Bookishly Ever After

REVIEW: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira


Phoebe is a devoted book nerd. She is always reading and knows about all the popular and upcoming books. Not caring how it looks to others, she dresses in costume for book releases and author signings. She even looks to her favorite books and characters to help her find romance.

While Phoebe has a crush on the class president, Kris, her best friend is convinced that Dev likes her. Kris doesn’t seem to know Phoebe exists, but Dev is around all the time. So Phoebe attempts some of her bookish moves, trying to channel the strong, confident heroines from her favorite books.

But Phoebe isn’t really like those characters. She’s uncertain and awkward. She loves what she loves, and she doesn’t hide it. So when a more confident girl moves in on Dev, Phoebe wonders if she should just stick to fictional relationships after all.


This was SO fun! There are some GREAT bookish lines in the story. As a book nerd like Phoebe, some of these statements really clicked with me.

I loved Phoebe. I enjoyed her “nerdishness” and passion for books and knitting and music. The banter with Dev and Em and some of the other characters was great fun to read. The scenes from Phoebe’s books got old at times – I was far more interested in the characters in this story. But I loved that Phoebe tried to use her passion for fiction to help her in real life.

This reminded me of Fangirl and Geekerella – stories with characters who are passionate about something like pop culture, science fiction shows, book series, etc. I identify with these sorts of characters, and I find their stories fun to read.

This is a great Young Adult book. There’s a little bit of language and a gay relationship in the secondary characters that might make this a better fit for older teens in some cases. Book 2 in the series, Dramatically Ever After, which focuses on Em and Kris from this book, released earlier this month.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

One Dog Night

REVIEW: One Dog Night by David Rosenfelt


Andy Carpenter is a defense attorney with no clients. Thanks to a large inheritance, Andy only has to work when he wants to – which is hardly ever. Something big has to draw him in.

Noah Galloway has been waiting for six years to be arrested. While he doesn’t remember setting the fire that killed 26 people, he thinks he might have done it during a drug-induced black out. He’s planning to plead guilty and serve his time.

Andy and Noah are connected. Noah once gave up his beloved dog. He knew he was barely taking care of himself; she deserved better.  So he gave her to a shelter and watched to see who picked her up. That person was Andy.

Tara is the best dog Andy’s ever known. And Noah is part of the reason Andy has her. So he starts to look into Noah’s situation. And soon he’s convinced that Noah is innocent.


This is the second Andy Carpenter book I have read. I read The Twelve Dogs of Christmas, the 15th book in the series last year and I thought it was fantastic! This is book nine. I love that I can drop into this series anywhere without feeling lost!

Andy is a great character with a dry sense of humor. The team around him is quirky but competent. The quirky parts add to the fun and humor of the book.

This particular story has a lot of secondary characters. It can be hard to keep them all straight early on as the story is setting up. The mystery is fascinating. The reader knows the plotting and scheming going on but doesn’t know WHY everything is happening.

This is more of a traditional adult mystery than my usual cozy reads. There’s a little more violence or description of the violence. And there’s some language.

I’m looking forward to reading more books in this series including book 16, Collared,  which will release later this summer.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Summer Olympus

REVIEW: Summer Olympus by Shea Fontana


It’s summer break at Super Hero High. Wonder Woman has been invited to Olympus by her father, Zeus, to spend time with the godly side of her family. She invites her friends to join her but most have plans. Super Girl, Big Barda and Lady Shiva are heading to the Kent’s farm in Kansas for the summer. Batgirl, Beast Boy and Katana are touring Europe. So Bumblebee is the only one who can go to Olympus with Wonder Woman. But one best friend is more than enough!

While there, the heroes meet Wonder Woman’s siblings including Ares, the god of war. Meanwhile, Super Girl and friends are tackling farm chores and the Europe gang is tracking a thief who is stealing Greek artifacts.

It all comes to a head in Olympus when the thief is revealed and the Olympians wage war on Metropolis – and on the kids from Super Hero High!


Such a fun story! I love the graphic novel format which gives an image for all the DC characters. Some are less familiar to me than others, and I appreciate seeing what they look like. It’s especially helpful when I go back to the Lisa Yee middle grade books which aren’t illustrated (Katana, the latest in that series, is out this summer!).

At the core, this story is about identity. Wonder Woman is a demigod – half Olympian god, and half Amazon. Growing up an Amazon, she feels comfortable in Themyscira and knows who she is there. In Olympus, she feels less certain about how she fits in – or if she belongs there at all.

While it starts as just the BFFs, Wonder Woman and Bumblebee, the whole student body of Super Hero High gets into the act when the battle hits Metropolis. This is a fun story for fans of the property and and good introduction for those new to Super Hero High.

Thanks to the publisher, DC Comics, for an electronic review copy of Summer Olympus in exchange for an honest review!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS: June 27, 2017

Our last Tuesday of June is chock full of great new books! Check them out:

Books for Kids


Dear Dinosaur (July 1) – A boy gets a dinosaur pen pal. This would be so much fun to read!
Monkey Brother – This sibling rivalry story looks fun. And since my son had a pretend monkey brother when he was a little guy, this will be a must read for me.
A New School Year – Six kids from Kindergarten through 5th grade share the story of the new school year. This looks like a great story for teachers to use when talking about perspective or maybe even voice.
Pig the Winner – Book 3 in the Pig the Pug series. This time, Pig’s competitive nature gets the best of him.
Super Saurus Saves Kindergarten – A dinosaur hopes to conquer kindergarten in this darling-looking book!
Best in Class – The latest in the Puppy Pirates series for new chapter book readers.
Friendship Fairies series – The latest set of books in the Fairies series by Daisy Meadows is the Friendship Fairies – Kindness, Sharing, Laughter, and Caring fairies. These were my go-to recommendation when I had a young reader who could handle the vocabulary of a 4th or 5th grade book but who wanted something shorter or lighter than some middle grade stories.
March of the Vanderpants – Notebook of Doom, book 12. This is a fun, light “monster” series in the Branches line for kids exploring chapter books.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Escape from the Great Earthquake – Book 6 in the awesome time-traveling series about a search and rescue dog, Ranger. I have described these books as Magic Tree House with a dog. Super fun to read; kids love them.
The Golden Lion – Book 4 in the graphic novel series Cleopatra in Space, a mash up of an historic figure and space-faring science fiction with adventure galore. I enjoyed book one and am looking forward to getting caught up on the series.
Hamstersaurus Rex vs Squirrel Kong – Book 2 in the Hamstersaurus Rex series. This time, a giant squirrel is wreaking havoc, and Hammie Rex is taking the blame. Can Sam prove Hammie’s innocence? This has been compared to Stick Dog or Dog Man. This is one I can’t wait to check out!
In the Shadow of the Sun – A girl and her brother try to escape North Korea with pictures of slave-labor camps when their father is arrested as a spy. Sounds perfect for fans of books like A Night Divided.
Ship of Secrets – Geronimo Stilton Kingdom of Fantasy book 10. My students loved this series, checking them out of the library until the books literally fell apart.
The Someday Suitcase – A story of best friends trying to beat the odds when one gets sick. This sounds like a fantastic, moving story.
Summer Olympics – Full color graphic novel of the kids from Super Hero High. This story has been teased in a comic for Free Comic Book Day and another for Wonder Woman Day. In the story, Wonder Woman heads to Olympus for summer vacation. I’ve read the comic teasers and I’m looking forward to reading the whole book!
Two Truths and a Lie: It’s Alive! – Crazy but true stories about our world. Terrific idea for kids non-fiction!
What Was the Holocaust? – Kids want to know more about this period in world history, and I trust the folks with the Who Was series to handle it with honesty at a kid-friendly level.
Generation One – First in a new series set in the world of I Am Number Four, full of aliens and super powers. I didn’t read the original series, but this sounds fantastic.
Now I Rise – Sequel to And I Darken, a series compared to Game of Thrones. Looks like I need to check out the first book!

Books for Adults

Booked 4 Murder – First book in a new mystery series starring Sophie Kimball, an account clerk at the local police department called to her mother’s home to investigate a “cursed” book. This looks like a great new series!
A Crime of Passion Fruit – Book 6 in the Bakeshop Mystery series, one of my favorite cozy series. In this book, Jules returns to the cruise ship where her estranged husband works and, of course, finds a body.
Death of a Bachelorette – Book 15 in the Jaine Austen mystery series about a freelance writer. I’d love to dig into this series some time!
Enforcing the Paw – Book 6 in the Paw Enforcement series about a police dog and her handler. While the author’s other series didn’t click with me, I have high hopes for this one. I have several of the books on my TBR shelves, waiting for my attention.
Grace to the Finish – Book 8 in the Manor House mystery series about a curator at Marshfield Manor. I have the first book in this series on my TBR shelves.
Murder at the Puppy Fest – Book 20 in the Melanie Travis series about dogs. In this book, Melanie is helping at a dog rescue charity event when someone is killed.
The Separatists – Book 3 in the Newsmakers series, a Christian mystery series about a reporter and political intrigue. I have the first two books in the series on my TBR pile. Hopefully I’ll get to dig into them this summer.
Star Trek Deep Space Nine: Enigma Tales – Elim Garak was one of the most fascinating characters on Deep Space Nine. This book picks up his story on Cardassia where secrets and lies are still business as usual.
The Tell-Tale Tarte – Book 4 in the Five-Ingredient Mystery series, this one with an Edgar Allan Poe theme. Includes recipes.
A Fierce Love – A husband’s affair and request for divorce sends the author on a journey into 1 Corinthians 13 to see what God asks of us when He calls us to love. This sounds emotional and powerful!
Cultivate – A Bible-based exploration of personal development from a gardening perspective. Looks at striving and perfection and living a less-pressured life. Sounds a little like Nothing to Prove which I adored. I am putting this one on my list, too!
Writing to Awaken (July 1) – Self discovery through writing. I am a firm believer in journalling for personal growth and health. I will be picking this one up for certain.


REVIEW: Relentless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs


After the events of Powerless, Kenna and her friends are in trouble. Rebel’s dad took her and she is acting completely out of character. Draven has  been captured and arrested. He’ll have a sham of a trial so Rex Malone can make an example of him. Kenna’s mom is still missing.

Kenna is determined to find the truth and bring down the “heroes” who have been killing villains and dealing in secrets and lies. With the revelations from Powerless – and more yet to come – her team might have a chance to make things right. Or everything could blow up in their faces.


It’s hard to summarize the second book in a duology (at least, I think this is the end of this series) without giving away some of the important plot twists from book one. This story picks up just a few weeks after the end of Powerless. The characters deal with the immediate issue of their friends’ captures, but the rest of the book is devoted to dealing with the main danger of heroes run amok with mad plans for power and control.

Kenna’s team has come together nicely. There are a couple new romantic relationships (including a gay couple) in the team which increases the tension and danger as they work their plans to take down the bad guys. Everyone is at risk. And there’s no guarantee everyone will make it out of the final confrontations alive.

I liked the blurring of the lines between “hero” and “villain” in both of these books. Kenna goes from a black and white thinker to someone who sees the shades of grey. So she realizes everyone with powers has potential to use their gifts to help others or to pursue their own ends. I wonder what criteria is used in this world for powered people to be marked as villain or hero.

The ending felt a little abrupt. I thought there might be a third book to sort out all the issues the group is facing. But in the end, all of the loose ends wrap up  (even though I would have liked more back story and some blanks in history filled in). Great action packed conclusion! (Some language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥


REVIEW: Fervent by Priscilla Shirer


Author, Bible teacher, and star of the movie War Room, Schirer puts together a book of prayer strategies. She focuses on ten ways Satan attacks believers to keep them from being effective for God. For example, believers may struggle to understand who they are in Christ (Identity) or to embrace forgiveness and live free (Your Past). Shirer outlines each area with personal examples and scriptures. Readers are encouraged to apply each one to their lives and then to write out prayers and scriptures to address them. The book includes tear out index-type cards to record scriptures and prayers.


This was a great prayer resource! I really connected strongly to several of the chapters. This also encouraged me to spend time in my Bible, noting passages that applied to what I was reading.

I did this online with a handful of friends. We tackled two strategies each week. For me, that was a good pace when one of the two chapters didn’t click. At others times, though, a month would not have been long enough to dig into certain strategies.

Personally, I needed the accountability of a group to keep moving forward and not get stuck on one strategy. I am horrible about finishing non-fiction books. If there’s no story to draw me all the way to the end, I can get easily pulled off track. Because I finished the book, I have a starting place for each topic and a plan for digging deeper on the ones that are really key for me right now.

I enjoyed the writing style. It’s direct but relational. Like hearing from a true friend with your best interests at heart. She offers Bible verses to get you started and examples from her own life. She’s not an expert, dictating how you respond, but a friend a little farther along on the same journey.

This is a book I will revisit and keep working through.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

World's Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops

REVIEW: The World’s Greatest Chocolate-Covered Pork Chops by Ryan Sager


Zoey is a gifted and creative chef. Her unique taste creations have people lined up to try her cooking. She decides she wants to open her own restaurant, so she heads to the bank for a loan.

It probably would have gone better if she wasn’t a twelve-year-old kid.

But Zoey is a very creative and persuasive kid. She coerces the loan officer to come to her house for lunch. The food – and the $1200 Zoey makes from the people who come by for her lunch special – convince the loan officer to give her a shot. Then, Zoey just has to convince her parents.

Zoey shows incredible perseverance as she works towards her goal of having every person in the world try her cooking! But perseverance may not be enough when someone tries to sabotage her dream.


This was so fun! Zoey’s creativity with food is astonishing. Her understanding of cooking principles is FAR beyond mine. For kids who love to cook, her ideas will be fodder for their own cooking experiments.

Zoey’s got a great support group around her. I love her best friend, Dallin. Zoey gets to learn some good friendship lessons while she pursues her goal of having her own restaurant. Her parents are interesting. Supportive yet skeptical. But Zoey knows how to get them on board.

This reminded me of the All Four Stars books by Tara Dairman about another girl with a passion for food and cooking. This book is quirkier and zany-er, but will appeal to some of those same readers. Recommend this one to all the budding chefs you know! This will be inspiring to kids who cook. Includes a few recipes for kids to try (with adult supervision!).

Many thanks to the publisher, Disney-Hyperion, for a electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥


Unicorn of Many Hats

BOOK NEWS: June 20, 2017

This week marks the official start of summer. I don’t know where you live, but where I am we have already had several hot and humid days, so it already feels like summer has been here for awhile. Thankfully, those days make me want to stay in the air conditioning and enjoy a good book!

Here are some of the books releasing this week:


A Place to Read – While the plot is familiar – a reader looks for a great place to read – the illustration work of the author, Leigh Hodgkinson, is what draws me to this one. I have loved her other work (especially Goldilocks and Just One Bear) and will be searching for this one this week for certain!
Chicken in School – A farm chicken turns the barn into a school and acts as teacher for everyone in the barnyard. Sequel to Chicken in Space. These books sound so fun!
Claymates – A fun picture book about friends made from clay. Perfect inspiration for summer art and sculpture fun!
Twindergarten – Twins about to start kindergarten – in different classes – share their anxiety and excitement.
Class Pet Mess – The kids from My Weird School are now in early readers! This is the third book in this format for kids who are growing in their reading skills (preschool to second grade range, depending on the reader).
Mrs. Master Is a Disaster – Book 8 in the My Weirdest School series which focuses on Grandparents day and a grandma who makes weird inventions. When I was teaching, my students loved these! It’s a fun, silly series with relatively short books at a 3rd or 4th grade reading level.
King Flashypants and the Evil Emperor – A boy king lives next door to an emperor who is up to no good. This looks like a fun new series for kids starting to explore chapter books.
My Weird School Fast Facts: Space, Humans and Farts – Weird but true science facts from the author of the My Weird School series. This series is a great way to engage kids with nonfiction!
Ever After High: Class of Classics – Full color graphic novel collecting 6 fairy tale stories tied to the Ever After High series. My students loved the books in this series, and I’m sure a graphic novel will be a hit with kids as well.
I Love You, Michael Collins – A girl writes to astronaut Michael Collins, the one who stays with the ship during the first moon landing. As her family wanders off, one by one, thinking someone else is watching her, the girl finds herself alone, wondering if in real life anyone actually “stays with the ship.” This sounds amazing. I loved the author’s Sisters 8 series and I can’t wait to read this!
Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth – A boy who has just entered foster care meets an alien (who looks like a dog to everyone else) who is trying to save the Earth from destruction. This sounds fantastic!
The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library – A bug who loves to read saves the school library! Looks cute!
Rocket Raccoon: Grounded – Graphic novel collecting issues 1-5. Rocket, one of the Guardians of the Galaxy, is trapped on Earth. Fans of the Guardians movies might enjoy this comic book collection.
Teen Titans: Damian Knows Best (Rebirth) – Graphic novel collecting issues 1-6. Damian Wayne is Robin, son of Batman and commander of the Teen Titans. In this reboot for Teen Titans, the team faces off against Damian’s grandfather, Ra’s al Ghul. I am intrigued by this series. I’m a huge fan of the TV series Young Justice and I’d like to see if this would be similar in tone and storytelling.


It’s a small week for new releases, so hopefully that will help me catch up a little on my TBR list! What are you reading this summer?

Letters to the Lost

REVIEW: Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer


Juliet is still grieving the death of her mother. And that takes the form of frequent trips to the cemetery and writing her mother letters. She leaves the letters by her mother’s headstone. Juliet wrote letters as a kid when her mom was on the road for work. She keeps up the practice as she tries to deal with her loss.

Declan mows the lawn at the cemetery. It’s his community service after getting drunk and crashing into a building. Usually he just trashes the things left around the headstones when he needs to mow. But for some reason, one day he reads a letter he finds – and he write’s the author back.

One response leads to an exchange of letters and then an exchange of emails as two hurting teens find connection through writing and transparency with one other person in the world. They each find someone who understands them. Someone they can really talk to and say all the things they are holding inside. And they also find that this relationship may give them the help and courage to address some things out loud in their real lives, too.


This was a delight! I read it through in one sitting and when I was done I wanted to start all over from the beginning.

I love these characters. Juliet and Declan are so broken and so endearing. They each so badly need someone to really see them and hear them. Someone who draws out the best in them. Someone who sees past the prickliness of grief and pain.

One of the messages of the story is that there IS help available. Each of the kids has friends and teachers or mentors who want to help. They have to learn to ask for that help sometimes – or to accept it when it’s offered.

This story gave me the same feeling as A List of Cages when I was done. The subject matters wasn’t as dark in this one, but it left me with the same warm feelings from seeing teens find a community that loves them, knows them, and shows up for them. Fantastic! (Some language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

For the Love

REVIEW: For the Love by Jen Hatmaker


A series of essays for Christian women. Some are designed to get readers to think about their lives and consider making changes – finding balance, dealing with difficult people, and taking a look at how we do short term missions.

Some essays are about accepting and embracing the life you have.  That includes the rowdiness of your family, the changes that come from getting older, and the quirks in your personality.

Some essays are just for laughs – like Thank You Notes à la Jimmy Fallon.

There’s something for everyone in this collection of thoughts on Christian living. The central message is be who you are and love who you are. Good words for all of us.


I am a huge Jen Hatmaker fan. I enjoy her honesty, transparency and self-deprecating humor. If you enjoy her on social media, she has much the same tone in her essays.

I’ve read this twice, once on my own and once for a discussion group with a few friends. The book works for both purposes. Early on with the group I tried to come up with discussion questions. It worked just as well, though, to ask what stood out to the other readers. We let the conversation go from there.

As with any author, Hatmaker’s personal biases drive the essays. She’s big on relationships, loves cooking for her family, and has strong opinions on how Christians should engage in the world. I might not agree with her on everything – especially the cooking parts – but I had plenty to think about and plenty to chuckle at as I read this.

Her new book, Of Mess and Moxie, will release later this summer.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥