Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker

REVIEW: Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes

Summary


Beatrice Zinker is an unusual child. She prefers to live life upside down. Hanging from trees or bunk beds, tipping over to see how things look from another perspective. Beatrice is happy to be unusual, even if it makes her sister say “Oh no” and her mom say “Now what?” with some regularity.

Beatrice becomes pretty well known for her unique approach to life. Her second grade teacher even gives her an award at the end of the year for being the “Best Upside Down Thinker.” And this gives Beatrice a great idea for a secret mission for 3rd grade with her best friend, Lenny.

But on the first day of third grade, nothing goes the way Beatrice planned. Lenny doesn’t wear her ninja outfit, and she has a new friend from her neighborhood. Chloe wants to play veterinarian, and Lenny wants to do that rather than help Beatrice. What’s going to happen to the secret mission now?

Review


This is a cute transitional chapter book for kids learning to read longer-than-picture-book stories. Beatrice is a sweet character (the illustrations for this book are absolutely darling), earnest, and completely committed to seeing the world in her own unique way.

Stories like this often have main characters feeling left out, afraid of losing a friend, wondering if she should change to keep her friend. While Beatrice does feel left out and tries some things to keep connected to both Lenny and Chloe, she never questions who she is. Which is awesome! Beatrice is determined to be true to herself AND keep her friend. There’s a great lesson there.

This will make for a good early elementary series. Beatrice’s teacher has her hands full but will hopefully come to appreciate Beatrice like her second grade teacher did. The secret mission is great, and I’m eager to see how that develops in future books.

Thanks to Disney-Hyperion and Netgalley for an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥½

 

 

Princess Juniper of Torr

REVIEW: Princess Juniper of Torr by Ammi-Joan Paquette

Summary


Princess Juniper has enjoyed quite an adventure. She requested a small country to practice ruling, and her father gave her Queen’s Basin. Her band of kid-citizens has created a cooperative community there, and Juniper has learned a lot about leadership. She even made contact with her mother’s people, the Anju.

But it’s time to leave Queen’s Basin and return to Torr. The Monsians have invaded, and Juniper’s father, King Regis has been captured. So Juniper and her friends have a plan to return to Torr and set things right. Can a group of kids have any hope of saving a kingdom? Did Cyril leave to warn his father, the one who let the Monsians into Torr? Or could he still be on Juniper’s side? Will the Anju help Juniper save the day? Or is she be completely on her own to rescue her father and save her people from war?

Review


Great conclusion to the Princess Juniper trilogy! Juniper has grown up a lot in the weeks that she has been on her own. She’s built confidence in herself and in her team.

There are some nice twists still to come in this story as people vie for power in Torr. Things move faster than Juniper expects and not everyone is who she thought they were. And that increases the tension and pacing of the story nicely.

Everything’s wrapped up neatly for fans of the series with this book. A satisfying conclusion for Juniper and the people of both Queen’s Basin and Torr.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Doom with a View

REVIEW: Doom with a View by Kate Kingsbury

Summary


Melanie West and her grandmother, Liza Harris, have finally opened their bed and breakfast after some trouble with a skeleton and a fire. Now they have their first set of guests, the elderly members of a book club who live near Portland.

This kick off week is going to be great! They have a new assistant, Cindi, to help with serving breakfast and cleaning the rooms while Melanie and Liza do the cooking. Cindi even gets her boyfriend to be a magician for their Halloween party. It’s going to be a great event.

But when one of their guests falls through sabotaged railings on the balcony, the local lead detective arrives at the Merry Ghost Inn with his usual gruff demeanor (Liza calls him “Grumpy”). He warns Melanie and Liza to stay out of his case. But they need their B&B to succeed. That means solving the mystery and getting their home and business back to normal. And they have their resident ghost, Orville, to help them again.

Review


This is the first Merry Ghost Inn book – book 2 in the series – I have read. It was easy to get into the story even without having read book one. Most of the action centered around their current guests, which will change with each book. The locals who are likely series regulars are well-defined in the story, even for a second book, so I was able to dig into the story right away. I like this because it means anyone can pick up the series and feel at home even if they didn’t get to the books in order.

The mystery was good. From the start there were several suspects but few clues to start eliminating anyone. I was eventually able to figure out the solution before the end, which is always satisfying.

I liked the main characters, but I didn’t click with them. They are completely likable; I have no complaints. I just didn’t feel drawn into their lives. Maybe that is the draw back of reading book 2 before the first one. Maybe I would have felt more connected by being introduced to the characters in the introduction to the series.

There are some interesting story lines that are laid out and go beyond this particular book, arching through the entire series. But I’m not sure I was hooked enough into the characters to come back to see how those threads work out. I have read paranormal stories before, but the ghost hook here didn’t grab my attention. I wasn’t turned off by it, or by the “seance” in the story, but those pieces didn’t distinguish this story for me from others in the genre. Again, I wonder if this is a drawback of starting with book two. The characters and the ghostly pieces might work better for readers who start from the beginning of the series.

Thanks to Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to read an electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥

Exact Location of Home

REVIEW: The Exact Location from Home by Kate Messner

Summary


Kirby Zigonski – Zig – has been looking forward to this weekend for ages. His dad’s coming to town for a visit. Zig hasn’t seen him in over a year as their previous plans had been cancelled for work. But this time it’s going to happen!

Until it doesn’t.

Zig can’t get him by cell or by email, and there are no messages telling him why his dad’s not there. And Zig is only focused on what this means to him. He doesn’t realize the implications of his dad’s absence on his home life. Not until he reads about the rent deadline and sees his mom’s checkbook. No dad means no child support deposit. There hasn’t been one for a few months. They’re about to be evicted from their apartment.

But Zig has figured out how to find his dad. Zig Sr. was into geocaching, and Zig found a GPS system at a garage sale. When he investigates local caching sites he discovers a cacher named Senior Searcher. The timing of his finds lines up with his dad’s travels so he’s certain this is his dad. Zig doesn’t know why his mom is so resistant to him seeing his dad or knowing why he hasn’t come by. But he’s determined to just find his dad on his own.

Review


This was excellent, just like I’d expect from Kate Messner! Zig is a terrific character. He brought up so many emotions for me – empathy, compassion and fear. The reader gets hints about what is going on in Zig’s life before Zig sees them. I wanted to protect him from what is coming. But he’s fantastically resilient.

The geocaching was a fun piece of the story (you can also find it in the second Candymakers book). It was a cool connecting link for several of the plot points. The author also does a great job of showing different reactions and assumptions about homelessness without being heavy handed or shaming the ignorant and uninformed. And those reactions come from students and adults. (The school librarian, who may not even have a word of dialogue in the book, is probably my favorite character when it comes to Zig and his situation.) This would be a great read aloud for classroom use or a book group; the discussion would be fantastic. I’d love to see how students respond to different things in the story. The homelessness piece reminded me of the book Crenshaw. These could be paired up nicely.

There’s a great shout out to the picture book Library Lion in this book that has stuck with me for days after finishing this. If you haven’t read it, you should track it down right away! It’s a fun story, and it communicates some great messages in THIS story.

This is absolutely lovely and touching! Many thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury USA for the opportunity to read an electronic review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Duels & Deception

REVIEW: Duels & Deception by Cindy Anstey

Summary


Miss Lydia Whitfield of Roseberry Hall inherited her family estate upon the death of her father. As she was a minor at the time, her uncle and his family moved to Roseberry to supervise the estate and help Lydia, her mother and her sister. Uncle Arthur fancies himself the master of the estate despite Lydia’s capabilities, and as such he tries to make  ridiculous changes, forcing Lydia to call in her attorney. The attorney sends his apprentice, Robert Newton.

Robert is able to help Lydia deal with her uncle and protect the estate from his rogue ideas. He also helps her begin to outline a marriage agreement with Lord Aldershot, the man Lydia’s father had informally selected for her to marry. But before they can solidify the agreement, Lydia is kidnapped. While Robert is able to rescue her and they fabricate a story to salvage her reputation, the kidnappers escape and Lydia is still in danger. Working with Robert, Lydia might have a chance at saving her future. But what will she do about Lord Aldershot when her heart seems to be set on Robert?

Review


I loved this! I rarely read historical fiction. The rules for women in this time period are frustrating to the point of distraction for me. But in this case, Lydia is fortunate to have circumstances and people around her who let her voice carry weight. She doesn’t have to hide her intelligence and wisdom for anyone, even when she knows it will cause trouble.

The characters were terrific. I would happily spend more time with them if there is ever a sequel to this book. Lydia is a strong, bright young woman. Her resourcefulness is outstanding. Loved her character! The mystery was well plotted and kept me turning pages to see what would happen next. I was able to guess the culprit, and I was delighted with how everything wrapped up in the end.

Even though historical fiction isn’t my first choice, I enjoyed this so much I want to check out the author’s previous book, Love, Lies and Spies. This is definitely an author I will keep an eye on in the future! In fact, I just found out that she will have a new book out in the spring of 2018, Suitors and Sabotage! It is already on my 2018 wish list!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Crime of Passion Fruit

REVIEW: A Crime of Passion Fruit by Ellie Alexander

Summary


The cruise ship Amour of the Seas is in desperate need of a temporary pastry chef to get them through until their new hire can arrive. Carlos, back on the ship after his time in Ashland, asks Juliet to step in. The cruise offers her double pay, and Carlos arranges for her mom and the Professor to join the cruise for free. Four glorious days at sea. What could go wrong?

Being back on the ship helps Juliet gain new insights into her marriage, her cooking and her dreams for the future. It also puts her in place to discover a dead body. Even through she’s been away for awhile, Juliet’s knowledge of the ship and crew could help the captain and the Professor figure out who the dead woman is and what happened to her. While Juliet is hunting for a murderer and trying to survive a storm at sea, her friends in Ashland are trying to keep things going at Torte in the midst of a quarrelsome neighbor, a shake up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival leadership, and major renovations at Torte. There’s never a dull moment in the latest addition to the Bakeshop mystery series.

Review


I really enjoyed this new addition to one of my favorite cozy series. While I missed the usual Torte crew, I liked the change of setting for this book. It added to the ongoing story line of Juliet and Carlos while also shaking up the food, the characters, and the location of the action. And it was all great.

I thoroughly enjoy the core characters of this series. There’s great camaraderie at Torte. And a great balance between the ongoing relationships in Ashland and the new details in each book for the mystery at hand. Good mystery in this one. With an unknown victim (“Jane Dough”), the motive and suspect portions didn’t evolve until later in the book once we knew more about the victim.

Personally, I am “Team Tommy,” and ready for Juliet and Carlos to sort out their relationship. I am looking forward to Another One Bites the Crust (winter 2017/2018) to see what happens next with the Ashland crew and see if the author will finally resolve the Carlos situation.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Van Gogh Deception

REVIEW: The Van Gogh Deception by Deron R. Hicks

Summary


A twelve-year-old boy is found in the National Gallery. No one knows who he is or where he came from. The boy remembers nothing – not his name and nothing about how he got there.

The boy is placed in a temporary foster home. He goes by the name Art because the name “Arthur” is in his coat. He knows a crazy amount of information about famous artists and their paintings, so the family goes back to the Gallery to see if anything trigger’s Art’s memory.

But they have no idea that someone is watching them, determined to find Art before he gets his memory back and foils their plans.

When they make their move on Art, they get his foster sister, Camille, too. Soon the kids are on the run with no idea who to trust or why they are being pursued.

Review


This was awesome! I loved everything. The energy and adventure worked for me. I thought the kids’ responses were realistic (although they seemed a little older than their stated ages) for the story. I loved the QR codes embedded in the story so the reader could SEE the art they were discussing in the story. Such a clever idea!

Art and Camille are a lot of fun. Art is bright and curious and determined. Camille is fiercely loyal. They make a great team, and I’d love to see them take on another mystery together.

I feel like I learned things about the art world while having a great time with a terrific story. This reminded me of FRAMED by James Ponti with the art tie-in, but this has it’s own features to love. I’d definitely give this to FRAMED fans, mystery lovers, and art lovers. This would be a perfect addition to home, school and classroom libraries – and even art classrooms. This is a book I will be telling folks about for the rest of this year!

Thanks to Netgalley and HMH Books for providing an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Windfall

REVIEW: Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Summary


Alice buys a lottery ticket for her best friend, Teddy, for his 18th birthday. And it’s a winner. Over 140 million dollars!

Suddenly everything changes. Teddy’s spending money left and right. He’s on talk shows. Kids at school are hanging all over him – or jeering jealously behind his back.

And when Teddy tries to give half to Alice since she bought the ticket and picked the numbers, she turns him down, leading to their biggest fight in 9 years of friendship.

Alice’s life is upside down. Her best friend is living the high life, and she’s afraid he is headed for a big fall. Her aunt and uncle are encouraging her to consider other colleges when they know it is her dream to go to Stanford. And her cousin has broken up with his boyfriend even though they are obviously in love. A cute guy is asking her out but she can’t get past the feelings she has for Teddy. Through it all, she wonders if the choices she’s making for her life are really hers, or if she’s trying to do what she thinks her parents would have wanted.

Review


While this is a lottery story, it is so much more. It’s about friends and family, money and charity, and the past and the future. All three of the main characters – Alice, Teddy and Leo – are driven by their past or fear of the future. Teddy goes overboard with the money because of how hard things were after his dad lost all the family’s money and ran off. Alice is trying to recapture a sense of home from before her parents died. And Leo is afraid of losing Max when they are both in college, maybe in different places. He’s seen Teddy and Alice face such hardships in life, and he’s afraid he is due for a personal disaster.

The money situation from the lottery win shines a light on the choices the teens are making. It also raises great questions about what to do with such a windfall. What’s fun and what’s practical? What’s responsible? How do you know whose motives to trust?

I liked that there were bigger issues addressed outside of the money. I liked the main characters and their families. The final money solution was great. It seemed reasonable for the situation. I’m not 100% sold on the romantic outcome. I liked Alice’s other option better. Overall this was a good story.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Assaulted Caramel

REVIEW: Assaulted Caramel by Amanda Flower

Summary


Bailey King puts her life as a chocolatier in New York aside to travel to Harvest, Ohio. Bailey’s Amish grandfather is sick. Even though she is up for a huge promotion at work, family comes first.

When she gets to Ohio, Bailey discovers that a developer, Tyson Colton, is trying to buy out her grandparents’ candy shop, Swissmen Sweets. After an argument with Bailey’s grandfather, Colton is found dead in the kitchen of Swissmen Sweets. As her grandfather’s health makes him too weak to be a viable suspect, Bailey becomes the sheriff’s top choice.

In order to stay out of jail, protect her family, and get back to New York to save her job, Bailey’s going to have to figure out who really killed Tyson Colton. There’s no shortage of suspects, from the other Amish store owners Colton tried to buy out to his own son. Bailey has her work cut out for her!

Review


I loved this! It was a great cozy with interesting characters and some fun humor. Great all the way around.

The Amish pieces were a nice contrast to Bailey’s usual world in New York as well as the world of most readers. There was a great balance with Bailey as she understood the community because of her family, but at the same time she was outside it. I think Bailey’s struggle with issues of faith when faced with the faith of her grandparents and the Amish community could be a fascinating aspect of future books.

I really enjoyed the mystery. In general, I find mysteries stressful when the protagonist is the main suspect. But I liked the other pieces of this – the characters, the setting, the candy, the potential romance – so much that it balanced the tension well.

My only complaint is that I have a couple questions I don’t feel were answers in the solution to the mystery. I’ve gone back and re-read sections to be sure I didn’t just skim too quickly over something, but I still didn’t find complete satisfaction with the solution on the murder. Maybe this is because I read an unedited review copy. Perhaps this last 5% of the solution will be resolved when I read this in a final copy – which I will. I’m looking forward to spending more time with Bailey and her family and friends. I already have book two, Lethal Licorice, in my shopping cart to pre-order before its February 2018 debut.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Kensington for providing an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review. I honestly adored this book!

Rating: ♥♥♥♥½

Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw

REVIEW: Guardians of the Gryphon’s Claw by Todd Calgi Gallicano

Summary


After two weeks of dreaming about the desert, Sam London is over it! It’s the same thing over and over. Each time he gets a little farther into it, but he always wakes up before he can figure out what’s going on. Until now. This last time he had the dream, he found himself face to face with a gryphon – a mythological creature that’s a cross between an eagle and a lion.

If that wasn’t weird enough, then Sam sees the same desert location on the news that he has been seeing in his dream! He knows it’s crazy for a 12-year-old to run off across the state by himself, but he HAS to know if the gryphon is really out in Death Valley like he saw in his dream.

Sam’s dream encounter is only the beginning of his journey with mythical creatures. His whole world is in danger as forces converge to destroy the curse that hides mythical creatures from humans. And Sam is smack dab in the middle of everything.

Review


This was a fun adventure story chock full of mythical creatures – gryphons, harpies, yeti, etc. Plenty I hadn’t heard of before. This reminded me of The Menagerie (Tui T. Sutherland) or the Percy Jackson series  (Rick Riordan), or the Imaginary Veterinary series (Suzanne Selfors). If you know a reader who enjoyed those books, have them check out this series!

The author does a great job of planting clues  and questions and then moving the reader along in the story, still wondering about those things. Some were addressed by the end of the book. Others were not. I was prepared for this to be a series for which I would read book one and then just tell folks about the rest. I was content with just know the beginning of this story. But the open questions guarantee that I will have to keep up with this series until everything is spelled out!

I loved the main character, Sam. While he feels like he is ordinary and not at all special, his care for others and determination make you root for him from start to finish. You know he is something special.

Thanks to Netgalley and Delacorte for providing an electronic review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥