Showing posts with label recommended book. Show all posts
Showing posts with label recommended book. Show all posts

Book Review: Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Serafina) by Robert Beatty

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is the third (and final) book in the Serafina series by Robert Beatty. Something has happened to Serafina. She has awoken into a darkness she does not understand, scarred from a terrible battle, only to find that life at Biltmore Estate has changed in unimaginable ways. Old friends do unthinkable things and enemies seem all around. A mysterious threat moves towards Biltmore, a force without a name, bringing with it violent storms and flooding that stands to uproot everything in its path. Serafina must uncover the truth about what has happened to her and find a way to harness her strange new powers before it's too late. With only days to achieve the impossible, Serafina fights to reclaim herself as the Guardian of Biltmore, friend of Braeden, daughter of her Pa, and heroine of the Blue Ridge Mountains and all the folk and creatures that call it home. 

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is an emotional and exciting read that wrapped up the adventures of Serafina and characters in and around the Biltmore beautifully. I was nervous picking the book up, that it might not meet my extremely high expectations- but I should not have feared it was beautifully done. Serafina character continued to grow and get even more complex as she faces huge challenges to save Biltmore with those she trusts- and learning to trust someone that could destroy everything. The specifics of Serafina's crisis, and the larger dangers fancing everyone in or near the Biltmore are very well done and kept me so anxious that I serious read the book in a day, because there was no point in which I felt safe walking away. I loved the role perseverance, trust, and friendship all play in the story. The character arcs and struggles they face in their own minds, and against an old enemy make this series conclusion such a must read that I am lacking the right words to recommend this book (and the entire series) enough for middle grade readers through adults. 

Serafina and the Splintered Heart is a book that I put off reading too long. I was so eager to get my hands on it because I loved the previous two books- but I was terrified that it would fall short. Thankfully, the author and his creation more than met my expectations. To make me even happier, the promise of a related series in the near future has me chomping at the bit to get my hands on everything that comes next. 

Book Review: Spork by Kyo Maclear, Isabelle Arsenault

Spork is a picturebook written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. I knew I had read the book before, but I loved it so much that I had to reread with my daughter and review. 

His mum is a spoon. His dad is a fork. And he's a bit of both. He's Spork!Spork sticks out in the regimented world of the cutlery drawer. The spoons think he's too pointy, while the forks find him too round. He never gets chosen to be at the table at mealtimes until one day a very messy ... thing arrives in the kitchen who has never heard of cutlery customs. Will Spork finally find his place at the table?

Spork is a book about wanting to fit in, and having a hard time finding your place. Spork wants to have a place among the other cutlery- but his differences seem to make him useless until a new person sits at the table. I think this is a wonderful book to spark discussion and more about individuality, identity, and diversity. Whether in terms of heritage, ability, or any other way people feel different or other in a negative way, this book can help the ones feeling left out or unimportant, and those that need or want to have more empathy for other people. Just because we do not see our purpose, or what difference we will have in the world, that does not mean that we never will. The waiting and searching for that place, purpose, or meaning can be painful- but ever person (or piece of cutlery) have a reason for being exactly who the are and those differences are what make life so interesting. The artwork is high energy and helps bring the emotion and meaning of the book a little closer to the reader. This is a must read, and a must have for school and public library collections. 

Book Review: Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Daughter of the Pirate King is the first book in a series by Tricia Levenseller. When the ruthless Pirate King learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows that there's only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the enemy ship. After all, who's going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell?Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it's down to a battle of wits and will. Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

Daughter of the Pirate King is a entertaining read that captured my attention right away. I liked Alosa's character; she is smart, resourceful, and very self-reliant. I thought the additional development to her character because of her father, the Pirate King, and the information that is slowly revealed about her nature is very well done. Riden is a more slowly revealed character, mainly because we do not see the world from his point of view. The interaction between Riden and Alosa is highly entertaining, sometimes frustrating, but I liked the consistent conflict between the two, even when they are getting along. The variety of pirates and actions that are shared in the book are really compelling and kept me enthralled in the story. I liked the adventure, mystery, and suspense of the plot. There were a good number of twists and turns that kept me on my toes and guessing about what might come next. My only issue with the book is that it is labeled as young adult, but I think the attraction and interaction between the pair are more mature than I would recommend for younger teens.

Daughter of the Pirate King is dubbed a young adult novel, but I would likely call it new adult instead based on the ages and the content. However, I think many young adults would enjoy the book. But with the mindset of a parent and library labeler, I just wanted to mention it for those looking to recommend books for younger readers. That being said, I loved the book and will be definitely looking for the second book of the series. 

Early Book Review: Breath of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles) by Amanda Bouchet

Breath of Fire is the second book in the Kingmaker Chronicles by Amanda Bouchet. It is currently scheduled for release on January 3 2017. I highly recommend reading this series in order, because of the world and character development. The first book was Promise of Fire, which I loved.

"Cat" Catalia Fisa has been running from her destiny since she could crawl. But now, her newfound loved ones are caught between the shadow of Cat's tortured past and the threat of her world-shattering future. So what's a girl to do when she knows it's her fate to be the harbinger of doom? Everything in her power. Griffin knows Cat is destined to change the world-for the better. As the realms are descending into all-out war, Cat and Griffin must embrace their fate together. Gods willing, they will emerge side-by-side in the heart of their future kingdom, or not at all.

Breath of Fire is a grand adventure that continues to develop or characters, the world, and the political intrigue. Cat continues to grow as a person and Griffin grows as well as they find how they fit together in the bigger picture. More secrets are shared, danger faced, and crises faced. There are plenty of battles and strategies, as well as personal conflicts and magic. I think the only thing I did not like here was the ramping up of the description of the physical relationship between Cat and Griffin. I think it did overwhelm some of the other aspects of the book. It was dealt with better in the first book, and in this style of book I tend to be more interested in the emotions and adventures of they characters than a detailed description of their intimate moments. Since I read tons of romance this might seem odd, but t is what it is. That being said, I still love this series and cannot wait to get my greedy hands on the next book.

Breath of Fire is another great adventure. I still love the story and the characters,and look forward to the next book in the series, Heart of Fire, which is expected to be released in the Fall of 2017. 

Book Review: Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals by Animal Plant and Charles Gingham

Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals is a children's non fiction book  by Animal Plant and Charles Gingham. It is part of the Animal Bites series. This book offers information paired with full color photos of some of the oddest animals in the world! For instance, did you know that an archerfish can spit water up to 16 feet? Or that the giant weta is the world's largest and heaviest insect? This exploration of animal oddities introduces young animal lovers to some of the most astonishing and obscure animals in the world-including some brand new discoveries! There are more than 200 vibrant photographs and fun facts about animals with unusual behaviors, strange appearances, and remarkable stats.
Animal Planet Strange, Unusual, Gross & Cool Animals is not new in the idea, but executes it very well. I have read more than my fair share of books about the wacky, weird, and gross animals of the world. My daughter is an animal nut, and my son loves anything vaguely gross or monster like. So this book is right up their alley, and we have explored every similar book available to us, and this book holds up very well to the competition. There are a number of bright, bold photographs on each page along with interesting facts to correspond to each animal included. The texts combines humor and fact very well, capturing the attention of readers of all ages. I think reluctant readers will be put at ease with the large print and the way the text is grouped into small sections. this makes the flow of information easy to understand and from being intimidating. while I have seen many of these animals and corresponding facts before, there was so much here that i found new information and creatures to learn about as well. This is a must buy for library, school, and some home collections (like mine).

I need this book for my kids, who love animals and all things weird. Honestly, I think I will order it now and save it for a Christmas gift. This book is perfect for reluctant readers or anyone who loves totally gross and amazing animals. As a bonus, a portion of the proceeds from the sale of books in the Animal Bites series benefits the principal partners of R.O.A.R. (Reach Out. Act. Respond.), Animal Planet's initiative dedicated to improving the lives of animals in our communities and in the wild. 

Book Review: Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder

Storm Watcher by Maria V. Snyder is a middle grade novel. It was published back in 2013, and I am not sure how I missed it since she is one of my favorite authors. I am beyond thrilled that it came to Netgalley recently for me to find!

Luke Riley is lost. His mother's recent death has set Luke and his family adrift. Even though his father, twin brothers, and their three Bloodhounds are search and rescue volunteers, they have been unable to rescue themselves and become a family again. The summer after sixth grade looms in Luke's mind as a long, lonely three months where the only thing he can look forward to is watching The Weather Channel. Luke is fascinated with the weather, but since his mother's death in a storm, he is also terrified. Even the promised 13th birthday present of a Bloodhound puppy fails to lift Luke's spirits. He would rather have a different breed - a petite Papillon, but his father insists he get a Bloodhound. When Luke decides to get the Bloodhound from Willajean, a dog breeder who owns Storm Watcher Kennel, he works out a deal to help at her kennel in exchange for the expensive dog. Thrilled to have a summer with a purpose, Luke befriends Willajean's daughter, Megan and together they plan how Luke can get a Papillon puppy instead of a Bloodhound. But nothing seems to work as they struggle with stubborn fathers, summer storms, unhelpful siblings, and hidden guilt. Can one little white dog really save both families?

Storm Watcher is a wonderful realist fiction novel that imparts all sorts of lessons without ever feeling preachy- a tough balance to hit. Luke is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his mother, and the related guilt he feels about her death. He loves his family’s dogs, but wants something a little different and will do just about anything to make it happen. He works at a nearby dog breeders to earn his puppy- though weather he gets the dog he wants or the bloodhound his father insists on is up for debate. Responsibility and perseverance are the name of the game as he works his way through the summer. Willajean and Luke’s father might not always seem nice, but through the story even when you disagree with their stance or actions you can tell they really care and are trying to do the right thing. All of the characters have moments of good and bad, including Luke and Wiglsjean’s daughter Megan. The complex and growing characters make everything so real that I was really engaged in their story, and still am long after finishing the book. The layer’s of Luke’s thoughts and fears bring everything home, his fear and fascination of the weather, his guilt and sadness in the loss of his mother, and his struggles relating to what is left of his family and the community he had pulled away from. Even when you think you know what another character is thinking, or how something must turn out, there are still some surprises and so much heart to this book that it stays with the reader.

Storm Watcher is a wonderful story about family, lose, and finding what really matters. Issues of guilt and fear are dealt with and can help children understand what others might be going through, and that they are not alone. Heartwarming, and heart wrenching, it brought tears to this stoic reader’s eyes.

Book Review: The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman

The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman is a middle grade novel. When twelve-year-old Nick runs away from his uncle’s in the middle of a blizzard, he stumbles onto a very opinionated bookstore. He also meets its guardian, the self-proclaimed Evil Wizard Smallbone, who calls Nick his apprentice and won’t let him leave, but won’t teach him magic, either. It’s a good thing the bookstore takes Nick’s magical education in hand, because Smallbone’s nemesis—the Evil Wizard Fidelou—and his pack of shape-shifting bikers are howling at the borders. Smallbone might call himself evil, but compared to Fidelou, he’s practically a puppy. And he can’t handle Fidelou alone. 

The Evil Wizard Smallbone has complex characters and situations that kept me guessing for a bit, even with the amount of science fiction, fantasy, and mythology i have read. Nick has finally escaped a abusive house only to stumble into the care of the evil wizard Smallbone. He is made an apprentice and put to work doing all the menial tasks you might expect. However, there is much more the the wizard he works for than any might expect. the small town he lords over, and all its inhabitants are in his debt- but no one remembers why. Secrets and magic at at the heart of it all- including the wolves, coyotes, and bikers that want to destroy it all. Nick is not a simple boy, nor is Smallbones a simple wizard. They are much more than the stereotypical figures one might expect after the classic set up, and the other characters that play large roles in the excitement are all multidimensional as well. This includes the villagers, the bad guys, and even the pets and farm animals kept by Smallbones. I enjoyed the use of several creatures and ideas from mythology and fairy tales were used with different twists than normally seen. I also liked that I was genuinely surprised at a twist or two, but even when I expected an outcome it was done in a way that was completely enjoyable and worth the read.

The Evil Wizard Smallbone was so much more than I expected. The time between requesting a book from Netgalley and me reading it is sometimes long enough that I remember nothing of the initial blurb when I start to read, and this was the case here. I was very happy to discover a middle grade novel with complex characters, plot twists, and adventure. I can think of many readers, including reluctant readers that I will gladly recommend it too. I was so impressed with the character and world building that I am not ready to let go of this story at all. I am inspired to go back and read the previous books by the author. 

Early Book Review: A Guide to the Other Side (Beyond Baylor) by Robert Imfeld

A Guide to the Other Side is the first book in the Beyond Baylor series by Robert Imfeld. It is currently scheduled for release on October 4 2016. There are a few things you should know about Baylor Bosco: He’s thirteen-years-old, he has a twin sister, and he really does NOT like ghosts…which is problematic because he’s a medium and sees ghosts everywhereOh, and his twin sister, Kristina? She’s a ghost too. They’ve been working as a pair for years, expertly relaying messages from ghosts to their still-living loved ones. Baylor’s even managed to come up with an introductory phrase—one that he has to use far too often. But when a strange ghost shows up close to Halloween, a grown man, covered in a sheet, with only his black leather shoes showing from the bottom, Baylor starts to wonder if something else has taken notice of him. And when his sister goes missing, somehow ghost-napped, he’s forced to figure out the truth about the Sheet Man and his sister’s disappearance, all without his usual ghostly ambassador.

A Guide to the Other Side is the story of a very special middle grade boy that has the ability to see and speak to ghosts. While dealing with the inopportune requests from the other side he still needs to get through school and family life without constantly freaking out other people with his abilities. The added complication of a ghostly twin acting as his companion, confidant, and protector make things more complicated. By the time readers join Baylor on his adventure he is well versed on blending in and feels fairly confident in his skills and place as messenger for the dead. However, things are about to get harder and Baylor needs to face his responsibilities and learn more all aspects of the world around him. I like that he has both scary moments, and some very emotional issues to face. While the mystery of the sheet man and the danger Baylor faces is a huge part of the story, I really love that his emotional growth and understanding- including empathy for his family and friends- is just as important to the story. This is not just a paranormal adventure full of mischief and mayhem, it is also a heartfelt coming of age story, I also enjoyed the fact that while the adults in Baylor’s life dogged upset with him for putting himself in harm’s way and breaking rules, they are also aware and intelligent characters rather than the bumbling adults that seem to frequent children’s fiction. 

A Guide to the Other Side is a wonderful middle grade novel with plenty of heart, excitement, and wonder for readers. I am very glad I read it and can think of many I would recommend it to. 

Book Review: Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler

Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale by David Kudler is the first book in the Seasons of the Sword series. Though Japan has been devastated by a century of civil war, Kano Murasaki, called Risuko (Squirrel) is more comfortable climbing trees than down on the ground. Growing up far from the battlefields and court intrigues, the fatherless girl finds herself pulled into a plot that may reunite Japan, or may destroy it. She is torn from her home and what is left of her family, but finds new friends at a school that may not be what it seems. Historical adventure fiction appropriate for young adult and middle-grade readers.

Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale was a nice surprise. I am a big fan of Japanese culture and mythology, and the classic coming of age quest  story, so I was drawn to the book and needed to give it a chance. I greatly enjoyed the character building for Risuko, she is a growing, dynamic character that is very observant of the world around her. While the reader only knows what Risuko see and hear, sometimes we can understand more than she does and enjoy the realization as it comes. Because of her uncertainty and struggles the readers get to see and understand more than they might with a different narrator. I like that there seem to be no assumptions on the authors part about how much or Japanese history or folklore the reader knows, or does not know. The world building is solid but subtle, so at no point does ignorance of a certain word, story, or event turn off a reader. Additionally there is a collection of related information at the end of the book to sooth the eager minds of any reader that seeks to understand more about anything they might not have fully understood while reading. I found myself so wrapped up in Risuko's story, that I finished the book in less than a day, begrudging the menial tasks that took me from the read, like making meals for my family and eating.

Risuko: A Kunoichi Tale is a wonderful read for middle grade, young adult, and older readers. I think anyone that enjoys historical fiction or the  coming of age combined with a quest that seems to be most common in fantasy. I think this will be a wonderful surprise for any reader that gives it a chance. I cannot recommend this read highly enough.

Early Book Review: Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton

Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea by Ben Clanton is an early graphic novel that is currently scheduled for release on October 4 2016. Narwhal is a happy-go-lucky narwhal. Jelly is a no-nonsense jellyfish. The two might not have a lot in common, but they do they love waffles, parties and adventures. Join Narwhal and Jelly as they discover the whole wide ocean together is three silly and simply awesome adventures. First, Jelly learns that Narwhal is a really good friend. Then Narwhal and Jelly form their own pod of awesomeness with their ocean friends. And finally, Narwhal and Jelly read the best book ever, even though it doesn't have any words or pictures!

Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea is tremendous fun. At first I almost called this an easy reader- mainly because it had the feel of fun and friendship I get when enjoying an Elephant and Piggie book from Mo Willems, or the more recent Ballet Cat from Bob Shea. However, this book is about a narwhal- who does not love a narwhal? Particularly when one is so enthusiastically happy and willing to try just about anything, particularly if it will make his friend jelly happy. The three adventures are fun, and show the importance of friendship and trying new things, and imagination, just as much as they make readers of all ages laugh. As a bonus, there are some interesting bits of information about real narwhals tossed in with all the fun.

Narwhal: The Unicorn of the Sea is a great book to introduce young readers to graphic novels. However, if you are against graphic novels for some reason, just call it a picturebook or easy reader- because it could fit those descriptors easily as well. A delightfully fun book that will make fans of Bob Shea and Mo Willems very happy.

Early Book Review: Fuchsia Fierce by Christianne Jones

Fuchsia Fierce by Christianne Jones is a picturebook that is currently scheduled for release on September 1 2016.Fuchsia Fierce is a bold name for a bold girl, but she does not feel brave. Her parents send her to camp where she tries new things and finds confidence in herself. Thanks to her camp counselor, and her friends, Fuchsia finally learns how to live up to her name.

Fuchsia Fierce is a picturebook about breaking out of your shell and trying new things even though it is scary. I like that Fuchsia starts off as a shy girl and that even at Camp Confidence she is not forced into anything. Her camp councilors and fellow campers let her be herself, and join in when she was ready. They let her make her excuses and stand on the sideline until she is ready to take a chance on her own. as a adult that was a shy child and still dreads rooms full of strangers I could relate to Fuchsia.  When she was ready to join in, and face her fears, she discovered that while she might not be good at everything, she could only discover what she was good at by trying. I only wish my childhood camp counselors, teachers, and such had let me make those types of decisions at my own pace as well. I think this is a great read for shy children, and those that love them. While I do not recommend shipping your kid off to camp without talking to them first, giving them every opportunity to shine in their own way and time is wonderful.

Fuchsia Fierce is a great picturebook about being shy, coming out of your shell, and facing the fear that often comes when facing new experiences like school, camp, or activities. I think those that have children that are shy or reluctant to participate could benefit from the read as well, but understanding more about how the child feels and that letting them take steps at their own pace could be the best for everyone.

About the Author: Christianne Jones is an award-winning author of books for younger children. Her picture book Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker won a 2013 Gelett Burgess Award and was a Midwest Book Award finalist, and Hello, Goodbye, and a Very Little Lie was listed as one of the 100 best children’s books by popular parenting site Christianne lives in Mankato, Minnesota, with her husband and three daughters.

About the Illustrator: Kelly Canby was born in London, England, but has lived in Australia since the grand old age of three, which is probably about the same age she started playing with pencils and crayons. And it was probably only a few years afterward that she decided playing with pencils and crayons was something she wanted to do for the rest of her life. With a Bachelor of Art (design and illustration) from Curtin University, Western Australia, Kelly has been scribbling professionally, and much more neatly, since her early twenties, predominantly as a graphic designer and now as a freelance illustrator of children’s books.

Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers is a middle grade novel. Longing to be one of the popular girls in her new town, Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into their club. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, counting the hours, waiting to be rescued. As hours pass, Kammie’s real-life predicament mixes with memories of the best and worst moments of her life so far, including the awful reasons her family moved to this new town in the first place. And as she begins to feel hungry and thirsty and light-headed, Kammie starts to imagine she has company, including a French-speaking coyote and goats that just might be zombies.

The Girl in the Well is Me starts just after Kammie has fallen into a well due to a stunt the girls she desperately want to fit in with ask her to perform. As she sits stuck in the well, waiting for help and hoping the girls will either do something to get her out or find someone who can, she thinks about how she ended up there. She remembers her desperation to fit in, and how she should have tried to make real friends rather than trying to be accepted by the popular clique. She thinks about why her family moved for her home, why they are no longer rich, and what has separated them from her father. She thinks about some of the worst moments in her life, which all seem to be recent. She thinks about the good things, like the record store and the cat she likes best at home. Thoughts of suicide are included and is parental incarceration, so if those are anxiety triggers for you then you might want to skip the read. However, I think it is handled very well to make the reader feel less alone and better understood. I will admit to tears, and more than a few moments when I had to put the book down and take a moment. Thankfully, there was also a good amount of witty or otherwise amusing moments to balance the read out a little. A very good read, but not for a light read or an escape. 

The Girl in the Well is Me is an emotional read that actually had me in tears a few times. I think any reader that has faced family problems, depression, or even just fears about fitting in will find something to relate to here- and the knowledge that they are not alone.  

Early Book Review: Prisoner of the Mind by Susan Staneslow Olsen

I am very fortunate to know a number of authors, which thus far I have avoided reviewing for because I did not want anyone to think positive reviews were biased, or if I did not like a book I was worried about hurt feelings or other complications. I am glad that I was asked by one such author, a coworker, to review and I agreed. Since we have fairly similar taste and fandoms I thought I would give it a go. Now I am both glad I did and disappointed that I did not read her work earlier. Finding another series to read is a double edged sword.

Prisoner of the Mind by Susan Staneslow Olsen currently scheduled for release in July 2016 and is the first book in a series. Rumors about the Kerasi and their violent society abound. Frustrated parents warned their children to stay in bed or a Kerasi might get them. They played marbles with real eyes, ate live toads the way decent people ate peanuts, and executed people just for walking down the street. The worst things Kerasi did didn’t kill you, but you wished they did. Aila Perrin knew that for a fact. A Union operative had been caught on Kerasím. The Kerasi returned him without incident. His mind had been tampered with, erased, until he didn’t have the sense to feed himself. When thirteen year old Aila finds herself abducted by the Kerasi, she has every right to be terrified for her life. But even bad things aren’t always what they seem, and as Aila is drawn deeper and deeper into the Kerasi’s plot, she can’t help but wonder who the worst offenders are; the patriots fighting to free their own people, or her own precious Union that wants to keep them down. Can Aila forgive her captors and save a race of people without sacrificing her own?

Prisoner of the Mind is the first in a series, so there is some serious world and character building.  For some reason the world building reminded me a bit of Jim Butcher's style, even though the world and plot are nothing like his works. Aila is an outspoken, intelligent girl that takes her privilege and independence a bit for granted. The Kerasi culture is one that depend heavily on a caste system, and women are typically thought little of. When Aila is kidnapped the two worlds collide and the reader gets to see both sides of the coin, the pros and cons of both the Union and Kerasi way of life. I liked that we get in the heads of several people, giving us a good glimpse of the big picture.  The cultures and personalities were very well described, but at no time was it overwhelming of boring. Aila grows up quite a bit in the story, as one tends to when held hostage, but she is not the only character that grows and changes. I think the connection she makes with those she comes in contact with, some of which were technically her enemies, and her understanding of the larger picture even though she is fairly young was somehow both realistic and hopeful. In fact, I think the state of the societies in the book show a realistic pairing of the fear and hope that seems inherent in humanity and politics. While there is a huge, important social statement here, the story is not heavy handed or preachy (which often happens) instead it is a fantastic story that just happens to say something huge to readers that are willing to listen.

Prisoner of the Mind had me think about the character and world long after I finish the book. I actually had dreams about the characters and had trouble letting go of them enough to get into my next read. I highly recommend the book, and cannot wait to see where the story goes from here. It is an all around great read that is both entertaining and thought provoking. 

Book Review: Magic Fell by Andi Van

Magic Fell by Andi Van is a fantasy novel that will appeal to the young adult, new adult, and adult audience. Magic has been missing from the world for a millennium, and it’s needed now more than ever. But in a culture where arcane power is forbidden and practitioners are executed, Tasis will have to keep his own aptitude for magic secret. With nothing to direct them besides bizarre dreams and a mysterious cat, Tasis and his sister Zaree undertake a quest to discover the hidden island that was once home to the guild. Kelwin Tiovolk departs his village following his mentor’s suggestion. As an elf wandering into human civilization, he’s in danger simply for being who he is. A brawl at an inn leads him straight into the path of the young man he’s been dreaming about, and he’s compelled to help Tasis and his sister any way he can. Together, the trio might have a chance of accomplishing their mission, or the attempt might kill them.

Magic Fell is a wonderful introduction to a fantasy world. The world is one that has faced war and conflict, resulting in a fear of magic and all thing different. Tasis has magic, and is different from those around him in many ways but is a good hearted person that wants to honor his mother's life and be a good person. Zaree is his sister in every way but blood, though she is different from those around them as well, although she goes through great strides to keep her secrets. Kelwin is an elf on a quest to learn more from the world, and to figure out his crazy dreams. When Tasis and Zaree meet up with Kelwin the adventure really begins. I like that there is a noble quest, and plenty of action and danger to keep readers eager to see just what is going to happen next. I liked that many different kinds of love were addressed, the complicated love of family (both by blood and by choice) as well as he start of romantic and friendship based love. I loved how matter of factly everyone's preferences and identities are handled and accepted, and the way conflicts are presented. The fear and hate that some have for anything or anyone they cannot (or refuse to) understand is something that is extremely relevant now. 

Magic Fell is a wonderful fantasy novel with complex characters and high action. The only people I would not recommend this read to are those that are not open minded about sexuality and gender identity. These are issues that come up in the book (and frankly are handled perfectly), so those that cannot accept people and relationships that fall outside preconceived idea will want to pass. 

Early Book Review: Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke

Nobody Likes a Goblin by Ben Hatke is a picture book which is currently scheduled for release on June 1 2016. Goblin, a cheerful little homebody, lives in a cosy, rat-infested dungeon, with his only friend, Skeleton. Every day, Goblin and Skeleton play with the treasure in their dungeon. But one day, a gang of "heroic" adventurers bursts in. These marauders trash the place, steal all the treasure, and make off with Skeleton―leaving Goblin all alone! It's up to Goblin to save the day. But first he's going to have to leave the dungeon and find out how the rest of the world feels about goblins.

Nobody Likes a Goblin meets the bar that I have set for Hatke’s picture books after the absolutely fabulous Julia's House for Lost Creatures. In this book our Goblin’s home is beset by ‘heroes’ that steal everything of his, including his best friends as the goblin hides in fear. He goes off to rescue his friend, and he discovers that the world outside have very strong feelings about goblins. Despite wanting nothing more than his friend back, you can imagine ow the people of the world react to a goblin inter midst. He has quite the adventure, only to discover that while hiding from the ‘brave’ people hunting the little goblin that he is far from alone. A fun, and wonderfully illustrated, story about assumptions, appearances, and friendship. I think children are already more willing to think outside the conventional norms or who is good or bad based on silly things like appearance but this book will only encourage them to think and look further than the surface of those they encounter.

Nobody Likes a Goblin left me with one complaint, that it was too short! Hatke is one of my favorite authors for children’s graphic novels, and picture books of course. This is a delightful read all around. I would recommend to anyone that loves great picture books and any of the author’s other work. 

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

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

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

Book Review: Octopus Pie Volume 1 by Meredith Gran

Octopus Pie Volume 1 is a graphic novel for young adults and adults by Meredith Gran. In this first collected volume of the Octopus Pie series, we follow grumpy twenty-something Eve and her stoner roommate Hanna as they navigate post-college life. They'll take on crazed childhood rivals, troubling art scenes, the discomfort of exes, and maybe even friendship? All this and more in the fictional, totally made-up city of Brooklyn.

Octopus Pie Volume 1 is a graphic novel that does a great job of collecting varied flawed characters that feel real. I think I have met some of the characters, and saw bits and pieces of myself in a few even though I am well past that stage in my life. I think young adults, new adults, and not so young anymore adults will some things they recognize from the real world here. I like the variety of characters, and their variety of flaws. While there were some characters and situations that seemed over the top, while you are going through the transitional and complex times sometime the world feels like that- at least from what I can remember. I related to Eve in her pragmatism, self-doubt, and some of her struggles. I like the combination of quirky adventures, successes, and failures as she tries to figure out just who she is and where she stands in the world. I think that everyone can relate to that feeling, even if they appear to have it all together.

Octopus Pie Volume 1 is so well done that I have the second volume waiting for me. While I am not as grumpy as Eve (really!) and have never been like Hanna I can see the reality in the story. I like the open look at a transitional time in everyone's life, and how the good is found in each of the very different paths. It is a well paced read that I greatly enjoyed. 

Book Review: Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson

Boundary Crossed by Melissa F. Olson is the first book in the Boundary Magic series. I had already read the second book, Boundary Lines, and needed to go back and read how it all started because of how much I liked the world. Now that I have two of these books read, I need to read the a novella that comes between to two as well as a previous series as I wait Boundary Born to be published. The joys, and heartache, of finding a new favorite author!

After her twin sister’s brutal murder, former US Army Sergeant Allison “Lex” Luther vowed to protect her niece, Charlie. So when two vampires try to kidnap the baby, it quickly turns into a fight to the death—Lex’s death, that is. She wakes up to two shocking discoveries: she has miraculously survived the fight, and baby Charlie is a “null,” gifted with the ability to weaken supernatural forces, and a target for creatures who want to control that power. Determined to guarantee her niece’s safety, Lex makes a deal with the local vampires. She sets out with the mysterious—and undead—“fixer” Quinn to track down whoever’s responsible for the kidnapping, sharpening her newfound magic skills along the way. But the closer she gets to the truth, the more dangerous her powers become.

Boundary Crossed is perfect beginning to a series that has already been added to my must read list. Lex has a rough history and is still reeling from her time on the front lines and the loss of her twin sister. When she finds two people toting around her niece and gets herself involved the the world of magic, vampires, and other Old World residents she gets more than she bargained for. This is a solid introduction to Lex’s family, the witches that help her, and the vampires that run the town. There is so much more to this story though. I love the combination of missed movie and modern media references, especially when combined with the love of older movies and children’s movies. The juxtaposition only start there, and make the series such an interesting read. There characters each have their own flaws and damage, as well as hidden strengths. 

Boundary Crossed is a great start to an urban fantasy series. Fans of the genre that are looking for an author with wit and some seriously good characters need to give Olson a read. She has just been added to my must read list, not just my to be read pile.  

Early Book Review: The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton

The Goblin's Puzzle: Being the Adventures of a Boy with No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton is a middle grade novel that is currently scheduled for release on January 19 2016. 

The boy is a slave with no name that is now on a quest to discover his purpose and place in the world. The goblin holds answers and more tricks than anyone might guess. he is not to be underestimated or trusted.  Plain Alice is a smart peasant girl carried off by a confused dragon and mixed up on a plot bigger than even she could fully guess. Princess Alice luckily missed being kidnapped, at least the first time around. The unlikely group comes together by chance and face a sinister plot to take over the kingdom, kind monsters, a cruel magician, and dozens of deathly boring palace bureaucrats. Together they just might outwit the villains and crack the goblin’s puzzle.

The Goblin's Puzzle is a fun and unique fantasy adventure. I really enjoyed that it felt a little like reading a classic fantasy quest novel, but still was fresh and new. each of the main characters were well fleshed out, even our nameless slave boy. They all had their own back stories, fears, and hopes while still coming together to work towards a common goal. I like that intelligence, cleverness, and kindness were better tools in the long run for all of the main characters than strength or battle experience. The slow discovery about each of the characters and their developing friendships were very well done, and made me feel like I was meeting them myself and taking part in the adventure. I thought that the pacing and plot was pretty close to perfect. However, even better were the characters that defied convention or stepped beyond my expectations. 

The Goblin's Puzzle is a wonderful middle grade adventure. I enjoyed it so much that I hope there are more books set in the same world in the near future.  

Book Review: Stickiest, Crunchiest, Fluffiest by Jane Brocket

Stickiest, Crunchiest, Fluffiest by Jane Brocket is a concept picturebook. This series of easy non fiction introduces and explains concepts with a combination of rhymes and bright photographs. In this book the idea of superlatives is explained. Questions and corresponding photographs  have readers wondering if marshmallows the fluffiest, if popcorn the lightest, and if popsicles the coldest. The simple text and bright, clear photographs both entertain and educate.

I will admit that I adore this series of concept books from Brocket. Stickiest, Crunchiest, Fluffiest is no exception. I think the wonderful photographs and clever but simple text offer a combination that is as close to perfect as I have seen. the book gets readers of all ages thinking, and coming up with answers of their own in regards to what is the stickiest, fluffiest, stinkiest, and so on.

I highly recommend Stickiest, Crunchiest, Fluffiest (and the whole series) for classroom, school, and public library collections for young readers.