Book Review: Wolf Hunger (SWAT) by Paige Tyler

Wolf Hunger is the seventh book in the SWAT series by Paige Tyler. While the romance is not dependent on having read the previous books in the series, the danger, conflict, and some character building was done in the previous books. So, if you are a reader that wants to understand all the lore and whys behind the main characters and big bads I highly recommend reading this series in order, if you can let go of that and enjoy the characters focused on in the story at hand, then feel free to read out of order and enjoy.

When SWAT Officer Max Lowry meets Lana Mason, he falls fast and hard. He’s positive she’s The One. And Max’s favorite part? Lana’s a wolf shifter too, so they can skip the awkward reveal and head straight to the happily ever after. There’s just one problem: Lana doesn’t know that she’s a werewolf.  To make matters worse, hunters with intent to kill have tracked Lana to Dallas. Max has to figure out how to keep Lana safe, show her who and what she really is—and just how much she means to him.

Wolf Hunger follows the larger story arc about hunters and danger for werewolves. Readers that have not followed the series might not be ready for how much of the story focuses on the danger and suspense element that is connected to that. I like that Lana has a good head on her shoulders, and that even though she trusts Max she did not just shrug and move on after she was shown the truth of werewolves. She had a nice freak out, as any sane person tossed into chaos might. I also like how the community of werewolves, and police in town, changes and grows through the book. People are so much more than they seem, and I liked getting a glimpse at the deeper aspects of some of the secondary characters that have peppered earlier books. I found Max's conflicts and personal history to be well handle and still heart breaking. It was an important part of the story, and one of the most compelling parts. My only big issue with the book is the non story that surrounded Lana and Max's romance. It was kind of glossed over, and I found myself more interested in Lana's parents and Max's issues than them as a couple. 

Wolf Hunger is a good read, and I liked the story. It just did not wow me, and I thought the emotional and relationship development could have had a little more to it. 

Early Book Review: Switched (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jen Calonita

Switched is the fourth book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita and is currently scheduled for release on March 6 2018. . It is helpful to read this series in order, although the action is reasonably self contained, the relationships and backstory add a great deal to the story as a whole.

Things at Fairy Tale Reform School are great. Rumpelstiltskin has been ousted, and everyone is buzzing about the fact that Beauty and Prince Sebastian (a.k.a. the Beast) have joined the teaching staff. Everyone, that is, except Gilly, who can’t seem to focus on anything but Anna. How is it that her beloved sister somehow went bad and joined up with Rump? And why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Sure, the Royal Court says they’re working on it, but they’ve got exactly nothing to show for it. But when new kid Jack joins FTRS with tales of his own family being snatched by Rump, Gilly knows she’s in good company. Jack wants answers, just like Gilly. And if the Royal Court can’t get the job done, then maybe it’s time to break some rules.

Switched is a lot of build up, for what I felt was very little action. New characters were introduced and lots of introspection, second guessing, and angst on Gilly's part were the main points of the book. I like that we got to meet AG (Allison Grace or daughter of Beauty and the Beast) and Jack of Beanstalk fame and I liked the way their characters fleshed out. I loved the magical library and Beast's character, but wanted more time with each. I felt like too much of this book was getting the new characters into place, and getting Gilly to where she needed to be (mentally, emotionally, and physically). Once the climax hit, I felt like it all happened way too quickly and easily. I just wanted more, but I am not sure what, so I cannot even point to the moment that let me down. I think I just had such high expectations that there was no way the reality of the book could match my anticipation.

Switched is a lot of what I expected, but a little less. It was still a fun read with a good deal of characters insight, but I felt like it was lacking the tension and compelling nature of the previous books. 

Book Review: Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp) Lauren Dane

Unraveled is the first book in the Whiskey Sharp series Lauren Dane. Maybe Dolan is independent and free-spirited  since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle's sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she's got it good. But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better. Maybe's blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his even if she doesn't know it. Yet. He can't help himself from wanting to protect and care for her. But Maybe's fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he's not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe's more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf and he's not afraid to ride the blade's edge to bind her to him.

Unraveled starts as a slow burn, and quickly ramps up to so much more. Maybe and Alexsei were instantly attracted, but both avoiding the complications and issues that perusing each other could cause, until Maybe has had enough and decides it would be worth any backlash. I loved the journey of their relationship, and how much insight readers get into both characters, and the secondary characters that surround them. Maybe is a complicated character, and her family issues are a powerful aspect of the story. I love watching her stand up to everyone for everyone, but it broke my heart when she had trouble standing up against her parents. I loved the combination of protectiveness and respect that Alexsei shows towards the women in his life, and how thoughtful his is. The fact that both characters are strong, and have their own share of history makes them compelling and real. The banter and care they share was extremely well done. Maybe's family problems coming to roost was heart breaking, but left me wanting to know more. There has to be more, right? While I know there are horrible people, and parents, out there I hate to think about this type of dynamic happening in real life. The story stuck with me well after finishing the book, and I think it will be just as engaging and compelling for other readers as well.

Unraveled is an awesome start to the series, and has me chomping at the bit for more. Thankfully, I already have a copy via Netgalley on my Kindle waiting for me. The hard part will be not reading it right now, because that will make the third one seem so far away- and I know I will want more.

Book Review: Wicked's Way by Anna Fienberg

Wicked's Way by Anna Fienberg is a high-seas pirate adventure for middle grade readers. Will could walk a tightrope and juggle bananas as he went. 'One day you'll be the star of a circus,' his mother told him. 'But until then, you must be a secret.' For each year pirates came to the islands to steal young boys for their crew. And if that happened to you, well, you may as well kiss your life goodbye. So what's a young lad to do when his mother disappears and pirates arrive at his door? Will takes courage from a crazy truth-telling parrot, and his mother's advice: 'Keep putting one foot in front of the other and your eyes on the prize.' But will this be enough to survive the perils at sea? And will that infuriatingly polite boy called Horrendo finally tip the balance?

Wicked's Way is a coming of age story full of peril and tough choices. Will tries to do what he should, and be the best boy he can. However, more often than not his good intentions get him into trouble or are not well received by others. Hard life, frustration, and resentment can change a boy, and Will is no different. Losing his mother, and the good things in his life by way of pirates sets Will on a hard road, and he needs to face dangers both physical and emotional. I could empathize with Will along the way, he was always trying to help, be nice, do the right thing- and he is mocked or looked down upon for it. Life just seems not o be fair, particularly when others get appreciation for things Will would have done and been sneered at for. I understand, and I think most of us have had a meeting, group project, or time with friends or family that made us feel that way. (No? Just me?) My heart broke for Will as he changed, and struggled through out the story. Emotions and tensions were high through the majority of the book, and I think there are many that will add this to their favorite reads pile. 

Wicked's Way is a heart wrenching adventure story with characters that readers can relate to, and sometimes want to laugh or yell at. The story is engaging and will not let go. Now I need to go back and read Horrendo's Curse, which might give me more information on a secondary character or two and a new perspective on parts of the story. I hope it will capture my attention in the same way. 

Book Review: Stay Close (For You) by Alexa Riley

Stay Close is the first book in the For You series by Alexa Riley. I actually read the second book, Hold Tight, first. The books read as a series are great, and as a follow up to the For Her series even better. However, they can be read as stand alones as well.

A former Russian mafia soldier is hired to protect a friend’s young daughter, but he knows he’ll do more than keep her safe. Ivan tries to stay professional, but he knows he will do anything to keep her safe, even from himself. Penelope Justice is eighteen, old enough to graduate high school but—according to her parents—not old enough to live without 24/7 security. Practice has made her an expert at ditching her bodyguards. One look at Ivan and she never wants to run again. Ivan steals the breath right out of her lungs, something no boy has ever done. Then again, he’s far from a boy. This man, this man who looks like he could kill someone with the flick of a wrist, is everything. He is her future.

Stay Close is exactly what I have come to expect from Riley. Romance firmly rooted in instantly knowing your other half when you see them, and protecting them. Ivan has seen some ugly things, but when he sees Penelope he sees all light and innocence. Penelope sees the hardness and danger in Ivan, but knows he would never hurt her. Instead of sitting down and talking, the majority of conflict comes when they try to do the right this for the other without talking first. To be honest, that really annoys me but I will admit that it fell in line with the character's personalities- so while I did not like it, it fit the context. This story felt short, which is fair since it was novella length, but I felt like there could have been more character or relationship building rather than just having it be based on instant obsession.

Stay Close is not a surprise for Riley fans. Those that love her style will want to pick this one up and give it a go. Those that prefer more of a build up and character or relationship growth might want to pass. 

Early Book Review: Howl Like a Wolf: Why Animals Do What They Do – and How You Can Do It, Too! by Kathleen Yale, Kaley McKean

Howl Like a Wolf: Why Animals Do What They Do – and How You Can Do It, Too! is a children's non fiction book written by Kathleen Yale and illustrated by Kaley McKean. It is currently scheduled for release on March 6 2018.  Kids generally love to watch, imitate, learn about, and pretend to be animals. But there’s a lot more to being a dog than just panting and walking on all fours. This book combines natural history with creative play activities to encourage children to think like an animal. For each featured animal, children learn key facts such as what it eats; where it lives; who else lives with it; and how it interacts with other animals. Creative prompts then teach kids how to mimic more subtle aspects of behavior that are central to the animal’s life and survival.
Howl Like a Wolf: Why Animals Do What They Do – and How You Can Do It, Too! is a fun and fascinating read, offering facts and activities that invite young readers (and their class or family) to not just learn about the animals but to act and think like them as well. Animals included are the wolf, penguin, elephant, bat, octopus, rattlesnake, bowerbird, beaver, leopard, humpback whale, honeybee, raven, skunk, frog, deer, and tardigrade. The information and activities are easy to understand and fully engaging. I found that the book offered a good deal of information I already knew, but I think young readers will find new information here. I thought the illustrations were well paired with the information. The images were charming and accurate in turn, offering a visual representation of the facts along some inspiration for the activities and further exploration of the topic. I think this would be a great addition to classroom and home libraries, particularly those with animal or nature lovers.

Book Review: Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery by Allison Brook, Marilyn Levinson

Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery is the first book in a series by Allison Brook and Marilyn Levinson. Carrie Singleton is just about done with Clover Ridge, Connecticut until she's offered a job as the head of programs and events at the spooky local library, complete with its own librarian ghost. Her first major event is a program presented by a retired homicide detective, Al Buckley, who claims he knows who murdered Laura Foster, a much-loved part-time library aide who was bludgeoned to death fifteen years earlier. As he invites members of the audience to share stories about Laura, he suddenly keels over and dies. The medical examiner reveals that poison is what did him in and Carrie feels responsible for having surged forward with the program despite push back from her director. Driven by guilt, Carrie's determined to discover who murdered the detective, convinced it's the same man who killed Laura all those years ago. Luckily for Carrie, she has a friendly, knowledgeable ghost by her side. But as she questions the shadows surrounding Laura's case, disturbing secrets come to light and with each step Carrie takes, she gets closer to ending up like Al.

Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery is a mystery that caught and held my attention, even though I was reading it only during lunch breaks and the like. I admit that I picked it up because it was about a librarian, and since I have been working in libraries for almost 20 years now, that caught my attention. I did not notice that it was set in a small Connecticut town until I had begun, but as a Connecticut native (currently living in a town that in no way resembles Clover Ridge) it endeared itself to me even more. I liked Carrie, who resembles many of the new adult generation that I know personally, and her conflicting emotions about being independent and staying connected are right on point. The politics, family connections, and drama that take place are totally possible- and I have seen similar issues in libraries, churches, and other organizations that require people to work together, and gives some more power than others- particularly in small towns or groups where everyone knows each other. I also like that while Carrie building connections; in friendship, work, and the romantic possibilities, are important to the story her personal growth and the mystery at hand remain the main focus of the story rather than overshadowing them. That is sometimes a hard balance to strike, but it was nicely done here. I also like that the mystery was wrapped up nicely, but the promise of further growth with Carrie, and further mysteries to solve leaves readers wanting more without leaving them hanging with unanswered questions.

Death Overdue: A Haunted Library Mystery is a book that took me much longer to read than it should have. The characters and pacing were pretty perfect, but since I was reading it on my phone on lunch breaks rather than on my Kindle in my normal reading time it seemed to take forever- but I loved every minute. I look forward to see what the future might hold in store for Carrie and her ghostly companion. 

Early Book Review: Shadow Hunt (Disrupted Magic) by Melissa F. Olson

Shadow Hunt is the third book in the Disrupted Magic series by Melissa F. Olson. I highly suggest reading the series in order, preferably after having read the Scarlet Bernard series that this particular series follows. This installment is currently scheduled for release on February 13 2018.

For years now, Scarlett Bernard has counted on two things: her ability to nullify magic and Shadow, the bargest who guards Scarlett with her life. But after a sudden revelation turns Scarlett’s world upside down, she panics and leaves town without warning, leaving Shadow with her partner, Jesse. In the chaos that follows, the bargest is stolen—and Jesse nearly dies from a brutal psychic assault. It seems that an old enemy has returned for revenge…and the attack on Shadow was only the beginning. As Scarlett races home to find the bargest and rescue her friends, she is dragged deeper into a terrifying legend that has somehow found its way to present-day Los Angeles. Now she will have to recruit every possible ally for a battle that will test her null ability to the limit. Scarlett has been in over her head before, but now she risks losing everything, and she’s never had more to lose.

Shadow Hunt is an action and information packed book. Scarlett is still reeling from her life changing revelation when her entire world is thrown into chaos, again. Shadow is gone, Jesse attacked, and the future hold some scary possibilities. As they unravel the mystery of who, what, and why behind the original attack it leads them down a rabbit hole that no one could have predicted. The stakes are higher than ever, and everyone will be tested to the limit. Even beyond the life threatening moments at hand, Scarlett has to deal with the personal and emotional issues that she has been trying to ignore. All the cards are laid on the table and alliances, friendships, and more become even more important. I love that Scarlett is pushed even further out of her comfort zone, and that the different factions of her city need to come together in order to save themselves. High action, high emotion, big mystery, and plenty of character development make for another great addition to this series. Yes, I know I am being very vague about what is happening in this book, and the series in general- and that is by design. I want everyone to have the same excitement as they unravel the layers of the story that I had.

Shadow Hunt is exactly what I was hoping for, with plenty of character growth and action even after the big reveal in the previous book. Olson continues to prove her skill, and seems to only improve as her world continue. Fans of the series will not be disappointed.

Book Review: Only for You (Sugar Lake) by Melissa Foster

Only for You is the second book in the Sugar Lake series by Melissa Foster. The first book was The Real Thing (which I loved), and while I read this book because of the first, it is not necessary to read the series in order and each is fine as a stand alone.
Single mom Bridgette Dalton doesn’t have time to stop and smell the roses, not even in her own flower shop. But that doesn’t mean she hasn’t noticed Bodhi Booker. Her ruggedly handsome next-door neighbor would be the perfect candidate for a no-strings fling. Having loved and lost, Bridgette’s not ready to hand over her heart. However, she could use a distraction. Bodhi has one rule: never leave anyone behind. As a special operative, he knows that each new mission is more dangerous than the last. He’s never made a promise of forever to a woman, not even to the beautiful widow who has him tied in knots. And if there were anyone who could tempt him into putting down roots, it would be Bridgette and her adorable son. But as his next deployment nears, they make a startling discovery. Their passion, meant only for the here and now, might already be blossoming into something more.

Only for You is a solid contemporary romance that does a good job of balancing the fears of being hurt or hurting others with way love sneaks up on us at the most inconvenient moment. Bridgette lost her first husband and has thrown herself into raising her son giving no time or thought into finding love again. Bodhi has one goal, to get a house ready for his mother before he is deployed again, knowing any mission could be his last. Neither want to fall in love, and fight the attraction. I love the way they discuss their losses and what the future holds- as soon as they actually start talking. The depth to each character, including the secondary characters, is very well done and I love how real they all feel. As with all of Foster's book, the families and towns that surround the main characters are just as big a part of the story as the main couple, and do a lot towards making the story engaging and real to the reader. The rationalizing and struggles Bodhi and Bridgette endure grab a hold of you and do not let go. Even after finishing the book, and reading the conclusion I want to know what happens next. Not because anything was missing, but because I care so much for the characters that I want to know about the next stage (or two) of their lives together.

Only for You is a solid follow up to The Real Thing. The realistic characters, conversations, and family make the story real, and leave readings wanting more. Another contemporary romance win from Foster.

Early Book Review: Trampoline Boy by Nan Forler, Marion Arbona

Trampoline Boy is a picturebook written by Nan Forler and illustrated by Marion Arbona. It is currently scheduled for release on March 6 2018. In this story readers see the world through the eyes of a character we only know as Trampoline Boy. His favorite thing to do is jump up and down, up and down on his trampoline. Kids walk by and tease him, but he remains steadfast and calm. One day, a quietly exuberant girl, Peaches, is fascinated by his jumping. Trampoline Boy wordlessly invites her to jump with him, and by spending this time with him, Peaches and readers get to see how important and valuable different perspectives are.

Trampoline Boy is a sweet and visually lovely, picturebook. The images are stylized, and brightly colored. The main character is a boy fully engaged in his favorite activity and ignoring those that mock him for being different. Peaches watches him, fascinated by his jumping, and how much he loves it. She wants to see, to understand, and he is willing to share. I love the story, because it is about doing what you love. However, it is also about not just being willing to explore someone else's perspective, but being excited about it. It is also about being willing to share that view. Reaching out a hand to those others might exclude or mock, and taking the time to know and understand is so important and something we all need to take the time to do. What a sweet and inspiring story, that is also a lovely read both visually in in the lyric text.