book review Graphic Novel

Book Review- Science Comics: Crows

That’s something to crow about! Learn all about these genius birds in Kyla Vanderklugt’s Science Comics: Crows , the latest volume in First Second’s action-packed nonfiction graphic novel series for middle-grade readers!

Every volume of Science Comics offers a complete introduction to a particular topic—dinosaurs, the solar system, volcanoes, bats, robots, and more. These gorgeously illustrated graphic novels offer wildly entertaining views of their subjects. Whether you’re a fourth grader doing a natural science unit at school or a thirty-year-old with a secret passion for airplanes, these books are for you!

Did you know that crows make their own tools, lead complex social lives, and never forget a human face? Scientists are just beginning to unlock the secrets of the crow’s brain to discover how these avian Einsteins can be as smart as some primates, and even perform some of the same cognitive feats as human children! Crows have problem-solving skills that will make you you rethink what it means to be a bird brain!

Published March 24th 2020 by First Second

What did I think?

I feel like this series and this volume goes over best in the second and third grade crowd. They label it as middle grade, but it’s on the lower end in my opinion. However, older kids and adults interested in crows are in for a treat as well. I can tell you that the crows in our yard hate our cat. They make so much noise that she runs inside when they’re around.

I had to read this book on my phone as it wasn’t available in either hard copy or as a kindle version so I may have missed some of the details pinching and zooming- but I have read other titles in the series and there isn’t anything I’d warn parents off on.

book review nonfiction

Book Review: Ride the Devil’s Herd: Wyatt Earp’s Epic Battle Against the West’s Biggest Outlaw Gang

The little-known story of how a young Wyatt Earp, aided by his brothers, defeated the Cowboys, the Old West’s biggest outlaw gang.

Wyatt Earp is regarded as the most famous lawman of the Old West, best known for his role in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. But the story of his two-year war with a band of outlaws known as the Cowboys has never been told in full.

The Cowboys were the largest outlaw gang in the history of the American West. After battles with the law in Texas and New Mexico, they shifted their operations to Arizona. There, led by Curly Bill Brocius, they ruled the border, robbing, rustling, smuggling and killing with impunity until they made the fatal mistake of tangling with the Earp brothers.

Drawing on groundbreaking research into territorial and federal government records, John Boessenecker’s Ride the Devil’s Herd reveals a time and place in which homicide rates were fifty times higher than those today. The story still bears surprising relevance for contemporary America, involving hot-button issues such as gang violence, border security, unlawful immigration, the dangers of political propagandists parading as journalists, and the prosecution of police officers for carrying out their official duties. Wyatt Earp saw it all in Tombstone.

Published March 17th 2020 by Hanover Square Press

What did I think?

If you wanted a textbook like description of all things Wild West, this is your book. I found all the information intriguing, but was left wishing that it was longer (and at 512 pages- that’s saying something) It would have been nice to include more details about daily life in Tombstone.

That said, it has to be one of the best books on Wyatt Earp ever written. The author definitely did his research as there are so many small details included about the Earp family that I’ve never heard about, and I’m a die hard classic western movie fan.

book review fiction

Book Review: The Glass Hotel

From the award-winning author of Station Eleven, a captivating novel of money, beauty, white-collar crime, ghosts, and moral compromise in which a woman disappears from a container ship off the coast of Mauritania and a massive Ponzi scheme implodes in New York, dragging countless fortunes with it. Vincent is a bartender at the Hotel Caiette, a five-star glass and cedar palace on an island in British Columbia. Jonathan Alkaitis works in finance and owns the hotel. When he passes Vincent his card with a tip, it’s the beginning of their life together. That same day, Vincent’s half-brother, Paul, scrawls a note on the windowed wall of the hotel: “Why don’t you swallow broken glass.” Leon Prevant, a shipping executive for a company called Neptune-Avramidis, sees the note from the hotel bar and is shaken to his core. Thirteen years later Vincent mysteriously disappears from the deck of a Neptune-Avramidis ship. Weaving together the lives of these characters, The Glass Hotel moves between the ship, the skyscrapers of Manhattan, and the wilderness of northern Vancouver Island, painting a breathtaking picture of greed and guilt, fantasy and delusion, art and the ghosts of our pasts.

Published March 24th 2020 by Knopf Publishing Group

What did I think?

It’s hard to know what would be good to read during these weird days. If you’re looking for an old fashioned page-turning mystery this is worth consideration. This is the same author who wrote Station Eleven. In a way. it is similar that you jump around in time. In Station Eleven times were divided into before and after the flu epidemic and in this book time jumps occur before and after a 2008 type financial scandal.

The blurb above tells you all you need to know about the story and I’m afraid to say more without spoiling the twisty plot for you. I read it in a three hour binge read and was happy I stayed up late to finish it. I’d give it 5 stars.

book review YA fiction

Book Review: Hope and Other Punchlines

Abbi Hope Goldstein is like every other teenager, with a few smallish exceptions: her famous alter ego, Baby Hope, is the subject of internet memes, she has asthma, and sometimes people spontaneously burst into tears when they recognize her. Abbi has lived almost her entire life in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of September 11. On that fateful day, she was captured in what became an iconic photograph: in the picture, Abbi (aka “Baby Hope”) wears a birthday crown and grasps a red balloon; just behind her, the South Tower of the World Trade Center is collapsing.

Now, fifteen years later, Abbi is desperate for anonymity and decides to spend the summer before her seventeenth birthday incognito as a counselor at Knights Day Camp two towns away. She’s psyched for eight weeks in the company of four-year-olds, none of whom have ever heard of Baby Hope.

Too bad Noah Stern, whose own world was irrevocably shattered on that terrible day, has a similar summer plan. Noah believes his meeting Baby Hope is fate. Abbi is sure it’s a disaster. Soon, though, the two team up to ask difficult questions about the history behind the Baby Hope photo. But is either of them ready to hear the answers? 

  • Publication Date: May 7, 2019
  • Sold by: Random House LLC

What did I think?

I think that it’s about time that we got some historical fiction set on and around 9/11. It is after all, a point in history that changed everything for the world. Although, there were many understandably sad parts I loved getting to know Abby, Noah and Jack. I’m going to add it to our history reading list.


Book Review: A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Sutton is having robot problems. Her mini-bot is supposed to be able to get through a maze in under a minute, but she must have gotten something wrong in the coding. Which is frustrating for a science-minded girl like Sutton—almost as frustrating as the fact that her mother probably won’t be home in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday.

Luis spends his days writing thrilling stories about brave kids, but there’s only so much inspiration you can find when you’re stuck inside all day. He’s allergic to bees, afraid of dogs, and has an overprotective mom to boot. So Luis can only dream of daring adventures in the wild.

Sutton and Luis couldn’t be more different from each other. Except now that their parents are dating, these two have to find some common ground. Will they be able to navigate their way down a path they never planned on exploring?

Expected publication: April 14th 2020 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers
What I think: Sutton and Luis meet when their parents start dating. They have nothing in common at all. Finding a way to get along or even maybe becoming friends (or step-siblings!) is a challenge. Sutton's mom is in Antarctica and is going to miss her 10th birthday and the robot she's working on. Luis is entirely different. Not sciencey at all. He writes stories about things he is afraid of (including dogs). They do begin to work together when they find themselves in a sticky situation. Funny, suspenseful, so sad at times, along with being filled with science and art and nature, Field Guide to Getting Lost is one of my favorite middle-grade books so far this year. Bonus points for depiction of academic homeschooling.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link as it helps pay for this site.

on the nightstand

March 2020- Escapism Reading List

When you are asked to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of a mysterious illness, and you are a reader, you’re going to react one of two ways:

  1. Let’s analyze real life vs. all the book plots.
  2. Let’s read about anything other than a grim future.

Shockingly, I’m in camp two. I’m as surprised as you are. And so, I collected (meaning I scrolled through Good Reads) and pulled out some books that didn’t make me anxious. In fact, they all make me smile. I included a couple books for adults, but these are mostly books that we as a family enjoyed.

I have all these books listed on Amazon, but check your library for an E-book if you can. I’ll add to the list over there as I think of more.

Whether you are replicating school at home, relaxing, already homeschooling, or just letting the kids be feral: reading aloud for even 15 minutes a day will become something that they will remember, and you’ll create some shared memories.

book review Graphic Novel MG fiction

Book Review: Sparks!

Sparks is a hero and man’s best friend, but nobody suspects he’s two cats!
This Super Dog is the Cat’s Meow!

August is a brilliant inventor who is afraid of the outside. Charlie is a crack pilot who isn’t afraid of anything. Together these pals save lives every day. They also happen to be cats who pilot a powerful, mechanical dog suit! 

Always eager to leap into danger, this feline duo have their work cut out for them as they try to thwart Princess, an evil alien bent on enslaving mankind. Don’t let the fact that Princess looks like a cute, diaper-wearing baby fool you. She’s clever, determined, and totally ruthless. So when Princess and the browbeaten fools she calls servants enact a brilliant and dastardly plan to conquer Earth, August and Charlie pull out all the stops to save the day.

Published February 27th 2018 by Graphix

What did I think?

I read this in between virus naps and then had fabulous dreams about it. I don’t recommend the virus, but I’m pretty sure this story holds up regardless.
I’m so in love with graphic novels right now. They really can be the “gateway drug” to lifelong reading.
This story, in particular, is going to resonate with readers/viewers who love The Simpsons, Powder Puff Girls, Adventure Time, or Gravity Falls. That means you, older parents, and siblings, you too will laugh out loud.
These two cats, their litter box, and the ingenious way they go about battling evil are masterful—bonus points for diversity and having main characters that do hard things. There isn’t anything not to love. Also, there is a sequel due out this Summer!

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link or the one below, as it helps pay for this site.

book review Graphic Novel YA fiction

Book Review: The Oracle Code

The #1 New York Times bestselling author Marieke Nijkamp (This Is Where It Ends) and artist Manuel Preitano unveil a graphic novel that explores the dark corridors of Barbara Gordon’s first mystery: herself.

After a gunshot leaves her paralyzed, Barbara Gordon enters the Arkham Center for Independence, where Gotham’s teens undergo physical and mental rehabilitation. Now using a wheelchair, Barbara must adapt to a new normal, but she cannot shake the feeling that something is dangerously amiss. Within these walls, strange sounds escape at night; patients go missing; and Barbara begins to put together pieces of what she believes to be a larger puzzle.

But is this suspicion simply a result of her trauma? Fellow patients try to connect with Barbara, but she pushes them away, and she’d rather spend time with ghost stories than participate in her daily exercises. Even Barbara’s own judgment is in question.

In The Oracle Code, universal truths cannot be escaped, and Barbara Gordon must battle the phantoms of her past before they swarm her future.

Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by DC Comics

What did I think?

I had to read this on my phone as I didn’t have a hard copy, and it wasn’t available in kindle format. The fact that I powered through- pinching and zooming should prove my zealous love/ determination to read this new graphic novel!
I loved this backstory of Barbara Gordon of the Batman Universe. She suffers significantly after a gunshot wound, with both physical and mental injuries, and I loved that lesson that disabilities are not something that needs to be healed or fixed. It is such a fantastic and robust message to have in YA books, graphic novels, and the DC universe. The reader gets the whole story of how she became the oracle. At first, she pushes everyone away, and her story into her full potential as the oracle was great to see. I also loved the art style in this all-new graphic novel. I’m a late adopter of graphic novels, and now I can’t get enough of them.
More importantly, teens today have so many great choices in fiction. This could have been awesome as a prequel showing how Barbara Gordon became the oracle, and that would have been great. Instead, it was that along with the message that disabilities are not something that needs to be fixed.
I’m looking forward to more art and story from the dynamic duo of Nijkamp and Preitano.

As always if you are buying books from Amazon, please use this link or the one below, as it helps pay for this site.

book review fiction

Book Review:A Forgotten Murder (Medlar Mystery #3)

An English manor home, an unsolved mystery, too many suspects to count… It’s the perfect holiday for romance novelist Sara Medlar.

After solving two murder cases in their hometown of Lachlan, Florida, Sara Medlar, her niece Kate and their friend Jack need a change of scenery. Sara arranges for them to visit an old friend of hers in England. Upon arrival at Oxley Manor, a centuries-old estate that has been converted to a luxury hotel, Kate and Jack quickly realize that Sara is up to something. They learn that Sara has also invited a number of others to join them at Oxley.

When everyone assembles, Sara lets them know why they are there. Decades earlier, two people ran off together from Oxley and haven’t been heard from since—and Sara wants to solve the case. As the people who were there the night the two went missing, the guests find themselves cast in a live mystery-theater event.

In reenacting the events of that night, it becomes clear that everyone has something to hide and no one is safe, especially when the discovery of a body makes it clear that at least one of the people who disappeared was murdered.

Sara, Jack and Kate are once again at the heart of a mysterious case that only they are able to solve. But someone is willing to continue to kill to keep the truth about Oxley Manor buried, and none of the guests are safe.

Expected publication: March 10th 2020 by MIRA

What did I think?

Cozy mystery readers assemble! Everyone has something to hide in this story. The setting is ideal: a large English manor that’s been converted into a hotel? Yes, please. I didn’t even see the ending coming and I’m usually pretty good at that sort of thing.

book review historical fiction

Book Review: The Henna Artist

Vivid and compelling in its portrait of one woman’s struggle for fulfillment in a society pivoting between the traditional and the modern, The Henna Artist opens a door into a world that is at once lush and fascinating, stark and cruel.

Escaping from an abusive marriage, seventeen-year-old Lakshmi makes her way alone to the vibrant 1950s pink city of Jaipur. There she becomes the most highly requested henna artist—and confidante—to the wealthy women of the upper class. But trusted with the secrets of the wealthy, she can never reveal her own…

Known for her original designs and sage advice, Lakshmi must tread carefully to avoid the jealous gossips who could ruin her reputation and her livelihood. As she pursues her dream of an independent life, she is startled one day when she is confronted by her husband, who has tracked her down these many years later with a high-spirited young girl in tow—a sister Lakshmi never knew she had. Suddenly the caution that she has carefully cultivated as protection is threatened. Still she perseveres, applying her talents and lifting up those that surround her as she does.

Published March 3rd 2020 by MIRA

What did I think?

1950’s India is the setting and from word one, I felt transported to that time. Everything from the scenery, to the cultural norms of that time and place, surrounds the reader. It’s rare that a historical fiction novel captures all of that so effortlessly. I read it in just two long binge sessions- highly recommend.