It's Not Me, It's You

REVIEW: It’s Not Me, It’s You by Stephanie Kate Strohm

Summary


When Avery Dennis is dumped just a couple weeks before her senior prom, she is stunned. Avery is chair of prom committee! She’s ultra popular. She’s smart and pretty. She has had a boyfriend almost non-stop since the first day of middle school.

Avery Dennis does not get dumped!

But Fortune smiled on Avery because she was dumped at the same time she was assigned an oral history report for History. Maybe, if Avery can look back at her own history, specifically her dating history, she can figure out how she is now date-less right before the prom. It’s probably not the assignment her teacher had in mind, but this is important!

Review


Wow. I loved this book! I was intrigued by the premise. Honestly, I expected Avery to be something of a mean-girl diva type who goes through this process to see herself as others see her. But that’s not really Avery at all. She’s smart and earnest and genuine. Yes, she has shallow moments. But those make her even more endearing as you see her trying to gain insight and mature.

I had no idea this would be so FUNNY! Avery has such a fantastic “voice,” enhanced by the format of the book. All of the characters – the best friend, the exes, the lab partner, the nemesis – are all so well written. There are great sarcastic moments, pop culture references, and just funny moments between the characters as they relate to one another and respond to what they learn in the project.

I was so delighted by this story! I will absolutely read this again and tell everyone I see about how fun this was. And I will be checking out the author’s other works.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

We Wish You a Murderous Christmas

REVIEW: We Wish You a Murderous Christmas by Vicki Delany

Summary


Rudolph, New York is Christmas Town. And in the weeks leading up to Christmas, the holiday spirit is growing. But a rude business man, called in to help in a family emergency, is ruining the Christmas Spirit as he talks of selling out to a big box store or a chain hotel, destroying the Christmas theme the town has worked so hard to develop.

So there is no shortage of possible culprits when the man is found dead. It could be his wife who was eager to throw around blame on others but didn’t shed a tear at the loss. It could be the chef he threatened to fire or the baker he cut out of a large contract. But the police department’s favorite suspect is the town’s Santa Clause – Merry’s dad. There’s no way Merry is going to let her dad’s reputation – and her town’s future – be smeared by this murder! If the police won’t find the real killer, maybe Merry will.

 

Review


This is the second book in the Year Round Christmas mystery series starring Merry Wilkinson. As this particular story happens at Christmas time, there’s extra Christmas fun to enjoy. Rudolph sounds like a delightful town. If it were real, I would totally want to visit!

The mystery was a puzzle all the way to the end. It was obvious to me that most of the suspects weren’t strong candidates. One possibility was eliminated by Merry in the story, so I had only one guess left. But then new information surfaced near the end of the story to wrap things up.

There were a couple moments when the writing stopped the flow of the reading for me. Some words that seemed out of place. They may have only been regional word choices that were jarring for me, but not for readers from other locales. And there were a couple spots where things were restated that had been covered earlier in the story. I mention these things because they momentarily stalled the flow of the story for me, but I was able to get right back in and enjoy the rest of the tale.

Rating: ♥♥♥½

Chester and Gus

REVIEW: Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern

Summary


Chester’s mom told all of her pups that the best thing in the world is to find your person and be a service dog to help your person.

But Chester gets SO scared by loud noises, he can’t be certified as a service dog. If he can’t do that, what sort of life can he have?

Then Chester is adopted by a family with an autistic son. While Gus initially doesn’t react well to Chester, in time they start to make small strides. Chester starts to understand his new person and the family and what they need. And then Chester is taken from his family.

Review


This was terrific! I enjoy stories that are told by the dog – like Magic Bone and Ellie’s Story – when authors do that style as well as McGovern did. Chester has a precious voice! He’s so bright (which the author explains in the story) and insightful.

The author uses her experience as a parent of an autistic child to craft a beautiful family for Chester. Gus’ parents are loving and earnest and desperate. They long to connect with Gus, and to see him make progress at school. They’re grasping at straws at times, looking for glimpses of recognition and understanding from Gus. And Chester helps all of them.

There’s a side plot with Chester’s trainer which felt… odd, to me. I felt like she took the story off in a weird direction. But she served to amp up the tension in the story, and Chester seems to help set her on a better path.

This was absolutely delightful. I highly recommend it!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Wrong Side of the Paw

BOOK NEWS: April 25, 2017

Lots of new reading treasures releasing this week!

Books for Kids


   

Dr. Eleventh – A Doctor Who book in the style of Mr. Men
Dr. Twelfth  – A Doctor Who book in the style of Mr. Men
Plankton Is Pushy – From the author of Barnacle is Bored (which is hysterical) comes this story of a pushy plankton.
Rolling Thunder – Picture book about the Rolling Thunder Ride to Freedom
Shawn Loves Sharks – Shark-lover Shawn does not get the Shark assignment at school – it goes to Stacy instead.
Looking Up!: The Science of Stargazing – latest in the Early Reader line from the Science of Fun Stuff series. I love these books.
Evil Emperor Penguin – First book in a graphic novel series about a penguin determined to take over the world.
Rogue City – A LEGO Batman Build Your Own Adventure book. Brilliant!
Bad Guys: The Furball Strikes Back – Book 3 in the Bad Guys series for early readers
The Mystery of Mr. E. – New story in the Wellie Wishers line from American Girl
The Rainstorm Brainstorm – New story in the Wellie Wishers line from American Girl
Remy Sneakers vs the Robo Rats – From the author of the Yeti Files comes a new series about a raccoon falsely accused of stealing
Ugly Cat & Pablo – Unlikely friends work together to get a treat

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


The Cat Stole My Pants – Timmy Failure, book 6
Cats in the CityStick Cat and Edith are off to rescue another neighbor in book 2 of this series by the author of Stick Dog.
Hello Stars – Book one in the Lena in the Spotlight series from FaithGirlz about a girl who auditions for a movie
Key Hunters: The Titanic Treasure – Book 5 in the Key Hunters series
Revenge of the Happy Campers – Book 4 starring the Brewster triplets.
The Unbreakable Code – Book Scavengers book 2. Book 1 is on my TBR
What Was the Wild West?
The Wingsnatchers: Carmer and Grit, Book 1 – A magician and a fairy princess join forces to solve the mystery of fairy disappearances.
The Whole Thing Together – Two families, connected but estranged, share a beach house in the summer.

Books for Adults


Every Body on Deck – Book 22 in the Savannah Reid mystery series. I already have a hold on this one from the library!
Good Day to Buy – Book 4 in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale mystery series
The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase – An original story based on the Librarians TV show. Our family has enjoyed the episodes of the TV show that we have seen.
No Charm Intended – Book 2 in the Cora Crafts mystery series about a crafting retreat
Though This Be Madness – Book 2 in the Lilly Long mystery series which takes place in 1881 Chicago
Rediscovering the Holy Spirit – I’m really looking forward to reading this study of the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christ-followers.

Geekerella

REVIEW: Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Summary


Elle is one of the biggest Starfield fans ever. She blogs about it. Her parents met because of the show. And her dad started ExcelsiCon to celebrate it. Going to the con this year – winning the cosplay contest – would be a dream come true. And it might even help her escape her nightmare life with her “step-monster” and step-sisters.

Darien is also a huge Starfield fan. But no one knows that. He’s famous for his soap opera work which gets him the role of Prince Carmindor in the Starfield movie. The Starfield fandom hates the casting. They think he’s a poser. There’s a blogger who blasts him online, and her posts have gone viral. And there are leaks and other troubles on the set. Darien can’t catch a break.

Until he starts texting the random girl he called by mistake. In their conversation, both Elle and Darien can be themselves, even though neither knows who the other is. It would be great if they could connect in real life like they do on the phone. But there are too many complications in the way.

 

Review


This was fantastic. Such a fun mashup of science fiction fandoms with the story of Cinderella and a nod to You’ve Got Mail tossed in.

It took a little time for me to get into the rhythm of the story. Elle’s “family” is horrible. She initially has no friends or support which was really sad. And it took a little while for me to warm up to Darien’s character, to really see him as a person rather than the role he had to play. Once the rhythm was established, I couldn’t put the book down.

The Cinderella pieces of the story were my favorite. The “pre-ball” melt down was so horrible and aggravating! But all the pieces – the pumpkin, the dress, the slipper – came together perfectly in fun, fresh ways.

This is a sharp, clever, and FUN story. Great for geeky readers as well as fans of re-worked fairy tales and great teen romance.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Bloom and Doom

REVIEW: Bloom and Doom by Beverly Allen

Summary


Audrey Bloom and her cousin, Liv, have made their dream of running a flower shop a reality. And the wedding side of their business is booming, especially as people find out about Audrey’s skill of pulling together flower arrangements that mean positive things like faithfulness, hope and friendship. But the business takes a hit when a potential groom is killed, their shop is implicated, and a friend of Audrey’s is arrested for the crime. Now Audrey is determined to find out what really happened to the groom and get her friend out of jail.

 

Review


This was terrific! The writing style and the characters felt comfortable and familiar. It was like I was reading a new story in a familiar series rather than the first in a new one. The characters at the flower shop were fun and interesting. I’m hoping for more information on some of the secondary staff in future books. The camaraderie at the store reminds me of another favorite series, the Bakeshop Mysteries by Ellie Alexander.

The mystery was well-written. The circle of possible suspects and motives grew wider and wider as the story developed, giving me several things to puzzle through while I read. In the end, I’d say I figured out only half of the puzzles in the story. I was able to feel both successful and surprised in the end.

There are two more books in this series, and I am eager to read both of them soon. Book 2 is For Whom the Bluebell Tolls.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Addie Bell's Shortcut to Growing Up

REVIEW: Addie Bell’s Shortcut to Growing Up by Jessica Brody

Summary


Addie is celebrating her 12th birthday, but she is so over being a kid. She hates being short and freckled. She wants to be 16 – boys, makeup, dances. She wants all the glamour of high school. So when her elderly neighbor gives her a box that’s supposed to grant wishes, Addie wishes to be 16. And the next day, she is.

At 16, Adeline is tall and lovely. She wears makeup and drives. She has a new best friend and a popular YouTube vlog. Sixteen is everything Addie wanted. Except….

Adeline/Addie doesn’t remember the last four years! She doesn’t know why Grace isn’t her friend anymore. She doesn’t know HOW to drive the car she has, what to feed her own dog, or any of the French words her teacher uses in class. While she got everything she thought she wanted, Addie’s not so sure her shortcut to 16 was the right idea after all.

 

Review


I really connected with Addie. At 12, she longs for the freedoms and privileges her older sister enjoys but which are out of her reach. As a 12-year-old in a 16-year-old’s life, the shiny appeal of those freedoms and privileges wears off when Addie sees what she has given up to get there.

I love that the author kept Addie’s 12-year-old self so clear in the high school world. The driving scene and the coffee scene were two of my favorite parts. And the sections on nostalgia and shortcuts are great messages for the reader.

This was comically painful and lovely at the same time. This could easily be the plot of a Disney movie, complete with awkward, embarrassing moments that make kids laugh and adults cringe. This book would be great for fans of All the Answers and other be-careful-what-you-wish-for stories.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Wrong Side of the Paw

BOOK NEWS: April 18, 2017

The third Tuesday of the month seems to be a low week for new books. Just a handful today! I have several of these on my TBR list.

Catstronauts: Mission Moon – Book one in a new graphic novel series about cats in space.
Catstronauts: Race to Mars – Book two
Fair Ball – The latest from Derek Jeter about keeping a good attitude when things go wrong
I Am Fartacus – A group of misfits try to take down a potential evil “empire” in their middle school (a MAX book from Aladdin).
Under Locker and Key – A boy has to team up with his rival in order to stop a rash of thefts at school. I am so excited about this MAX line from Aladdin. I love the books they have targeted to girls (MIX), and I have high hopes that these books targeting boys (although any kid would love both) will also be terrific.
Bang – A toddler accidentally shoots and kills his baby sister. Now a teen, the boy tries to live with his horror and guilt.
U Thrive: How to Succeed in College (And Life) – Perfect for graduation season!
The Fix – Book 3 in David Baldacci’s Amos Decker series. My husband has this on his list. We are big Baldacci fans.
Hello, My Name is: Discover Your True Identity – I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about identity lately. I’m looking forward to this book by Matthew West about finding identity in Jesus Christ.
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place – The title says it all. This one is certainly on my TBR list.

Zenn Diagram

REVIEW: Zenn Diagram by Wendy Bryant

Summary


Eva (pronounced like a slang “ever”) is a math genius. But that’s not the most unusual thing about her. The most unusual thing is that she gets flashes of insight about people when she touches them or things that belong to them. Their hidden emotions and worries, their history – all pushes into Eva. It happens so often, Eva never touches people. She doesn’t hand people things or shake hands or even hug. If she does, she gets overwhelming “fractals” of emotion. Except from Zenn.

Zenn is one of the guys Eva tutors in math. Usually she can touch a kid’s calculator and get a mini-fractal that tells her where the student is struggling. It’s a brilliant gift for a tutor! But she gets nothing from Zenn’s calculator. Nothing from his phone or from his clothes or from his skin. But what she gets from the old army jacket he wears is enough to drive her to her knees. What’s Zenn’s story? And why is he the only person Eva can touch?

 

Review


I was hooked on this book after the first page! As Eva talked of her favorite graphing calculators with sharp, self-deprecating humor, I knew this character could be someone really special. And she is. Eva and Zenn made this book for me. I laughed out loud many times and read several snappy, sarcastic sections aloud to my husband. Eva’s “voice” is fantastic!

I have enjoyed several stories that live 90% in a realistic world but with the main character experiencing some magical quality. This is a stellar example of that story style. I didn’t need to know definitively how or why Eva is this way to completely enjoy watching her figure out how to live her life with these fractals.

The story’s plot-hinging, big-reveal moment caught me off guard in the best way. Clever plotting. And I couldn’t put the book down after that because I didn’t want to wait to see how things ended.

This is the sort of book I will read again. Eva is now one of my all-time favorite characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this story! (language and some mature content)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Mr. Churchill's Secretary

REVIEW: Mr. Churchill’s Secretary by Susan Elia MacNeal

Summary


Maggie Hope is a bright mathematician, living in London in 1940. World War II has begun, and the British are resignedly waiting for Hitler to focus his attack on them as his troops march across Europe.

While Maggie is more than qualified to be one of the Prime Minister’s personal staff, as a woman, she doesn’t even get a chance to try. She settles for a typist’s job for Mr. Churchill.

But so much more is going on around Maggie! A dead typist, IRA bombings, spies, coded messages and secret plots. Will Maggie’s smarts and her determination be enough to save the day?

 

Review


Wow, I liked this book! I have had the first few books in this series in my TBR pile for years. The covers are gorgeous, and I can’t resist them. But I just wasn’t getting around to reading them! I don’t generally read historical fiction, and I think I was a little afraid the story wouldn’t live up to my expectations from the covers.

I shouldn’t have worried. While I don’t know a ton about World War II from a British perspective, I followed the story without any difficulty. I loved Maggie and her friends. The descriptions of her work were great fun to read. The mystery was top notch. This isn’t the usual “Who killed him?” sort of mystery. The reader sees the plots as they start forming. But there are good twists and lots of “will they make it?” suspense.

I am looking forward to reading more from this series! Book 2 is Princess Elizabeth’s Spy.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥