Review: Binky Under Pressure by Ashley Spires


Title: Binky Under Pressure

Author: Ashley Spires

Publisher: Kids Can Press

ISBN: 978-1554535040


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In Binky’s third adventure, our intrepid, sometimes accident-prone hero is shaken out of his routine when he’s forced to contend with Gracie, a dainty striped foster kitty who comes to live at Binky’s space station (aka his home at 42 Sentinel Parkway). Binky instantly resents the new arrival, whose cute face and perfect manners are downright annoying. Indeed, Gracie seems too perfect. So Binky decides to do some undercover investigating and discovers a shocking truth about the family guest. Soon Binky is thrust full-throttle into a situation that puts all his Space Cat skills to the ultimate test!


Binky’s back for another humorous adventure, and this time around he has a companion.  A decidedly unwanted companion, in the form of foster kitty Gracie.  When Binky’s beloved humans introduce him to his new room mate, he’s apprehensive at first, and then plain annoyed.  She’s eating his food, using his litter box, and playing with his best friend!  How could they do this to him?  Taking matters into his own furry paws, Binky explains to Gracie that there just isn’t room in the space station for both of them.  Then Gracie pulls out her triumph card – she’s a member of F.U.R.S.T., and she outranks him!

I loved this outing for Binky.  Gracie is there to evaluate him, and report back about his worthiness to keep his space cat card.  Binky being Binky, it’s kind of touch and go as he blunders his way through one test after another.  It’s only after an actual alien invasion that he’s finally able to strut his space cat stuff and save the day, with some team work with his CO.

The art showcases Ashley Spires’ distinctive comedic look.  Binky’s plump torso and triangle shaped head mask a skilled warrior who deals death to alien invaders with little hesitation.  Gracie is drawn with more cunning lines, and at first, I doubted her ability to commander a well-run space station like Binky’s.  A little adversity and a stealth invasion pushed those thoughts right out of my mind.

If you are looking for a chuckle worthy escape from the stress of your day, grab one of the Binky books and be prepared to laugh.  A lot.  If you want to laugh even more, read them aloud.  To anything.  Make sure you vocalize the sound effects.  You’ll be rolling around on the floor, even the dog isn’t quite as amused as you are.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Detention Club by David Yoo


Title: The Detention Club

Author: David Yoo

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

ISBN: 978-0061783784


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:


The best worst thing to happen to Peter Lee?

Peter and his best friend, Drew, used to be so cool (or, at least, not total outcasts) in elementary school. But now they’re in middle school, where their extensive mica collection and prowess at kickball have earned them a new label: losers. Then Peter attracts the unwanted attention of the school bullies, and his plan to become popular through his older sister, the practically perfect Sunny, backfires.

Things go from bad to worse when Peter gets detention. But what at first seems to spell his utter doom turns into an unlikely opportunity for making friends and influencing people. . . .


The Detention Club is a fun book, but as I read along, I realized that I am not the target market.  This is a boy book that will actually appeal to boys, and because it’s written from such an authentic male perspective, I occasionally wanted to grab protagonist Peter and choke him.  Truthfully, it was more than occasionally, and I found his pre-teen personality grating.  He could be equal parts annoying, clueless, and selfish.  Then he’d have a rare moment of insight and realize that he’s being a twerp, so it’s hard to dislike him.  I could totally sympathize with his older sister, though – I wouldn’t have wanted him for a brother, either!

Peter is basking in the glory of his elementary school days, where he and his best buddy, Drew, were the cool kids in class.  Now that he’s in middle school, he has one awful realization – he’s not cool any more.  In fact, he’s a nerd.  His predilection for collecting things, any little thing, really, has branded him a loser.  He and Drew are standing on the outside of the popularity club, and it’s not a position that either one of them likes to be in.  Peter is determined to regain his social status, and he cooks up one scheme after another to get himself noticed and elevated back into the social circles he longs to be in.  Instead, the plans backfire, leaving him looking even nerdier than before.  While his old friends have reconnected in more mature relationships, he sits on the sidelines and longs to be invited to parties and to just hang out with them.  Poor Peter.  I felt sorry for him to a degree, but as he continues to dream up ways to make himself look cool, he just brought more isolation to himself. 

When he finally ends up in detention, the world of Peter Lee changes drastically.  He makes friends with the two bullies who were making his life miserable, and he suddenly sees an opportunity to use them as his ticket to the big time.  Until things don’t work out quite as he planned – again!

The Detention Club is a funny read.  It’s strength comes from Peter’s unwavering belief that he’s always doing the right thing – even when he knows that he’s not.  He manages to put a spin on everything so that he doesn’t have second thoughts about some of the stupid, and I mean stupid, things that he’s going.  He jeopardizes his friendship with Drew, his grades are awful to say the least, and his behavior puts him at odds with his teachers and his family.  Mixed into this mine field that he’s created is a mystery for him to solve, too.  Someone is stealing from the kids at school, and fingers are slowly starting to point to Peter.  He is a lot of things, but a thief isn’t one of them, so he tries to absolve himself of the crimes, in addition to remaking himself into one of the cool kids.

I liked how Peter’s relationship changed with his older sister.  Sunny seems to have it all.  Brains, drive, the determination to succeed.  But Sunny is hiding insecurities and unhappiness too, and I was pleasantly surprised when Peter stepped up to bat for her.  He was surprised, too!  That is one of things that I did like about Peter. When the chips were down, he was there for the people he cared about.  Even if he didn’t want to be.   

The Detention Club should appeal to middle grade boys, and they will empathize with Peter and his misadventures. There’s a lot of humor here, and  despite my occasional annoyance with the protagonist, he is very relatable.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Yours to Keep by Shannon Stacey


Title: Yours to Keep

Author: Shannon Stacey

Publisher: Carina Press



May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sean Kowalski no sooner leaves the army than he’s recruited by Emma Shaw to be her fake fiancé. Emma needs to produce a husband-to-be for her grandmother’s upcoming visit, and, though Sean doesn’t like the deception, he could use the landscaping job Emma’s offering while he decides what to do with his civilian life. And, despite his attraction to Emma, there’s no chance he’ll fall for a woman with deep roots in a town he’s not planning to call home.

Emma’s not interested in a real relationship either; not with a man whose idea of home is wherever he drops his duffel bag. No matter how amazing his "pretend" kisses are…


This is the first Carina pubbed book that I have read, and I’ll tell you right off the bat, it won’t be the last.  I don’t know why I waited so long to read one of their titles; Carina is the digital-first imprint that belongs under the Harlequin umbrella, and I have been reading and enjoying Harlequins since the fifth grade.  Maybe I was wary because these titles are digital only and I wasn’t ready to embrace that concept.  Maybe I thought, incorrectly, that because the books are digital only, that the quality would be lacking.  Nope, that’s not the case at all.  In fact, some of the Harlequin series romances that I have read recently had typos, and this one only had one that I noticed. The prose is smooth and polished, and the read is solid overall.  So there you go;  first impressions are often wrong, as I learned after reading Yours to Keep.

This book featured many of my favorite romance tropes; large, interfering families, small towns, big, rambling houses, and a hero and heroine who must pretend that they’re a couple.  The reason for Sean and Emma hooking up in the first place was a little weak, though – her grandmother, who has retired to Florida, worries incessantly about Emma living by herself, and Emma is even worried that Gram will sell the house out from under her, so she makes up a boyfriend.  The problem? When her grandmother comes to visit, Emma must produce said boyfriend.

Sean has just been released from the military, and after 12 years of people telling him what to do, he wants to figure out what he wants to do with his life.  Pretending to be crazy Emma’s fiancée isn’t what he had in mind.  Still, when she offers him a temporary job and a roof over his head, he caves.  He just makes it very, very clear to her that once her grandmother goes back home to Florida, he is outta there, and he’s not even going to look back.

For me, the strength of Yours to Keep is the bantering that takes place between pretty much everyone in the book.  The dialog is snappy, and funny, and it had me laughing out loud a few times.  As Emma and Sean spend more time together, they start to get to know each other better, and their relationship developed naturally and convincingly.  They are both such likable characters, and even as they deny their attraction and growing feelings for each other, it is so evident in every little thing they did.  Neither one of them wanted their relationship to last longer than the month that Emma’s grandmother would be in town, but as the pages kept turning, it became so clear that going their separate ways was going to be an agonizing parting.

If you are looking for a humorous, feel good romance, don’t look any further than Yours to Keep.  The characters are charming, the laughs are frequent, and the romance is blazing hot.  I was sad to see this one end, because I know that it’s going to be hard to top.

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The Misadventures of Phillip Isaac Penn by Donna L Peterson


May Contain Spoilers:

Poor Pip!  Phillip Isaac Penn, otherwise known as Pip, is so misunderstood!  It’s not easy to be a kid, especially when everyone has a lack of appreciation for his ingenuity.  So what if he sometimes forgets to clean up after himself, or accidentally destroys his sister’s belongings – he didn’t mean to do it!  Why can’t anyone understand that Pip is just trying to be a good kid?

This is a pretty funny read, and it follows Pip over the course of one week.  He does have a knack for getting himself into trouble!  In fact, he is always in trouble, so when someone else does something wrong, it’s usually Pip who gets the blame for it.  His teacher doesn’t cut him any slack, but maybe that’s because he can’t just sit and listen during class.  No, he has to try to have a debate instead of concentrating on his lessons.  And he might as well have a chair with his name on it in the Principal’s office, since he spends so much time there.

I enjoyed the format of the book.  Every morning starts with someone in his family upset about something that Pip has done, so his days always get off to a noisy start.  Then he has to try to get along with his classmates.  During these confrontations, Pip is bewildered, because the other kids are actually misbehaving, and in a bad way.  He has to deal with common school dramas, which include a bully, a cheat, and a thief.  I loved Pip’s reactions to these other kids.  First, he is  blamed for their bad behavior, and then he’s determined, with mixed results, to clear his name and get the other kid in trouble.

With its short, amusing chapters, this is a good book for reluctant readers, especially boys.  I laughed at the end of the chapters, when Pip recapped each day and what he learned.  His take on his adventures is comical.  He is a typical kid, and his application of logic is so funny.  He just doesn’t get it, but he remains likable and relatable throughout.

You can learn more about Pip by visiting these links:

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Review: Flawless by Lara Chapman


Title: Flawless

Author: Lara Chapman

Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

ISBN: 978-1599905969


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sarah Burke is just about perfect. She’s got killer blue eyes, gorgeous blond hair, and impeccable grades. There’s just one tiny-all right, enormous-flaw: her nose. But even that’s not so bad. Sarah’s got the best best friend and big goals for print journalism fame.

On the first day of senior year, Rock Conway walks into her journalism class and, well, rocks her world. Problem is, her best friend, Kristen, falls for him too. And when Rock and Kristen stand together, it’s like Barbie and Ken come to life. So when Kristen begs Sarah to help her nab Rock, Sarah does the only thing a best friend can do-she agrees. For someone so smart, what was she thinking?

This hip retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac is filled with hilariously misguided matchmaking, sweet romance, and a gentle reminder that we should all embrace our flaws.


When I read the description for Flawless, I couldn’t wait to read it.  Having a beak of epic proportions myself, I was curious about how Lara Chapman would present her story about a girl with what she thinks of as a big flaw – her nose.  Sarah is the daughter of a successful newscaster, and though she’s confident on the outside, on the inside she is troubled by her appearance.  She just wants people to accept her for who she is, instead of fixating on her nose.  The problem is that Sarah can’t get past this “flaw” herself.

Sarah’s defense mechanism is to strike first, before someone has a chance to make fun of her.  When meeting people for the first time, she is always on guard.  Will they notice anything other than her nose?  She has killer eyes and a perfect smile, but most people zero in on the largest part of her face.  Even her mother turns it into a sticking point between them, by constantly urging that she get a nose job.  Sarah knows that her mother means well; after all, she ended up with her mom’s nose, before she had her cosmetic surgery.

I loved the humor, and quickly came to like Sarah.  She is smart, practical, and loyal.  She wants to be accepted for who she is, but she hasn’t quite managed to embrace her outer appearance.  It is always there,  always something for her to worry about.  She puts on a tough front, but that’s all it is – inside, she is insecure and fearful of letting anyone other than her BFF, Kristen, get too close to her.

Drama rears its ugly head when hottie Rock, the kid at school, catches Kristen’s eye.  Even though Rock is perfect for her, Sarah is guilted into helping her friend snag herself a new boyfriend.  Sarah doesn’t believe that anyone, especially a guy as good-looking as Rock, could ever fall for her or her nose.  What Sarah discovers is that she is selling herself short, and not giving the people in her life the credit they deserve to see the real Sarah.

Flawless struck a chord for me.  I remember being in Sarah’s shoes and feeling like everyone was constantly making fun of my flaws.  I pushed people away, and it took many years to move beyond that high school mentality, where everyone is judged by how they look, what they wear, and how good their grades are.  If you allow your insecurities to rule your life, life is going to get pretty lonely.  It’s hard to take risks and stand up for yourself, but the connections you make will be more than worth the pain of those occasional failures.  Everyone is flawed in one some way, but once you accept your differences, you will be the richer for it.  It takes a lot of missteps for Sarah to learn this lesson, but once she does, she finally allows the real Sarah to shine through.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy


Title: OyMG

Author: Amy Fellner Dominy

Publisher: Walker & Company

ISBN: 978-0802721778


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Ellie Taylor loves nothing better than a good argument. So when she gets accepted to the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she’s sure that if she wins the final tournament, it’ll be her ticket to a scholarship to the best speech school in the country. Unfortunately, the competition at CSSPA is hot-literally. His name is Devon and, whether she likes it or not, being near him makes her sizzle. Luckily she’s confident enough to take on the challenge-until she begins to suspect that the private scholarship’s benefactor has negative feelings toward Jews. Will hiding her true identity and heritage be worth a shot at her dream?

Debut author Amy Fellner Dominy mixes sweet romance, surprising secrets, and even some matzo ball soup to cook up a funny yet heartfelt story about an outspoken girl who must learn to speak out for herself.


When I read the description for OyMG, I have to admit that it left me a little ambivalent.  I wasn’t sure about the tone of the book, and since I am about the least religious person you will ever meet, it’s hard for me to relate to a character who does have strong religious identity.  So it was with a bit of trepidation that I started reading this, and I have to say now that I couldn’t put it down.  I read it through in two sittings, and enjoyed it very much.  Despite the serious subject of discrimination, it is presented with humor, and it manages to make a statement without feeling preachy.  And there is a very sweet romance stirred in to make the protagonist’s decisions that much harder to make.

Ellie Taylor has one dream; to attend CSSPA summer camp and win a scholarship to elite Benedict’s Conservatory of Arts and Academics.  Problem? CSSPA is the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts, and she’s Jewish.  Her grandfather thinks it’s a bad idea for her to attend, and when Ellie discovers that one of the school’s benefactors and board members might be prejudiced against Jews, she starts to think that maybe he’s right.  Ellie wants that scholarship so badly, though, and she can only see one path for her life; graduate from Benedict’s, move on to college, and make a difference with her oratory skills.  She has a gift of gab, and she wants to put it to good use.  When she has to lie about who she is, she starts to wonder if she’s doing really what’s best for herself after all.

There are so many aspects of OyMG that I liked that I don’t even know where to begin.  Probably first and foremost is Ellie’s relationship with her grandfather.  He is appalled when he discovers that she’s lying about who she is.  Hurt and angry, he doesn’t hesitate to call her out on her rejection of her heritage.  While they have always had a strong, though occasionally argumentative relationship, Ellie’s desire to get what she wants, no matter the cost, puts a serious strain on their interactions.  Her grandfather wants Ellie to understand that there is a price to be paid for denying yourself, and that allowing decimation when it’s convenient for you is inexcusable.  So many people made so many staggering sacrifices to keep their heritage, and for Ellie to brush that aside is wrong.  There’s a lot of raw emotion here as Ellie keeps making excuses for Mrs. Yeats; confusion, anger, fear.  She has never experienced such blind hatred, and she doesn’t know what to do about it.  More than anything, Ellie wants to be accepted and liked, and she doesn’t understand how Mrs. Yeats can hate her because of her religion.  Her inner struggle was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down.  I wanted Ellie to make the right decision, but even I didn’t know what it was!

Ellie’s romance with Devon was my second favorite story thread.  Devon is the grandson of Mrs. Yeats, and he’s the one to tip her off to his grandmother’s dislike of Jews.  Devon confuses her, because Ellie starts to wonder if, deep down, maybe Devon shares his grandmother’s views.  Devon, it turns out, has a few personal issues with his grandmother, as well.  The successful businesswoman is used to getting her own way, and that includes with her family.  She has goals and plans for Devon, even though she knows that he doesn’t want the same things she does. 

OyMG was a surprise discovery for me, and I am looking forward to reading Amy Fellner Dominy’s next book.  Her characters are deep and complicated, but able to laugh about their own short-comings.  The final resolution is a bit too convenient, but I found it satisfying none-the-less.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Sumomomo,Momomo Vol 3 by Shinobu Ohtaka


Title: Sumomomo, Momomo Vol 3

Author: Shinobu Ohtaka

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759530898

Reading Level: Older Teens


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Eager to prove his strength to his fiancée, Hikaru challenges Koushi to a duel. Touched by his heartfelt display, Momoko stands down, leaving Koushi to face the charge alone! But the class rep can’t let Koushi come to harm because of her secret affection. Donning the guise of the Heavenly Warrior Horse Mask and swallowing her pride, Sanae unleashes her hidden power at last!


This is one of the titles that I am kind of embarrassed that I like.  Ok, I’m a lot embarrassed about liking it.  For me, it is very over the top and packed with incredibly stupid humor and obnoxious fan-service.  The only reason I can tolerate it is because both genders are portrayed as being equally idiotic.  The coolest character in the series is Momoko, and she will never be accused of being the brightest crayon in the box.  I did get turned off by Sanae’s alter-ego, Heavenly Warrior Horse Mask, but thankfully she was only in the first chapter of this volume.  Ugh!  She needs to demand a new costume designer!  If she is going to be forced to romp around in next to nothing, she should at least look cool while she’s strutting her stuff.  UGH! I know! I know! I am not the target market!!  Somehow I got sucked into reading this anyway!

I was in the mood for stupid, brainless reading, and that is what this series delivers each time I read it.  Koushi just wants to be left alone to study and read his books, but no – from the moment Momoko entered his carefully ordered life, he has suffered through Hell.  Assassins at every corner, people wanting to beat the crap out of him, general unpleasantness for our violence-avoiding hero.  He of course draws girls to him like flies to a compost heap, despite his tendency to take the chicken exit whenever trouble is brewing.  The girls chasing after him could handily beat him to a pulp, which makes his conflict avoidance even more ridiculous.

I just don’t understand why Koushi is so dead-set against getting hitched to Momoko.  She is the perfect girl for him.  She will fight his battles, cook his favorite meals, and generally wait on him hand and foot.  There is the ick factor, since she looks like she’s about 10, but in a few years she’s be the right age to tie the knot and save Koushi from a life of martial arts.   I think he’s being a little shortsighted here, because Momoko is practically tripping over herself to take care of him.  He doesn’t have to lift a finger when she’s around.  I have got to question this guy’s intelligence for constantly trying to ignore her.

Sumomomo, Momomo is one of the silliest series that I am following, and despite the overabundance of fan-service, I find it a very funny read.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Clean-Freak Fully Equipped Vol 1 by Touya Tobina


Title: Clean-Freak Fully Equipped Vol 1

Author: Touya Tobina

Publisher: Tokyopop

ISBN: 978-1427830173


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

This eccentric clean freak takes OCD and romance to the next level – manga style! Sata Senda has become a compulsive cleanliness freak because of a frightening experience three years ago. He always carries anti-bacterial spray and germ masks as standard equipment and doesn’t allow any form of personal contact, leaving him without friends. That is, until he meets Sata, who has been half-forced to participate in a school trip and arrives completely wrapped in a protective suit…


I wasn’t expecting much from this comedy, so I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy it as much as I did.  It is brainless fun at its best, and though I felt bad for poor Sata and his compulsive need to clean, I found myself laughing all the way through the book.  Sata makes Mr Clean look like a germy slob, and this middle school student takes cleaning to a whole new, neurotic level.

After a disturbing and disgusting childhood incident, Sata Senda is scarred for life.  He sees the world as one, large, predatory germ.  He is afraid to touch anything unless is has been thoroughly sanitized, and he goes to great (and ridiculous) lengths to keep himself separate from the rest of the germ-carrying population.  He has a plastic enclosure that he seals himself in at school, and he greets the outside world dressed in a hazmat suit.  Sata is a disturbed young man!

While Sata’s bizarre behavior is amusing in its own right, it is his interactions with his classmates that charmed me.  He isn’t the emotionally distant person he thinks he is, and underneath all of his wet wipes and hand sanitizer, he is really very lonely.  He’s just so afraid of germs that he doesn’t want to get close to anybody.  When several pushy kids in his class won’t leave him alone,  he slowly begins to see that having friends isn’t such a bad thing.  He’ll just need to carry more disinfectants.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher