Early Book Review: My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase

My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase is the second book in the Boston Dragons series. It is schedule for release on September 6 2016. The first book, I Dream of Dragons, is connected by characters, but I think that readers coming fresh to the story will be able to enjoy the story without having read the previous book.
Dragon shifter Chloe Arish is hell-bent on becoming a Boston firefighter. She uses her Irish charm and fake documents to score an interview, knowing she has to work every bit as hard as a man, harder if she wants their respect. Born into a legendary Boston firefighting family, phoenix shifter Ryan Fiero can't possibly let someone best him on the training course or the job. He'd never hear the end of it. When a feisty new recruit comes along who's determined to do just that, Ryan plots to kick her out-until their sizzling chemistry turns explosive.

My Wild Irish Dragon gives the assertive sister of the Irish dragon clan that has started settling into Boston her story. Chloe wants to help people, she has the skills and strength to be a firefighter so that is what she wants to do. Ryan comes from a family of fire fighters, and he cannot imagine doing anything else. The pair begin as rivals, but soon verbal sparing and competition turns into something much better. As they find their way together the pair need to keep their secrets, including their paranormal sides and couple status so they they are not separated on the job. As always, challenges keep popping up and inner doubts of the characters are shared regularly. I liked them both, and felt like their connection was solid. I think they fell together more easily than I am used to, but got to have an extra large surprise at the end because of that. It was a fun read, just not one that had me staying up late to finish.

My Wild Irish Dragon is a fun romance with plenty of chemistry and complications. While not the best paranormal romance I have read, it was an entertain read and I liked that the world of paranormal creatures n Chase’s books just expanded again. 

Book Review: Doodletopia: Manga: Draw, Design, and Color your own Super-Cute Manga Characters and More by Christopher Hart

Doodletopia: Manga: Draw, Design, and Color your own Super-Cute Manga Characters and More by Christopher Hart is a book that combines instruction, inspiration, and interesting illustrations. The instructions are clear and concise, with activities and ideas that aspiring artists can use to expand their skill and comfort level with a variety of anime and manga style art. There is a great deal of information as well as exercises and challenges. Sections include opportunities for readers to draw a companion for an existing character, create their own emojis, and finish their own scenes. Readers can design manga bookmarks, stationery, and even get started developing their own graphic novels.

I think Doodletopia is a good buy for readers that are looking to expand on their drawing skills, particularly in this style of artwork. I would suggest photocopying a few of the challenges and activities, only so you can complete them more than once and see how you skill and style grows. 

Book Review: A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles) by Amanda Bouchet

A Promise of Fire is the first book in the Kingmaker Chronicles series by Amanda Bouchet. Catalia "Cat" Fisa is a powerful clairvoyant known as the Kingmaker. This smart-mouthed soothsayer has no interest in her powers and would much rather fly under the radar, far from the clutches of her homicidal mother. But when an ambitious warlord captures her, she may not have a choice. Griffin is intent on bringing peace to his newly conquered realm in the magic-deprived south. When he discovers Cat is the Kingmaker, he abducts her. But Cat will do everything in her power to avoid her dangerous destiny and battle her captor at every turn. Although up for the battle, Griffin would prefer for Cat to help his people willingly, and he's ready to do whatever it takes to coax her, even if that means falling in love with her.

A Promise of Fire is a wonderful start to a fantasy series. Cat is traveling with a circus across the lands offering fortune reading. When she meets Griffin the connection and trouble are both instant, and almost tangible. Her abilities promise to be helpful, despite her reluctance, and the journey of captive and group of captures begins. Relationships form and change and grow, and intrigue is certainly part of the world- in every corner. Cat has more secrets than her abilities, her childhood was horrific and the full extent of those issues and the reasons behind them are fairly obvious to readers about halfway through the book, but every character but Cat remains in the dark. The survival trials in the journey as well as the acclimation of Cat in the court are on point and both interesting and engaging. I am looking forward to discovering what comes next for Cat, Griffin, and the rest

A Promise of Fire is a fantastic series starter, and I look forward to following the growth of the characters and their stories in future installments. The world and character building style reminded me a bit of Maria V. Snyder, who I am a huge fan of. I think Bouchet has just landed on my must read list, instead of my want to read list.

Book Review: Lug: Blast From the Past by David Zeltser

Lug: Blast From the Past by David Seltzer was first published in October of 2015, but its reprint is being released by a new publisher on September 1 2016. This is the second book in a series, the first was Lug: Dawn of the Ice Age. You can quickly pick up the general idea and characters without having read the first, but I think they read better as a series than as stand alones. 

After saving their clans from saber-toothed tigers, Lug and his friends now face an even deadlier foe: a giant and strangely fast-moving glacier from the north that threatens to crush their villages. But how do you stop a force of nature? As Lug, Echo, and Stony investigate, they meet a mysterious boy named Blast. Although Blast appears to have a plan to save everyone, Lug suspects this kid isn't as cool as he seems.

Lug: Blast From the Past is a fun, quick paced story that is about facing your fears, trusting yourself, and trusting in your friends. Lug has been more than a little skittish around animals since the incident with the tigers in the first book, and does not want his friends and family to think he is a coward because of it. He is desperate to prove himself, and when a glacier and Blast appear he is worried about more than the fate of his village. More crazy characters, escapes, and Lug coming to terms with his fears and worry about his friendships keeps the book moving along quickly. However, the book is not all serious, there is plenty of humor and fun as well.

Lug: Blast From the Past is a great read for fans of the first book, particularly transitional readers that are just starting to get comfortable with chapter books. The black and white drawings through out the book add some extra personality and fun to the story, and capture the attention of young readers that might be losing focus.

Book Review: Ancient Magic (Dragon's Gift: The Huntress, #1) by Linsey Hall

Ancient Magic is the first book in the Dragon's Gift: The Huntress series by Linsey Hall. Cass Clereaux is good at two things: finding treasure and killing demons. Lying low is a close third because she has to be. She and her sisters are FireSouls, those unlucky few to inherit a piece of the dragon’s soul. Being born with the dragon’s covetousness should be a sweet gig, but it doesn’t come without a price. Stealing powers requires that I kill, and others would destroy me if they discover what I am. In a world full of magic, hiding my species is the only way to survive. Finding magical artifacts is the only way to pay the bills. It’s a dangerous job when you can barely use your magic, but that’s one of the things I like about it. When Aidan Merrick, the most powerful shifter in the city, hires her to find an ancient scroll,she does not have a choice. The scroll reveals what she is, and if anyone finds out her and her sisters are dead. 

Ancient Magic is a book that trusts you into the world abruptly and with no apologies. In the opening we met out trio and figure out that they are unique, have cool powers, and no memories. Flash forward to them as adults and making their way in the world while trying to keep a low profile but still satisfy their dragon-like desire for treasure. They make money by finding magical artifacts and selling the magical portion of them. A not so smooth search leads trouble to their door, and the wealthy Aidan. Apparently everyone is looking for the same school, for different reasons, and few of them good. The action and sparks are high and Aidan and Cass are pretty well fleshed out as characters. My only disappointment is that we did not get a good amount of time with Nix or Del (Cass’s sisters) or some of the important secondary characters that I fully expect to see again in future books. I am hoping the other four books in this series will give readers that deeper understanding and growth of all the characters.

Ancient Magic is a fast paced read with a solid romance, plenty of action, and interesting characters that I only wanted to see more of. I was left with a satisfying conclusion, and an urge to find out what is next for Aidan, Cass, Nix, and Del. 

Early Book Review: Lucy and Company by Marianne Dubuc

Lucy and Company is a picturebook (or perhaps an early chapter book) by Marianne Dubuc which is scheduled for release on September 6 2016. This book features three, short, cozy stories features a little girl named Lucy and her four animal friends. The critters include Marcel the mouse, Henry the rabbit, Dot the turtle and Adrian the snail. (Anton the bear also makes two surprise appearances!) The friends share snacks on a picnic, celebrate a special birthday with a treasure hunt and find a new home for some lost baby chicks. Told with sweet humor and simple language, each of the bite-size stories contains its own complete adventure, with an unexpected twist at the end!

Lucy and Company is a sweet and simply pleasing series of stories about the small moments shared by a group of friends. The artwork is soft and subtle, resembling the works from the Winnie The Pooh series with it's birds eye view perspective. the friends and their adventures are fun and sweet, and the text is simple enough for the younger readers o follow, but not so basic to bore the more advanced readers. I liked that the social lessons that children need to understand before pre-school and kindergarten are expressed in a charming and understandable manner, getting the ideas of sharing and friendship across without making the readers feel like they are being taught.

Lucy and Company is a great book for story times or young readers that are ready to transition from picturebooks and basic easy readers to early chapterbooks and harder, more complicated, easy readers. It would work well for either story time sharing or independent exploration.

Early Book Review: Ocean Animals from Head to Tail by Stacey Roderick, Kwanchai Moriya

Ocean Animals from Head to Tail is a nonfiction picture book written by Stacey Roderick and illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya. It is currently scheduled for release on September 6 2016. This book uses a fun guessing game to introduce eight different ocean animals and some unique aspects of their bodies. Readers are shown a close-up look at an unusual part of an animal's body and asked to guess its owner. The following page offers the answer along with a detailed illustration of that animal, it’s environment, and some interesting facts.  For example, readers learn that a blue whale's mouth contains baleen, which help it capture krill to eat, and that the tail of a seahorse curls so it can hold on to sea plants for stability.

Ocean Animals from Head to Tail is an interested and entertaining look at m,marine life for young readers. While many facts were not new to me, part of that is because my daughter is animal obsessed and we have done some serious research together on a few of these animals already. I think that the visually captivating pages and chosen information come together to capture the interest of young readers and any older siblings or caregivers that they share the book with. It could lead to further reading and discussions about the included animals, and other curious creatures both in the ocean and on land. The interactive nature of the pages would make this good for reading aloud, taking turns guessing what the animals might be and making it a game as well as an informative read. I liked that the end of the book included additional facts on another eight ocean animals, to further the curiosity and information seeking in our younger readers.  

Book Review: Wolves (I Bring the Fire) by C. Gockel

Wolves by C. Gockel is the first book in the I Bring the Fire series. The series is complete, and seven books long.
In the middle of America, on Route 44, Amy Lewis has a plan, to get to her grandma’s house in time for dinner. Galaxies away Loki is waking up in a prison cell, strangely without a hangover, and with no idea what he’s done wrong this time. But he does know Thor is hiding something, Odin is up to something wicked, and there seems to be something he’s forgotten. A very nice midwestern girl and a jaded, still very mischievous, Loki must join forces to outwit gods, elves, magic sniffing cats, and nosy neighbors. If Loki can remember exactly what he’s forgotten and Amy can convince him not to be too distracted by Earthly gadgets, her boobs, or three day benders, they just might pull it off.  

Wolves is a fast paced romp through three different realms, and lots of quirky characters. I was glad to see Loki have his side of the myths surrounding him , since I also felt like there was more to his stories. Amy is pretty close to broke and struggling to stay awake and get to her grandmother's house in one piece with her ugly dog when things go wrong. Loki makes for a unexpected savior, even if he introduces himself as Thor. Loki is on his own mission, trying to find and save the only family members he has left, and trying to put together missing information that he clearly once knew. the adventures include Loki figuring out our world, and Amy coming to terms with the particulars of the man who saved her, and how that effect reality as she knows it. I really enjoyed the fresh perspective on mythology I thought I had a solid knowledge of, and the was it has encouraged me to go back and re explore them. I just wish the story had some sort of satisfying wrap up before giving me the teaser for the next volume. I really want to know what happens next, and have added the next six books in the series to me 'hope to read' list.

Wolves is a book that I found entertaining and funny but that was very reminiscent of the Marvel movies and television series that are currently very popular. Of course, I am among those that are loving them, so this is not necessarily a bad thing. My big complaint here is the non ending, and the feeling that the book ended in the middle. It would have gotten more tarts if I felt satisfied with the stories as it stands. I am promised that there is an ending in sight, but that a serious and satisfying conclusion does happen- but not until the end of book three! I will let you know when I get that far.

Early Book Review: The Branch by Mireille Messier, Pierre Pratt

The Branch is a picturebook written by Mireille Messier and illustrated by Pierre Pratt. It is currently scheduled for release on September 6 2016. When an ice storm snaps a small girl's favorite branch from the tree in her yard, she's crestfallen. The girl's mom says it's just a branch. But not to her! “That was the branch I sat on, jumped from, played under. It was my castle, my spy base, my ship.” Luckily, her neighbor Mr. Frank understands. He says the branch has “potential.” And so, with imagination and spirit, and Mr. Frank's guidance and tools, the girl transforms the broken branch into something whole and new, giving it another purpose, and her another place to treasure.

The Branch is a beautifully illustrated picturebook that inspires creativity and looking for solutions rather than dwelling on the bad things in life. The young girl used the now broken branch to climb and sit in the tree, it was her special perch. Without it she is at a loss. The neighborhood is working together to clean up after the storm, and her neighbor takes notice of her distress and works with her to find a solution. I like that the little girl takes part in the solution, learning how to use tools and help create a new use for the branch rather than the older gentleman just doing the project on his own. I loved the spirit of  people working together, for no other reason than to be helpful and kind. This is a beautiful lesson that not only encourages a feeling of community, but also encouraging creativity, ingenuity, and hard work.

Book Review: Daring in a Blue Dress by Katie MacAlister

Daring in a Blue Dress by Katie MacAlister is a contemporary romance that is part of the Matchmaker in Wonderland or Ainsle Brothers series. the first book in the series was The Importance of Being Alice which was great fun. The series is tied together by the family of the main players, but each can also be enjoyed on their own.

Stranded in England without money or a ticket home, Mercy Starling takes a job working for a medieval reenactment company. After all, who wouldn't want to pretend to live in the past, wield swords and long bows, and dress up in armor? And the best part of her summer job is Bestwood Hall, or rather, its intriguing new owner. The painfully shy Alden Ainslie is overwhelmed by the medieval reenactors who invade the Tudor house he's renovating, but he's drawn to the bubbly Mercy. And he valiantly joins in the fun, dodging not just arrows, lances, and the odd sword thrust, but also some pretty suspicious—and potentially deadly—attacks on himself. Someone wants him to give up on the house. But Alden is desperate to prove himself—and win the heart of his lady fair.

Daring in a Blue Dress is a romance with a heaping spoonful of suspense. Mercy is a character with a money problem and a strange solution. Taking a job that was offered on a train by the person backing out at the last minute is a desperate solution, but one that she is willing to take. Alden is a perpetual student with few social skills, but the need to restore Bestwood Hall and keep the former owner, who still lives on premises reasonably happy. When Mercy's job just happens to be working for medieval reenactors that unexpectedly set up camp in Alden's back yard hilarious missteps and compromises ensue. several cases of assumptions, mistaken identity, and social awkwardness keep readers happily reading and enjoying the story. The chemistry between Alden and Mercy have is wonderful, and their banter is highly entertaining. The mystery.. danger, and action of the story are a great bonus- however I was just thrilled to see another book where MacAlister concentrates on fun, quirky characters that engaged me and kept me interested through the entire book. Now I need to go back and read the couple books I missed between Alice's book and this one, especially if MacAlister is back to the awesome characters that originally made me a fan.

Daring in a Blue Dress is a fun and fast read with plenty of laughs and romance, but a significant amount of mystery endanger as well. I think fans of MacAlister’s quirky characters and readers that have never read her light hearted romance will all enjoy this entertaining mix of mystery and sweet romance.