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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.