Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

Early Book Review: RWBY: Vol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc by Bunta Kinami is currently scheduled for release on July 21 2020. In the world of Remnant, monsters known as Grimm wreak havoc. They’re kept in check by Huntsmen and Huntresses, highly skilled warriors experienced in monster extermination who utilize their special abilities on the field of battle. Ruby takes her first step on the road to becoming a Huntress by enrolling at Beacon Academy, eager to take on the battery of tests, challenges and difficulties that follow. Ruby knows her talents will take her to her goal, but is she ready to clash with Weiss Schnee, haughty scion of the Schnee Dust Company?

RWBYVol. 1 The Beacon Arc is a solid start to an engaging story. A few very important characters are introduced and fleshed out in the midst of settling into school and a very dangerous mission. I think story did a great job of introducing the world this all takes place in, and the characters in their strengths and weaknesses. I liked the variety of personalities and skill sets and think that it does a good job of interesting readers that might never have heard of the series previously. The art is nearly perfect, although I will admit that I occasionally had trouble keeping track of who was who in some of the action scenes, because there was just so much going on. I think this promises to keep newcomers to the RWBY Universe and long time fans happy and entertained. 

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: The Ultimate Survival Guide to Bedtime Monsters by Mitch Frost, Daron Parto

The Ultimate Survival Guide to Bedtime Monsters is a picturebook written by Mitch Frost and illustrated by Daron Parto. It is currently scheduled for release on May 1 2020. Do you lie awake at night worrying about monsters? Donut monsters? Blue monsters? DANCING ROBOT MONSTERS?! Then this is the book for you! Follow these ten easy steps and you'll never be bothered by monsters again. Not even carrot monsters. Perfect for anyone, big or small, who's ever been afraid of what might be lurking under the bed.
The Ultimate Survival Guide to Bedtime Monsters is a fun and brightly illustrated picturebook giving young readers a set of steps to feel a little safer at bed time. I liked the illustrations quite a bit, I thought that the attention to detail and the humor on each page added a great deal to the story. The text offers them suggestions like brushing their teeth because monsters hate minty fresh breath, and keeping their room clean because then there is no where for the monsters to hide. Not all of the suggestions are quite so aimed at good bedtime routines, one suggests surrounding yourself with your favorite stuffed animals and toys, because monsters do not like crowds. I thought the book was cute and might be just what some youngsters need to help them settle in to bed a bit easier. 

Book Review: Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia

Monstrous: The Lore, Gore, and Science behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia is a children's non fiction book. Could Dr. Frankenstein's machine ever animate a body? Why should vampires drink from veins and not arteries? What body parts are best for zombies to eat? (It's not brains.) This fascinating encyclopedia of monsters delves into the history and science behind eight legendary creatures, from Bigfoot and the kraken to zombies and more. Find out each monster's origin story and the real-world history that informed it, and then explore the science of each creature in fun and surprising ways. Tips and infographics—including monster anatomy, how to survive a vampire attack, and real-life giant creatures of the deep sea—make this a highly visual and fun-to-browse book.

Monstrous is well organized and written. The book offers a historic and scientific background to some of the legends of monsters, magic, and more. The text is well written. It is very informative, with bits of humor throughout. Even when the subject gets a little dense or shares what I would consider fairly well known information, the text never feels unaccessible or condescending. I enjoyed that even while I knew a great deal of the information- as I am a fan or folklore and mythology- there were some new things to learn as well as some deep enjoyment in seeing some of my more esoteric knowledge confirmed or expanded on. I also greatly enjoyed the artwork in the illustrations and the the styles for the backgrounds and infographics. It was on point and helped reinforce the information, keep the reader's interest, and entertain. The combination of fact and fun was pretty much perfect. The author even took the time to mention when science has been wrong, I think this is important to remind all readers because it shows that there is always more to learn and more research that can be done. I was very happy to see a bibliography, glossary, and index in the endpages. Too often I see these things neglected or poorly done in children's non fiction- expecting them to ignore it or not notice. In this book the list of sources and citations was very well done and could result in interested readers doing further reading, investigating, and research on their own. This encouragement always makes me happy. 

Monstrous is a well written book that offers the tools of science, history, and a little humor to explain the truth about creatures like vampire, zombie, and more. Good for monster fans, and for giving fact based information that could ease the fears of some that are non so fond of monsters. I just pre ordered this to share with my kids.

Book Review: The Witchkin Murders (Magicfall) by Diana Pharaoh Francis

The Witchkin Murders is the first book in the Magicfall series by Diana Pharaoh Francis. Four years ago, my world—the world—exploded with wild magic. The cherry on top of that crap cake? The supernatural world declared war on humans, and my life went straight to hell.I used to be a detective, and a damned good one. Then Magicfall happened, and I changed along with the world. I’m witchkin now—something more than human or not quite human, depending on your perspective. To survive, I’ve become a scavenger, searching abandoned houses and stores for the everyday luxuries in short supply—tampons and peanut butter. Oh, how the mighty have fallen, but anything’s better than risking my secret.Except, old habits die hard. When I discover a murder scene screaming with signs of black magic ritual, I know my days of hiding are over. Any chance I had of escaping my past with my secret intact is gone. Solving the witchkin murders is going to be the hardest case of my life, and not just because every second will torture me with reminders of how much I miss my old life and my partner, who hates my guts for abandoning the department. But it’s time to suck it up, because if I screw this up, Portland will be wiped out, and I’m not going to let that happen. Hold on to your butts, Portland. Justice is coming, and I don’t take prisoners.
The Witchkin Murders is a good series starter. I loved the world building and thought that the majority of the characters were very well built with complex personalities and stories that I would love to learn more about. I liked Kayla's determination and ethics. I thought she was a solid character and dealt with a series of huge problems in her life the best she knew how. I though that some of the secondary characters were fantastic, and I would continue reading the series simply to find out how their lives play out. I also thought the mystery and action parts of the story were extremely well done. The creatures and mythos used were complex and varied- and I loved trying to guess what kind of creature each was by the descriptions that were given.

I did have some problems with the book. One is that for one character they kept switching if he was referred to by his first or last name with no discernible reason. The first time it happened I had to go back a few pages to see if the person I thought was talking was, and I found it distracting. My second issue was with Ray's character, he was just so angry and explosive in his own head. I admit that I skimmed a good deal of his inner dialogue because I just had no interest in reading all that angst over and over. Speaking of inner angst, the lust at highly improbable moments- and the self flagellation over it by Kayla drove me a little nuts, so I often skimmed over that too.

The Witchkin Murders is a urban fantasy with good world building. I was not thrilled with everything, but it was well worth the read and some might really enjoy it as a whole.

Early Book Review: A Valentine for Frankenstein by Leslie Kimmelman, Timothy Banks

A Valentine for Frankenstein is a picturebook written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Timothy Banks. It is currently Scheduled for release on November 1 2018. Frankenstein isn't your typical monster. For starters, he only has one head, just two eyes, and no tail. And worst of all, he's sort of nice! Frankenstein quickly realizes his friendly behavior is out of place at the Valentine's Day Bash. There's one monster, though, who likes that Frankenstein is different. Can Frankenstein figure out the identity of his secret valentine? And can the other monsters finally accept Frankenstein for the monster that he is?

A Valentine for Frankenstein is a cute picturebook about being who you are, and accepting others for who they are. Frankenstein might be different, and generally teased by others- but he does not let that change how he acts or who he is. He keeps on being the best person he can, his way. I like that it was his differences that made Belcher like him, rather than anything else. I also like that his difference is kindness, which is something all the characters do appreciate once they stop to think about it. We could all stand for a little more kindness, right? The illustrations are bright and colorful with a whimsical feel. It worked with the story, but was not my favorite style. However, I think it will appeal to many young readers. 

Early Book Review: Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri is a children's graphic novel currently scheduled for release on November 6 2018.  Tiger is a very lucky kid: she has a monster living under her bed. Every night, Tiger and Monster play games until it’s time for lights out. Of course, Monster would never try to scare Tiger—that’s not what best friends do. But Monster needs to scare someone…it’s a monster, after all. So while Tiger sleeps, Monster scares all of her nightmares away. Thanks to her friend, Tiger has nothing but good dreams. But waiting in the darkness is a nightmare so big and mean that Monster can’t fight it alone. Only teamwork and a lot of bravery can chase this nightmare away.

Tiger vs. Nightmare is a cute graphic novel about friendship. The artwork is cute, but I was not a huge fan. It looked a little unfinished, but I think that was more because I was looking at an electronic, early galley rather than the final copy. I fully expect that in the final version the artwork will be crisper. Tiger is friends with the monster under her bed, but of course everyone thinks the monster is her imagination. I love that the monster decided not to scare Tiger, but to scare away nightmares instead.However, eventually there is a nightmare too powerful for the monster to fight alone, and feels terrible when it slips by, but cannot admit what happened and becomes more determined to take care of Tiger. He dedication and guilt are things that most of us can relate to. The desire not to admit or failings, or ask for help when we need it is something adults struggle with just as much as kids. I like that Tiger is paying attention to Monster and is ready to help her friend. Friendship, support, and teamwork between the friends, along with the understanding that the nightmare is coming from Tiger's mind, are key lessons of the story, and wonderfully told. Facing your fears and dealing with nightmares like Tiger is a wonderful example to follow, and something even the most outwardly brave child can stand to hear.  I like that her parents do not try to talk away the monster, but support Tiger in her connection and imagination. The supportive family is nice to see in a world of kidlit that often has clueless or unhelpful adults. 

Tiger vs. Nightmare is  graphic novel for young readers that tells a wonderful story about friendship, facing your fears, and supporting others.  

Early Book Review: Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall by Drew Weing

Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Monster Mall by Drew Weing is a children's graphic novel currently scheduled for release on September 11 2018. It is the second book in a series, but I have not read the first. I feel like I caught on to the story pretty quickly, and think that while those that are reading in order will get more out of the series, newcomers will be able to enjoy the story as well.
Charles Thompson meets a lot of monsters in his line of work. While assisting Margo Maloo on her assignments, he’s had close encounters with trolls, ghosts, imps, and ogres. And lately, they’re all saying the same thing: living in Echo City is getting harder. As the human population of the city is grows, monsters are being forced to abandon their homes. Teenagers are creeping into their territory, smartphones in hand, eager to photograph paranormal activity. Some monsters are tired of hiding and ready to fight. How can Margo and Charles keep Echo City’s monster community a secret, when it’s teetering in the brink of war?

The Monster Mall is a monster story with a twist. The monsters' very existence is in danger as teenagers,  modern world of technology, and progress creeps into all the places they used to live and hide. Margo teams up with Thompson to inform kids about monsters and to save both people and monsters from a war that would impact everyone negatively. 

The Monster Mall is not quite all I hoped for. I liked the concept, kid trying to solve the monster and human issues and keep everyone safe in her own creepy and mysterious ways. Almost goofy, a little naive friend trying to do his part and still a little excited by the whole thing. While that was good, and the introductions to imps, vampires, and some of the other monsters hidden almost in plain sight, with impending crisis, is well done I was hoping for more. No part of this story really gets a conclusion, it is all just building towards something bigger. While I get that this is part of a series, there should still be some small resolutions to make the reader feel like the issue has a complete story, even with larger story arches still looming. I really liked what was here- but I want more rather than just teasers about what will come in later issues. 

Book Review: The Yark by Bertrand Santini

The Yark by Bertrand Santini is a subversive chapter book about a monster who eats children--until one day he makes a friend. The Yark loves children with the love of a gourmet! This hairy monster dreams of child buffets--ham of boy, orphan gratin, breaded babies, and so on. But he has a problem: his delicate stomach can only tolerate nice children; liars give him heartburn and savages spoil his teeth. There are not nearly enough good, edible children around to keep him from starvation. Then the Yark finds sweet Madeleine. Will he gobble her up? Or will she survive long enough to change his life?
The Yark is not for the sensitive reader, because it does start of with how much the Yark like to eat children, and how he goes about it. There are some illustrations through the book, all in black and white pencil work, and they do a good job of drawing the reader in more, and helping them picture exactly what the author intends. The exploits of our Yark, who is a softie but quite hungry, are fantastic and silly, with a few moments that will scare some. Stealing the nice list from Santa gives him a road map to find tasty children to eat, but it never goes quite he was. He is tricked, accidentally eats a bad child- resulting in extreme distress. That is until Madeleine cares for him and they become the best of friends despite all odds. It is love that the Yark attempts to leave, only to suffer horribly but lose the need to eat good children and start on the path to change, with Madeleine's support of course. There is a life lesson to be had, and plenty to think about. It is not quite what I was expecting- although I am not sure what I was expecting anyway. It was interesting, and a little harsher than I expected in some ways. 
The Yark is not necessarily for just children, and is certainly not for those that do not like some horror or mayhem in their reading. Like the original fairy tales, there is plenty of darkness here, and a higher level read that I was really expecting. I would think middle grade readers with a liking for horror, and older readers, will get much more out of this read than younger children. 

Early Book Review: Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick, Thomas Taylor

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter by Marcus Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor is a graphic novel for middle grade readers which is currently scheduled for release on April 3 2018. Scarlett Hart, orphaned daughter of two legendary monster hunters, is determined to carry on in her parents’ footsteps—even if the Royal Academy for the Pursuit and Eradication of Zoological Eccentricities says she’s too young to fight perilous horrors. But whether it's creepy mummies or a horrid hound, Scarlett won’t back down, and with the help of her loyal butler and a lot of monster-mashing gadgets, she’s on the case. With her parent’s arch-rival, Count Stankovic, ratting her out to T.R.A.P.E.Z.E. and taking all the monster-catching rewards for himself, it’s getting hard for Scarlett to do what she was born to do. And when more monsters start mysteriously manifesting than ever before, Scarlett knows she has to get to the bottom of it and save the city whatever the danger!

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter had great potential, but I feel like it missed its mark. I was completely unimpressed by the art, but since i had a digital arc I am willing to give it a pass for the most part, because this sort of file never looks as good as the real thing. However, even with the allowances I give for galleys, I found the art to be a little lazy and sadly this carried through the character development. I found Scarlett to be very one dimensional and unlikable, and the big bad to be even less developed. The adventure part was okay, but I thought the character work was poor enough that I really could not care about what happened to anyone. The poor butler that does the majority of the work is not even given a name. I had so much hope for this, and really wanted to like it. Unfortunately I was not given the Buffy-eske heroine I wanted, rather I got a girl that more resembled her winy, incompetent sister. 

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter is not all I had hoped, but I can still see a market for it. 

Book Review: Under-the-Bed Fred by Linda Bailey

Under-the-Bed Fred is a transitional chapterbook written by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Colin Jack. This is perfect for those readers moving beyond picturebooks and branching into more challenging reads. It is broken into a few smaller stories, so it is not overwhelming to readers that might still be intimidated by chapter books.

There's a monster under Leo's bed making a ruckus every night. When Leo needs to go to the bathroom, he leaps from the bed to the door -- careful not to put his feet on the floor within the monster's reach. But one night Leo gets tired of being scared and boldly calls out to the monster to see if they can't just work something out. Surprisingly, the monster listens, and Leo finds out that even enormous monsters have fears! Leo and his monster, Fred, team up to face their fears, each with his own unique strengths. Over the course of five easy-to-read chapters, their friendship blooms as they face everything from bullies to bedbugs.

Under-the-Bed Fred is a fun book for independent readers, and for sharing. I like that Leo faces his fears, and learns something about prejudice and friendship. I found Fred to be a cute and imaginative creature, making the story fun. Leo has real kid problems, and some fears shared by most children at some point. I liked his persistence and patience with Fred- and thought that the exasperation he feels towards Fred at times mirrors what adults and older sibling might feel when the target audience gives into the fears Leo faces. I think this book could help young readers  face monster fears, and dealing with the stresses of bullies and school. The illustrations add a nice touch to the story, adding emotion and additional fun to the read.

Book Review: Saint George: Rusty Knight and Monster Tamer by John Powell

Saint George: Rusty Knight and Monster Tamer by John Powell is a collection of short stories that left me wondering about the intended audience. The tone is fun and humorous, suitably silly for young readers that might enjoy it, but some of the humor seemed to be geared towards adults. The short stories tell of an impoverished knight in old England who discovers a way to tame the great variety of monsters that roam the land in the days of Good King Freddie the Umteenth and his prime minister Merlin the Whirlin.

Saint George: Rusty Knight and Monster Tamer is humorous and silly, with each of the short stories able to read one their own. This might make it a good pick for readers looking for short fun reads, because it is easy to read a single tale and put it aside until you are ready for more. I found the tone to be a bit childish, but at the same time there were bits about private parts and getting drunk, making it not quite right for some younger readers. To be honest, the stories really did not hold my attention well. Which made the fact that I could read a bit and the put it aside a good thing. I can see the appeal for some readers, but it just never grabbed me. 

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: Riverkeep by Martin Stewart

Riverkeep by Martin Stewart is a book intended for teens and tweens. Fifteen-year-old Wulliam is dreading taking up his family's mantle of Riverkeep, tending the river and fishing corpses from its treacherous waters. But then everything changes. One night his father is possessed by a dark spirit, and Wull hears that a cure lurks deep within the great sea-beast known as the mormorach. He realizes he must go on an epic journey downriver to find it - or lose Pappa forever. The story feels sluggish and the interesting parts of it are few and far between.

Riverkeep is a book that I had trouble getting into, and in turn enjoying. Unfortunately little things bothered me about Wull starting at the beginning. I found him to be frustrating more often than I found him likable or sympathetic. I think the disconnect from the main character and a pacing that I found to be slow made it hard to get excited about the story or care about the characters or their world. I honestly picked up the book four or five times to read it, only to put it down in favor of whatever was next on my reading list. Finally I decided that I would tackle it- and still could not connect with Wull and his story. Sadly I could not finish the book. However, I think readers that like the very descriptive style might enjoy the read. Unfortunately, that is not me.

Book Review: Shadowed Souls edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes

Shadowed Souls, edited by Jim Butcher and Kerrie L. Hughes, is a collection of urban fantasy featuring short stories from Jim Butcher, Seanan McGuire, Kevin J. Anderson, and Rob Thurman. These stories offer nothing is as simple as black and white, light and dark, good and evil. Unfortunately, that is exactly what makes it so easy for the characters in these tales to cross the line. In Jim Butcher's Cold Case, Molly Carpenter—Harry Dresden's apprentice-turned-Winter Lady—must collect a tribute from a remote Fae colony and discovers that even if you're a good girl, sometimes you have to be bad. In Seanan McGuire's Sleepover finds half-succubus Elsie Harrington kidnapped by a group of desperate teenage boys. Not for anything “weird.” They just need her to rescue a little girl from the boogeyman, no biggie. In Kevin J. Anderson's Eye of Newt, Zombie P.I. Dan Shamble's latest client is a panicky lizard missing an eye who thinks someone wants him dead. But the truth is that someone only wants him for a very special dinner. In Rob Thurman's infernally heroic Caliban Leandros takes a trip down memory lane as he deals with some overdue—and nightmarish—vengeance involving some quite nasty Impossible Monsters. There are also stories from genre favorites Tanya Huff, Kat Richardson, Jim C. Hines, Anton Strout, Lucy A. Snyder, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and Erik Scott de Bie.

Shadowed Souls is a fine collection of short stories connected by characters forced to venture into the shades of gray in the process of trying to do the right thing, or what needs to be done. I really enjoyed the look into Molly Carpenter's mind, as I am a long standing fan of Jim Butcher. I also particularly enjoyed the contributions of Lucy A. Snyder, Kat Richardson, Seanan McGuire, and Tanya Huff. None of the stories stuck me a badly written, but some I just did not connect with as easily as I did others. In some cases it was because I had not read the books set in the same world as the short story, and some it was merely a matter of my personal preferences. However, I think collections like this are a great sampler for those looking to explore new authors without committing to an entire book or series.

Shadowed Souls is a nice collection for fans of the urban fantasy genre, and a nice way to visit the worlds of favorite authors as we wait for the continuation of their next book, and a fun way to explore the writing style of other authors that just might become new favorites. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others. However, I think this is a great collection for anyone that enjoys reading about characters discovering how far into the dark side they might be willing to go for the greater good, or the good of those they care for most.

Book Review: Scooby Apocalypse Vol. 1 by Keith Griffen, Jim Lee, Howard Potter

Scooby Apocalypse Vol. 1 collects issues 1-6 of a graphic novel by Keith Griffen, Jim Lee, and Howard Potter.  Fred. Daphne. Velma. Shaggy. Scooby-Doo. Roaming the globe in their lime-green Mystery Machine, they've solved countless crimes and debunked dozens of sketchy supernatural shenanigans. But what if the horror was real? Something terrible has transformed our world, turning millions of people into mindless zombie hordes. And only five people well, four people and one mangy mutt have the smarts, the skills and the sheer crazy courage to stare down doomsday.  Can these pesky kids and their canine companion using every incredible contraption in their arsenal defeat the evil that has overwhelmed planet Earth? 

Scooby Apocalypse is a complete new look and origin story for the Scooby gang. I have seen so many different takes, that I was fine with that. I liked that the story started completely fresh, and that it is much more complex than what most expect from Scooby and friends. I liked the use of Daphne's television show and connection with Fred, which has been a tool in previous incarnations- but not to this degree, and not without the rest of the crew already connecting. I liked the twists on Shaggy and Scooby as well, making them more than the comic relief that they often get used for. Shaggy is a much more complicated and compassionate character than I was used to, and not nearly as goofy. Velma is also much more defined in this story, I do not think I ever got more of a backstory for her than her being very smart and isolated- here readers get a multidimensional look at her. The action and story lines are unique and very well done. I will admit that it took me a bit to get used to the gangs new look, and I still wonder why Daphne and Fred still insist on wearing those scarves. I think that the harsh lines and dramatic look are very suited to the story, even if it is not my normal preference.

I will definitely be looking for the second volume of Scooby Apocalypse. I am honestly intrigued and want to see where this is going. I have a feeling that I will be buying the full run and saving it for my son. He is a huge Scooby fan, but is not quite ready for this version. However, he is really close so I am pretty sure that when the run is complete he will be ready for dive on in.

Early Book Review: Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

Bone Witch is the first book in a new series by Rin Chupeco and is currently scheduled for release on March 7 2017. When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha, one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice.

Bone Witch is a book with a fantastic premise and well defined characters. Tea is a strong character with plenty of insecurity, but always trying to be the best she can. She does occasionally do things that are not right, but it only serves to make her more realistic. Her brother, the older as has, and characters she meet are also well fleshed out. The world, its mythology, and dangers were very well done and I liked the magic and social construct aspects of the story, and thought the political machinations were very well done and believable. I also like that there were moments that completely took me by surprise. Appearances and actions lead readers and characters alike to assumptions that are far from true. 

What I did not like was the flipping between two timeframes. While the changes were clearly noted, the future or present depending on how you want to thinks about it is in italics. So it is not confusing, but I found that it broke my reading rhythm and made it harder to get lost in the story. My other problem, which might be deeply connected, is that the book felt very long. There were some very important things that could not, and should not, be left out but I felt like some of the descriptions could have been less wordy, or something. I just found myself looking at the hours or percentage of the book left to read several times and being surprised how much more there was to go.

Bone Witch is a entertaining read with a wonderful premise and serous world building. Those that like full visual descriptions and detailed explanations will love it. Readers that need a faster pace and prefer to use their imagination for more of the little details might get frustrated with the read. It was very well done, but just did not fit what I was looking for while reading.  

Book Review: Curse of the Were-Hyena by Bruce Hale

Curse of the Were-Hyena is the first book in the Monstertown Mystery series by Bruce Hale. Mr. Chu, the coolest teacher ever, has developed some very unusual habits, like laughing hysterically for no reason, sniffing people's homework, and chasing chickens. When best friends Carlos and Benny decide to find out what's happening to him, they get caught up in some moonlight madness. And it looks like just the beginning of the weirdness that has arrived in the town of Monterrosa.

Curse of the Were-Hyena is an entertaining read that will appeal to a wide audience. Carlos and Benny each get into a good amount of trouble as they do their best to save their teacher, unravel the mystery, and not become were-anything in the process. I like that they are fully aware of what they are doing and that the adults are not foolish. The adults might miss some things, but are not the clueless cutouts that are often found in children's books. Carlos' family is facing big changes, which gives the story an undercurrent of him trying to find his place in light of a younger sister with big things going on. Benny might be a little to reliable for the goofy option, but I still know people that think like his, so i still found his character to be realistic. The family dynamics play a role, and change as the story continues, which adds an extra dimension to the story. The mystery and supernatural elements kept me on my toes, and held a couple surprises for me. I was pleased to actually have some of the final twists to be unexpected, and in some cases completely so. While not a perfect story, it was well worth the read and I think  it will become a favorite series for many reluctant readers.

Curse of the Were-Hyena is a fast and fun story that will be a hit with middle grade readers. I think this is a series that might encourage more reluctant readers in that age range to follow the series and explore reading a little more.

Early Book Review: Viking Warrior Rebel (Viking Warriors) by Asa Maria Bradley

Viking Warrior Rebel is the second book in the Viking Warriors series by Asa Maria Bradley and is currently scheduled for release on October 4 2016. The first book was Viking Warrior Rising, and I think that to fully enjoy this book it is important to read this series in order. This is particularly true because of love interests in this story get their start in the first book.

Astrid Irisdotter is a Valkyrie-a fierce warrior fighting to protect humanity from the evil god Loki and his brutal minions. She’s on an urgent mission for her queen when everything goes hideously sideways. Undercover agent Luke Holden arrives on the scene just in time to save her life-and put his own on the line. Luke may have saved her, but that doesn’t mean Astrid can trust him. Tempers flare as they hide secret upon secret from each other, but Astrid’s inner warrior knows what it wants, and it will not take “no” for an answer.

Viking Warrior Rebel is not exactly what i expected, but I think it was a good story for Astrid. She is stubborn and strong, like most of the warriors, and works hard never to show weakness or doubt. Luke has been undercover for so long that he is having trouble figuring out who he really is, and who he can trust. Neither gives into emotion often, or trust others easily, so walls and mistrust flow freely through the story, keeping things difficult. They each have some serious secrets, which they do not feel ready to share, with good reason. I think the character development is good, and their progression is well done and well timed. The frustration and fears of the two strong characters kept things going. I liked that there is definitely movement and connections to the larger story arc, but the love story definitely takes precedence. However, I will say that I am insanely curious about a couple side characters that I desperately want to see more of.

Viking Warrior Rebel is a solid addition to this series. While the larger story arc of the wolverines and labs definitely takes a back seat to the character’s personal development and conflicts. Fans of the series, and the author, will definitely be happy. 

Book Review: The Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem by Laura Gosselin, Jake Gosselin, and, Billy Kelly

The Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem is a transitional chapter book written by Laura Gosselin and Jake Gosselin, and illustrated by Billy Kelly. It is the first book in a new series, with the second book, Belladonna and the Nightmare Academy, released this month. 

This is going to be the best year ever for best friends Bitterly, Abyssma and Belladonna as they are starting a new school year at Fright School! But when Bitterly, the most promising fright, is faced with a school bully and some nightmares of her own, she finds help from the last place she expected—the little girl whom she has sworn to protect.

The Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem is the start of a new series that is about facing fears, dealing with bullies, and finding your place and talents. I like that our main characters are those who should be scary, but are dealing with school pressures and self doubts like their readers. These young frights are in school to learn how to help their assigned human to deal with nightmares in fears. In the process of figuring out how to help her girl, Bitterly figures out how to handle her own fears and worries. I think this is a great new series for readers just venturing into chapter books. This book is right up my daughters alley and I think there are many other readers that will enjoy it as well. 

The Pinkaboos: Bitterly and the Giant Problem is an empowering  series for young readers that presents the challenges of childhood through a magical world filled with not so scary frights.