Early Book Review: Be The Change: The Future is in Your Hands by Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle

Be The Change: The Future is in Your Hands by Eunice Moyle and Sabrina Moyle is currently scheduled for release on March 1 2018. This book gives young readers the tools and encouragement needed to be the change they wish to see in the world. Featuring the popular founders of Hello!Lucky stationery, this guidebook offers instruction and guidance to spark readers’ creativity and inspire action in their local communities. The authors teach readers about great change-makers in history, the structure of community systems, and offer fun and creative project ideas to help budding activists get started making a difference right away.
Be The Change: The Future is in Your Hands is a book focused on empowering young people to understand and make changes in the world around them. I like that it is very encouraging to young women, focused on information about the government on all levels, community organizations, creativity, and how to get involved and help inform and encourage others. While I understand that the authors and the main audience of this book is more likely to be of the female persuasion, I felt like it was a little too focused on girls. If we want everyone to be involved, come together, and communicate I think it would be prudent to get people of all genders and walks of life involved. If the book is intended for girls only, then that should be included on the cover. It is not only CIS females that can feminists or should get involved. I did like the information and encouragement to get involved found in the book, and the idea behind it, I just felt like it could have been a little more inclusive. 

Book Review: Gemini Keeps Capricorn (Signs of Love) by Anyta Sunday

Gemini Keeps Capricorn is the third book in the Signs of Love series by Anyta Sunday. Each book in the series can stand up fine on its own, however some characters from previous books do have cameos.

Wesley loves annoying his RA, Lloyd Reynolds. He just can’t help it. Lloyd is focused, decisive, grounded. He has this amusing ability to follow rules. Of course Wesley wants Lloyd to break one, or more. But Lloyd doesn’t crack easily. He’s full of principles. He’s unshakable. He’s the perfect friend to have when Wesley needs help. Like with his truant brother and his old high school principal. One little lie is all it takes to find Wesley fake-engaged to his off-limits RA. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Gemini Keeps Capricorn is a delightfully slow burn, and Wesley is a fun but clueless main character that makes the journey entertaining and more than a little frustrating. I loved the banter and friendship between Lloyd and Wes, it made me smile. I found the family drama and hard life choices that need to be made to be on point and realistic. There characters reminded me of people I new in college, and afterward, and felt like people I might run into in real life. The background stories, Wes's brother Caleb and the parent connections, did not distract from the relationship growth, rather they added to it and help build on it. I love that I could get lost in the characters and the day to day issues, and enjoy the developing friendship and more. Sunday's stories are so much about people, life, and getting to know yourself and be yourself that I wish more people would discover her work- particularly those that cannot get past other people being different. I wish I did not have close to two hundred books in my Netgalley queue so I could go read more from Sunday right now, without the guilt. I will get to them though- eventually. 

Gemini Keeps Capricorn is another slow burn from Sunday that I loved. All I could ask for to change here (or any of the books in this series) is to get a glimpse into the other main character's head. I just want more!

Early Book Review: Clod Makes a Friend by David J. Pedersen

Clod Makes a Friend by David J. Pedersen is a fairy tale for middle grade and older readers. It is currently scheduled for release on March 1 2018. Bullies love to hate Clod. Not just because he's bigger, clumsier, and uglier than his classmates - he's also the only student in his school without magic. In a world where all magic is possible and everyone else is born with great gifts to do amazing things, Clod is alone. Living with his mum in a broken-down cottage on barely enough, the only thing Clod has to play with is the clay she occasionally brings him. Bleak is an understatement. More than anything, Clod wants a friend. The only way that's going to happen, is to make one himself. After an angry visit from the worst of the bullies, his teacher Learned Yugen, Clod's clay sculpture of a little girl comes to life and introduces herself as Ada. For a clay girl barely the size of his hand, she has more confidence and courage than he knows what to do with. Every adventure she leads him on gets Clod into trouble. She may be the friend he wants, but is she the friend he needs? After many years, and too many pranks, Yugen becomes convinced that Clod is tainted by the evil slowly infiltrating the Kingdom of Pag, especially when Ada isn't the only one Clod can bring to life.

Clod Makes a Friend is a unique fairy tale style story for everyone. It is about being yourself and growing into your own talents, it is also about friendship, love, and trusting yourself. I found Clod to be a sympathetic character and Yugen to be the kind of person or character I love to hate- power hungry and sowing hatred for everyone different or that he does not understand. The world building was subtle, and I liked how varied the population was, which made the fear and hate sown by Yugen that much more significant to the story. Clod's growth as a character, and in his understanding and power, is well done. I liked the relationship with his mother, and the personality of Ada, although I would have liked more from both of their points of view.  On the down side, I feel like I was told rather than shown a good amount of the story. I loved what was there, but I wanted more of something. I really enjoyed the story and the idea behind it. The theme and lessons of the story were heart felt and on point, leaving its mark on those that read it.

Clod Makes a Friend is a good story, and I liked the ideas in it. I felt like it could have been even better, but I do not know for sure what I felt was missing. 

Book Review: Claiming Bailey (Ace Security) by Susan Stoker

Claiming Bailey is the third book in the Ace Security series by Susan Stoker. While I have read this series in order, it is not strictly necessary for the romance aspect. However, those that have been following the series will understand the characters and the larger story arch much better than those coming in cold.

Bailey Hampton will do whatever it takes to keep both herself and her little brother safe from the vicious Inca Boyz gang. Hiding out in Castle Rock, Colorado, is only a temporary solution until she can earn enough money to get out of the state altogether. But when she meets handsome security nerd Nathan Anderson, she discovers a reason to stay and fight for what she wants. Ace Security’s Nathan Anderson has always been the “numbers guy,” not the man any of the firm’s clients look to when their safety is threatened. But from the first time he ran into Bailey, she never made him feel like less of a protector than his brothers. Nathan was attracted to the petite, black-haired pixie with wild tattoos from the start, and by some miracle, she seems to return his interest. But danger stalks Bailey and her brother, so it’s up to Nathan to channel his inner alpha and find a way to end the threat to their lives once and for all—and he’s not giving up Bailey without a fight.
Claiming Bailey is exactly what I was hoping for, and a little more. I have been waiting for Nathan to find his match, and Bailey was even better than I expected. I liked both the characters. They are multi layered, and how they ended up as the adults we see is clearly explained and their actions. As usual I did find myself a little annoyed with the alpha male style, but that seems to be the case with most of this genre lately rather than an issue with this particular book. I did like the way Bailey and Nathan talk things out, and while Nathan wants to plan and protect, he generally treats Bailey as an equal rather than someone that needs to be saved. Like the previous books in the series, the danger surrounds our heroine is because of the Inca gang, but I felt like it was more of a background story than it had been in previous book. It certainly was important and a major catalyst in the story I found that the characters and relationships had the spotlight- which made me happy.

Claiming Bailey is most likely my favorite book from the series, and thankfully I know there will be at least one more- which I cannot wait to read. 

Early Book Review: Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail from the editors of Storey Publishing

Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail, from the editors of Storey Publishing, is currently scheduled for release on March 6 2018.  Jumpstart curiosity with this take-along field guide for children ages 4 and up. From worms, birds, and spiders to trees, flowers, and clouds, young explorers learn what to look and listen for wherever they are — whether in a nature preserve, an urban park, or a suburban backyard. Seek-and-find lists, on-the-trail art projects, and discovery games get kids engaged in hands-on learning about nature, and a real pull-out magnifying glass helps them get a close-up glimpse of leaf veins, seed pods, and tiny insects. Filled with activities, checklists, and stickers, this interactive nature guide belongs in every kid’s backpack.

Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail is a well organized and accessible guide to take with you for any family outdoor outing. While it would be fantastic to take on a camping trip or long hike, but I think even short walks to the park or an afternoon in the yard could be made more interesting by using the activities and guide. I can see take the book in sections and spending a day talking about trees and plants and trying the creature creation or nature painting ideas with my own children. I think the amount of information and activities make this a book that will get much use from the family. I really liked that the activities are things that can be done as a family, but also by an older child taking the imitative to do them on their own in the back yard or as the family camps. I would suggest previewing the book before hitting the great outdoors, just to see what you might want to focus on or try while you are out there. 

Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail is  a wonderful field guide to take out on a family hike, camping trip, or even for short walks or trips to the park. The information and activities are interesting and adaptable for all ages. 

Book Review: Wolf Hunger (SWAT) by Paige Tyler

Wolf Hunger is the seventh book in the SWAT series by Paige Tyler. While the romance is not dependent on having read the previous books in the series, the danger, conflict, and some character building was done in the previous books. So, if you are a reader that wants to understand all the lore and whys behind the main characters and big bads I highly recommend reading this series in order, if you can let go of that and enjoy the characters focused on in the story at hand, then feel free to read out of order and enjoy.

When SWAT Officer Max Lowry meets Lana Mason, he falls fast and hard. He’s positive she’s The One. And Max’s favorite part? Lana’s a wolf shifter too, so they can skip the awkward reveal and head straight to the happily ever after. There’s just one problem: Lana doesn’t know that she’s a werewolf.  To make matters worse, hunters with intent to kill have tracked Lana to Dallas. Max has to figure out how to keep Lana safe, show her who and what she really is—and just how much she means to him.

Wolf Hunger follows the larger story arc about hunters and danger for werewolves. Readers that have not followed the series might not be ready for how much of the story focuses on the danger and suspense element that is connected to that. I like that Lana has a good head on her shoulders, and that even though she trusts Max she did not just shrug and move on after she was shown the truth of werewolves. She had a nice freak out, as any sane person tossed into chaos might. I also like how the community of werewolves, and police in town, changes and grows through the book. People are so much more than they seem, and I liked getting a glimpse at the deeper aspects of some of the secondary characters that have peppered earlier books. I found Max's conflicts and personal history to be well handle and still heart breaking. It was an important part of the story, and one of the most compelling parts. My only big issue with the book is the non story that surrounded Lana and Max's romance. It was kind of glossed over, and I found myself more interested in Lana's parents and Max's issues than them as a couple. 

Wolf Hunger is a good read, and I liked the story. It just did not wow me, and I thought the emotional and relationship development could have had a little more to it. 

Early Book Review: Switched (Fairy Tale Reform School) by Jen Calonita

Switched is the fourth book in the Fairy Tale Reform School series by Jen Calonita and is currently scheduled for release on March 6 2018. . It is helpful to read this series in order, although the action is reasonably self contained, the relationships and backstory add a great deal to the story as a whole.

Things at Fairy Tale Reform School are great. Rumpelstiltskin has been ousted, and everyone is buzzing about the fact that Beauty and Prince Sebastian (a.k.a. the Beast) have joined the teaching staff. Everyone, that is, except Gilly, who can’t seem to focus on anything but Anna. How is it that her beloved sister somehow went bad and joined up with Rump? And why doesn’t anyone seem to care? Sure, the Royal Court says they’re working on it, but they’ve got exactly nothing to show for it. But when new kid Jack joins FTRS with tales of his own family being snatched by Rump, Gilly knows she’s in good company. Jack wants answers, just like Gilly. And if the Royal Court can’t get the job done, then maybe it’s time to break some rules.

Switched is a lot of build up, for what I felt was very little action. New characters were introduced and lots of introspection, second guessing, and angst on Gilly's part were the main points of the book. I like that we got to meet AG (Allison Grace or daughter of Beauty and the Beast) and Jack of Beanstalk fame and I liked the way their characters fleshed out. I loved the magical library and Beast's character, but wanted more time with each. I felt like too much of this book was getting the new characters into place, and getting Gilly to where she needed to be (mentally, emotionally, and physically). Once the climax hit, I felt like it all happened way too quickly and easily. I just wanted more, but I am not sure what, so I cannot even point to the moment that let me down. I think I just had such high expectations that there was no way the reality of the book could match my anticipation.

Switched is a lot of what I expected, but a little less. It was still a fun read with a good deal of characters insight, but I felt like it was lacking the tension and compelling nature of the previous books. 

Book Review: Unraveled (Whiskey Sharp) Lauren Dane

Unraveled is the first book in the Whiskey Sharp series Lauren Dane. Maybe Dolan is independent and free-spirited  since leaving home at sixteen. Whiskey Sharp, Seattle's sexy vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar, gave her a job and a reason to put down roots. Cutting hair by day, losing herself drumming in a punk rock band by night, she's got it good. But a longtime crush that turns into a hot, edgy night with brooding and bearded Alexsei Petrov makes it a hell of a lot better. Maybe's blunt attitude and carnal smile hooked Alexsei from the start. Protecting people is part of his nature and Maybe is meant to be his even if she doesn't know it. Yet. He can't help himself from wanting to protect and care for her. But Maybe's fiery independent spirit means pushing back when Alexsei goes too far. Still, he's not afraid to do a little pushing of his own to get what he wants her in his life, and his bed, for good. Maybe's more intoxicating than all the liquor on his shelf and he's not afraid to ride the blade's edge to bind her to him.

Unraveled starts as a slow burn, and quickly ramps up to so much more. Maybe and Alexsei were instantly attracted, but both avoiding the complications and issues that perusing each other could cause, until Maybe has had enough and decides it would be worth any backlash. I loved the journey of their relationship, and how much insight readers get into both characters, and the secondary characters that surround them. Maybe is a complicated character, and her family issues are a powerful aspect of the story. I love watching her stand up to everyone for everyone, but it broke my heart when she had trouble standing up against her parents. I loved the combination of protectiveness and respect that Alexsei shows towards the women in his life, and how thoughtful his is. The fact that both characters are strong, and have their own share of history makes them compelling and real. The banter and care they share was extremely well done. Maybe's family problems coming to roost was heart breaking, but left me wanting to know more. There has to be more, right? While I know there are horrible people, and parents, out there I hate to think about this type of dynamic happening in real life. The story stuck with me well after finishing the book, and I think it will be just as engaging and compelling for other readers as well.

Unraveled is an awesome start to the series, and has me chomping at the bit for more. Thankfully, I already have a copy via Netgalley on my Kindle waiting for me. The hard part will be not reading it right now, because that will make the third one seem so far away- and I know I will want more.

Book Review: Wicked's Way by Anna Fienberg

Wicked's Way by Anna Fienberg is a high-seas pirate adventure for middle grade readers. Will could walk a tightrope and juggle bananas as he went. 'One day you'll be the star of a circus,' his mother told him. 'But until then, you must be a secret.' For each year pirates came to the islands to steal young boys for their crew. And if that happened to you, well, you may as well kiss your life goodbye. So what's a young lad to do when his mother disappears and pirates arrive at his door? Will takes courage from a crazy truth-telling parrot, and his mother's advice: 'Keep putting one foot in front of the other and your eyes on the prize.' But will this be enough to survive the perils at sea? And will that infuriatingly polite boy called Horrendo finally tip the balance?

Wicked's Way is a coming of age story full of peril and tough choices. Will tries to do what he should, and be the best boy he can. However, more often than not his good intentions get him into trouble or are not well received by others. Hard life, frustration, and resentment can change a boy, and Will is no different. Losing his mother, and the good things in his life by way of pirates sets Will on a hard road, and he needs to face dangers both physical and emotional. I could empathize with Will along the way, he was always trying to help, be nice, do the right thing- and he is mocked or looked down upon for it. Life just seems not o be fair, particularly when others get appreciation for things Will would have done and been sneered at for. I understand, and I think most of us have had a meeting, group project, or time with friends or family that made us feel that way. (No? Just me?) My heart broke for Will as he changed, and struggled through out the story. Emotions and tensions were high through the majority of the book, and I think there are many that will add this to their favorite reads pile. 

Wicked's Way is a heart wrenching adventure story with characters that readers can relate to, and sometimes want to laugh or yell at. The story is engaging and will not let go. Now I need to go back and read Horrendo's Curse, which might give me more information on a secondary character or two and a new perspective on parts of the story. I hope it will capture my attention in the same way. 

Book Review: Stay Close (For You) by Alexa Riley

Stay Close is the first book in the For You series by Alexa Riley. I actually read the second book, Hold Tight, first. The books read as a series are great, and as a follow up to the For Her series even better. However, they can be read as stand alones as well.

A former Russian mafia soldier is hired to protect a friend’s young daughter, but he knows he’ll do more than keep her safe. Ivan tries to stay professional, but he knows he will do anything to keep her safe, even from himself. Penelope Justice is eighteen, old enough to graduate high school but—according to her parents—not old enough to live without 24/7 security. Practice has made her an expert at ditching her bodyguards. One look at Ivan and she never wants to run again. Ivan steals the breath right out of her lungs, something no boy has ever done. Then again, he’s far from a boy. This man, this man who looks like he could kill someone with the flick of a wrist, is everything. He is her future.

Stay Close is exactly what I have come to expect from Riley. Romance firmly rooted in instantly knowing your other half when you see them, and protecting them. Ivan has seen some ugly things, but when he sees Penelope he sees all light and innocence. Penelope sees the hardness and danger in Ivan, but knows he would never hurt her. Instead of sitting down and talking, the majority of conflict comes when they try to do the right this for the other without talking first. To be honest, that really annoys me but I will admit that it fell in line with the character's personalities- so while I did not like it, it fit the context. This story felt short, which is fair since it was novella length, but I felt like there could have been more character or relationship building rather than just having it be based on instant obsession.

Stay Close is not a surprise for Riley fans. Those that love her style will want to pick this one up and give it a go. Those that prefer more of a build up and character or relationship growth might want to pass.