’s called Mom and Dad all these years aren’t her parents. With her not-parents still out there, Tara must rely on others for the first time to figure out who she really is before she’s kidnapped a second time.

Girl on Fire is a teen, high school drama with flair. Tara discovers that her childhood has been a lie and everything she thought she knew about herself, her parents, and the world is not true. She has to adjust to that, on top of being a lizard like alien that creates fire. That is a lot to deal with, not add in boarding school with other aliens and trying to make friends while being anxious, awkward, and still not comfortable with herself. I found myself worried for her, relating to her, and cringing as she reacted in ways I cannot promise I would not mirror in her circumstances. The artwork does a good job of capturing the emotion and wonder of Tara facing all these changes. The different aliens, the facial expressions, and the action were very well portrayed and added a great deal to the whole. Despite the strangeness of the setting, the feelings, friendships, and fears of the individuals in the school were relatable and I think the book will speak to a wide range of readers on different levels. I enjoyed the read, and look forward to seeing what happens next. 

Girl on Fire is a wonderful graphic novel for middle school through adult readers. I think there is a little something for everyone here and I am eager to see where the next volume of the story takes us. 

Book Review: Life Through Time: The 700-Million-Year Story of Life on Earth by John Woodward

 Life Through Time: The 700-Million-Year Story of Life on Earth by John Woodward is a book that uses panoramic images to tell the story of life on Earth, from its earliest origins to the present day. The amazing story of life's evolution begins in vast oceans and swamp forests and is shaken by dramatic extinctions caused by ice, violent volcanic eruptions, and meteor impacts. It explores geological time and the origins of species that still exist today in early fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals. It takes readers up to the appearance of our first human ancestors around 6 million years ago, the evolution of hunter-gathering Homo sapiens in the Ice Age, Stone Age farmers, the earliest civilization in Mesopotamia, the effects of the Industrial Revolution on the natural world, and people living with nature in the modern world.

Life Through Time is a book that makes great use of bold, full page images depicting the development of life on our planet. The images have great detail, and every time I look I see something that I had not noticed before. I thought that the texted was well done, accessible and interesting. The little snippets pulling out images and extra information about specific creatures or features were also very well done. A great deal was covered, but thanks to the artwork the depth of information in those little paragraphs never became overwhelming. I thought the chart at the very end of the book that showed how the planet has shifted and changed just as much as the life that calls it home was a nice addition. A great deal of time was covered in just over thirty pages, I would have loved to see it extend just a bit longer into human civilization. We make up such a short part of this planet's history that one page more would have been enough, but I understand why thy might not have done so. 

Overall, I really enjoyed Life Through Time and think it will appeal to many young readers. It would be well loved in a public, school, or personal library. 

Audio Book Review: Scoring Off The Ice (Ice Kings) by Stacey Lynn Narrated by Meg Price, James Cassidy

Scoring Off The Ice is the second book in the Ice Kings series by Stacey Lynn. The audiobook is narrated by Meg Price and James Cassidy. Sometimes scoring off the ice leads to the greatest rewards. I’ve had only one goal in life since I first strapped on a pair of skates, make America’s pro hockey league. I left Denmark. I made it to the top. Now, I’m determined to be the best. No distractions. I eat, sleep, and breathe hockey. Until my birthday when my teammates convince me to live a little. But living a little takes on a whole new meaning when less than a year later I’m confronted with a crying baby on my doorstep, drooling on a note that declares he’s mine. Suddenly, I'm a single dad in way over my head. There is no playbook for situations like this. Luckily, I have Paisley. My gorgeous neighbor, my long-time crush, and now—my savior. She’s there any time I need her. Helping. Guiding. Gazing at me with those green eyes that make me feel capable of this after all. With her at my side, I’m quickly learning there’s more to life than winning a hockey game.

Scoring Off The Ice is a book that left me with mixed feelings. Like the previous book in the series, I really enjoyed the dual narrators for the audiobook. It really made the characters that much more real to me. I really liked both the characters at the start, but really enjoyed Mikah more in short order. He felt more fleshed out, and I really liked the stark contrast between the big hockey player appearance and the sweet and awkward personality as he tries to navigate everything in his life. Even when uncertain, he is still willing to fight for what he wants and what he thinks is the right thing. I just really liked him, and how mach he cared about others. On the other hand I started off liking Paisley, but she confused me. One minute she is against any relationship or connection to Mikah- the next she is busting out a curve hugging dress for diner at his place and is all in. Yes, woman can change our minds but she left me with whiplash. I liked the set up, and how the majority of the story is written, and I found some of the reactions and interactions realistic, and others a bit less so. I enjoyed the listen, it just did not grab me like I had expected, and hoped for. 

Scoring Off The Ice is an entertaining read, but I just did not get lost in the story. 

Early Book Review: Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons by James Otis Smith

Black Heroes of the Wild West: Featuring Stagecoach Mary, Bass Reeves, and Bob Lemmons by James Otis Smith is a nonfiction graphic novel currently scheduled for release on September 15 2020. This book celebrates the extraordinary true tales of three black heroes who took control of their destinies and stood up for their communities in the Old West. Born into slavery in Tennessee, Mary Fields became famous as “Stagecoach Mary,” a cigar-chomping, card playing coach driver who never missed a delivery. Bass Reeves, the first black Deputy US Marshal west of the Mississippi, was one of the wiliest lawmen in the territories, bringing thousands of outlaws to justice with his smarts. Bob Lemmons lived to be 99 years old and was so good with horses that the wild mustangs on the plains of Texas took him for one of their own.

Black Heroes of the Wild West is a great start, or continuation, of learning the diverse history of he United States. Much of the history that includes people of color has been ignored or twisted, leaving us with an incomplete and sometimes very incorrect vision of what our past really looked like. I had read bits and pieces of the history included in this book before, but I found the information and artwork to be very well done and engaging for readers of all ages. It was inspiring to read about the odds these three people faced, and how they persevered and exceeded the expectations of those around them, particularly those that judged them based on race, gender, or both. I also liked the time line and further information about the history of cowboys and how people from a variety of heritages and cultures made a huge difference, and have been left out of much of the history we get taught in school and the most readily available texts. 

Black Heroes of the Wild West is a graphic novel that I highly recommend for public, school, and classroom libraries. It is very well done, and offers a look at real history that often gets ignored. I will be looking for more books like this for myself and my children.