Book Review: Being Fitz by J.D. Walker

Being Fitz by J.D. Walker is a novella. Lysander "Fitz" Fitzgibbon used to teach at a university, but quit when his father grew ill and needed someone to take care of him. Years later, after his dad's death, Fitz has given up on his dreams, drives a bus route, and endures twice monthly visits from Jerry, who can't really be called a friend, and barely a benefit. Fitz is lonely, overweight, and figures life won't be getting any better. Then Jerry falls for Fitz's neighbor, Henry, and Fitz stumbles over a dead body in the park. As if life couldn't get any worse, he has a run-in with Detective Holland Simms, whose infuriating arrogance and brash behavior provokes Fitz to punch him. But strangely enough, Fitz feels more alive around Simms than he has in a long time, though Fitz finds it hard to believe that the confident Simms would want anything to do with him.

Being Fitz is a short romance. It was a quick. enjoyable read with some serious feels. My biggest issue is that I wanted more. Fitz has plenty of angst in the beginning, and the initial courtship between Simms and Fitz was pretty great. However, then we just kind of cut ahead to Fitz getting his life together, and it felt like the heart of the matter was glossed over. I loved seeing Fitz find happiness, but I feel like This could have easily been fleshed out to a full length novel, with more relationship development, and more of Fitz finding his value in tangible ways rather than because Simms and his coworker telling him that his is more than he thinks. I liked the read, but really wanted more, I wanted to see Fitz grow not just have it glossed over and be told that things work out. I wanted to see him move towards it and grab his future with both hands rather than just reacting to things that come his way.

Early Book Review: A Valentine for Frankenstein by Leslie Kimmelman, Timothy Banks

A Valentine for Frankenstein is a picturebook written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Timothy Banks. It is currently Scheduled for release on November 1 2018. Frankenstein isn't your typical monster. For starters, he only has one head, just two eyes, and no tail. And worst of all, he's sort of nice! Frankenstein quickly realizes his friendly behavior is out of place at the Valentine's Day Bash. There's one monster, though, who likes that Frankenstein is different. Can Frankenstein figure out the identity of his secret valentine? And can the other monsters finally accept Frankenstein for the monster that he is?

A Valentine for Frankenstein is a cute picturebook about being who you are, and accepting others for who they are. Frankenstein might be different, and generally teased by others- but he does not let that change how he acts or who he is. He keeps on being the best person he can, his way. I like that it was his differences that made Belcher like him, rather than anything else. I also like that his difference is kindness, which is something all the characters do appreciate once they stop to think about it. We could all stand for a little more kindness, right? The illustrations are bright and colorful with a whimsical feel. It worked with the story, but was not my favorite style. However, I think it will appeal to many young readers. 

Book Review: Kiss the Girl (Naughty Princess Club) by Tara Sivec

Kiss the Girl is the third, and final book, in the Naughty Princess Club series by Tara Sivec. I have read one, but not both, of the previous books. I think the romance can stand on its own, but those that have read the previous books will have a better understanding of the characters and their situations than newcomers.
A struggling antiques collector finds herself falling in love with a millionaire playboy; but can she ever be a part of his world? While her friends have broken free of their insecurities, Ariel Waters is struggling to come out of her shell. Her ex-husband took away her voice and her self-confidence, and Ariel is drowning under a sea of debt to afford the alimony she has to pay him. She refuses to ever fall for a man’s charms again, and is determined to make her own way. When her house and her beloved antiques are taken by the bank after too many missed payments, Ariel finds herself adrift until the infuriatingly charming Eric Sailor comes to her rescue. Although she can’t stand the millionaire playboy, Eric’s kindness and unconditional support reveal hidden depths and a love that Ariel never imagined she could find. But there are outside influences who will stop at nothing to keep them apart; can Ariel and Eric weather the storm and find a way to be together?

Kiss the Girl is charming and quirky, and a fun take on the Little Mermaid story. I love Ariel's character, she is outwardly strong and outspoken, but her bluster is meant to hide how insecure she really is. I could relate to her on several level- both in having escaped an abusive relationship and living the fake it til you make it lifestyle. I like how Eric saw through it but never took advantage of it, he liked her spunk and outspoke side and wants to help her be herself and find herself. He is occasionally sneaky, but never in a harmful way and always to do something that will support her. While I get annoyed with the "for her own good' actions because I would hate to be manipulated like that, it was well handled here. My only complaint is the same one I had for the previous book I read from Sivec is that I want to know what is going on in Eric's head. So often I wanted to 'see' some of the moments from his perspective. I also enjoyed story wrap ups included in the epilogue, giving me readers an extra look at all three princess's happy ever afters. 

Kiss the Girl is a fun and highly entertaining read. The characters and interactions were great fun and it was engaging. I look forward to reading more from the author.

Book Review: 10 Reasons to Love... a Penguin by Catherine Barr, Hanako Clulow

10 Reasons to Love... a Penguin is a children's book written by Catherine Barr and illustrated by Hanako Clulow. Penguins are cute and special birds! Did you know that they go on incredible journeys? Or that they toboggan on their stomachs? Discover ten reasons why penguins are amazing and five ways you can show they love them in this gorgeous picture book. A must for any young animal enthusiast and a fantastic introduction to environmental issues.

10 Reasons to Love... a Penguin is a delightful non fiction picturebook about penguins that explains why we should all the the 18 different types of penguins. The illustrations are very realistic, and labeled to note the type of penguin pictured and the other animals included. The facts are interesting and well worded so that the information is understandable to a wide range of reading and age levels, but without boring older or more advanced readers. I like that there were a few little tips for readers to implement that can help penguins, and other wildlife, survive and thrive. I thought I knew a good deal about penguins, but I learned some things from the read- like that they have a special gland that allows them to sneeze the salt water that they ingest while eating. The only thing that I found lacking in my digital galley was a list of resources or further reading in the endpages. The book encourages readers to research and check in on several things, which is great, but giving the links or at least pointing in the right direction for further reading would have been valuable to readers. Maybe it will be included in the final hardcover version, but it was not part of the digital galley which is what I have access to, and that disappointed me greatly.

10 Reasons to Love... a Penguin is a book with a lot going for it, particularly the great information and illustrations. However, I was disappointed in the lack of additional resources and information in the endpages to be very disappointing, and that lack cost the book a star in my rating system. 

Book Review: Sharky Malarkey: A Sketchbook Collection by Megan Nicole Dong

Sharky Malarkey: A Sketchbook Collection by Megan Nicole Dong follows the adventures of Bruce, a washed-up shark actor, and a colorful assortment of dysfunctional people, animals, and inanimate objects. Bruce is vain but insecure; hotheaded but cowardly; craves attention but fears intimacy—his over-the-top antics are all too human. Based on Megan Nicole Dong’s popular webcomic, Sketchshark, her debut print collection mines the absurd in everyday life. 

Sharky Malarkey: A Sketchbook Collection is not what I was expecting, but I have never seen the webcomic from the artist so I was coming in fresh. The description says the book is about Bruce, a Hollywood shark, with some moments about the artist. However, the book is the opposite- mostly about the artist and everyday life with just a sprinkle of Bruce.  There were plenty of relatable moments, but I was distracted by the art style which felt a little sloppy and undetailed. I think those that already are fans, and know they enjoy the artists work will want to take a look at the collection. Unfortunately it just did nothing for me.

Book Review: Outside: Discovering Animals by Maria Ana Peixe Dias, Ines Teixeira do Rosario, Bernardo P. Carvalho

Outside: Discovering Animals is a nonfiction book for middle grade and older readers written by Maria Ana Peixe Dias and Inês Teixeira do Rosário, with illustrations by Bernardo P. Carvalho. Whether you live in the country or the city, nature is still all around you, so what are we waiting for? It's time to jump off the couch and discover the animals that live on your doorstep. Created in collaboration with a team of experts, this comprehensive guide includes suggestions for activities and many illustrations to help the whole family get started, leave the house, and go out to discover – or simply admire – the amazing world that exists outside.

Outside: Discovering Animals is an in depth look at the world around us, with detailed explanations and illustrations to ensure that an engaged reader can take in the information. This is not a casual reading volume, rather a targeted resource tolead young readers and families to better understand nature, and be able to recognize the signs of wildlife in both city and country settings. This is a perfect book for those that camp often and interested in understanding and tracking the wildlife around them. The book is well organized with suggestions and activities to try, and well as tidbits of extra information that might not be crucial but is certainly interesting. I would have liked to see some real photographs rather than just the illustrations, even though some of them were very detailed and well labeled. It could have also used an index or glossary, to help readers focus in on information that might need to help identify a specific animals, insect, or print. 

Outside: Discovering Animals is a good, but not perfect, resource for young naturalists and their families. It has much useful information but I was expecting a little more from the read.

Book Review: Rock Legend (Nothing But Trouble) by Tara Leigh

Rock Legend is the second book in the Nothing But Trouble series by Tara Leigh. I have not read the first book, but think other newcomers will be able to jump into the series as easily as I did. 

Most people know Landon as the drummer for Nothing but Trouble. Depending who you ask, he is also a playboy, a loner, the life of the party, a screw-up, or according to my fans, "The Sexiest Rock Star on the Planet." It's a reputation that has been earned behind my drum kit and behind closed doors. No one thought foster kid Landon Cox would become famous. Infamous, maybe. Notorious, probably. But successful? Never. No one except Piper Hastings. But he had to make a choice and picked fame and fortune over Piper, and spent every damn day since pretending there were no regrets. Now fate's dropped Piper back into his life and it could be a second chance. But while he is ready to give her a few great nights, he is not quite sure he can give Piper a future.

Rock Legend is a second chance romance and a redemption romance. Landon drinks too much, parties too much, and makes extra big mistakes. Leaving Piper when offered an opportunity with hs band was his biggest mistake- and neither him or Piper are sure they can ever go back now that they are thrown together.  I thought both characters were well written and complex, and I liked some of their interaction. I really like for Landon's issues were handled, never sweeping them under the rug or making them easily solved. He had his demons to face, and he had to make the chose to do so. I thought that was real and emotionally genuine. I liked Piper for the most past, particularly when she is on the job or with others. I do have to admit that I found her to be annoying on occasion, and I often felt that she needed to stick to her guns more in certain situations. While I enjoyed the book as a whole, I was a little let down with her character and she was really the only thing that I I did not consistently enjoy. 

Rock Legend is an entertaining and engaging read with plenty of emotion, growth, and action to keep readers turning pages. I will admit that at first glance I thought it was part of a different series, which is why I picked it up.

Early Book Review: Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri is a children's graphic novel currently scheduled for release on November 6 2018.  Tiger is a very lucky kid: she has a monster living under her bed. Every night, Tiger and Monster play games until it’s time for lights out. Of course, Monster would never try to scare Tiger—that’s not what best friends do. But Monster needs to scare someone…it’s a monster, after all. So while Tiger sleeps, Monster scares all of her nightmares away. Thanks to her friend, Tiger has nothing but good dreams. But waiting in the darkness is a nightmare so big and mean that Monster can’t fight it alone. Only teamwork and a lot of bravery can chase this nightmare away.

Tiger vs. Nightmare is a cute graphic novel about friendship. The artwork is cute, but I was not a huge fan. It looked a little unfinished, but I think that was more because I was looking at an electronic, early galley rather than the final copy. I fully expect that in the final version the artwork will be crisper. Tiger is friends with the monster under her bed, but of course everyone thinks the monster is her imagination. I love that the monster decided not to scare Tiger, but to scare away nightmares instead.However, eventually there is a nightmare too powerful for the monster to fight alone, and feels terrible when it slips by, but cannot admit what happened and becomes more determined to take care of Tiger. He dedication and guilt are things that most of us can relate to. The desire not to admit or failings, or ask for help when we need it is something adults struggle with just as much as kids. I like that Tiger is paying attention to Monster and is ready to help her friend. Friendship, support, and teamwork between the friends, along with the understanding that the nightmare is coming from Tiger's mind, are key lessons of the story, and wonderfully told. Facing your fears and dealing with nightmares like Tiger is a wonderful example to follow, and something even the most outwardly brave child can stand to hear.  I like that her parents do not try to talk away the monster, but support Tiger in her connection and imagination. The supportive family is nice to see in a world of kidlit that often has clueless or unhelpful adults. 

Tiger vs. Nightmare is  graphic novel for young readers that tells a wonderful story about friendship, facing your fears, and supporting others.  

Book Review: Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan Mcguire

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan Mcguire is the first book in a new series, set in the same world as the Incryptid series but with new characters and dealing with the more ghostly residents. 

Rose Marshall died in 1952 in Buckley Township, Michigan, run off the road by a man named Bobby Cross—a man who had sold his soul to live forever, and intended to use her death to pay the price of his immortality. Trouble was, he didn’t ask Rose what she thought of the idea. It’s been more than sixty years since that night, and she’s still sixteen, and she’s still running. They have names for her all over the country: the Girl in the Diner. The Phantom Prom Date. The Girl in the Green Silk Gown. Mostly she just goes by “Rose,” a hitchhiking ghost girl with her thumb out and her eyes fixed on the horizon, trying to outrace a man who never sleeps, never stops, and never gives up on the idea of claiming what’s his. She’s the angel of the overpass, she’s the darling of the truck stops, and she’s going to figure out a way to win her freedom. After all, it’s not like it can kill her. You can’t kill what’s already dead.
Sparrow Hill Road was not what I expected, but in the very best ways. I was expecting something very much like the books I have already read from Mcguire, and while the skill and style were definitely on par the characters and legends felt fresh and new. Rose is a small town girl, turned ghost, dealing with her new 'life' as a hitchhiking ghost and her new obligations. I enjoyed getting to know Rose. While she honestly wants to help and do the right thing, she is not perfect. She has a temper, sometimes makes mistakes, and is sometimes too soft a touch. All of these traits come together to make her a wonderfully real character. The use of urban legends and well known ghost stories was wonderfully done, I have always been fascinated on how legends both ancient and more modern change and grow, so this was right up my alley. The action is paced well, giving nail biting moments interspersed with backstory and important character development. The secondary characters are not flat, while not quite as developed as Rose they are well layers and complex. Even the characters we only see for one interaction are not stereotypes or simple, they feel real and dynamic. Mcguire is wonderful at making characters that I feel like I know, and whose stories I just want more of after the book is over.
Sparrow Hill Road starts what i hope is another long and highly entertain series from Mcguire. In fact, I already have the next book, The Girl in the Green Silk Gown waiting for me on my kindle and I am looking forward to the read.
As a side note- if you prefer audio books I highly recommend giving this book a listen as well as her other books. I have listened to several books from her other series and while she does have a couple different narrators they are all wonderful. 

Book Review: Dr. Jo by Monica Kulling

Dr. Jo is a children's nonficton book written by Monica Kulling and illustrated by Julianna Swaney
Sara Josephine Baker was a strong girl who loved adventure. Growing up in New York in the late 1800s was not easy. When she lost her brother and father to typhoid fever, she became determined to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. In Jo's day, medical schools were closed to women, but times were changing, and Jo was at the forefront. When she graduated in 1898, Dr. Jo still faced prejudice against women in her field. Not many people were willing to be seen by a female doctor, and Dr. Jo's waiting room remained mostly empty. She accepted a job in public health and was sent to Hell's Kitchen, one of New York's poorest neighborhoods where many immigrants lived. There, she was able to treat the most vulnerable patients: babies and children. She realized that the best treatment was to help babies get a stronger start in life. Babies need fresh air, clean and safe environments, and proper food. Dr. Jo's successes, fueled by her determination, compassion and ingenuity, made her famous across the nation for saving the lives of 90,000 inner city infants and children.

Dr. Jo is an important book because too many children (and adults) do not know about the wonderful women that were trailblazers set things into motion that still affect us today. Young readers (of all genders) can get inspired to follow their dreams, face obstacles that seem insurmountable, and deal with prejudice. Baker made great changes and led to poor women and children living much longer, safer lives. While in an ideal world lack of money would not mean lack of access to health care and safety, we all know that even in modern times this is not necessarily the case. Baker was a woman that worked hard to follow her dreams, and to help those that need it most. This is a wonderful example for readers of all ages. The wording of the information is well done, accessible to a wide range or readers and leaving the readers a little curious to find out more without feeling like important information was left out. The illustrations from Swaney are lovely to look at and help remind readers of the times when Baker was alive and adding color to the pages. 

Dr. Jo is an well written and interesting read about a woman the defied convention and helped the people that needed her most. I highly recommend this book for elementary school and public libraries, as well as personal libraries for anyone with children that will face obstacles live Sara Josephine Baker.