Book Review: Destination: Planet Earth by Jo Nelson, Tom Clohosy Cole

Destination: Planet Earth is a children's non fiction book written by Jo Nelson, and illustrated by Tom Clohosy Cole. This book offers a visual field trip of our planet, from volcanoes and coursing rivers to towering mountains and the deepest valleys. This journey of discovery introduces young readers to physical geography in all forms: learn about weather and climate, see how the water cycle works and explore the science behind Earth's earthquakes, eruptions and tsunamis. Packed with epic facts and breathtaking illustrations, this book will take young explorers on the trip of a lifetime.
Destination: Planet Earth is well balanced between fun and informative pictures and detailed text. It is a solid introduction for children to the different sciences that describe and explain our planet, like geography, to the basics of ecology, the whys of tides and magnetic field, how we need to protect the environment in which we live, and so much more. No one topic gets extensive coverage, but the basics of each topic covered is well explained and illustrated with out crossing the line of overwhelming the younger readers. . If you are looking for a quick and concise explanation on just about everything Earth related, this is the book for you, and your library or classroom. This book just might encourage further research in the field touched upon, or inspire a future scientist's interest. 

Book Review: Hooked on a Phoenix (Phoenix Brothers) by Ashlyn Chase

Hooked on a Phoenix is the first book in the Phoenix Brothers series, which is a spin off of the Strange Neighbors and Boston Dragon series' by Ashlyn Chase. It works fine as a stand alone and series starter, but I think that fans of the author and her previous series' will enjoy the read more than newcomers. There is some carry over in world building that might make it hard to understand certain relationships and paranormal quirks without that prior knowledge.
Misty Carlisle works as a bank teller in Boston's financial district. She's had more rotten luck in her life than most, except when her childhood crush shows up to cash his paycheck. Then her heart races and her mouth goes dry. Gabe Fierro is a firefighter―and a phoenix. Like his brothers, his biggest challenge is finding a woman open-minded enough to accept a shapeshifter into her life. When his boyhood friend asks him to watch over his little sister Misty, he reluctantly agrees. But when the bank where she works gets held up, Gabe does everything he can to protect her. The two of them end up locked in the bank's vault...where things get steamier than either of them ever imagined.

Hooked on a Phoenix is a nice addition to Chase's body of work. Misty is a solid character, and I liked her combination of strength and vulnerability. Gabe is more sensitive than most of the supernatural heroes, but he still has his fair share of macho over protectiveness and stepping in to help when not asked. I found the relationship to move quickly and slowly at the same time. Since they already knew each other there was none of the getting to know you build up, but they still slowly got to know each other better while dealing with some health issues and family. I liked Misty's character a lot, and how she rolled with the punches- and she had plenty to face. I found that Gabe's thoughtfulness was nice, and I enjoyed getting a better look at the phoenix family that has played a part in the previous series. I did find the wrap up to be a little too easy, but when this level of supernatural characters are in play anything can happen. 

Hooked on a Phoenix is a good paranormal romance, and while giving a solid conclusion for our couple, left enough characters in play to whet the appetite to read more. I liked the characters and the story, and enjoyed the read, but was not wowed by it. I think I just might have read too many of these and am no longer surprised by the turns the stories take.

Early Book Review: Fred Wants To Play by Janna de Lathouder, Anne Schneider

Fred Wants To Play is a picturebook written by Janna de Lathouder and illustrated by  Anne Schneider. It is currently scheduled for release on June 11 2018. It's quiet time and Fred knows he is supposed to keep still, but keeping still isn't easy for Fred. A bouncy feeling makes him want to play. Fred feels all alone until he meets Scott. Fred and Scott know how hard it is to keep the colorful feelings inside. Can these two friends help the other fish join in the fun?

Fred Wants To Play is a colorful and thoughtful picturebook about friendship. Fred is an octopus that sometimes has trouble controlling his energy, sometimes he just has to move and play. The others do not want to play with him because he sometimes gets too bouncy. Feeling alone and different he finally encounters someone that is very different from him, but that shares the same bouncy feeling that gets him in so much trouble. Together they plan a way to play together, and play with everyone else. I love that they channel their energy rather than ignoring or burying it, embracing those differences rather than trying to make them go away. So often teachers and parents feel like children need to conform rather than find away to make it work with the people around them and their environment. I really liked the artwork. The pastel colors popped and captured the emotion and movement of the characters. I loved that it took a character trait that often is seen as negative, and shows characters finding a way to turn it into a positive experience.  

Book Review: Under Dogs by Andrius Burba

Under Dogs by Andrius Burba is a book of dog photography showing our furry friends from an unexpected perspective--from underneath. In the vein of bestsellers like Underwater Dogs and Shake; Under Dogs is an unique look at man's best friend. The images of dogs taken from below are by turns surprising and hilarious—providing readers with a little-seen view of the pets we love.
Under Dogs is a book of dog photographs like none you have ever seen before. I like that there were a variety of breeds, and often the dogs are just being cute, goofy, or weird- not always perfectly posed and behaved. The images are crisp and clean, and the constancy of the background and set up made the similarities and differences of the different dogs stand out. It was interesting to see some breeds that I had never even heard of before, and some more popular dogs. My daughter (animal obsessed third grader) and I flipped through the book together a few times, enjoying the images. If you love animals, dogs in particular, and want a unique view of them this is a delightful book to take some time and enjoy. 

Early Book Review: Must Love Babies (Must Love Babies) by Lynnette Austin

Must Love Babies is the first book in the Must Love Babies series, a spin off of the Magnolia Brides series,  by Lynnette Austin. I have not read the previous series, in fact I believe this is the first book I have read by the author. The book stood up well on its own, but I think those that have read the previous series will have a better understanding of the small town, and those that live there, but I was able to pick up the important bits quickly and fully enjoy the read. This book is currently scheduled for release on June 5 2018.

Brant Wylder is a bachelor and loving it, although he would not mind a few more dances with a certain bridesmaid. He's in Misty Bottoms, Georgia, property-hunting for his vintage car repair shop and acting as groomsman in a wedding when he gets the call. His sister's been in an accident, and Brant has to drop everything and take care of his seven-month-old nephew. That's the end of the bachelor lifestyle. Bridal boutique owner Molly Stiles is all business all the time, until she sees that Brant's in trouble. In this Southern town, nobody ever has to go it alone. And besides, how can she resist that beautiful baby in the arms of a beautiful man, even though romance is not in her plan.

Must Love Babies is a great contemporary romance about finding love when you are not looking for it. Molly has a plan, and love is not on her list for a few more years. She needs to concentrate on her new business, and maybe her trust issues. Brant is loving his life, but when his little sister goes off the rails he steps up and takes care of his nephew. There were a few really funny moments, and plenty of moments parents will relate to, as he learns quickly how to handle caring for a baby. I fell in love with the caring community of Misty Bottoms, and how hard Brant works to do the right thing and take care of others, even when they do not ask. The connection, attraction, and miscommunication between Molly and Brant is all understandable- Molly is too in her head and Brant is trying to do too much. I really enjoyed seeing them come together, and fully enjoyed the ride even when molly was being stubborn and Brant was overstepping. I might have wanted to shake them a couple times, but I was glad to be along for the ride as they found their way. 

Must Love Babies is a sweet story about a small town, and people with big hearts. I loved watching the town come to life and the characters grow and come together. I will be taking a look at the other books from this author. 

Book Review: The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match by Elizabeth Eulberg is the second book in the Shelby Holmes series. The first book sets up the characters and relationship between Shelby and the world, however I think most readers would be able to catch on to the series ideas pretty quickly, even if starting with the second book. 

Being friends with a super sleuth isn't easy, especially when she's nine years old and four feet tall, and full of attitude. But for eleven-year-old aspiring writer John Watson, being friends with Shelby Holmes is just the adventure he's looking for.In the few weeks since moving to Harlem with his mom, Shelby has been training John in the art of observation-a skill that comes in handy on the first day of school. John's new teacher, Mr. Crosby, is acting suspiciously, and Shelby knows this is a mystery worth investigating. But as Shelby and John dig deeper, they discover that there may be someone unexpected involved--someone who may have Shelby beat.

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match is another great book by Eulberg that makes the Sherlock tropes and themes assesable to the younger generations. I love that the characters are unique, but still share bits of the characteristics of the Sherlock cannon. Shelby is the socially uninterested genius, with a little too much pride and confidence in her abilities. When she works with Watson they become the perfect team, with the book, observational, and social smarts to do just about anything. I got a kick out of the introduction of Shelby's nemesis, and the way they work with Lestrade and Crosby. I loved the twists and turns, and the inclusion of extra bits of struggle, like family issues and John's diabetes, make the story even more relatable to a variety of readers. I think the mystery is well built, and the methods of Shelby and James, and how they interact with each others and those around them, is extremely well done. I love the layers to all the characters, and the combination of real life and Sherlock themes makes for an entertaining and engaging.

The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match is a great middle grade mystery with a diverse group of characters that feels completely organic rather than forced, which is sadly happening with more and more books. I highly enjoy this series and hope to continue it, and add it to my elementary school library as soon as I can. 

Book Review: Make Your Own Ice Cream: Classic Recipes for Ice Cream, Sorbet, Italian Ice, Sherbet, and Other Frozen Desserts by Sarah Tyson Rorer

Make Your Own Ice Cream: Classic Recipes for Ice Cream, Sorbet, Italian Ice, Sherbet, and Other Frozen Desserts by Sarah Tyson Rorer is a reprint of a vintage book. The author passed away in 1937, so this book makes no mention of electric ice cream makers or microwaves, but was slightly updated for more modern kitchens. This book offers recipes for dozens of different types of ice cream and sherbet, the recipes cover frozen puddings, souffl├ęs, parfaits, and mousses as well as tasty toppings. Numerous dairy-free options include sorbets, Italian ices, and fruit ices. It uses easy-to-find ingredients, which include a variety of fruits and nuts to the traditional flavors of chocolate and vanilla. Brief explanations identify the differences between ices, sorbet, and sherbet and offers the general instructions. 
Make Your Own Ice Cream: Classic Recipes for Ice Cream, Sorbet, Italian Ice, Sherbet, and Other Frozen Desserts is a good and varied collection of recipes for frozen treats. I have to admit that I was confused by some of the wording in the instructions, but that was solved when I realized that those instructions were for use with an old fashioned crank ice cream maker, which I am currently lacking. I did like there there is such a wide variety of flavors, and that they are all based on using the best, fresh ingredients. I might test out a few of these recipes this summer with the kids, but I will admit to being a little lazy and find that I enjoy the instant gratification of buying a half gallon of ice cream and having some to often being preferable to cooking and freezing some of these recipes no mater how tempting they sound. 

Book Review: The Jasmine Sneeze by Nadine Kaadan

The Jasmine Sneeze is a picturebook written and illustrated by Nadine Kaadan. Haroun, the cat, likes nothing better than to spend his days sleeping in the sunlit courtyards of Damascus. But one thing always ruins his sleep; jasmine! Haroun can’t stand the sweet-scented flowers. Their pollen sends him into fits of sneezes! So one day, Haroun hatches a plan to fix the problem. But little does he know that in doing so he deeply angers the Jasmine Spirit who plans her revenge in her own crafty and hilarious way.

The Jasmine Sneeze is a story that gives a small insight into the culture of Damascus, at least in relation to jasmine. In lovely illustrations, reader see the silly cat Haroun suffer through the sneezing fits near the jasmine. He hatches a plot to stop the scent of jasmine from making him sneeze- but as expected in a fable from any culture, things do not go as planned. His efforts anger the spirit of the jasmine and suffers the consequences, at least until he makes it right. I love that the author of the work wrote about her own culture. I like that a little more of the culture of Syria was given at the end of the book. My only problem was that I wanted a even more of the folklore and culture. However, the illustrations were wonderful, and I did enjoy the little glimpse that we got. 

Book Review: My Lady Captor by Hannah Howell

My Lady Captor by Hannah Howell is a historical novel that is currently being reprinted, but was originally published in 1996. Lady Sorcha Hay is devastated to learn that English soldiers are holding her young brother captive. Penniless, the only way she can pay for his freedom is by taking a hostage for ransom herself. Her captive--a wounded knight plucked from the battlefield--is furious to be imprisoned by a woman. But nothing will stop Sorcha from keeping Sir Ruari Kerr enslaved, even as the sight of his bronzed body sets her mind and body reeling.  With her dark mane and soft curves, Sorcha is everything Ruari has ever desired in a woman. As she tends to his wounds, Ruari fights the intense attraction that ignites at her very touch. But he can't afford to lose his heart to his tempting captor. For when he's finally rescued by his men, Sorcha will pay dearly for her treachery, and loving her could put both their lives in peril.

My Lady Captor is a fun historical romance with strong characters and the touch of the otherworldly that I expect from Howell. Sorcha and her family have a connection to ghosts, and occasionally get hints of what is to come. Unfortunately they also have very little money and few men left in their clan. When the search for Sorcha's wayward brother (and laird) instead offers up the knowledge that he is captive and will be ransomed she seizes on the opportunity to ransom the two wounded souls she finds on the battlefield in order to pay that ransom. I like that she is strong, resourceful, and willing to do what needs to be done for the good of all rather than focusing on what she wants. She is clever and quick to action, and shows up the men on many occasions. Ruari is strong, but heeds his pride and what he thinks he should far more than he ought. I like that while he falls in the trap of underestimating Sorcha and the women of her clan, he quickly comes to respect their quick wit and strength, even when it bests him. The added danger of a greedy English knight certainly made things interesting, but I was not sure it was completely necessary, and the resolution was a tad anticlimactic for me- although it did the job of forcing the action forward. I enjoyed the ride, but found it evident that it was an earlier work from the author, and noticed how much her style has evolved and grown.

My Lady Captor is exactly what I expect from Howell, but clearly one of her earlier works. The characters and story are engaging, but having read many of her books I can see how much her style and skill has grown over the years. This was a great read while trapped indoors due to bad weather. 

Early Book Review: If a Horse Had Words by Kelly Cooper, Lucy Eldridge

If a Horse Had Words is a picturebook written by Kelly Cooper and illustrated by Lucy Eldridge.  It is currently scheduled for release on June 5 2018. Red Badger is a newborn foal learning to stand when she slips and gets stuck in a muddy badger hole. It is a young boy who frees her, and his kindness and gentleness mark the beginning of their friendship — though she will always be wary of the ground that briefly trapped her. As the seasons pass on the ranch, Red Badger learns more about her world: Fall is leaf rustle and fence posts. Winter is white hills and long nights. The boy is hay, a gentle touch, playing in the snow and the sweet smell of peppermints. If a horse had words, the word would be friend. 
If a Horse Had Words is a picturebook about friendship told from the horse's point of view. It gives a cool perspective that animal loving readers, and horse loving readers in particular, will enjoy and get something special from. The book also felt like it was trying to help readers with learning new words, particularly about seasons. It felt a little overbearing at times, but might make it more useful for helping struggling readers that love horses learn those words. However, it was a little too text heavy to work for those that are really struggling. The artwork is nice, it reminded me of the classic illustrations in Golden Books from my own childhood. All together, I think this book has a niche audience, one that I do not quite fit into.