Early Book Review: Rowdy: The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep by Darcy Pattison

The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep is a picture book written by Darcy Pattison and illustrated by Ewa O'Neill. It is currently scheduled for release on June 1 2016. Captain Whitney Black McKee is a rowdy pirate! After traveling the seven seas and fighting sea monsters, it’s time to come back to home port for a rest. But the Captain’s sleep has gone all awry. What’s a rowdy captain to do? She sends her crew out to steal a simple lullaby. But the rowdy heart doesn’t always know what it wants or needs. She won’t find rest, until her own dear Pappy arrives.

The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep is a rhyming picturebook about a pirate desperate for sleep. She sets her crew out to steal a lullaby, but how do you steal something so deceptively simple? A reward has the crew trying their best, but it is not until the cabin boy finds a particular buccaneer (Captain McKee's father) that the needed lullaby is found. I liked the artwork, we reminded me a little of Eric Carl's because of the color work. I also liked that the final answer was finding the captain's father, or pappy, to sing a loved lullaby. The family aspect and sentimentality was a nice touch. I did find some of the rhymes to be a little stilted or forced, so the text did not always flow as nicely as i hoped. Still a nice read for dads, granddads, and other male role models and young children.

The Pirate Who Could Not Sleep is a nice read, particularly for guys and the children in their lives. a good pick for bedtimes and quiet times. 

Book Review: Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtiff

Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood by Liesl Shurtiff is a new middle grade to young adult novel. Red is not afraid of the big bad wolf. She’s not afraid of anything, except magic. When Red’s granny falls ill it seems that only magic can save her and Red is forced to confront her one weakness. With the help of a blond, porridge-sampling nuisance called Goldie, Red goes on a quest to cure Granny. Her journey takes her through dwarves’ caverns to a haunted well and a beast’s castle. All the while, Red and Goldie are followed by a wolf and a huntsman, two mortal enemies who seek the girls’ help to defeat each other. And one of them just might have the magical solution Red is looking for.

Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood is a delightful take on the world of fairy tales. red is an adventurous young lady that loves her grandmother deeply and only really fears her own disastrous attempts at magic. It is only when her grandmother is ill that Red considers attempting magic again, and so sets forth on an adventure to do whatever necessary to save her grandmother. I like that Red is a character that is very capable, but also has her own flaws and fallibilities. She is no cookie cutter characters, nor are any of the other characters that she runs across on her journey. Goldie is a unique character that would have tried mt patience as much as she did Red's. The high adventure and twists to well known stories kept my interest high, as did the unusual characters and knowledge that nothing was going to fit preconceived notions. The self sufficiency of the characters and the running theme that nothing is quite what it seems, or what you expect it to be, made the read exciting and fun.

Red: the True Story of Red Riding Hood is a wonderful middle grade novel that will also appeal to older readers. I now need to go back and read Rump (which was already on my to be read list) and keep my eyes peeled for more from this author. 

Early Book Review: Fan the Flames (Search and Rescue #2) by Katie Ruggle

Fan the Flames is the second book in the Search and Rescue series by Katie Ruggle and is currently scheduled for release on May 3 2016. The first book in the series was Hold Your Breath, and while reading the books in order will give readers a better understanding of the town's dynamics and larger story arc, I think most readers would be able to enjoy each book on its own as well.

In the remote Rocky Mountains lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder. As a Motorcycle Club member and firefighter, Ian Walsh is used to riding the line between the good guys and the bad. He may owe the Club his life, but his heart rests with his fire station brothers, and with the girl he's loved since they were kids, loner Rory Sorenson. Ian would do anything for Rory. He would defend her to his last breath, and he may just have to. Everyone in the Rockies knows Rory is the go-to girl for less-than-legal firearms, and for the past few years, she's managed to keep the peace between dangerous factions by remaining strictly neutral. But when she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a Motorcycle Club war-with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.

Fan the Flames has all the good of the previous book in the series. Rory and Ian are both uniquely flawed characters that have their own battles top fight. I enjoyed learning about these very different characters and how they worked together and communicated even when they felt like running away. The danger and suspense areas of this book are very well done, and had me holding my breath on a few occasions. I think the combination of character and story building was done in a way that engaged me with the story more than I expected. The emotional vulnerability of both Rory and Ian was endearing, particularly when set against how independent and strong they were. The build up of a larger story arc continued through this book, and left me wanting more even though there was a satisfying conclusion of the particular problems our main characters faced.

Fan the Flames is a good follow up to Hold Your Breath. Readers that enjoy complex characters and storylines in their romance will likely enjoy this series. I am looking forward to reading more with Gone Too Deep which is scheduled for release in August 2016. 

Early Book Review: Max & Charlie by Zack Lieberman & Louis Neubert

Max & Charlie is a children's graphic novel by Zack Lieberman & Louis Neubert. It is currently scheduled for release on May 5 2016.  In this romp through New York City readers follow our reluctant but imaginative young hero (Charlie!) as he chases his silly beagle pup (Max!) through a beautiful dreamed day in the city. But there's something a little strange about this place.

Max & Charlie is quite the adventure. It begins with Charlie deep in his imagination and only reluctantly taking Max out o play in the park. When Charlie's imagination takes over again max takes off and the chase begins. What really makes the book so unusual is that readers never really know how real what they are seeing on the page is. Is Charlie's original play sequence the truth, or is the 'normal' boy and dog that we expect the reality. As the pair race through the city readers see hints of both worlds, via Charlie's eyes. Characters often seem odd or alien, but readers are left to wonder if that is because of Charlie's view of the world or something else entirely. In any case the artwork is consistently stunning, and tells most of the story. Even if you do not care for the open ended or creative type of story contained on the pages, it is worth flipping through the book for the artwork alone.

Max & Charlie is a unique graphic novel that will greatly appeal to some, and the artwork will appeal to most. I do think that some readers might find themselves lost or confused, particularly if they do not like stories that are more existential or open to a variety of interpretations. 

Book Review: Vegas Love by Jillian Dodd

Vegas Love is a contemporary romance by Jillian Dodd. Hollywood actress, Ashlyn Roberts, just had the worst week of her life. Her ex released a sex tape of them and just when she was convinced her current boyfriend was a keeper for standing by her side, he breaks up with her at her friend’s wedding. She is planning to drown her sorrows in booze when she meets a sexy stranger as she’s leaving the wedding and they end up in Vegas, married. Cash Crawford is offered a dream job working with his brother as a junior talent agent. He’ll put his shiny new law degree to good use and make a bunch of money in the process. His first task is simple; keep Ashlyn Roberts out of trouble and don’t sleep with her. Which might be kind of tough, since they definitely consummated their Vegas wedding. Will this one night stand end in the quickie divorce they promised each other? Or will they realize they got lucky in love?
Vegas Love is a fast and fun romance. Ashley is a sweet and talented actress that has been through hell, but still trusts in people too much. Cash comes from a successful family and has come home to work with his brother. When they met, drink, and jet off to Vegas neither really knew what was going to happen next. Passion, a quickie wedding, and more passion have them both on edge. cash is pretty sure he is ready for more, Ashlyn is still trying to get her life back on track and figure out who she can trust. I like that both characters are emotional complex, and that they take to the time to actual talk to each other, at least most of the time. I like that at least the emotional and business portion of the story is realistic, since the sheer wealth and ability to no care about it, is pure fantasy in my world. I found the book to be a fun read for a weekend's escape from reality.

Vegas Love is a great read for pool, beach side, or any other escape. I read my copy on a snowy April week trying to pretend that spring did not include snow this year. It was a nice escape and kept my attention. not my typical read, but a good one. 

Book Review: A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting by Michelle Robinson, David Roberts

A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting is a picturebook written by Michelle Robinson and illustrated by David Roberts. A young aspiring bear spotter ventures into bear country. However, coming face-to-face with the furry creatures themselves, whether black or brown, can be dangerous, and our protagonist (accompanied by a trusty teddy bear) might need to use some unconventional means to stay out of trouble and avoid becoming lunch.
A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting is a fun picturebook about a young exploring searching for, and finding, bears in the woods. The narrator offers information, and some not so helpful hints, about black, brown, and even stuffed blue bears. I like that the boy uses his wits and good nature to get his way out of his own predicament. However, my honest to goodness favorite part of the book are the illustrations by David Roberts. The humor, coloring, and detail are just about perfect and add so much to the story. The combination of real bear facts, silly humor, and fantastic illustrations come together to make this a simply wonderful read.

A Beginners Guide to Bear Spotting is a great read aloud picturebook. The illustrations and humor will make it a hit with a group or for sharing one on one.

Book Spotlight with Excerpt: Scorpio's Kiss by M.C. Domovitch

Scorpio's Kiss by M.C. Domovitch
Published on January 29th 2016
Genres: Romance, Women's Fiction

Scorpio's Kiss is set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio's Kiss takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1970s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes. There is Alex Ivanov, the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves. Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser. M C Domovitch's debut novels are compelling tales filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio's Kiss promises to resonate with all who once had a dream.

(This was originally published as Scorpio Rising and The Sting of the Scorpio.)



Monique was born in the small town of Hearst Ontario, the oldest of ten children. “You can’t imagine the pressure,” she says,laughing. “Anything I did wrong—and I did plenty—was sure to lead my siblings into a life of sin. I therefore accept the blame for any wrongdoings by all member of my family.”
When she was twenty years old she moved to Montreal, where she became a successful model, winning the prestigious Modeling Association of American Contest and continuing on to an international career. During this time, she worked with many top photographers and graced many designer runways. “Modeling was a wonderful career,” she says. “I met so many interesting and talented people. I travelled all over the world. After ten years of facing cameras and audiences, I became very comfortable with the public. I had no idea at the time, just how much this ability would serve me later in life.”
When Monique retired from modeling, she founded Beauties Modeling Agency in Montreal. Through her tutelage, many Canadian models gained international renown. “I wanted to accept my age rather than try desperately to look young for an unforgiving camera. That was the main reason I retired from modeling when I was still young.”
Later, she became a financial adviser and planner, and soon found herself hosting her own national television show about personal finance. After four years on the air, the series ended and Monique soon retired from her financial career, remarried and embarked on her new career in writing. Her success was almost instant. She was singed on by an agent within months of finishing her first novel and soon signed two contracts for a total of six books. She is now hard at work on her ninth, due out in winter of 2015.

Follow the entire Scorpio's Kiss tour here
Brought to you by Worldwind VBT


 The days were getting shorter. The boy looked up in surprise at the sky, which had suddenly grown dark. He pulled his worn sweater tight against the October chill, blew warm breath into his cupped hands and hurried on. The newspaper bag strung across his shoulders was almost empty. He no longer had to put it down at every street corner to massage his sore back. He was almost home.
Alexander Ivanov lived at the end of the world. To the twelve-year-old, that was exactly what Brooklyn was; the end of the world. Maybe because the one time he had been to the city, what he called Manhattan, it had taken forever on the subway.
Alex hated living in Brooklyn, and never more so than when his mother talked about her youth in Leningrad with tears running down her face. She would revert to Russian, which he didn’t understand, but the passion in her eyes spoke more volubly of the beauty of her old country than words could convey.

Every day on his way back from school, weighed down by the load of newspapers, he passed the same dusty old stores, their signs barely legible from the peeling paint; the same ratty tenement buildings in which people suffocated in the summer and shivered in the winter; the same old women in their ritual wigs and shapeless dresses, vacant and blank expressions of hopelessness etched on their faces. Hopeless, that was how he sometimes felt; and then he would remember Manhattan and feel better. If there was one thing Alex wished for, it was to live in Manhattan. He yearned for Manhattan the way his mother pined for her old country.
Alex walked along Main Street, where pickles marinated in barrels, salamis swung from hooks, and sausages dried in their cotton bags. He was oblivious to the sights and smells around him. One by one, he took the papers from his bag, and with a quick, experienced motion, he threw them. His aim was almost perfect.
Tomorrow was collection day. He would stop at each house along his route and wait while his clients went to get their money. After making change, he would thank each one of them politely even though most never bothered to leave him a tip. His work would take him more than twice as long as on normal delivery days. Still, he looked forward to it. Collection day was when he could go home, count out his profits and decide how much of the money he could save. This week, if all went well, he might reach the fifty-dollar mark in his bank account. Fifty dollars! It was a fortune.
He reached into his bag, pulled out the last newspaper and aimed it with unerring precision at the Kodesky’s front porch. At that moment the door swung open and old man Kodesky stepped out. The paper flew through the air like a projectile and landed with a thud in the startled man’s well-padded stomach.
“Hey, you no-good little piece of shit!” He waved his fist. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Alex did not hear a word. He was a million miles away, dreaming of the day he would escape the hell of living at the end of the world.
Even now, two years later, he could still remember every detail of his trip to Manhattan. After a long subway ride, he’d emerged in the city surrounded by skyscrapers so tall, he could only see the top by looking up high and leaning back. People on the street rushed about in the lightly falling snow, pushing and jostling each other, their arms full of brightly wrapped packages. It was one week before Christmas and there was a dizzying feeling of joy in the air. Alex had been almost drunk from the excitement. This must be what Leningrad was like.
Deep in his dreams of unlimited delights, he walked home. Three blocks later, Alex climbed the stairs to the dingy one-bedroom apartment where he and his mother lived.
Before he was born, his mother had tried to make the apartment look warm and inviting. She hung pretty paper on the walls and crisp curtains over the windows. The furniture was inexpensive but attractive and functional. Whatever nesting instinct had once inspired Marlena Ivanov’s efforts had long disappeared. For the past twelve years she had done nothing more to improve her home. Indeed, she had not done even the most basic of repairs. Over time, the wallpaper had become worn and faded. The curtains lost their freshness and the once attractive furniture became old and shabby. The sour stench of poverty clung to the apartment like old dirt.
Alex closed the door behind him and dropped his canvas bag on the floor. He sniffed the air and wrinkled his nose. From the kitchen came the smell of boiled cabbage.
“Is dat you Alexander? Vere ver you? Is nearly six o’clock and dinner is been ready for hour,” his mother’s heavily accented voice called out from the bathroom. “I getting ready to go out. You vill ave to eat alone.”
Through the thin door came the sound of the toilet flushing. A moment later Marlena appeared wearing a tight pink sweater set and a black satin skirt. Her dark hair was freshly coifed, the marks of the bobby pins still imprinted between each wave. Her mouth was painted crimson in the shape Joan Crawford had made popular a decade earlier. From ten feet away the smell of vodka on her breath was overpowering.
“Will you be coming home by yourself?” asked the boy suspiciously.
“Vat you vant me to do?” She picked up her purse abruptly and threw in her lipstick. “You vant to eat. I not do dis for me. A boy need food to grow big, strong. Someday you understand.” A moment later, she was gone.
Marlena Ivanov was a bitter woman. She made no secret of the fact that raising a boy by herself was a heavy cross to carry, one she deeply resented. Alex sometimes thought his mother hated him almost as much as she did his father. He had never seen his father. He knew, only because his mother repeatedly told him, that Pavel Ivanov had been a gambler and a womanizer. Whatever wages the man had earned, he just as quickly spent on those two vices. The day Alex was born was the day Pavel Ivanov decided that married life was not for him. He disappeared, leaving his seventeen-year-old wife to deal with the struggles of working and raising a son by herself.
After a dinner of cabbage soup, Alex turned off the lights and climbed under his blankets. In the dark, he could clearly see his mother’s empty bed a few feet from his own. He turned his back to it and curled up.
Hours later, the muffled sound of laughter woke him up. The bedroom door swung open and the light turned on.
“Turn dat off. You vake up boy,” his mother ordered in a shrill whisper. The light flicked off. “Das better. I like dark.” She laughed. “Now, come to Marlena.” Clothes rustled. From his cot, in the corner of the room, Alex guessed every gesture, every movement. Old springs creaked. The sounds were loud, magnified by the stillness of the night.

Alex covered his ears. By trying hard, maybe he could keep the noises from reaching him. It was too late. The guilty stirring in his loins had already begun. His mind swirled in a mix of emotions too strong for him to understand. Maybe if he thought of something else. Someday I’ll drive in from the city in a brand new Cadillac. I’ll show them all…
The next morning, Marlena kissed the man goodbye and turned triumphantly to Alex. “See dis?” She pulled out a ten-dollar bill from between her breasts. “Dis can buy food for whole week.”
Alex looked away, embarrassed and ashamed, and returned to the picture he was drawing on the back of his spelling book.