Book Review: Boundary Born by Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Born is the third book in the Boundary Magic series by Melissa F. Olson. Something wicked is at work in Colorado’s supernatural community. Vampires are being paralyzed or killed with poison, a weapon favored by witches. This offense threatens to break apart the already-fractured alliance between witches and the undead. The state’s cardinal vampire, Maven, summons boundary witch Allison “Lex” Luther to stop the killing before it ignites a war. Lex has barely started investigating when she gets another surprise: the biological father she’s never met arrives on her doorstep. He has answers to all of Lex’s questions about her bloodline, but getting those answers could mean betraying the life she’s already built. Then the next vampire is poisoned—and this time it’s Maven herself. The new evil that hunts Lex is powerful and ruthless enough to stop the strongest supernatural creature in the state. In order to find such a killer, Lex will have to face down her own birthright and call on every ally—both living and dead.

Boundary Born is another winner from Olson, with a near perfect combination of character development, drama, and action. While reading I never knew if Lex was going to have a revelation, a big bad was going to pop up, or if a comic moment might be next. The constant surprises and highly developed characters kept me reading eagerly. Lex is a woman with some serious history and issues, and is well aware of that. I like that she is a complex character, and that even those that should be simple are more complicated than really needed to the story. No one is completely what they seem- no one is all good or bad. They characters are like real people, with shadows in light changing their perception and coloring their actions even when they do not seem aware of it. I like that we got to see more of Maven’s history and glimpses of Lex’s ancestry. I also like that while there is a romantic aspect to Lex’s life- it takes a back seat to more practical and immediately dangerous aspects of the day. 

Boundary Born is another wonderful book from Olson. I am a huge fan, after playing catch up on her previous series, and am looking forward to where ever these stories take us. If you are a fan, this book will keep you happy and eager for more. If you have not read anything from the author I highly recommend either starting from the beginning of this series, or starting at the very beginning with the Scarlet Bernard series. Trust me- they are all fantastic.

Book Review: Cleo by Sassafras de Bruyn

Cleo by Sassafras de Bruyn is a wordless picturebook about one young girl that feels alone. She is always in a hurry to get somewhere, the bus, school, home, and so on. She dreams of being able to get away and explore new places and having adventures. She plans on only having her cat along as company, but one fellow daydreamer wants to join her.

Cleo is a beautifully illustrated story. The watercolor style illustrations draw the reader into the story and brings Cleo's daydreams to life. As a long time daydreamer I related to Cleo, her loneliness, and her imaginings almost immediately. I think readers and dreamers of all ages will enjoy the artwork and Cleo's feelings immensely. I know I did.

Book Review: Shadow Magic by Jashua Khan

Shadow Magic by Jashua Khan is a middle grade fantasy. Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to the executioner Tyburn and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire. Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her? Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

Shadow Magic is a complex and interesting tale that has humor, adventure, and mystery through out the story. Thorn is sold as a slave, and despite trying to keep some secrets about himself is an honorable and fiercely capable young man. Lily is dealing with more responsibility that she wants, and more restrictions on her actions than she can tolerate. The only support she has is her maid and an alcohol fueled uncle. When an unwanted finance comes on the scene, with a political prisoner in tow and more than enough pride and ill temper Lily is at the end of her patience. However, a unique bonds between three young people and each of them discovering their true strengths are the true force that keep the action of the story moving forward. Lily’s magic and the mystery of her parent’s death is only one small part of the story, but the part that offers the most suspense. I really enjoyed the balance of strength in both male and female characters, and how moments of humor and character growth kept popping up when least expected.

Shadow Magic is a delightful coming of age story for both Lily and Thorn. It is also story of fantasy, mystery, and friendship. There is seriously a little something for everyone and I think this would be a great read for middle grade readers, and adults as well.

Book Review: To Love a Wolf (SWAT: Special Wolf Alpha Team #4) by Paige Tyler

To Love a Wolf is the forth book in the SWAT: Special Wolf Alpha Team series by Paige Tyler. SWAT officer Landry Cooper is certain EverlyDanu is The One. The problem is, she has no idea what Cooper really is. And as much as he wants to trust her, he's not sure he can share his deepest secret. When Everly's family discovers Cooper's a werewolf, her brothers will do anything to keep them apart-they'll kill him if they have to. Everly is falling hard for the ridiculously handsome SWAT officer, and she's not about to let her brothers tell her who she can love, until Cooper's secret is exposed and she discovers the man she thought she knew is a monster in disguise.

To Love a Wolf is a nice continuation in the series, and still can stand well on its own. Landry might be a firm believer in the existence of "The One" but he never expected to meet his while waiting in line a a bank about to be robbed. I liked him, and was glad to see more of his past and thoughts. I really liked Everly'spersonality, background, and family dynamics. I thought we could have benefited from seeing more of the guys in her family earlier in the book, it would have been interesting if there were a longer conflict there. However, I hope to see more of them in later books. A heated romance, some crazy coincidences, and slow acceptance of revealed secrets keep the story moving along. At one point I felt it could be wrapped up, but the story went for a bonus crisis instead. It still worked, but more character development or conversation might have made me happier.

To Love a Wolf is another solid installment in Tyler`s series. I loved getting to see Landry get his happy ever after. While there were some moments  that were a little too convenient, it all came together well and kept me reading.

Book Review: The Black Dragon (The Mysterium #1) by Julian Sedgwick

The Black Dragon is the first book in the The Mysterium series for middle grade readers by Julian Sedgwick. Twelve-year-old Danny Woo is half-Chinese, half-British. His parents are performers in the Mysterium. Following their death in a mysterious fire, Danny is sent to live with his aunt Laura, an investigative journalist. When Danny's school is closed after an explosion, he joins Laura on a trip to Hong Kong. She is researching the Triad gangs; he is trying to understand more about his cultural background. But Laura disappears, and Danny is plunged into a dangerous quest to find her - which opens the door on the past he could never have imagined, and which leads him to question everything he has ever known about his past.

The Black Dragon is a book that offers mysteries during the present and the past. Danny is still questioning the death of his parents, and the explosion at his school that has him joining his aunt and a fellow circus member on the trip to Hong Kong. Nothing is what its seems and Danny is good at spotting the people and moments that seem a little off. Danny’s skills come in handy, as do his powers of observation. There is a great cast of secondary characters- but very few are who they claim to be and everyone is keeping something back. The adventure is dangerous and full of interesting clues and hints to the search for Laura, the triad organizations, and secrets about Danny’s father. Never a dull moment, and never an obvious solution or ally, keeps the reader on the edge of their seat throughout the read.

The Black Dragon is a high paced and entertaining ready. There was never a point that I could predict what might be coming next. I think readers that seek high action, complex mysteries, and interesting characters will quickly become fans of the book, and in turn the series.

Book Review: Danger Sweetheart by MaryJanice Davidson

Danger Sweetheart by MaryJanice Davidson is a parody that takes jabs at every romance trope out there. I highly suggest reading the author’s note before diving into the “story” because it describes how this book came to be and what exactly it is all about.

Blake Tarbell has a town to save. Rich, carefree, and used to the Vegas party lifestyle, Blake is thrown for a curve when his former cocktail-waitress mother pleads he go back to her roots to save the town she grew up in. Blake's used to using money to solve his problems, but when he arrives in Sweetheart, North Dakota, this city boy has to trade in his high-priced shoes for a pair of cowboy boots. Natalie Lane's got no time for newbies, and there's nothing she can't do to keep a farm up and running. But when a handsome city-slicker rolls into town with nothing but bad farmer's instincts and good intentions, Natalie's heartstrings are pulled. She's about to teach him a thing or two about how to survive in Sweetheart. And he's about to teach her a thing or two about love...

Danger Sweetheart takes jabs at just about every romance trope out there- but frankly without having read the author’s forward I would have just thought the book was silly, trying too hard, and likely would not have finished it. Even having read the explanation of the book I was not impressed. There were a couple fun moments that kept me reading, but I think the effort to achieve a parody or satire felt too forced to make it really work for me. I almost put it down, but I was too curious to see how one of the promise tropes was worked in to walk away. The characters occasionally offered the quirky fun I expect from Davidson, in such an over the top way necessary in a parody, and that was the other thing that kept me reading when I might have otherwise given up.

Danger Sweetheart made me sad. I love the writing style of Davidson, how her characters are quirky and can laugh at themselves (and each other) and move forward. I think in trying so hard to be funny the charm that usually keeps me happily read was lost. 

Early Book Review: Not Today Celeste: A Dog’s Tale about her Human’s Depression by Liza Stevens

Not Today Celeste: A Dog’s Tale about Her Human’s Depression by Liza Stevens is a picture book that is currently scheduled for release on June 21 2016. Celeste thinks she is the happiest dog in the world. But when she notices something different about her human, Rupert, she wonders if things will ever be the same again. This heart-warming story reflects some of the feelings and experiences that a child whose parent, sibling, or caregiver has depression may face. The story provides reassurance by explaining what depression is and how it is possible to find help.
Not Today Celeste: A Dog’s Tale about Her Human’s Depression can be a great tool for helping young children understand what depression is, and cope with times when someone they love is suffering from it. The illustrations are charming and offer soothing colors and some smile worthy moments. Like Celeste, often children in this situation think that the mood and behavior changes of someone going through depression might be their fault. This book helps reassure them that it is not true, gives clues as to how to recognize depression in others (and themselves), and how they not just cope but also help. I really liked that is a comprehensive guide for parents and professionals at the end of the book that offers advice on discussing the topic with children. I think this book and the resources in it can be valuable for social workers, child and school counselors, psychologists, parents and foster parents.  

Early Book Review: You Had One Job by Beverly L. Jenkins

You Had One Job by Beverly L. Jenkins is a collection off funny photographs illustrating epic fails. It is currently scheduled for release on July 12 2016. If someone hangs a stop sign upside down or paints crooked lines on a highway, count on someone else to snap a photo and post it online.  You Had One Job! is a collection of hilarious pictures features job-related disasters and general ineptitudes. All of these new, never-before-seen images are accompanied by witty captions. 

You Had One Job is fun to flip through, and a great book to make you feel better about any mistakes you might have made on the job. My only issue with the book is that the internet and social media in particular is already flush with similar pictures. While these are new, they are not unexpected or amazingly more amusing than those I have already seen via blogs and Facebook. It is a fun, silly book- and worth a look or addition to a collection of coffee table books if you have one. However, there is nothing terribly new to notable here, mainly do to the sheer number of mistakes and pictures already out in the world. 

Early Book Review: Ogres Awake! by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Andrew Arnold

Ogres Awake! by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold is a children's graphic novel currently scheduled for release on July 12 2016. while this is a return to the world of the Knight and her horse Edward, young readers do not need to read this series in any order. They are all good fun as stand alones or together.

The knight and her horse, Edward, have discovered that there are three huge ogres asleep at her doorstep! When they wake up, the kingdom is in big trouble because of course ogres like to rampage and destroy things when they wake up! The knight wants to prepare for a fight, but the king and his garden gnomes are all ready to protect the kingdom, not with swords and shields, but with potato peelers and spoons. It turns out that ogres are pretty friendly when they have full stomachs!

Ogres Awake! is another delightful read from the Adventures in Cartooning series. I love the enthusiasm of the Knight, the pragmatic calm of Edward, and the twists that keep things interesting. I like that stew, rather than warfare, was the answer. The idea of being smart and thoughtful being more important that being a great warrior is a repeating theme that seems to tie all these books together, and is one that I can get behind.

Ogres Awake! is another win for young readers.

Early Book Review: Ooko by Esme Shapiro

Ooko is a picturebook by Esme Shapiro that is currently scheduled for release on July 5 2016. Ooko has everything a fox could want: a stick, a leaf and a rock. However, Ooko wants someone to play with too! The foxes in town always seem to be playing with their two-legged friends, the Debbies. Maybe if he tries to look like the other foxes, one of the Debbies will play with him too. But when Ooko finally finds his very own Debbie, things don't turn out quite as he had expected! 

Ooko is a fun and quirky picturebook about finding friendship and being true to yourself. Ooka wants to be like the dogs he sees around, thinking they are foxes like himself. However, when he pretends to be just like them he is far from happy and does not enjoy himself. The changes he needs to undergo to live like those he sees around him simply are not worth it. It is only when he is himself and makes friends with another, who is not quite like him either, that Ooko is happy. The art work is attractive and subtle, and adds a wonderful feel to the story. It is simply enjoyable to look at, and contains humor and details that make the read even better.

Ooko is a wonderful addition top libraries and collections, and would make a good pick for storytimes and sharing.