Book Review: The Starriest Summer (The Cycle of the Six Moons, #1) by Adelle Yeung

The Starriest Summer is the first book in the The Cycle of the Six Moons series by Adelle Yeung.  Fifteen-year-old Michelle saves the world on a daily basis, with her trusty video game controller, of course! Naturally, she jumps at the chance to play an experimental virtual reality game. The beautiful fantasy world of Starrs? Check. The power to mold matter? Check. No reset button? Wait, she didn’t sign up for this! Turns out Starrs is really real, and to make matters worse, Michelle’s interference awakens the Cycle of the Six Moons, a series of devastating trials that will devour the universe.  Fighting the apocalypse was way easier when danger stayed on the other side of the screen, but Michelle finds a secret weapon in her new-found powers. She uses them to rescue the crown prince of a powerful magic kingdom from their sworn enemies, a technologically-advanced cult that strives to eradicate magical blood.  Michelle starts to fall for Prince Jayse, the only one who believes Michelle to be a savior rather than a curse.
The Starriest Summer is a quick moving adventure that had me eager to discover where the story and Michelle are going next. When Michelle heads into the video game she thinks it is just a new virtual reality game. However, if she listened to her brother's warning she might have known it was much more than it seemed. I enjoyed the world building, and the fact that our main character is discovering the lore and environment right along with the reader. While sometimes she proves to be a little slower on the uptake that I hope I would be, her flaws make her more realistic than a character that gets everything right the first go round. Her exploration of the world, discovery and introduction of characters, and the build up of a story that promises deception and danger underlying everything only begins here. I was glad that Yeung did not try to cram everything in one book, because there seems to be so much more to tell. I like that the story was complete enough to leave me with a full story, but wanting to know so much more. It was a nearly perfect balance.  I found the world and characters to be rich and complex, and even after reading the complete book I still have questions about the Cycle, politics, and royal family that I hope will be addressed in the books to follow. I really want more of the history behind the stories that I feel have missing pieces, but I will just have to wait.

The Starriest Summer is a great start to a new series, and appealed to me on several levels. I think gamers and fantasy fans alike will enjoy this book, and the series to follow. I know I did.

Book Review: Curse on the Land (Soulwood) by Faith Hunter

Curse on the Land is the second book in the Sourwood series by Faith Hunter. The fist book was Blood of the Earth, and I would highly recommend reading the series in order. Thankfully this is no hardship since the first book was very good. 

Before Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she had no one to rely on, finding strength only in in her arcane connection to the dark woods around her. But now she has friends in the newly-formed PsyLED team to keep her grounded, even if being part of the agency responsible for policing paranormals presents dangers of its own. After training at the PsyLED academy, Nell returns home to her woods to find the land feeling sick and restless. And that sickness is spreading. With the help of her team, under the leadership of agent Rick LaFleur, Nell tries to determine the cause. But nothing can prepare them for the evil that awaits: an entity that feeds on death itself. And it wants more.

Curse on the Land goes deeper into Nell's character, and the powers she holds. Nell is still dealing with the effects of growing up in a religious cult- but is self aware which makes her a much more practical character than some might be in her situation. The team has changed, and relationships and friendships become more complicated- although while there is flirting and thoughts there is no way this could be classified as a romance. The case, and the mystery surrounding the dangerous presence and deaths, are the focus of the book. The mystery is very well done, and the exploration of science and magic was interesting. I liked that the story never fell into the expected patterns, and even the solution was nothing I have read before. Nell's personal growth and understanding was just as important as the deadly mystery, and I found that combination kept me reading well past my bedtime. 

Curse on the Land is another great book by Hunter. If you like urban fantasy with complex, unique characters that does not get buried under romantic story-lines then Hunter is an author you should explore. 

Book Review: In Safe Hands (Search & Rescue) by Katie Ruggle

In Safe Hands is the fourth book in the Search & Rescue series by Katie Ruggle. The romance part of this story can stand well on its own, however to fully understand the larger story arc that rateches up the danger level this series does need to be read in order. The reading order is Hold Your Breath, Fan the Flames, and Gone Too Deep then In Safe Hands. I enjoyed all of them, so it is not a bad thing to binge read the series, right? There is also a prequel, On His Watch, a novella which I have not yet read.
Daisy Little has lived in agoraphobic terror for over eight years. Trapped within a prison of her own making, she watches time pass through her bedroom window. Daisy knows she'll never be a part of the world, until the day she becomes the sole witness of a terrible crime that may finally tear the Search and Rescue brotherhood apart for good. Chris, police deputy and friend, believes in her- but Daisy is starting to lose faith in herself. Picking up where Gone Too Deep ends, here we finally get all our answers.

In Safe Hands is a fast paced book that dropped so many answers to the questions fans of this series have had since the beginning. Daisy and Chris, and their ‘friendship’ are some serious icing on the cake. Daisy is agoraphobic after witnessing her mother’s death. Chris has been there supporting and teaching Daisy self defense all along. When Daisy sees something weird out her window she starts the ball rolling towards an action packed conclusion. All the couples we have met so far have their roles to play, and so do the shadowing figures we have had our suspicions about as we have made our way through this series. I think my favorite thing about Ruggle’s writing of Daisy (and most of the characters of this series) is the realistic and honest portrayal of her characters. No character is all good or bad, or main players have their faults, and the ones causing all the problems might be killers or arsonists, but they are not wholly evil. Mental illness, phobias, and traumas are things the characters have to deal with, but not what defines them. This is a rare and wonderful thing to find, and would make the books good reads even if the story, adventure, romance, and suspense were not all awesome as well. 

In Safe Hands is another quality book from Ruggle. I was glad to see how everything came to gather, but I will be sad to let go of these characters. Thankfully, a little bird tells me that a new series will start this summer, with Run to Ground

Book Review: Abigail the Whale by Davide Cali, Sonja Bougaeva

Abigail the Whale is a picturebook written by Davide Cali and illustrated by Sonja Bougaeva. Abigail dreads swimming lessons because every time she dives into the pool, she makes a big splash, and all the girls in her class shout: “Abigail’s a whale!” Abigail can see that she is larger than the other girls. She feels huge, heavy, and out of place. Abigail’s swimming teacher points out that we can change how we see ourselves. He shows her a way to feel bolder, more confident, and more accepting of herself. Abigail tries it out in challenging situations that week; walking home in the dark, eating her vegetables, trying to fall asleep. Next time she’s in swimming class, instead of feeling heavy, Abigail thinks sardine, eel, barracuda, shark! She starts to figure out how to draw on mindfulness, creative thinking, resilience, and positive self-esteem to embrace exactly who she is.
Abigail the Whale is a book that many of us can identify with. Abigail is a big girl, and hates the splash she makes when she jumps in the pool, and the way the kids tease her because of it. When her coach tells her that "We are what we think" she puts that idea to work everywhere she goes. I love that the illustrations show her imagination and changing perspectives about herself and the world around her. While positive and creative thinking cannot solve everything, it is a good, healthy way to start. i also like that she does not think herself thin when it comes time to dive again. instead she works with herself and thinks about being light and agile, like a rocket or shark. She does not get down on herself about her weight, nor does her coach, instead they work on tools to achieve what she wants to without worrying about other people, which is easier said than done. I liked that even when using her tools, and trying her best, Abigail was still nervous and worried, just like anyone would be in her place. 

 Abigail the Whale is a wonderful example of thinking and doing big things, without giving in to bullying and fear. Not only does it give a good example of creative thinking, it can also serve as a conversation or thought starter about self-confidence, bullying, empathy, and problem solving. A wonderful book to address this issues at home or in a classroom setting.

Book Review: Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving UnDead by Steve Bryant, Mark Stegbauer, Jason MIllet

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead is a collection of the four issues of the graphic novel series by Steve Bryant, Mark Stegbauer, and Jason Millet. Something stranger than usual haunts Full Moon Hollow, Paranormal Capital of the World. Adults either can t see it, can t remember it, or go crazy from it. So when a zombie outbreak threatens the town, only a group of misfit scouts can save it!

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead is a well drawn and colored graphic novel that combines the classic zombie survival adventure with coming of age and leads into a larger supernatural story that I hope to see more of in the future. The teenagers that have to defend themselves, and save the town, are a nice blend of personalities. All of the teens, both girls and boys, are smart and capable while still having plenty of vulnerabilities and insecurities. I like that there were some emotionally charged moments in the story, right along side the fight for survival and mystery solving to stop the crisis. The elements of the story balanced nicely, with nothing feeling like it was tossed in there to appease editors or publishers. More importantly, the story left me wanting more while still offering enough of a conclusion that it left me satisfied.

Ghoul Scouts: Night of the Unliving Undead is a fun romp through surviving a zombie invasion with a group of teenagers. the characters and the action were deeper than I expected and I plan on checking out what else Bryant has released. 

Book Review: Happy Pants by Heather Gallagher

Happy Pants by Heather Gallagher is a picturebook about a young boy who's mother is suffering from postpartum depression. The book begins with all the fun stuff he used to do with mom before she went to the hospital to have the baby.  She would wear her happy pants and they would build sandcastles, go out for babycinos and have lots and lots of cuddles. But when she comes home with baby Darcy, her happy pants stay in her wardrobe and she spends more of her time in bed. Will Mommy ever wear her happy pants again?

Happy Pants is an honest, and I think necessary, look at a problem that is too often swept under the rug or ignored. Postpartum depression can be a serious issue, or a more mild issue, that effects a number of mothers every year. Older children, spouses, and the mother in question might not even realize how serious it is, but being about to recognize and talk about it is important for everyone. I thought it was important to see that the mother did not just 'snap out of it' like many who have no understanding of the situation might expect. Instead she had the support of her family and received professional help.

Happy Pants is a good book for young readers and families to help understand the effects of postpartum depression, and some of its signs and symptoms. knowing that it is real, that it is nothing to be ashamed of, and that it can happy to any mother is very important. The addition information after the story is a valuable resource as well. I think the fact that the book is endorsed by the Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) and the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) is a powerful recommendation for the book. 

Book Review: Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon & Dean Hale, LeUyen Pham

Princess in Black Takes a Vacation is the fourth book in the Princess in Black series written by Shannon & Dean Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham. After battling monsters all night, a sleepy Princess in Black decides that she needs a vacation. After all, the Goat Avenger, a new hero who looks oddly familiar, has offered to protect the goats while she takes a much needed break. The very next day Princess Magnolia rides her bicycle to the seaside, where the air is salty, the sun is shiny, and the sea is as blue as monster fur. But just as Princess Magnolia is about to take a nap on her hammock, she hears a “ROAR!” Seriously? A monster? Could a sea monster really ruin this vacation for the Princess in Black? 

 Princess in Black Takes a Vacation is another great installment in this transitional chapter book series. The Princess in Black is a wonderful character that takes young readers on grand adventures, even when all she needs into relax and take a nap. I really like tat the Goat Avenger gets some adventure of his own while Princess Magnolia tried to rest- only to end up fighting yet another monster. I love the ending, which I will not spoil, and the colorful illustrations are a perfect pairing with the text. I think this series will continue to be a favorite for many young readers. I read it with my eight year old (we already own the previous books) and she reread it in the morning. I think this will be staying on my Kindle for quite awhile.

Book Review: Dangling by a Thread (Mainely Needlepointers) by Lea Wait

Dangling by a Thread by Lea Wait is the fourth book in the Mainely Needlepointers mystery series. I have not read the previous books, but feel like I was able to jump right in and fully enjoy the mystery. Hermit Jesse Lockhart lives alone on King's Island, three miles east of Haven Harbor, Maine, where he's created a private sanctuary for the endangered Great Cormorants. But when a wealthy family wants to buy the island and Jesse's cousin Simon petitions for power of attorney to force him to sell, Jesse is the one who becomes endangered. Mainely Needlepointer Dave Perry, who befriended Jesse in the VA hospital, rallies the group to his defense. Angie Curtis and the ravelers stitch “Save the King's Island Cormorants” pillows and sell T-shirts to pay for Jesse’s legal counsel. But tragically, on a visit to the island, Angie finds Jesse dead. Now the search is on for a common thread that can tie the murdered man to his killer.

Dangling by a Thread is a fast, exciting read with complex characters. Angie is still getting used to living alone since her grandmother has gotten married and moved out of the house they shared. She is also getting used to running the Mainely Needlepointers business that she has taken over. When she sees an odd stranger come to town she begins an adventure that will lead her to discover more about threatened birds and murder. Jesse, the stranger, is a veteran that has taken on the mission of protecting the Great Cormorant’s nesting ground on an island he owns with a cousin. The fact that it allows him the isolation he craves is a bonus. When the purchase of the island is proposed it begins a spiral of stress, uncertainty, and eventually murder. I like that the mystery is more involved than it seems, and that while there are hints and clues through out the story I was not positive that I was right in who was involved until the very end, and that the last couple twists were slightly different than I expected. This is a fun weekend read tat kept me interested and entertained. 

Dangling by a Thread is a solid cozy mystery that hints at past and future romance but never loses focus on the mystery and character connections. I liked the characters and the well constructed mystery. I just might pick up the earlier books in the series just to see how Angie came to be who and where she is.

Book Review: Pirates in the Library by Nadia Ali, Jake Tebbits

Pirates in the Library is a picture book written by by Nadia Ali, and illustrated by Jake Tebbits. Prepare to set sail for the adventure of a lifetime with fierce Captain Jake when he discovers a treasure map that leads him, his crew (and a parrot, too), right to the library. Ms. Benitez, the librarian, welcomes them, as long as they behave! The pirates’ search is on! Soon they discover, with the aid of Dread Pirate Dewey’s map, treasures galore on the shelves. Now the dilemma: Can they keep these treasures? Ms. Benitez has the answer.

Pirates in the Library is a fun adventure that starts with pirates searching for treasure, but includes the rules and organization of most public and school libraries. Ms. Benitez is rather like most librarian that i know, wanting to encourage people to come and use the library, and to feel comfortable there. we want people to be able to find and use our resources- otherwise why have them? I like that the treasure is the contents of the library- and that even pirates used to plundering agree to return the materials they take in order to have access to even more treasures. I also like that the book includes a guide to the Dewey Decimal System. The chart would be helpful for many that want to browse the non fiction collection of any library using the system. A valuable and inviting learning tool for parents, teachers, and librarians. 

Book Review: For the Bear's Eyes Only (Grizzlies Gone Wild) by Kathy Lyons

For the Bear's Eyes Only is the third book in the Grizzlies Gone Wild series by Kathy Lyons. While it would be helpful to have read one or both of the previous books, I do not think it necessary to enjoy this read. Those that know the series will certainly get more out of it because of the larger story arc, but newcomers will not be left completely out in the cold. The first book was The Bear Who Loved Me, and the second book was License to Shift (which I somehow missed reading).

Life as Alan Carman knew it is over. After he was captured and tortured by a mysterious enemy, the lawyer's latent grizzly-shifter DNA was triggered. The old Alan is gone, and in his place is a terrifying vicious beast that lives and breathes for revenge. He will track down the person who did this to him-and it'll be the last thing he ever does. Tonya Kappes refuses to let Alan run headlong to his death. A bear-shifting deputy-and the Gladwin Clan's beta-Tonya faces Alan with one weapon: the love that's lingered between them since they were kids. But the idealistic man she knew has changed into something raw, primal, and unbelievably sexy. And, if Alan can't learn to love the beast inside himself, maybe he can love the animal in her.

For the Bear's Eyes Only is a good installment of the series, an I was eager to see how Alan and Tonya come together. Alan has been altered, and he is now a shifter, but not the bear he always wanted to be. He is a monster, and is willing to kill to prevent the woman that made him this way from hurting anyone else. Then comes Tonya, the woman he has always loved but could never have, trying to bring him home and convince him he is not the monster he fears. Together they search for the person behind the experiments and in the process find themselves. Alan needs to come to terms with his new life, and learn not to hate himself while Tonya needs to come to terms with her emotions and the pain Alan is going through. I love that despite the wild nature they now share, the pair actually talk things out and deal with their problems rather than jumping into bed and forgetting about them- though there is plenty of that too. They actually work on the emotional aspect of their issues, both shared and individual. This always earns respect from me for the author.

For the Bear's Eyes Only is a good read, but not one that wowed me. It is a must read for fans of the author or series, but those that are not invested in the story might not enjoy it as much as the rest of us.