Book Review: Abandoned NYC by Will Ellis

Abandoned NYC by Will Ellis is a collection of photographs which capture the lost and lonely corners of New York City. There are 200 images of urban decay; uncovering the forgotten history behind New York s most incredible abandoned spaces. Readers have the chance to explore the ruins of the Harlem Renaissance, sift through the artifacts of massive squatter colonies, and find out how the past is literally washing up on the shores of a Brooklyn beach called Dead Horse Bay, and walk through the halls of abandoned institutions without having to ignore any "No Trespassing” signs.

Abandoned NYC offers readers a chance to explore places they might never haver known existed, and places that will no longer be standing as time and progress marches on. Some of the photographs are hauntingly beautiful, while others might fill you with trepidation about what the individuals in some of those locations went through while they were still occupied and maintained. I found the information on the history of the locations and details about each image to be fascinating. The research that went into this collection, combined with the photography, had me staring at the book for hours longer than I should. I was particularly enthralled in how nature is reclaiming some of these locations, and how time has changed them all.

Abandoned NYC is a wonderful book for those that are curious about the hidden and forgotten places, and for those that can appreciate beauty in unexpected places. There is a certain eerie beauty to the crumbling and abandoned places, and important reminders about humanity and our history. 

Book Review: Changeless (Parasol Protectorate, #2) by Gail Carriger

Changeless is the second book in the Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger. Alexia Maccon, the Lady Woolsey, awakens in the wee hours of the mid-afternoon to find her husband, who should be decently asleep like any normal werewolf, yelling at the top of his lungs. Then he disappears; leaving her to deal with a regiment of supernatural soldiers encamped on her doorstep, a plethora of exorcised ghosts, and an angry Queen Victoria. But Alexia is armed with her trusty parasol, the latest fashions, and an arsenal of biting civility. So even when her investigations take her to Scotland, the backwater of ugly waistcoats, she is prepared: upending werewolf pack dynamics as only the soulless can. She might even find time to track down her wayward husband, if she feels like it.

I enjoyed Changeless both more and less than the first book, Soulless. While I was glad to see some serious character growth and a few more familiar names from the Finishing School series, I felt a little disappointed in that I saw the big surprise at the end of the book coming, although Alexia’s surprise at the reveal was priceless. The mystery of what the supernatural plague of “humanity” is and how it works is solid, and the introduction of new characters intriguing, I felt like there was a bit too much left unresolved at the end. The of course simply had my overeager for the next installment rather than really angry.

The Parasol Protectorate series is my favorite kind of literary candy. The story is fun, exciting, and often unexpected. I love that Alexia and her varied friends and companions offer highly entertaining dialogue (both shared and internal) that often has my chuckling or rolling my eyes at the less intelligent characters. I have already started listening to the audiobook of the third book, Blameless, and love the reader’s talent. I almost wish I had listened from the beginning, because the voices and inflections she uses adds a special quality to the story. I love it!

I highly recommend Changeless and the entire Parasol Protectorate series to everyone that enjoys a fun and unique read. The combination of wit, paranormal characters, steampunk, and suspense is very well done. 

Book Review: FishFishFish by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch

FishFishFish by Lee Nordling and Meritxell Bosch is a picturebook that can be enjoyed in many way.  A little yellow fish swims alone, while below hungry barracuda searches for something to eat, and below that a school of fish band together and find strength in numbers. In this picturebook readers see that under the waves, every fish is a hero in its own story.

FishFishFish is a mostly wordless picturebook, with a few thought or speech bubbles. I liked that this book can stand up to multitude or rereads because it can be approached in different ways.  You can read just the top panel of the book showing the story of the little yellow fish swimming all alone, read the middle panel with a barracuda on the search for food, or the bottom panel with a school of fish who band together. Readers could  also read each page top to bottom to see how the different fish interact. The colors are bright and catch the eye, easily keeping younger readers interested, while more involved readers will be involved in the drama that is a fish's life. The multiple perspectives coming together can start a great discussion about understanding and looking outside your own story.

FishFishFish is a great book for sharing, or for children enjoying alone. My children are very into animals and nature- and so seeing this book captured the attention and kept it. Those that do not usually enjoy wordless picturebooks might not enjoy it as much as i did, but i thought it was nicely done. 

Early Book Review: The Rat with the Human Face (The Qwikpick Papers) by Tom Angleberger

The Rat with the Human Face is the second book in the The Qwikpick Papers series by Tom Angleberge. It is currently scheduled for release on April 21 2015. Lyle Hertzog and his friends Marilla and Dave are the Qwikpick Adventure Society. The three kids seek out adventure in their seemingly quiet hometown of Crickenburg. In hunting for their next big adventure the kids overhear a construction worker telling his buddies about a rat with a human face he saw in the basement of an old research facility. The decision is unanimous: the next adventure for the Qwikpick Society is on! But when their trip to find the rat doesn’t go quite as expected, the trio gets in big trouble. Will the second adventure for the Qwikpick Society also be their last?

Alright, i admit that I get a kick out for the voice and humor found in every Angleberger book that i have read thus far. The Rat with the Human Face is no exception. The series is fun and captures the conflicts in the middle schooler's mind, and in the world. Lyle is the main voice in this adventure, and we get a clear picture of his mindset and worries. The notion of being a good kid that gets in trouble more than any of the trouble makers is something I could relate to, even though those years are further behind me than I care to think about. The adventure and planning seemed to go pretty quick in this instalment, but was still interesting. I liked that the answers about the rat are not just thrown at the reader, and we get to use our imagination and mind to decide its real nature.

I highly recommend The Rat with the Human Face to everyone that enjoyed the first book in the Qwikpick Papers series. It is funny, full of adventure, and has moments that every middle grader can relate to on some level.

Early Book Review: The Herbal Goddess Guide: Create Radiant Well-Being Every Day with Herb-Inspired Teas, Potions, Salves, Food, Yoga, and More by Amy Jirsa

The Herbal Goddess Guide: Create Radiant Well-Being Every Day with Herb-Inspired Teas, Potions, Salves, Food, Yoga, and More by Amy Jirsa is a non fiction resource that is currently scheduled for release on April 21 2015. Amy Jirsa offers recipes and ideas for exploring and embracing the distinctive qualities of twelve herbs; chamomile, rose, dandelion, holy basil, nettle, calendula, lavender, turmeric, echinacea, elder, cinnamon, and ginger. Recipes for teas and foods, skin and hair care treatments, complementary yoga poses, meditations, and more are well explained.  

The Herbal Goddess Guide is a great resource for those that are interested in more knowledge about herbs and how to live an all natural and healthier life. The information on each of the herbs, along with the recipes and yoga poses that follow, are well organized and very detailed. these are wonderful photographs that accompany each page. This book really is about bringing the mind, body, and spirit together via herbs and lifestyle. So, if you do not care for that style of help, then this book is definitely not for you. I am not rigorous about this lifestyle, but still found much of the herbal information and recipes for tea, food, and body care to be valuable. i know i will be blending some of these teas, salves, and creams but am not likely to start the meditation and yoga any time soon. I did not find the advice and information preachy, it was very well stated and straight forward, it is just not my cup of tea.

The Herbal Goddess Guide is a wonderful starter book for those looking to use herbs and lead a holistic life. If you are looking for detailed herb information and some fantastic recipes, then this book is still a great resource and it is easy to skim or skip the information that is not as interesting to you.

Book Review: Dr. Critchlores School for Minions by Sheila Grau and Joe Sutphin

Dr. Critchlores School for Minions is a middle grade novel written by Sheila Grau and illustrated by Joe Sutphin. It is the first book in a new series.  The main character is Runt, a werewolf stuck in the human minion dorm and with a habit of being a little too nice. In his efforts to be the best Junior henchman ever he uncovers a plot to sabotage his boarding school. Oh, did I forget to mention that he attends the world's finest training program for aspiring minions to Evil Overlords? There are troublesome zombies, a friend that keeps losing his head, explosions, and a headmaster that is not at all himself, to keep Runt on his toes.

I love a story with unexpected heroes. Runt is one of those heroes. In Dr. Critchlores School for Minions Runt is not exactly a stand out, except for the fact that he has lived there since he was seven and left behind by his family. He is a quick thinker and knows his way around the school better than anyone. The school is his home, and when a shocking video appears showing some of the schools toughest graduates running for little girls everything is on the line. Soon the sabotage escalates and Runt is trying to figure out who is behind it while trying desperately to excel. Friendship, thinking fast, and unexpected discoveries will keep readers engaged in this fast paced read. I think this is just the thing to get some reluctant readers eager to read the next book in the series.

I highly recommend Dr. Critchlores School for Minions for readers that want something a little different. In a school where being a minion is a career goal, there are surprisingly few evil deeds and plenty of detention for bad behavior. Runt is a great character that many will be able to relate to or at least sympathize with, while the cast of other characters will certainly keep the interest and keep those pages turning.

March 20th is a Big Day!

Not only is March 20th the first day of Spring (thank goodness!) it is also the birthday of three great children's authors! Bill Martin Jr, Lois Lowry, and Louis Sachar. I think we should celebrate by reading or listening to the work of these great authors while thinking about Spring and warmer weather.. Are you in?

Bill Martin Jr has some great choices for the youngest readers!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Here Are My Hands 

The Bill Martin Jr Big Book of Poetry 

Ten Little Caterpillars 

Chicka Chicka ABC

Louis Sachar is great reading for silly fun or more serious moments.

Wayside School Boxed Set 


There's A Boy in the Girls' Bathroom 

Small Steps 

Kidnapped At Birth? 

Lois Lowry is for a more mature set.

The Giver Quartet 

The Silent Boy

Autumn Street 

Number the Stars 

A Summer to Die 

Do you have a favorite from one of these authors that I did not list? Share your favorite in the comments!

Early Book Review: Eat, Leo! Eat! by Caroline Adderson and Jose Bisaillon

Eat, Leo! Eat! written by Caroline Adderson and illustrated by Jose Bisaillon is a picture book that is currently scheduled for release on April 1 2015. Every Sunday Leo’s family goes to his grandmother’s house for a big family lunch. However, Leo wants no part of sitting down with his family to eat. Clever Nonna uses stories to lure Leo to her table to eat. Each week the story ties in the adventures of a young boy with the type of pasta included in the meal. Soon Leo is eager for the stories and the meal and discovers just how happy his is to have the family he does. As readers learn the names and shapes of pasta, they also learn some basic Italian and are treated to the same wonderful tales as Leo and his family. 

Eat, Leo! Eat! is a charming book about family, heritage, and some Italian vocabulary. I really liked the path Nonna took to get Leo to the table, and the ever expanding story. I saw some of my own family in the good-natured teasing, and abundance of food at family gatherings. The illustrations by Jose Bisaillon are colorful and have a playful feel to them. The pictures do a wonderful job of adding details to the narrative and bringing the story to life. I think the loving family and 

Eat, Leo! Eat! is a wonderful picture book for family and school and library sharing. The story is fun and has adventure, but it can also be used to spark discussion about family, foreign languages, various cultures and their stories, and food. The book would also be great to use as a storytelling prompt or example starting a class or child writing their own ongoing tale, or a chain story where they each have a chance to expand upon the original. 

Early Book Review: Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann

Bite at First Sight by Brooklyn Ann is the third book in the Scandals with Bite. It is currently scheduled for realize April 7 2015. When Rafael Villar, Lord Vampire of London, stumbles upon a woman in the cemetery he believes he’s found a vampire hunter. Instead he found a bundle of problems. Cassandra Burton is enthralled by the scarred, disfigured vampire who took her prisoner. The aspiring physician was robbing graves to pursue her studies, but this vampire might turn out to be her greatest subject yet. So they form a bargain: one kiss for every experiment. As their passion grows and Rafe begins to heal, only one question remains; can Cassandra see the man beyond the monster?

Bite at First Sight is the third book in a series, but it is not necessary to read the books in order. It would help with knowing details and backgrounds of some characters, but the story is easily understood and enjoyed without that continuity. Rafael is a scarred vampire with a damaged arm. He is strong and has learned to function fully without the use of that arm. He is in charge of the London vampires, but everything is not as peaceful among the ranks as he might hope. Cassandra is a very intelligent and curious widow, who has studied on her own and knowns more than most practicing physicians, but is refused entry to any medical college because of her gender. When Rafael is forced to take her prisoner she has the chance to study further, and learn about vampire anatomy as well as human. The complications of vampire politics and social standards cause both of them many issues as they spend more time together and grow closer. I enjoyed the slow romance and dual insecurities of Cassandra and Rafael. It made the book a fun, and entertaining read. The conflict and final resolution was more exciting and complex than I expected, which made me interested in the earlier and future books in the series.

I would highly recommend Bite at First Sight to anyone that enjoys the authors work and historical or paranormal romance. It is rare to see the two combined this well, particularly with such an intelligent an capable female character. 

Early Book Review: Sleepless Knight by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Andrew Arnold

Sleepless Knight by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold is a children's graohic novel currently scheduled for release on April 14 2015. The Knight is very excited for her first camping trip. She and her horse Edward pack everything they need, including her beloved Teddy. However, when it is time to sleep Teddy is nowhere to be found! Knight goes in search of her Teddy, talking to a helpful racoon and off to a cave.

Sleepless Knight is a simple and sweet story. The Knight wants her adventure, but still needs Teddy by her side to sleep. Like most kids, she wants independence but still needs a connection to comfort. Her horse Edward seems to be the long suffering sort, ready to do whatever needs to be done, regardless of his own wants and needs. When Knight discovers that Teddy is missing she is eager to find him, but Edward is fast asleep and she depends on herself and nearby woodland critters for help. Some misadventure leads to a happy ending for everyone. The artwork is accessible and a perfect pairing to the story.

I would recommend Sleepless Knight to the youngest comic fans, as it will appeal to the picturebook and easyreader crowds. The story and artwork are appropriate for all ages, and simple good fun.