Words in Deep Blue

REVIEW: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Summary


Once upon a time, Rachel and Henry were best friends. And Rachel wondered if it might be more than just friendship. In a moment of great bravery, just before she moves away, Rachel writes Henry a note about how she feels. She asks him to call when he gets it. He never mentions the note or her declaration.

Years later, Rachel returns. A lot has changed. She barely responded to Henry’s letters and emails while she was away. Even in the midst of personal tragedy, she didn’t reach out to him. Now, not only are they in the same town, but she’s working at his family’s bookstore. She’ll see him every day. How’s that going to work?

Henry’s thrilled to have his best friend back. But Rachel has changed. She’s angry and private. She won’t explain why she stopped talking to him. As his divorced parents discuss selling their home and the bookstore, though, Henry will need Rachel, his old best friend, who understands the value of the store and the memories they’ve made there.

Review


Is it possible to both like and not like a book at the same time? While not a happy story per se, this is a beautiful look at grief and loss, friendship and love, and the value of words. The author does an excellent job of describing the losses experienced by the characters and their attempts to move forward in life and in their grief.

I liked the main characters, although I wanted to shake them at times. Henry’s infatuation with Amy was frustrating as Rachel’s assessment of her motives was always completely on target. And that assessment should have clued her into some things that happened in the story. Many of the characters felt stuck, repeating the same choices or feeling like they had no other choices. I liked characters like Martin and Cal who seemed healthy and optimistic about the future.

I struggle to describe this sort of book. I liked it in that it was well written and emotionally honest with characters I wanted to see succeed. At the same time, it’s emotionally heavy. I can’t say that I enjoyed the journey with these characters all the time. If you are looking for a happy-go-lucky sort of story, this is not what you are looking for. But if you want to read something that will hit you emotionally and make you think, give this a try. I would recommend this to older teens and young adults due to language and the emotional weight of the story.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Collared

REVIEW: Collared by David Rosenfelt

Summary


Three years ago, Dylan Hickman was kidnapped along with the family dog, Cody. The baby’s nanny named her boss’ ex-fiancé as the culprit. While he wore a mask, she said she recognized his voice and eyes. Keith was arrested. Jill Hickman grieved the loss of her adopted son, desperate for a clue to his whereabouts, but Dylan and the dog had disappeared without a trace.

When Cody the dog is left at the Tara Foundation, lawyer Andy Carpenter is drawn into the case once again. Andy had no official role the first time, but he was familiar with the case. Since Jill Hickman and Andy’s wife, Laurie, were high school friends, the Carpenters offer to look into things for Jill to see if they can find Dylan.

Andy agrees to be Keith’s lawyer in name only in order to access the details from the case as the original lawyer has passed away. Before long, though, he’s Keith’s lawyer for real as the nanny’s testimony seems to be a complete fabrication. While Andy and his team take the case back for retrial and continue their investigation, the path to the truth becomes littered with dead bodies.

Review


This was an excellent mystery! This is the third Andy Carpenter mystery I’ve read, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each one. The plotting is fantastic, the characters feel real, and the humor is delightfully dry. The sarcasm prompts me to read sections out loud to my family because I have to explain what is so funny.  I love that this is a series I can drop into anywhere and feel completely engrossed without have to read every book in order

Andy is a fascinating character. He has an interesting code of conduct from how he approaches his law practice (the fewer clients the better) to how he views money (he inherited a bunch of it but uses it to further his agenda both with his practice and with the foundation). He wrestles with a moral dilemma in this story which was another layer of how real the character feels. It made me like Andy even more than I already did.

The mystery was fantastic. Every roadblock to the case led to an interesting new wrinkle to explore. I had NO idea where things where going, and I enjoyed every twist and turn. I’ll be tracking down more of the books in this terrific series! (Language)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

I received an electronic copy of this for review purposes. Many thanks to Netgalley and Minotaur books for the opportunity to read an early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. It was a joy to read!

Princesses Inc

REVIEW: Princesses, Inc. by Mari Mancusi

Summary


Hailey, Kalani, Sarah. and Madison are Collin Prince’s biggest fans. Collin is a YouTube star who does magic and crazy videos. And Collin is going to be at Comicpalooza!

Sadly, the trip is too expensive for any of the girls to be able to go. Until they get the great idea to earn money by becoming themed babysitters. Just like people do with princess parities, the girls hire themselves out to babysit but they show up in costume. They even plan routines with magic and pirates (for kids who don’t like princesses) and buried treasure.

Soon, the girls are juggling school, sports, family and babysitting. On top of that, Hailey is trying to keep up with her fanfiction project with Sarah while also writing a story for the Comicpalooza kids’ writing contest. But it’s only for a few months, right? They can keep juggling it all for a few months. For Collin! Can’t they?

Review


This is a fairly familiar concept – teen takes on more than he/she can handle until everything crashes around him/her. But it is executed with a fun pop culture twist here that really clicked for me. I loved that Hailey is a writer. And I loved her energy and enthusiasm. The story stressed me out when everything started to unravel. But the ending was delightful and satisfying (if somewhat predictable).

The character development is pretty light except for Hailey. But the other three girls and the rest of the supporting cast are solid and enjoyable.

I’ve enjoyed the MIX line by Aladdin for years (You can find them on bookstore and library shelves because they have multicolored stripes on the spine. MIX books have stories centered on female protagonists while MAX is their latest line with stories focused on male protagonists). The stories were always popular with my students while I was teaching, and I know they would enjoy this one!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Thanks to Netgalley and Aladdin/Simon and Schuster for an electronic advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I enjoyed reading Princess Inc, and will continue to watch for MAX and MIX books from Aladdin in the future.

 

 

Wrong Side of the Paw

BOOK NEWS: July 18, 2017

This summer is zooming by! Here are some of the new books releasing this week:

Books for Kids


    

Hot Pursuit – The Joker and Lex Luthor team up against the DC Super Friends. Great for the super hero lovers in your life.
Marigold Bakes a Cake – Marigold the cat bakes cakes on Mondays, but today things get a little out of hand.
Stay: A Girl, A Dog, A Bucket List – A girl makes a bucket list for her aging dog so they can spend quality time together
Whobert Whover Owl Detective – I think this is one of the most adorable book covers I’ve seen in a long time! I can’t wait to read this picture book mystery about an owl detective who tries to find out what happened to Perry the possum.
Wow!: The Good News in Four Words – A child-friendly presentation of the Gospel. I’d love to take a look at this in person – sounds great.
You Should Meet Katherine Johnson – New early reader about one of the women at the center of the movie, Hidden Figures. Great way to introduce younger readers to this figure in American History.
The Dragonsitter – Trick or Treat? – Book 7 in the Dragonsitter series told entirely in emails. Cute series for new chapter book readers.
Next Best Junior Chef – Lights, Camera, Cook – First book in a series about tweens in a TV cooking competition.  This sounds great for budding chefs in your life or classroom. Also for fans of  books like  All Four Stars or World’s Greatest Chocolate Covered Pork Chops.
Once Upon a Twist – Rosabella and the Three Bears – Book 3 in this Ever After High series for new chapter book readers about fairy tale characters who find themselves in the wrong stories.
The Secret Rescuers – The Baby Firebird – Book 3 in this transitional chapter book series about animal rescuers

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


 

Princesses, Inc. – New book in the MIX line by Aladdin about a group of girls who open up a service of princesses and pirates to babysit neighborhood kids.  I’ll be reviewing this this week.
The Ends of the World – Book 3 in the Conspiracy of Us series. I enjoyed book 1 of this series about ancient secrets and conspiracies. I’m hoping to catch up with this series soon.
No Good Deed – A new twist on the Robin Hood tale centered on an Olympic archer who travels back in time to medieval England. This is on my list as well.
Wesley James Ruined My Life – When ex-friend Wesley James comes to town and gets a job at the same restaurant as Quinn, she will have to decide how much she wants revenge – or if she even still wants it at all. I have this one on my list – sounds great!

Books for Adults


Collared – Book 15 in my new favorite mystery series starring Andy Carpenter. This time, Andy and his team are investigating a missing child case. I will be reviewing this later this week.
Killer Party – Book 9 in the Tourist Trap Mystery series. I’ve read the first couple books in this series and I enjoyed them. The series focuses on a coffee-and-book-store owner and the murders she stumbles across.
Planting the Heavens: Releasing the Authority of the Heavens Through your Words, Prayers and Declarations – Learn to pray with authority, confidence and expectation.

Waste of Space

REVIEW: Waste of Space by Gina Damico

Summary


The premise: Ten kids on a reality TV show where they get sent into space, facing challenges until there’s one left standing. It’s supposed to be a typical reality show. They have all the character types – the orphan, the nerd, the addict, the hippie, the bad boy.

Except the TV station has no intention of actually sending anyone into space. No one has the tech to pull that off. They don’t even have the tech to make the kids still on earth float around like they are in space. So they tell everyone they have created an artificial gravity for use in space. And the lies don’t stop there.

The kids are told everything is real. They think they are truly on a space ship in orbit of Earth. The show fits reality TV mold completely and is wildly popular.  But not everyone is who they appear to be. And some of the kids start to pick up clues that maybe their mission to “space” isn’t what it appears to be either. And then, in one moment, everything changes.

Review


This is such a fun and quirky story!

The format is terrific. It’s transcripts of phone calls and video from the show and unaired footage as well as interviews and commentary from the intern who is putting all the pieces together. This allows the reader to get into everyone’s head and see the story from different perspectives – the viewers, the producer who put it all together, the kids on the show.

The characters exceed their stereotypes, which is great. Motives change. What you think is true keeps changing. The whole premise is terrific. The TV producer is sleazy, creative and cutthroat. You hate him but at the same time you can’t look away, wondering what he will throw at the kids or at his crew next.

There’s a twist in the story about 2/3 of the way through, and from there, I couldn’t put the book down. I had to know what was going on. The truth was less flashy than I imagined from the set up , but it was still a good ending. (Language, sexual innuendo, drugs/alcohol/firearms)

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

I received an electronic review copy of this book. Thanks to Netgalley and HMH Books for Young Readers for the opportunity to read an early copy of Waste of Space in exchange for an honest review.

Ten Dead Comedians

REVIEW: Ten Dead Comedians by Fred Van Lente

Summary


Eight comedians are invited to a private island to work with comedic great, Dustin Walker. Mr. Walker’s assistant, Meredith (a comedian in training) is coordinating all the details including gathering the guests at the airport and getting them to the island.

But the island caretaker is no where to be found when they arrive. The elevator at the dock is broken, so they can’t even get their belongings up to the house. There’s no cell service or internet access. The island seems to be deserted. This is not a terrific start to their weekend.

Once they all gather in the house, Mr. Walker welcomes everyone via video. He says they are all there to address “crimes against comedy.” And then the guests watch him wrap a noose around his neck and throw himself off a cliff ledge.

Mr. Walker’s death is only the first as the island’s inhabitants are slowly being killed off one at a time. Who is behind the murders? Will anyone be left standing in the end?

Review


This is a good execution of the kind of mystery seen most famously in Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None or the movie Clue. The mystery had a couple nice twists in it before it was all said and done.

There are a lot of characters in a story like this. I needed a list at first to keep track of who was who. And since someone wanted to kill all of them off, it was hard to find characters to like or cheer for. Some were less obnoxious or odious than others but there weren’t any I truly liked.

While I tend to be motivated by characters in books, it had to be the plot to move me along in this story. And the clever murder methods and the question of who would be next and who might survive were what kept me going to the satisfying conclusion. This contained more language and crass conversations than in my usual cozy mysteries. Cozy readers should keep that in mind if they decide to give this one a try. But it is a solid mystery for fans who enjoy a wide range of mystery styles.

Rating: ♥♥♥½

I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes. Thanks to Netgalley and Quirk Books for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an honest review.

Pennybaker School is Headed for Disaster

REVIEW: Pennybaker School Is Headed for Disaster by Jennifer Brown

Summary


Thomas is a new student at the Pennybaker Hill Academy for the Uniquely Gifted. Thomas’ mom thinks he’s a chemistry genius, but in reality, Thomas is a magician. But any gift counts at Pennybaker – magic, juggling chainsaws, playing the didgeridoo.

Thomas is still trying to get used to Pennybaker – the uniform, the weird class names, the quirky kids – when the unimaginable happens. The statue of Mrs. Helen Heirmauser goes missing. Mrs. Heirmauser was a much-beloved math teacher at Pennybaker. The bust is a centerpiece of the school. Students bow to it when they walk by and speak of Mrs. Heirmauser reverently. To Thomas, though, the statue is just a weird head of some lady, yelling. This attitude makes Thomas the prime suspect in the theft, and soon he’s ostracized at school. Even his parents think he stole the head. Only his weird neighbor, Chip, is willing to help Thomas find the truth.

Review


This was an odd, quirky little story that grew on me over time. Some of the writing patterns – like the different “adventures” Thomas names or his torture plans for Louis XIV felt over done at the start of the book. When they were sprinkled more sparingly in the story as it went on, they weren’t as distracting.

I felt bad for Thomas. Everyone turned on him so quickly, assuming the worst. I was especially frustrated that his parents believed the worst right from the start with little to no evidence or reason. Only Chip believed him. I enjoyed seeing Thomas and Chip become friends over the course of the book. Chip never really got any less weird, but Thomas started accepting him as he was, weirdness and all.

I think this would be a great book for readers who like unusual, odd characters and light mysteries. There were several laugh-out-loud moments in the story. I would recommend it to upper elementary students.

Rating: ♥♥♥½

I received an electronic Advanced Reader Copy of this book. Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Wrong Side of the Paw

BOOK NEWS: July 11, 2017

I’m having a hard time believing that summer vacation is almost over. A month from now we will be back in school! Thankfully, there are still plenty of carefree summer days to do lots of reading! Here are some new books coming out this week:

Books for Kids


 

Black Belt Bunny – A bunny who is a pro at martial arts has to make… a salad. This sounds so quirky, I have to read it. Might be a great story for the kids in your life who love martial arts.
Murphy’s Ticket (July 15) – A picture book story of the Cubs curse and their World Series win in 2016.
Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective in The Secret Ingredient – Two preschoolers investigate their muffins for “dodgy” ingredients. How can anyone NOT want to read this book? A preschool detective!! The book blurb uses the word “dodgy.” I have to read this book! Second book in the series.
There Is No Dragon in this Story (July 13) – I cannot wait to read this book about a dragon who can’t find a story that will take him.
Brave Batgirl – This early reader shares the backstory of one of my favorite heroes, Batgirl. For older readers, look into the Scholastic DC Backstories series. They have a Batgirl book that was well done.
Living in Egypt – An early reader about living in Egypt. Part of a series which has already covered India, Australia, China and other countries.
Disney Princess Dot-to-Dot – I’ve noticed that intricate dot-to-dot books are starting to join adult coloring books in stores.
Star Wars Dot-to-Dot

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


A Dash of Dragon – A teen chef tries to find her way with a new restaurant, a lone shark, magic creatures, and a snooty rival chef. This sounds like the perfect blend of fantasy and cooking story.
It All Comes Down to This – The new girl in a mostly -white neighborhood – and a black girl at that – Sophie just wants to do her usual thing. She wants to write and hang out with her friends. But in 1965 Los Angeles, during the Watts riots, her life is more complicated than that. This sounds like a great addition to stories for kids that look honestly at race in America.
Kid Normal (July 13) – A normal kid is mistakenly enrolled in a school for superheroes. This sounds right up my alley – sign me up!
Land of Stories Worlds Collide – The sixth and final book in the wildly popular Land of Stories series by actor Chris Colfer about a brother and sister who fall into a fairy tale world. I read the first book in this series – The Wishing Spell – ages ago, but I think I’d like to read it again and see how the whole series comes together.
Multiple Mayhem – Book 3 in the Gabby Duran series about a girl who babysits for aliens. This sounds like a cute series. Book one is Gabby Duran and the Unsittables.
Pennybaker School Is Headed for Disaster – A beloved statue goes missing from the Pennybaker School, and Thomas is everyone’s prime suspect. I’ll be reviewing this book tomorrow.
Queen Red Riding Hood’s Guide to Royalty – Tie-in material for the Land of Stories series.
The Sands of Shark Island – Book 2 in the School Ship Tobermory series by acclaimed author, Alexander McCall Smith. The stories focus on a pair of twins who go to school on the ship, Tobermory, to learn to be sailors and about life on the sea. This action/adventure mystery sounds like a great series to share with kids!
The Wild Bunch – Three boys head off on a wilderness adventure to find a local Bigfoot-like legendary creature. Part of the MAX line from Aladdin publishing. I have read (and loved) several books from the MIX line, which focuses on female characters. I have several MAX books on my TBR list right now – including this one.
You May Already Be a Winner – A girl tries to hold things together on her own – watching her little sister, writing letters to her absent father, looking for things to do in their trailer park for entertainment – but it’s a lot for one 12-year-old to manage. This is definitely on my list for this week!
Learn to Draw Star Wars – Learn to Draw books make great gifts and terrific additions to school and classroom libraries. My students couldn’t get enough of these.
Ash and Quill – Book 3 in the Great Library series about the Library of Alexandria in an alternate reality where the Library, and those who control it, wield power over books and information. I have book one, Ink and Bone, on my library wish list.
The Carnelian Crow – Book 4 in the Stoker (as in Bram Stoker, Dracula) and Holmes (Sherlock) series about Stoker’s sister and Holmes’ niece who team up to hunt vampires and solve mysteries. I’m not much of a vampire fan, but I might have to check out book one in this series, The Clockwork Scarab, to see if the story and characters click for me. This sounds like a fun team up!
I See London, I See France – Author of the middle grade Whatever After series publishes a YA novel this week about two teens traveling through Europe and negotiating exes and romance and family drama. I’m looking forward to this one, too!
The Lake Effect – Rising college freshman is spending the summer at Lake Michigan, working as a personal assistant. And nothing goes the way he expected. This is on my list for sure!
Waste of Space – A reality show where the teens are shot into space and have to survive. Sounds great, except it is all fake. I’ll be posting a review of this one later this week.
What to Say Next – Two unexpected friends join forces to try and figure out what killed Kit’s father.

Books for Adults


 

30 Second Death – Book 2 in the Tobi Tobias mystery series about a woman who starts her own advertising agency and tends to stumble across dead bodies. This time, she has to find out who killed the diva before her friend goes to jail.
Hello, Sunshine – Culinary star gets hacked and the world discovers everything is a lie. Now she has to retreat and reconstruct her life.
Ten Dead Comedians – Like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a group of comedians gathers on a remote island where one by one they start to die. I’ll be reviewing this one later this week.
The Writing Desk – Two women, decades apart, share a writing desk and the stories of their lives. I requested this from the library a month ago! I can’t wait to read it.
The Darkening Web – Looks at the power and dangers of cyberspace.
I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere but the Pool – Another collection of funny and true stories from this mother and daughter team. I have yet to read any of their books, but I would like to check this one out.
Reading with Patrick – The author shares her story of working with Patrick – first as a mentor and teacher to the teenager and then a few years later as he sits in a cell awaiting trial for murder. Sounds like a powerful memoir.
Remarkable Faith – Tells the story of the people with remarkable faith that claimed Jesus’ notice. Sounds like this could be a good book for group study.
Star Trek: The Klingon Empire – A travel guide to the Klingon Empire
The Strength Switch – Advocates for a parenting model based on drawing out the strengths of your children. Sounds great. Might work in a classroom setting as well as for parents.

 

So, what’s going on your TBR this week?

Dividing Eden

REVIEW: Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

Summary


The kingdom of Eden is in the middle of a war. The king and crown prince are checking on the fighting before the prince’s wedding to the kingdom’s seer. The winter season will be starting soon which means the savage Xhelozi will be hunting the borders. It’s vital that Eden stay strong and keep the windmills collecting power for the kingdom.

But that strength is in danger when the king and crown prince are killed under mysterious circumstances. In the power vacuum, the Council of Elders starts maneuvering for power. Caught in the middle are the king and queen’s twins, Andreus and Carys. They have protected eachother’s secrets – and very lives – since they were born.  But now only one of them can rule. And only by winning a contest against the other.

Secrets and lies abound as the twins and other forces battle for control of Eden.

Review


Wow! This was great! This is a hard book to summarize. So many things are going on right from the outset. And the reader knows early on that most of the characters are hiding things and scheming for their own goals.

The twins at the center of the story are fascinating. On the surface, they are completely committed to one another. Carys sacrifices often to protect her brother’s big secret. And Andreus has her back when it comes to Carys’ secret too. But with the kingdom at stake and other voices whispering in their ears, their bond starts to fracture.

The scheming in this book is tremendous. Even at the end, I am not sure who is completely trustworthy. Secrets have secrets, and I’m confident I still only know maybe 40% of what’s truly going on. I was amazed to realize that while I was totally engrossed from start to finish, I had so many questions! That takes masterful plotting. Charbonneau has done a great job of crafting a page-turning story while still maintaining lots of mystery for the future.

I am looking forward to book 2!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Every Body on Deck

REVIEW: Every Body on Deck by G. A. McKevett

Summary


Savannah, Dirk and the Moonlight Magnolia Detective Agency are hired by a famous mystery author. Natasha Van Cleef has been receiving threatening notes. She’s about to do a promotional cruise to Alaska. She wants Savannah and her team to protect her and her entourage on the cruise. The whole team is thrilled to enjoy an Alaskan cruise. Savannah’s Granny and Dirk’s parents even join them for the experience.

Once on the ship, though, Natasha is resistant to Savannah’s presence. She refuses to keep protection around her at dinner and pushes the team to leave her alone for most of the next day so she can enjoy being with her husband and a long massage.

But when Savannah and Dirk arrive to find Natasha and her husband missing and another threatening note, it seems the author needed Midnight Magnolia Detective Agency’s protection more than she thought.

Review


This is the 22nd book in this series that I have enjoyed for ages. They can be enjoyed out of order – the mysteries easily stand alone. But part of the fun of the series for me is the team, and they have grown and changed over the years. It is fun to experience that evolution in series order.

Savannah and Dirk are great characters – smart and good at their jobs. They make an interesting couple. There’s plenty of banter as she’s a Southern belle and he’s a little more rough around the edges. I love Savannah’s family (at least the ones in this book) and the larger role her granny and brother have had in recent books.

The mystery was good. I didn’t get a great feel for the author and her entourage as they weren’t around much in the story. I didn’t have a strong feeling for them – either worry over what happened or a good sense of the suspects. But I enjoyed the twisty investigation and the overall solution in the end.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥