Book Review: Little Professor and his Robot Factory by Marianne Parry

Little Professor and his Robot Factory by Marianne Parry is a children's book including three stories following the adventures of three of Little Professor’s robots and their little helper friend Scooper Man. The stories are; Magnet Man: Soon after being created, Magnet Man decided to explore the world outside the factory, but his magnetic properties soon find him attracting a metal sign, a gate, a drainpipe and a car. These give him the appearance of a fearsome monster, which sends the local people scuttling inside their homes. Then there is Electric Man: Magnet Man’s friend, Electric Man can do sums very quickly and is soon put to use in the local school, helping a class teacher. He uses funny voices to make the lessons fun, but when the teacher is away, the children misbehave and he has to teach them a different sort of lesson. And finally Light Man: The third of the best friends, Light Man envies their adventures out of the factory but is soon to have one of his own. When that comes to an end, he involves all three plus Scooper Man in a street party with the now delighted local people.

Little Professor and his Robot Factory was a struggle for me. While I love all things science, silly, and robotic I just could not get into this book. While there were some fun aspects and some educational aspects neither really grabbed me. I wanted to love it- I expected to love it. However, I picked it up four or five times and never really felt engaged with the story. I think the ratio of text to pictures was off for the beginning reader target audience, either that or the scientific information and themes were geared too young for the readers that would be more comfortable with the amount of text. I want more science, more pictures, and much more fun to make this a better read. 

Book Review: Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies (Rebirth) by Greg Rucka; Liam Sharp

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies (Rebirth) is written Greg Rucka, with artwork by Liam Sharp,  Paulo Siqueira, and Matthew Clark. After suffering an unimaginable loss, Diana must rebuild her mission as Earth's ultimate protector and champion. However, in the midst of her grief, her Lasso of Truth stopped working! Start down the rabbit hole as dark secrets from Wonder Woman's past unravel her present!

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies takes Diana and readers on a journey of discovery. The various origin stories and timelines of Wonder Woman are explored as she tries to figure out what is real and what is not. I will admit that I have not read or follow Wonder Woman over the years, so I know the basics of the original origin story, but I was not aware of all the variations that had been used. I liked seeing some of the things I did know crop up, and characters I know from one place or another play their part. The art work was extremely well done, with details and lines that really made the read worth it. As a whole I found it well done and entertaining, but with my lack of knowledge of the universe here I am not sure that I will stick with it.  

Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies (Rebirth) offers a fresh look at Wonder Woman, and offers just what the title promises, a rebirth for our heroine. Well worth the read for fans, but readers like me without background knowledge might not enjoy it as much. 

Book Review: Lady Mechanika (Volume 1) by Joe Benitez

Lady Mechanika (Volume 1) by Joe Benitez is a graphic novel that collects the entire first Lady Mechanika mini-series The Mystery of the Mechanical Corpse (originally published as Lady Mechanika #1-5), including its prequel chapter The Demon of Satan’s Alley (originally published as Lady Mechanika #0), plus a complete cover art gallery.

In a Victorian world filled with flying dirigibles, clockwork automatons, and elegantly fashionable attire, a young woman with mechanical limbs and no memory of how she got them searches desperately for the secrets to her past. The tabloids dubbed her "Lady Mechanika," the sole survivor of a mad scientist's horrific experiments which left her with mechanical limbs. Having no memory of her captivity or her former life, Lady Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as an adventurer and private investigator, using her unique abilities to solve cases the proper authorities couldn't or wouldn't handle. This book chronicles a young woman's obsessive search for her identity as she investigates other mysteries involving science and the supernatural. 

Lady Mechanika is an exciting story, with stunning artwork. I think I enjoyed the artwork, despite the constant need to make female characters well endowed without the physical limitations this creates in realist, more than the actual story. I did like the characters and the steampunk setting. All were well developed and maintained- with the text matching the art style and time period, which was nice. I liked that the text was fairly easy to read, even on the digital galley I had. However, I did find pits of the story to be a little expected, but that could because of the sheer volume of fantasy and steampunk style books and graphic novels I have read. For instance, the amnesia trope has been done, and perhaps over done in my opinion. This does not mean that the book is bad, far from it. The art is stunning and the story well written. I was just hoping for more, particularly with Mechanika's character. She was good, but I really was hoping for her to be even better.

Lady Mechanika is a story that is entertaining both visually and through the storyline. While not perfectly unique, or my favorite graphic novel of the year, it is still an enjoyable read that is worth a look.

Early Book Review: Princess Lila Builds a Tower By Anne Paradis

Princess Lila Builds a Tower is a picture book by Anne Paradis that is currently scheduled for release on May 16 2017. Princess Lila lives in a beautiful castle and has everything she could ever desire—well, almost. She yearns to venture beyond the forest, explore her country and meet people her own age. But the forest is off limits. Resourceful and ingenious, Princess Lila sets to work building a tower to catch a glimpse of the forbidden land. Thus begins a thrilling adventure: she becomes the manager of a vast construction project involving an impressive number of materials, obstacles and solutions. At last, with the help of the castle’s staff, she constructs a tower that extends above the trees. After the plucky princess takes matter into her own hands, will she find what she was looking for?

Princess Lila Builds a Tower is a great story for any child that is tired of the limits imposed on them. Lila is a princess that is bored and lonely, and tired of being stuck on the castle grounds all the time. When she has the idea of a tower, so see can see beyond the walls, she does not just order it done. She takes part in the engineering, the ideas, and the hard labor of making it happen. I really like that she was so fully involved, and that readers got to see just how involved the building process can be. When she, and her crew, finish building she gets her chance to see far in the distance, and finds a young boy on a matching tower looking back at her. I think this was a nice touch, showing that anyone can work hard to achieve their goals.

Early Book Review: Gnome-a-geddon by K.A. Holt

Gnome-a-geddon by K.A. Holt is currently scheduled for release on May 2 2017. Buck is a super fan of the book series, The Triumphant Gnome Syndicate. He knows all the trivia. The properties of the Troll Vanquishing Mace, and even what kind of snack Custard, the Gnome of the West, prefers. But when the book’s author disappears in a cloud of smoke at the release party for book three, and Buck’s little sister disappears into a bottomless dumpster, Buck realizes that the world of gnomes and trolls might really exist. What the heck? As it turns out, the real Custard (don’t call him that) needs Buck’s help to find the Troll Vanquishing Mace. And Buck needs to find his sister. So Buck and his best friend Lizzie set off on an adventure that would make any fan’s head spin. But not everything is as Buck expected—it seems the books did not tell the whole truth about this not-so-make-believe world. Buck soon discovers that real life doesn’t work like a story, and the heroes and villains might not be who they seem. Holy trolls! What’s a super fan to do? Buck is about to fulfill the ultimate fantasy: going on adventures with his favorite characters, and getting the chance to save the world. Assuming he can figure out whose side he’s really on.

Gnome-a-geddon is a book with a fairly unique concept. While there have been a few books that share a few characteristics, I really felt like this book took it in a slightly different direction. I liked that our main characters change and grow, both in self awareness and in ability to look at things differently. Buck is a good kid, who cares about those around him but with the natural craving to be special and a hero like his favorite book and game characters. He tries to be a good person, even while dealing with his craving to be more. Lizzie is a smart, strong, and independent girl with a good instinct about people and situations. They make a good team, especially when they listen to each others and those around them. I liked that the good guys and the "bad" guys are all ambiguous. No one character is all good or bad, and the idea of moving past prejudice and generalizations about any person is key in the entire story. I think the idea of unexpected heroes and strengths was very well done and just might have younger readers open to accepting help and seeing skills in others that they might otherwise dismiss. I am very interested in seeing more from the author, maybe in this same world, in the future.

Gnome-a-geddon is an entertaining and enjoyable read with a fun concept. I think there is a wide range of middle grade readers that will enjoy this read and be looking for more.

Book Review: Elephi; the Cat with the High IQ by Jean Stafford, Erik Bledvad

Elephi: the Cat with the HIgh IQ is a children's book written by Jean Stafford and illustrated by Erik Bledvad. It was originally published in 1968. Elephi Pelephi Well Known Cat Formerly Kitten lives in a city apartment with a nice but slightly boring couple. Desperate for a playmate and some intelligent conversation, he manages to smuggle in a small foreign car which had been stuck in a snowdrift. When Elephi's new companion is discovered in the storeroom, there is a lots of confusion, and some good fun.
Elephi: the Cat with the HIgh IQ is a cute story that features a smart but bored cat, and the abandoned car that he has claimed as a friend. Elephi's scheming and thought process is entertaining for children and adults alike. The idea of a car and cat chatting takes some imagination, but as a cat owner (or servant) I often wonder what goes on in those furry little heads and this story did not ease my mind at all. It is not hard to imagine a cat considering these actions or the destruction that Elephi considers part of his daily routine. The illustrations and story are slightly dated, but not in a way that makes it no longer relevant or entertaining. I thought the read was amusing, charming, and something I might share with my children at home or school library.

Book Review: Knock Knock Moo Who (and other silly animal jokes) by Brenda Ponnay

Knock Knock Moo Who (and other silly animal jokes) by Brenda Ponnay is a collection of fun and silly jokes for young readers. Such as the classic "Knock Knock. Who's there? An interrupting cow. Interrupting Cow-- Moo!" Knock knock jokes are matched with bright illustrations in this wacky, funny picture book for preschoolers and up.

Knock Knock Moo Who is exactly what you would expect from the title. The jokes are simple, silly, and fun, Sadly most of them were far from new to me since my two kids are older and well versed in jokes of all kinds so I have heard way too many. With the digital preview I read there were some formatting issues, which made the jokes and images not lines up quite right- but I fully expect that to be a non-issue in the final product.  It was a cute collection, but nothing that stood out as a must have for me.

Book Review: Undiscovered (Amoveo Rising) by Sara Humphreys

Undiscovered is the first book in the Amoveo Rising series by Sara Humphreys, which is a spin off and continuation of the Amoveo Legend series. If you have read the previous series you will be at an advantage, but readers new to this world will be able to catch up quickly and enjoy the story.

A long time ago, Zander Lorens was cursed to walk the earth stripped of his Dragon Clan powers. Every night, trapped in a recurring nightmare, Zander relives his darkest moment. He can hardly believe it when the dream changes and a beautiful young woman appears. Zander believes she's the key to ending his torment. Finding her in the real world is one thing, but how will he convince her of who-and what-she really is? Rena McHale uses her unique sensitivity as a private investigator, touting herself as a "human divining rod" and finder of the lost. By day she struggles with sensory overload, and by night her sleep is haunted by a fiery dragon shifter. Nothing in her life makes sense, until the man from her dreams shows up at her door with a proposition.

Undiscovered has a good mix of character and story development. I like that both Zander and Rena have their own issues and stories, and that Rena has some sense of self preservation- even if she does run off with a random guy for a case, money, and answers. Zander's punishing of himself for his role in what has happened gets a little old, and Rena's almost perfection does wear a little thin after awhile. However, I like that they are fairly honest with each other, if not everyone else or themselves. I really liked how they came to terms with their own desires, but found that they came together almost too easily. I did think that the story was likely just the groundwork to start of the new series, and to connect it to the previous stories. However, despite its faults it did make for a diverting read while my kids made the attempt to drive me insane over April vacation.

Undiscovered is an entertaining urban fantasy. It has the balance of good writing, adventure, and romance that I have come to expect from the other books I have read by Humphreys. Not earth shatteringly wonderful, but an engaging read to escape into and enjoy.

Early Book Review: The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History by Dave Anthony, Gareth Reynolds, Patton Oswalt

The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History by Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds, with a forward by Patton Oswalt, is currently scheduled for release on May 9 2017. From the creators of the comedy/history podcast "The Dollop," this book presents short but informative stories of the most outlandish (but true) people, events, and more from United States history. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds cover the weird stories you didn't learn in history class, such as 10-Cent Beer Night, the Jackson Cheese, and the Kentucky Meat Shower, each accompanied by a full-page illustration that brings these historical "milestones" to life in full-color. Each story is accompanied by tongue-in-cheek trivia and timelines that help place the stories in context with the more well-known historical events that occurred around them.

The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History was a entertaining and informative read. While I had heard some of the stories before, such as the radium girls and Kentucky meat shower, some were new to me. Each story was short and offered some commentary on the intelligence (or lack there of) of those making decisions. Occasional the humorous commentary got a little profane, so those not interested in that style of humor might want to skip it. However, fans of the podcast or that have seen anything from the writers involved will not be surprised. It did catch me by surprise at first, but fit in with the stories and humor well so was not an issue once I got accustomed to it. Readers that will be too bothered by swearing, jokes about male anatomy, or intelligence levels in our country will want to skip it- but everyone else will laugh and learn at least a little. The short bits of history are organized by commonalities, and make for fun short reads.

The United States of Absurdity: Untold Stories from American History is a fun read for fans of The Dollop podcast, as well as those that enjoy learning about the more unusual bits of history. I normally get this tidbits from History's Mysteries, Mysteries at the Museum, and similar shows- but now I know I need to be listening to this podcast too. If history and humor tied together makes you happy, so will this unique look at American history.

Early Book Review: The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spears

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do by Ashley Spears is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on May 2 2017. Lou and her friends are BRAVE adventurers. They run FASTER than airplanes. They build MIGHTY fortresses. They rescue WILD animals.” But one day, when they're looking for a ship to play pirates in, Lou's friend has an idea: “Up there! The tree can be our ship!” This is something new. Lou has never climbed a tree before, and she's sure she can't do it. So she tries to convince her friends to play a not-up-a-tree game. When that doesn't work, she comes up with reasons for not joining them --- her arm is sore, her cat needs a walk, you shouldn't climb so soon after eating. Finally, she tells herself she doesn't want to climb the tree. But is that true, or is this brave adventurer just too afraid to try?

The Thing Lou Couldn’t Do is another great picture book from Spears. Lou is a grand adventure, but she has a weakness. She as never climbed a tree before. When her friends scurry up the branches she can only think about how new it is, and how high. She struggles to come up with ways to avoid the need to climb, but ultimately has to face her fears or be left out of the fun. I like that Spears allowed Lou time to waffle about what she was going to do, and actually struggle with facing her fears. I also like that in the end Lou did not just climb the tree like a monkey. She has to learn how to climb the tree. It does not happen instantly, she has to work at it and fall. then she got up and tried again, with plans to keep practicing and trying. I think this is as important of a lesson as the being willing to face your fears or lack of knowledge. she has to learn something, and it is not easy. However, Lou keeps trying and even though she could not master the skill in a single day she is willing to keep working at it. Something that too many children (and adults) give up on learning new things too easily.