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.

 

 

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.

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: ♥♥♥♥

Brightest Stars of Summer

REVIEW: The Brightest Stars of Summer by Leila Howland

Summary


Book 2 in the Silver Sisters series finds Marigold, Zinnie and Lilly headed back to Massachusetts to visit their great-aunt, Sunny, and help her get ready for her wedding.

A lot has happened in the last year since they summered with Aunt Sunny. Marigold had a part in a huge movie, but it got cut out. She found seventh grade to be harder than she expected. There are cliques to negotiate and her “stardom” doesn’t seem to make her as popular as she expected.

Zinnie has embraced her passion for writing. She had planned to go to a writer’s camp for the summer before the trip to Massachusetts came up. Without the camp, she is on her own to come up with an amazing story that will get her one of 8 precious spots in a writing group at school. She hopes her time in Massachusetts will inspire a great story.

As each of the older sisters wrestles with her identity, with crushes, and with the relationship with the other, the Silver Sisters are in for a summer of growing and changing.

Review


I liked this one ever more than I liked book 1, The Forget-Me-Not Summer. The girls are older and are digging deeper into their identity – a theme I love in books for kids. Marigold decides to be the opposite of who she really is, and in the process learns new things about herself.

Zinnie wrestles with who she is as a writer. Her natural style doesn’t seem to fit the kind of writing done by the writing group. So she also tries to be something she is not. She learns things about herself as a writer along the way.

The girls hit some really rough moments in their relationship as sisters. In the end, their healing and reconciliation comes in part when they accept themselves for who they are and use their gifts to make things right.

Terrific story! Great series! Book 3, The Silver Moon of Summer released in June.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Bookishly Ever After

REVIEW: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Summary


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.

Review


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: ♥♥♥♥