What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition By Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne: A MG Version of Great Book about Man’s Best Friend

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition

What the Dog Knows Young Readers Edition: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World

by Cat Warren, Patricia J. Wynne (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 325 pg.
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2019

Read: December 4-5, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Young Reader’s Edition of this book, was it going to be dumbed down? Was it going to be a soup-to-nuts rewrite of the book, telling the story in a cutsie fashion? Or . . . well, I don’t have a third idea, but you get my opinion. But what we got was the same book (as near as I can tell, it’s been 4+ years), just pared down—not dumbed-down or anything. But a lot of the detail has been removed, every chapter boiled down to its essence. Simplified, yes, more accessible for younger readers than the dense “adult” text, but it’s the same book at the end of the day.

After the end of the text, there’s a section directing the readers to some more information and a Young Readers Info section of Warren’s website.

As it’s so similar, I’m just going to use a lot of what I wrote back in 2015 to talk about the book, sorry for the re-run (I’ll focus on this edition in a few paragraphs).

Warren was a journalist, is now a professor, and knows her way around a sentence. She clearly cares about the subject and has invested a lot of time and effort into getting to know it, her style is engaging and charming (I was chuckling within a couple of pages), and she doesn’t mind showing her own failings and weaknesses.

Warren basically covers three topics: there’s the science and history of using working dogs (of all sorts of breeds, not to mention pigs(!), birds, and even cats) to find cadavers, drugs, bombs, etc.; there’s the memoir of her involvement with cadaver dogs via her German Shepherd, Solo; and anecdotes of other cadaver dogs and trainers that she’s encountered/learned from/watched in action.

The history and science of dogs/other animals being used for their sense of smell, is probably the most fascinating part of this book, but it’d be really easy for the material to be too dry to bother with—Warren’s voice keeps that from happening. I think it’s terrific that at the end of the day, no one knows what it is about the smell of the human body that dogs sense—she’ll explain it better than me, but that’s the kernel the story. I just really enjoy it when the best and the brightest have to shrug and say, “I don’t know.” The chapter she spends on the future of dogs and/or digital replacements is good for similar reasons. Actually, I could just keep listing little facts/factoids/ideas here, but I don’t want to steal Warren’s thunder.

The best part of the book—the part that I found most interesting, and most frustratingly small—is the Warren’s story about getting Solo, discovering he had just too much energy and personality, and needing to find an outlet for it all. Which is followed by the trials and tribulations of a newbie cadaver dog handler and her pup-in-training, growing into a capable working dog. Anyone who has a dog lover as a Facebook friend knows just how easy it is for someone’s stories about their dog to get to the point where you can’t stand to hear another*. Somehow, Warren avoids this totally—not an easy feat. It probably helps that dog does far more fascinating things than just hiking through the woods or chasing a ball.

* Of course, your friends don’t have dogs as cool as mine. Let me tell you a little bit about her . . .

The stories about the others—her friends, colleagues, teachers, etc.—round out the book. It’s not just about Warren and Solo, it’s not just about the military/police efforts with training animals—it’s about dedicated volunteers, K-9 officers and dogs all over the country (and the world) making a difference. In places and ways you wouldn’t expect. Really? Sending in one guy and his dogs into Vietnam decades later to search for POW/MIA? Also, seeing how different dogs act differently, yet get the same job done was mind-boggling. Especially for dogs trained together/by the same person, you’d think they’d act similarly.

I imagine it’s to spotlight the work of others, to not brag about Solo too much, to talk about things that she and her dog haven’t done/seen/smelled—or whatever reason there is, I wanted more Solo. A lot more. I have no problem with the rest of the book, it’s just that there’s not enough Solo (or Coda, her younger dog).

This new edition features some illustrations and instructional graphics. There were a couple that I wondered about the placement of, but they were all helpful, eye-catching and attractive. They added to, instead of distracting from, the text. Good stuff.

A fascinating, entertaining, and educational book—can’t ask for much more than that.


4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

The ABCs of Metallica by Metallica, Howie Abrams, Michael Kaves: A Book for Everyone Who’s Wanted to Use “Cute” and “Metallica” in the same thought

The ABCs of Metallica

The ABCs of Metallica

by Metallica, Howie Abrams, Michael Kaves (Illustrator)

Hardcover, 48 pg.
Permuted Press, 2019

Read: November 26, 2019

Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


I’m struggling to come up with something to say about this. I want to go on for a few hundred words, but the book is too short for that. And honestly, if the concept doesn’t make you curious enough to check it out, it really doesn’t matter what I say.

But, oh, well—let’s give it a shot.

This is your basic A-B-C’s book, with a short burst of rhyming text starting with consecutive letters, acrostic poem style. The focus of this book is the history, personnel (Cliff Burton, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett and Robert Trujillo, anyway), and music of Metallica. Just your typical picture book, really. Kid-friendly, but Metallica fans who aren’t afraid to be silly should be able to enjoy it, too.

It’s a little wordy for a picture book, but nothing terrible. I don’t know how much of the text Metallica is really responsible for and how much Abrams should get the credit for (my hunch is more the latter), but that’s not important. There’s some nice info, cute rhymes (sure, some of the rhymes are stretches, but who cares?), and fun ways to come up with something for every letter.

The illustrations are great. Again, kid-friendly but adult-friendly, too. McLeer is a Graffiti and Tattoo artist and it really comes through—I can see my son, a real Metallica fanatic, getting a couple of these tattooed on him, actually.

It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s a great idea—and proceeds are going to charity. Grab a copy, really.


3.5 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux: Preventing an Apocalypse in this Futuristic Fantasy

Dawn of Dreams

Dawn of Dreams

by Bronwyn Leroux
Series: Destiny, #1

Kindle Edition, 298 pg.
2017

Read: November 22-25, 2019


Jaden is out hiking with his friends on a mountain near their home during a school break. Suddenly, Jaden sees a large, monstrous, hard-to-describe bird-like creature. The rest of the group seems oblivious, and Jaden begins spending a lot of effort to convince himself he’s seeing things. Even taking bonus trips to the same point, and trying to record his sightings. The videos show nothing, but the way they show nothing convinces Jaden that he’s on to something.

Which really isn’t that reassuring. Why can’t anyone else see this beast? Why can’t the video show it?

Shortly after this, he meets Kayla, a new girl in the neighborhood. They’re hanging out at a park when the creature shows up, and not only can she see it—she’s been having similar experiences to Jaden. It’s somewhat reassuring that there’s someone else out there seeing it—but the questions keep piling up

It’s not long before they begin to see there are other similarities in their lives—clearly, there’s some sort of connection that goes back generations in both of their families. Throw in some artifacts—and other creatures that only Kayla and Jaden can see, and the questions pile up faster than the answers can keep pace with.

In a matter of days, their lives are no longer the same and the challenges that await them personally are so beyond anything they’d previously thought possible or likely.

Jaden is almost too perfect—smart; a real technical wizard (beyond his years and peers it seems); at least moderately popular; humble; a supportive and understanding child/grandchild; very athletic and annoyingly good at video games (just ask his friends). I’m not sure we saw a single weakness to him—despite that, I found myself liking the kid.

Kayla’s a bit more realistic—she’s clever, too; athletic, really into video games; but she’s not as good (at anything) as Jaden. She has skills that he doesn’t, thankfully. She’s had a harder life, you can sense, but don’t get all the details about. She’s easier to believe as a character, but I’d like to get a few more details about her past.

Jaden’s old friends—and Kayla’s new ones—aren’t around enough for us to get more than a vague sense about. But their families are involved a lot more than your typical YA families are—this is a pleasant change, but Leroux still spends a frustrating amount of time with the parents (mothers, to be specific) hinting at things going on in their lives rather than coming out and just telling the reader (whether or not the duo learns anything ) what’s going on.

The realities the pair discover and are exposed to are interesting, and I’d really like to see what Leroux has planned for them in the future. All the magical/otherworldly/unusual creatures they (and the reader) meet are well-designed and executed.

A couple of things I’m not sure about—first of which is the pacing. The book feels like it’s all set-up. All the conflict, all the challenge is in the future—Dawn of Dreams is just setting the stage for the series as a whole. I’m only guessing here, but my gut says I’d be more satisfied if books 1 and 2 in this series were combined into one, lengthier volume. Imagine if Tolkein had stopped The Fellowship of the Ring after the Council of Elrond and then started a second book for the trip through the Misty Mountains and the rest. I didn’t really have a problem with the slow pace, until the book ended and I was left wondering why I didn’t get more.

I’m not sure what’s gained by having this set in 2073 instead of the present day. I’m not saying there was a problem with it—I liked the slightly advanced version of the world, I’m just not sure I get the point of putting things there. I’m also not sure where this took place—there’s no reference to local flora or fauna, or even just a geographic place name.

Neither of these points really changed what I thought about the book, they just left me wondering more than I should have. There were some things that bothered me.

Leroux likes her adjectives. She more than likes them—she overloads the text with them (either especially at the beginning as she introduces the characters and world—or I got used to it as the book progressed). I appreciate her attempt to paint a picture with words, but it frequently felt to me like she’d never use one adjective if she could use three instead. Her adverb use is almost as bad at times, but it’s not as pronounced.

Beyond that, I’m not crazy about a lot of her word choices. In her attempt to vary her vocabulary, she often ended up grabbing the wrong word for a situation. I’m not talking malapropisms. But words that mean almost what she’s clearly going for, but aren’t quite right. Almost like Joey Tribbiani’s use of a thesaurus when composing a letter of recommendation. The result too frequently proved a stumbling block to the story. It’s like if your radio was tuned to 98.8 FM when the station is 98.7—you get a pretty good signal and can hear everything, but occasionally you get too much static with your music, ruining the song.

I don’t like bringing up those two points, because there’s a real earnestness to the novel. It’s not that Leroux is being negligent or careless in her writing, on the contrary, I think she’s trying too hard and ends up getting in her way. If she’d dial back on the effort a bit, focusing more energy on the plot and characters, I think the book would be more successful.

I liked the story, I thought the characters were fine—and I definitely want to spend more time with them. I’m just not crazy about the writing—which is a fairly important component of a book. So I can’t recommend this as heartily as I want to.


3 Stars


My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux (AND KINDLE GIVEAWAY)

Today I welcome the Book Tour for the YA SF&F Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux. Along with this spotlight post, I’ll be giving my take on the novel here in a bit. Be sure to check out the Kindle Giveaway at the bottom of this post. But let’s start by learning a little about this here book, okay?


Book Details:

Book Title: Dawn of Dreams by Bronwyn Leroux
Release date: July 25, 2017
Format: Paperback/Ebook
Length: 298 pages

Book Blurb:

Lost family heirlooms. Sinister mutants. An ancient book hiding legendary secrets. Such mythical things should not exist in the futuristic world of 2073.

Yet, this reality is forced on two strangers. Jaden and Kayla are blissfully unaware their world is about to be invaded. When a relentless, age-old force casts them together, the shocking truth is revealed. They are hunted by the hideous, malevolent monster prowling their community. Worse, it’s invisible to everyone but them.

Forced down a dark and dangerous path, the pair discover their stalker isn’t the only thing they have in common. As they quest for solutions while trying to survive, their unique abilities surface. They team up with other-worldy allies. After deciphering an enchanted tool, they get their first answer. But knowledge comes at a price.

In a world on the verge of destruction, can Jaden and Kayla solve the puzzles and find a way to save it, all while trying to make sense of this inexplicable connection they feel for each other?

About Bronwyn Leroux:

Bronwyn LerouxBorn near the famed gold mines of South Africa (where dwarves are sure to prowl), it was the perfect place for Bronwyn to begin her adventures. They took her to another province, her Prince Charming and finally, half a world away to the dark palace of San Francisco. While the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and its Bay views were spectacular, the magical pull of the Colorado Rockies was irresistible. Bronwyn’s family set off to explore yet again. Finding a sanctuary at last, this is Bronwyn’s perfect place to create alternative universes. Here, her mind can roam and explore and she can conjure up fantastical books for young adults.

Follow her at https://bronwynleroux.com or https://www.facebook.com/AuthorBronwynLeroux/

Social Networks:

Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Website ~ Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK ~ Amazon US ~ Kobo ~ Nook

Kindle Giveaway:

For your chance to win a an 8GB Black Kindle Fire 7 with Alexa, click here.

Terms and Conditions: Giveaway starts November 23rd and ends at midnight MST on December 2nd 2019. Entries are open to all ages and countries. You will be asked to provide your email address which will subscribe you to Bronwyn Leroux’s mailing list. You can unsubscribe at any time. Bronwyn Leroux will contact the winner via email on December 4th. The winner will also be announced via Bronwyn Leroux’s social media channels. There is no cash alternative.

My thanks to damppebbles blog tours for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

Hurricane Vacation by Heather L. Beal, Jasmine Mills: A cute little book with some important hurricane safety lessons for kids

Hurricane Vacation

Hurricane Vacation

by Dr. Heather L. Beal, Jasmine Mills (Illustrator)

Kindle Edition, 36 pg.
Train 4 Safety Press, 2019

Read: November 18, 2019


Heather Beal’s back with another book for early readers/pre-readers about natural disasters—this time (in case the title doesn’t give it away), it’s about Hurricanes. I really appreciate this way of educating children about these types of disasters—it’s not about facts and figures, it’s about assuring them that people can be safe in the face of disaster as well as helping them understand what’s going on.

Lily and Niko are visiting their family when a Hurricane watch is issued, so they join their family in preparing the house for the storm and getting ready to go to a shelter. Along the way, they learn about what a hurricane is as well as all the ways that people can protect themselves, themselves, and so on.

As with Elephant Wind and Tummy Rumble Quake, the information is given in an accessible way that’s mildly entertaining. Beal did a good job interweaving the information with interaction with the characters—even young readers/listeners don’t want to put up with infodumps, I guess.

I’m not sure the part of the story about Niko’s missing stuffed animal really fit—it seemed like it was tacked on as an afterthought. It may not have been one, it just felt that way. It was nice to see everyone working to make Niko feel safe (and that his toy would be safe) during this—very reassuring.

The art was cute and helped the story—I particularly enjoyed the “eye” in the storm showing how the term was misunderstood.

Beal delivers another helpful book that should be of good use for parents/grandparents/teachers/caregivers trying to help children cope with and understand the ways this world can terrify them (and adults). Recommended.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for my honest opinion (above)..


3 Stars

Catch-Up Quick Takes on Audiobooks of This is Where I Leave You, When You Reach Me, How Not to Die Alone, The Right Stuff

Trying to clear the decks here with these quick takes on Audiobooks, like I indicated I would be doing yesterday (which also helps from the deep dive I took on Hands Up yesterday, too).

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You

by Jonathan Tropper, Ramón de Ocampo (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 17 mins
Recorded Books, 2009
Read: October 9-10, 2019

(the official blurb)
This is not my favorite Tropper novel—but it’s a really good one, and I get why this is his most successful and the only one that’s actually been adapted as a movie (or anything).

From the hilarious (and painful in many senses) opening to the heights of hope, the lows of sorrow, the uncomfortable nature of sitting shiva with estranged family, oh, and the obligatory Tropper awkward fight scene, this is a heartfelt, funny, and entertaining read (or, listen, in this case)

de Ocampo does a better job than I’d anticipated anyone doing with this—he captures Judd’s anger, heartbreak, grief and everything else. He also gets the other characters—including some of the more difficult ones (Phillip, Tracy, Alice). I was really impressed with him, and am a little tempted to get a Wimpy Kid audiobook just to see how he does with that.
4 1/2 Stars


When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me

by Rebecca Stead, Cynthia Holloway (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs., 19 mins.
Listening Library, 2019
Read: October 29, 2019

(the official blurb)
I didn’t realize this was an MG novel when I grabbed it—I thought it was YA—it wouldn’t have made much of a difference, it just would’ve been good to know what I was getting into.

Miranda is in 6th Grade, has one friend (who has just decided not to be friends anymore), and is obsessed with A Wrinkle in Time. Her mom is a paralegal and is dating a lawyer in her firm. It’s the late 70’s and latch-key kids are becoming more common, but not as much as they will be.

As Miranda tries to find new people to connect with, she receives odd messages about needing to write a thorough and completely true account of something that’s about to happen. She’ll know the thing when it happens. Totally normal, right?

There’s some time travel, there’s some personal growth, there’s some tribute to L’Engle’s novel. It’s a charming little work, really. Sure, I could see most of it coming from miles away, but that’s because I’m a few decades older than the audience, not because Stead didn’t know what she was doing.

Holloway does a fine job, too. Capturing the bouncing emotions just right. I dug it, upper MG readers probably will, too (L’Engle fans are shoo-ins).
3.5 Stars


How Not to Die AloneHow Not to Die Alone

by Richard Roper, Simon Vance (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 8 hrs., 52 mins.
Penguin Audio, 2019
Read: October 14-16, 2019

(the official blurb)
The concept for this novel feels like something that’d happen to George Costanza, but what makes this novel work is that Roper makes Andrew a believable, sympathetic human being—not the dumpster fire of a person that George was. It’s utterly preposterous, really. But you can’t help but believe it happening (and can likely see yourself doing something similar).

I’ve seen repeated—almost ubiquitous—comparisons to Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. And I get that, and can kind of agree with it. I found the character and story in this novel better than Ms. Oliphant or her life. Although that book seems much more plausible. (and I quickly decided not to care).

Andrew’s friendship with Peggy is wonderful, I wish we had more time with them working/hanging out. Peggy’s a great character on her own—and if Roper were to write one of those ridiculous “same story just from someone else’s POV” sequels, I’d have to cast aside my prejudice against those so I could spend more time with her.

Vance gives one of those audiobook narrations that convinces you there’s no other way for the book to sound—if you read the text version, the voice in your head would have to be Vance. And if you’d never heard of him before, that’s okay, because your subconscious would invent a voice just like his.

Moving, amusing, hopeful. Great job.
4 Stars


The Right StuffThe Right Stuff

by Tom Wolfe, Dennis Quaid (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 15 hrs., 42 mins.
Audible Studios, 2018
Read: October 29-30, 2019

(the official blurb)
I read this book about 2-3 times a year from Middle School to the first or second year of college, and haven’t been able to do it since (I’ve tried off and on). But when Audible had a sale on this earlier in the year, I had to give it a shot. Especially with one of the stars of the remarkable movie adaptation doing the narration.

Now an audiobook of Wolfe is a tricky proposition (at best). Wolfe’s a master stylist. But so much of it (to me anyway) is how the words are on the page. His idiosyncratic capitalization, punctuation, visual rhythms . . . it’s all about how the text shows up in the book. But Quaid gets close enough. So I was able to fully enjoy and immerse myself in this story about the early years of the US/USSR Space Race—the test pilots around Yeager’s feat and then transitioning into the Mercury Program and a little beyond.

Wolfe educates and then entertains with the way he tells the story, editorializes about the events and people, and captures the essence of the various people involved. Listening to this brought me back to the first time I read this book and reminded me why I fell in love with Wolfe.

Quaid did the near-impossible here, he got as close to humanly possible to capturing Wolfe’s style, sensibilities and je ne sais quoi. He didn’t quite get it, but I can’t imagine anyone doing better. It’s probably one of my favorite audiobook performances to date. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Quaid guy just might have a future in show biz.
4 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds: A School Bus Falls from the Sky but More Interesting/Important Things are Going On

Look Both Ways

Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

by Jason Reynolds

Hardcover, 188 pg.
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2019

Read: October 31, 2019

A school bus is many things.

A school bus is a substitute for a limousine. More class. A school bus is a classroom with a substitute teacher. A school bus is the students’ version of a teachers’ lounge. A school bus is the principal’s desk. A school bus is the nurse’s cot. A school bus is an office with all the phones ringing. A school bus is a command center. A school bus is a pillow fort that rolls. A school bus is a tank reshaped—hot dogs and baloney are the same meat. A school bus is a science lab—hot dogs and baloney are the same meat. A school bus is a safe zone. A school bus is a war zone. A school bus is a concert hall. A school bus is a food court. A school bus is a court of law, all judges, all jury.

This is a novel—sort of. It’s a short story collection—sort of. It’s a hybrid of the two like Winesburg, Ohio was. I can’t tell you how often I thought about Sherwood Anderson’s book while I read this.

A lot happens right after school lets out for the day—particularly on the way home. The last gasp of socialization for many before the reality of home, chores, family, homework, game systems, etc. take over. Jason Reynolds gives us the stories of ten individuals/friend-groups on the way between school and home (some take interesting detours, too). There’s drama, comedy, romance, tension, action, and . . . some things that defy explanation.

There’s no overarching theme or plot, just these ten stories, so it’s hard to encapsulate this much. I can’t even say some characters stand out more than others because they all do.

This is one of those YA books that I wish didn’t have that tag, because too many non-young adults are going to ignore this because of that label. Yes, the book is written for the YA crowd, but non-YA readers will appreciate this just as much (if they let themselves read it).

No two stories/chapters are the same in tone, voice, or character. Some are pretty straightforward, some get a bit more unconventional in structure. But through it all, they’re well-written stories. While none of the chapters will affect the way things go in others, there are layers of interconnectedness (leading to some chapters giving some nuance or new understanding to things you’ve already read).

While I enjoyed some of the chapters more than others, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch—and it’s not often I say that about short story collections. All of them tapped into something that you can probably relate to today—if you can’t, you certainly could have when you were a young adolescent. It’s a truly impressive collection.

I don’t know what else to say at this point, so I’ll stop—bring this one home, get your teens to read it, too. It’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s touching, it’s inspiring—and it’s a fun read during it all.


3.5 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge