Early Book Review: Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds: Easy Techniques for Learning to Embroider a Variety of Colorful Birds, Including a Cardinal, a Barn Owl, and a Puffin by Beth Hoyes

Embroidery Made Easy: Beautiful Birds: Easy Techniques for Learning to Embroider a Variety of Colorful Birds, Including a Cardinal, a Barn Owl, and a Puffin by Beth Hoyes is currently scheduled for release on July 12 2022. Learn to create a variety of birds following the newest embroidery trend: thread painting. Through a collection of 12 detailed, full-color patterns, aspiring and established embroidery artists will discover how to employ the art of thread painting to create a range of popular birds and waterfowl from around the world, including North America, the Amazon rain forest, and Europe. Thread painting is the name for using single strands of embroidery floss to create lifelike images with beautifully blended gradients of color and detail. Fortunately, the process is not as hard as it sounds! After learning a bit about how to create gradients and blend colors, anyone can create incredible embroidered masterpieces.

Embroidery Made Easy caught my eye, as I have recently gotten back into cross stitch and embroiderer, and most of my projects have been landscapes, flowers, and simple animals. Looking to expand my skillset I quickly requested the book and netgalley, and here we are. I thought the information on techniques and terms in the front of the book was well written and organized, but the idea of thread painting can be intimidating to new crafters. Even as someone that has been doing a wide variety of crafts some of the charts explaining the way multiple colors in a section create the effects we are looking for was a little overwhelming. However, once you get to the individual patterns with the color order, direction of stitch, and all the little details explained step by step it all felt much more manageable. The fact that the templates for your fabric are included is helpful and everything seems doable, but it is something that will take a crafter's full attention, at least until they feel more comfortable with the process. I still have a couple works in progress on my side table, but I will be tackling the hummingbird as soon as I can.

Early Book Review: The One Who Loves You by Pippa Grant

The One Who Loves You
by Pippa Grant is currently scheduled for release on July 12 2022. 
If the Upper East Side had an evil twin, it would be Tickled Pink, Wisconsin. This run-down, backwoods town isn’t worthy of the footprint of my Louboutins, never mind all of me. But when my grandmother has a near-death experience and realizes we Lightlys can’t buy our way into heaven, she relocates the family to Tickled Pink to work on improving our souls. And that’s how I trade my heiress existence for gigantic bugs, dishwater coffee, and a cranky single dad named Teague Miller. Teague spends his days fishing, raising his spunky teenager, and after an unfortunate incident involving cheese curds, living rent-free in my head. The one thing he and I can agree on is that I don’t belong here. He’s willing to help me escape—until the unexpected happens. I kind of like him. I might even more than like him. But am I ready to give up the life I adored for a man I love to hate?

The One Who Loves You is an introduction to a whole new set of characters and a new small town for fans of Pippa Grant, which honestly threw me for a minute. I kept trying to remember where I might have seen the town or some if the characters before, since I have read a great deal from the author, but it was all new for me. I also admit that it took me a minute to warm up to Phoebe, which was likely intentional because of her personal story and character growth. I was glad to have gotten the story from  the heads of both Phoebe and Teague, I don't think the relationship building and story of the town would have felt quite so real and intense with out both aspects of the story. They each had issues, secrets, and things to work on- even if it looked or felt one sided. I thought the reveal was mildly expected by the time the twist came along, but I liked the was it was done and the way the resolution played out.  I also really liked that we got to know the whole town, and that even the secondary characters felt very real and multi dimensional. 

The One Who Loves You is the same blend of laugh and character growth that fans have come to expect from the author. 

Book Review: Go Hex Yourself by Jessica Clare

Go Hex Yourself
 by Jessica Clare is a contemporary enemies to lovers romance with a magical twist. When Reggie Johnson answers a job ad in the paper, she’s astonished to find that she’s not applying to work at her favorite card game, Spellcraft: The Magicking. Instead, she’s applying to be an actual familiar for an actual witch. As in, real magic. The new job has a few perks - great room and board, excellent pay, and she's apprenticing to a powerful witch. Sure, the witch is a bit eccentric. And sure, there was that issue with the black cat Reggie would prefer to forget about. The biggest problem, however, is warlock Ben Magnus, her employer's nephew and the most arrogant, insufferable, maddening man to ever cast a spell. Reggie absolutely hates him. He's handsome, but he's also bossy and irritating and orders her around. Ben's butt might look great in a crystal ball vision, but that's as far as it goes. But when someone with a vendetta targets the household, she finds herself working with Ben to break a deadly curse. Apparently, when they're not fighting like cats and dogs, things get downright bewitching

Go Hex Yourself is an engaging and entertaining read. I like the world building and characters and think the balance of humor, mystery, and heat was well done. This book is not for readers that do not enjoy dirty talking or thinking, because there is plenty of that here- and frankly it fits the characters perfectly and I think it would have felt off personality wise if it was not there. I liked Ben's character the most, and I liked getting things from his perspective. The contrast of his emotion and concern for those he cares about against how everyone sees him, and how he sees himself, was very well written and I enjoyed getting a good look at his thoughts. I will say that Reggie sometimes irked me, but I liked how she generally stood up for herself. I will say that I guessed the big twist well before it was revealed, and honestly expected an extra one somewhere along the way with at least one set of secondary characters. That being said, if the author writes a follow up for a couple of the secondary characters, I would be ready for that. 

Go Hex Yourself is a fun and entertaining read. For those that are interested, the audio book is available and very well done.

Book Review: The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes by Cat Sebastian is a historical romance. It is the second book in the  Queer Principles of Kit Webb series, and while returning readers will have a head start on knowing the characters I think newcomers like myself can fully enjoy the read even if they missed the first book.

Marian Hayes, the Duchess of Clare, just shot her husband. Of course, the evil, murderous man deserved what was coming to him, but now she must flee to the countryside. Unfortunately, the only person she can ask for help is the charismatic criminal who is blackmailing her—and who she may have left tied up a few hours before. A highwayman, con artist, and all-around cheerful villain, Rob Brooks is no stranger to the wrong side of the law or the right side of anybody’s bed. He never meant to fall for the woman whose secrets he promised to keep for the low price of five hundred pounds, but how could he resist someone who led him on a merry chase all over London, left him tied up in a seedy inn, and then arrived covered in her husband’s blood and in desperate need of his help? As they flee across the country—stopping to pick pockets, drink to excess, and rescue invalid cats—they discover more true joy and peace than either has felt in ages. But when the truth of Rob’s past catches up to him, they must decide if they are willing to reshape their lives in order to forge a future together.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes is a fun and highly engaging read. I love that even though all of the characters have their own trauma to deal with all of the major players are still genuinely good people, despite their less than legal actions, and are doing their best to prevent trauma to others. I also like how they Marian's daughter and all the emotions involved in the complicated pregnancy, birth, and aftermath are handled. Not everyone has the same experiences, and seeing something that falls outside the fairytale ideal felt right here, and might help some process their own feelings and experiences- and their expectations for themselves and others. Admitting, there were moments that I felt Rob was too perfect, but it really worked for his situation, past, and ideals so I was quickly able to move past it. This book was just good fun and a pleasure to read, with a nice dose of sexy times mixed it with the humor and adventure. I think just about everyone can enjoy this read.

The Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes was simply a joy to read. The book was well written and the characters made me smile no matter how badly things were going. Now I need to go back and read the first book in the series. 

Early Book Review: The World's Most Ridiculous Animals by Philip Bunting

The World's Most Ridiculous Animals by Philip Bunting is the second book in a series. The first was The World's Most Pointless Animals, which came out last summer. They do not need to be read as a series, but if you like the style, humor, and format of one you should go check out the other. It is currently scheduled for release on July 12 2022. 

The antagonist voice, shown though 'written' annotations through out the book, points out the apparent ridiculousness of each creature's features. While the narrator also describes the evolutionary reasons or advantages for each animal's extraordinary characteristics. Humor, information and  illustrations fill this guide to ridiculous animals. It includes funny labelled diagrams and will help teach kids about evolution by studying some of its most wild products.

The World's Most Ridiculous Animals is a fun book. I have to admit chuckling out load a couple times at the snarky commentary about the featured creatures. However, it is also informative and this combination could be just the thing to help reluctant readers tackle nonfiction reading assignments or requirements for school and summer reading. Many of the animals featured are familiar to me, but I did learn a little something new about even the Betta fish. There were also several creature I have never heard of, like the Mexican Mole Lizard. I think the balance of reasonably familiar and completely new animals is nice, keeping readers interested and engaged. The artwork is fun and does a good job of capturing some of the real aspects of the animals and still being cartoonish. The only thing I would have liked is some actual photographs of the creatures features (not all but at least a few) perhaps in the endpages, along with some recommendations of books or websites to see more. 

Book Review: Night and Day by Georgia C. Williams

Night and Day by Georgia C. Williams is a contemporary romance. Joel Schiff’s life has hit rock bottom. He has wealth and luxury but no one to share it with, he’s trapped in a job he loathes, and he’s lost sight of what he was passionate about. Thirty-five and single, and a virgin to boot, Joel realizes that unless he changes something soon, he’ll be miserable the rest of his life. But change finds Joel, and his name is Raiden Noboru. Flirtatious, spontaneous, and living each day in the moment, he’s Joel’s opposite in every way. All it takes is one smoldering, impulsive night together for Joel’s life to turn upside down. When dangerous figures from Raiden’s past make a target of them both, Raiden and Joel find themselves on the run from New York to Tokyo. Danger and mutual attraction bring them closer together, and Joel can’t deny his feelings, like himself, are changing into something he never thought possible. But for Raiden, jumping into gunfights is easier than opening his world-weary heart to Joel’s love. Each fears taking risks to their hearts, but time is running out. Raiden and Joel will have to fight for a chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love, or risk losing it all in a haze of gun smoke.

Night and Day is a book that I had trouble staying with, mostly because sometime I knew something bad was coming and I just was not in the right headspace for it. I did like the characters, both the main couple and the secondary characters through out the book.  I thought the characters, their interactions and history, and the story were all well written and built. There were a number of twists and turns, more often than not I expected something coming, but the actual twist or the way it came about surprised me. The violence and action that was part of the story was more than I was prepared for, but that is on me not the author, since it was completely in line with what was happening in the story and the personalities and motivations of the characters. I think fans of the subgenre will absolutely love this book, as a reader that is not a fan of gang and violence plot line I still saw the talent and skill in the book and was about to enjoy the well written characters and well woven story. 

Night and Day is a novel with plenty of action and angst, and a solid dose of heat. 

Book Review: Sorceline by Sylvia Douyé, Paola Antista

written by Sylvia Douyé and illustrated by Paola Antista, is a middle grade graphic novel that is the first in a series. Welcome to the Island of Vorn, where mythical creatures roam free and only the brightest students are invited to study them. For as long as she can remember, Sorceline has had a knack for the study of mythical creatures. Now a student at Professor Archibald Balzar’s prestigious school of cryptozoology, she’s eager to test her skills and earn a spot as one of Balzar’s apprentices. But for all her knowledge of gorgons, vampires, and griffins, Sorceline is mystified by her fellow humans. While she excels in her studies, she quickly clashes with her classmates, revealing her fiery temper. When one of her rivals suddenly disappears, Sorceline must set aside her anger and join the quest to find her. But the mystery only deepens, leading Sorceline on a journey far darker and more personal than she expected. 

Sorceline is a beautifully drawn graphic novel with some fun twists and turns, layers of mystery, and characters with potential for great growth and challenges. I enjoyed the story on several levels. First off the art work is wonderful, and I thought the use of cursive writing for Soceline's thoughts was very well done, but might throw some readers that have had less exposure to it. I thought the school themes of friendship and rivalry, and relationships in general was well done, but left many loose threads that will need to be looked at again in upcoming volumes. I liked Sorceline's personal journey of trying to figure out the mysteries surrounding her, and her own story and skills. II did think there could have been a bit more character development and world building, just a bit more set up, but I think it all still came together well and I trust there will be some questions answered along the way.  thought everything was well balanced and highly engaging. I was left wanting more, and will be on the look out for future volumes. 

Sorceline is a stunning read, both in artwork and story. I think many readers middle grade and older will greatly enjoy it. 

Early Book Review: Party Animals (Cranky Chicken) by Katherine Battersby

Party Animals is the second book in the Cranky Chicken series written and illustrated by Katherine Battersby. It is currently scheduled for release on June 28 2022. Cranky Chicken is super high on the crank-o-meter! And hungry. A hungry, hangry chicken is never fun, so Speedy races to cheer Cranky up. It’s Cranky’s birthday, so how about a surprise party? But Cranky hates surprises. So Speedy plans an unsurprise party, a day filled with all Cranky’s favorite un-cranky things. After, Speedy wants to go to the beach, which Cranky absolutely does not like (too sandy, too hot, not to mention sharks). Can Cranky learn to try something new? Find even more reasons to fall in love with Cranky and Speedy in these three new stories about friendship, communication, and facing things that seem scary!

Party Animals is made up of four short stories perfect for new and emerging readers. I love the art style, it is fun and just feels welcoming and friendly. The stories acknowledge that sometimes we are cranky, hungry, and not really interested in trying new things or changing our minds- but once we do things tend to get better. I am a big fan of the mismatched friend dynamic, a grumpy one and an enthusiastic one, in all kinds of stories and I think it really works well here. I just love that Cranky and Speedy accept each other for exactly who they are, not trying to change each other's personalities while still trying to help each other grow and enjoy things. I thought it was a fun read, with a good balance of learning moments and giggles. Just perfect for the target audience, and enjoyable for the adults in the room as well. 

Early Book Review: Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition by Maia Kobabe

Gender Queer: A Memoir Deluxe Edition by Maia Kobabe is currently scheduled for release on June 21 2022. This special deluxe hardcover edition of Gender Queer features a brand-new cover, exclusive art and sketches, a foreword from ND Stevenson, Lumberjanes writer and creator of She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, and an afterword from Maia Kobabe.

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Then e created Gender Queer. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fan fiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: It is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

Gender Queer is a great read for everyone. I think that readers questioning where they fall in the gender and sexuality spectrum and trying to find the words for how they feel will find comfort and relatability to the worries and fears that Maia has. I think all readers can relate to at least some of those worries, particularly the balance between fitting in or not being a bother with being comfortable with yourself. I think this an important read, not just to show people they are not alone in their thoughts, feelings, and worries but in helping those that might never have felt or acknowledged them what other people might be feeling. The importance of being yourself, even as you are trying to figure out the shape and terms that might best describe it, is important and something everyone needs to embrace. I think this book is a great read for everyone. I think the art does a great job of capture the struggle, and the successes, along the way while showing that  the journey is still underway.

Early Book Review: We Adopted a Baby Chick by Lori Joy Smith

We Adopted a Baby Chick by Lori Joy Smith is based on a true story and currently scheduled for release on June 14 2022. Albert the sheep is the only one unhappy about the new addition to the family. Tina is a tiny, fluffy baby chick — and she gets all the attention. Albert is big and loud, and he can't resist Mom's vegetables. Sprout the dog doesn't have time for Albert anymore. The cats only have eyes for Tina. And though he tries his hardest, Albert's gifts to the family aren't as welcome as Tina's eggs. Then one day, Tina faces a danger and only Albert can save her. Will Albert be able to put his feelings aside and truly welcome Tina into his flock?

We Adopted a Baby Chick is a picturebook that is based on a true story, but also covers a universal truth about facing and adjusting to changes in families and other relationships. I thought the story and illustrations matched nicely, and that readers of all ages will be able to relate to Albert's feelings. Whether is is a new sibling, pet, classmate, or something else everyone has had a time when they felt left out or ignored in favor of something new. I like that Albert had to have his bad feelings, not just ignore them or pretend they were not there, and then figure out how to move forward. We might not all have the chance to save the day, but regardless of age we can all move forward and see how we have grown and changed and embrace what we are good at now, rather then wishing for moments of the past to come again once we have outgrown them. I think the caregivers and story sharers that get to read this book with the younger set can get just as much from this book and its message as the target audience.