Early Book Review: Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky, Anissa Espinosa

Cast No Shadow is a graphic novel written by Nick Tapalansky and illustrated by Anissa Espinosa. It is currently scheduled for release on October 10 2017. Greg has lived in Lancaster his whole life. The town's always had its quirks, and being born without a shadow means he's counted among them. When Greg discovers an old mansion in the woods just outside of town, he didn't expect to meet a smart, beautiful, funny, and dead teenaged girl named Eleanor. Yeah. He's in love with a ghost. And before he knows what's happening, Greg finds himself at the wrong end of a history lesson when the town's past, and his own, threaten to pull the two of them apart permanently.

Cast No Shadow is an engaging graphic novel. I enjoyed the unusual lack of a shadow from our main character, and the story that stemmed from that. I really liked how that played out. I also liked that Greg faces some realistic family issues, and complicated friendships. His imperfect life made his emotions and the trouble he faced that much more real and relatable as a reader. While there is a romance involved, I also liked that his best friend is a girl and the idea of girls as more than a romantic interest is clear. Although, the fact that she has her own romance negates that a little bit, her clear personality and utter lack of fitting the 'girl best friend' stereotype did help a little. I like that the town and most of its inhabitants are a little odd, and the story is unexpected in many ways. I thought the art did a wonderful job of bringing the story to life, adding details and little bits of information that made the read even more enjoyable. The combination of heart felt emotion and facing real life struggles of family and friend relationships along-side the paranormal aspects and humor struck a chord with me.

Cast No Shadow is a graphic novel with a unique twist to teen romance. I enjoyed the art and the story and think that many readers from middle grade on up through adults will enjoy the read.

Early Book Review: Tobor by Guido van Genechten

Tobor is a picturebook by Guido van Genechten that is currently scheduled for publication on October 11 2017.  Ben receives a very special present for his fifth birthday. Unlike Ben's stuffed animals who can't move on their own or talk, Tobor is different; with a press of his square nose, Tobor comes alive, suggesting and playing games, talking and asking questions and soon he becomes Ben's best friend. Sometimes friendship develops where you least expect it.

Tobor is a delightful picturebook with artwork that captured my attention right away. Ben plays with and interacts with his stuffed animals the way many imaginative children do, as if they are alive. However, when he is gifted with Tobor- a toy that can actually talk and play rather than one that can only do these things in his imagination, he is as obsessed as anyone would expect a child to be. I loved the adventures and interaction the pair have. I liked that Ben got tired of Tobor's constant desire to play. More than anything, I liked that Ben came to see that a toy that walks and talks is great, he also sees the importance and fun that can be found with a little more variety. I think could be a good classroom or family discussion starter about new friends and how different people play different ways, and that we can all come together and find a happy medium. 

Book Review: His Alone (For Her) by Alexa Riley

His Alone is the second book in the For Her series by Alexa Riley. The first book was Everything for Her, which I did not read. While having read the first book will give you a better insight on the characters and their connections, I was able to fully enjoy the read.

Ryan Justice may be her boss, but nothing will stop him from making her his. Paige Turner is trying to outrun her past, but there it is, tossed back in her face anytime she manages to get two steps ahead. Her need for Ryan got in the way of revenge, took her off course. Redirected her focus. Before she knew it, he'd made his way into her life. Into her heart. True love doesn't let secrets as big as these stay buried. And when the truth about Paige's father is finally exposed, Ryan will do anything to fix everything. Paige has always been his and his alone.

His Alone is a contemporary romance, with an over the top alpha male ready to do anything for the woman he cares about, even when she has no idea he feels that way. Yes, a little stalkerish- but somehow Riley makes that work in this series. I liked that Paige is aware that his possessiveness should bother her, but since she has the same reactions to him I would call that even. The book starts with the pair already at a low simmer, and it does not take long for the pair to catch fire. The physical obsession is similar to the paranormal romances where 'mates' find each other and then cannot keep their hands to themselves. I did like that there was some danger and reveal with Paige's history, and that love is the answer to everything. However, the stalker style is not romantic to me, although entertaining for a weekend read. My only other issue several epilogues and a bonus scene. I love getting a little extra, but every time I thought I was done and could go wash dishes or something I discovered another two pages that I could not leave unread.

His Alone is the perfect read for those looking for a hot read, and that enjoy the controlling male leads. If you liked the first book, which is described fairly well in this installment, then I expect that you will enjoy this one as well. 

Book Review: Conjuror (Orion Chronicles) by John & Carole E. Barrowman

Conjuror is is the first book in the Orion Chronicles by John and  Carole E. Barrowman.  I did not know that this book, and subsequent series,  is a spin off of a previous trilogy starring Em and Matt Calder called Hollow Earth. While I still understood the story and could enjoy the read regardless, I think that those that have already read the earlier series will get much more out of these read than those of us that are coming in cold. 

Sixteen-year-old twins Matt and Em Calder are Animare: they can bring art to life, and travel in time through paintings. They work for Orion - the Animare MI5 - protecting the secrecy of their order and investigating crimes committed by their own kind. It's dangerous work. But when they are sent to Edinburgh to find a teenage boy who can alter reality with his music, they are drawn into something more dangerous still. For this boy, Remy, is the Conjurer's Son. And he carries something that could change humanity for ever.

Conjuror is a book with a wonderful idea, but I had trouble getting lost in the story and connecting to the characters, particularly in the beginning. There were many references to things that must have happened in the Hollow Earth series with Em and Matt which left me floundering a little. I did enjoy Remy's character, and the way they all came together. I also liked that once I figured out who everyone was, most characters are multidimensional, even some of the characters that did not really need to be fully fleshed out to play their part. The world building and how the Animare worked were very well done, and once the book hit its stride it was a nice fantasy read. There was a lot going on, which I expect will be expanded on in they rest of the series, but at times it just felt like a little too many characters and story arcs in play all at once.

Conjuror is a book that I had trouble getting into. I will admit to picking it up based solely on the author, because I love him. However, while it was a good book I was not as wowed as I had hoped to be, most likely because of high hopes and not having read the previous series. 

Book Review: Maggie and the Wish Fish (Magic Animal Rescue) by E.D. Baker, Lisa Manuzak

Maggie and the Wish Fish is the second book in the Magic Animal Rescue series written by E.D. Baker and illustrated by Lisa Manuzak. The first book was Maggie and the Flying Horse, which I missed. However, I was quickly able to catch on to who the characters were and what was happening even without having read the first book. 

With each day, Maggie is finding it harder and harder to get along with her step-mother and step-siblings while her father is away. It doesn't help that every time Maggie finishes cleaning laundry, flying pigs swoop in to muddy everything up and get her into trouble! One day while she's out collecting berries and her step-brother is fishing, Maggie happens to catch a magical fish herself! The fish promises to make one of her wishes come true, but only if she frees him. Maggie wants a new family more than anything, but how much faith can she put into a talking fish?

Maggie and the Wish Fish is a story that takes the legend of the magic fish and combines it with Maggie's Cinderella like homelife. I like that Maggie is well aware of the fairy tale creatures and echos around here- which might have been explained in the first book. I really enjoyed the matter of fact way she looked at the world, even when things were less than fair towards her. I also liked that the adults in the story, and the other kids, were neither all good or all bad. Just like in real life, there are those that will help others, and those that are only interested in themselves.

Maggie and the Wish Fish is a good transitional chapter book for fairy tale and animal lovers alike. I will admit that I have come to expect more from Baker, but I still think there are many young readers that will love this series.

Book Review: Elementary She Read (Sherlock Holmes Bookshop) by Vicki Delany

Elementary, She Read is the first book in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series by Vicki Delany. Gemma Doyle, a transplanted Englishwoman, co owns and manages her Great Uncle Arthur's Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium in the quaint town of West London on Cape Cod. The shop--located at 222 Baker Street--specializes in the Holmes canon and pastiche, and is also the home of Moriarty the cat. When Gemma finds a rare and potentially valuable magazine containing the first Sherlock Homes story hidden in the bookshop, she and her friend Jayne (who runs the adjoining Mrs. Hudson's Tea Room) set off to find the owner, only to stumble upon a dead body. The highly perceptive Gemma is the police’s first suspect, so she puts her consummate powers of deduction to work to clear her name, investigating a handsome rare books expert, the dead woman's suspiciously unmoved son, and a whole family of greedy characters desperate to cash in on their inheritance. But when Gemma and Jayne accidentally place themselves at a second murder scene, it's a race to uncover the truth before the detectives lock them up for good.

Elementary, She Read is a fun and entertaining read. While managing a Sherlock Holmes themed book shop Gemma thinks much like the fictional detective. She is intelligent, but like most Sherlock based characters is lacking in social graces, which makes her life both highly entertaining and occasionally cringe worthy. I liked  the spirit and execution of the character. I also enjoyed the flighty nature of her great uncle, and her enduring friendship with the forthright Jayne. The mystery is well built, with several layers and twists, some of which were completely unexpected and others that were emotional satisfying. I really enjoy the read, and want to read more about Gemma, and her fellow residents of West London.

Elementary, She Read is a solid beginning to a series, and I am interested in the characters and the town. I think Sherlock fans, of all eras, and cozy or hobby mystery fans will enjoy the read as much as I did. I look forward to seeing where Gemma goes from here.

Early Book Review: A is for Asteroids, Z is for Zombies by Paul Lewis, Kenneth Kit Lamug

A is for Asteroids, Z is for Zombies: A Bedtime Book About the Coming Apocalypse written by Paul Lewis and illustrated by Kenneth Kit Lamug is currently scheduled for release on October 10 2017. This book is not for children, instead it is a darkly comic fable that offers visions of the apocalypse for every letter of the alphabet. Starting with a father whose son has been asking questions about global dangers, A Is for Asteroids, Z Is for Zombies takes us inside our worst fears, laughing at some and taking others seriously. With macabre verse and fantastically gory illustrations, it provides gallows humor for our doom-haunted times.
A is for Asteroids, Z is for Zombies is not for the faint of heart. It itemizes many of the troubles the world actually faces, some that are likely to come, and some that feature in many less than credible conspiracy theorist stories. I thought the images of the father reading the story in the corner of each page was amusing, and I got a kick out of his changing expressions- and how he ended up on the last page of the story. I was amused, but depressed, by the end of the book. It is entertaining while hopefully it will also encourage those that read it to make what changes they can in their own life, and local government or society. I do not recommend the book to fans of Trump and those that do not believe in or support science.

Early Book Review: The Doughnut Kingdom (Cucumber Quest) by Gigi D.G.

The Doughnut Kingdom is the first book in the Cucumber Quest series by Gigi D.G. This graphic novel is currently scheduled for release on October 10 2017. What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction? World domination, obviously. The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they'll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight. Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour? Sure, why not?

The Doughnut Kingdom is a fun adventure about bunny siblings taking on a quest. I liked that the main characters are set on being themselves and are tired of others trying to force them into the expected roles. The little sister as the grand warrior and the big brother as a scholar made me happy.  I enjoyed the artwork, it reminded me a bit of the drawings of Cece Bell, but some of that could have been because of the shared use of bunnies. I found the colors and the detail work to be a perfect pairing to the story. I liked the quest and adventure, and the young characters finding their way despite everyone trying to get them to change. I was annoyed that most, if not all, of the adults were so, um, well unsupportive, of the young bunnies being true to their own strengths. However, since we all come up against people like that in our lives, the encouraging theme of perseverance is important and very well executed. 

The Doughnut Kingdom is a fun and fast read. I liked the artwork, the story, and the defying of gender roles all wrapped up in a story about cute bunnies on a quest. I greatly enjoyed the read, and I think many young readers will as well.

Early Book Review: Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani is a graphic novel currently scheduled for release on October 3 2017. This book tells the story of an Indian-American girl named  Priyanka. She struggles to fit in at high school and dreams of visiting India, her mother' home country. She finds a beautiful Pashmina which transports her there, but it is much different there than it actually is. She gets her chance to finally go to India and it's not exactly how she thought it would be.

Pashmina is a much needed graphic novel, as it gives insight and an honest portrayal to what life is like to how an Indian-American girl might struggle with her dual identity, and the struggles we all face in finding ourselves and our place in the world we find ourselves in. Her desire to know about her family, and her mother's past is relatable, and adds a sense of drive and yearning to the story. I felt that the fact that her mother's reluctance to share information with Pri results in exactly what denying any teenager something this important, Pri's utter determination to have what she feels she needs. Most of the story is in black and white, but I liked how the illustrations change from the grayscale showing Pri's real life to vivid colors in the fantasy scenes. While I enjoyed the story, and that it delivers a message about women choosing their own future combined with the interest and embracing of their heritage and background, I did have some trouble follow the action of the story on occasion. It is still a wonderful read, and one I think will be an important read for many.

Pashmina is a charming read, and one that tells a story that is important and poignant.  I think this is a must buy for both public and high school libraries.

Book Review: The Brightest Fell (October Daye) by Seanan McGuire

The Brightest Fell is the eleventh book in the October Daye series by Seanan McGuire. I do not recommend reading this series out of order, skipping around, or picking up just one random book and starting. The character and world building is intense, and builds up throughout the series. However, do not be afraid to start this series because of the size. The series has only gotten better as it continues. This might just be the best one yet!

For once, everything in October “Toby” Daye’s life seems to be going right. There have been no murders or declarations of war for her to deal with, and apart from the looming specter of her Fetch planning her bachelorette party, she’s had no real problems for days. Maybe things are getting better. Suddenly Toby’s mother, Amandine the Liar, appears on her doorstep and demands that Toby find her missing sister, August. But August has been missing for over a hundred years and there are no leads to follow. And Toby really doesn’t owe her mother any favors. Then Amandine starts taking hostages, and refusal ceases to be an option

The Brightest Fell is another roller coaster ride for Toby, with her mother taking precious hostages just as Toby was starting to relax. The continued character growth for Toby and Simon in particular is simply fantastic. I loved that many seemingly loose ends from previous books, and some things we thought to be resolved as best they could, came to be extremely important again. It is so hard to gush about this book without dropping spoilers, because I would hate to ruin any part of the ride for anyone else since I enjoyed it so much. There are so many twists and turns, so many surprises, that I think I held my breath through half the read. If you love this series, it is a must read. If you like the other books by McGuire but have not delved into this series- start right now with Rosemary and Rue.

The Brightest Fell is a wonderful addition to the series. This is a must read for McGuire fans, and definitely stick around and read the bonus novella at the end. As a side note- if you enjoy audio books- I listened to the first ten books and the reader is fabulous. My only complaint is that about half way through the series the reader changed the pronunciation of a word- and it drove me crazy. I think I am going to stick to the print format for the rest but don't let my issue be yours, they are still very well done.