Monday, May 11, 2020

Middle Grade Pick: Premeditated Myrtle

Premeditated Myrtle
A Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery (Book 1)
by Elizabeth C. Bunce
AlgonquinYoung Readers
318 pages
ISBN: 9781616209186

Available October 6, 2020. Book 2, How To Get Away With Myrtle, available on the same date!

Clever and captivating, Premeditated Myrtle is the best young detective story in years! Set in Victorian England in a small town, the story satisfies with historical details and quaint setting.

Twelve-year old Myrtle Hardcastle is smart and inquisitive, armed with her mother's microscope and her father's love of the law, Myrtle is incorrigible and fearless. She loves science and forensics--certainly not conventional subjects for young ladies of her era and frowned upon by society--but Myrtle throws caution to the wind and fearlessly ventures where no young lady of breeding should ever tread. Young Ladies of Quality are not supposed to go gallivanting off  OUTSIDE AFTER DARK or poke their noses into mysteries and murder, but that doesn't stop the irrepressible Myrtle! With her loving governess at her side, Myrtle sets out to solve the mystery of her elderly neighbor's death. Miss Wodehouse's death was deemed "natural causes," but Myrtle knows something is fishy.

She finds evidence that Miss Wodehouse was murdered, and her father, the town prosecutor, arrests Miss Wodehouse's grounds keeper. Myrtle suspects her father has arrested the wrong man and sets out to prove it. When Miss Wodehouse's cat goes MIA, Myrtle wonders where Peony could have gone. And why were all of the old lady's lilies  burned in the garden? Who is covering up something much more sinister? A long lost niece arrives from America, but Myrtle doesn't trust her. Soon, a nephew also arrives. Suddenly, the deceased Miss Wodehouse has all sorts of relatives coming out of the Victorian carved woodwork.

Myrtle searches for clues to free Mr. Hamm and finds that Miss Wodehouse was creating a new species of rare lily. Could she have been killed for her flowers? If so, where are these magnificent flowers? Mr. Hamm burned all of them in the garden. Was he instructed to get rid of evidence or cover up something more nefarious going on?

Thank goodness for Myrtle Hardcastle who finds all the answers and pieces together means, motive and opportunity. Think Sherlock Holmes x Agatha Christie x Harriott the Spy, and you have the most fun character in kidlit in forever! Myrtle Highcastle is a hit! Readers won't have to wait for the next book in the series, How To Get Away With Myrtle (Book 2) is available on the same date.

Definitely a book that will win awards, you MUST READ Premeditated Myrtle. A MUST HAVE for all middle grade readers. A rollicking great tale full of unexpected twists, evil criminals, double dealings, a get rich quick scheme, THE will and estate, and deceptive, quick talking cons.

Highly, highly recommended! You must not miss this book. Pre-order today!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

PIcture Book Pick: Be You!

Be You!
by Peter H. Reynolds
Illustrations by the author
Orchard Books
(Scholastic imprint)
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338572315

Be You! is a celebration of loving yourself, accepting yourself, motivating yourself, and pushing yourself! Each two-page spread begins with a positive message, for example: "Be adventurous," or "Be curious," or "Be persistent." The second part of the spread explains how to be adventurous or curious or persistent.

Cute, clever and quirky illustrations will bring smiles  to toddlers, parents and graduates for this little gem of a book would make an excellent life guide. If only we could all be persistent, curious, adventurous, different and brave! What changes humankind could bring to this world! Never preachy or stuffy or moralistic,  Be You! is a manual for young children and adults alike.

Highly recommended for ages four and up. Great graduation present or daily read for children. A child would be happy to tell an adult what each message means and how they practiced it that day or week. Likely to become a classic, Be You! will surely be up for awards this year.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Swashbuckling Adventure: The Lady Rogue

The Lady Rogue
by Jenn Bennett
Simon Pulse
385 pages
ISBN: 9781534431997

Shoppers can NOT walk by this cover without picking up this book--that's how beautiful and eye-catching it is. Cover appeal alone will sell this story, but thankfully the story inside is even better than the cover! Do not make the mistake of labeling this book historical fiction. That would be a disservice. It is set in the past, but it's not dry or boring. It's ALIVE and lively with timeless appeal for anyone who needs an adventure.

From the peasant villages to the mountain passes through the Carpathans to the secret chambers and treasure to be found to the odd bookstore reeking of magic to the creepy cult of goons who follow her, Theo (Theodora) Fox, uses her intelligence and code breaking skills to find her missing treasure hunter father.

Abandoned by her traveling tutor, Theodora is now alone in Istanbul with no money and waiting for her father's return. Richard Fox has gone off in search of Vlad (Dracula's) famous bone ring. He is supposed to return and continue through Europe with his daughter. Theodora is surprised (SHOCKED) when she returns to her hotel and former boyfriend, love of her life, protege of her father is standing in her room. She's still mad at him for going away without saying good-bye, but she has only half the story. Huck Gallagher is the only person who can help her find her father. The two decide on a "truce" which doesn't last long and begin retracing Fox's journey. As the search for the fabled bone ring, it becomes apparent that they are not the only ones seeking it. There is an evil group of occultists who want the ring said to give its wearer power to defeat all armies.

Digging for clues in her father's diary, Theo and Huck venture into Romania and into the shadows of Gothic splendor. Readers will be captivated by the scenery. Like something out of Indiana Jones or The Mummy movies, The Lady Rogue is rich and layered with sights, sounds and smells. I was completely into this story and was sad when it ended. The love/hate dance between Theodora and Huck is a joy to read, and romance did not take over the story--thankfully! Huck is swoon-worthy and the quick banter between Theo and him is fun. This story would be a brilliant adventure movie, and I for one, pray for another Theodora Fox book.

Highly, highly recommended for YA readers. Grade 8 and up. One bedroom scene, but it's not graphic. Do NOT MISS The Lady Rogue; it's a MUST READ!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Adult Book Club Pick: Crushing It

Crushing It
by Lorelei Parker
Kensington Books
336 pages
ISBN: 9781496725714

Available June 30, 2020

Gamer and coder, Sierra Reid is dying to represent her company at a gaming convention in Europe, but boss Reynold has the final say, and he is unsure Sierra has the gift of public speaking. In a presentation for him, Sierra is so nervous, her stomach rumbles loudly enough to be heard across the room. Mortified, Sierra turns to Aida, her best friend, coworker, and roommate for ideas.

Aida suggests they go to a local bar where they are hosting their first ever annual Chagrin Challenge night, a competition where anyone can bring their most embarrassing stories and diary entries and read them to the audience. Aida pushes Sierra to read a an embarrassing diary entry from college. She'll get practice speaking to an audience. Sierra goes along with the idea and nearly chickens out, but in the moment she stands before the room and reads an entry about a college crush named Tristan. The audience laughs at funny, heart on her sleeve college Sierra, and this Sierra feels pretty good about everything until the next person up is TRISTAN! Her Tristan. Sierra looks for an exit, but Tristan is flattered. The night couldn't go any better, and the top performers advance to the next round in a week. Sierra and Tristan both advance.

Sorting her feelings out for ex-crush Tristan, overcoming her anxiety and speaking in front of an audience, and discovering new (crush) feelings for someone Sierra never saw coming is enough for anyone  to handle. On top of that, she must convince her boss she knows more about Castle Crush (her game) than anyone else, and she does. But is knowing the game enough to conquer her fears and present it to a room of international gamers?

Recommended for romance fans and gamers and book clubs. A fun read with enough comic moments to entertain. Women in gaming need representation in print and movies, and Crushing It answers that need.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Middle Grade Fun Pick: City Spies

City Spies
Book 1
by James Ponti
384 pages
ISBN: 9781534414914

Slick, clever and fun, City Spies is a dynamic new series opener by James Ponti.

Sara Martinez is a computer genius who can hack into any site. Usually, Sara doesn't cause any trouble. She only hacked the New York foster care database to report on the latest of her foster homes. She gets caught, and now awaits court. Enter a stranger who claims to be her lawyer.

He is an enigma and clearly (at least to Sara) NOT a lawyer. Sara agrees to work with this man in order to gain her freedom. The judge agrees for him to take Sara into custody, and he spirits her off to Scotland to meet his team of teen spies. Sara's savior is an MI6 agent who goes by the name "Mother." He has recruited kids from all over the world to train at FARM: The Foundation for Atmospheric Research and Monitoring, which is cover for  covert operations and tons of satellite feeds. Mother has a few enemies of his own (what did you expect from a career MI6 agent?)

Sara meets the team, each nicknamed for the city Mother found them in: Rio, Sydney, Paris and Kat. Each teen has skills that will be useful on any spy team. Sara, now named Brooklyn, is the team's computer genius. The team does several training drills before Mother tells them what their mission is: keep billionaire philanthropist Stavros Sinclair safe during a global youth summit. Everyone has a reason to be there, even the bad guys.

Sara is an engaging character who will resonate with readers. Fans of this book will probably follow the next books in the series. Ponti tells a smart story with enough high stakes details to engage middle grade kids.

Recommended grade 5 and up.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Beatles Song Remake: Children's Picture Book: with a little help from my friends

with a little help from my friends
by John Lennon and Paul McCartney (Sir)
Illustrations by Henry Cole
Little Simon
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534429833

Parents and grandparents know this book already, at least the song lyrics. Illustrations by master children's book illustrator and author Henry Cole imagines (pun, intended) the song for a younger crowd. The message is the same one from the 60s. We all need a friend; we all need each other.

The opening image shows two girls sitting alone on their school bus seats. Everyone else has seat mates and buddies. The two girls find each other at school and begin to form a bond until one girl moves away. They miss each other but write letters and keep in touch by phone. Finally, the girl travels by plane to visit her friend and they are happy again.

Simply lovely! A must have keepsake for every child's bookshelf.

Highly, highly recommended ages three and up.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Picture Book Pick: One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey

One Little Bag: An Amazing Journey
by Henry Cole
Illustrations by the author
Scholastic Press
48 pages
ISBN: 9781338359978

Available: April 7, 2020

Gorgeous black ink drawings by the author illustrate one paper bag's journey from the forest to the mill where it becomes a paper grocery bag. Next it is used at a country store--think old school grocery store with the owner/clerk managing his own store.

This little bag with a bright red heart becomes a child's lunch bag, a cover for his nightlight, a toy for his small dog to crawl into and lasts through the years traveling with the young boy to college! Later, the flower girl at his wedding scatters rose petals from the bag which now has TWO red hearts! This little bag has staying power, and becomes a mobile for their baby, a snack holder, and is adorned with THREE hearts. When Grandpa arrives to stay, the bag gets its FOURTH heart. Later, the family uses the well-worn bag with the family's history to plant a tree for Earth Day! The bag once again becomes part of the forest.

The full circle of recycling is beautifully done, and the note from the author about how he learned about Earth Day and how important ecology and recycling became in his life and in his school will touch the hearts of today's child readers. What a powerful message. There are NO WORDS in this book, but that forces the reader to interpret the story and message though the illustrations.

I am in love with this tiny work of art! Well-done, Henry Cole! The cover is not screaming, "Pick me up!" to child readers or adult buyers, but please, don't overlook this picture book. It's a must read for the future of our children and our planet.

Ages 3 and up. Pre-school readers will tell the story, and likely remember each picture as they memorize their telling. Older readers can learn to interpret using only visual pieces. This is a strong and effective way to teach viewing and speaking.


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Beautiful Message: When You Need Wings

When You Need Wings
by Lita Judge
Illustrated by the author
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
40 pages
ISBN: 9781534437555

Simply beautiful illustrations take the reader on a magical journey into one child's imaginary world. A little girl feels alone and afraid as she goes off to pre-school, but the message is when you're afraid or lonely and you hear your heartbeat, that's really your strength and your wings. The girl imagines wings that can take her into a storybook land with her friendly, magical bestie, a winsome, cuddly tiger. Because the girl has her imagination and her wings, she can fit in and face anything. By the end of the story, other kids come near her and welcome her into their group.

The positive message and terrific artwork take this simple children's book to the realm of magical and MUST HAVE. Parents will love its inspiring message. Few words make the story easy for any child to understand. Parents may want to let their children tell their own story using the illustrations alone.

Highly recommended ages 3 and up.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Fun Picture Book Pick: Roy Digs Dirt

Roy Digs Dirt
by David Shannon
Illustrations by the author
Blue Sky Press
40 pages
ISBN: 9781338251012

Available April 7, 2020

Is there a child (or adult) anywhere that can resist a book by David Shannon? I've yet to meet one!

Roy Digs Dirt is a rambunctious TAIL (put intended) of an even more rambunctious puppy. Roy digs dirt every day--he revels in being dirty and smelly. The only thing Roy doesn't like about dirt is ants! He loves dirt so much, he rolls in it, buries things in it and digs for treasure. Roy love mud even more and thinks mud is " dirt gravy!" Roy does not love baths, but he digs dirt!

Muddy footprints run across the end pages of this quaint picture book that is sure to become a classic "David" book. Shannon's illustrations capture every fun romp as Roy DIGS dirt. A must have for every library and every child's bookshelf.

Give this to your favorite little just in time for Easter (April 12)!

Highly, highly recommended ages 2 and up and everyone who loves David Shannon.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Adult Fiction Pick: Creatures

by Crissy Van Meter
Algonquin Books
256 pages
ISBN: 9871616208592

Creatures is a introspective study of a broken family: a mother who follows her own arrow wherever it may lead, many times far away from her young daughter, a father who knows more about creatures of the ocean than he does his own precious creature: an impressionable, quiet, often lonely daughter who craves her father's attention and love. Evangeline worships her father, an alcoholic, druggie who provides weed and coke for most of their island. The island itself, Winter Island, just off the coast of Northern California, often battered by storms and forgotten by time.

Growing up, Evie parents herself, going hungry and sometimes homeless, crashing at millionaires' homes, hanging out with Playboy bunnies, and pro athletes when they take an island rental or camping in a tent when her dad loses everything.

The book opens before Evangeline's wedding. Her groom is out at sea and a storm threatens his return and even his life. A whale has beached itself and lies rotting on the beach. That whale becomes a symbol of everything that is wrong with Evie and her mother. Her mother shows up with no notice and pretends to care about Evie's wedding. Evie grits her teeth as she tiptoes around her mother in order to create no waves.

The story is told going back and forth in time to child Evie and her dad's failures and abysmal parenting, and how it has affected Evie's lack of emotion. She cannot feel anything at all. Things that would break another person, Evie treats with no human emotion. It is interesting to see a character who appears stoic but is the most tragic person in the entire book.

Recommended for those who enjoy a character study and those who love tangled family relationships. There is no one in Evie's life who is able to help or save her from herself. Creatures is a sad, yet beautiful, book. The cover art is spectacular!

Adult book clubs may find much to talk about in this book, if they can pour more wine.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Children's Pick: The Way Home for Wolf

The Way Home for Wolf
by Rachel Bright
Illustrations by Jim Field
Scholastic Press
32 pages
ISBN: 9781338592740

Little wolf cub Wilf is a tough little guy who is as stubborn as the day is long. He wants to be a big wolf, strong and proud, and lead the pack, but others tell him he's too little. Longing to prove himself, he sets out strong and tough with the others, but he struggles to keep as they leave their old home. A blizzard separates him from the pack, and he's all alone and afraid. He falls through the ice into freezing water and is rescued by a sea unicorn who gets him to his next guide-helper: a giant walrus. With help from a string of polite strangers, Wilf is reunited with his pack. Wilf vows to help any stranger find their way back home, and the final page says it best, "...We're all just a handful of friendships from home."

A book about caring for others and guiding those who are lost is a lovely addition to children's lit. Beautiful and sensitive illustrations capture Wilf's fear and desperation when lost and his happiness and love when reunited with his family. The Way Home for Wolf will be in the mix for multiple awards for children's books and will be on the Scholastic book fair this year.

Highly recommended for early readers. A touching bedtime story.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping
(Ready To Read, Pre-Level One)
by Marilyn Singer
Illustrations by Lucy Semple
Simon Spotlight (Simon Children's)
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534441408

From beloved children's author, Marilyn Singer, Bug Dipping, Bug Sipping helps young learners become readers. Singer won national awards for Mirror, Mirror (NCTE 2015 Award for Excellence) and won the Cybils Poetry Award.

Beginning readers will love the cadence and rhyming prose where bugs zing, cling, disguise, crawl, rise and seem to come to life in beautiful illustrations by Lucy Semple. Colorful cover design makes this book a standout on any library or bookstore shelf.

A page of fun bug facts follow this charming story.

Highly recommended for any young reader and especially for kids who love things that crawl and creep.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Picture Book Pick: I Love You, Fred

I Love You, Fred
by Mick Inkpen
Illustrations by Chloe Inkpen
32 pages
ISBN: 9781534414754

Fred is an adorable dog, full of energy and love. He knows how to sit and stay. He brings back the ball when you throw it. He knows words like "bed" and walk," but one word he can't figure out is FRED.

When Fred confronts another dog upstairs who looks like him and even has a ball like him, (it's his own image in the mirror), he wonders who the dog is and why the dog has no smell. Later, when he sees the dog again (in his own reflection in the pond), he panics but is saved by his boy. It's then Fred realizes FRED his his name. He is FRED.  He's so happy and delighted to have a name and be loved and cuddled by his boy.

Cute illustrations are spunky and playful depicting Fred's bouncy personality. This is a a true treasure of a picture book, and young readers who love dogs (or want a dog) will love Fred. A must have childhood read.

Highly, highly recommended ages 2 and up.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

YA Magical Realism Pick: Winterwood

by Shea Ernshaw
Simon Pulse
319 pages
ISBN: 9781534439412

Ethereal, mysterious, magical, and poetic, Winterwood will be your YA favorite read!

Nora Walker was born near the wild woods. Her family has been a part of the woods since before the woods themselves. The Walker women have a mythology of their own. Townspeople claim that the Walker women are witches and to be feared.

When a brutal snowstorm comes, Nora knows she'll be snowed in for weeks. There is no way to access the town for supplies or help and no contact with the outside world. She's not afraid; that's just the way things have always been, but when she finds an unconscious boy in the woods, she knows she has to save him. Her mother and her grandmother before her have left Nora with a spell book and book of healing cures. She works her magic, and the boy comes back to life. He's from the boys' camp on the other side of the lake, but doesn't remember much else.

Oliver has no memory of why he was in the woods or how he could still be alive. He's been missing for weeks, and there's no way he could have survived the wild woods. Nora knows something is wrong and the woods begin acting stranger than usual, but Oliver is so alone, Nora feels herself drawn to him. When a white moth begins to seek her out, she knows death is not far behind. What happened that night?

Suzy, a girl from Nora's school, one who has never spoken to her before, arrives on her doorstep, seeking a warm place to weather the storm. She has a tale of her own about the boys' camp. There is one boy dead and one boy missing. Nora knows she'll have to confront Oliver. What does he know about the dead boy? Did he have anything to do with his murder? The unexpected TWIST at the end is EPIC! I LOVE THIS BOOK!

Masterful storytelling and compelling, poetic prose that seems to sing off the pages make Winterwood the best YA read of 2019! This one will be up for awards season.

Beautiful cover art is a masterpiece of graphic design and marketing.

Highly, highly recommended. A must have and a MUST READ. 5 STARS!

Friday, January 10, 2020

MG Contemporary: The Disaster Days

The Disaster Days
by Rebecca Behrens
Sourcebooks Young Readers
292 pages
ISBN: 9781492673316

Hannah Steele ives on Pelling Island, a small island near the coast of Washington. It's quiet and quaint with picturesque views and friendly neighbors--neighbors who live half a mile away. Hannah's having a not so great day after her best friend begins to ghost her, clearly having a much better time with new friend Marley. Hannah is hurt and betrayed, but has to go about her afternoon as though nothing is wrong. Asking her bus driver to drop her off at the Matlock's house, Hannah is ready for her babysitting job.

It's a normal day on a small, quaint, quiet island. No need to worry about a tween girl in charge of two younger children. Then, an earthquake hits and the house is turned upside down. Terrified, the kids huddle together with the pet hamster and wait for the shaking to stop. Once it does, they discover that Internet and television is down. They are all alone without communication to the outside world and no adults nearby. Hannah will have to rely on her own strength and calmness to keep the kids' safe.

Zoe has been badly injured and is losing a lot of blood. It's all up to Hannah to figure a way out and find help for Zoe.

A quick read that should satisfy reluctant readers. Recommended grade 5 and up.

FTC Required Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.