Reviews, Etc.

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

 

 

One Dark Throne

BOOK NEWS: September 19, 2017

Happy Blogiversary to me!

One year ago this week, I kicked off The Neverending TBR, and I’ve had so much fun tracking new releases and reviewing amazing books. I hope you have found some great treasures as you spent time here in the last year.

On to the new releases for this week!

Books for Kids


Her Right Foot – This ingenious nonfiction book looks at the Statue of Liberty from the perspective of her foot, sculpted in motion. I can’t wait to read this one!
It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk – The Jack in this story has NO interest in following the narrator’s instructions to sell his cow and climb a beanstalk! This time Jack is taking his story into his own hands. This reminds me of one of my favorite fractured fairy tales, Don’t Read this Book! I can’t wait to check this one out!
Read! Read! Read! – Twenty-three poems about reading!
JoJo and Daddy Bake a Cake – Fancy Nancy’s little sister gets her own Early Readers, including this story about baking with her dad.
Beatrice Zinker Upside Down Thinker – This early chapter book stars Beatrice Zinker, a girl who has a unique perspective on the world – she prefers to look at it upside down. This makes her a very creative thinker. I’ll be reviewing this book tomorrow!
Jada Jones Rock Star AND Jada Jones Class Act – New transitional chapter book series. Book one focuses on Jada’s love of science and rocks and minerals, as well as some social issues at school. Book two focuses on her desire to be class representative and her fear of public speaking. This looks like a darling series!
Lark and the Diamond Caper – Book 2 in this series starring junior detectives searching for a missing pair of diamond earrings. I love mysteries for any age reader!

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Falcon Wild – A girl who longs to be a certified falconer has to use all of her knowledge and skill to survive an accident and get help for her injured and trapped family.
No Place Like Home – A girl who has lived most of her life on the move with her dad for his job gets the chance to settle in for a little while, go to public school, and make some friends. Figuring they will be moving on soon, though, she decides to take some risks instead of playing everything safe. I love the whole line of MIX books from Aladdin, and this book sounds like my style of story.
Quests for Glory – Book 4 in the School for Good and Evil series. The students embark on their required fourth year quests where some are trying to return Camelot to its former glory and others find themselves in over their heads. Fans of this series will love to hear that there’s a fourth book to devour!
Renegades – Book 3 in the Randoms series. Poor Zeke seems to be in more trouble than ever. Whatever he does to save the galaxy (and get the girl) only seems to get him in more trouble. And this time, he doesn’t have any of his usual allies to help him. Our whole family has enjoyed the first two books in this series, and we will most definitely be reading book 3!
Saving Marty – A boy adopts a runty pig as his pet. The pig thinks he’s a dog, and acts accordingly, but when he reaches 350 lbs, it’s hard to pretend he’s a normal pet. This is described as “heart-wrenching” which makes me nervous about the pig’s future, but I HAVE to know what happens in this story.
The Way to Bea – A girl facing monumental changes writes haiku in invisible ink in a secret spot. Then someone writes back. I have wanted to read this since I first saw the cover. This is exactly the sort of book that I love!
Trolled – Book 3 in the Enchanted Files. Ned the Troll knows he is supposed to despise humans. But Ned just can’t do that; his heart is full of LOVE. This sounds fantastic! I will be putting the first two books on my library list asap so I can check out this fun fantasy series.
Rainy Day Unicorn Fun – A puzzle book from the Phoebe and her Unicorn folks. I ADORE the graphic novel books in this series – in fact the next one releases in October. I’m looking forward to checking out this activity book. It might be just what I need to keep in the car or in my purse for when I am waiting for an appointment, and I don’t want to bring along a book.
Jane Unlimited – A grieving teen accepts an invitation to the mysterious island Tu Reviens where she will have the chance to make different choices for her life. This author wrote the wildly popular Graceling (which of course is on my TBR shelves), so this is getting a lot of buzz.
Moxie: A Novel – A high schooler, fed up with the double standard, starts a feminist zine that becomes more popular than she could have ever imagined. This is probably at the top of my wish list for the week. This sounds like a terrific, girl-power sort of story, and I love to read those.
Murder, Magic and What We Wore – A young woman discovers her father is dead and his money is missing so she becomes a spy and learns that she has a magical affinity for sewing glamours. This is a hard story to summarize. Come back on Thursday when I will be reviewing this one and you can find out a little more. It’s terrific!
One Dark Throne – EEEEK! Okay, I was wrong – THIS will be top of my list for the week (Moxie is a close second). I absolutely loved Three Dark Crowns last fall – you can read my review here. After a long wait, the sequel is arriving this week. By the time I get it from the library, I hope to have re-read book one so I am fresh and ready to enjoy book 2.
The Victoria in My Head – A girl daydreams of being a rock star, but her very real life and insecurities make that dream almost impossible. I love this idea of throwing caution to the wind and just running after your dream. I do not have that sort of personality, so I am happy to enjoy it vicariously through books.

Books for Adults


13 Things Mentally Strong Parents Don’t Do – Morin takes her original premise from 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do and applies it this time to parenting. I have her first book, and would love to read this one as well!
Bean to Bar Chocolate – I have no idea what the “American craft chocolate revolution” is, but I don’t even care. This is about chocolate. I’d love to read it. Includes recipes.
Becoming MomStrong: How to Fight with All That’s In You for Your Family and Your Faith – Helping moms grow strong in their faith and their identity in Christ so they can pass that strength onto their children. If I wasn’t so overloaded on Bible Studies and self-improvement books right now, I would have this on my list immediately. I love the whole idea of this – especially the Bible Study piece. This is one I may revisit in another season of life.
Becoming MomStrong Bible Study – Six week Bible study based on the book. There’s also a matching journal so you can keep your notes and thoughts together as you go through the material.
Grown-Up’s Guide to Teenage Humans: How to Decode their Behavior, Develop Unshakable Trust, and Raise a Respectable Adult – Parenting a teen is hard work. I am always in the market for a book that will give me new insights and strategies to make these the best years as a family. This isn’t just for parents, either. This works for any adult committed to a strong relationship with a teen – youth workers, mentors, teachers, pastors.
Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything – If you find personality differences and types and strengths and such fascinating – and I DO! – you’ll want to check this one out.
Sally’s Cookie Addiction – I’m not much for cooking. It seems like standing in the kitchen forever for something my family will finish in less than 20 minutes. I could use that time to read! But I generally enjoy baking. So a book like this – with lots of baking suggestions – would be a lot of fun for me. Cookies are great treats – small, easy to share, and they make great gifts for teachers, friends, pitch-ins, etc.
Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years – Former speechwriter for President Obama shares stories of his time in the White House.

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: ♥♥♥♥

Exact Location of Home

BOOK NEWS: September 12, 2017

It’s Patriot Day in the United States today. If you are looking for books for kids/teens that talk about the events of September 11, 2001, I can recommend America Is Under Attack; Nine, Ten; and All We Have Left. You can also find more suggestions here.

There are lots of great books releasing this week. Let’s take a look:

Books for Kids


  

The Nutcracker: A BabyLit Dance Primer – I love that classic books and other works are being turned into board books for the youngest readers. This one comes out just in time for the holiday season.
Book of Gold – A boy looks for a special book that turns to gold and contains the answers to every question. I’m curious about this one.
Fly Guy’s Big Family – Book 17 in the Fly Guy series. I loved having these in the library at school because they were great stories that students enjoyed that were written at a fairly simple reading level.
His Royal Highness King Baby: A Terrible True Story – This sibling rivalry tale takes a royal spin when the main character, who considers herself the princess in the family, loses her prime role to a new baby.
Imagine That: How Dr. Seuss Wrote the Cat in the Hat – A picture book biography of Dr. Seuss that specifically looks at the journey to publication for The Cat in the Hat. Two fabulous authors/illustrators put this one together; I think it will be excellent.
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library – A picture book biography about Arturo Schomburg, a man with a passion for African-American history whose personal book collection was the cornerstone of what has become the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. How cool! I can’t wait to read this one!
The Disastrous Magical Wishes of Classroom 13 – Book 2 in the Classroom 13 series. An unlucky teacher finds a genie in a lamp, and the genie offers each student one wish. What could go wrong with that?
The Great Troll Quest – Book 5 in the Ella and Owen series about twin dragons. These early chapter books are darling!
Hero Dog! – A new series from Branches based on a true story. These are written by a young girl who is a reporter in real life and the books are based on stories she wrote as a reporter. I am so excited about this new series!
Judy Moody Tooth Fairy – I am a huge Judy Moody fan. I love these full color short chapter books for young readers who aren’t yet ready for Judy and her brother Stink’s full books – or who just want shorter adventures with their favorite characters.
Just Dance – A girl takes over a newspaper column for the summer where she is supposed to report about anything exciting going on in town. This sounds like a sweet story.
Roar of the Thunder Dragon – Book 8 in the Dragon Masters series from Branches. Branches books are my favorite things to recommend for young readers branching out into short chapter books.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


Abby in Wonderland – Book 9 in the Whatever After series about Abby and her brother who have a habit of falling into fairy tales and changing the story. This is a cute series!
Caleb and Kit – A boy with cystic fibrosis meets a mysterious girl who changes his life but it’s not clear if she is changing it for the better or for the worse. This sounds terrific.
The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole – A girl’s friendship with a lonely black hole helps her see her own loneliness. This is a unique premise, but the heart of the story sounds right up my alley. This is on my list.
Deadzone – Horizon, book 2. This particular book is by the spectacular Jennifer Nielsen. This series is about a group of kids who crash in what should be the arctic, but instead they find themselves in a secret jungle. This is the sort of series that has an overarching story arc, but each book is written by a different author. These have been super popular. The 39 Clues, Infinity Ring, The Voyagers series,  work like this. Very fun.
The Dragon of Fortune – First there was Geronimo Stilton, a mouse reporter. Then there were themed books like Journey Through Time and Cavemice . Then there was the Kingdom of Fantasy series. This is the second “Special Edition” in that series. My students couldn’t get enough of these books when I was teaching.
The Exact Location of Home – The latest from Kate Messner is a treat! I am reviewing this one tomorrow.
The Explorer – A group of kids must survive in the Amazon after their plane crashes. Books like this tend to stress me out, but my students always loved them. If you have kids who love survival/adventure novels, check this one out.
The Great Hibernation – All of the adults in a community fall into a deep sleep, and the kids are left to fend for themselves. This book was initially on my list because I love the author, Tara Dairman’s All Four Stars series. But the premise of this one is too good to pass up. This is high on my list for this week.
The Great Shelby Holmes Meets Her Match – Book 2 in the Great Shelby Holmes series. I discovered I not only had a copy of book one on my TBR shelves, but I actually had two! I really, really wanted to read that book. I have popped this one up to the top of my pile. I’m really eager to check it out. I love middle grade mysteries.
In the Deep Blue Sea – Book 2 in the Jack and the Geniuses series about three foster kids who work with a scientist. Two of the kids are brilliantly smart. Jack is more street smart than book smart, and this time he is trying to solve a mysterious sabotage at an electricity plant that harvests energy from the ocean. I loved book one! Great for kids who love science!
The Journey Home – Book 2 in the Wilder Boys series. I wrote about book one last month. After traveling across the country to find their father, now the boys are trying to get home. This sounds like a terrific adventure series. It’s a reprint of a previously released book, now under the MAX line. I’d love to read both of these books.
Swing It Sunny – Sequel to Sunny Side Up. In this graphic novel, Sunny is back home after a summer with her grandfather in Florida, but nothing back at home is what she expected. I really enjoyed book one. Looking forward to this one.
Z on Location – From the folks at American Girl comes book 2 in the Z Yang series about an aspiring film maker. I missed book one, but this looks really cute. I know so many kids who want to do their own videos and films. A timely series.
Where is Easter Island?
Where is the Mississippi River?
The Final Spark – The 7th and final book in the Michael Vey series about a kid with electrical powers. I have book 1 on my TBR shelves. I need to get caught up on this one.
Lone Stars – A football coach who used to play for the Dallas Cowboys starts to show the side effects of numerous concussions, and his prize player wants to help him. I tear up just reading the description. I will definitely be reading this.
Slider – A kid decides to compete in a pizza-eating competition to win money to pay off what he put on his mom’s credit card. There are extra nuances to this story with an autistic younger brother and some friend issues. This is an older-middle grade/teen story that sounds great.
Warcross – Warcross is a video game that has become a way of life. A teen hacker works as a bounty hunter to find those who illegally bet on the game. She’s so good at what she does, she is invited to be a spy in this year’s international championships. Of course there is more going on in the game than anyone expects. This book has been at the top of my September wish list since I first heard about it. I have several Marie Lu books on my TBR shelves, but this one will likely get read before I even tackle any of her previous series. I have already requested this from the library.

Books for Adults


Asking for Truffle – First in the Southern Chocolate Shop Mystery series! Chocolate is definitely a “must buy” trigger for me. This book is on my wish list.
Body on Baker Street – Book 2 in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries. I have book one on my wish list – anything with a book store is automatically going to be on my reading list!
Cat Got Your Secrets – Book 3 in the Kitty Couture Mystery series about a pet boutique. I would love to try one of these soon.
Death at the Seaside – Book 8 an the Kate Shackleton mystery series. The covers of these books always catch my eye! I haven’t read any of the books, but I would love to try one out. These take place in 1920s England. If you are fan of English mysteries or historical mysteries, check this series out!
Doom with a View – Book 2 in the Merry Ghost Inn series about a woman and her grandmother who open a bed and breakfast with a ghost. I will be reviewing this book later this week.
Who Is the Black Panther? – A new novel based on the comic series from 2005. I prefer novels to comics (although, I do love comics), so I am looking forward to reading this one. Marvel is producing more of these (Planet Hulk will come out in October). I don’t know if the stories will line up with the new movies this fall/winter or if they are just capitalizing on popular characters due to the movies.
Anxious for Nothing – This is the cornerstone piece of Max Lucado’s latest batch of products, this time addressing anxiety, focusing specifically on Philippians 4:6-7. I love Lucado’s work, but on this particular topic, I am hesitant. I don’t know if this is looking at a more generalized anxiety that everyone experiences from time to time or if it is meant to address a clinical level of anxiety. I’d like to see this one in person.
Back and Forth: Using an Editor’s Mindset to Improve Student Writing – For writing teachers.
Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone – The latest by Brené Brown, author of Daring Greatly and Rising Strong, focuses on what it means to truly belong in our current culture. This is an author I buy automatically. I have pre-ordered this one, and I’m looking forward to digging into it.
Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done – My philosophy is that if Jon Acuff wrote it, I need to read it. I follow his social media, all of his many newsletters, and I have even gone to another state to see him at a signing. I have given up on most of the other “personalities” I followed because they seemed to only want to sell me something. Jon seems to want to help me. He provides a lot of free content that I can use. Then, when he does have something to sell, I am happy to shell out my money. I pre-ordered this one weeks ago (Jon offers lots of pre-order incentives), so I just have to wait by my mailbox for this one!
The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles that Reveal How to Make Your Life Better – This is the latest book from Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project). Since I enjoy her work and LOVE anything about personality type, this one is on my list.
Less Fret, More Faith: An 11-Week Action Plan to Overcome Anxiety – As I mentioned, Max Lucado has a new book and other materials out this week that look at anxiety. I am curious to see this particular piece – a “pass along booklet” – in person.
Stan Lee: The Man Behind Marvel (September 15th) – We are big Stan Lee fans in my family! We even met him several years ago at a convention. This is the sort of biography that our whole family would read.
Star Wars Cross Stitch – I used to do cross stitch quite a bit, but I have gotten away from that the last few years. But these fun patterns could get me to pick up a needle again.
Unshakable Trust: Finding the Joy of Trusting God at All Times in All Things – New from Joyce Meyer is a book on trust. I love Joyce’s teaching, but the last book I tried was not a good fit for me. I prefer the books that are a Bible study to the ones that are just anecdotes and general “self-help.” I’ll be checking this one out in person.

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: ♥♥♥♥♥

Sam the Most Scaredy-cat Kid in the Whole World

BOOK NEWS: September 5, 2017

Disney Animation! Property Brothers! Mo Willems! It’s a great week for reading.

Happy Labor Day! Hope you and your family are getting to enjoy some relaxation over this long weekend. Here are the books coming out this week:

Books for Kids


      

Come with Me – A girl wonders what she can do to help when it seems the world is full of hurt and fear. Sounds like a timely story.
A Cooked-Up Fairy Tale – A young chef bakes some fairy tale components like an apple and a handful of beans into something yummy. I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile.
Give Me Back My Book – Friends fight over a book. I’m curious to see this one in person and see what happens.
Joey and the Shining Star/Twitch and the Invisible Wind – The Owlegories Christian video series now has books that look at how nature teaches us about God.
The King of Too Many Things – This is the sort of book that catches my attention with the illustrations, but keeps it with a great title and premise. I long to be more of a minimalist, but I am more like this king. I can’t wait to read this one.
La Princesa and the Pea – A Latino twist on the classic tale of the Princess and the Pea. This is definitely the week for some great fractured fairy tales! Keep on reading for several more.
The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABCs (the Hard Way) – Poor little red cat gets chased all the way through the alphabet in this darling picture book.
Pickwick’s Picnic – I can’t wait to see this counting book in person. Doesn’t it look adorable?!
The Pout-Pout Fish and the Bully Bully Shark – The Pout-Pout Fish series takes on the subject of bullying. This sounds like a great way to talk about bullying with younger kids.
Sam, the Most Scaredy-Cat Kid in the Whole Universe – Companion book to the outstanding Leonardo the Terrible Monster. I have been waiting for this book for months! I am so glad it’s finally time for its release.
Twinderella, A Fractioned Fairy Tale – A twist on Cinderella from the fabulous author of The Three Ninja Pigs.
Pete and the Lost Tooth – Early Reader for fans of Pete the Cat
Showdown in Space – A new DC Super Hero Girls Early Reader/Leveled Reader about Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Miss Martian on an outer space adventure.
Little Legends: The Magic Looking Glass – Book 4 in this fractured fairy tale transitional chapter book series.
Phone-Y Friends – Book 4 in the Project Droid series about a boy and his robot “cousin.” These are written by the author of the Magic Bone series, which I adored. I’d like to check out one of these early chapter books for younger elementary school readers.
Princess in Black and the Mysterious Playdate – Book 5 in the amazing Princess in Black series. This time, the princess is on a playdate when a monster strikes. I can’t wait to read this one. I adore this early chapter book series.
Audrey Hepburn/Rosa Parks (Sept 7) – Little People Big Dreams series  of biographies. The illustrations for these immediately grabbed my attention.
We Are in an Art-ivity Book – Activity book for kids starring Piggie and Gerald.

Books for Older Kids/Teens/Young Adults


 

Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me) – Book 2 in the Adventurer’s Guide series about adventurers who get a new quest to kill the Dragon Queen – except they don’t want to kill her at all! This sounds like an awesome series; I’d like to check out the first book and see what it’s like.
Alex Rider Scorpia Graphic Novel – A graphic novel version of the Alex Rider story, Scorpia.
All’s Faire in Middle School – New graphic novel from the author of Roller Girl about a girl who transitions from homeschool to public school where her Renaissance Faire upbringing gets her more attention than she bargained for. I love stories like this and will certainly be checking this one out.
Assassin’s Curse – Book 3 in the Blackthorn Key series about an apothecary’s apprentice who solves puzzles and codes. I have book one on my TBR shelves.
Click’d – A girl’s coding project goes viral, but then she finds a dangerous glitch. This sounds so fun! This is on my list for sure.
Elsie Mae Has Something to Say – A girl hopes to save her home in the Okefenokee Swamp by sending a letter to President Roosevelt and stopping local bandits, but her cousin may ruin all her plans.
The Glass Town Game – The Brontë sisters have invented a game called Glass Town and one day when they are expecting the worst for their family, the four girls are whisked away to their imaginary town. This seems like a mix of fantasy and history (Napoleon).
Halfway Normal – A young cancer survivor tries to settle back into middle school. I have a feeling this will be both emotional and inspirational. It’s on my list!
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus – A girl without arms moves with her family to a rundown theme park in Arizona where she finds not only a friend who really understands her, but also a mystery. This book has been wildly popular among early readers on Twitter.
Mighty Jack and the Goblin King – Book 2 in this graphic novel series that’s a twist on Jack and the Beanstalk. This time, Jack’s autistic little sister has been taken by an ogre and he’s off to get her back.
Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Won’t-Walk-the-Dog Cure – Book 2 in this series that is an updated re-boot of the classic Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series I read as a kid.
One Mixed-Up Night – Best friends run away to spend the night in IKEA. This has the feel of The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler to it. This is at the top of my wish list for this week!
Rapunzel and the Lost Lagoon –  Rapunzel is back at the castle after the adventures of Tangled. Now, she and a lady-in-waiting stumble on a mystery together. This sounds terrific.
Shadow of a Pug – Book 2 in the  Howard Wallace PI series. I loved book one in this series, and I am looking forward to reading book 2.
The Book of Massively Epic Engineering Disasters – A book of “great” engineering disasters. This would be a fun addition to a science classroom or school library.
Harley Quinn’s Brain Squeezers – An activity book for fans of the DC Super Hero Girls
Genuine Fraud – A new story from the supremely popular author of We Were Liars. This was a dark story, and the format is unusual – it starts at the present and then works backwards. A very interesting way to tell a story.
Girls Made of Snow and Glass – This re-imagining of Snow White has a young woman with a glass heart and her step-daughter who was magicked out of snow. I love re-worked fairy tales! This sounds terrific.
I Hate Everyone But You – Best friends exchange emails and texts as they head to different colleges for their freshman year.
If There’s No Tomorrow – One moment changes everything for a girl who was looking forward to her senior year. I have no idea what happens to change things – which means I’ll have to read this to find out!
Nothing – A girl who is convinced that real life is nothing like the books she reads decides to write down the things that happen to her during her sophomore year and finds it’s not so different after all.
Running Full Tilt – A young man turns to cross country and running to escape a difficult family situation with his out of control brother. I’m going to max out my library wish list this week!
They Both Die at the End – Two boys meet through an app that puts you in touch with others who are going to die on the same day. What a fascinating idea! A little dark, but I am curious to see what happens.
Things with Feathers – Emily goes from homeschooling with her mom and her seizure therapy dog to high school. She lives in fear that she will have a seizure at school.
Tower of Dawn – The next book in the Throne of Glass series. I would love to read this series some time soon. [So many books, so little time]
Wild Bird – A girl spends 8 weeks at a survivalist/wilderness therapy camp. This sounds fantastic. I have this on my list.

Books for Adults


    

Autobiography of Jean-Luc Picard – I have the James T. Kirk autobiography, but I haven’t had a chance to read it. I am even more eager to read this one as Jean-Luc was “my” captain.
Bringing Maggie Home – An elderly woman carries the guilt of a lost sister for 70 years. Can her granddaughter, a cold-case agent, help her solve the mystery and ease the guilt that has impacted the family for generations.
A Christmas Peril – First in a new mystery series staring a former cop managing a community theater group. I enjoyed this one; I’ll be reviewing it in a couple weeks.
Conspiracy in Belgravia -Book 2 in the Lady Sherlock Historical Mystery series. I haven’t gotten to book one yet, but I am eager to check out this series.
Dead in the Water – Denise Swanson has launched a new series set in Scumble River and starring Skye Denison. I read many books from the earlier series and enjoyed them.
Essence of Malice – Book 4 of the Amory Ames Mystery series, this one about a perfumier in Paris. I haven’t read any of these, but the covers are gorgeous and catch my eye every time. I’d love to read one.
March of Crime – Book 11 in the Murder-By-Month series. I read the first couple books in this series, but I’ve fallen behind. I’d like to pick back up on this one.
Pudding Up with Murder – Book 3 in the Undercover Dish Mystery series about secret chef who cooks amazing casseroles that her clients can pass off as their own. I have yet to read one of the books, but they are definitely on my list. But I’d like to know where I can find a service like this in my town!
Tale of Two Kitties – Book 9 in the Magical Cats mystery series. I have several of the early books on my TBR shelves. I love mysteries with cats in them – dogs, too.
Trouble is Brewing – An ebook novella that bridges the Bakeshop Mystery series by Ellie Alexander with her new series about a brewmaster. I have already pre-ordered this one. This seems like a brilliant way to introduce your fans to your new series. I can’t wait to read this.
Armed and Dangerous: The Ultimate Battle Plan for Targeting and Defeating the Enemy – A new look at spiritual warfare.
Art of Star Trek The Next Generation – 178 posters featuring art for my favorite iteration of Star Trek, The Next Generation.
Blood Sweat and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Stories Behind How Video Games Are Made – My teen would probably love this one as video games are a big part of his life. I know many adults who would find this interesting, too. Sounds like a great history of technology book.
Education à la Carte – Dr. Kevin Lehman’s (The Birth Order Book) new book looks at the educational options available to families today and offers advice for navigating your choices. I’m looking forward to this one. I love Lehman’s work.
Forever Letter: Writing What We Believe for Those We Love – A guide book for writing letters that pass on your real treasures – your values, beliefs and love.
Ink and Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation – Get the behind-the-scenes story on the women who worked for Disney Animation.
It Takes Two – The Property Brothers tell their own story in this memoir. I love watching these guys on TV. Hopefully their terrific chemistry will translate well in book form.
The Last Arrow – How to live a life that leaves nothing undone at the end. This sounds inspiring. It’s on my library wish list.
Picturing Heaven – Adult coloring book for fans of Randy Alcorn’s writing. I tend to start adult coloring books but never finish them. But I am excited to see this one up close. I am interested in the devotions that go with the pictures.
The Suffragents (Sept 1) – Looks at the men who were part of the movement to get women the right to vote. This sounds like a terrific look at history.