Early Book Review: Life in the Sloth Lane: Slow Down and Smell the Hibiscus by Lucy Cooke

Life in the Sloth Lane: Slow Down and Smell the Hibiscus by Lucy Cooke is currently scheduled for release on April 17 2018. This book is exactly what the title suggested, pictures of sloths to help those looking through the pages to slow down and enjoy. Photos of a variety of adorable sloths illustrate a mindfulness book that reminds us to slow down and appreciate the small things.
Life in the Sloth Lane: Slow Down and Smell the Hibiscus is full of photographs featuring sloths. Two toed sloths, three toed sloths, baby sloths, sloths holding flowers,sloths that seem to be smiling, and sloths looking right at the camera so it looks like they are looking you in the eye. Interspersed with these delightful images are quotes meant to encourage and support mindfulness and some factual information about sloths. The book is soothing, full of cuteness, and I learned some things about sloths along the way. Unless you are one of those people that do not find sloths cute or fascinating in some way, you will want to read this book, or at least take a moment and slowly flip through the pages. 

Book Review: Ellie Engineer by Jackson Pearce

Ellie Engineer is a middle grade novel by Jackson Pearce, and is the first book in a new series about a girl who loves to build. Ellie is an engineer. With a tool belt strapped over her favorite skirt (who says you can’t wear a dress and have two kinds of screwdrivers handy, just in case?), she invents and builds amazing creations in her backyard workshop. Together with her best friend Kit, Ellie can make anything. As Kit’s birthday nears, Ellie doesn’t know what gift to make until the girls overhear Kit’s mom talking about her present—the dog Kit always wanted! Ellie plans to make an amazing doghouse, but her plans grow so elaborate that she has to enlist help from the neighbor boys and crafty girls, even though the two groups don’t get along. Will Ellie be able to pull off her biggest project yet?

Ellie Engineer is a wonderful story about friendship and being yourself. It also covers the changes in friend groups and friendship dynamics in those in between years when boys and girls tend to separate. Ellie and Kit are different, but they are still best friends with a love of building. When things are not going according to plan Ellie needs to adjust, and keeping her doghouse a secret from Kit- and getting help from those she does not ordinarily spend time with during the summer, leads to a series of problems. I liked Ellie's flexibility ith her projects, and how she gets things done, and I sympathized with her attempts to keep everyone happy, when she should have just been honest with everyone from the beginning. I think young readers will relate to at least one character in the story, even if it is not Ellie. Some might connect with Kit feeling left out, or those helping Ellie but being kept a secret from each other. I love that the book includes information about the tools Ellie uses in the story, and those that readers might get access to, and permission to use. The how-tos and information just might get readers making their own inventions, and testing or repairing gadgets of their own.

Ellie Engineer is a fun middle grade read that encourages friendship and ingenuity outside the normal limits most kids feel constrained by. I found the emotion and social queues to be on point, and I loved the message of the story. 

Book Review: The Cat of the Baskervilles (Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery) by Vicki Delany

The Cat of the Baskervilles is the second book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery series by Vicki Delany. While reading the series in order gives readers a better grasp of characters, and their dynamics in the small town, I think that newcomers to the series could enjoy this book almost as much as those that have read the first book in the series.
Legendary stage and movie star Sir Nigel Bellingham arrives on Cape Cod to star in a stage production of The Hound of the Baskervilles put on by the West London Theater Festival. When Sir Nigel, some of the cast, and the director visit the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop at 222 Baker Street, Gemma Doyle realizes that Sir Nigel is not at all suited to the role. He is long past his prime and an old drunk to boot. The cast, in particular the much younger actor who previously had the role, are not happy, but the show must go on. Before the play opens, Leslie Wilson, mother of Gemma’s best friend Jayne, arranges a fundraising afternoon tea to be catered by Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room. The tea is a huge success, but when it’s time to leave, Sir Nigel has gone missing—only to be found at the bottom of the rocky cliff, dead. Along with the dead body, Gemma finds evidence incriminating Leslie Wilson. When the police, in the presence of handsome detective Ryan Ashburton and suspicious detective Louise Estrada, focus their attention on Leslie despite the numerous other suspects, the game is once again afoot and it’s again up to the highly perceptive Gemma and Jayne to clear Jayne’s mother’s name.

The Cat of the Baskervilles is a thoroughly entertaining read. I did feel like there was a little more build up before the death of Nigel than I really expected, however the groundwork laid in those chapters was important for the rest of the book. It just made the start feel a little sluggish for me. I enjoyed Gemma's personality and character, as I always do, because she stays true to form and focused on the tasks at hand, or at least those most pressing in her mind. I also liked that friendships and relationships ran as an undercurrent, effecting the story but never overwhelming the plot or pacing once the book really got moving.The twists and story elements surrounding Jayne and her mother were a well evolved story line and I thought it was handled perfectly. I found the final reveal to be very well done, and am glad to say that I was unsure of the culprit until it was laid out for me. There were a ton of secrets and plot elements, but despite the sheer volume of details, it never felt overwhelming or like anything was a red herring or tossed in on a whim, which sometimes happens when this volume of details are at play.

The Cat of the Baskervilles is just as entertaining and full of twists and turns as the first book in the series. I enjoyed the read and will be following this series as it continues.

Early Book Review: One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything by Ian Lender, Braden Lamb, Shelli Paroline

One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything is a picturebook by Ian Lender, with artwork by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline. It is currently scheduled for release On April 17 2018. This book is an attempt to simplify and introduce the Big Bang theory and evolution to a young audience. Starting with one tiny dot and continuing through the Big Bang to the rise of human societies, the story of our universe is told in simple and vivid terms. But the biggest question of all cannot be answered: Where did that one dot come from? 
One Day a Dot: The Story of You, the Universe, and Everything is a nice start to a conversation about the universe and science that explores what we are made of, and how the world was formed and has changed. I liked the simple version of the Big Bang, the see of dots as the building blocks of matter is very well done, and I think that it gets the basics of how our solar system and life on Earth began across to readers of all ages. However, I thought the Evolution bit was problematic, mainly because of the way it showed only one mammal surviving extinction when most people, including children, are aware of the fact that some currently living reptiles and birds are actual descendants of the creature alike prior to the event that triggered the mass extinction. However, I think that this book might help start a discussion and help interest young minds into exploring the physics and science that is currently trying to answer the big question, and prove many of the theories definitively. With all that said, I thought the illustrations were great, and did a wonderful job of illustrating the theories and explanations. 

Book Review: Crochet Kaleidoscope: Shifting Shapes and Shades Across 100 Motifs by Sandra Eng

Crochet Kaleidoscope: Shifting Shapes and Shades Across 100 Motifs by Sandra Eng offers a twist on crocheted motifs as you shift through various shapes and color combinations. From the traditional granny square to more complex forms, these faceted motifs are the building blocks to creating unique and stunning designs. Along with a collection of 100 fresh motifs, this book includes a complete guide to choosing yarn colors, what order to put them in, and how many to include. Plus, get five home decor and accessory patterns including a table runner, pillow, and rug from crochet designer and author Sandra Eng. You can shift shapes and shades to make the perfect piece for your home.

Crochet Kaleidoscope: Shifting Shapes and Shades Across 100 Motifs is a well organized and encouraging collection of ideas and instruction. It is not a great book for novices and those that need the basics thoroughly explained, but I think some beginners that are comfortable with the terminology and willing to try new things will be fine. I will admit that I am not one for working in motifs, mainly because I hate sewing the pieces together in order to get the final product, whether it be a cool jacket, sweater, afghan, or something else entirely. I prefer one piece or join as you go motifs, so my skill set here was lacking. However, some of the information shared I had a good understanding of, like color choices, but I found the instruction and encouragement to try new or different things through out the book to be very well put together and worded. The suggested colors and notes included with each motif were helpful, and I think will help make newcomers and those more cautious about color combinations and color order comfortable until they are ready to strike out and try something more unexpected or unique.  I really liked the projects that were included toward the end, and I just might give the Mod Flower Shawl or Zinnia Table Runner a go, since they can be join as you go projects, and could also work as a stash or scrap buster- both of which I really need to do. The stitch key and glossary at the end of the book is also helpful for explaining stitches or terms that readers might not be fully comfortable or familiar with. The measurement conversion chart and the additional resources ware also helpful.

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

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

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

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

Early Book Review: The Little Library by Kim Fielding

The Little Library by Kim Fielding is a contemporary romance that is currently scheduled for release on March 26 2018. Elliott Thompson was once a historian with a promising academic future, but his involvement in a scandal meant a lost job, public shame, and a ruined love life. He took shelter in his rural California hometown, where he teaches online classes, hoards books, and despairs of his future. Simon Odisho has lost a job as well—to a bullet that sidelined his career in law enforcement. While his shattered knee recovers, he rethinks his job prospects and searches for the courage to come out to his close-knit but conservative extended family. In an attempt to manage his overflowing book collection, Elliott builds a miniature neighborhood library in his front yard. The project puts him in touch with his neighbors—for better and worse—and introduces him to handsome, charming Simon. While romance blooms quickly between them, Elliott’s not willing to live in the closet, and his best career prospects might take him far away. His books have plenty to tell him about history, but they give him no clues about a future with Simon.

The Little Library is a romance that feels very real. Elliott made a big mistake in his previous relationship, and he is still dealing with the fall out, because it makes finding the job he prepared for increasingly hard to find. He brother is pushing him to get out there, and live a little outside his head and interact with more people. Simon was injured on the job, and is starting fresh, and at least admitting to himself that he is gay, but not quite ready to share that information with his very traditional family. When the two come together, it is wonderful to see- mainly because they are living rather than just going through the motions. Both have big challenges and worries, and seeing them talk and face them was both heart warming and occasionally frustrating. I like the fact that neither character was perfect- and it was clear when they were nervous or over thinking the moment. I also like that the issue and discussions they shared are ones that are real issues that people actually face. While some bits came a little too easy, most of the victories were hard fought and kept me turning pages well past my bed time.
The Little Library is a wonderful, realistic romance. The characters face real issues and talk to each other and admit their own failings.  It was wonderful, and I think many readers would love to have this couple as neighbors- I know I would. 

Book Review: Dream of the Butterfly: Rabbits on the Moon by Richard Marazano

Dream of the Butterfly: Rabbits on the Moon by Richard Marazano is a graphic novel for middle grade and older readers. Blown from her home by a great blizzard, Tutu finds herself in a strange village of talking animals, where winter is eternal and the rabbits of the secret police find her guilty of one of the worst crimes imaginable-being a little girl! The Emperor of this strange town holds the key to her redemption, but it will come at a price. This is a  story based on a Chinese parable by Chuang Tzu (“The Dream of the Butterfly”) with a bit of an Alice through the Looking Glass feel.

Dream of the Butterfly: Rabbits on the Moon is a story that caught my attention. I love the art style, it was a perfect presentation of the story and reminded me of some of my favorite manga and anime.  I found myself engaged with the well being of Tutu as she struggles in the new world she has found herself in. I love that she voices many of the things I, as the reader, said to myself- even if it seems to get her into more trouble than it is worth. I will admit that there were a few occasions that I was a little lost or confused, like I missed a page- but after checking I had not. However, since Tutu is lost and confused- stuck in what might be a dream land or something equally full of fantasy and weirdness- that might have been by design. I liked the layers of personality in the different characters, and that no one was fully who they seemed. The spies are not all bad, the rebels are not necessarily all good. There are still so many questions, and few answers. I also like knowing that the story has some basis in folklore, even if it is not a story I know- yet. My biggest complaint is that it is not a complete story- it is the first part of what seems to be a series. It left me with only questions- and no feeling of resolution or contentment. That drives me absolutely crazy, I want some resolution when I finish a book and I was denied that here. I would have given the graphic novel more stars if only I had some resolution rather than more questions at the end of the book. 

Dream of the Butterfly: Rabbits on the Moon is an interesting start to a story, and one that I might just follow up to see how it all plays out. 

Book Review: Hot Pursuit (Black Knights Inc.) by Julie Ann Walker

Hot Pursuit is the eleventh (!) book in the Black Knights Inc. series by Julie Ann Walker. I have read most of the series, and think that the romance portion of each story stands fine on its own, however character development and the larger story arcs make the read much more enjoyable for those that have been following along.

Christian Watson, a former SAS officer and current BKI operator, never thought he would return to England after a terrible turn of events forced him to abandon his homeland. But now he's back on British soil where old enemies are determined to do him in. Fighting for his life is pretty much SOP for Christian. Doing it with the beautiful, bossy Emily Scott in tow is another matter entirely. Emily lost her coveted job at the CIA because of a colleague turned rogue, and now she has just one rule when it comes to men: they're for recreational purposes only. But when she and Christian are thrust into very close quarters while evading two mysterious men who want Christian dead, she can't help but question all her ideas about love and life lived on the edge. Battling the bad guys is hard enough, battling her feelings for Christian just might prove impossible.

Hot Pursuit has two solid main characters, with complex backgrounds the effect their relationship, and how they look at the world. Christian had a rough childhood, including loss and serious trauma followed by a horrible end to his career with the SAS. Emily had a terrible childhood and is certain that she is not meant for lifelong love or commitment. It is not the danger that keeps them apart, that is just for some spice and excitement for the story line. The real conflict here is all based in fear and stubbornness. I do like that Christian and Emily do trade quips and snipe at each other, but they also have very important talks about their pasts, and possibilities for the future. I like they they did not just jump in the sack and call it good- but actual had to work through the problems caused but their formative years, but while I enjoyed it the book did not wow me.

Hot Pursuit is a solid addition to the series, and one that I enjoyed more than the last couple. It made for a good snow day read. 

Early Book Review: Inky the Octopus: Bound for Glory by Erin Guendelsberger

 Inky the Octopus by Erin Guendelsberger is a picturebook based on a real story, but from the perspective of the octopus in question. It is currently scheduled for release on April 3 2018.  This story chronicles the adventure that the real-life Inky might have taken on his escape to freedom in the open ocean from the National Aquarium of New Zealand in 2016. After the entertaining tale, there is a more text heavy recounting of his adventure, tales of other aquarium house octopi, and facts about different kinds of octopi. 

Inky the Octopus is an easy read, with fun rhymes and basic text to make it accessible to a wide variety of readers. The story is fun, and the art work is bright and adds details and humor to the story. For the adults and more advanced children reading the story, I found the real accounting and news articles referred to at the end of the book to be funny and well worth taking the time to explore. I also liked the facts about other clever octopi, and the different types of octopi in the world, to be very interesting and entertaining. I already knew they were smart and could squeeze into tight places, making them masters of escape, it was neat to see this collection of stories and information dealt with with humor and respect for the creatures.