Early Book Review: Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery by Sandra Markle

Follow Those Zebras: Solving a Migration Mystery by Sandra Markle is currently scheduled for release on April 7 2020. Every year in Namibia, about two thousand zebras suddenly disappear from their grazing area along the Chobe River. Months later, the herd returns. Where do they go? And why? Thanks to satellite-tracking collars, scientists were able to solve the mystery, but several questions remain. Award-winning science author Sandra Markle reveals the process scientists used to study the zebras, and she also delves into the science of migration, exploring how animals know where to go, how to get there, and when to leave.
Follow Those Zebras is well written and researched. I liked that the photographs, maps, and small bubbles of additional facts broke up the pages, putting the information in accessible blocks for younger or more distractible readers. I still find it fascinating that no one knew were the herd was going, you would think that many zebra moving year after year would have garnered more attention then people just wondering where they went. With the way people have taken over so much land I would have thought someone would have tracked their movements by now. I loved learning about the methodology of how they managed to track the zebras and what they learned. I also really liked that the scientists did not stop there, having their initial questions answered. Instead they looked further to see the whys behind the migration, and how people and climate change could impact the future of the zebras, and are working to help them survive in a changing environment. I thought that the additional zebra facts, references, resources for further reading, and glossary are important touches as well, and always make my day when they are included.

Follow Those Zebras is another fascinated nonfiction book about animals from Markle. It would be a great addition to school and classroom libraries.

Early Book Review: Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir

Camp Spirit by Axelle Lenoir is a young adult graphic novel currently scheduled for release on April 14 2020. Summer 1994: with just two months left before college, Elodie is forced by her mother to take a job as a camp counselor. She doesn't know the first thing about nature, or sports, of kids for that matter, and isn't especially interested in learning... but now she's responsible for a foul-mouthed horde of red-headed girls who just might win her over, whether she likes it or not. Just as Elodie starts getting used to her new environment, though -- and close to one of the other counselors -- a dark mystery lurking around the camp begins to haunt her dreams.

Camp Spirit is a graphic novel that I could relate to on a number of levels, not the least of which I graduate from high school the same year the main characters did, so most of the pop culture references were a direct hit with me. I liked Elodie's character, her reluctance to be the smiling happy soul that most people seem to expect was something I could completely understand, as was her curiosity about the camp and those around her once she got tossed into the thick of things. I enjoyed the side stories of how she related to her campers and some of the other counselors. The second layer of the story, with the mystical elements, had me guessing right along with Elodie. Some of the sly glances had me thinking down false paths, but that was part of the nature of the artwork. I thought that the art was very well done, and added a great deal to the story, both in emotion and plot. I really enjoyed the read, and wonder if there will be more to come. 

Camp Spirit is a well written and drawn graphic novel that will appeal to some middle graders, but mostly young adult and older readers. Adults that shared the joys of high school in the 90's with me might want to give it a go as well.

Early Book Review: Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka

Love Me, Love Me Not, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka is currently scheduled for release on April 10 2020. Four high school friends share the springtime of their youth together. Fast friends Yuna and Akari are complete opposites—Yuna is an idealist, while Akari is a realist. When lady-killer Rio and the oblivious Kazuomi join their ranks, love and friendship become quite complicated!

Love Me, Love Me Not is a sweet story of four high schoolers trying to figure out what they want from love, friendship, and themselves. I liked the way the characters were different from each other and none was perfect. I enjoyed the art style, it did not stand out as unique, but did a wonderful job of capturing the moods and emotions of the text and characters. The four major characters all had moments when they absolutely shone, and others when they showed their flaws. I think the self doubt and worries were all very realistic and the story covers Yuna and Akari facing some of their issues in how they see themselves. My biggest complaint is the big reveal and cliff hanger ending opening up more questions than were actually answered in the story. Of course, thes just means I need to read the next one, but still. AS a whole I really enjoyed the story, and am glad that I read it.

Love Me, Love Me Not is a young adult graphic novel that will appeal to many. I enjoyed the story and will be keeping an eye out for volume two.

Early Book Review: Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher

Not That Kind of Guy by Andie J. Christopher is a contemporary romance currently scheduled for release on April 14 2020. State attorney Bridget Nolan is successful in all aspects of her life—except romance. After breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, she's been slow to reenter the dating scene. To be honest, she has more important things to do like putting bad guys behind bars. But with her brother's wedding right around the corner, she suddenly needs a date and fast. Lucky for Bridget, the legal intern is almost done with his program. Matt Kido is dumbstruck by Bridget—total love at first sight—but there's one problem. She's totally off-limits while she's his boss. But the moment he no longer reports to her, Matt decides to take a chance. An impulsive decision takes them to Las Vegas where, as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Unless you put a ring on it.

Not That Kind of Guy had a great balance to it. I loved the humor and real, emotional issues that were dealt with. Bridget is so used to having to be in control and trying to be perfect that when she lets go things get a little out of control. Matt has gotten tired of doing what he should and the possibility of being used. Neither is overly trusting, even of themselves. I loved watching them forge a friendship and more. I was glad to get both of their points of view, seeing how both of them worried about their own value in the relationship help me understand the choices they made, even when I dd not agree with them. I thought that the family dynamic for both of them were key to the story, and explored in a way that explained a great deal about the characters without sidetracking the story. I also liked the thought that was put into the secondary characters and background story. However, I also felt like the author was trying to get all the tropes in the book. There was the workplace/forbidden romance, the age gap, the wealth gap, the real slash fake relationship, the jealous ex's, and so on. I felt a little like the author had all the possible twists and trops on a check list and tried to get as many in as possible. I liked the characters, and the story for the most part, but some of it just felt forced. 

Not That Kind of Guy is a contemporary romance with a good balances of heat and sweet.

Early Book Review: Dewdrop by Katie O'Neill

Dewdrop by Katie O'Neill is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on April 7 2020. Dewdrop is an easygoing, gentle axolotl who enjoys naps, worm pie, and cheerleading. When the yearly sports fair nears, he and his friends—Mia the weightlifting turtle, Newman the musical newt, and three minnows who love to cook—get ready to showcase their skills to the whole pond! However, as the day of the fair gets closer, Dewdrop's friends can't help putting pressure on themselves to be the best. It's up to Dewdrop to remind them how to be mindful, go at their own pace, and find joy in their own achievements.
Dewdrop is an adorable picturebook about a sweet axolotl that honestly cares about their friends and keeps a sunny outlook on life. I think the reminders to focus on improving and finding happiness in doing their favorite things is important. I loved the illustrations, and found that they mirrored the sweet and optimistic tone of the main character and story as a whole. I think the story was nice and simply enjoyable to look at. The message was good, but a little overstated. As a kid, and now as a parent, I have always found the very obvious lessons to be a little off putting, even if I agree with them. Not everyone feels this way, and I can see the value and skill in this book that made me enjoy it despite the very clear messages. 

Early Book Review: Seduced by a Steele (Forged of Steele) by Brenda Jackson

Seduced by a Steele is the twelfth book in the Forged of Steele series by Brenda Jackson, I have not read the previous books but this one can stand up well on its own. It is currently scheduled for release on April 7 2020. 
Will a damsel in distress be his redemption? A notorious heartbreaker is about to meet his match. When the “thief” caught driving his stolen vintage car turns out to be a stunning runaway heiress, Mercury Steele is conflicted. On the one hand, Sloan Donahue, penniless and on the run from her tyrannical family, triggers the billionaire playboy’s protective instincts. But she also triggers red-hot desire. Mercury refuses to think his simple seduction is becoming something deeper, especially when Sloan is keeping secrets. 

Seduced by a Steele is a quick read with a nice dose of heat. Sloan wants no part of an arranged marriage that comes with a mistress, unfortunately escape means getting away from controlling parents with no funds of her own Mercury has no interest in settling down, but the attraction and desire to help Sloan are undeniable. I liked Sloan's desire for independence and wanting to work things out on her own, but I felt like she really never gained that agency in more than inconsequential ways. Mercury wanted to help, his money and connections were helpful but because of his ability to 'fix' just about everything I did not see Sloan get to do much more than say no to her ex and her father. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the read and liked the major characters and how they interacted, but I just felt like it came together almost too easily. I was waiting for a kidnapping attempt, or attack, or something big and dramatic other than verbal sparring and half truths being revealed. 

Seduced by a Steele is a fast and enjoyable read, good for reading in a single sitting on a cold or rainy weekend afternoon.

Early Book Review: Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen by Heather Ferranti Kinser

Small Matters: The Hidden Power of the Unseen by Heather Ferranti Kinser is currently scheduled for release on April 7 2020. Can something small matter at all? Of course it can! In this book for young readers (who know a thing or two about being small), you can take a super close look at details too little to be seen with the human eye. Powerful shots from scanning electron microscopes show shark skin, bird feathers, the hairs on a honeybee's eye, and so much more, proving that tiny details can make a BIG difference.
Small Matters is a wonderful book graphically. I loved the combination of images, both in normal and microscopic proportions. The colors and images popped on every page and are simply stunning to look at all on their own. I also loved the text of the book, teaching readers of all ages interesting facts about nature and showing them that sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference, even if they typically get overlooked. I learned several things, for instance I had no idea that a bee's eye had hairs, while some things I did already know. I also enjoyed that at the end of the book there was more information on the electron microscope and nano scale, and the science behind their invention and use. The further details on the close up images, and the suggestions for further reading were other nice touches that made the book even better in my eyes. I think those inclusions help the book reach a wider range of readers, and allow the youngest readers to continue loving the book as their reading skills and interests grow.

Small Matters is a visually stunning book that would make a great addition to libraries, particularly in schools and classrooms.

Early Book Review: Sexy Beast (Billion $ Bastards) by Jackie Ashenden

Sexy Beast by Jackie Ashenden is currently scheduled for release on April 1 2020. Commanding billionaire Everett Calhoun reveals his sexy dark side to his girl-next-door best friend in the second installment of the Billion $ Bastards trilogy. I was born bad. Maintaining tight control—in business and in the bedroom—is the only way to keep my darkness in check. So when my girl-next-door best friend, Freya, comes to me for a sexual favor, I don’t see the harm in giving her what she needs. After all, I’ve always kept her firmly in the friend zone. But after showing her that there’s nothing wrong with her ability to orgasm, it’s all I can do to walk away. Unleashing my inner beast on the person who matters most to me is not an option. She wants me but is she prepared to follow my every command, to submit to my will and let me take her to the ultimate heights of pleasure? Getting Freya on her knees should make me feel like the monster I am, but being with her leaves me more vulnerable, more human, than ever. I need to reclaim the friendship we had before I lose control completely, or will she have me on my knees?

Sexy Beast is part of the Harlequin Dare line, which means it is heavy on the heat, if the description of the book does not give that away. This is also the second book in a trilogy, but can stand well on its own. I have not read the previous book but know from context the other two books in the series must center on Everett's business partners. There is some Dom/Sub play and a lot of bearing of souls as well as bodies. Everett and Freya are best friends, and have been since they were children. Each have some childhoods trauma and significant lingering issues because of it. I love that they work hard to help each other while also forcing each other to face the truth. Seeing them each come to terms with their feelings and the implications was painful, but in the best way. Confidence and control issues are some of the most common, and seeing them handled with such care, with the underlying levels of trust and honest caring was wonderful. While the heat level was high, it in no way overpowered the emotional character arc, the trust and friendship they shared was the key to the entire story. Sometimes the biggest obstacles to a happy  ever after lie in the minds and pride of the people involved, and that was certainly the case here. I found the fears, frustrations, and care for each other to be very realistic and engaging to read and think that fans of contemporary romance with high heat levels will agree.

Sexy Beast is a romance that is emotionally charged and full of heat.

Early Book Review: A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones

A Bad Day for Sunshine by Darynda Jones is currently scheduled for release on April 7 2010. This is the start of a new series- but it follows the Charlie Davidson series, but newcomes to Jones' work will be able to enjoy this new start.

Sheriff Sunshine Vicram finds her cup o’ joe more than half full when the small village of Del Sol, New Mexico, becomes the center of national attention for a kidnapper on the loose. Del Sol, New Mexico is known for three things: its fry-an-egg-on-the-cement summers, its strong cups of coffee—and a nationwide manhunt? Del Sol native Sunshine Vicram has returned to town as the elected sheriff—an election her adorably meddlesome parents entered her in—and she expects her biggest crime wave to involve an elderly flasher named Doug. But a teenage girl is missing, a kidnapper is on the loose, and all of it's reminding Sunny why she left Del Sol in the first place. Add to that trouble at her daughter’s new school and a kidnapped prized rooster named Puff Daddy, and Sunshine has her hands full. Enter sexy almost-old-flame Levi Ravinder and a hunky US Marshal, both elevens on a scale of one to blazing inferno, and the normally savvy sheriff is quickly in over her head. Now it’s up to Sunshine to juggle a few good hunky men, a not-so-nice kidnapping miscreant, and Doug the ever-pesky flasher. And they said coming home would be drama-free.

A Bad Day for Sunshine is a great start to a new series, even if I kept distracting myself by trying to make connections with the previous series. Sunshine and her daughter Aurora are two snarky peas in a pod. They are both smart, good detectives, and care more than they might want to about the world around them. I liked the way the town, and its cast of characters, were introduced. I liked the way characters I thought I knew- or should know-  were given the same amount of attention as those I thought were completely new. I thought the mystery of the missing girl and the escaped fugitive were very well built, and solved. I like that the characters do not take themselves too seriously and seem to understand that so much comes in shades of gray rather than simply black or white. The point of view does switch regularly between Auri and Sunshine, which was incredibly important and worked perfectly in some places. However, there were many places in which the switch was made with no division and it took me a while to figure out what was happening. I had to go back and reread a few paragraphs to figure out where the switch was made. I did enjoy the build up of the characters, the mystery, and that there were unanswered questions that left me wanting more without leaving me feeling unsatisfied with the conclusion. I look forward to continuing this series, and seeing how the connection with the prior series continue to grow. 

A Bad Day for Sunshine is a good start to a series, with connections and characters Jones fans will enjoy. 

Early Book Review: The Elephants' Guide to Hide-and-Seek by Kjersten Hayes, Gladys Jose

The Elephants' Guide to Hide-and-Seek, written by Kjersten Hayes and illustrated by Gladys Jose, is currently scheduled for release on April 1 2020. Elephants are great at many things...playing hide-and-seek is not one of them. But The Elephant Hobby and Sport League is here to help all those frustrated, always "found" elephants out there with The Elephants' Guide to Hide-and-Seek. This handy guide offers sympathy, support and superior hiding solutions to elephants who long to overcome their size disadvantage when playing hide-and-seek.
The Elephants' Guide to Hide-and-Seek is a fun and sweet story. I found the illustrations to be charming and I really enjoyed the style. The text and illustrations worked well together to tell the story, and managed to be encouraging while still including a good amount of humor- like an elephant trying to hide under the covers. I think it offers readers a good laugh, along with ideas (like volunteering to be it) that can make a game that usually offers frustration more fun. I really like that it also points out that playing the game can be fun because of who you are playing with, not just because of how well you play.