Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart

4 stars Children’s

I’m working my way through Dan Gemeinhart’s books and when I saw the cover of this book, my initial thought was that this would be an emotional, sweet story yet the synopsis told me something different.  Even after reading the synopsis, I wasn’t prepared for what I read. 

This was an emotional story about the love between a dog named Brodie and his boy. I liked how Dan wrote the story from the dog’s point of view. Like many people, I always talk to animals like they understand every word I say, and in Good Dog, the animals converse like humans. 

When Brodie awakens, words engulfed his mind.  He knew precisely what each word meant, yet he sensed that something was missing. Brodie didn’t know where he was, but he felt that this place where he was, was perfect. This was a dog’s paradise.  Sasha, another dog, explains to Brodie that he’s dead, that he used to have a life and knew people, and soon his memories would come and he would remember what his life was like before arriving there.

Brodie mind is soon flooded with words, memories and emotions as his previous life starts to come back to him.  Suddenly, that emptiness that Brodie had been feeling is filled.  A memory washes over Brodie and motivates him to leave his dog paradise and return to his boy.

Brodie is determined to return to his boy. To do so, he pays a price.  Returning to the human world, I had a hard time believing that this is a children’s book.  I liked the idea behind what happens but the details to make that happen, I thought were intense and alarming on a children’s level.  Perhaps on a middle school or YA level, they would be okay but not on a children’s level. 

I liked Brodie’s commitment to his boy and the friendships that he made. He had quite the journey.   There were moments that I found myself laughing, on-edge, and then, I had tears at 4 am this morning, it was an emotional story.  I enjoyed the author’s creativity and how the story ended.  There were a couple parts in the story, I was reluctant to read every word.  I skipped a few paragraphs.

I don’t think this is really a children’s book.  The violent description of the dog fighting is why I’m not giving it 5 stars.  The violence is rather descriptive for my taste in children’s book.  I liked the idea of the story; it was very creative.

“All this stuff (room full of books, old toys, video game system).  And the only thing the boy asked for was this picture of him and his dog.”

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

3 stars Graphic Novel

Have you ever read a book and even though it stretches your imagination, you’re actually liking it, and then……bam, they’ve totally lost their minds and you wished, you could undo what you’ve just read?  That’s what I felt as I read Making Friends. This middle school graphic novel was dealing with some typical teen issues in a unique way when suddenly the main character cracked.

Dany’s Aunt Elma died, leaving the family to sort out her estate on their own.  Dany finds herself in the possession of one of her aunt’s sketchbooks, one of the few items the family didn’t fight over. Labeled, “handle with care,” Dany finds many of the pages empty and after a hard day at school, she begins to sketch in it.

Life was easier in elementary school when Dany had Joan and Leah at her side but now in middle school, it was getting more complicated.  Dany decides to draw Prince Neptune, yet she stopped after only drawing his head.  Neptune would protect her, if he was real.  Dany talks to her drawing as her pencil slides over the paper. Admiring her finished drawing, Dany is stunned when the image pops off the paper and becomes a living thing! Remember, she only drew his head so the Prince is now a talking head.

Prince Neptune is immediately head-over-heels in love with Dany and calls her Princess Dany and boy, how fun is this!? Dany is enchanted and scared at the same time.  What has just happened?  The prince is compassionate, caring, and supportive to Dany (even though, sometimes his ideas are a bit extreme) but you need to remember that he’s just a head, that was drawn to protect Dany and he doesn’t know that much about this world and then you’ll understand why he says what he does. 

Having the prince around does help Dany but it’s not like the prince can be out and around everyone else.  Dany wants other friends and she wants to fit in, but how? You guessed it!  She takes her pencil and she begins drawing in her aunt’s sketchbook. I see the dangers of this right away but Dany, she thinks it’s going to work out wonderfully.

Now, Dany is on a roll and she can’t stop now.  It’s as if someone has taken over this girl and she has become a different person, who is she? Dany is this loud, screaming individual who rants and yells. Her face takes up the whole text box.  Someone, please push her off button.  I was liking this book until Dany got greedy.

Overall, it was a fun book that I was enjoying until things got out of hand.  Why Dany had to go extreme, I have no idea but it was a turn-off for me. 

Last Things by Jacqueline West

5 stars Fantasy

I really enjoyed the author’s use of language in this book.  I liked how they slowly explained the events occurring, without revealing too much, letting me become totally immersed into the drama.  I could feel the intensity and the energy of this book which I didn’t put down until I had finished it. 

I also liked that there weren’t many individuals to keep track of in this book.  Reading this on vacation, I didn’t want to have to resort to keeping a lot of notes on it while reading it.  I found that, I got so involved in reading it, I forgot to write down anything about it except for the first few pages.

The book centers around a girl named Thea who moved to Greenwood and lives with her Aunt Mae.  Aunt Mae has a reputation around town as being witch, or perhaps a lunatic.  Yeah, not a good one to have.  Some think it’s because she’s a drunk and when she’s like that, she likes to talk.  Her talking is not pleasant either.  Aunt Mae tries to warn individuals about things that she has seen, things that haven’t yet occurred and that doesn’t settle too well with some individuals.  Aunt Mae doesn’t move much from the couch, she keeps her bottle close to her and Thea makes sure that her aunt has a fresh supply.  

When we meet Thea, it’s Friday night and she’s headed off to the Crow’s Nest to hear the band, Last Things.  It’ll be a mixed crowd of high school kids to heavy metal fans.  Last Things is a local band and they’re becoming quite popular.  Anders started the group and when he plays, he gets lost in his music just like their fans get lost when he plays on stage. They put on quite the show and lately, the place has been packed.  

Thea stays off to the side when she watches the group perform, she hasn’t missed a show, since she got in town. Back at Aunt Mae’s, Thea has been stockpiling items outside, taking great care to secure these items, hidden from sight.  Why she’s doing this, I have no idea but the idea that she doing this to “lock them out,” intrigues me. Thea attends high school, where she doesn’t really fit in but she watches and she’s aware of her surroundings.  She keeps an eye on Anders, he’s different than the guy who everyone loves on stage on the weekends. Is this a crush or it is something else?  Does Anders even know about Thea?  I was beginning to wonder what their connection was.

Thea doesn’t spend much time at home but when she does, she talks with her aunt.  Thea and her aunt have a bond with “them.” Thea feels that “they” are becoming bolder and closer and Aunt Mae understands this.  What they are talking about and how this all ties in with Anders was getting quite interesting as Thea’s behavior was getting stranger. I was all in and I couldn’t put this book down.   

Thank you to Harper Collins and Epic Reads Insiders   for supplying a copy of this book to me for an honest review. 

Little Doctor and the Fearless Beast by Sophie Gilmore

5 stars Children’s

Wow, the cover of this book doesn’t give this book the justice it deserves, I don’t think.  The story inside is breathtaking.  I had feared the worst but I knew it couldn’t be that bad considering it was a children’s book but this story had me.  It’s a charming, tantalizing story that will pull you in.

Deep in the jungle there lives Little Doctor who cares for the crocodiles that come to her.  Her pay?  Tales.  The crocodiles tell her amazing stories of escapes, horrible dangers and troubles that amaze Little Doctor. 

One day while working, one of the stories that she had heard arrived outside her door. SURPRISE! It was the biggest crocodile in the land! Only today, the mouth of this beast had its mouth clamped shut. He needs her help.

As Little Doctor went to work examining the Big Mean, the legend followed the doctor’s every move with its eyes, as she tried to find out what is wrong with the beast.  Boy, Little Doctor is a very good and fearless doctor!  When she goes to take her temperature, she is met with resistance.  Over and over again, she tries to get the large monster to open its mouth but she refuses. How can she finish her examination and found out what is wrong with Big Mean if she can’t take her temperature?  How can she get Big Mean to open her mouth? 

I liked the suspense and the mystery in this picture book.  You know there has to be a reason why Big Mean won’t open her mouth but what is it?  How can Little Doctor get a huge crocodile to open its mouth? The persistence of Little Doctor is great and I liked her facial expressions.  The illustrations are wonderful, as they are full of imagination.  Makes you wonder why we all didn’t become vets like we wanted to when we were little.

Instructions by Neil Gaiman

4 stars Children’s

I had to read this book twice to fully appreciate it. The first time through, I think I got half the messages that this book wanted me to get. It also a book that I couldn’t rush through but I had to stop and fully absorb what I read on each page. The illustrations stopped me in my tracks a few times, as I thought they really didn’t match what I thought should go with the words on the page nevertheless, I enjoyed what I read. This book to me was a words-of-wisdom book as each page(s) was about making your way in the world.

The illustrations were just as great as the words in this book. They were fun to look at as they contained a lot of detail and there was the fantasy aspect of them. How can you go wrong with trolls, cats, and beasts? Written by Neil Gaiman, this is what brought me to pick up this one.

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

5 star Graphic Novel

The cover of this graphic novel caught my attention while I was volunteering at the library and somehow, it made its way into my car. I love how these things happen yet; it pushes the other books I want to read further behind. A witch boy. The title was interesting as I always thought that boys who were witches were called warlocks, at least that is what I remember from the show, Bewitched. The illustration on the cover is fascinating too. The boy seems to be doing something secretive, crouching in a corner, candles burning, reading a book. That look on his face, it’s as if he’s been caught or hears something. Then, there’s that shadow peering down over him. Yep, that dragon doesn’t look like the friendly type.

Magic is in Aster’s blood. Boys grow-up to be shapeshifters and girls grow-up to be witches and that’s how it has always been. There’s a whisper amongst their family, about how one member of their family defied the system and the price that he paid for it.

Aster would rather spy on the girls and learn witchcraft than be a shapeshifter. He knows he’s not supposed to practice the craft, he’s heard what has happened in the past, yet this doesn’t stop him. He wants to see if he can actually cast one of the spells that he has overheard.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. The big text boxes with their bright colors, look amazing on the glossy pages. I was immediately draw in as this story moves quickly along as Aster temptation gets the best of him and he tries to cast his first spell.

Realizing that he’s now good at something, he needs to keep this a secret. I liked how he met Charlie and how they developed their friendship. I enjoyed how they fit together and that things didn’t escalade between the two of them. I loved how Aster continued to spy on the girls repeatedly, even though he kept getting caught. It was comical how persistent he was in learning more about witchcraft, all the while he was trying to be a shapeshifter.

The story picked up speed when one of the shapeshifter boys comes up missing and no one can locate him. Aster believes that he can find him BUT he must use the witchcraft that he knows, to do so.

It was a fun, entertaining read and I’m glad that it found its way into my car. I found out that this is a series, so I will be looking for the other books in this series.

I loved it so much! The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-El

5 stars Children’s/Middle School

I absolutely loved The Very, Very Far North!  Immediately after finishing it, I had to know if this was going to be a series, as I didn’t want this to be the end of Duane and his adventures in the Far Far North.  This story captured my attention immediately and entertained me until I turned the very last page (make sure you read the letter from Duane at the very end).  Filled with engaging adventures and exciting stories, this book made me laugh, smile, and touched my heart.

It wasn’t until after I read the book, did I read what others thought of this book.  I have to agree with what many other readers reported, this book does have that Winnie the Pooh feel to it.  As Duane makes himself comfortable in his new home in the Very, Very Far North, Duane has that comfortable, quizzical state about him and the adventures that he has, are quite fun and enlightening.

Duane loves three things in life: napping, eating, and exploring.  For Duane, the polar bear, finding C.C. and the shipwreck was the perfect beginning for him.  He learns and forms so many great friendships in the Very, Very Far North, I’m so glad that he went.

As they have new experiences, met new friends, and help each other, I enjoyed that there was no major rivalry or conflicts between them.  Any struggles that they did have, were addressed, handled and then the parties dropped it.  I also liked that each individual in the book was different and had their own personality.  I really loved the way the book was written; it was reader friendly as the text spoke to you. I think young readers will enjoy this.

I can’t wait to read more about Duane, Major Puff, Magic, C.C., Sun Girl, Boo, Twitch, and Handsome in the next book. I’m really hooked on this book and think it would make a great read aloud for elementary-age children.  I can’t wait to share it with others. 

If you have young children, pick this one up.  If you have grandchildren or work in a school-setting with young children, this is one you will want to look into.  It definitely is a keeper!

“You or I might have responded to a polar bear crashing into our home with a little more alarm, perhaps. I won’t speak for you, but I would definitely have screamed at least once, or five times.”

Bazaar of Bad Dreams (audio) by Stephen King

4.5 stars horror

This was one great collection of stories!  I listened to them in my car as I drove around and there were many, that after I got done listening to them, had earned the title of the “best story in the whole book” award.  I would like to revisit this title in the near future.

I had heard a few of these titles before yet to listen to hours of King’s work was a treat.  I liked how King narrated the novel, telling me a bit about each book before that book was read by another individual. This gave a personal touch to the novel and I felt we had made a connection.  His stories still amaze me, they each just reach that boundary which we normally don’t cross. We don’t venture too far into this area but just enough to make the experience worthwhile. 

It was a long book, the CD’s just kept coming out of the case but it was well worth it. I’ll definitely revisit King Bad Dreams in the future.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

5 stars Fiction

It was cover love that brought me to this book.  After reading the synopsis, I knew that I had to read it.  I was amazed how short this book was, yet the story had everything that I was looking for.  Yetu needed to find her own life for the honor that was bestowed upon her was difficult.

She was the chosen one. Yetu was chosen to be the historian of her people. You would think, that being selected out of everyone else would be a blessing, yet to Yetu, this wasn’t.  To be elected as the historian, Yetu wore this title like a weight. It dragged her down, deeper than she could handle.

As the historian, Yetu collected all the memories of the Wajinru people.  Yetu’s job was to hold onto these memories so that they wouldn’t be forgotten throughout the years.  

As I read about this, I thought about letting go of my own memories.  Imagine, letting go of your memories, can you function?  I think my day would be carefree and cold as I feel that my memories play a huge role in who I am and how I function and react each day. I wonder who I would be without my memories.  

Now, think about Yetu.  She carries all the memories of her people.  The good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly.  What a gift and what a burden to know so much information.  Yetu knows that being a historian is too much for her but what can she do, she was chosen and she has all the memories? 

Yetu is late.  The time for the Remembrance has passed and the Wajinru people are restless.  Yetu must perform the Remembrance for them and give them the reassurance they need but more importantly, this event will give her some peace. I was hoping that Yetu would talk to the Wajinru and explain her situation, she was in a position of power, they would listen, wouldn’t they?

I really enjoyed this novel. I became a part of Yetu’s journey as she learns more about herself and the Wajinru. I enjoyed the flow of the book and the historical aspects used within it. I am hoping there will be more of this story.

I received an advanced copy of this book from Saga Press in exchange for an honest review.    

The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath

4.5 stars Fantasy/Western

This was better than I imagined.  I loved the cover and that is what sold me on reading it.  The story is part fantasy and part western but the story is total enjoyment as Hettie tries to save her little sister, Abby.  Bonded with Diablo (a.k.a the Devil’s Revolver) Hettie unfortunately is walking into many situations blindly.  Her accuracy holding a firearm is one talent she can count on and one that she uses to her advantage.

I like how Hettie takes matters into her own hands.  She doesn’t wait around and hope for someone to help her out and she doesn’t whine, she moves.  She almost moves too fast, sometimes.  She immediately goes after Abby.  When she sees Ling in trouble, she steps in.  She’s not afraid of speaking her mind to anyone, she is herself. When bonded with Diablo, the unknown of what has occurred doesn’t shake her, she just continues on. 

With magic and loaded weapons, Hettie learns the truth behind Diablo and the price this demonic weapon carries. This was a high energy read for read and the magical aspects of the novel were entertaining.  I can’t wait to read what happens in the next novel. 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and IBPA in exchange for an honest review.