Book Review: Heart Stop (First Responders) by Radclyffe

Heart Stop is the sixth book in the First Responders series by Radclyffe. I have not read any of the other books in the series. While there is a complete story here, and it could be read as a stand alone, I think those that have been following the series will enjoy it much more than newcomers to the series.

Jay (Flash) Reynolds has a brilliant future as a trauma surgeon until an eighteen-wheeler on a rainy night changes her life. Newly appointed chief medical examiner Olivia Price is more at ease with the dead than the living—at least the dead never lie. All she needs to do is listen to their stories. What she doesn't need is a surly new resident who would rather be somewhere else. Two women, one with a damaged body, the other a damaged spirit, challenge each other to dare to live again.

Heart Stop is a story that left me of two minds. I liked the characters, and their banter. I think that they both have huge stories to tell and the bits we get about there past are like teasers, I know there is more to tell, especially with Olivia. I liked the drama of the story going on in the background, but felt like there is much more going on than I understand because I have not read the previous books and found myself confused about who everyone was and how they interconnect. I did enjoy the romance, to a certain point, but then it felt more like they just decided they were in love and no more needed to be said. I think maybe that the resolution for their relationship just felt a little too pat. I think more of them talking and working on their issues and less of the background story in the city would have made me happier. 

Heart Stop is a good story, and I liked the characters. I think those that have read the related books would get much more out of everything that was going on, but since I did not have the background on the larger story arch and who everyone was I felt a little lost. 

Book Review: Stolen Words by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Stolen Words is a children's book written by Melanie Florence, and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. It tells the story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the inter generational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.
Stolen Words is a beautifully illustrated picturebook that points out something from our history that is often forgotten, and shows that some things can be done. We forget that while the Native Americans, and pretty much every indigenous culture around the world, has had more than just land and lives stolen from them. They were striped of language and culture and forced to adopt the language and in many cases religion and/or culture of those pushing them out or putting them in captivity.   It is gently put, in deference to the target audience, but I think the adults sharing this with young readers will be reminded of all that these cultures have lost. I love that the granddaughter, with the help of another trusted adult, made an effort to do what she could to return the stolen words to her grandfather. I only wish that more resources were available to those seeking to regain lost parts of their heritage, and that they were as easy to find as in this book. Some languages are lost completely, or are remembered by only a few and not recorded in any way. Perhaps this book will inspire young people to learn their own culture, and inspire elders or older members of the family to rediscover it as well. I would have loved to see some resources listed at the end of the book to help those seeking to reclaim the language or culture of their ancestors. 

Book Review: SEAL Wolf Undercover (SEAL Wolf) by Terry Spear

SEAL Wolf Undercover is the fifth book in the SEAL Wolf series by Terry Spear is the 22nd book in the Heart of the Wolf series. Even though I have read most, if not all, of this series I still felt a it like I was missing something when I started this book. While parts of the story stand up fine on its own, there are a lot of important bits that only those that have been following the series will fully enjoy. However, even for us, after twenty something books even some of us have forgotten things that were important.

Special wolf agent Jillian Matthews has joined the jaguar-run United Shifter Force to track down a deadly criminal. She’s even willing to work with PI Vaughn Greystroke—until the hot, growly SEAL wolf makes the mistake of getting in her way. Naturally, she shoots him. Who could blame her? Vaughn Greystroke has always worked alone. But when a string of attempted murders puts him in the crosshairs, teaming up with the Shifter Force begins to sound like a good idea. Even if he has to work with alluring—and potentially treacherous—Jillian Matthews. Vaughn is a trained SEAL, after all. He can surely keep his distance from matter how much she’s getting under his skin.

SEAL Wolf Undercover is a romance with lots of action, plenty of detective work and mingling of characters from different storylines, not all of which I remember or felt like I needed. I liked that Jillian is independent and capable, but I do not feel like her or Vaughn were completely fleshed out. There are the trust issue, which was fine, and the shifter instant mate connection thing, which was not unexpected. However, I think there was very little focus on the couple, it was more about the twisted plot that resulted in people getting shot or otherwise injured. I do like that Jillian and Vaughn were both investigators, so they withheld judgement and trust for a good while, but there was very little working things out together, it all just fell together too easily for me. However, I think this might just be my personal burn out due to the number of books I have read from the author, and my apparent inability to stop reading them even when I know I need to take a break. 

SEAL Wolf Undercover is exactly what one expects from this series, however I think I need a break from it, after I finish the one related book I still have in my queue. It is good, but starting to feel too complicated to keep all the interwoven stories straight, and too little about the couple the book is about. 

Book Review: Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes is a children's chapter book all about Beatrice, who does her best thinking upsidedown. Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands, what ever. For Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned! Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up?

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is a fun and relatable book for readers that think differently than those around her. I love that Beatrice is herself, even when she knows that it makes her different. While she does try to curb her impulses to fit the rules of teachers and family, she is still very much her own person. Adding the idea of friends changing and growing, and that we can like more than one kind of play or friendship is important. Kids change so much from year to year, and making it clear that it is normal and okay to change and alright to keep on being the same if that is what is right for you, is extremely important. The story is funny, sweet, and will speak to many children and adults that have never quite fit in the box that others have built for them.

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is a wonderful children's book that will be a great conversation starter about how people and friendships can change, and how being yourself is always the answer- although accepting others for who they are and become is equally important. I think this would be a great addition to school libraries, and I am putting it on my own wish list for my school.

Early Book Review: A Murder for the Books (Blue Ridge Library Mysteries) by Victoria Gilbert

A Murder for the Books is the first book in the Blue Ridge Library Mysteries series by Victoria Gilbert. It is currently scheduled for release on December 12 2017. Fleeing a disastrous love affair, university librarian Amy Webber moves in with her aunt in a quiet, historic mountain town in Virginia. She quickly busies herself with managing a charming public library that requires all her attention with its severe lack of funds and overabundance of eccentric patrons. The last thing she needs is a new, available neighbor whose charm lures her into trouble. Dancer-turned-teacher and choreographer Richard Muir inherited the farmhouse next door from his great-uncle, Paul Dassin. But town folklore claims the house’s original owner was poisoned by his wife, who was an outsider. It quickly became water under the bridge, until she vanished after her sensational 1925 murder trial. Determined to clear the name of the woman his great-uncle loved, Richard implores Amy to help him investigate the case. Amy is skeptical until their research raises questions about the culpability of the town’s leading families, including her own. When inexplicable murders plunge the quiet town into chaos, Amy and Richard must crack open the books to reveal a cruel conspiracy and lay a turbulent past to rest.

A Murder for the Books is a mystery that both made me happy and frustrated me. As a librarian I was thrilled with the detailed view that was offered of Amy's librarian skills, and path to the career. Her commentary on search skills and research was on point; as was her facing down budget issues, patron issues, and condescending stereotypes. I was not thrilled with the comment "librarians are in demand" because I know far too many great librarians in several fields that have been searching for years for a full time library job- including those willing to move anywhere and are currently juggling multiple part time jobs just to make ends meet.  It happen early in the book, and colored my read for a bit, but thankfully the writing style and story overcame that after a bit.

With that being said, I liked Amy for the most part. She is smart and independent, however her insecurity and body issues irked me. My biggest issue with her was her concern with how others viewed her, but I did like that for the most part she dressed how she wanted rather than always heeding those opinions. I think Richard was a good character, but I found him to be a bit too perfect. I enjoyed Amy's aunt and the quirkier residents of the town to be much more entertaining and interesting. To be perfectly honest, I will admit to expecting a bigger betrayal or twist, but did not see the full extent of the conclusion coming at all. There were just so many twists, and I liked that just when readers think everything is settled more pops up to take it to another level. I think at some point it might have gotten too complicated, but it kept me on my toes and turning pages well past my bedtime.

A Murder for the Books is a great start to a series, although I wonder who might be dead in subsequent books. I liked the characters, and the layers to the mystery, and solution. I think it might have gotten a little too twisty and complicated for readers looking for a more cozy read. 

Book Review: Chirp by Dolores Castello

Chirp is a picturebook by Dolores Castello. When a little chick leaves the flock, he stumbles on to an adventure that will change him forever. This charming picture book from Dolores Costello is a cute read for little explorers.
Chirp is a cute little picturebook that follow the adventures of a chick named Chirp. He wonders and explores the world, and gets himself in and out of trouble. His stumbling around things that might have cause harm, but quickly avoided disaster. The illustrations are simple and charming, but add a nice amount of humor and emotion to the story. I loved the interaction between Chirp and his family toward the end of the story, and how the simplicity of the story makes it solid. However, while it is a charming picturebook that made me smile, and I think many readers will enjoy, I just do not think it was anything astounding. 

Book Review: Snuggle and Play Crochet: 40 Amigurumi Patterns for Lovey Security Blankets and Matching Toys by Carolina Guzman Benitez

Snuggle and Play Crochet: 40 Amigurumi Patterns for Lovey Security Blankets and Matching Toys by Carolina Guzman Benitez is a nice collect of crochet projects. Snuggle up with a crochet comforter or play with a colourful character--this unique collection of 40 amigurumi patterns are simple to stitch and super cute! Featuring crochet toy patterns including boy and girl dolls, dogs and cats, bears and bunnies and many more, this amazing collection will give you over 40 different crochet toys to create.

Snuggle and Play Crochet: 40 Amigurumi Patterns for Lovey Security Blankets and Matching Toys is full of cute projects that have me itching to try them, but knowing that amigurumi is just not my thing. I mainly crochet while reading or watching television, so projects that require that much attention and detail are ones I tend to bypass. However, this huge collection just might get me to working making a small menagerie. I know I will be making one or more of the loveys in my near future.  There was a good amount of instruction and explanation for those that need it, and that he patterns and charts were accurate and clearly written. 

While there are many toy and blanket patterns out there, and in my collection to be honest, I liked this particular selection and the sheer number of options that this collection can take crocheters. I thought the zebra, rhino, and bunny were particularly nice, and know that I will be making the cat (possibly the hippo, fox, and frog) lovey in short order. I really loved all the little details included, the clothes and accessories for the toys. I only wish I had this book when my animal loving daughter was younger, and less likely to pay attention to what I am working on. The only thing I did not like about the patterns, is something I can easily customize on my own finished projects- the angle of the eyebrows. I thought all of the animals and people looked very concerned, and I would change that. 

Book Review: Animals at Night by Anne Jankeliowitch, Delphine Chedru, Eve Bodeux

Animals at Night is a children's book written by Anne Jankeliowitch, illustrated by Delphine Chedru, and translated by Eve Bodeux. What do animals do at night?  For humans, the setting sun marks the end of the day and signals to us that it's time to go to sleep. But while people are quietly dreaming in their beds, there's a whole world of animals that's just waking up! Who are they, what do they do until morning, and how do they move, see, and hunt in the dark? The book features glow-in-the-dark content on all 32 pages.
Animals at Night is a nice non fiction book with details about what different animals do at night. While the glow in the dark gimmick is a fun draw, and will capture the attention of young readers, since I had a digital copy I was unable to enjoy the glow in the dark feature. However, I can picture late night reading by flashlight to take full advantage of the feature and enjoying it greatly. The information offered is well worded and organized. The animals were sorted by ecosystem, and offered a wide variety of creatures. I learned a few new things, and enjoyed the journey. I think it will capture the interest and curiosity of young readers. I liked the overall package, and think it will appeal to many both for the information and the glow in the dark feature. 

Book Review: The Troublemaker Next Door (McCauley Brothers) by Marie Harte

The Troublemaker Next Door is the first book in the McCauley Brothers series by Marie Harte. Flynn McCauley never thought he’d be so cliché as to fall for the girl next door. But when Maddie calls him over to help fix her faulty sink, he’s a goner. Too bad the fiercely independent interior designer wants nothing to do with him. Even worse, he’s forced to rely on the advice of his nosy brothers—and his five-year-old nephew!—to figure out how to make her give him a shot.

The Troublemaker Next Door is a nice way to visit the world I have come to love from Harte, and see where it all started. Maddie has always had to work hard for everything, which makes her stubborn and fiercely independent- even when she should ask for support. Flynn meets Maddie on her worst day, and is immediately enthralled by her spirit and temper. I like that they are both honest about what they do and do not want from each other, and then have to struggle with themselves about the true of their words. I really loved that while Flynn is very much a take charge guy, he gives Maddie respect and space. His patience and thoughtfulness really makes him a great character, and one that will leave many readers swooning. The juxtaposition between the sweetness of his character and the not so sweet talk and commanding nature they both exhibit in the bedroom makes it all more attention grabbing. I loved the banter between the characters, and the set up for the bevy of books that follow it. Even knowing how some of the pairings turn up, I will be reading all the books I missed along the way. 

The Troublemaker Next Door is a book I picked up because I enjoyed the later works of the author so much. This has the same writing style and feel, but I can see how much she has already grown and evolved as a writer. I will continue reading her books new and old, because of her skill with characters.  

Book Review: Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear

Yak and Dove, written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Esme Shapiro, is a picturebook with three interconnected stories about two very different friends. Yak and Dove are complete opposites. Yak is large and Dove is small. Yak has fur and Dove has feathers. Yak is polite. Dove is ill-mannered. Yak likes quiet. Dove likes noise. One day as Yak and Dove list their differences they come to the conclusion that maybe they aren't meant to be friends. In the hope of finding a new best friend, Yak holds auditions. But when a small feathered contestant sings Yak's favorite song, the two begin to think that maybe they are alike after all.
Yak and Dove is a fun read. The three interconnected stories center around the friendship of the very different individuals. They are very different, and that does not always make friendship easy. However, I like that the stories came together to show how they compliment each other and are good friends because of those differences rather than in spite of them. I liked the whimsical nature of some of the story, it contrasted nicely with the real issues of friendship and working through problems with our friends rather than giving up and walking away, or making friendship conditional.