Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friendship. Show all posts

Early Book Review: Gustavo, the Shy Ghost by Flavia Z. Drago

Gustavo, the Shy Ghost, written and illustrated by Flavia Z. Drago, is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on July 14 2020.  Gustavo is good at doing all sorts of ghostly things: walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. He loves almost nothing more than playing beautiful music on his violin. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like making friends with other monsters. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realizes they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves? 
Gustavo, the Shy Ghost is a sweet picturebook with beautiful illustrations. I really enjoyed the art style and think the illustrations did a great job of adding to the story and including humor. As someone that has always been on the shy side, I could relate to Gustavo's troubles in talking to others- and even when we are not really invisible to them like he is sometimes we can feel that way. I really enjoyed Gustavo's journey, and how detailed and vivid the images are and how ideas like loneliness and kindness are handled. I think this would be a great read aloud, a story to share both around the Day of the Dead and in the beginning of a school year or start of a storytime program season to help young readers. It could be a great discussion starter and ice break- and is just a lovely read. 

Early Book Review: The Gryphon's Lair (Royal Guide to Monster Slaying) by Kelley Armstrong

The Gryphon's Lair is the second book in the Royal Guide to Monster Slaying series by Kelley Armstrong. It is currently scheduled for release on June 2 2020. I do recommend reading the series in order, mostly to understand the characters and how they relate to each other. However, a determined reader could catch up fairly easily and still enjoy the read.

Rowan is now the Royal Monster Hunter, and her twin brother, Rhydd, is destined to be king. But her mother's cousin Heward is still determined that his children be the ones to inherit the titles, and will stop at nothing to show that Rowan and Rhydd are too immature to properly lead. After the gryphon that Rowan captured in Book One gives birth but then dies, Rowan is left with a baby gryphon she knows she cannot keep. And it grows faster than anyone can imagine. In order to save face after an accident involving the troublesome gryphon, Rowan, with the help of her friends Dain and Alianor, along with an entourage of monstrous companions, must make a journey to the mountains to release the gryphon back into the wild. What starts off as a simple enough task soon becomes a dangerous quest, as the group encounters numerous rare and deadly monsters along the way, including wyverns and ceffyl-dwrs. 

The Gryphon's Lair is a book that is as much about Rowan and her friends coming together, and understanding each other and themselves, as it is the adventure of what to do with a young gryphon. I really liked the importance respect and compassion is given in this series. Rowan is trying to be a good member of the royal family, doing what is best for the kingdom while also thinking about understanding the monstrous creatures in the world rather than just killing them all. I laughed at some of he antic the crew she has assembled, cringed when those antics turned dangerous. There was action, heart to heart talks, amazing creatures, and a few heart wrenching moments. When I finished this story I was left with two thoughts. First, my daughter needs to read this series, as it is right up her alley, and second was that I hope there are more books set in this world coming because I am eager for more.

The Gryphon's Lair is a middle grade fantasy novel that has a near perfect balance of action and character growth. 

Early Book Review: Dewdrop by Katie O'Neill

Dewdrop by Katie O'Neill is a picturebook currently scheduled for release on April 7 2020. Dewdrop is an easygoing, gentle axolotl who enjoys naps, worm pie, and cheerleading. When the yearly sports fair nears, he and his friends—Mia the weightlifting turtle, Newman the musical newt, and three minnows who love to cook—get ready to showcase their skills to the whole pond! However, as the day of the fair gets closer, Dewdrop's friends can't help putting pressure on themselves to be the best. It's up to Dewdrop to remind them how to be mindful, go at their own pace, and find joy in their own achievements.
Dewdrop is an adorable picturebook about a sweet axolotl that honestly cares about their friends and keeps a sunny outlook on life. I think the reminders to focus on improving and finding happiness in doing their favorite things is important. I loved the illustrations, and found that they mirrored the sweet and optimistic tone of the main character and story as a whole. I think the story was nice and simply enjoyable to look at. The message was good, but a little overstated. As a kid, and now as a parent, I have always found the very obvious lessons to be a little off putting, even if I agree with them. Not everyone feels this way, and I can see the value and skill in this book that made me enjoy it despite the very clear messages. 

Early Book Review: American Sweethearts (Dreamers) by Adriana Herrera

American Sweethearts is the fourth book in the Dreamers series by Adriana Herrera, and is currently scheduled for release on March 30 2020. I have not read the previous books in the series, but it stood well on its own.
Juan Pablo Campos doesn’t do regrets. He’s living the dream as a physical therapist for his beloved New York Yankees. He has the best friends and family in the world and simply no time to dwell on what could’ve been. Except when it comes to Priscilla, the childhood friend he’s loved for what seems like forever. New York City police detective Priscilla Gutierrez has never been afraid to go after what she wants. Second-guessing herself isn’t a thing she does. But lately, the once-clear vision she had for herself—her career, her relationships, her life—is no longer what she wants. What she especially doesn’t want is to be stuck on a private jet to the Dominican Republic with JuanPa, the one person who knows her better than anyone else. By the end of a single week in paradise, the love/hate thing JuanPa and Pris have been doing for sixteen years has risen to epic proportions. No one can argue their connection is still there. And they can both finally admit—if only to themselves—they’ve always been a perfect match. The future they dreamed of together is still within reach, if they can just accept each other as they are.

American Sweethearts is a wonderful romance. I am not big into second chance stories, it is just not my favorite trope, but this book might have changed my mind. I loved that Juan and Priscilla know each other as well as they do from the start of the story. They come together with good and bad history and are both working hard to get what they need from life. Their love story is as much about coming to terms while what they each really want as it is about making it work together. Their honesty with each other, even when it comes down to knowing when the other is not ready for a conversation was extremely well done, and the open discussions of sex and what they want is something that should be a relationship goal for most couples. Even when things went sideways I could understand both sides, and it was all so real that I was completely lost in the story from page one.  I absolutely loved the cast of secondary characters, they were very well written, and I enjoyed getting a good look at the friendships and family bonds that shaped the characters so much.  I look forward to reading more, in fact I plan on going back to read the first three books in the series as soon as I get a bit further ahead in my reviews, because I have a feeling there will be some binge reading involved. 

American Sweethearts is a fabulous read. Fans of the author will need this book, and newcomers like me might just be adding a new name to their must buy list. 

Book Review: Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda

Komi Can't Communicate, Vol. 1, by Tomohito Oda is a young adult magna. The journey to 100 friends begins with a single conversation. Socially anxious high school student Shoko Komi’s greatest dream is to make some friends, but everyone at school mistakes her crippling social anxiety for cool reserve! With the whole student body keeping their distance and Komi unable to utter a single word, friendship might be forever beyond her reach. Timid Tadano is a total wallflower, and that’s just the way he likes it. But all that changes when he finds himself alone in a classroom on the first day of high school with the legendary Komi. He quickly realizes she isn’t aloof—she’s just super awkward. Now he’s made it his mission to help her on her quest to make 100 friends!

Komi Can't Communicate is a graphic novel about finding your place in school, and I really like that it shows how different the way people feel can be from how they are perceived by others. I think readers of all ages can identify with Tadano on some level. He just wants to get through school unscathed, but things are not all that simple. In real life they never are either. Befriending Komi might not be good for flying under the radar, but it does help her start toward her own goals for school. I really liked that we get to see multiple perspectives, which gives the reader a bit of room to wonder how much of the story might be different from another view, and how much of their own worries or fears are fueled by similar assumptions and misperceptions. Aside from all that heavy stuff, there was also a good deal of humor and funny moments, and I found the read engaging and entertaining. I enjoyed the artwork very much, and think the line work did a great deal to add to the emotion and overall story through out. I thought the cast of major characters was well done and fun, and I look forward to seeing more. I did find the ending a bit abrupt, like maybe the last couple pages and back cover were missing from my digital copy, but that could have just been a clever hook to make me want the next installment even more. 

Komi Can't Communicate is a fun and engaging read. I think most middle schoolers through adults would find something entertaining and relatable in the read. 

Book Review: Courting Darkness (Magesmith) by L.R. Braden

Courting Darkness is the second book in the Magesmith series by L.R. Braden. I do recommend reading this series in order to best understand the character and world building.

The paranatural community isn’t done with Alex. She’s been summoned to the fae court, and she's got her hands full trying to prepare. But her date with the fae will have to wait. There’s been a death at the gallery, and the man she hoped would be a part of her future is the prime suspect. Bitter enemies pull her into the middle of a paranatural war for territory that has her dodging police, swords, teeth, and claws—not to mention the truth. The deeper she digs, the more secrets she uncovers, and the less certain she is about the innocence of the one man she wanted to trust. She thought she was done with murder and monsters, but she’ll have to enter the belly of the beast if she hopes to save her friend.

Courting Darkness is a good continuation of the series. It did take me a little while to settle back into Alex's world and remember where we left off, but that is normal in urban fantasy for me. I enjoyed the continued character development for Alex and those closest to her. I thought the newly introduced characters were very well done and helped the story move along and set up plot points for the future rather than feeling like extras tossed in. I thought Alex's struggles to balance wants, needs, safety, and friendship was on point and well handled. The danger was high, but the emotional stakes felt just as high and the physical. I will say that I thought this book would deal more with the fae court than it did, but I enjoyed being surprised a bit with this detour. However, that also made the story feel almost like a side quest.  I am eager to read the story arch that I was more expecting- as this book does add some interesting possibilities for complications in the upcoming books. I will definately be continuing this series because I cannot wait to see what happens next. 

Courting Darkness is a thoughtful continuation to the series. I think fans of the first book and the genre will really enjoy it. 

Early Book Review: Against the Rules (Gamer Girls) by Laura Heffernan

Against the Rules is the second book in the Gamer Girls series by Laura Heffernan and is currently scheduled for release on October 15 2019. I did not read the first book in the series, and while it is about a circle of friends I was able to fully enjoy the book without having read the first.

Holly has taken herself out of the dating game since breaking up with her cheating, thieving ex. She barely notices Marc, who comes into the game store every week, hoping to get her attention. Her friends insist it’s time to take on a new role, to leave Quiet Holly behind and embrace her inner flirt. And on paper, Marc’s great: cute, funny, and a hardcore gamer just like Holly is. Then there’s Nathan. He’s everything twenty-eight-year-old Holly wants, except he’s also her friend’s father. Absolutely off-limits. But as she and Nathan playtest a new legacy game together, they’re growing closer. The game is complex and intriguing, and there’s no way to know how choices will pan out. What seems like a good idea could lead to disaster or sweet victory. But in gaming, as in love, sometimes you have to roll the dice and take your chance.

Against the Rules worked really well on some levels, and fell flat for me in others. I really liked Holly, she has had some serious challenges in life lately and is doing her best to keep moving forward in life. She is a little oblivious sometimes, but in ways many of us are. I liked her intelligence and spirit, and found her insecurities to be realistic and relatable. Nathan seemed like a smart, good guy with issues of his own. I felt like I did not get to know him all that well, since we only saw him through Holly's eyes- I would really have liked to have seen the world through his eyes once and awhile o see his take on Holly. Yes, he was open with her about his feeling once things started happening- but a better look at the attraction and his worries would have brought the whole story together more for me. I liked them together, and understood the worries and hesitancy about becoming involved, and the complications it would create. I did like the glimpses of the horrors on online dating and the real lives of gamers. I found these bits of the story to be well done and realistic, as anyone that has been involved in either can attest. 

Against the Rules is a good contemporary romance that had some fabulous moments, but did not wow me. I am glad I picked it up, but am not sure I will be going back to read the first in the series.

Early Book Review: Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner is a middle grade novel currently scheduled for release on October 15 2019.  Elizabeth Webster is happy to stay under the radar (and under her bangs) until middle school is dead and gone. But when star swimmer Henry Harrison asks Elizabeth to tutor him in math, it's not linear equations Henry really needs help with-it's a flower-scented, poodle-skirt-wearing, head-tossing ghost who's calling out Elizabeth's name. But why Elizabeth? Could it have something to do with her missing lawyer father? Maybe. Probably. If only she could find him. In her search, Elizabeth discovers more than she is looking for: a grandfather she never knew, a startling legacy, and the secret family law firm, Webster & Son, Attorneys for the Damned. Elizabeth and her friends soon land in court, where demons and ghosts take the witness stand and a red-eyed judge with a ratty white wig hands out sentences like sandwiches. Will Elizabeth's father arrive in time to save Henry Harrison-and is Henry the one who really needs saving?

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas has a wonderful premise and I greatly enjoyed the character building. I liked Elizabeth, she had the blend of spunk and vulnerabilities that rang true for a middle school girl. Her family and friends were nicely rounded with much more depth than I usually see in novels for this age group. I liked the relationship between Elizabeth and Natalie, and how two girls celebrated their differences while keeping their friendship. I also enjoyed the relationship Elizabeth had with her mom and step father- that they clearly cared about her and let her be herself and express herself was wonderful. I was glad to see that there was some humor, and plenty of odd visuals sprinkled through the story. Although I have to admit that I sometimes found myself skimming some of the descriptions so that I could get back to the plot and action a little quicker. I liked the variety of twists and turns in the story- solving the mystery surrounding Beatrice's death, finding Elizabeth's father, and so on. I liked that it was not a simply solution, but at the same time it really felt like a long read. It also felt like it was clearly a set up for a series, and while I am intrigued by the secrets Elizabeth's mom might be keeping, I am not sure that all the build up was enough to really hook me. It was a good read, it just did not capture my attention the way I expected something with this blend of coming of age, mystery, and supernatural secrets to.

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas is a a novel that the upper elementary and middle school set will enjoy. I liked the premise and the execution- but it was a book that I could easily put down when I needed to.

Early Book Review: Outlaws (Royal Academy Rebels) by Jen Calonita

Outlaws is the second book in the Royal Academy Rebels series by Jen Calonita. It is currently scheduled for release on October 1 2019. I do highly recommend having read the first book in the series before this one. It would be good to have read the Fairy Tale Reform School series as well, but that is not quite as important as Misfits.
After being banished to the Hollow Woods following their discovery of Headmistress Olivina's secret villainy, a note from an ally urges Devin and her friends to go in search of Red Riding Hood, who they believe can help them figure out what to do next. Instead, they come across a troupe of fairytale vigilantes, including a former Royal Academy princess, Robin Hood, a pirate named Corden, and more. Alongside their new vigilante friends, Devin and her crew come up with a plan to expose the truth about Olivina to all of Enchantasia, or risk their homeland falling under villainous rule once and for all.

Outlaws is a good follow up to Misfits. Devin and her  band of friends face fresh dangers and discover more about themselves, each other, and the world they live in. The addition of Tara and her friends make things more complicated, but so much more fun and interesting. The skills of the new teens added to the story were very cool, and I liked getting more of the back story of how things reached the point where Devin and gang were banished. I enjoyed seeing the adventures they jump into, and the way they solve things with quick thinking, friendship, and being good people rather than brawn or deceit. I think the dangers and  problems they face were well done, and I liked how they did not always handle themselves perfectly but figured it out as they went, just like most of us do with much more mundane issues. I found the conclusion to be satisfying, while leaving plenty of curiosity for what what might happen next but not dangling on a cliff. I look forward to following this series on to its conclusion.

Outlaws is exactly what I was hoping for and expecting from Calonita. I love the world and character building she does, and I think fans of the Reform School series will love this follow up just as much.

Early Book Review: Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen by Nancy Viau

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen by Nancy Viau is currently scheduled for release on August 28 2019. Ten-year-old Samantha Hansen loves science! In the beginning of fourth grade, she never let a moment go by without talking about rocks. Now she’s back with a new obsession: insects! Upon learning that the local apiary is for sale, she goes into action to save the honey bees. Will her someday boyfriend Todd or her best friend Kelli be part of her plan? Will That Kid Richard get in the way? Sam’s lists of insect facts and funny thoughts highlight her quest to keep the bees in the community, the challenges she faces at school, and her ongoing struggle with her temper. Join Samantha as she looks to science for answers and does her part to change the world. 

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen was a read with some good points, and some low points. I really enjoyed that facs about bees and other insects were part of the story. I also liked that the larger idea of friendship changing and having more than one good or best friend is possible. Most of all, I liked the encouragement to get involved with causes that are important to you, such as saving the bees. The dealing with frustration and anger, counting and channeling the energy towards better things, were fairly well done as well. The friendship battles, dealing with changing interests, new friends, and peer groups seemed very accurate to me- as a mom and someone that has worked in an elementary school. All of that was what kept me reading. I was a little annoyed with the 'boyfriend' seeking, and the leaning on the idea that a boy teases a girl because he likes her. Can we not continue with that? I would much rather boys learn to give their attention in better ways, and girls not be in the position where they have to deal with that or be tasked with changing that boy's behavior by giving him the attention they want. I think that sets a bad president for both boys and girls. I also had some trouble becoming engaged with the story as a whole- the writing style just did not click with me, but I think that is more a matter of personal preference than anything wrong with the technique. 

Something Is Bugging Samantha Hansen is an interesting early chapter book that will strike a chord with some readers. The story just did not wow me, despite some very well done aspects.

Early Book Review: Unicorn Day by Diana Murray, Luke Flowers

Unicorn Day is a picturebook written by Diana Murray and illustrated by Luke Flowers. The book tells the story of what happens to an impostor horse who tries to crash the most glittery day of the year, Unicorn Day. It is currently scheduled for release on June 4 2019. 
Unicorn Day is a cute and fun picturebook. It is colorful with bold illustrations that are just as sweet and cute as the story. I liked the story, a horse joining in the unicorn festivities, and how fun and friendship were much more important to the characters than the fake horn the horse was wearing. I enjoyed the read and art, but I have to saw that I was not really wowed by it. It was a good, but not amazing read for me.

Book Review: Megabat and Fancy Cat (Megabat) by Anna Humphrey, Kass Reich

Megabat and Fancy Cat is the second Megabat book written by Anna Humphrey and illustrated by Kass Reich. While those that have read the first book will have a better grasp on the characters andknow how they came to be friends, I think all readers should be able to pick things up pretty quickly. All they need to know is that Megabat is a talking fruitbat that lives with his human best friend. 

Megabat was looking forward to Christmas morning: presents, playing toys, smooshfruit and watching Star Wars. But then Daniel opened his last, most special present. Daniel thinks this might be the best Christmas present yet: a beautiful cat named Priscilla! He's always wanted a pet. Megabat is not sure he likes this cat. She tastes most hairy. Daniel loves his new cat! She's fun to play with, and she's so soft and fluffy. Megabat is not soft OR fluffy. He's not purebred and he doesn't have a big, beautiful swishy tail. What if Daniel loves Priscilla more than Megabat? This is truly a disturbance in the Force. Megabat and Birdgirl must find a way to get rid of this trubble cat once and for all! Calamity ensues as Megabat and Birdgirl try to come up with ways to get rid of Priscilla. But is there more than meets the eye with this furry menace? 

Megabat and Fancy Cat is a fun story about friendship and compromise in the guise of an adorable bat feeling pushed aside by his best friend. When Priscilla joins the family only Megabat and Dad seem to be less than pleased, but soon only Megabat and Birdgirl are unhappy. Megabat feels left out and unloved, so comes up with a slew of crazy schemes to get the cat out of the house. Of course things backfire, and a good conversation solves the majority of the problems, as is true with many book for children and adults. I found Megabat's speech patterns and typing to be cute and fun, although it could be a mixed bag with young readers. Some might be glad to see a character that struggles with something they struggle with, or it might further the issue if they are really struggling with spelling. I think the story is a fun read that many kids will relate to, weather it is because of a new shifts in family or friendships- the explanation of love growing and always having enough is one that everyone sometimes needs to hear.

Megabat and Fancy Cat is a sweet and entertain read with plenty of fun and solid lessons to adsorb. Great choice of transitional and  emerging readers- as well as animal lovers. A fun read for anyone that picks it up. 

Book Review: Unicorn Bowling (Phoebe and Her Unicorn) by Dana Simpson

Unicorn Bowling is the ninth book in the Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson. You do not need to have read all the books to enjoy the read.

A unicorn in bowling shoes is quite a STRIKE-ing sight. But for nine-year-old Phoebe Howell, it’s just another fun outing with her best friend, the illustrious unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. This unique and magical friendship is at the heart of the ninth Phoebe and Her Unicorn collection, which includes adventures such as writing original songs, publishing rival news websites, and making a summer visit to the exclusive Camp Shimmerhorn. Life with a unicorn BFF is not without its challenges, however, and whether it’s homework, friction with classmates, or talent show jitters, Unicorn Bowling is full of amusing, heartwarming reminders that when the going gets tough, the tough get sparkling.

Unicorn Bowling is another lovely graphic novel. Before I get to the actual story though, I have to say that I love that in the very beginning of the book there is mention of the glossary at the end of the book (page number included) to encourage kids to look up the meaning of words unfamiliar to them. This not only encourages them to use it, but helps them know that they will not be the only one unsure of certain words. This can go a long way in helping struggling readers feel more comfortable facing new words. This will help less confident readers keep going, with no bad feelings or shame about wanting to look up words. 

Okay, now for the story. As usual the artwork does a good job portraying the emotion and extra details of the story. The quality has been consistent through the series, and I expect that to continue. I was a little disappointed that the book was a collection of day to day or small adventures of Phoebe, rather than there being any larger story arc. I was kind of hoping for more of the conflicts between Phoebe and Dakota, and by the title I was rather expecting more bowling. Unicorn Bowling is a book that fans of the series will enjoy, but is not likely to win over new readers.

Book Review: Unwritten by Tara Gilboy

Unwritten by Tara Gilboy is a middle grade fantasy. Twelve-year-old Gracie Freeman is living a normal life, but she is haunted by the fact that she is actually a character from a story, an unpublished fairy tale she's never read. When she was a baby, her parents learned that she was supposed to die in the story, and with the help of a magic book, took her out of the story, and into the outside world, where she could be safe. But Gracie longs to know what the story says about her. Despite her mother's warnings, Gracie seeks out the story's author, setting in motion a chain of events that draw herself, her mother, and other former storybook characters back into the forgotten tale. Inside the story, Gracie struggles to navigate the blurred boundary between who she really is and the surprising things the author wrote about her. As the story moves toward its deadly climax, Gracie realizes she'll have to face a dark truth and figure out her own fairy-tale ending.

Unwritten started of as a hard read for me, be quickly changed to an engaging adventure. When readers meet Gracie she already knows that she came out of a fairy tale along with some others, and that the author is coming to visit a local bookstore. I found all the information to be a little overwhelming and it felt a bit like a recap so I felt like maybe I had missed a previous book . However, once the major action got moving I was fully engaged i the story and it worked much better for me. I liked the struggle of the main characters in dealing with the two sides of themselves and their two stories. I really liked the idea of how we can overcome what is written, or destined, for us by taking the time and care to make the right choices. I found the secrets and lies to be good plot devices, and realistic for people to cling to in situations like the ones they faced. The thoughts and ideas about people and characters shared by Winters (the author in the story) were profound, although a little heavy handed at times. I liked the general feel of the characters, and how the interacted. I also like the fairy tale world building and character building that was done. So much really worked, but when the story was finished I had mixed feelings. I liked it, but I did not love it, and could come up with no definable reason why. 

Unwritten is a solid fantasy, with good amounts of action and character development. There is room for a sequel, but still a satisfying conclusion- so who knows there could be moren in the future.

Book Review: Rabbit & Bear: Rabbits Bad Habits by Julian Gough, Jim Field

Rabbit & Bear: Rabbits Bad Habits was written by Julian Gough and illustrated by Jim Field. This is the first book in what promises to be a series about Rabbit and Bear. When Bear wakes up early from her hibernation, she decides to build a snowman. Her grumpy neighbor, Rabbit, decides to build an even better one. Talk of gravity, avalanches, and eating habits lead to some interesting moments and an unlikely friendship. 
Rabbits Bad Habits is labeled a chapter book, but I think it would fit better as an easy reader or transitional chapter book for younger or struggling readers. Although some of the humor with surely entertain the older readers as well. Bear is a calm, cheerful, and hungry character that has woken up early to discover the food she has stored was stolen. So, she goes outside to have a little fun and build a snowman. Rabbit is a grumpier character, who also likes to share knowledge about gravity, avalanches, and why rabbits eat their poo. Much is said about the poo, but the other information actually comes in handy when a wolf makes an appearance. THe story had some good moments, and some that made me say why. However, I liked the development of the characters, and how they went from acquaintances to friends. 

Rabbits Bad Habits is a fun, interesting read. I think it is a book that most will love or hate, but I somehow landed in the middle.

Book Review: Misfits (Royal Academy Rebels) by Jen Calonita

Misfits is the first book in the Royal Academy Rebels series, a follow up to the Fairy Tale Reform School series, by Jen Calonita. While you do not need to have read the first series to enjoy this one, I think it would help and be well worth it since the first series was wonderful.

In the magical fairytale kingdom of Enchantasia, becoming a legendary Prince or Princess doesn't happen overnight. Enter Royal Academy, the training ground for the fairytale leaders of tomorrow! But reluctant-future-princess and new-student Devin has some reservations about RA, especially when it comes to the Headmistress. Olivina seems obsessed with preparing students for possible villain attacks. But when Devin asks when they're going to learn how to actually rule a kingdom, Olivina becomes enraged. Something isn't right with this lady, and what Devin discovers could change the fairytale world forever.

Misfits is another delightful read about young characters that do not quite fit in finding their way. Devin knows what she wants, but the world is pushing her to be someone very different. I liked following her development and walking the line between following rules, meeting expectations, and being yourself.  She is trying to find her place in a new school, with new people, and unfamiliar rules. There is the obligatory mean girls, because every school has at least one, and the group of friends that might seem like an odd mix but works. However, new friends and experiences keep on her toes as they all discover not everything as it seems. I do feel like there was a lot of groundwork laid down in this book, setting the scene for the rest of the series. However, the read was still entertaining and went really fast. I was not ready for it to end, and am very interested in where Devin's story will take her group of friends and readers. 

Misfits is an engaging read, and my only real complaint is that I was not ready for it to end when it did. I am looking forward to continuing this series.

Early Book Review: Narwhal's Otter Friend (Narwhal and Jelly) by Ben Clanton

Narwhal's Otter Friend is the fourth Narwhal and Jelly book by Ben Clanton. This installment is currently scheduled for release on February 5th 2019. You do not need to read this series of children's books in order to enjoy, but they are each so charming and fun that I highly recommend reading them all anyway. 

This book offers readers three new stories about the joy of adventure and the power of friendship. In the first story, Otty the otter makes her debut splash; while Narwhal greets her with immediate enthusiasm, Jelly's not so sure about her...mostly because he worries she'll take his place as Narwhal's best friend. Readers will easily see why Narwhal's so excited to meet Otty, a boisterous explorer who even has an aunt who's a real live sea captain! But readers will also relate to Jelly's uneasiness seeing his best friend making a new pal. Jelly tries to work out his jealousy in story two, and in story three, the new trio say "Ahoy, adventure!" and discover they all have more in common than they thought, including a love of waffles! Jelly also takes over the "Super Waffle and Strawberry Sidekick" comic providing a sidekick's-eye-view of defeating the dreaded dEVILed egg!
Narwhal's Otter Friend is a great easy readers style book. I think the characters of Narwhal and Jelly are well balanced and fun, and I like that no character is perfect. Jelly and Narwhal each have their faults, and they seem to compliment each other because of these faults rather than in spite of them. I like how no matter how outrageous and silly the particulars of the story is, it is still easy for readers of all ages to relate to the characters and understand how everyone feels, and more importantly why they might be acting the way they are. This makes it easier for them to identify these actions and emotions in real life situations, and in turn make social interactions less scary or awkward. Also, the book is just as much fun to look at as they are to read. This makes it much more likely for readers to pick up the book and read it.
Narwhal's Otter Friend is yet another fun read from Clanton, and I look forward to this series continuing. The blend of fun, delightful illustrations, and developing friendships hit all the right notes and make me happy long after I put the book away. 

Book Review: The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray by B. A. Williamson

The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray by B. A. Williamson is a middle grade novel. Gwendolyn Gray faces an overwhelming battle every day: keeping her imagination under control. It’s a struggle for a dreamer like Gwendolyn, in a city of identical gray skyscrapers, clouds that never clear, and grown-ups who never understand. But when her daydreams come alive and run amok in The City, the struggle to control them becomes as real as the furry creatures infesting her bedroom. Worse yet, she’s drawn the attention of the Faceless Gentlemen, who want to preserve order in The City by erasing Gwendolyn and her troublesome creations. With the help of two explorers from another world, Gwendolyn escapes and finds herself in a land of clockwork inventions and colorful creations. Now Gwendolyn must harness her powers and, with a gang of airship pirates, stop the Faceless Gentlemen from destroying the new world she loves and the home that never wanted her—before every world becomes gray and dull.

The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray is a wonderful story about the power of imagination and being yourself. Gwendolyn is often lost in her daydreams, and just wants to be accepted for who she is. Her world is one of strict conformity, but the issues of bullies and being mistreated for being different is not exactly a strange concept for readers of all ages. I love that her imagination, her spark, is her true strength. I think that our differences are often our strengths, but also the weak points that bullies and people in power use against us. I think that Gwen is a well developed character, and her relationship with her parents is very well done, I think that it was realistic on many levels, and that many readers will be able to relate. I think the world and character building is very well paced, and Sparrow and Starling were my favorites through the entirety of the book. I think the adventure and danger elements were well spread out through the book as well, giving Gwen and the readers time to take everything in and think about everything for a moment before the next wave of trouble hit. Some of the surprises and twists along the way I expected, but many still had me surprised in the reveal or the consequences of that information or feelings. I loved the sheer creativity and bravery of Gwen, particularly when she did not feel like she would met the challenge. I think this is an enjoyable read and could really speak to or inspire readers to embrace their own creativity or differences.

The Marvelous Adventures of Gwendolyn Gray is a wonderful start to a series, with a nearly perfect balance of closure and wonder about what will happen next. I fully expect to continue reading this series. 

Book Review: Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be by Kevin John Scott

Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be by Kevin John Scott is the first book i a middle grade series. At the age of eleven Frederik Sandwich awakens to an earthquake that couldn’t possibly be. His town is nowhere near a fault line and no earthquake has ever been recorded there. But when he questions what could have caused the shaking, he realizes he may have uncovered more than he bargained for. Desperately wanting to know what happened, but not the type of person to break rules or push adults for answers, Frederik is lucky (or not, depending on how you look at it) to meet a mysterious stranger, Pernille. She is the sort of person to break rules and demand answers, and is determined to partner with him to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s a mystery that will lead the two outsiders through abandoned train tunnels, into hidden library rooms, and to the shadowy corridors of City Hall in the dead of night as they try to figure out what could have caused inexplicable rumblings in their small town.

Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be started off slowly for me, but it certainly picked up. Fredrick just wants to be accepted and fit in, and his parents are doing the best to do the same. But in their town a slight accent of difference in appearance is enough to label you as an outsider and fodder for teasing and abuse. It takes Frederik a while to see this, with the help or Pernille- who is equally ostracized. Together they find friendship, a mystery, and a small portion of the truth behind the strange happenings in town. As a fan of children's adventures I will admit that I figured out who was bad and good fairly early on, but the journey was about the kids figuring it out.  I liked the mystery, and the feel of the book. I also liked the message that was thread through the story about prejudice. I was a little disappointed when I reached the end, because it felt like the story just got started. All the major players and plot points were on the table and the action about to begin, and then the next page was the acknowledgments. 

Frederik Sandwich and the Earthquake that Couldn't Possibly Be is an engaging story for readers that like mystery and adventures. This is very much a series that would require reading in order, and I would suggest having the next book on hand well before ending the first.

Book Review: Ellie Engineer: The Next Level by Jackson Pearce

Ellie Engineer: The Next Level is the second book in the series by Jackson Pearce. While the first book explains the friendship and skills of the three main characters of the book, I think newcomers to the series will be able to catch up quickly.

After Ellie's first elevator build goes terribly wrong, her parents decide her "punishment" is to assist an elderly neighbor, Mrs. Curran, around the house. Ellie and her friends Kit and Toby are really only supposed to help with little things, but Ellie can't turn down the opportunity to use her engineering skills here and there where she sees a need--because that's what engineers do! It's no fun, though, when Mrs. Curran always gives Toby the credit for all the ingenious projects, and acts like Kit and Ellie were just helping him. Can Ellie come up with another great build to elevate Mrs. Curran's ideas about this girl engineer?
The Next Level is just as much fun as the first book of the series, and continues to look at stereotypes and assumptions. I like that Ellie's family supports her interest in engineering and make the effort to support her and teach her to be safe. I find the friendship between three very different kids to be fantastic, and think it shows young readers that differences are good, and help us find new ideas and solutions. Having Mrs. Curran be very different from expected but still thinking that others will fit in the expected roles was very realistic, since too often I find this is true in the real world as well. None of us want to fit in the expected mold, but still expect others too to a certain degree. I loved the problem solving and honesty in the story. As a parent I also love that the relationships between the kids and their parents include actual conversation and support- which is not all that common in children's literature. As an added bonus I love the information about simple machines included at the end of the book. I look forward to this series continuing for a long run.
The Next Level is a great read, and I love that it encourages looking past appearances, trying new things, and following your passions.