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.

Early Book Review: Herding Cats: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection by Sarah Andersen

Herding Cats: A Sarah's Scribbles Collection is the third volume of collected comics from Sarah Andersen. Her distinctive style and humor do a painfully on point job of illustrating the very specific growing pains that occur on the way to becoming a mature, put-together grownup. The illustrations also show how to behave as an adult, even though keeping up that behavior is just as hard as getting there to begin with. At the end there is also encouragement and support for readers trying to keep their head above water when dealing with creativity, art, anxiety, and life in general.
Sarah valiantly struggles with waking up in the morning, being productive, and dealing with social situations. Sarah's Scribbles is the comic strip that follows her life, finding humor in living as an adulting introvert that is at times weird, awkward, and embarrassing. While we might not all have the same levels on anxiety or the same creative outlets as this author and artist-  we have all had the moments when we felt so very different, anxious, or other as the drawn version of Sarah. I could relate to so many of her strips. Even in the strips I could not relate personally I could see the reality of the day to day struggles that so many face. I loved the relateable feel, and the perseverance and humor that underlies her actions. Some of the strips were ones I have seen before, since I follow Sarah's Scribbles, however I felt like there were a significant number of fresh, new strips. I also found the other text from Anderson at the end of the book to be uplifting and supportive to artists and others dealing with anxiety or having trouble adulting to be a great way to connect with and support her readers. All most of us want is to know we are not alone, and seeing someone that you might look up to commiserating with the same troubles could be just the encouragement readers need.

Early Book Review: Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable

Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable is a graphic novel for the youngest readers, and is currently scheduled for release on April 10 2018. Peter and Ernesto are sloths. Peter and Ernesto are friends, but they are nothing alike. Peter loves their tree and never wants to leave, while Ernesto loves the sky and wants to see it from every place on Earth. When Ernesto leaves to have a grand adventure, Peter stays behind and frets. The two friends grow even closer in separation, as Peter the homebody expands his horizons and Ernesto the wanderer learns the value of home.

Peter and Ernesto is a fun and cute story about friends that just happen to be sloths. Ernesto loves the sky, and wants to see the whole thing. So, hew starts off an a journey to do just that, and makes some unusual friends along the way. Meanwhile, Peter gets worried and leaves the tree in search of Ernesto and has his own adventure and meets his own collection of new friends. I like that readers get to see two friends with such different outlooks having their time together, and time apart, but still be the best of friends. THe idea that we can like (or not like) different things than our friends is something young children sometimes need to be reminded of. Making the story even better is the charming artwork and the delightful interactions between the sloths and those they come in contact with along the way.

Peter and Ernesto is is a wonderful graphic novel that will appeal to young readers and their adults. The text is simple, the art lovely, and the story absolutely adorable. It is a win all around. Hopefully I can get this in my school library when it comes out! 

Early Book Review: Baking Lessons (Off Guard) by Katie Allen

Baking Lessons is the second book in the Off Guard series by Katie Allen. It is currently scheduled for release on March 12 2018.  The books can be read as stand alones, the only connection to the previous book is that the guys happen to be close- however they make no cross over appearances.
Leah loves everything about her bakery; the heavenly smells, the satisfaction of feeding people and, of course, unlimited cookies. The only thing she doesn’t like is her uptight landlord’s daily visits. Sure, the man’s drop-dead gorgeous, but for someone with an insatiable taste for treats, he’s anything but sweet. Army vet Hamilton knows he comes off as rigid. He just can’t seem to bite his tongue around Leah. He might be a virgin but he can imagine a dozen better ways to use his mouth. But when the woman he considers absolutely delicious is threatened by an unwanted admirer, Hamilton intervenes, captivating Leah with his softer side. Now the man Leah couldn’t avoid is swiftly becoming the one she can’t resist. Unrelenting temptation soon overwhelms them both, leading to an indulgence in everything they’ve been craving. But when past actions bring a fallout neither imagined, they’ll be forced to confront whether their affair is half-baked or something to savor forever.

Baking Lessons is a wonderful romance, with characters that are quirky in their way. I found Leah to be very relatable. She has loves her job and baiting her landlord to see if she can get a reaction from the stoic Hamilton. She was just very fun, and someone that I would love to hang out with in the real world. Her relationship with her roomate, and the way Ham interacted with her, just made everything even better. I loved seeing the pair discover each other beyond the verbal sparing that began their knowledge of each other. As with my reading of Acting Lessons, I found myself laughing out loud on occasion- not as often, but still. I was glad to see the depth of the characters, particularly the explanation of why Ham liked things so neat and controlled. He was just so in control, but such a soft touch and off center when it came to Leah that he was endearing. I loved the pair together, and that they actually talked about things like adults- when they got past their initial hesitation.  The secondary characters were on point, and I would love to see more of them. . I found the danger of the stalker to be realistic and well done, and something I could see happening all too well. I look forward to seeing more from this side of Katie Ruggle.

Baking Lessons is a sweet and fun romance with a hint of danger. There is plenty humor, well defined characters, a dash of danger, and plenty of steam. Well done all around. My only question is, how long do we need to wait for the third book?