Book Review: Violet by Tania Duprey Stehlik, Vanja Vuleta Jovanic

Violet is a picturebook written by Tania Duprey Stehlik and illustrated by Vanja Vuleta Jovanic. Violet is happy that her father has come to pick her up after her first day at a new school. But as she races over to meet him, one of the other kids asks, How come your Dad is blue and you're not?" Violet has never even thought about this before. Her mother is red, and her father is blue -- so why isn't she red or blue? Why is she purple? Upset and confused, Violet goes to her mother. Using paints, her mother shows her that when you combine red and blue, you get violet! Like many people in the world, Violet is a beautiful mix of colors. But color isn't really that important. After all, it is what's inside us that counts.
Violet is a delightful picturebook that explores race and being different. Violet is different, her mom is red and her father is blue- but she she is violet. She is worried about being different and faces questions from classmates. I liked how her mom calmly and simply explained, and the author is able to express the idea that people are people. It is not color (or race, religion, ability, or anything else) that define us- it is what is inside us that makes us who we are. The illustrations are wonderfully colorful and quirky, making the story more endearing. I really enjoyed the book and think it is an important one. This could be a great tool for families and classrooms, in fact I think everyone should read books like this- because understanding each other how simple the solution (if only everyone could live it) is important for us all. But most importantly, everyone should be able to see themselves in the books they read, and this gives so many children a chance to see themselves (and their families) in print.

Book Review: How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days (The Embraced) by Kerrelyn Sparks

How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is the first book in The Embraced series by Kerrelyn Sparks. Luciana grew up on the Isle of Moon, hidden away because of her magical powers. But when her father arrives, he offers her a choice: remain on the island or return with him and marry the Beast of Benwick in order to save their legacy—and her father's life.Lord Leofric, the Beast of Benwick, has not been touched since he was a child. Born with the power to harness lightning, he is a danger to everyone he touches. When he meets his betrothed, he expects a loveless, lonely marriage, until he discovers she's vastly more powerful than he realized. But is she strong enough to withstand his touch? If they can survive, their love will alter the future of the kingdom. But will their extraordinary powers cost them everything?
How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is a wonderful start to a new series. I liked that the majority of he information you need to understand the world was laid out in a quick opening page without a heavy information dump buried in the story. I also really enjoyed the characters. Each of the characters is complex and  has a clear personality. Even the secondary characters were written to be more than background noise, to the point where any or all of them feel like they might be important in the rest of the series. I connected with both Luciana and Leo, and enjoyed watching them dance around each other while they struggled with both the external dangers and their own feelings. I found them both to be intelligent and compassionate- despite the danger and complications that surround them. Even after finishing the book I found myself worried for them and thinking about them. I cannot wait to continue this series- and I assume see the rest of Luciana's sisters from the Isle of Moon find love.

How to Tame a Beast in Seven Days is a great reminder of how much I enjoy Sparks' writing style. The character and world building is extremely well done, and I know I will be following this series, in fact I already have the galley for the second book- So I Married a Sorcerer on my Kindle. 

Book Review: Midnight Curse (Disrupted Magic) by Melissa F. Olson

Midnight Curse is the first book in the Disrupted Magic series by Melissa F. Olson, which is a follow up to the Scarlet Bernard book, so you could think of it as the fourth book in that series if you would like. It also has some characters from the Boundary Magic series. I think I would recommend reading the other series first, before jumping in here. Since I adore the books, I think it would be a pleasure rather than a task. However, if you want to just dive in, there is enough groundwork and explanation in the book that I think newcomers could catch up quickly. 
Scarlett Bernard is used to cleaning up messes. As a human who cancels out any magic around her, Scarlett’s job is to keep the supernatural world hidden—at any cost. But on the eve of the Vampire Trials, a two-day tribunal that allows the otherworldly community to air their grievances, Scarlett receives a blood-soaked message from Molly, her estranged former roommate. Molly, a vampire, had been living with twelve human college students…and in one terrible night, she slaughtered them all. Scarlett believes Molly’s been set up, but no one else in the Old World agrees with her. Meanwhile, the true perpetrator is determined to make sure Molly goes on trial for the massacre—and the penalty is death. With less than two days to prove her friend’s innocence, Scarlett calls on former LAPD detective Jesse Cruz to help her dig into Molly’s past. But no one—Molly included—wants Scarlett and Jesse to bring the terrible truth to light.

Midnight Curse is exactly what fans of Olson are looking for. The first chapter was spent playing catch up and remembering what I had read already, but I think that is the case for more series or related books with good backstories. I think there is a good amount of information so that newer readers to the world will catch up, but I still recommend reading the books in order to get a fuller understanding of the larger relationships and politics involved. I really enjoyed the growth that Scarlet shows, and the realistic personal and interpersonal reactions and feelings. I thought the danger and mystery were well done and pretty perfectly paced. I liked that not everything, and everyone, was perfectly good or bad- but that Olson continued to show how most everyone comes in shades of grey.

I was glad to see Molly back into Scarlet's life- although not in the way anyone was really hoping for. I also like that the book wrapped up the mystery and struggle of the particular story while still leaving plenty of open avenues for future books that will not be a reach or stretch. I was glad to see Jesse back as well, and think this is going to be a great series with the majority of my favorite characters. A must read for fans, and good motivation for urban fantasy fans that have yet to read her work to start from the beginning and become a fan.

Midnight Curse is another great book from Olson. I was disappointed that I took this long to get around to reading this book, but so glad I did. To those that like audiobooks, I highly recommend listening to the series. I binge listened to ALL the previous books from Olson via my library overdrive offerings and Audible. The reader is wonderful, and actually reading this book rather than listening, I still heard the narrator I was used to in my read as I read.

Early Book Review: A Loud Winters Nap by Katy Hudson

A Loud Winters Nap by Katy Hudson is a charming picturebook. Every year Tortoise sleeps through winter. He assumes he isn't missing much. However, his friends are determined to prove otherwise! Will Tortoise sleep through another winter, or will his friends convince him to stay awake and experience the frosty fun of winter? Best-selling author Katy Hudson's charming picture book will have everyone excited for winter.
A Loud Winters Nap is a fun story about a tortoise that just wants to hibernate. He thinks winter is nothing but cold and snow, but in his attempts to find a quiet place to sleep his friends show him some of the fun to be had in the winter months. I like that tortoise and his friends have fun together, and that none of the waking tortoise is done maliciously or teasingly, rather it is by accident or with good intent. However, as someone that sleeps little and never gets to nap when I want- I do rather wish that his friends would respect his wishes and let him have his rest. However, then there would be no story. 

Book Review: The Wingsnatchers (Carmer and Grit, #1) by Sarah Jean Horwitz

The Wingsnatchers is the first book in the Carmer and Grit series for middle grade readers by Sarah Jean Horwitz. Aspiring inventor and magician’s apprentice Felix Carmer III would rather be tinkering with his latest experiments than sawing girls in half on stage, but with Antoine the Amazifier’s show a tomato’s throw away from going under, Carmer is determined to win the cash prize in the biggest magic competition in Skemantis. When fate throws Carmer across the path of fiery, flightless faerie princess Grit (do not call her Grettifrida), they strike a deal. If Carmer will help Grit investigate a string of faerie disappearances, she’ll use her very real magic to give his mechanical illusions a much-needed boost against the competition. But Carmer and Grit soon discover they’re not the only duo trying to pair magic with machine – and the combination can be deadly.

The Wingsnatchers is a nice start to a series, unfortunately I found that the first couple chapters started off slowly, and some readers might not make it to where Carmer and Grit meet- which is when the story really picks up interest and speed. I liked the premise, and the characters once I got fully involved in the story. I thought Carmer was clever, but in the focused way of inventors and scholars that sometimes miss the obvious. Grit was my favorite character, she has a missing wing, and has lived her life as actively and dangerously as she could. She was occasionally a little bratty- but what do you want from a fairy princess? Sadly some oft he twists I figured out a little sooner than I would have liked, but the ride for Carmer to come to the same realization was entertaining- although he frustrated me often. Some of the secondary characters caught my imagination, and I want more past and future information about some of them. I enjoyed the adventure and the idea of the story, but despite some great moments, I was not blown away by the read. 

The Wingsnatchers is a good fantasy novel, but it took awhile to grab my attention. I will admit to picking it up and putting down a few times- but in the end I think that this book will find a large audience that will enjoy it.

Book Review: Reese (Rock Creek 6) by Lori Handeland

Reese is the first book in the Rock Creek 6 series by Lori Handeland. I have read other romance from Handeland, but this is my first historical and non-paranormal romance of hers that I have read. I read and enjoyed most of her Nightcreature series before I started recording and blogging my reviews. 

Six elite Confederate soldiers band together after the War Between the States, hiring out their guns to protect lawless towns. Violence is all they know, until they make their way to Rock Creek, Texas. Mary McKendrick, a headstrong schoolteacher who wants nothing more than to find a home, takes charge when a band of ruffians attempts to destroy Rock Creek. With very few men left in town after the war, Mary travels to Dallas to hire Reese, the mysterious and reluctant leader of a band of guns for hire. Reese is haunted by the war and all he did during it. The only constant in his life are the five men willing to come whenever he calls them. They will do anything for each other; they are all they have left. Though Mary prides herself on managing everyone and anything, she can't manage Reese or her feelings for him. Reese doesn't believe he is worthy of loyalty and devotion; he certainly isn't worthy of love. In Rock Creek, Mary McKendrick teaches him differently. 

Reese is a historical romance in America, which I have not read much of in the last few years. However, it caught my attention quickly and did not let me go until the book was complete. Reese is the leader of a group of guns for hire, ones that solve problems that linger in the aftermath of the civil war. He has some serious guilt and self doubt, keeping himself emotionally distant from everyone- even his team. Mary is a school teacher that has finally found a home, a job, and a community. She will do anything to save Rock Creek- even pay this group all of her money in order to have them protect the town. We have former soldiers with the emotional wounds the try to hide, and a town of women, children, and misogynistic cowards. In the midst of all this Reese and Mary come together to face their attraction, and the danger that El Diablo and his bandits bring to Rock Creek. I like that Reese and Mary actually talked things out, once the walls came down of course, and that Reese's past was revealed. I also liked that Reese respected the ideas and opinions of Mary and the other women, which many other characters did not. I am not exactly thrilled with the resolution for Mary when she and Reese find their happy ending- however I have hope that as the series continues the might change.

Reese is a book that grabbed my attention and has me looking for more. I am now looking to keep reading the series, because I need to see what happens next. I was glad to be reminded of why I binge read Handeland's book in my preblogging days.

Book Review: How To Be A Scientist by Steve Mould

How To Be A Scientist by Steve Mould offers readers a bold and playful approach to science that makes the subject relevant to kids and encourages them to discover it in the real world with more than 40 fun questions, science games, and real-life scenarios. It tackles questions that children have such as; Why does mold grow? Why is the sea salty? and What makes day and night? The book helps them learn how to think like a scientist and look at the world to figure out how science works. More than 40 simple activities have undetermined answers, encouraging curious young readers to find new ways to test ideas, and fun questions, games, and real-life scenarios make scientific concepts fun and relevant. The stories of the great scientists and their discoveries—and failures—are told in an entertaining way to provide even further inspiration for little budding scientists.

How To Be A Scientist is exactly what I expect from DK. It is well written and organized, accessible to young readers and with bright, colorful images that enhance the text. THe diagrams, photographs, and varied page layouts keep readers from getting bored, and if everything goes right, will get them a little more excited about science. While the book does list facts about famous scientists, it pairs that information with experiments to balance out the learning experience with some hands on options. There is plenty of information within these pages, but it is well balanced with the photographs, diagrams, and info boxes in a way that is engaging and easy to understand. It hits the balance of learning, fun, and activities pretty much perfectly. The book is well organized, allowing readers to focus on a single subject at a time if that is what they want.  The beginning of the book features instructions on how to use the book, the types of tools and materials you may need, and then breaking down the concepts explored into categories such as the Natural world, chemistry, and so on. 



How To Be A Scientist is a book that will appeal to a wide age range, and will encourage children (and their parents and teachers) to do some more research and some science on their own. 

Book Review: The Spinster and the Rake by Anne Stuart

The Spinster and the Rake is a historical romance by Anne Stuart. This romance was originally published in 1982, but was re released in the summer of 2016 with some added material. I have not read the first version, so I do not know what is new, and how the two editions compare. Aside from the two covers that is.

As a maiden aunt, Gillian Redfern lives as an unpaid servant to her demanding family. Little wonder she finds the attentions of a rake distracting, and even less wonder that her usual good sense begins to unravel when Lord Marlow takes her in his arms. Ronan Patrick Blakely, Lord Marlow, is a man of great charm and little moral character, a gambler, a womanizer, and handsome as sin to boot. He has no qualms about placing a wager on the virtue of one small, shy spinster. But Lord Marlow is about to discover that Miss Redfern is more siren than spinster. She amuses him, arouses him, and, much to his dismay, makes him a better man. Gillian will discover, in turn, that Lord Marlow possesses the power to turn her into a very wicked woman. The rake and the spinster are poised to find a love that neither could have imagined. If only someone weren't out to destroy them both.
The Spinster and the Rake is a fun and entertaining historical novel. I enjoyed the characters and thought the relationships of family and friends added an additional depth to the story, although I would have liked to have seen some background of Gillian that led her to a life of taking care of her sibling's families and accepting the title of spinster. I kept hoping there was a story there, but it never really happened. However, we got a good bit of Ronan's backstory through the book. I did like that Gillian was smart, capable, and well loved by those that took the time to know her rather than the role she was cast in. I think the development of Gillian's character and her learning to stand up for herself is good- but I was still looking for more. I did think that Ronan's character was better developed, and I liked his attitude and how he thought about the world in general. The conflicts he had, and his integrity was well done- but I could have stood for more story surrounding his unconventional life and staff.  

The Spinster and the Rake was a quick and enjoyable read, but I could tell that it was an earlier book from the author, because it just did not meet the standards I have for Stuart.  Fans might want to pick it up just to see the way the writing style and character work has grown.


Book Review: A Horse Named Steve by Kelly Collier

A Horse Named Steve is a picturebook by Kelly Collier  about a horse named Steve who is a fine horse, but who longs to be more. When Steve finds a gold horn in the forest and attaches it to his head, ta-da! Exceptional! His friends are so impressed, they, too, attach objects to their own heads, in an effort to be as exceptional as Steve. So when Steve suddenly realizes his horn has gone missing, he’s devastated! He won’t be exceptional without his horn! Or will he?
A Horse Named Steve is a charming story about a horse wanting to be special, or more special than he already is. This is something everyone can relate to- especially young readers who are still trying to figure out just who they are. I like that Steve did learn the lesson that he is still special with or without the horn, but he still likes to have a special something. This shows him as not perfect, and more relatable to young readers, and makes the story more fun which will keep readers interested and entertain by the story after it is over. The illustrations are as fun and quirky as the story and made me love the book even more.

Book Review: Shadow Born (Shadows of Salem) by Jasmine Walt, Rebecca Hamilton

Shadow Born is the first book in the Shadows of Salem series by Jasmine Walt and Rebecca Hamilton. Brooke is no stranger to the supernatural. In Chicago, vampires are just as prevalent as drug lords, and infinitely more bloodthirsty. So when her partner and fiancĂ© dies in a mysterious fire while chasing down a lead in Salem, she suspects something dark and otherworldly is at play. Blessed with the ability to see into the past by touching inanimate objects, Brooke transfers to the Salem PD, hoping her talent will help her get to the bottom of things. Between dodging assassination attempts and being stonewalled at every turn, the going is tough. Add in a mysterious fae club owner with secrets of his own and a personal grudge against her, and it becomes nearly impossible. If Brooke wants to play in the supernatural sandbox, she’s going to have to roll up her sleeves and get dirty. But how many people will have to die for Brooke to discover the truth about her fiance? And is she even ready to know?

Shadow Born is an urban fantasy that combines the fae and paranormal worlds that I thought I knew and makes it new. The reveal of who and what Brooke is a slow and sometimes frustrating journey, much for her search for what happened to her fiance. There are plenty of twists and turn, and just when I thought I had it all figured out there was another twist or new player in the game. I thought that Brooke had a good balance of strong, capable female lead with a touch of vulnerability and heart. THe balance is well done, and one that is often attempted but not often matched. I liked Maddock's character, and arrogant but ultimately helpful role he plays certainly kept me on my toes. I never really knew who's side he was on, and still think he might have more up his sleeve. This was a read that kept me guessing and interested through the entire book. I just might pick up the next book, Shadow Marked,  but only when I have enough time to read it uninterrupted. 

Shadow Born is a good start to an urban fantasy series. Enough questions are answered to satisfy the reader, while there are enough possibilities for the future that you want to pick up the next book just to see what happens next. A good balance, and I am glad I picked this one up.