Review: Time of Death (A Stillwater General Mystery #1) by Lucy Kerr

Review: Time of Death (A Stillwater General Mystery #1) by Lucy Kerr
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Twelve years ago, Frankie Stapleton left the quiet town of Stillwater and moved to Chicago, leaving behind her family, their struggling hardware store, and her fiancé. Now an emergency room nurse, she’s back to help her pregnant sister, Charlie, and to put the past behind her, once and for all.

But within minutes of arriving at Stillwater General Hospital, Frankie walks into an ER overloaded with bus crash victims. Amidst the chaos, she stumbles upon a lone man suffering a cardiac arrest outside the ER bay. With no one to help him, Frankie acts to save the man’s life, despite the fact that she’s not licensed there.

After leaving the man in stable condition, Frankie finally makes it to Charlie’s bedside. But mere hours later, her patient is dead, her sister has undergone an emergency C-section, and Frankie has been slapped with the threat of a malpractice lawsuit.

Something’s not right in Stillwater, and Frankie suspects her patient didn’t die of natural causes. With her career on life support and a growing rift between Frankie and the family she left behind years ago, Frankie must catch a killer to clear her name in Time of Death, Lucy Kerr’s enthralling mystery debut.

Lucy Kerr, pen name of YA novelist Erica O’Rourke, debuts on the adult fiction scene with the mystery Time of Death. The first entry in the Stillwater General mystery series Time of Death reads like a most intriguing mash-up of the TV shows ER and Hart of Dixie (with a dash of St. Elsewhere for good measure)…think a mixture of suspense, real-life medical drama, and small-town secrets. With sharp and astute ER nurse Frankie Stapleton as our narrator and protagonist, readers are taken into the world of small-town hospital politics, suspected patient murder, and family drama.

When we meet thirty-something Frankie, she is on route to her small hometown of Stillwater, Illinois- the place she had essentially run away from twelve years before, leaving her family and old boyfriend behind. Frankie is on her way from Chicago where she works (and excels) as an emergency room nurse, back to Stillwater, to help care for her younger sister Charlie who is having unexpected complications with her second pregnancy. As Frankie comes in to town and Stillwater General hospital to see her sister and family, readers get an inside look into a bit of the tenuous history that Frankie has with her hometown and how complicated and uncomfortable her being back actually is. On top of everything else, as Frankie makes her way to the hospital, she comes to the rescue of an elderly man named Clem, who is struggling outside of the building, experiencing what appears to be a heart attack. As Frankie bursts her way into the security-lax Stillwater General, attempting to save Clem’s life, she soon finds herself heavily involved in an anomalous and possibly homicidal medical mishap that threatens her career and life.

There are two major plot lines, if you will, running in tandem over the course of Time of Death. One is that of Frankie’s return to Stillwater and the ramifications that has on her relationship with her mom, her sister, her niece, and the Stapleton family business- not to mention the implications her return has on her ex-boyfriend (currently Stillwater police officer) Noah.  The second and overarching storyline is that of the  mystery surrounding Clem’s sudden and ill-explained death. Clem’s death leads into Frankie’s involvement in investigating the suspicious circumstances surrounding his death, and the frosty relationship that forms between her and Stillwater General’s hospital administration. Kerr weaves the back and forth between the two lines very well and easily, making for irresistible reading, though I would argue that certain elements come across as the more compelling. Without spoilers here, I will say that the reveal surrounding Clem’s death is relatively uncomplicated; while the medical explications and examinations on Frankie’s part are fascinating, I did find the wind-ups to the climax had a tendency to drag just a bit and rehash material already covered. I do think, however, that the core elements involving Frankie’s tangled ties to her parents and sister, and past relationship (and now present re-acquaintanceship) with Noah to be consistently absorbing and thoughtfully done; these factors definitely upped the intensity and caliber of the story as a whole.

Overall, Time of Death is a solid, entertaining mystery that does a very good job of mixing character development and back story with an overarching medical mystery. Kerr does well in not only setting up Frankie as a character readers will want to follow, but also in laying the groundwork of Stillwater General hospital, the town, Frankie’s family, and relationship with Noah. There are a number of exciting places that Kerr can take Frankie and Stillwater General; I was hooked into Frankie’s voice and story from early on, and do hope to see and read more titles in this series.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (62): Mysteries from Caite Dolan-Leach, Patty Yumi Cottrell, Christina Kovac & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week: mysteries! I’ve been on a mini reading spell of mystery novels lately. First there were two Crooked Lane Books titles I zoomed through (Stalking Ground and Time of Death), then I read Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me , and lastly, I dove into Mindy Mejia’s Everything You Want Me to Be after a friend of my sang its praises. All were well-reviewed novels that I thought were solidly done; I enjoyed them tremendously and so of course my reading radar went on to pick out more great-sounding adult fiction/mystery/suspense titles and I’ve added them to my TBR! The following titles are ones I’ve come across through Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, or browsing through Goodreads. All sound fantastic!

 

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach
Publication: February 21, 2017 by Random House
Book Description:

Ava Antipova has her reasons for running away: a failing family vineyard, a romantic betrayal, a mercurial sister, an absent father, a mother slipping into dementia. In Paris, Ava acquires a French boyfriend and a taste for much better wine, and erases her past. But two years later, she must return to upstate New York. Her twin sister, Zelda, is dead.

Even in a family of alcoholics, Zelda Antipova was the wild one, notorious for her mind games and destructive behavior. Stuck tending the vineyard and the girls’ increasingly unstable mother, Zelda is allegedly burned alive when she passes out in the barn with a cigarette. But Ava finds the official explanation a little too neat. A little too Zelda. Then she receives a cryptic message—from her sister. Just as Ava suspected, Zelda’s playing one of her games. In fact, she’s outdone herself, leaving a series of clues to her disappearance. Ava follows the trail laid just for her, thinking like her sister, keeping her secrets, immersing herself in Zelda’s drama. Along the way, Zelda forces Ava to confront their twisted history and the boy who broke her heart. But why? Is Zelda trying to punish Ava for leaving? To teach her a lesson? Or is she simply trying to write her own ending?

Caite Dolan-Leach’s debut suspense takes readers on a literary scavenger hunt for clues concealed throughout the seemingly idyllic wine country, hidden in plain sight on social media, and buried at the heart of one tremendously dysfunctional, utterly unforgettable family.

 

Sorry to Disrupt the Peace by Patty Yumi Cottrell
Publication: March 14, 2017 by McSweeney’s
Book Description:

Helen Moran is thirty-two years old, single, childless, college-educated, and partially employed as a guardian of troubled young people in New York. She’s accepting a delivery from IKEA in her shared studio apartment when her uncle calls to break the news: Helen’s adoptive brother is dead.

According to the internet, there are six possible reasons why her brother might have killed himself. But Helen knows better: she knows that six reasons is only shorthand for the abyss. Helen also knows that she alone is qualified to launch a serious investigation into his death, so she purchases a one-way ticket to Milwaukee. There, as she searches her childhood home and attempts to uncover why someone would choose to die, she will face her estranged family, her brother’s few friends, and the overzealous grief counselor, Chad Lambo; she may also discover what it truly means to be alive.

 

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
Expected publication: March 21, 2017 by Atria / 37 INK
Book Description:

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

Harkening to dark thrillers such as Gone Girl, Luckiest Girl Alive, and Big Little Lies, The Cutaway is a striking debut that will haunt you long after you reach the last page.

 

The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea
Expected publication: April 25, 2017 by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Book Description:

Nicole Cutty and Megan McDonald are both high school seniors in the small town of Emerson Bay, North Carolina. When they disappear from a beach party one warm summer night, police launch a massive search. No clues are found, and hope is almost lost until Megan miraculously surfaces after escaping from a bunker deep in the woods.

A year later, the bestselling account of her ordeal has turned Megan from local hero to national celebrity. It s a triumphant, inspiring story, except for one inconvenient detail: Nicole is still missing. Nicole’s older sister Livia, a fellow in forensic pathology, expects that one day soon Nicole’s body will be found, and it will be up to someone like Livia to analyze the evidence and finally determine her sister’s fate. Instead, the first clue to Nicole s disappearance comes from another body that shows up in Livia’s morgue that of a young man connected to Nicole’s past. Livia reaches out to Megan for help, hoping to learn more about the night the two were taken. Other girls have gone missing too, and Livia is increasingly certain the cases are connected.

But Megan knows more than she revealed in her blockbuster book. Flashes of memory are coming together, pointing to something darker and more monstrous than her chilling memoir describes. And the deeper she and Livia dig, the more they realize that sometimes true terror lies in finding exactly what you’ve been looking for.

 

Our Little Secret by Roz Nay
Expected publication: June 6, 2017 by Simon & Schuster
Book Description:

The detective wants to know what happened to Saskia, as if I could just skip to the ending and all would be well. But stories begin at the beginning and some secrets have to be earned.

Angela is being held in a police interrogation room. Her ex’s wife has gone missing and Detective Novak is sure Angela knows something, despite her claim that she’s not involved.

At Novak’s prodding, Angela tells a story going back ten years, explaining how she met and fell in love with her high school friend HP. But as her past unfolds, she reveals a disconcerting love triangle and a dark, tangled web of betrayals. Is Angela a scorned ex-lover with criminal intent? Or a pawn in someone else’s revenge scheme? Who is she protecting? And why?

Twisty and suspenseful, Our Little Secret is an intense cat-and-mouse game and a riveting thriller about the lies we tell others—and ourselves.

Picture Book Reviews: A Perfect Day by Lane Smith & Noisy Night by Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs

9781626725362Review: A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Today is a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel.

Cat is lounging among the daffodils. Dog is sitting in the wading pool, deep in the cool water. Chickadee is eating fresh seed from the birdfeeder. Squirrel is munching on his very own corncob. Today is a perfect day in Bert’s backyard.

Until Bear comes along, that is. Bear crushes the daffodils, drinks the pool water, and happily gobbles up the birdseed and corncob.

Today was a perfect day for Cat, Dog, Chickadee, and Squirrel. Now, it’s just a perfect day for Bear.

Just look at happy Bear on the cover! Sniffing beautiful flowers, lounging on the grass and enjoying the sunshine- what could be wrong?! In bestselling and award-winning Lane Smith’s funny and terrifically timed A Perfect Day, readers get a look at multiple animals’ perspectives of what makes for their idea of a perfect day.

A Perfect Day starts off with Cat enjoying some colourful flowers and Dog enjoying the feel of cool water, followed by a few other adorable animals having their own ultimate day. Where some authors/illustrators might veer- or perhaps stay- on a straight line of the darling and sweet, Smith takes a wonderful and quiet dive off to the comical and unexpected- all the while maintaining major levels of adorable. As we get to little Squirrel enjoying some corn, readers have, up to that point, only seen that all animals have been enjoying a perfect day…but then- surprise!- in trundles big, lumbering, impervious Bear, making a grand mess of things. And while effectively wrecking everyone’s flawless day, Bear ends up (happily) making his own day of perfection.

Overall, A Perfect Day is a delight, begging for multiple readings and closer inspections of Lane Smith’s illustrations. A relatively simple story, light on text, A Perfect Day makes great use of repeated words and phrasing, and sets itself apart with its comical twist in the introduction of Bear. This story could work brilliantly as a read aloud for toddlers/preschoolers (I hope to try it out soon!), especially if given the right intonation and animated stress on certain words. Smith’s mixed-media illustrations are lively; detailed yet broad at the same time, and though distinctive (as is all of Smith’s beautiful art), his work is easily approachable for all ages to enjoy.

9781596439672Review: Noisy Night by Mac Barnett, illus. Brian Biggs
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 7, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

It’s a noisy night in this city building! The residents of each floor can hear their neighbors above them, and are wondering what’s going on above their heads. Climb floor by floor and page by page to find out whose singing, dancing, cheering, and cooing are keeping a grumpy old man awake.

With innovative split-level spreads that offer the feeling of climbing an apartment building floor by floor, this clever and colorful collaboration between New York Times -bestselling author Mac Barnett and gifted illustrator Brian Biggs offers an irresistible investigation of one noisy night.

I love a good, boisterous book for reading aloud and Noisy Night, from award-winners Mac Barnett and Brian Biggs, certainly delivers on multiple fronts. A rambunctious story centred around figuring out the various- and unexpected!- noises going on in an apartment building, readers are treated to one wacky surprise after another.

Noisy Night opens with a quiet scene of a young boy fast asleep in his bed. The lights are off, the scene is washed in blues and grays and then…suddenly, the lights are on and something or someone has woken up the young boy! As the young boy asks what is making the ‘la la la’ noise above his bed in the apartment above, readers are treated to a reveal on the next page, followed by the next apartment resident asking what is going on above their own head. Noisy Night follows a straightforward pattern, allowing readers to easily get into the rhythm of the ask and answer. If performed as a read aloud, kids might really get a kick out of trying to guess who or what could be making noises- especially as the reveals get a little bit kooky as we get higher and higher up the apartment!

Overall, Barnett and Biggs have crafted a genuinely vibrant, livelier than lively story here. As with Lane Smith’s A Perfect Day, the story format and plot in Noisy Night is arguably simple and accessible. And as with A Perfect Day, author and illustrator give that something extra to the story to make it memorable. In Noisy Night, it is the particular details of Barnett’s flare for comedic language and approach to sounds, in combination with Biggs’ unmistakable vivid art that gives this story that extra pizzazz to make it shine. I have already had the pleasure of reading this story aloud to my daughter multiple times and she loves the artwork and making the variety of funny noises along with me! Mark Noisy Night as a must-read picture book for a funny (and booming!) storytime or read aloud.

I received copies of these titles courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. All opinions and comments are my own.

Review: Stalking Ground (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #2) by Margaret Mizushima

Review: Stalking Ground (A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #2) by Margaret Mizushima
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 13, 2016 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

When Deputy Ken Brody’s sweetheart goes missing in the mountains outside Timber Creek, Mattie Cobb and Robo are called to search. But it’s mid-October and a dark snow storm is brewing over the high country–and they’re already too late. By the time they find her body, the storm has broken and the snow is coming down hard.

While Brody hikes down to bring back the forensics team and veterinarian Cole Walker gathers supplies to protect them from the storm, Mattie and Robo find themselves alone, guarding the gravesite overnight in the dead of the early winter. And that’s only the first long, dark night in a series of them, because as their investigation develops, Mattie, Robo, Brody, and Cole find themselves in the middle of the killer’s stalking ground–with no way out unless they can catch a predator more deadly than any natural threat.

An effortlessly engrossing read filled with tension, excitement, and heart, Stalking Ground, the second in Margaret Mizushima’s lauded debut series, will send a chill down every reader’s spine.

The first entry into Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series, Killing Trail, was met with strong praise and starred reviews from multiple review journals. I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s debut novel and had been looking forward to continuing on with the singular mystery series featuring Officer Mattie Cobb and her K-9 partner Robo. Book two, Stalking Ground, picks up soon after the end of the first novel, and is an engrossing, well-plotted, and suspenseful read- a worthy sophomore novel that also packs some serious surprises.

After the tragic events that transpired over the course of book one, Mattie and her police team- as well the members of small town Timber Creek- are uneasy and on heightened alert for suspicious activity. When the girlfriend of Mattie’s police colleague Ken Brody goes missing under decidedly peculiar circumstances, Mattie and her police team are immediately guarded and on edge. When Mattie is sent out to do some initial investigating into the case with Robo, a number of red flags go up, leading Mattie to lose hope about the chances of Adrienne’s survival. As Adrienne’s case deepens and Mattie and Robo find themselves on a tricky maze, finding more out about Adrienne’s past and attempting to expose lies, a surprising lead opens up, taking Mattie, Robo and Ken down an incredibly dangerous path.

In the first novel, we were introduced to a character named Cole Walker, a father and highly-regarded town veterinarian who slowly becomes a friend to Mattie- and to Robo. He and Mattie’s third-person narratives once again rotate in Stalking Ground; this time, his storyline overlaps with Mattie’s investigation even more closely. Mizushima makes the most of their alternating narratives and propels the urgency and ‘who done it’ of Adrienne’s case very well by running a parallel storyline involving Cole that eventually meets up with Mattie’s. As in Killing Trail, Mizushima does wonders in creating a wholly compelling (and fascinating!) police team in Mattie and Robo; in Stalking Ground, readers are given even more insight into the training that Mattie and Robo do to hone and perfect their working relationship and Robo’s superior- incredible- skills.  Mizushima also delves more into Mattie’s history, offering some intense and heartbreaking backstory into Mattie’s life with her birth parents and siblings, likely ensuring that even more about Mattie’s backstory is to be explored in future novels.

Overall, Stalking Ground is a strong, tightly plotted and terrifically executed read. Mizushima continues to impress with her distinctive area of K-9 mystery writing. As our protagonist, Mattie is a terrific, intriguing character who we are slowly but surely learning more about. In addition to that, her and Robo’s relationship is one that absolutely fascinates; readers are shown even deeper acumen into Mattie and Robo’s working relationship and their incredible skills as a human-canine team. Any readers who previously enjoyed Killing Trail  would do well do continue on with the series as it is only getting better. Stalking Ground plays off of all of the strengths in the well-done first novel and excels here with a first-rate sophomore entry. Readers looking to try out a mystery series with a unique edge or who are looking for a more police-work focused mystery series might especially love this series.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Crooked Lane Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Must Read Monday (61): New from Laurel Snyder, Ben Clanton, Jonathan Fenske & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week, we’re talking picture books and a few early reader books! Some of my all-time favourite authors and illustrators are on the roster this week, including the following: Laurel Snyder, who has the first of a new readers series coming out called Charlie & Mouse (with illustrations by Emily Hughes!); Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Lisa Brown, which looks awesomely strange and touching; and Triangle by the terrific duo of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen. Plus a new Narwhal and Jelly, Jonathan Fenske’s latest- a follow-up to Barnacle is Bored!- and what looks to be a gorgeous and funny picture book called I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat.

I Don’t Know What to Call My Cat by Simon Philip, illus. Ella Bailey
Publication: January 12, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Books
Book Description:

Every cat needs a name. One name, one word, just a sound… It should be easy to choose one, right? WRONG!!! I just don’t know what to call my cat!

Choosing the right name for a new pet is very important! Find out just what this cat’s name turns out to be in this clever and witty story from an exciting debut author and talented young illustrator.

Triangle by Mac Barnett, illus. Jon Klassen
Expected publication: March 14, 2017 by Candlewick Press
Book Description:

Multi-award-winning, “New York Times “best-selling duo Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen conspire again on a slyly funny tale about some very sneaky shapes.

Meet Triangle. He is going to play a sneaky trick on his friend, Square. Or so Triangle thinks. . . . With this first tale in a new trilogy, partners in crime Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen upend the traditional concept book and approach it from a new angle. Visually stunning and full of wry humor, here is a perfectly paced treat that could come only from the minds of two of today s most irreverent and talented picture book creators.

Charlie & Mouse (Charlie & Mouse #1) by Laurel Snyder, illus. Emily Hughes
Expected publication: April 11, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Four hilarious stories, two inventive brothers, one irresistible book! Join Charlie and Mouse as they talk to lumps, take the neighborhood to a party, sell some rocks, and invent the bedtime banana. With imagination and humor, Laurel Snyder and Emily Hughes paint a lively picture of brotherhood that children will relish in a format perfect for children not quite ready for chapter books.

Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Expected publication: April 25, 2017 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

In this funny, underwater picture book, Plankton says hello to Mussel, but Mussel doesn’t say anything back. Plankton tries everything to get quiet Mussel to talk. In fact, Plankton gets VERY pushy about it! Will Mussel ever open his mouth? Kids will relate to Plankton’s frustration with Mussel, and they will be anxious to see what happens when Mussel finally does open his mouth… Geisel Award Honoree Jonathan Fenske delivers a laugh-out-loud ocean story, and this is the perfect follow-up to Barnacle is Bored.

Goldfish Ghost by Lemony Snicket, illus. Lisa Brown
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Roaring Brook Press
Book Description:

Goldfish Ghost was born on the surface of the water in the bowl on a dresser in a boy’s room. The boy’s room was pleasant and familiar, but Goldfish Ghost wanted company, so he set out to find a friend. He floats over the neighborhood, past the pier, and let the breeze carry him into town where he discovers that not many people pay attention to goldfish ghosts.

Off he floats, searching for the perfect home and the perfect friend and then he hears a voice…

Super Narwhal and Jelly Jolt (Narwhal and Jelly) by Ben Clanton
Expected publication: May 2, 2017 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Happy-go-lucky Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly find their inner superheroes in three new under-the-sea adventures. In the first story, Narwhal reveals his superhero alter-ego and enlists Jelly to help him figure out what his superpower is. Next, Narwhal uses his superpower to help a friend find his way back home. In the third story, Jelly is feeling blue and Narwhal comes to …more

#PlayTestShare: Spring Break Fun and Giveaway!

Happy (almost) Spring Break!

I am delighted to be hosting a second year of a special Spring Break Fun giveaway, courtesy of the lovely and generous folks at Raincoast Books!

Open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up, one lucky person will have the chance to win one of the amazing #PlayTestShare items below! I had the chance to play and test out the TouchThinkLearn Fly!
 book as well as the gorgeous Towering Tree Puzzle
, so you will see some photos and get my thoughts on those two items. Read on for even more information about all the #PlayTestShare items on offer and how to enter the giveaway!

TouchThinkLearn Fly!

A deceptively simple and joyful celebration of the natural cycle of life, this book adds the bonus of removable-and movable-characters and scenery to the bestselling TouchThinkLearn format, featuring the hallmark production technique of glued-on pieces dovetailing with die-cut openings. In this first narrative title in the series, the movable pieces invite and involve the reader in a meaningful and multisensory participation in the story.

My kingdom for interactive stories! I am a big fan of interactive board books and picture books. In my work as a children’s librarian and as a mom to a toddler, interactive books are a go-to resource. They engage, surprise, delight and let children (and adults!) have a different kind of fun with books. I already own a number of TouchThinkLearn board books- I just adore Xavier Deneux’s bold, clean and vibrant artwork- so I couldn’t wait to see and play with this movable book. Happily, I can say that this is another big winner! The addition of removable pieces- moving from one side of the board book and fitting to the facing page cut outs- just adds MORE to this life-cycle based story and promises that kids will be extra curious and tickled by the story (and experience). To me, these kinds of books are magical and captivating!

Towering Tree Puzzle

Join adorable critters as they navigate the seasons and make new friends in their towering tree. Imaginative play and puzzle logic intersect as each interlocking branch of this innovative puzzle tells a new story, providing hours of entertainment. Adventure is just a branch away!

With artwork by Teagan White (author-illustrator of the enchanting picture book Adventures with Barefoot Critters and others), the Towering Tree Puzzle is a a beautiful, worthy of a displaying on a wall kind of puzzle. Unique in design and structure, this puzzle will likely delight with how many ways there are to put it together! Unlike more traditional puzzles where pieces only fit exact spots, this tree puzzle allows for a little more freedom and little more creative play as you can fit shaped pieces in multiple spots! You can make up stories about Teagan White’s utterly charming animals, their habitat, or you can just have fun building, rebuilding, and rebuilding with the seventeen double-sided pieces (yes, double-sided!). Such a wonderful and unusual idea for a puzzle- love this one so much!

The rest of the terrific #PlayTestShare items:

The Ultimate Book of Cities

Where does the Express bus take you? How many swans are in the lake at the park? The Ultimate Book of Cities reveals the answers to these questions and much, much more in an oversized fact- and action-packed look at life in the big city! Featuring 59 flaps, pop-ups, pull tabs and movable parts, this all-you-need-to-know guide provides detailed information about what makes a city tick: from the different ways of getting around and what goes on in all the big buildings, to what traffic signs mean and who are all the people who keep the city in tip-top shape!

Birds of the World Nature Sticker Activity Book

Beautifully illustrated by Olivia Cosneau, Birds of the World introduces aspiring ornithologists to these and other fun facts through a range of coloring activities, removable stickers, and a short quiz. In the process, children learn about the rich variety of birds living in our world, including nightingales, swallows, hummingbirds, pelicans, penguins, parrots, toucans, and flamingos, among others.

Quicktionary

Introducing a new, fast-paced casual card game for word lovers and anyone who loves to think on their feet. Simple to learn, with nearly endless possibilities, this free-for-all game is a fun addition to any game night.

Crystal Menagerie Coloring Book

This fresh new coloring book renders foxes, birds, hedgehogs, and more with a prismatic look that makes them as cool to display as they are pleasing to color. With just the right level of detail, these unique designs can easily be completed in one sitting if so desired, but those who want a more involved coloring session can opt for a 3-dimensional look-and make these animals leap off the page.

Space Playing Cards
Launch into your favorite card games while immersing yourself in deep space! Each playing card features extraordinary NASA photography and two Pantone colors on beautifully designed card backs. Includes a complete 52-card playing deck, plus 2 jokers.

Mighty, Mighty Construction Site
From the team behind the beloved international bestseller comes a companion to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. All of our favorite trucks are back on the construction site-this time with a focus on team-building, friendship, and working together to make a big task seem small! Down in the big construction site, the crew faces their biggest job yet, and will need the help of new construction friends to get it done. The millions of fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site are in for a mighty good time!

642 Things About Me: Young Writer’s and Artist’s Edition
A new offering in the wildly popular 642 series, this unique journal encourages young creators to dive deep into the subject they know best-themselves! Packed with quirky, thought-provoking, and imaginative drawing and writing prompts, 642 Things About Me: Young Writer’s & Artist’s Edition is a fun way for kids to document their lives, jump-start their creative talent, and produce a memorable keepsake-or the first draft of their bestselling memoir.

Old MacDonald Had a Truck Bingo

A classic family-friendly game gets revved up with a winning combination of construction vehicles and farm animals, featuring artwork from the picture book Old MacDonald Had a Truck . With six illustrated, double-sided game boards plus a set of colorful bingo calling cards and chips, this easy-to-learn game is sure to be a hit at any playdate or family game night.

Giveaway Info:

The contest is open to Canadian residents only, and entrants must be aged 18 and up. The contest will run from March 9, 2017 until March 16, 2017. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their ONE (1) giveaway prize pick.

Enter by clicking on the following link to Rafflecopter and follow the instructions to enter:

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

Giveaway is now closed!

Congratulations to AMY H.!

The winner has 48 hours to email me with their prize pick and Canadian mailing address, or another winner will be chosen.

Thank you so much to everyone who participated.

 

I received copies of TouchThinkLearn Fly! and Towering Tree Puzzle from Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this giveaway. Thank you! Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided by Raincoast Books.

Top Ten Tuesday: Recently Added to My To-Be-Read Shelf

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. I have not been doing a great job (at all!) keeping up and participating, but I have been inspired this week! Now, this week is actually a freebie week, so I thought I’d focus on titles recently added to my to-be-read shelf!

A blend of picture books, mystery and fiction…In no particular order, here they are:

1. Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin– a wordless picture book that I have been reading wonderful reviews about. Graegin’s illustrative work is lovely!

2. The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken– described as Zoom meets Beautiful Oops!, I’m looking forward to seeing this gorgeous-looking picture book in person.

3. I Don’t Draw, I Color! by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Felicita Sala– regular readers of my picture book posts might know I just adore Lehrhaupt’s work! As soon as I saw this latest one come up on Goodreads, it went right to my must-read.

4. I Hate Everyone, Except You by Clinton Kelly. Any other folks here who watched TLC’s What Not to Wear? I’ve read and really enjoyed Kelly’s previously published fashion/entertainment books (love his humour and snark). I Hate Everyone, Except You is a little bit different- this one is actually a memoir- a collection of personal essays- and it sounds fantastic.

5. Tales for the Perfect Child by Florence Parry Heide, with illustrations by Sergio Ruzzier– a new edition of Parry Heide’s classic. I feel as though I have read this, many years ago, but I just cannot recall! In any event, I’m looking forward to rediscovering (or discovering!) this book, and can’t wait to see Ruzzier’s illustrations!

The next four are titles I added to my TBR immediately after reading terrific reviews for in Publisher’s Weekly:

6. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot– a fascinatingly described non-fiction title

7. Find Me by J.S. Monroe– a right-up-my-alley kind of thriller…

8. The Girl from Rawblood by Catriona Ward– a gothic horror/mystery!

9. Say Nothing by Brad Parks– another taut thriller that sounds just like something I’d be interested in!

10. Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett– an unmissable cover, intriguing description and narrator? Yes, please!

What’s on your Top Ten Tuesday this week?

Must Read Monday (60): YA from Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock, Paula Stokes, Simon Mason & more!

Welcome to another edition of Must Read Monday!

This feature is where I spotlight older, recent, or upcoming releases I am looking forward to. The lists will include all genres I like to read, everything from picture books to comics, children’s lit to adult fiction!

This week is all about young adult fiction! Even whittled down, there are piles of tremendous-sounding YA titles on my TBR list! Here is a selection of eight: some have been waiting a while (I am sorry, dear books), others are new and forthcoming, some from authors I adore, and some I have read rave reviews for:

 

25733927The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Publication: February 23, 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books
Book Description:

Alaska: Growing up here isn’t like growing up anywhere else.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck suddenly comes her way. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This is a book about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.

 

26156199Girl Against the Universe by Paula Stokes
Publication: May 17, 2016 by HarperTeen
Book Description:

No matter how many charms she buys off the internet or good luck rituals she performs each morning, horrible things happen when Maguire is around. Like that time the roller coaster jumped off its tracks. Or the time the house next door caught on fire. Or that time her brother, father, and uncle were all killed in a car crash—and Maguire walked away with barely a scratch.

It’s safest for Maguire to hide out in her room, where she can cause less damage and avoid new people who she could hurt. But then she meets Jordy, an aspiring tennis star. Jordy is confident, talented, and lucky, and he’s convinced he can help Maguire break her unlucky streak. Maguire knows that the best thing she can do for Jordy is to stay away. But it turns out staying away may be harder than she thought.

 

28691938Running Girl (The Garvie Smith Mysteries #1) by Simon Mason
Publication: August 30, 2016 by David Fickling Books (first published 2014)
Book Description:

Meet Garvie Smith. Highest IQ ever recorded at Marsh Academy. Lowest ever grades. What’s the point? Life sucks. Nothing surprising ever happens. Until Chloe Dow’s body is pulled from a pond. Garvie’s ex-girlfriend.

Inspector Singh is already on the case. Ambitious, uptight, methodical, he’s determined to solve the mystery–and get promoted. He doesn’t need any “assistance” from a notorious slacker. Or does he?

Smart, stylish, and packed with twists and turns from start to finish, Running Girl introduces an unforgettable new character to the world of crime fiction–so lazy he’d only get out of bed for murder.

 

27414423Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Publication: October 4, 2016 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself.

 

28954189Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman
Publication: November 22, 2016 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Book Descsription:

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

 

32075671The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

23447923The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Expected publication: March 7, 2017 by Clarion Books
Book Description:

From the multi-award-winning author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe comes a gorgeous new story about love, identity, and families lost and found.

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

 

30653853The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
Expected publication: April 11, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Book Description:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

Right?

 

Recently Read: Great Picture Books

Another spate of tremendous picture books I’ve recently read! We had a burst of school visits to my library in the last month or so- classes from preschool to grade two- and in preparation for the visits, I had the great opportunity to read a bunch of new (or new-to-me!) picture books and board books:

 

1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina *
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell, illus. Rafael López *
Best in Snow by April Pulley Sayre *
Panda Pants by Jacqueline Davies, illus. Sydney Hanson *
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi (board book) *
Go! Go! Go! Stop! by Charise Mericle Harper *
Tiny Hamster Is a Giant Monster by Joel Jensen, Joseph Matsushima & Amy Matsushima *
Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro, illus. Tatjana Mai-Wyss
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illus. Eugene Yelchin
1 2 3 Dream by Kim Krans
I Heart You by Meg Fleming, illus. Sarah Jane Wright
Flyaway by Lesley Barnes

*star indicates that the picture book was used as a read aloud (and was a hit!) at one of my storytimes

Blog Tour Stop: Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli

Welcome to one of the stops (the last one!) on the Raincoast Books blog tour for David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli’s graphic novel Fish Girl! Please read on for my thoughts as well as a look inside the book…

9780547483931Fish Girl by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: March 7, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

Triple Caldecott winner David Wiesner brings his rich visual imagination and trademark artistry to the graphic novel format in a unique coming-of-age tale that begins underwater. A young mermaid, called Fish Girl, in a boardwalk aquarium has a chance encounter with an ordinary girl. Their growing friendship inspires Fish Girl’s longing for freedom, independence, and a life beyond the aquarium tank. Sparkling with humor and brilliantly visualized, Fish Girl’s story will resonate with every young person facing the challenges and rewards of growing up.

In Fish Girl, the new graphic novel from David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli, readers are taken into the world of a young mermaid who is kept as a star attraction- and money-making draw- by her keeper, Neptune. Kirkus Reviews has described Fish Girl as a ‘riveting…adaptation’ of the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Little Mermaid- and what an on-point, perfect statement that is! Fish Girl is absolutely its own weighty, serious and intense story, but its ties to the Anderson fairy tale are fascinating.

Fish Girl lives her life in an aquatic exhibition run by a man called Neptune. Neptune, as we learn, was a fisherman who apparently took Fish Girl (along with a myriad of other sea life) from the ocean from the time she was a baby. Keeping Fish Girl in a boardwalk exhibition to make money off of teasing exhibition go-ers with the possibility of the existence of a ‘real, live’ mermaid, Neptune is the keeper of Fish Girl. Aside from her magnificent octopus friend and other sea creatures, Fish Girl only has Neptune…until a young girl visiting the exhibition takes genuine interest and care in getting to know Fish Girl. As Fish Girl gets to know the girl, Livia, she begins to question and investigate Neptune, her claustrophobic life as an exhibition, and how she might escape from her caged life and start a new life on land. Layered and complex, Fish Girl is a more serious, contemplative read with darker undercurrents. Neptune in particular, is an uncomfortable character; he mistreats Fish Girl and baits her with promises of stories about her mermaid family if she behaves and performs well. Fish Girl herself becomes a heroine to root for; readers will likely be captivated (and hopeful) as she attempts to thwart Neptune and escape from what has become- and has likely always been- her oceanic prison.

Overall, Fish Girl is an excellent, potent story. David Wiesner’s work is always distinct and impressive; readers who have experienced his wordless and award-winning picture book Flotsam will see once again how majestically he draws sea creatures. The combination of Donna Jo Napoli- an author seasoned in stories based on myth, legends and fairy tales- and Wiesner works wonderfully to bring the singular experience of Fish Girl. A sophisticated and layered story- at times, intense and taut, with sinister undercurrents- Fish Girl works as a graphic novel with definite crossover appeal for older children and teens. Readers who have enjoyed children’s or YA graphic novels with more mature subject matter, along the lines of Sunny Side Up, Matt Phelan’s Bluffton or Snow White, anything from Gene Luen Yang, David Petersen or Kazu Kibuishi, might especially appreciate Fish Girl.

fishgirl_p70

Excerpt from Fish Girl, courtesy of Raincoast Books

Interested in reading more reviews and thoughts about Fish Girl? You can check out the other great blogs participating in the tour:

fish-girl-blog-tour-postcard

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review and for the purposes of this blog tour. All opinions and comments are my own.