Early Book Review: It’s Your Funeral by Emily Riesbeck, Ellen Kramer, Matt Krotzer

It’s Your Funeral by Emily Riesbeck, Ellen Kramer, and Matt Krotzer is a young adult graphic novel currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020.
Marnie Winters was going to turn her life around; get out of the house, make friends, no more “Miserable Old Marnie!” Everything was going to plan, but then, of course, she died. Now, Marnie’s a ghost trapped on Earth, and the only one who can help her is the overenthusiastic, alien social worker, Xel, whose job is to help ghosts “close their file” and pass on.  Xel has an idea to soothe Marnie’s troubled spirit: an internship in the hopeless bureaucracy of the trans-dimensional Department of Spectral Affairs! This new do-gooder duo has their work cut out for them in a series of hilarious mishaps and misadventures throughout the space-time continuum (but mostly in and around the office) as Marnie finds pathways through her feelings of worthlessness by helping others. A paranormal fantasy about healing, learning to love yourself, and being OK with being not OK.

It’s Your Funeral is a graphic novel that is fun to look at. I really enjoyed the artwork and colors, and thought the imagination involved was wonderful. It was also a read that will appeal to many on an emotional level. There are a number of very different personalities, and I liked that no one style is touted as perfect or better, rather it is those differences that make things work.  I cringed a few times, especially when Marnie took her emotions out on others, but those emotions and reactions rang true and help move the story forward and raise the emotional stakes of the story. I like that the book acknowledged that dealing with anything, including depression or anxiety, is a process and that taking the time and being kind (including to yourself) is key. I thought the overall product was very good, and good read.

It’s Your Funeral is a well drawn and told story that will appeal to a number of young adult and adult readers. 

Early Book Review: RWBY: Vol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami is currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020. In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc is a solid start to an engaging story. A few very important characters are introduced and fleshed out in the midst of settling into school and a very dangerous mission. I think story did a great job of introducing the world this all takes place in, and the characters in their strengths and weaknesses. I liked the variety of personalities and skill sets and think that it does a good job of interesting readers that might never have heard of the series previously. The art is nearly perfect, although I will admit that I occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was who in some of the action scenes, because there was just so much going on. I think this promises to keep newcomers to the RWBY Universe and long time fans happy and entertained. 

Early Book Review: Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost, written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago, is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on July 14 2020.  Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. He loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like making friends with other monsters. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realizes they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves? 
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost is a sweet picturebook with beautiful illustrations. I really enjoyed the art style and think the illustrations did a great job of adding to the story and including humor. As someone that has always been on the shy side, I could relate to Gustavo's troubles in talking to others- and even when we are not really invisible to them like he is sometimes we can feel that way. I really enjoyed Gustavo's journey, and how detailed and vivid the images are and how ideas like loneliness and kindness are handled. I think this would be a great read aloud, a story to share both around the Day of the Dead and in the beginning of a school year or start of a storytime program season to help young readers. It could be a great discussion starter and ice break- and is just a lovely read. 

Book Review: Come On, Get Lucky by Jacqueline Rohrbach

Come On, Get Lucky
by Jacqueline Rohrbach is a paranormal romance with a mystery to solve. Grant is looking for love, but there’s one big problem—himself. Due to Grant’s massive size, not to mention the fact he’s also a werewolf, all the eligible bachelors steer clear of him, preferring men who are a little less ginormous and a lot less monstrous. Only Lee, Grant’s best friend and vampire extraordinaire, sees him as a gentle giant who longs to give awesome backrubs, cupcakes, and endless affection to his lifelong mate. Lee is tired of the same old song and dance of dating and then breaking up. The only steady presence in his life has been Grant, a tried-and-true friend who always knows what to say and the right spot to scratch. So, when Grant finally breaks up with his flighty boyfriend, Lee sees an opportunity to let his carefully guarded heart out of its box and try for something real and lasting. There’s a problem, though: Lee has always forbidden romance between friends, an order he’s drilled into Grant’s head over and over again. That means Lee might need to throw their friendship to the fire. To find passion, they’ll have to become enemies. To find love, they’ll have to get lucky.

Come On, Get Lucky is a book with a lot going on. Lee and Grant are good friends, and neither has had much luck in the love department. From the description of the book I thought Grant's size was going to be mentioned more in the story, but I found that his werewolf nature tended to get much more attention than his size. The friends to more aspect between Lee and Grant was both charming and frustrating. Grant was trying so hard to be good, and the set up by Lee that is mentioned in the blurb is much more of a question in the actual story of whether his efforts were on purpose or just kind of happening. I would have liked some more of the story clearly from Lee's point of view and maybe a conversation or two between the two that could have moved things along much quicker romantically but still left plenty of room for the drama and danger aspects of the story. I really liked the side stories about the rabbit and 'stalker'. I found that the dichotomy of the vampire and werewolf fighting over and caring for a bunny sweet and fun. I also found how both were so distracted that they missed the clues about how something more sinister than someone unhappy to be turned down was happening until the stakes were raised. There were some serious twists and turns, and I was always curious about just what would happen next. 

Come On, Get Lucky is a good book, with a lot going on. I just might be looking for the author's backlist for more good reads.

Book Review: Pirate's Persuasion (Sentinels of Savannah) by Lisa Kessler

Pirate's Persuasion by Lisa Kessler is the fourth book in the Sentinels of Savannah series. I have not read the previous books, but each is able to be read on its own, although the previous knowledge returning readers have of the character and world-building would definitely make for a more satisfying read. 

Immortal pirate Drake Cole has a reputation in Savannah for his custom woodworking and historical restorations, but his work has grown into an obsession. He's become a stranger to his crew since the Sea Dog sank in 1795. None of them know his painful secret. A young stowaway went down with the ship, one that Drake swore a blood oath to protect. The ghost of a young boy, lost at sea over two hundred years ago, leads local medium, Heather Storrey right to Drake’s door. He saved her life before, and now she has a chance to return the favor, but how can she protect him from a curse that no one can see? A dark coven possesses the figurehead from the Flying Dutchman, and if Heather and the immortal Sea Dog crew don't locate the relic soon, Drake may be lost to them forever. Heather has seen the passionate man behind the veil of guilt, and she's determined to free him from his self-imposed prison, and persuade this pirate to love again.

Pirate's Persuasion is a solid story. Despite not having read the previous books I was able to get a full understanding of Drake and Heather, and how they each struggled with their relationship. I liked seeing their story, and I thought the variety of emotional scars they both come into the story with made their happiness so much more engaging. I was able to catch up on the larger story line about the rest of the pirate crew and the paranormal setup in Savannah, but I think returning readers will really enjoy seeing that story line come to a head and play out. I thought the danger level was good, the dose of deception and darkness was good, and the heat level was on point. I really liked that I got to see the story through the eyes of several characters, it gave me a much better understanding of the bigger picture. However, I think because I missed out on the previous books that I was not quite as invested in the story as returning readers might be. I was intrigued by the characters, and would like to read more about many of the secondary characters- and just might go bad to start this series from the beginning. 

Pirate's Persuasion was a well written romance, with a solid dose of suspense and danger. I think fans of the series will enjoy it much more than newcomers without investment in the larger story line and cast of characters.

Early Book Review: One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks is being rereleased with reworked art and full color on July 14 2020.  
It is a middle-grade friendship story from one of my favorite graphic novel authors for this age group. When studious thirteen-year-old Juniper wins a scholarship to the prestigious Ellsmere Academy, she expects to find a scholastic utopia. But living at Ellsmere is far from ideal: She is labeled a “special project,” Ellsmere's queen bee is out to destroy her, and it’s rumored that a mythical beast roams the forest next to the school.

One Year at Ellsmere is not completely unexpected by fans of the author or genre. Middle grade and boarding school often go together, but as usual Hicks makes even the 'bad guy' a character that readers know is not wholly bad, despite their actions and the emotions that they often inspire. I love that Jun and Cassie are the main players, but they are not perfect rather they have the same fallibility that some readers might relate to. I really like that they are so different, and while they do make mistakes they are willing to own up to them and do better. They seem to recognize that others are equally fallible and that the things they do might come from a place of insecurity or pain rather than just being evil. The forest addition is lovely, and adds a jumping off point for interesting future stories, but it felt a little unnecessary to me. A fun twist, which adds a little mystical something, but I thought it could have been played in several other ways. Hicks remains one of my must reads authors, and I will continue looking for their work because even when it is not exactly perfect n my eyes, it is still pretty awesome.

One Year at Ellsmere is a perfect example of why I became a fan of Hicks in the first place. The story and art are perfectly matched, and offer a story that is engaging, entertaining, and hits readers in the feels.

Early Book Review: Inventors: Incredible Stories of the World's Most Ingenious Inventions by Robert Winston

Inventors: Incredible Stories of the World's Most Ingenious Inventions, written by Robert Winston and illustrated by Jessamy Hawke, is currently scheduled for release on July 7 2020. The stories are as unusual as they are unique. From Mr. Kellogg, who accidentally created cornflakes after leaving grains boiling for too long, to the ancient Turkish polymath Ismail al-Jazari, who decided the best way to power a clock was with a model elephant, to Sarah E. Goode's fold-up bed space-saving solution--the inventors of this book have all used tons of creativity to find ways to improve our world. These groundbreaking inventions include the very earliest discoveries to modern-day breakthroughs in science, food, transportation, technology, toys, and more. Illustrations by Jessamy Hawke  and photography highlight the detail of the designs and hand-painted cross-sections reveal the intricacies of a robotic arm, the first plane, and the printing press. The inventors come from all walks of life and parts of the world, making this the perfect book for every budding inventor.

Inventors is a book that features a well rounded selection of inventors and innovators from through out history, and around the world. I like that so many different countries were included and that women and men were included. Some of the inventors were well known to me already, but I was glad to learn a little bit more about them, and learn about those I only vaguely knew about. I really liked learning about the inventors that I knew nothing about, and think that the book does a good job of detailing the lives and innovations of the individuals- giving readers the context to understand the lives they lived, and how that might have impacted the work they did or how hard they had to work for it. I did think that some of the illustrations were very well done, but overall I found that some of the pages were a little busy, with artwork that felt more like extras or doodles than necessary additions. The overall look will appeal to many, but I have to admit that I found it a little distracting.

Inventors is a nicely varied look at inventors from around the world, and through out time. I think it will appeal to interested readers and just might inspire some readers to work on their own ideas.

Book Review: The Makeup Artist (Coffee) by Sophie Sinclar

The Makeup Artist is the second book in the Coffee series by Sophie Sinclar. It can be read as a stand alone, but returning readers will be glad to see characters that they know and will have a better understanding of the characters going in.

Sarah Bowen’s life is nothing like she thought it’d be ten years ago. She runs a successful lifestyle boutique with her two best friends, she’s the makeup artist to one of country’s hottest bands, and she’s in love with a womanizing heartthrob who doesn’t give her the time of day. After years of pining after Lex Ryan, she decides it’s finally her turn, even if it might ruin everything she’s worked for. Lex Ryan is the sexy Irish lead guitarist for the hottest country band in the States. He’s known as a serial dater, a commitment-phobe, a player who prefers one-night stands. His wild heart has zero plans of settling down—not even with the band’s makeup artist, Sarah Bowen. He’s vowed to keep his heart from falling for her. Until the band travels to Ireland where his past suddenly crashes into his present. They say wild hearts can’t be tamed. They never said they can’t be broken. 

The Makeup Artist is a well written romance, and a perfect follow up to Coffee Girl. Sarah is such an honestly nice character, with more strength than anyone gives her credit for. I enjoyed getting to know her, and her history, as she finds her footing with Lex. I do think that new comers to the series will see less depth in the relationship between Sarah and Lex than returning readers who have seen the time they have spent on tour together and some of their interactions. I thought that the obstacles that both Lex and Sarah have dealt with in the past, and their fears about the future are well done, and come together with their new conflict well. I like that respect for each other and their feelings runs so strong trough this series. Even when they do something based on fear, or simply foolish, concern for each other is part of the process. There are a few laughs, a few moments when I shook my head and mourned the choices being made, but I was fully engaged and invested in the journey. 

The Makeup Artist is another romance with a good balance of sweet, heat, and feels.

Book Review: Pawsitively Swindled (Witch of Edgehill #4) by Melissa Erin Jackson

Pawsitively Swindled is the fourth book in the Witch of Edgehill series by Melissa Erin Jackson. I do recommend reading this series in order, although the author does include a nice summary in the beginning of the book. Even as a returning reader, I found this very helpful to remind myself of the particulars so I could get into the book more quickly than I normally would. 

Amber Blackwood, Edgehill’s secret resident witch, recently found her parents’ grimoires and the powerful time spells within. Amber must find an impregnable hiding place for the grimoires, though she has no clue where to start looking. When her cousin Edgar suggests the game of Magic Cache, a magic-infused version of geocaching played by witches all over the world, Amber agrees to learn how to play. After all, a weird plan is better than no plan. In the process he gets caught up in a murder investigation where one man is dead and a second one framed for the crime. To complicate matters, the framed man’s condescending daughter, Bianca, wants Amber’s help—and Bianca just happens to chair Marbleglen’s Floral Frenzy Flower Festival Committee, the rival to Edgehill’s own Here and Meow Festival Committee. The two women are thrown into an uneasy alliance. Amber works to unravel the mystery to ensure the right culprit ends up behind bars and Marbleglen’s safety is restored. But Amber knows that even if Marbleglen’s mystery is resolved, a bigger danger lurks in the shadows. If the Penhallows claim the grimoires of Amber’s late parents, they’ll use the books’ time-reversal spells to try to stop the curse from ever having poisoned their clan—and, in the process, possibly rewriting history.

Pawsitively Swindled is a solid mystery with significant character growth, and the introduction of more characters. I enjoyed seeing Amber, Edgar, Jack, and Kim continue to grow in their individual lives and as a group, and I liked the continual growth of connections and other characters- like Chief Brown. I thought the introductions of characters in Marbleglen offer more depth the the mystery, and more options the the future of the series. The mystery of who framed Simon for murder is very well done, and woven seamlessly into Amber's larger story and growth. There are a great deal of personal relationships forming, or growing, in the story and it was highly engaging. As I read I wanted to know the who done it, and the hows and whys involved. However, I was equally interested in the personal relationships of the characters, what the Penhallows were up to, what Connor and Molly were investigating, and the particulars of the magic dead zones. There is a whole lot going on in the book, but it was so firmly woven together that it never felt like it was too much, which sometimes happens. I am really looking forward to seeing what comes next. I will definitely continue following this series. 

Pawsitively Swindled is a great continuation of the series. It moves the larger story line forward while still offering an engaging and satisfying mystery. I am eager to see where the story goes from here.

Book Review: A Dark and Stormy Knight (Victorian Rebels) by Kerrigan Byrne

A Dark and Stormy Knight is the seventh book in the Victorian Rebels series by Kerrigan Byrne. Each book can stand on its own, but those that have read one (or all) of the previous books will enjoy seeing past characters make their appearance. 

Sir Carlton Morley is famously possessed of extraordinary will, singular focus, and a merciless sense of justice. As a man, he secured his fortune and his preeminence as Scotland Yard’s ruthless Chief Inspector. As a decorated soldier, he was legend for his unflinching trigger finger, his precision in battle, and his imperturbable strength. But as a boy, he was someone else. A twin, a thief, and a murderer, until tragedy reshaped him. Now he stalks the night, in search of redemption and retribution, vowing to never give into temptation, as it’s just another form of weakness. Until temptation lands—quite literally—in his lap, taking the form of Prudence Goode. Prim and proper Pru is expected to live a life of drudgery, but before she succumbs to her fate, she craves just one night of desire. On the night she searches for it, she stumbles upon a man made of shadows, muscle and wrath, and decides he is the one. When their firestorm of passion burns out of control, Morley discovers, too late, that he was right. The tempting woman has become his weakness. A weakness his enemies can use against him.  

A Dark and Stormy Knight is a good stand alone, and an even better continuation of the Victorian Rebels series- since I wanted more of Morley. I liked his character, and while he is flawed he is also a thoughtful and good guy. Pru is in a terrible position, and Morley's is not much better. I found their individual worries and struggles to be well done, and their journey towards a happy ending even better. The new secondary characters, and returning players were equally complex and well done. I liked the mystery aspect as well, and can honestly say that I thought someone else would be involved, but the climax and conclusion was entertaining and had me surprised and thoroughly engaged. I really enjoyed this read and finished it way too quickly.

A Dark and Stormy Knight is an entertaining historical romance, and fans of the author and genre will want to pick it up.