Early Book Review: Trade Deadline (Hat Trick) by Avon Gale; Piper Vaughn

Trade Deadline is the third book in the Hat Trick series by Avon Gale and Piper Vaughn. It is currently scheduled for release on August 17 2020. While it is part of a series, and returning readers will enjoy their previous knowledge and seeing past characters, new readers will be able to fully enjoy the read. 

Daniel “Bellzie” Bellamy should be on top of the world—a Stanley Cup is the perfect topper to his fourteen-year NHL career. But despite the post-win high, something’s missing. When the chance to play for his hometown team, the Miami Thunder, comes along, he’s open to it. And when he runs into an old friend from his past soon after he makes the move, he wonders if it might be kismet. Micah Kelly never thought he’d see his childhood crush—and first kiss—again. Danny Bellamy moved on to bigger and better things when they were teenagers, and the idea that Micah’s relationship with the professional hockey player could be anything more than one-sided Instagram thirst seems too good to be true. Maybe too good to be true is the new reality, though. As the season goes on, Micah teaches Daniel to surf, and Daniel introduces Micah to his lovable pack of rescue dogs and the world of being a hockey boyfriend. Life is good. But when things on the ice don’t go as planned, they’ll have to decide if their rediscovered romance is built to last.

Trade Deadline is a story I have been hoping for, since I have been eager to see the Venom crew find their happy endings. This book did not disappoint, but did introduce me to more characters that I want to see grow and find happiness. Daniel and Micah are both well adjusted and open minded guys that just so happened to be each other's first kiss, and first guy crush. I loved seeing them find each other again- and that friendship was just as important to them as the more physical aspects of their relationship once that began. The open communication, and way consent and talking about what is bothering them- even when it is something completely outside their control and unsolvable in the moment- models healthy relationships in a way that makes me want to shout "read this!" to people that need instruction on the matter. This is firmly a friends to more, with plenty of heart and complications that keep things moving and tension high. I think fans of this author team will be very happy, and get just what they were hoping for from this read.

Trade Deadline is another solid romance with emotional stakes and great communication.

Early Book Review: A Quiet Girl by Peter Carnavas

A Quiet Girl by Peter Carnavas is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on August 4 2020. Mary was a quiet girl. She thought quiet thoughts, stepped quiet steps, and whispered quiet words. Mary knows how to savor the small things. Wonder is everywhere: in the rustle of leaves, in the sigh of a sleeping dog, in the wingbeats of the birds who visit her upcycled feeders. But Mary’s family couldn’t be more different. Amidst the sound of blow-dryers, blenders, lawnmowers, and her brother’s trombone, Mary goes almost unnoticed. It isn’t until her family starts searching the neighborhood for her that they begin to see the world through her eyes. From critically acclaimed author-illustrator Peter Carnavas comes a gentle breeze of a picture book with themes of mindfulness, observation, and being present in the natural world. A Quiet Girl invites young readers (and the noisy adults in their lives) to appreciate the thousand little pleasures that surround us—if only we would notice them.

A Quiet Girl is a picturebook that really resonated with me. I loved that the artwork was pastel and simple, not bright and shouting, so that it matched the personality of Mary. She is quiet, and because of that often feels invisible and overlooked. However, her quiet nature also lets her hear and notice things that her family might be missing out on. I like that she is not as absent from the thoughts of her family as she thinks she is, and that taking the time to listen and look for her allows her family to notice the things she wanted to share with them. I think this book is a great family read, especially for those with a quiet family member or friend. I related to Mary a great deal, having preferred a book or sitting under a tree to louder pastimes (both as a child and an adult). I think the book can help readers understand the wonders that they might be missing, and to understand how other people might feel in a world that seems to be loud and in a hurry as a default.

Early Book Review: Builders by Reina Ollivier, Karel Claes, Steffie Padmos

Builders, written by Reina Ollivier and Karel Claes and illustrated by Steffie Padmos, is currently scheduled for release on August 11 2020. Just like people, animals need a place to live. The nine animals in this book are very talented builders and make their own homes. Readers can learn about the amazing beaver, cross spider, sociable weaver, termite, stork, meerkat, honeybee, Japanese puffer fish, and mole.
Builders is a well written book that clearly explains the basic information these nine animals and their homes. It does not go into great depth of detail, but gives enough information to give readers a good understanding of the animals. I really enjoyed the illustrations. I thought they were done with great skill, and offered details and visual interest to the read. This book offers readers exactly what it promises and just might trigger greater interest and curiosity in readers, inspiring them to research and read further on their own. 

Early Book Review: The Roommate Problem (Mile High Happiness) by Mariah Ankenman

The Roommate Problem is the third book in the Mile High Happiness series by Mariah Ankenman. While having read the previous books will give you a more rounded understanding of some of the characters, this book can stand up just fine on its own. It is currently scheduled for release on August 10 2020. 

To Moira “Mo” Rossi, the world is full of sunshine, goodness, and happily ever afters—so of course she figures finding the perfect roomie will be easy. But after four creepos who ask if benefits come with the room and one woman who claims she’s a vampire, Mo is officially desperate. So what if the guy she agrees to on paper ends up being the Derrick Downer to her Sally Sunshine in person? She’s the queen of making lemonade. August Porter expected his new roommate Mo to be like him—neat, practical, and oh yeah: male. Not the outrageous hippie with more stars in her eyes than there are in the sky. She’s infuriating, exasperating, his exact opposite in every possible way...and the bright ray of sunshine he didn’t even realize his gray world was missing. Suddenly, falling into bed with his roommate isn’t the worst idea he’s ever heard. Just falling in love with her is. But one of them is keeping a secret that could turn their opposite attraction into utter disaster. 

The Roommate Problem is a sweet and fun read. Mo and August are the quintessential odd couple. Mo is all optimism and joy, while August is very reserved and introverted. I loved seeing them get to know each other better and discover how they balanced and complimented each other. Their growth from rather adversarial roommates to a couple was fun and satisfying to read.  Both Mo and August grew, and their interactions varied from serious to seriously funny.  I will admit that I saw they major conflict coming- from far, far away- and mentally urged different choices several times. However, I think the way it was handle and the character development involved kept it interesting and engaging. 

The Roommate Problem is a solid romance that fans of the author and series will definitely want to read. 

Early Book Review: A Gentle Noble's Vacation Recommendation, Vol. 1 by Momochi, Misaki, Sando

A Gentle Noble's Vacation Recommendation, Vol. 1 by Momochi, Misaki, and Sando is currently scheduled for release on August 11 2020. When Lizel mysteriously finds himself in a city that bears odd similarities to his own but clearly isn't, he quickly comes to terms with the unlikely truth: this is an entirely different world. Even so, laid-back Lizel isn't the type to panic. He immediately sets out to learn more about this strange place, and to help him do so, hires a seasoned adventurer named Gil as his tour guide and protector. Until he's able to find a way home, Lizel figures this is a perfect opportunity to explore a new way of life adventuring as part of a guild. After all, he's sure he'll go home eventually so he might as well enjoy the otherworldly vacation for now.

A Gentle Noble's Vacation Recommendation is a charming manga that felt very much like some of the fantasy I read as a kid, and the video games that I played. Lizel seems sweet and innocent, but is smart and crafty enough to make the perfect choices in companions, who to trust, and how to interact with them. Gil is a nice foil to Lizel, seeming to be much harder and more jaded, but they balance each other out even as they confuse each other. There are many layers to what is happening, and I want to follow them all. I want to know more about the background and skills of both Lizel and Gil, how they ended up who and where they are. I want to see them deepen their friendship, I want to learn more about several secondary characters, and what is really going on with how Lizel got there and the person that put in a request at the guild. I thought the artwork matched the story, theme, and characters very well and added details and personality to each page. 

I enjoyed A Gentle Noble's Vacation Recommendation and hope to continue the series.

Early Book Review: No Offense by Meg Cabot

No Offense
 by Meg Cabot is currently scheduled for release on August 11 2020. A broken engagement only gave Molly Montgomery additional incentive to follow her dream job from the Colorado Rockies to the Florida Keys. Now, as Little Bridge Island Public Library’s head of children’s services, Molly hopes the messiest thing in her life will be her sticky-note covered desk. But fate—in the form of a newborn left in the restroom—has other ideas. So does the sheriff who comes to investigate the “abandonment”.  When John Hartwell folds all six-feet-three of himself into a tiny chair and insists that whoever left the baby is a criminal, Molly begs to differ and asks what he’s doing about the Island’s real crime wave (if thefts of items from homes that have been left unlocked could be called that). Not the best of starts, but the man’s arrogance is almost as distracting as his blue eyes. John would be pretty irritated if one of his deputies had a desk as disorderly as Molly’s. Good thing she doesn’t work for him, considering how attracted he is to her. Molly’s lilting librarian voice makes even the saltiest remarks go down sweeter, which is bad as long as she’s a witness but might be good once the case is solved—provided he hasn’t gotten on her last nerve by then. Recently divorced, John has been having trouble adjusting to single life as well as single parenthood. But something in Molly’s beautiful smile gives John hope that his old life on Little Bridge might suddenly hold new promise—if only they can get over their differences. 
No Offense is a romance that has some of my favorite things. John is a single father that will do anything for his kid, including embarrass himself, and manages to be both protective and awkward. Molly is a bit too stereotype of he perfect children's librarian, and I say this as someone that has worked in the field and also has a slightly unhealthy attachment to some of my books. She is sweet and smart, with a need to help and protect her patrons. I did like the reality of working in a small library was touched on- like staff being the ones to check on bathroom disasters because of necessity, budget, and workplace politics. I liked some of the banter between Molly and John, I found the awkwardness to be charming and just what I remember loving from Cabot in the past. I thought the small town setting was played very well, and I liked the secondary characters. I liked the mystery angle, and thought the understanding and compassion shown in some characters was very well done (although over the top at times), while the judgement of others rubbed me wrong. I really enjoyed some aspects of the book, while others left me a feeling a bit 'meh'. It was still  a good read, and I am glad I requested the book from Netgalley and read it, but I think I might skip any future books set in this small town.

No Offense is a contemporary romance with a nice dose of mystery and a strong small town trope. I did not love it the way I have loved some books from Cabot in the past, but I still enjoyed the read.

Early Book Review: Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator by Emma Bland Smith

Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator, 
written by Emma Bland Smith and illustrated by Jennifer M. Potter,  is currently scheduled for release on August 4 2020. Claude is a celebrity alligator and the mascot for San Francisco's California Academy of Sciences. His story started almost 25 years ago in Louisiana, where he hatched out of his egg to discover he looked different from the other hatchlings. They were green and Claude was white. The other hatchlings avoided him, and his color made him vulnerable to predators. So Claude went to a special zoo that cared for alligators where he lived in a pen by himself. Now he was safe--but alone. One day, scientists at the California Academy of Sciences heard about him and asked the zoo if he could come and live in the Academy's swamp. He made a 2,800 mile journey to his new home, where he had a surprise--he would share his swamp with Bonnie, an alligator who the scientists hoped would be a friend for Claude. Unfortunately, Bonnie didn't like Claude's differences either, so she was moved to another home. But then Claude was alone again--or was he? With Bonnie gone, Claude began to interact with the five enormous snapping turtles who shared his swamp. The turtles didn't mind at all that Claude was different! And neither do the millions of people who visit him every year. They know that Claude's differences are exactly what makes him special. 
Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator is more than a story about a cool albino alligator finding a happy home and being safe and cared for. I like that it does teach the facts about Claude's life, but it also shines a light on how animals (and people) tend to treat the different. While some enjoyed the spectacle and like to stare, others took the time to make sure he was safe and happy. I was glad that Claude and his turtle friends are happy together, and that he can play a part in education and research. I was very happy to see that the book includes back matter with answers to frequently asked questions about the famous alligator, including information about albinism in animals.

Claude: The True Story of a White Alligator is a well written story that might inspire kindness to animals, and people, regardless of possible differences.

Book Review: Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall is a contemporary romance. Luc O'Donnell is tangentially—and reluctantly—famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he's never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad's making a comeback, Luc's back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything. To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He's a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he's never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened. But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that's when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don't ever want to let them go.

Boyfriend Material is a book with everything I love. It is a slow burn, acquaintances to lovers, fake dating, there's only one bed trope filled romance with a slew of fantastic secondary characters that I desperately want to have more of. Luc is a hot mess, and knows it. He is struggling with being a functioning adult while trying to keep everyone at a distance. Oliver is so busy trying to be perfect that he neglects to see what makes him actually happy rather than just doing what everyone expects from him. They seem to be opposites, but they each have family and emotional issues that they need to work on, and they seem to do that best together. I loved the circles of friends for both the guys, and I want more of them all, so much more. The banter was hysterical but also so painfully that it was real. There were feels that made me want to throw things, some that made me want to cry, and others that just had me grinning like a maniac. I think the only issue people could have is if they are completely stymied by the occasional slag and cultural references that they might not get, but that is the only thing I could imagine anyone complaining about- and that would be if they were really reaching for something to complain about. There was so much goodness in this book that I think this has become my go to reread for when I hit a reading slump and need to remember why I love to read. 

Boyfriend Material is a book that hit all the sweet spots and had me grinning through most of the read. There are no enough words to describe the love I have for this book. Now I need to go read everything else from this author!

Early Book Review: A Thousand No's by DJ Corchin

A Thousand No's by DJ Corchin is a picturebook that is currently scheduled for release on August 4 2020. There was a little girl who had a great idea. She had the most amazing, superb, best idea ever! NO? Wait, what do you mean NO? NO again? What is she supposed to do with all these NO's? NO after NO after NO come the little girl's way, twisting and squishing her idea. But by persevering, collaborating and using a little imagination, all those NO's become the building blocks for the biggest YES ever! A Thousand NO's is a story about perseverance and innovation. It shows what amazing things can happen if we work with others and don't give up, and teaches kids not to let expectations of how things should be get in the way of what could be.
A Thousand No's is a picturebook that shows that ideas can grow and change, sometimes for the better. A few no's help the young girl stretch and change her idea, but collaborating with others and allowing those changes made her idea bigger and better. I like that the story showed that the process of an idea changing, and allowing others in to help, can be hard. However, being willing to share, willing to adapt, makes for wonderful things. The illustrations are mostly black and white, with wonderful details and powerful uses of color. I enjoyed the read and think that it is enjoyable as a read to share, and as one to start discussions about ideas, hearing no, and collaboration. 

Book Review: Easy Frugal Cookbook: 100 Satisfying Recipes That Won't Break the Bank by Sarah Walker Caron

Easy Frugal Cookbook: 100 Satisfying Recipes That Won't Break the Bank by Sarah Walker Caron aims to give readers the ability to make hearty meals that are tasty, budget-friendly, and nutritious. Recipes include dishes like Crispy Coconut Drumsticks or Open-Face Turkey Sandwiches for everyone in the house for just $5. All it takes is the right recipe, a few tricks, and a little planning to make the most of your food budget. The cookbook offers budget tricks and tips to lower the cost of ingredients even further.

Easy Frugal Cookbook is a book that offered something very much needed, ideas for keeping your family fed for less money than you might expect. The recipes are easy to follow, practical, and include ingredients that are common and generally easy to get. I did find it to be very simple, and as someone that grew up in a very frugal home as a child and still of the same mentality, a little condescending. However, that could just be because of my mindset when reading and the fact that very little of the book was new to me. I think this book would be most helpful for readers that are just getting started in their adult lives, or those that have never really thought about cooking or a budget before. Some of the recipes gave me ideas, but for me including recipes like scrambled eggs, sandwiches, and wraps was a bit basic- although I know there people that need instruction for the things I no longer need to think about.

Easy Frugal Cookbook is a cookbook for those just starting out cooking and thinking about budgeting. This might be a good gift to those striking out as lone adults for the first time or adding members to their household and needing to readjust the budget.