Monday, January 15, 2018

Science Fiction/Fantasy Review: Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic by Armand Baltazar

28448306Timeless: Diego and the Rangers of the Vastlantic by Armand Baltazar
Format:  Hardcover
Publisher:  Katherine Tegen Books
Number of pages:  624
Published:  October 3rd, 2017
Source:  ARC received from the publisher via Giveaway hosted at Goodreads.
Synopsis from Goodreads:  The world did not end. At least not permanently.  The Time Collision came from beyond the stars, a cosmic event that fractured time and space, tearing apart the earth and reshaping it into something entirely new.  This is the world Diego Ribera was born into. The past, present, and future coexisting together.   Timeless.

Opening Line:  "On the morning of his thirteenth birthday, Diego Ribera glimpsed the future in a dream."  

A cosmic event occurred causing a  Time Collision that ruptured the space-time continuum melding together three distinct time periods,  the past (Steam Timers), the in-between (Mid-Timers) and the future (Elders).  The new world was made of bits and pieces from each time period, a world where gravity boards, steamships, trolley's, robots and even dinosaurs are now commonplace.  The world created first started at war, but after years of fighting, eventually, the people came together and found a way to live together in peace.  Not everyone was happy with the new arrangement and out of this, the Aeternum grew hoping to gain dominance and control of the world for themselves.  

Diego lives in what is now known as New Chicago with his mother, a renowned pilot, and father one of the world's foremost engineer's instrumental in building the robots that protect the city.  On his thirteenth birthday, Diego learns from his father that special abilities called "The Maker's Sight" run in their family, which grant them the skill of visualizing the design and creation of objects within their mind, talents that Diego's father also possesses.   After Diego receives his birthday present, he and his father get into a huge disagreement over his plans for the future, which becomes further upsetting to Diego when he later learns that Aeternum has captured his father and a steam-engineer.  Diego enlists the help of Petey, his best friend, Lucy, a girl from the Victorian Era whose brother and father were also captured, and Paige, Lucy's best friend.  Together with a band of pirates, they attempt a rescue of their fathers.  Along the way, they learn more about Aeternum's plans, who is behind the capture and that not just Diego's father is in danger, the whole world is at risk.   

What initially drew me to Timeless was how the author began writing it as a bedtime story to his son, at first he thought of making it into a picture book but time got away from him, his son got older, so he decided to expand it into a book his pre-teen son would enjoy reading.  There are over 150 illustrations in Timeless, gorgeous illustrations, like my favorite of the four kids looking up at a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  The facial expressions of the characters give them a life-like quality, and each is distinct.  Lucy in her Victorian dress is also one of my favorites.  There are also pages giving the feel of a graphic novel detailing the action in a scene from a gunfire fight.  All the illustrations add these rich, lush details to this very unique world.  I'm not surprised to learn that Baltazar is a former art director for Disney and Pixar.  I also really enjoyed the mixing of the different eras into one, having robots right next to dinosaurs lends itself to some interesting hazards and challenges for the adventures.  Everything from protecting their ship against a dinosaur and World War II fighter plane attack, to building and creating a robot or car submarines.  It's hard to place whether this is fantasy or science fiction, or steam-punk but it's enjoyable nonetheless.  With characters from different eras, Baltazar also delved into the topics of the suffragette movement, discrimination, even slavery.   A wonderful adventure coupled with some of the most gorgeous illustrations makes me eager to see what Baltazar comes up with next.  Here's a small sample from the prologue and an introduction that highlights some of the illustrations and models Baltazar made while creating Timeless.   

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Adult Review: Lullaby (The Sand Maiden #1) by L.R.W. Lee

Lullaby by LRW Lee

Format: E ARC
Publisher: Woodgate Publishing
Number of Pages: 405
Publishing: January 15th , 2018
Source: Author in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis from Goodreads

You've heard of the Sand Man. Meet his counterpart, the Sand Maiden.

Alissandra thrills to help her human charges make sense of thoughts that need refinement, problems that need solutions, worries that beg for action, and things they should or shouldn’t have said, as she weaves their dreams. She’s been doing it her entire immortal existence. But when the most powerful king in Dream realm sets his sights on her current charge, Prince Kovis Altairn, to exploit him in his quest to conquer Wake realm, Ali has no choice but to flee and pray the sovereign doesn’t hunt her down.

Prince Kovis Altairn, crown prince and the most powerful sorcerer in the Altairn Empire, knows nothing about Dream realm, let alone his sand maiden. So when Ali is discovered naked in his bedroom, how will she convince him of her intentions, as well as the danger?

Lullaby is the first in a series of New Adult epic fantasy romances written by L.R.W. Lee, there is mature content so it would be in the 18+ realm for me.  I had the pleasure of reading an early draft, and the subsequent changes that Linda made following reviewer comments, it was really cool to get a glimpse of how the editing changed the beginning of the story.  New adult books aren't something I typically read or review, but Lullaby is special, I was so intrigued by its premise that I knew it was a book that I wanted to read.  Plus,  I've been following Linda for quite some time and really enjoyed her middle-grade series Andy Smithson and knew that Lullaby wouldn't disappoint.  

Lullaby consists of a world split into a Dream and Wake realm with both having their own unique magical systems.  In Dream realm,  Alissandra (Ali) is one of many sand people helping the people of Wake to slumber and dream each night, her charge is Prince Kovis, a man whom she cares deeply for.  Ali's father is the ruler of Dream and is bent on controlling the people of  Wake,  through the use of "mares" he can enter a person's mind and take control.  Once Ali and her sister figure out his plans,  Ali is left with no other choice but to escape to Wake to get away from her abusive father and protect Kovis.  In the early draft, the first chapter was a bit confusing, but as I kept reading, I felt it was meant to be this way because Ali is in a new place with magic that she doesn't understand and a human form that is new to her.  Not to mention she is in Prince Kovis' bedchamber surrounded by his guards.  The changes Lee made firmed things up, pique your curiosity and made me want to know more about this world and characters. 

Lee creates a magical system where the people of Wake can wield the elements of fire, ice, metal, and wind, powers that don't exist on Dream.   Yet, Ali is also unique because not only can she put someone to sleep, she has also developed the ability to wield elements in very unpredictable ways.  They're skills that she never had before but also are an equal match to those of the Prince.  Kovis is both intrigued by Ali's story and her ability to help him sleep that he takes it upon himself to train her and see exactly what other powers she can control.  Lullaby is a fresh world with lovely romantic moments and the kind of fantasy elements I enjoy reading.   Not only does Ali begin training for an epic magic competition pitting her against some of the top sorcerers of Wake, there are mysteries to uncover in Kovis and his siblings past, and Ali's father and the "mares" bring just the right amount of tension to the story.  I also really enjoyed the magical bond Ali and Kovis share which allowed them to telepathically communicate with one another, their playful humor and the eventual romance that ensued between the two was a delight.  While things ended on a slight cliffhanger, I'll definitely be waiting for the sequel.    

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The 2017 Cybils Finalists for Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

I'm always excited to be a part of Cybils (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards), especially this year since for the first time I'm a round two judge  working with fellow judges Mark at Say What?, Halli at The Winged Pen,  Rosemary at Mom Read It, and Jenna at Falling Letters to pick the winner come February.  Here are the seven finalists in the category of Elementary/ Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction and the blurbs from the round one judges.  According to Cybils, there were 1426 titles nominated and shortlisted into 12 categories, you can read more about the other finalists from the 
Cybils blog

2017 Finalist · Elementary/Middle-Grade Speculative Fiction

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
Nominated by: Sam Musher
Those who inhabit the underground city of Caverna are born with blank faces, and have to learn to put on preset patterns of expression. These learned Faces enable the citizens of Caverna to lie and dissemble and carry on dizzying political intrigues. One girl, Neverfell is different. Her guardian, Grandible the Cheesemaster, insists that she wear a mask whenever she meets with anyone else, though she does not know why. Maybe “Ugly” is the only Face she has been given? Or maybe it has something to with her past before she was taken in by Grandible as a seven-year-old, which she can’t remember. Middle grade readers will identify with the difficult task of deciding what face to show to the world while also trying to remain true to oneself and honest in dealing with both friends and enemies. And all readers will enjoy the twists and turns of the plot in this surprising and vividly detailed tale of underground adventure.
Sherry Early, Semicolon
A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander
Margaret K. McElderry
Nominated by: Maureen E
Rosa Díaz is the daughter of the world’s best ghost appeasement specialist and is training to be one herself.  Everywhere has ghosts, of course – especially libraries, which tend to be full of the ghosts of past readers.  That’s why it makes no sense that she and her mother have moved to the tiny town of Ingot, which is famous two things: its Renaissance Faire, and for having no ghosts at all.  But when Jasper Chevalier, son of the Ren Faire Queen and its Black Knight (who will explain to anyone that there were Moors in Europe in the Middle Ages), takes her on a tour of the Faire, they are attacked by an angry monster, part ghost but very physical.  And when the ghost steals Rosa’s mother’s voice, Rosa and Jasper are on their own. This is a short and fast-moving, just a little scary book perfect for those newly graduating up from early chapter books or for read-alouds, with delightfully off-beat descriptions and illustrations.  Despite the excitement and the shorter length, there’s a lot under the surface for the perceptive reader, from environmental themes to Rosa’s understated dealing with her grief over her father’s death.  This is an alternate reality readers will want to visit again and again. 
Katy Kramp, A Library Mama
Last Day on Mars (Chronicle of the Dark Star) by Kevin Emerson
Walden Pond Press
Nominated by: Debbie Tanner
This one is gripping middle grade science fiction at its best! 150 years or so in the future, the sun is going supernova, long before it should. Humanity took refuge on Mars, but the expanding sun is about to engulf that planet too. Liam and Phoebe are supposed to be on the last colony ship departing the solar system, but things go wrong. Not ordinary wrong, but evil star-destroying aliens wrong….It’s a tense adventure, with the threat of death by supernova hanging over the characters’ heads, that will leave readers anxious for the next book.
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Libary
Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Brandy Painter
Miss Ellicott’s school  teaches the “surplus” female children of a walled city-kingdom magic and deportment and.. well, mostly deportment, with the intent to make the girls “shamefast and biddable.” Chantel struggles with that, and as a result ends up facing against the kingdom’s ruling Patriarchs and king in order to save the city. There is a lovely array of evil characters as well as friends in surprising places that help Chantel save the kingdom as well as find her own strengths.  She never does learn to be biddable, but she does learn the power of well-placed deportment, and the power of Persisting.  Not only is this a terrific magical adventure, it’s a hopeful and empowering tale, perfect for today’s readers.
Debbie Tanner, The Book Search; Katy Kramp, A Library Mama; and Melissa Fox, Book Nut
Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
Nominated by: Deb
Here is a superb ghost story for kids who want horror that’s scary as heck but won’t scar them for life. Harper’s life has been upended when her family move to a surprisingly cheap old house in a new city. It’s cheap because of the horrors that happened in it, and once Harper starts to see for herself just how haunted it is, she likes it even less. Harper can see and sometimes communicate with ghosts, and when her little brother becomes possessed by the spirit of another little boy who lived, and died, in the house, she had to try to save him. Fortunately, she has the help of her Korean grandmother, who was herself a spirit hunter. Alongside the horror, there’s also a story of family and friendship, and trying to fit into a new place, so that the nightmare is balanced by the everyday. Harper is a great character, strong but uncertain in a believable middle grade way, and her story is memorable and gripping (and scary).
Charlotte Taylor, Charlotte’s Libary
The Countdown Conspiracy by Katie Slivensky
Nominated by: Pat Zietlow Miller
In the near future, the world has made it through several wars and has decided to come together to form an exploratory Mars program, inviting brilliant children and teenagers from around the world to join, with the idea that in nine years they will be sent into space. Sounds like a perfect unifying program. That is, until things go wrong: our main character, Miranda, is attacked on her way to the training. She and the five other kids who are on her particular team (a diverse group with strong opinions) don’t get along. And someone is sabotaging the training. When they suddenly and unexpectedly launched into space, they are faced with figuring out how to work together…or risk never returning home again. Full of action, suspense, and realistic and plausible science and math, this is not only science fiction at its best, but one for those who love middle grade mysteries and school stories as well!  
Melissa Fox, Book Nut
The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis
Bloomsbury USA
Nominated by: Heidi G.
Dragons meet chocolate in a treat for fans of both! Aventurine is a young dragon who has never been allowed to leave her cave. She’s convinced that she can be just as brave and wonderful as the rest of her family if they’d give her a chance, and one day she sneaks out on her own. Things go wrong when a human she thinks would be easy prey turns out to be a magician, and he tricks her into drinking enchanted hot chocolate which turns her into a human girl!  Aventurine is forced to go to the big city to find a job and satisfy her newfound passion for chocolate. Can a fierce dragon girl find a place among humans, and enough chocolate to keep her happy?  And what happens when her dragon family comes looking for her?  Themes of finding your true self, and loyalty to family and friends combine with political intrigue and prejudice in a memorable and gripping story.  
Debbie Tanner, The Book Search

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

MG Adventure/Survival Story Review: Avalanche! (Survivor Diaries) by Terry Lynn Johnson

33413947Avalanche! (Survivor Diaries)
Author:  Terry Lynn Johnson
Format: E ARC
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Number of Pages: 112
Publishing:  January 2nd, 2018

Source:  Edelweiss Above the TreeLine 

Twelve-year-old twins Ashley and Ryan are skiing with their parents in Wyoming's Grand Teton Mountains where there is a ground-shaking rumble. Unstable snow rushes downhill and buries them in icy white.  It will take all of their knowledge and grit to survive.   

Stay calm. Stay smart. Survive.  

Survivor Diaries is similar to the I Survived  series, with the variant being real kids surviving in harsh wilderness conditions, the next one is called Overboard!  For twins Ashley and Ryan it's surviving an avalanche.  The story begins as Ashley is being interviewed by a reporter for a new series on brave kids, she recounts the events that lead up to the avalanche.  The series is a sort of what to do if you land yourself in this situation and how to survive.  Ashley struggles to try and be as good as her brother at school or to at least live up to her dad's and her own expectations to be a faster skier like her brother Ryan.  Ryan's the adventurous type, the one who hears about a study being done with the Wolverines in the area and then wants to go off the trail chasing after them.  Terry Lynn Johnson wastes no time getting the action started, detailing Ashley getting caught in the snow pouring down from the mountain, tumbling, unable to grab onto anything to prevent herself from being pulled down further.  And then Ashley's training kicks in and she remembers the importance of not panicking.   Once she's free,  Ashley races to uncover Ryan from the snow he's buried under, with the only thing visible being his stick peering out of the snow.   Bruised and with an injured knee, cold and damp they struggle to find a way to get warm.  Then the realization hits that Ryan can't remember who she is.   Ashley is usually the follower, in her brother's shadow, but now after his injury, she needs to take the lead.  She's resourceful using the elastic of her underwear as a bandage for her knee and knowledgeable from her training.  She's the one who gets them started in digging a snow cave, keeps Ryan alert by reminding him of things they've done together in the past, while hoping his memory will come back. There are many obstacles for them to overcome, not to mention a bear in the area, but Ashley perseveres to get them to safety.  I especially liked the link that was made between Ashley watching a wolverine taking on a bear and using it as a catalyst for her own grit and determination to get up the side of the mountain while pulling her brother behind her.   Avalanche! is packed full of  practical tips on being out in the elements.  It's educational while being highly interesting and with its full page black and white illustrations depicting the action and survival tips from the National Avalanche Center at the back of the book,  it certainly makes for a wonderful survival story.   

Monday, December 18, 2017

MG Fantasy/Mystery Review: Winterhouse by Ben Guterson

Author:  Ben Guterson
Format: E ARC 
Publisher: Henry Holt & Company
Number of Pages: 384
Publishing:  January 1st, 2018

Source:     Edelweiss Above the TreeLine

Opening Line:  "When Elizabeth Somers tugged open the gate to her Aunt and Uncle's yard and saw an envelope duct-taped to the front of the shabby house she shared with them, she knew it was bad news."

Elizabeth will be spending her Christmas break at the Winterhouse Hotel while her Aunt and Uncle take a vacation.  At least they left her some clothing in a grocery bag,  a few measly dollars, and a bus, and train ticket to get her there.  Once Elizabeth gets underway, she encounters an odd couple dressed all in black, who upon their arrival at the hotel, introduce themselves as the Heims, booksellers of old rare books.  They give her a cryptic warning that Mr. Norbridge is a book thief, but after meeting Norbridge Falls, she's skeptical about their story.  Norbridge then takes her on a grand tour of his hotel and it's one of a kind library, upon exploring the library further she finds a one-hundred-year-old book.  Then she meets Freddy Knox, a boy her age whose parents also sent him to the hotel for the holiday.   Freddy's been coming to the hotel for years and doesn't mind because Norbridge always gives him special projects to work on, like turning walnut shells into fuel.  Elizabeth and Freddy soon discover they share a passion for puzzles, anagrams, and word ladders and while planning a special scavenger hunt competition they find a painting.  Within the painting, there seems to be a secret message written with a Vigenere Square, but without the encryption key, they won't be able to figure out what it says.  

Winterhouse is the first book in the trilogy by debut author Ben Guterson, it has the feel of Greenglass House with all of its various rooms to explore, a mystery to solve and puzzles.  Each chapter has an interesting title as well as a word ladder going down the page and it is split into three sections/books.  The puzzles were challenging and the mystery surrounding the painting and antique book definitely hold your interest.   You can even try your hand at decoding one of the puzzles using a Vigenere Square, which was pretty tough until they found the keyword that the puzzle was based on.  Elizabeth is such a delight, she's a bibliophile and keeps lists like, "Reason's Why I DO NOT Like my Aunt and Uncle."  She has these "feelings" or strange occurrences as she likes to call them where things just sort of happen around her without an explanation.    For example, a gate might close for no apparent reason.   She tries hard to be optimistic, but living with her Aunt and Uncle for the past seven years has been challenging for her.  What she wants most of all is to have a friend.  Freddy is logical, practical and understanding, they're pretty equal in their puzzle-solving abilities and I really enjoyed how they challenged each other to competitions over breakfast.  It was kinda sad when they had a huge falling out midway through the book, but eventually, they resolved their differences.  I really enjoyed Guterson's descriptive writing like this one, 

"a wonderful aroma of something sweet like sugar and fire-smoke and candles all rolled together-lingered in the air." 

And the way that the plot was slowly revealed while rooting you in the setting and the uniqueness of the hotel its surroundings and guests, "round tables rimmed with gleaming place settings, huge windows that allowed views of snow-heavy trees and distant peaks, hundred candled chandeliers strung across the ceiling, and a stone fireplace at the far end that was crackling with a haystack of logs."  

There are lovely black and white illustrations by Chloe Bristol and overall this was a very enjoyable mystery.  

Thursday, December 14, 2017

MG Fantasy/Magic Review: The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

28107444The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris
Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers
Format:  Hardcover
Number of Pages: 272
Published:  November 21st, 2017
Source:  Library
Find it:  Amazon B&N, Goodreads,

Opening Line:  "In the darkness of a train yard, somewhere on the far edge of town, a shadowy figure emerged from a thick curtain of fog."  

After his parent's suddenly disappeared,  Carter Locke is taken in by his Uncle Sly.  Sly is a weaselly thief and con-artist who didn't take Carter in out of the kindness of his heart, but for the ulterior motive of swindling people out of a couple of dollars and their belongings while Carter performs the magic trick's he taught him.  Carter doesn't believe much in magic, at least not his Uncle's kind of magic which involves tricking people, and especially not when Uncle Sly takes advantage of their kindly landlord, Mrs. Zalewski.  Having had enough of his Uncle's thievery, Carter hops a train headed for Mineral Wells, hoping for a new start.  Once in town, Carter meets Mr. Vernon who runs a local Magic Shop with his adopted daughter Leila and the other Mr. Vernon, a chef at the Grand Oak Resort.  He also meets Theo and Ridley, two kids who with Leila meet weekly at the shop to practice their magical skills.    At first, things start to look up for Carter as he's making new friends, but then he and the misfits land in the middle of a  heist planned by the greedy ringmaster B.B. Bosso and his equally villainous circus performers, and it's now up to Carter and the magic misfits to unveil Bosso's plans and save the town and Star of Africa diamond.  

Do you like magic and the circus?  Well, the first book in The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris blends these two things together while adding puzzles, tips and directions for performing magic tricks and even a few secret messages to decipher.  Carter is a very sweet and intelligent character with strong convictions for not stealing, unlike his Uncle Sly who performs magic to get something in return.  Magic, real magic isn't something Carter believes in, and he's never really thought of magic being performed just to entertain before.   Mr. Vernon attributes Carter's lack of belief in magic to losing his innocence and how his past experiences have jaded his views.  I really enjoyed Mr. Vernon and the misfits, they were so instrumental in rekindling Carter's curiosity in magic, his wonder in how they perform their magic tricks and how they believe magic is all around you and can bring joy to people.  The writing style is similar to A Series of Unfortunate Events, with an interrupting narrator, definitions of words like "vagabond",  "levitation" and "transformation" and a narrator trying to convince the reader to think or act in a certain way.   At times,  I  had a hard time separating the image of Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf from the narrator of this story, but then I decided to just go with it and found the story to be entertaining with characters that I hope to learn more about in the next book of the series.   The black and white story illustrations by Lissy Marlin are gorgeous and could almost be scenes from an animated movie.  The inclusion of directions for how to roll coins on your knuckles, how to make a color prediction and how to move objects with your mind would delight any child interested in magic or someone who just wants to try out the magic tricks described in the story.   Plus the premise of a group of diverse friends busting up a heist by circus performers to return the towns peoples stolen goods makes for an exciting, fun adventure.  

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

MG Science Fiction/Robots Review: EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner

34228303EngiNerds by Jarrett Lerner
Publisher: Aladdin
Format:  Hardcover

Number of Pages: 192
Published:  September 12th, 2017
Source:  Purchased 
Find it:  Amazon B&N, Goodreads,

Opening Lines:  
"THERE’S A BOX ON MY front porch.  It’s big. Brown.  Smooshed in at the corners and bruised along the sides.  It’s for me.  How do I know?  Somebody wrote KENNEDY in thick black marker on the box’s top."

Ken and his friends have a mutual interest in science and technology, meeting every day over lunch in the science classroom.  Some members of the group have been referring to themselves as the EngiNerds, a name you'll never catch Ken using.  One day, Ken finds a box on his front porch, inside are a bunch of parts and a list of directions for putting the project together.    Ken suspects that his Grandpa K, an engineer who's notorious for giving him gifts to construct left it for him.   Unable to move the heavy box on his own, Ken enlists the help of his best friend Dan and during the process of dragging the box inside, Ken's dog escapes.  When they return from their dog search they find a robot where all of the loose parts previously were.  Since no one else is at home, they have no idea who put the robot together.   Is it possible that the robot put itself together?  Ken and Dan are surprised when the robot introduces itself as  Greeeg and lets them know it wants to be fed "com-Est-ib-ulls,"  which consists of any kind of food product, packaging and all.  Greeeg has a wonderful digestive system that compacts everything away, but his appetite is also insatiable demanding more and more. When Ken runs out of food to feed him, Greeeg leaves Ken's room in the middle of the night on a raid of the pantry, which turns into a huge problem when Greeeg's compaction system makes a huge amount of noise.  Ken tries hard to keep his parents from noticing and is relieved when Greeeg offers to "DIS-pose" of the food he's been storing up.  Ken didn't know that meant Greeeg would be shooting off a cube size pellet of the digested food at high speed at him.   In the meantime, other members of the EngiNerds have been receiving robots and pretty soon the boys have an army of aggressive robots demanding to be fed.  When the boys can't seem to meet the robots demands, the robots take off across town searching for more food and won't let any obstacle stand in their way.  It's now up to Ken and the EngiNerds to figure out who sent the robots and deactivate them before the entire food stores of the town are consumed.  

I first heard about EngiNerds during #MGBooktober on Twitter, fellow book bloggers were giving it rave reviews and the cover is just so enticing.   Then the author offered to sign copies of his book and so I ordered one for my public library, which didn't have a copy of its own and asked if he would kindly personalize it.  Needless to say, I was pretty excited to be the first one to read it before donating to the library later this month!   As the cover illustrates there's plenty of humor in the story, in the dialogue between Ken and Dan and especially with those pellet sized missiles coming out of Greeeg's backside.  The chapters are also fairly short and with an emphasis on science and robots, it seems ideal for a reluctant reader who wants to read a few pages at a time.    EngiNerds also seems to tie in well with other STEM books designed to highlight innovation, science and engineering and I can really see kids wanting to make some of the same catapult constructions out of rubber bands and chopsticks as Ken and Dan did in the story.  There are a few illustrations, but think the story would've really hooked the reader with a few more added in.  Overall, an entertaining story of robots gone amok and the friends who creatively fix the problem.  I'm delighted to see that there are plans for another book in the series too.