Saturday, September 10, 2016

Story Stacks: Non Super Hero Graphic Novels & Trade Edition Recommendations

In previous Story Stacks I would post a list of Children's Books for a particular subject; now I am planning to use Story Stacks as a little discussion/ recommendation posts for books.
So for this Story Stack I wanted to share with you some recommendations for Non-Super Hero Graphic Novels (and Trades because it has been explained to me that a collection of single issues into a bound edition is not technically a graphic novel, blah blah blah, can't things ever just be easy?). Anyway, I have found it really hard to break into super hero graphic novels because they are all connected and I don't want other potential readers to be discouraged by that as well. So here are a few recommendations that are original series or individual issues that can be enjoyed.
Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is a series of 3 volumes (and another that was very limited that I haven't been able to get my hands on).  These books contain single or 2 page spreads that can involve a picture or a few words that create an entire idea or story. I have loved each of these and really hope more will be released.
The Olympians Series by George O'Connor is a series of so far 8 volumes, each focusing on the various gods and goddesses of Greek Mythology. These are a great introduction to mythology as they not only layout some of the myths with great artwork but also have additional facts in the back too.
Mouse Guard Series by David Petersen is a great combination of story telling, action, adventure, amazing art and great characters. If you want something unique but along the lines of heroes, check this series out. Though as a note they are not always easy to get your hands on and can run a little on the expensive side.
Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a memoir style graphic novel, it is almost like a journal with really unique art. This is a fun book to read and is a great way to span the leap from novels into graphic novels.  Lucy also has several other memoir style graphic novels but so far this has been my favorite.
Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge is similar in style to Relish but is written as a journal of a fictional character. It will really appeal to those who are also artists or are drawn to art, this is a really beautifully formatted stand alone graphic novel.
Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan is a stand alone graphic novel that is based on true events. This one packs quite a punch with beautiful illustrations and a story based on actual events, it is one that will stick with you for quite a while after (I read this three years ago and it still lingers).
Frankenstein Agent of SHADE by Jeff Lemire is one of my favorites, there are 2 volumes in this series (sadly the second doesn't quite stand up to the first). I loved the bad guys are good guys idea of this one and the characters are great, if you are ready for more of a super hero graphic novel but not quite ready to plunge into the epic storylines of the famous, maybe start with this one as it is an original storyline and a short one too.
Sword of Sorcery: Amethyst by Christy Marx is another along the lines of Frankenstein Agent of SHADE.  Only this one was supposed to be the first in a series, DC comics decided to drop this one. There is only this one volume but it offers a similar art style, storyline and layout as you would see in the popular super hero series. Just don't be surprised if you are left wanting more after reading this one.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan is a great place to start if you want to try an original story that spans several volumes. I know several people have recommended this and others have felt the story gets a little lost in later volumes but I have yet to see this (I am up to volume 4).  The great part about this series is that it is relatively new so you can easily catch up and not get overwhelmed by the volumes (or single issues if you prefer) being released faster than you can read and never catching up (there currently 6 volumes released).
Korgi by Christian Slade is another unique option, this is a cute fantasy series but what is unique about it is that the story is this story is mostly wordless. There is a little narration introduction at the beginning of each book but then the rest of the story is all illustrations, beautiful ones at that.  So far there are 3 books and I have loved each one, and the exciting news is there is another one coming out this year after a long wait!
So there you have a few recommendations of graphic novels that aren't super hero ones. So many assume that all graphic novels/ comics are just about the classic heroes like Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Ironman, etc. but they are so much more and have something for everyone. Have you read any of these? Do you have any additional recommendations?

Friday, September 9, 2016

Bedtime Story: Llama Llama Misses Mama by Anna Dewdney

Read for: Children's Book Challenge & We love Llama Llama.
Synopsis: "Strange new teacher.
Strange new toys.
Lots of kids and lots of noise!

What would Llama like to do?
Llama Llama feels so new . . .

It’s Llama Llama’s first day of preschool! And Llama Llama’s mama makes sure he’s ready. They meet the teachers. See the other children. Look at all the books and games. But then it’s time for Mama to leave. And suddenly Llama Llama isn’t so excited anymore. Will Mama Llama come back?

Of course she will. But before she does, the other children show Llama Llama how much fun school can be!"

My Review: We love Llama Llama books and this one was no different, might be a favorite right behind the original Llama Llama (Red Pajama). This is a great book to help those little ones transitioning into school, or even a new classroom even. I love the rhyme and rhythm of the book, it makes everything flow so smoothly, it also lends a soothing tone to the story. It sparked some great conversations with Munchkin about starting his new class and also welcoming new kids into his class as well.
My Rating: We really enjoyed this one and it was a great way to connect to Munchkin and talk about his experiences in his new Pre-K class room with a nice soothing book. We give it a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!
I just found out that Anna Dewdney just past away last weekend, such a sad loss, we will miss her beautiful books as we didn't know her as a person. Just another little reminder to spend as much time with our little ones as days are numbered whether they just grow up or someone dear is lost.
Anna, you and your beautiful stories will be missed! Thank you for the fantastic tales!
Good Night! Sweet Dreams!

Beginning Reader Review of Charlie Goes to the Doctor by Ree Drummond

Read for: Early Reader Challenge
Synopsis: "Charlie the Ranch Dog's tummy hurts—so much that he doesn't even want bacon! Can Dr. Jan help Charlie get his appetite back?"

My Review: We have enjoyed a few Charlie the Ranch Dog books in the past and picked this one up as it nears the time for Munchkin and Niko to get their yearly check ups. The sentences are a little long for a level one book but the words are all simple to sound out or sight words. The illustrations are all very cute and also give hints to the story. Speaking of the story it is a cute story and shows that the doctor isn't such a bad place and they will make you feel better.
My Rating: This was a good level one book, it has a nice storyline and teaches a lesson while teaching reading.  We give it a rating of Three Paws.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

After Dark Review of My Wild Irish Dragon by Ashlyn Chase

I have added After Dark Reviews to my blog as a way of notifying you of a review of a book with Adult themes and scenes. From now on I will keep my reviews of all books I read that have explicit scenes in them for late night posts for those of you who prefer to avoid them or easy to find for those of you who seek them out ;)
Read for: Netgalley/ Requested Review & Meeting the Author soon!
 I Dream of Dragons (Book 1)
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 Review: I requested this book after reading the first book, I will be meeting Ms. Chase in the very near future and wanted to be familiar with some of her books. I must say that I much prefer this second book in the Boston Dragons series over the first book. It wasn't bouncing between many locations and characters, it focused much more on Ryan and Chloe's story. It did build upon the paranormal and mythological elements in the previous book, but it was able to focus down a little bit more and made for a much more enjoyable read. I was definitely sucked into the story and can't wait to read more about all the characters (I particularly want to know more about the Fiero family).
My Rating: I was so glad to see this book greatly improved up on the first book in the series. Now I am really looking forward to seeing where she takes all these characters. I give this book a rating of Four Paws!
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
You can find out more about Ashlyn Chase and her books on her Goodreads Page or Website.
My Wild Irish Dragon was just released and can be purchased in digital, print or audio version from Amazon or in digital or print format from Barnes and Noble

Pen to Paper: Pen Pal Organization - Pen Pal Info

Hello Everyone! Hope you are doing well and finding joy in your mailbox! 
Today I thought I would start a little series of posts about pen pal organization.  I didn't really have much of a system at first but the more and more I got into pen paling I needed some way to organize incoming mail, saved letters and pen pal information. Originally when I only had a couple of pen pals I had an address book and a stack of previously received letters I would refer back to if I couldn't remember something specific. But recently this system started breaking down, with some of my pen pals I have been writing for over a year and have a dozen or more letters to look through for a piece of information.  So it was time to get more organized.
I purchased Pen Pal Trackers from the Etsy shop Pembroke Papers.  While I do like that they can go right in my planner, there just wasn't enough room for all the information I wanted.   So here is my system . . . (obviously I can't show you a fully filled out page because my pen pals letters and information are private)
I fill out the pen pal tracker information with my pen pal's name, address and birthdate.  I then put in the dates letters are received and mark the date I send out a response. Then I add in a separate note page after each tracker for additional information. I usually add in family members, names and ages as these are often people we discuss in our letters.  I also add in my pen pal's favorite hobbies and details (ie. Reading and what genres/favorite books, cooking with favorite styles/recipes, or say gardening with types of flowers or veggies preferred). Next I list their taste preferences since I some times send a treat in the letters (like tea vs. coffee or sweets vs. savory etc.).  Then I also add in (as you see in the picture) goodies sent, I don't want to accidentally send the same recipe for holiday treats or something.  I also put down likes and dislikes. 
I am not entirely sure how this method is going to work out in the long run but it seems to be helping for now. I am still filling out these for each pen pal, some of them have  a lot of letters to go through to add these little details for easy reference.
How are you organizing your pen pals' information?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review of War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love by Rebecca Frankel

Read for: Requested Review/ Netgalley
Synopsis: "Under the cover of night, deep in the desert of Afghanistan, a US Army handler led a Special Forces patrol with his military working dog. Without warning an insurgent popped up, his weapon raised. At the handler's command, the dog charged their attacker. There was the flash of steel, the blur of fur, and the sound of a single shot; the handler watched his dog take a bullet. During the weeks it would take the dog to heal, the handler never left its side. The dog had saved his life. Loyal and courageous, dogs are truly man's best friend on the battlefield. While the soldiers may not always feel comfortable calling the bond they form love, the emotions involved are strong and complicated. In War Dogs, Rebecca Frankel offers a riveting mix of on-the-ground reporting, her own hands-on experiences in the military working dog world, and a look at the science of dogs' special abilities-from their amazing noses and powerful jaws to their enormous sensitivity to the emotions of their human companions. The history of dogs in the US military is long and rich, from the spirit-lifting mascots of the Civil War to the dogs still leading patrols hunting for IEDs today. Frankel not only interviewed handlers who deployed with dogs in wars from Vietnam to Iraq, but top military commanders, K-9 program managers, combat-trained therapists who brought dogs into war zones as part of a preemptive measure to stave off PTSD, and veterinary technicians stationed in Bagram. She makes a passionate case for maintaining a robust war-dog force. In a post-9/11 world rife with terrorist threats, nothing is more effective than a bomb-sniffing dog and his handler. With a compelling cast of humans and animals, this moving book is a must read for all dog lovers-military and otherwise."

My Review:  I was really looking forward to this book, I have always had an interest in working dogs, and recently in dogs who have worked alongside our soldiers. This book, unfortunately, did not live up to my expectations. I was expecting it to be more centered around the dogs themselves and take us through the history, while it did hit on those things it didn't focus as much as I had expected it too. I really had to force myself to sit down with this book each time to read it and then had to really think about how to word this review, I appreciate that Frankel did highlight some issues but it took a lot of work to get to those. The timeline of this book is so all over the place and it isn't smooth in the transition from time frames, settings or subject matters. At times this felt more like a research essay instead of a book, or even research that was rough drafted and needed some filing and ironing out. To end this on a good note, I did really enjoy learning more about the Combat Stress Dogs, it is something that I have been seeing more on the news and was happy to see that the concept was implemented in the military as well as civilian areas. While it seemed that the original theme and question of the book was whether handlers and dogs love each other, think it also poses the question as to whether military trained dogs are a weapon or soldiers themselves.
My Rating: I really want to give this book a good rating, but it just lacks focus and fluidity. Unfortunately, I give it a rating of One Paw and a Stump Wag.
I received this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
You can find out more about Rebecca Frankel and her work on her Goodreads Page

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Tea Time Tuesday: Tea with a Kick

This is a new series of blog posts to share my love of tea and some discoveries I am making as I dive more into that love. (And honestly, what goes better with books than a nice cup of tea?)
With our recent BBQ and the Labor Day weekend BBQs, I like to bring an adult beverage to the parties as well as food. I came across a recipe for this Sweet Tea Sangria and thought it was a perfect summer time BBQ drink.
I did change up the recipe slightly though
15 pouches Lipton tea steeped for 15 minutes in 3 cups boiling water with 1/4 tsp baking soda.  Then added 2/3rds cup sugar (because I prefer it less sweet), then added ice and cold water equivalent to about 4 cups of water. Once cooled completely added a bottle of moscato wine and 1 sliced peach and 1 pint of raspberries, I also added a cup of peach liquor.  It was super tasty but there was still some left over and it was even better the next day!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Magic Tree House Monday: Book 31 - Summer of the Sea Serpent

Welcome to Magic Tree House Monday!

Each Monday (other than when special events are planned) I will review one book of the Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne.
Book 31 sends Jack and Annie on another desperate mission to save Camelot and King Arthur. Merlin summons Jack and Annie and gives them a mission many had failed at in the past. They will face some of their greatest fears to recover a magical sword.
My Review: If you saw my review of the previous book in this series you will note that I felt like Jack & Annie hadn't aged enough for the time gap, well Jack certainly seems to be growing up in this book. There was another long break between the previous book and this book and now they seem to be aging but it is nice to see that the brother and sister duo still have a close friendship. This is another fantasy adventure that Merlin sends them on, and it is a combination of several myths and legends that are interwoven nicely. I do kind of miss the use of research books but they are also having to use their own knowledge and bravery to accomplish their tasks.         
My Rating: I am really glad that Jack at least has finally shown some signs of growing up (though the illustrations don't be doing the same). These books seem more and more like a branch off series as opposed to an actual continuation of the series, they are so drastically different from the early books.  I still really enjoyed this one and give it a rating of Four Paws.       

Monday Reading List

Its Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Shelia at Book Journey. Share what books you have finished in the last week, are currently reading and what might be coming up next!

Reviews Posted Last Week:
Links will take you to my review

Haunted Castle on Hallow's Eve by Mary Pope Osborne (Magic Tree House)
Destined for a King by Ashlyn Macnamara
The Landscaper by Robin Stone (After Dark)
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Desk by Lucille Colandro (Early Reader)
Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes by Eric Litwin & James Dean (Bedtime Story)
Cinderella by Beth Bracken (Graphic Novel)

 Books Finished Last Week:
Reviews will be posted at a later date

Pegasus and the New Olympians = 5pts
More than Candy Corn = 3pts
Pete the Cat: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star = 1pt
Pug in a Truck = 1pt
The Landscaper = 3pts
Just Critters Who Care = 1pt
Currently Reading:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir - Audio - 51%

 Books to be Read Soon:

Tale of Elske by Cynthia Voigt


Total Points Earned
     171 points + 14 points = 185 points

Total Points Earned this Year: 970
Total Points Spent this Year: 789

Pages Read/ Time Listened
184:37 Hours Listened (None listened this week)
33,467 Pages Read (713 this week)

Books Added to Shelves

Interesting Tidbits on the Web:



So this week wasn't as full of reading as I had hoped, we were all so tuckered out that bed by 9:30 sounded too good to pass up!  I did some reading (and honestly a lot of Christmas shopping at work instead of reading). I see that I am getting to the point in the year where I will be doing a lot more listening to audio books as opposed to reading print or ebooks so I can get some of my hand made gifts done.

Thank goodness today is a holiday here in the US. We are supposed to get hit with a nasty storm today so I think a day inside playing games and reading books sounds like a great way to pass the time.

See you all next week!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Fun with Munchkin: A Gruffalo Party

So I didn't get a lot of pictures of the party because my phone is out of memory and my camera was constantly going missing! But here is the fun of the party, if you have read the book this will all make a lot of sense. . .
For the decorations

Fox's Underground House & the rocks where Mouse was meeting the Gruffalo
Owl's Tree Top House and the stream where Mouse was meeting the Gruffalo
Snake's Log Pile House and the lake where Mouse was meeting the Gruffalo
After listening to the story, the kids all got to dress up as Gruffalo, I hand made all the purple prickles (purple paper glued to mini clothespins), orange eyes (glasses with orange plastic wrap), poisonous warts (green colored circle stickers) and most of the terrible claws (black foam with Velcro)

It's a Gruffalo!!
After that I had a few other games planned but it turned into just a free for all with the balloons so eh, let them have fun and eat cake right?!

 Most of these ideas were my own from reading the books but I did get some for the food on Pinterest.