Wrong Side of the Paw

REVIEW: Upside Down Magic: Showing Off

Summary


Nory and the Upside Down Magic (UDM) kids are back, still working to control their “wonky” talents. This time, not only are they practicing their magic in the classroom, but they also need to come up with an act for the annual variety show.

Pepper is learning that not only can she control her magic (scaring animals) for short bursts, but she can also use it to help people with pest problems. This discovery helps her make an unexpected friend.

Nory finds out the school variety show means her dad and her siblings are going to come to her school.Maybe if she can turn herself into an impressive and complicated animal, her dad will finally accept her and be proud of her.

Review


I am a sucker for any book that expertly looks at the concept of identity. And this series does that! Each of the kids in the UDM class is working out his/her individual issues with magic. Identity is impacted by how their families and peers respond to their differences – and also by how the kids feel about themselves. The authors address these complex concepts in terrific age-appropriate ways.

I have talked with some parents in the past who are reluctant to have their kids read books with magic. I get where they are coming from, and I’m glad they are engaged with what their kids are reading! With this series – like many other favorites of mine, the magic is a plot device.  It puts the kids in an unusual setting. It gives them out-of-the-ordinary problems to solve. I think that helps readers put themselves in the story more easily. They don’t know ANYONE who can turn themselves into a kitten, much less a kid who tries and gets it wrong. But they can imagine! What would it be like to do something amazing like that? How would it feel to get it wrong over and over? How would it feel to have your parent turn you away because you couldn’t get it right?

The books in this series (this is the third) are fairly short. They would make for terrific read-alouds at home or in the classroom. And I can only imagine how great the discussion could be afterwards as readers/listeners talk about identity, about failure, and about family. If you love this series, check out the other books by these three great authors – Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle and Emily Jenkins

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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BOOK NEWS: January 31, 2017

Lots of great books for kids coming out this week! Which of these look good to you?!

Books for Kids


Always Watch Out for the Flying Potato Salad! – Book 9 in the Here’s Hank series starring a young Hank Zipzer (from Winkler’s original series.)
Away Game – Book 5 in the Little Rhino baseball series for young readers by Ryan Howard
Bird and Squirrel on Fire – Book 4 in this fun graphic novel series! I have really enjoyed the earlier books in this series.
Bubbles and Boo – Book 44 in this dog-focused series! My students loved these books when I was teaching.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


 

Journey Through Ash and Smoke – Book 5 in the Ranger in Time series. I describe this series as Magic Tree House with a dog. Ranger is a trained search and rescue dog who travels through time. Great series!!
Light Up New York – Book 4 in the Glimmer Girls series from Faithgirlz by Christian singer, Natalie Grant. I haven’t gotten to read any of these, but they look darling!
Lost in Time – Geronimo Stilton’s Journey Through Time series, book 4
Newsprints – Graphic novel of a girl who pretends she’s a boy to get a job as a newsie
Harlem Charade – Three kids band together to solve a crime which leads them to an artist whose work might save their neighborhood. This looks terrific!
Short – A new book from the author of Counting by SevensThis one is on the top of my list for this week!
The Wizards War – Book 4 in the Key Hunters series about a set of dangerous books. I’m bumping book one of this series up on my list!
Yours Truly – The second book in the Pumpkin Falls Mystery series after Absolutely Truly. This time the kids are solving a case of sabotage and the secret of an old diary. I haven’t read book one, but these mysteries sound like books I would love.
Wrath of the Storm – Mark of the Thief, book 3, from the amazing Jennifer Nielsen! Looks like an terrific action/fantasy series!
Playing Cupid – A girl starts a matchmaking business for a school project.
Me and Marvin Gardens – A boy who seems to be losing everything because of a new development in his community makes an important environmental discovery.
The Crooked Sixpence – Book one in the new Uncommoners series about a secret underground city under London.
The Prince Warriors and the Swords of Rhema – Third and final book in the Prince Warriors series  in this Christian fiction series of good and evil.
Exo – A new science fiction book for teens about an Earth that has been colonized by an alien race.
Silver Stars – Book 2 in the alternate history series, Soldier Girls, a series about World War II with girls fighting on the front lines.
Wires and Nerve – Graphic novel from author Marissa Meyer that takes place in her world of the Lunar Chronicles. I enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles series and I’m looking forward to checking out Iko’s story in this graphic novel.
Lost in a Book – An original Beauty and the Beast story. Belle finds an enchanted book in Beast’s library.

Books for Adults


Murder in an Irish Village – The first book in a new mystery series centered around a bistro in Ireland
Murder Wears White – Book 2 in the Wedding Planner mystery series
Some Kind of Magic – Put together a scientist, a  rock star and a chemical experiment and sparks fly!
Star Trek TNG Headlong Flight – The latest story starring the cast of Star Trek The Next Generation.
Adam and the Genome – One of my reading goals for 2017 is to read a book that combines faith and science. This might be the one I read. What does genomic science have to say about the Biblical record of human history?
Dream with Me – A Christian memoir of race in America

Wrong Side of the Paw

REVIEW: Embassy Row series by Ally Carter

Summary


The final book of the Embassy Row series released in December 2016. Here is a summary of all the books in the series.

Book 1 – All Fall Down: Grace arrives at the US Embassy in the country of Adria feeling uncertain and out of place. She’s sure that everyone feels sorry for her, either because her mother is dead or because she is “crazy.” She knows what she saw, though. She knows there was a scarred man there the night her mother died. And she knows she’s seen that same man in Adria!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Book 2 – See How They Run: Reeling from the revelations of All Fall Down, Grace learns more history of Adria as she tries to protect her secrets and her friends, as well as find a killer. But the revelations of book two are just as stunning as book one! I’d love to say more but I don’t want to spoil anything!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Book 3 – Take the Key and Lock Her Up: Grace is on the run, but the powers that be will not let her stay in hiding. She knows she will have to find secrets long buried – or compromise everything and everyone she cares about – if she wants to survive.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Review


This is a great series! I feel like the series improved as it went on. Book one pushes the reader to decide what to think – and what to believe – when it comes to Grace and her past. And Grace can be hard to like at times because you just aren’t sure what to believe. Hang with the story because it is worth it.  Book two broadens the scope, showing Grace’s history in a larger context. This also makes the deeper mysteries more important. Book three puts all the pieces together and runs headlong into the final conflict. A lot happens in this book and the pace is pretty frantic. Take the Key and Lock Her Up is my favorite of the three books.

This is terrific, clean YA – lots of suspense and intrigue with mild romance. I highly recommend it!

 

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REVIEW: A Sheetcake Named Desire by Jacklyn Brady

Summary


A bakery mystery. Rita goes to New Orleans for the express purpose of getting her estranged husband, Philippe, to sign their divorce papers. He’d been stalling long enough. But she shows up in the middle of a disaster at his bakery, Zydeco Cakes. After a season of sabotage and conflict, a major cake is ruined just before delivery, one of the employees is knocked out, and Philippe is found dead. Now, instead of being an ex-wife, Rita is a widow. And a murder suspect.

Review


For me, this was a good mystery but not a great story. The setting of the bakery was interesting, the characters were well defined (and there were a lot of them), and the mystery kept me guessing all the way to the end. My theory was all wrong. And I like when a mystery keeps me guessing almost as much as I like when I can puzzle out the solution on my own!

I just didn’t click with the story in a way that made me want to drop everything and keep reading. I didn’t love the characters. And characters often make or break a book for me. Many of the characters in this one were abrasive in their own quirky ways, maybe as part of their “artistic” personalities.

The writing is good. I would definitely read more from this author. I’m just not sure I clicked enough with the characters to dive into another in this particular series. Other readers might enjoy these characters even if  they weren’t a good fit for me. If you are a mystery fan, and the premise of this one sounds interesting, give it a try and see what you think!

Rating: ♥♥♥ ½

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REVIEW: Wish by Barbara O’Connor

Summary


A sweet dog story! Charlie’s family feels “broken.” Her dad is in jail. Her mom rarely leaves her bed. Her big sister is living with a friend until she graduates from high school. And Charlie has to live with an aunt and uncle she hardly knows in a town where she doesn’t want to live. She clings desperately to the hope that she’ll be going home soon and to her long list of ways to make a wish. But she’s been wishing for the same thing for a long time. What if her wishes aren’t working?

Review


Charlie is the kind of kid you want to hug, but you know she’d hate it… At least at first. She’s used to protecting herself. And she has no interest in getting comfortable in her temporary home or in this temporary community. She’ll be going HOME soon.

I loved Charlie’s development over the course of the book. She has to find her way at school and at church and at her aunt and uncle’s house. She’s trying to manage the swirl of emotions inside her, including an impressive amount of anger. She’s learning who she wants to be socially, too. There’s a lot going on for Charlie – and it’s all told so well!

And then there’s a dog. A sweet-tempered, lovable, furry friend is just what Charlie needs to anchor her and give her a sense of belonging as well as a sense of being needed and loved.

This would be perfect for fans of animal stories, stories that have a strong emotional core, and for fans of Barbara O’Connor’s other books like How to Steal a Dog.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Wrong Side of the Paw

BOOK NEWS: January 24, 2017

Not a lot of new books on my list this week, so I will just cover them all in one section. New books on the horizon this week include the following:

Pete the Cat:Five Little Ducks – A new picture book starring kid-favorite, Pete the Cat!
I Do Not Like Al’s Hat – Al’s rabbit is tired of being pulled out of the magician’s hat, so he goes off to find a new job.
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History – A picture book biography of Frederick Douglass
The Case of the Counterfeit Criminals – Book 3 in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series. I loved the first book in this series! I need to catch up. In this book, the girls take on a case of blackmail.
The Someday Birds – This story about an autistic boy and his wild family  traveling across the country while his father pursues treatment for injuries sustained in Afghanistan sounds fantastic! This is high on my list for this week.
The Ethan I Was Before – Two kids wrestle with secrets in their past as they hope for new adventures and a friendship that will support them both when they need it most. This also sounds fantastic! Middle grade books are some of the best stories being written today, in my opinion
Where Is the Colosseum? AND Where is the TajMahal? – New additions to this fantastic non-fiction series!
Control Girl – (releases January 27th) – Hope for me and my fellow control freaks in this Bible study!

Did any of these wind up on your wish list?

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REVIEW: Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz

Summary


A sensitive book about  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  Molly has become pretty skilled at looking like she has it all together. She has good friends. She’s known at school for her poetry. She’s convinced that her mom will move back from Toronto at the end of the year, just like she promised.

But under the perfect exterior she tries to show the world, Molly is starting to lose control. She has to get up earlier and earlier in the morning so she can complete all of her rituals. If she makes even the smallest mistake, she has to start over. It’s impacting her at home and at school. And the compulsions seem to be getting worse.

Review


Oh, my heart broke for Molly…. The author did a great job of showing how Molly’s behavior moves and evolves from subtle routines to overwhelming compulsions. The reader gets to see Molly’s awareness of her quirks and also her feelings of helplessness. She is desperate to reach out to someone – anyone – for help, but the reader also sees the roadblocks that keep her trapped. The emotional core of this story is so well done and engenders so much empathy for Molly.

I’ve noticed more books lately for this middle grade audience (10 to 14ish) that deal with mental health issues. Books like The Seventh Wish (drug addiction), and Still a Work in Progress (eating disorders), and Finding Perfect, introduce readers to illnesses that can effect them or their peers or family members. The books are age-appropriate, while dealing with serious topics. Readers can develop empathy for the characters who are struggling – or watching family members struggle. Best of all, parents and teachers can engage with readers about these topics because the books have opened the door.

I loved Molly’s story and I hope you will enjoy it too!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

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REVIEW: Can I See You Again? by Allison Morgan

Summary


A matchmaking romance! Bree Caxton has it all. She’s built her matchmaking business from the ground up. She’s in a long term relationship that seems on the edge of commitment. And her book is about to be published, and it’s got the potential to be a best seller.

But her boyfriend breaks up with Bree instead of asking her to marry him. And the publicity her agent has arranged requires her to have a boyfriend. So she convinces a client to pretend to be her boyfriend. What could possibly go wrong?

Matchmaking Romance

Review


I discovered this book on a new releases table at my local book story several months before I bought it. The story sounded fantastic, but I was getting other things that day and decided to wait. Then I couldn’t remember what it was called or who the author was! I would go back to the store, remember that I had read about this great book, and I would wander, hoping it would jump out at me once again. Once I found it, I was eager to dive into it right away. I had waited and thought about this story for a long time and couldn’t wait to find out what happens.

But when the book started, I was disappointed. I knew the story would be stressful. This is a common set up. The main character tells one lie to fix an immediate problem and then the lies compound until everything falls apart. But I found some of the characters crass and off-putting in the beginning. I wasn’t sure I would even finish the story.

Then I got to the “Tough Mudder.” (It’s like an Iron Man competition.) All of a sudden, I was laughing! The whole story came together for me in that chapter. From there, I couldn’t put the book down, even as it careened inevitably toward disaster. I was so glad I stuck with the story!

If the summary above sounds like something you might like, I recommend trying it. If it doesn’t click right away, keep with it until the Tough Mudder and see if it clicks for you there like it did for me. I even went back and read parts of that chapter a second time, I enjoyed it so much!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Wrong Side of the Paw

REVIEW: Framed: A TOAST Mystery by James Ponti

Summary


A Theory of Small Things Mystery.

Florian Bates. “Young Sherlock” and originator of TOAST, the Theory of All Small Things.  With observational skills like Shawn Spencer of the TV show, Psych, Florian uses TOAST to figure things out. Like the whereabouts of stolen paintings from an art museum. But a twelve-year-old gifted enough to work with the FBI is still a twelve-year-old. And a kid who puzzles things out from small clues can be misled by  well-placed small clues. And those kind of mistakes can lead Florian into danger!

Theory of Small Things mystery

Review


What a fantastic start to this mystery series!! Florian is a great character! He’s bright and creative as well as endearing and likeable. His best friend, Margaret, is a perfect match for him – smart enough to keep up with Florian yet with enough separation from the mystery to see danger potential. She has a mystery of her own to solve which starts in this book but will carry into a future story.

The mystery was really well done. Layers and red herrings keep the story going all the way to the end. Fun, laugh-out-loud moments added to the enjoyment. I look forward to reading MANY more TOAST mysteries in the future!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Wrong Side of the Paw

BOOK NEWS: January 17, 2017

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! I hope you and your family have an opportunity to think about Dr King’s impact on our country and ways that you can honor his work, not only today but all year long. My family is hoping to check out a special event at local college today for our “celebration.”

Here are some of the books coming out this week:

Books for Kids


 

Nope – A mother bird says it’s time to learn to fly but the baby bird says, “Nope.”
The Youngest Marcher – The story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest marcher in Birmingham in 1963
Fancy Party Gowns – A biography of Ann Cole Lowe, fashion designer
Star Wars Fight in the Forest – A new early reader from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
You Should Meet Jesse Owens – Early reader biography of Jesse Owens
Stef Soto Taco Queen – A young girl has a love/hate relationship with her family’s food truck and her reputation as the “Taco Queen” in this chapter book for elementary-age readers.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults



Big Trouble – Book 3 in the awesome Friday Barnes mystery series. This is the top book on my wish list this week!
Secret Origins – Book 3 in the Story Thieves series. I have been itching to read this series and this superhero-themed story might be just the push I need to dive in! It looks great.
The Wizard’s Dog – I am curious to check out this story about a dog and his missing master, Merlin. One description I read compares this to the Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom series, which I adore.
An Eagle in the Snow – An historical fiction story about Adolf Hitler, war, and the ethics of our choices. This is not my usual genre, but the concept is intriguing and I want to know what happens in this story.
Planet Football: Greatest Stadiums – Perfect for the soccer fans in your life!
Carve the Mark – A new Young Adult book by the author of Divergent. Personally, I still have a bad “taste” in my reader’s heart over Allegiant, which might push this book farther down my reading list until I hear from some folks who have read it.

Books for Adults



A Puzzle to be Named Later – Book 18 in this long-running crossword puzzle mystery series.
Reclaiming Hope – I don’t know what the author’s perspective is – pro-Obama or not – but I am curious to read this book about faith and the White House under President Obama. Faith and politics is a timely topic. I think this could lead to some fascinating, open conversations.
When Christ Appears – Dr. David Jeremiah looks at the Book of Revelation.