Recently Read: Wishtree & The Exact Location of Home

I have had the pleasure of recently reading two children’s fiction titles: Wishtree, from Newbery Medal award-winning author Katherine Applegate (The One and Only Ivan), and The Exact Location of Home from another award-winning author, Kate Messner (The Seventh Wish). Read on for my thoughts on the two middle-grade titles:

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, illus. Charles Santoso
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 26, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood wishtree” – people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.

Funny, deep, warm, and nuanced, Wishtree is Newbery Medalist and New York Times -bestselling author Katherine Applegate at her very best – writing from the heart, and from a completely unexpected point of view.

Told through the first-person narrative of an old oak tree (a wishtree) named Red, Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree is compassionate story with overarching themes about the importance of kindness and of hope. The angle of the story being told from an ancient oak tree’s perspective is truly unique: like an omnipotent being watching over a neighborhood, Red tells us stories about one particular neighborhood they have been watching over for years. As Red witnesses unwelcome and outright cruel acts taken against a young girl named Samar (and her family) who have recently moved into the neighborhood, Red decides that the time for action has come. With the help of friend Bongo, a clever crow, and the slight interference of wildlife friends close by, Red takes on a daring mission to make Samar’s wish- for that of friendship- come true.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Katherine Applegate’s titles will undoubtedly enjoy this story; a story, at its core, about kindness, inclusion, and friendship. While I do think the story might have benefited from a longer finale and conclusion (certain facets to the story seemed a little rushed and/or solved too quickly!), it is nonetheless a moving tale. A beautiful, affecting story that reads almost like a parable, Applegate has another solid middle grade title here with Wishtree.

The Exact Location of Home by Kate Messner
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Bloomsbury USA*
Book Description:

Kirby “Zig” Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people – especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo – a garage sale GPS unit – for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem . . . and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home.

An important story of love and hope that will capture readers’ hearts, The Exact Location of Home is another must read from beloved author Kate Messner.

Kate Messner, picture book writer and middle grade author of The Seventh Wish and All the Answers, returns to contemporary, realistic issues in The Exact Location of Home. Readers are taken into the changing and suddenly complicated world of protagonist and narrator Zig. As we soon learn, Zig lives with mom; his dad, Zig Senior, and mom are divorced, though Zig looks forward to his (increasingly sporadic) visits with his larger-than-life dad almost more than anything. After he learns from his mom that Zig Senior is not making his next planned visit and his mom remains tight-lipped about the reasons for the cancellations, Zig decides to investigate a little bit. While investigating, Zig and his two closest friends become ensconced in daring geocaching missions around his neighborhood- where Zig becomes utterly convinced his dad is leaving secret clues for him to track him down. Messner carefully balances plotlines that include serious financial strain, homelessness, parental lies, and possible romance. It’s a heavy load of subject matters, but Messner approaches all- especially that of sudden homelessness, fear, and shame (not often covered in middle grade)- with careful consideration and eloquence.

As with Katherine Applegate’s Wishtree, discussed above, Messner’s The Exact Location of Home touches upon realistic, seriously affecting issues that resonate and provide much for contemplation. Readers who are searching for a meaningful, contemporary title- with a tangible, complex young protagonist- might especially appreciate The Exact Location of Home.

(*It appears that The Exact Location of Home was first published solely in e-book format in 2014; reissued this past September 2017 in print format.)

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

Advertisements

Spotlight & Giveaway for Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes!

Be An Upside Down Thinker!

Welcome to a special post featuring Shelley Johannes’s debut children’s title Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker! Disney-Hyperion has very kindly sent me a copy of the book to check out and is partnering with me for a great giveaway.

Shelley Johannes’s debut is an early children’s fiction title with lots of zest and heart. Beatrice Zinker is one of three Zinker children, and she’s never felt like she’s quite fit in with her family- most especially with her older sister Kate, the spit of her very organized, right-side up mom. From an early age, Beatrice has been most fascinated by the ‘maybe’s’ of life, of adventure, of not quite doing the expected…and of doing her best thinking upside down (or hanging out in trees). When Beatrice is surprised with a special award for ‘Best Upside Down Thinker’ at the end of first grade- and makes a wonderful friend in classmate Lenny- Beatrice thinks things might actually be turning perfectly upside down in her favour. But then third grade starts and things start to go more than awry for Beatrice. With a stricter, unbending new teacher, and a best friend who seems to be drifting away from adventure and ‘what-ifs’, Beatrice finds herself in a terrible bind. With it looking like a disastrous, lonely year ahead, Beatrice decides to charge ahead with her top secret Operation Upside. Beatrice is an unusual, brave character who will likely find lots of young readers able to empathize with her and her growing pains. Tackling broader yet understandable issues like sibling drama, changing friendships and staying true to one’s self, Johannes creates something unique and winningly kooky with Beatrice and the Zinker family. While some of Beatrice’s motivations and actions through the middle of novel come off as a little haphazard or unexplored (well, kind like Beatrice herself, at times!), the story swirls beautifully towards a lovely ending. Readers who are enjoying series like Dory Fantasmagory, Mercy Watson, Princess Pistachio, Judy Moody, or Clementine, might especially adore Beatrice (and her family!) and look forward to more of her upside down adventures.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker by Shelley Johannes, with illus. by the author
Release date: September 19, 2017
Recommended for ages 9-12

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Beatrice does her best thinking upside down.

Hanging from trees by her knees, doing handstands . . . for Beatrice Zinker, upside down works every time. She was definitely upside down when she and her best friend, Lenny, agreed to wear matching ninja suits on the first day of third grade. But when Beatrice shows up at school dressed in black, Lenny arrives with a cool new outfit and a cool new friend. Even worse, she seems to have forgotten all about the top-secret operation they planned!

Can Beatrice use her topsy-turvy way of thinking to save the mission, mend their friendship, and flip things sunny-side up?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shelley Johannes previously spent ten years in architecture—where she fell in love with felt-tip pens, tracing paper, and the greatness of black turtlenecks. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two sons. Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker is the first book she’s written. Find her online at shelleyjohannes.com.

LEARN MORE

Visit the Official Site
Follow Disney-Hyperion on Twitter and Instagram
Like Disney Books on Facebook
Hashtags #BeatriceZinker #UpsideDownThinker

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION

One (1) winner will receive:

-Copy of Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker
-“Upside Down Thinker” beanie
-Branded pencil case and notepad!

Open to US addresses only. Prizing and samples provided by Disney-Hyperion.

Update: GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED- Thank you to everyone who entered!

The winning name is: KELLY T.! Congratulations! Please confirm your win within 24 hours of notification to claim your prize.

The giveaway will run from October 6, 2017 to October 13, 2017, and is open to US residents. The winning entry will be randomly selected via Rafflecopter. Winner has 48 hours to respond to me via email at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com with their mailing address or a new entry will be drawn. Enter by clicking on the following link to Rafflecopter and follow the instructions to enter:

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Here’s our family guinea pig Wilbur hanging out with Beatrice, showing off his favourite way to read. He’s always been an awesome, unexpected kind of piggie…

 

A copy of this title was sent courtesy of Disney-Hyperion for the purposes of this post and giveaway. Disney-Hyperion is also providing a prize pack for one winner from my site. Review opinions and comments are my own.

Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser

Review: The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

A modern classic in the making reminiscent of the Penderwicks series, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is about the connections we make and the unexpected turns life can take.

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home.

If a cozy, heavenly blanket – think of a warm, lovely blanket, possibly handmade, the best in the world- came in the form of a book, that book might look something just like Karina Yan Glaser’s The Vanderbeeker’s of 141st Street. One of the most genuine, moving, kindhearted novels I have had the pleasure of reading in the last long while, I cannot think of enough wonderful things to say about this extraordinary debut children’s novel.

The five Vanderbeeker siblings and their parents live in an unusual brownstone on 141st Street in Harlem. For the Vanderbeeker siblings and their parents, the brownstone is not just a home but an extension of their family and how they fit in the world. When the family receives the terrible and seriously unexpected news that their strange and exasperating landlord, Mr. Beiderman, is not going to renew their lease, the siblings decide to team up and do whatever it takes to convince the reclusive Beiderman to let them stay. The Vanderbeekers are an unforgettable family, consisting of tremendously lovable, sparkling, one-of-a-kind siblings and parents. Through the varied not-so-successful early efforts to keep their home, readers are taken inside the inner workings of each Vanderbeeker sibling and treated to a closer look at their parents, their marvelous neighbours and the unfortunate- tragic- events that forever changed Beiderman’s life. While I had an inkling about what was to be discovered about Mr. Beiderman’s past, the journey to the discovery- and the resulting outcomes- was in no way less thrilling, affecting or joyous. Absolutely lovely from start to finish, with wonderful main and supporting characters, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is an excellent read.

Already having received starred reviews from School Library Journal and Booklist, as well as solid reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, I am happy to see that Glaser’s debut is making waves this year on the children’s lit front. Readers who enjoy the work of authors such as R.J. Palacio, Kate DiCamillo, Jeanne Birdsall, or Sara Pennypacker might especially love the veritable, profound charm and loving nature of The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street. With a sequel (yay!) planned for release in 2018, it delights me to know that I will get to spend more time with the Vanderbeekers in the future.

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

Must Read Monday (73): Children’s Titles from Charis Cotter, David Barclay Moore, Kat Yeh & 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: wonderful looking and sounding children’s lit! The Truth About Twinkie Pie author Kat Yeh is back with The Way to Bea; award-winning Canadian author Charis Cotter returns with The Painting; Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is back with a sequel to the incredible, award-winning The War That Saved My Life with The War I Finally Won; Jake Burt debuts on scene with the buzz-worthy Greetings from Witness Protection!; Lindsay Currie promises a wonderful suspense with The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street; and David Barclay Moore’s The Stars Beneath Our Feet is already receiving praise and starred reviews.

 

The Painting by Charis Cotter
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Tundra Books
Book Description:

Annie and her mother don’t see eye to eye. When Annie finds a painting of a lonely lighthouse in their home, she is immediately drawn to it–and her mother wishes it would stay banished in the attic. To her, art has no interest, but Annie loves drawing and painting.

When Annie’s mother slips into a coma following a car accident, strange things begin to happen to Annie. She finds herself falling into the painting and meeting Claire, a girl her own age living at the lighthouse. Claire’s mother Maisie is the artist behind the painting, and like Annie, Claire’s relationship with her mother is fraught. Annie thinks she can help them find their way back to each other, and in so doing, help mend her relationship with her own mother.
But who IS Claire? Why can Annie travel through the painting? And can Annie help her mother wake up from her coma? The Painting is a touching, evocative story with a hint of mystery and suspense to keep readers hooked.

 

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.

His path isn’t clear–and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape–and an unexpected bridge back to the world.

 

The Way to Bea by Kat Yeh
Publication: September 19, 2017 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Everything in Bea’s world has changed. She’s starting seventh grade newly friendless and facing big changes at home, where she is about to go from only child to big sister. Feeling alone and adrift, and like her words don’t deserve to be seen, Bea takes solace in writing haiku in invisible ink and hiding them in a secret spot.

But then something incredible happens–someone writes back. And Bea begins to connect with new friends, including a classmate obsessed with a nearby labyrinth and determined to get inside. As she decides where her next path will lead, she just might discover that her words–and herself–have found a new way to belong.

 

Greetings from Witness Protection! by Jake Burt
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Feiwel and Friends
Book Description:

Nicki Demere is an orphan and a pickpocket. She also happens to be the U.S. Marshals’ best bet to keep a family alive. . . .

The marshals are looking for the perfect girl to join a mother, father, and son on the run from the nation’s most notorious criminals. After all, the bad guys are searching for a family with one kid, not two, and adding a streetwise girl who knows a little something about hiding things may be just what the marshals need.

Nicki swears she can keep the Trevor family safe, but to do so she’ll have to dodge hitmen, cyberbullies, and the specter of standardized testing, all while maintaining her marshal-mandated B-minus average. As she barely balances the responsibilities of her new identity, Nicki learns that the biggest threats to her family’s security might not lurk on the road from New York to North Carolina, but rather in her own past.

 

The War I Finally Won (The War That Saved My Life #2) by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Dial Books
Book Description:

When Ada’s clubfoot is surgically fixed at last, she knows for certain that she’s not what her mother said she was—damaged, deranged, crippled mentally as well as physically. She’s not a daughter anymore, either. What is she?

World War II continues, and Ada and her brother, Jamie, are living with their loving legal guardian, Susan, in a borrowed cottage on the estate of the formidable Lady Thorton—along with Lady Thorton herself and her daughter, Maggie. Life in the crowded cottage is tense enough, and then, quite suddenly, Ruth, a Jewish girl from Germany, moves in. A German? The occupants of the house are horrified. But other impacts of the war become far more frightening. As death creeps closer to their door, life and morality during wartime grow more complex. Who is Ada now? How can she keep fighting? And who will she struggle to save?

 

The Peculiar Incident on Shady Street by Lindsay Currie
Expected publication: October 10th 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

Tessa Woodward isn’t exactly thrilled to move to rainy, cold Chicago from her home in sunny Florida. But homesickness turns to icy fear when unexplainable things start happening in her new house. Things like flickering lights, mysterious drawings appearing out of nowhere, and a crackling noise she can feel in her bones.

When her little brother’s doll starts crying real tears, Tessa realizes that someone—or something—is trying to communicate with her. A secret that’s been shrouded in mystery for more than one hundred years.

With the help of three new friends, Tessa begins unraveling the mystery of what happened in the house on Shady Street—and more importantly, what it has to do with her!

Review: Hunting Hour (A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima

Review: Hunting Hour (A Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima
Source: ARC courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: August 8, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Deputy Mattie Cobb is in a dark place and has withdrawn from Cole Walker and his family to work on issues from her past. When she and her K-9 partner Robo get called to track a missing junior high student, they find the girl dead on Smoker’s Hill behind the high school, and Mattie must head to the Walker home to break the bad news. But that’s only the start of trouble in Timber Creek, because soon another girl goes missing—and this time it’s one of Cole’s daughters.

Knowing that each hour a child remains missing lessens the probability of finding her alive, Mattie and Robo lead the hunt while Cole and community volunteers join in to search everywhere. To no avail. It seems that someone has snatched all trace of the Walker girl from their midst, including her scent. Grasping at straws, Mattie and Robo follow a phoned-in tip into the dense forest, where they hope to find a trace of the girl’s scent and to rescue her alive. But when Robo does catch her scent, it leads them to information that challenges everything they thought they knew about the case.

Mattie and Robo must rush to hunt down the kidnapper before they’re too late in Hunting Hour, the third installment in critically acclaimed author Margaret Mizushima’s exhilarating mystery series.

Author Margaret Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 Mystery series has fast become a mystery series that I adore. Pairing formidable deputy Mattie Cobb and her incredible police dog Robo, the Timber Creek series blends elements of suspense, police procedural work, with explorations of interpersonal relationships to terrific effect. In Hunting Hour, the third in the series, Deputy Cobb and her team face an intense, almost impossible-to-solve situation when the heartbreaking discovery of a dead body leads to a terrifying hunt that hits much too close to home.

As per the book’s description, readers are taken on an intense journey with Mattie and Robo as Timber Creek is struck- again- with news about the death of a young girl. With tensions and suspicions running high, and Mattie facing her own biases when searching for possible homicide suspects, the town of Timber Creek is on high alert. As with the two previous Timber Creek entries, there are two perspectives (in third person narratives) running parallel to one another. While Mattie is undoubtedly the lead protagonist, the series also features veterinarian Cole Walker as the alternating perspective. Cole and Mattie have become close friends- with undercurrents of romantic friction- over the course of the novels, and Hunting Hour really explores more of their increasing feelings towards one another. As the case intensifies beyond belief- when Cole’s youngest daughter goes missing- and Mattie’s personal stake in solving the case goes beyond fierce, the alternating perspectives of Mattie and Cole reach extreme peaks and realizations.

As ever, I hope to read more of Mattie and Robo in Timber Creek series entries to come. While not a cozy mystery series, there is something comforting in reading about Mattie and Robo’s phenomenal relationship- and in how the duo approach increasingly tenacious situations with hope. Mizushima has also crafted Timber Creek so well over the last three novels, welcoming new and returning readers to a well-established, wild, and magnetic (and crime-prone!) community. Hunting Hour is the strongest of the series yet, with more examination into Mattie’s personal history and psychological trauma, as well as further exploration into the intensifying relationship between Mattie and Cole Walker. Readers interested in trying a well-written mystery series featuring an unusual and unforgettable duo might do well to try Mizushima’s Timber Creek K-9 novels out!

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 (71): Children’s Titles from Jason Reynolds, Robin Stevens, Celia C. Pérez & 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: more children’s fiction! I can’t help it, folks- children’s fiction is one of my reading loves…and there is so much GREATNESS out there in this area that my to-read pile grows and grows. Some of this week’s picks are inspired by recently read incredible, moving, and overall wonderful reads. I just finished reading Jolly Foul Play, the fourth in the Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries series by British author Robin Stevens, and immediately added Mistletoe & Murder (book number five) to my list. It had been some time since reading book three in the Murder Most Unladylike series, but starting Jolly Foul Play brought Stevens’s brilliant 1930’s English world of young detectives all back- and it is a tremendous series that gets even stronger, sharper, and more engaging with each entry. Truly great. I also recently read Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds (mentioned here) and it is excellent- a highly, highly recommended read. I have Patina (Track #2) on my must-read, though for this Must Read Monday I am including another of his acclaimed middle grade novels, As Brave As You.

Last, but certainly not least, this week also includes: James Nicol’s The Apprentice Witch, which I picked up on a whim and looks delightful; the fantastically spooky and strange sounding The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter; and Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk, which I have been reading rave reviews about.

 

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds
Publication: May 3, 2016 by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books
Book Description:

When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?

 

Mistletoe & Murder (Murder Most Unladylike #5) by Robin Stevens
Publication: October 20, 2016 by Puffin
Book Description:

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.

 

The Bone Snatcher by Charlotte Salter
Publication: February 14, 2017 by Dial
Book Description:

Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their stupid vacation. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.

The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place—and to reuniting Sophie with her family.

But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets—and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.

 

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol
Publication: July 25, 2017 by Chicken House
Book Description:

Arianwyn has flunked her witch’s assessment: She’s doomed. Declared an apprentice and sent to the town of Lull in disgrace, she may never become a real witch– much to the glee of her arch-rival, Gimma.But remote Lull is not as boring as it seems. Strange things are sighted in the woods, a dangerous infestation of hex creeps throughout the town, and a mysterious magical visitor arrives with his eye on her.

With every spirit banished, creature helped, and spell cast, Arianwyn starts to get the hang of being a witch–even if she’s only an apprentice. But the worst still lies ahead. For a sinister darkness has begun to haunt her spells, and there may be much more at stake than just her pride . . . for Arianwyn and the entire land.

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez
Publication: August 22, 2017 by Viking
Book Description:

There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school–you can’t fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School’s queen bee, violates the school’s dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She’ll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

Black and white illustrations and collage art throughout make The First Rule of Punk a perfect pick for fans of books like Roller Girl and online magazines like Rookie.

Must Read Monday (70): Children’s Fiction from Mary E. Lambert, Beth McMullen, Dusti Bowling & 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: all children’s fiction! A mish-mash of genres is on the roster, with everything from mystery, adventure, to contemporary titles. We have: The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow from Jessica Haight and Stephanie Robinson, which sounds like a delightful mystery; the well-reviewed contemporary title Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert; Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling, which I’ve been reading tremendous early reviews for; Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen which sounds like a zippy middle-grade Gallagher Girls; and Julie Bowe’s lovely sounding contemporary Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd).

 

 

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow by Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson, illus. Roman Muradov
Publication: December 1, 2015 by Delacorte
Book Description:

Fear Not the Unexpected.

Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow is less than thrilled that her family is moving thousands of miles from civilization to the quiet country town of Ashpot, Connecticut, where she’s absolutely certain she’ll die of boredom.

As if leaving New York City and her best friend, Lizzy, the only other member of the elite Detective Mystery Squad (DMS), weren’t bad enough, Fairday is stuck living in the infamous Begonia House, a creepy old Victorian with dark passageways, a gigantic dead willow tree, and a mysterious past.

Before she can even unpack, strange music coming from behind a padlocked door leads Fairday up a spiral staircase and into a secret room, where an ancient mirror, a brass key, and a strange picture of a red-haired lady are the first in a series of clues that takes the members of the Detective Mystery Squad on an amazing adventure.

 

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
Publication: February 28, 2017 by Scholastic Press
Book Description:

Annabelle has a five mile rule: She must keep her friends from coming within five miles of her home. That’s because Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. Their house is full of stuff: canned goods, broken toys, old newspapers… It’s everywhere except for Annabelle’s spotless room. Annabelle can’t let anyone find out what her house is like. They’ll realize that her mom is crazy. They’ll make fun of her. Or feel sorry for her. Or try to help.

But when the newspaper piles come crashing down on her sister’s head one morning, it kicks off an epic fight between her parents that ends up with her dad taking off — and her fix-it-all grandmother stepping in.

As Annabelle realizes how bad things have gotten for her little sister, while trying to navigate her first crush, not to mention stay sane herself, she’s forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe she can’t keep all her secrets to herself. Maybe she can’t just throw her mom’s things out… maybe she has to let some people in.

 

Big & Little Questions (According to Wren Jo Byrd) by Julie Bowe
Publication: March 21, 2017 by Kathy Dawson Books
Book Description:

It’s the start of a new school year and Wren Jo Byrd is worried that everyone will find out her parents separated over the summer. No one knows the truth, not even her best friend, Amber. When even her new teacher refers to her mom as Mrs. Byrd, Wren decides to keep their divorce a total secret. But something else changed over the summer: A new girl named Marianna moved to town and wants to be Amber’s next bff. And because of her fib, Wren can’t do anything about it. From take-out dinners with Mom to the tiny room she gets at Dad’s new place, nothing is the same for Wren anymore. But while Marianna makes everything harder at first, Wren soon learns that Marianna once had to ask many of the same questions–the big ones, as well as the little ones–that Wren is asking now.

 

Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen
Publication: July 4, 2017 by Aladdin
Book Description:

A girl discovers her boarding school is actually an elite spy-training program, and she must learn the skills of the trade in order to find her mother in this action-packed middle grade debut.

After a botched escape plan from her boarding school, Abigail is stunned to discover the school is actually a cover for an elite spy ring called The Center, along with being training grounds for future spies. Even more shocking? Abigail’s mother is a top agent for The Center and she has gone MIA, with valuable information that many people would like to have—at any cost. Along with a former nemesis and charming boy from her grade, Abigail goes through a crash course in Spy Training 101, often with hilarious—and sometimes painful—results. But Abigail realizes she might be a better spy-in-training than she thought—and the answers to her mother’s whereabouts are a lot closer than she thinks…

 

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Expected publication: September 5, 2017 by Sterling Children’s Books
Book Description:

Aven Green loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again.

Her new life takes an unexpected turn when she bonds with Connor, a classmate who also feels isolated because of his own disability, and they discover a room at Stagecoach Pass that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. It’s hard to solve a mystery, help a friend, and face your worst fears. But Aven’s about to discover she can do it all . . . even without arms.

 

Must Read Monday (68): Children’s Fiction from Paul Mosier, Adrienne Kress & 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: children’s fiction titles! The following six titles are a mixture of ones from debut authors and ones that are totally new-to-me-authors. There is Canadian author Adrienne Kress’s The Door in the Alley, which looks and sounds like the start of terrifically fun adventure/mystery series; Melissa Savage’s Lemons, a Bigfoot-centred adventure/mystery; and Paul Mosier’s contemporary and contemplative-sounding Train I Ride. Then there is the wonderfully creepy and dark-sounding The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody; Kristi Wientge’s contemporary middle grade debut Karma Khullar’s Mustache; and a beautiful and unusual-sounding fantasy called The Unicorn in the Barn written by Jacqueline K. Ogburn.

 

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier
Publication: January 24, 2017 by HarperCollins
Book Description:

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

 

The Door in the Alley (The Explorers #1) by Adrienne Kress
Publication: April 25, 2017 by Delacorte Press
Book Description:

Featuring a mysterious society, a secretive past, and a pig in a teeny hat, “The Explorers: The Door in the Alley” is the first book in a new series for fans of “The Name of This Book Is a Secret” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society. “Knock once if you can find it but only members are allowed inside.

This is one of those stories that start with a pig in a teeny hat. It s not the one you re thinking about. (This story is way better than that one.) This pig-in-a-teeny-hat story starts when a very uninquisitive boy stumbles upon a very mysterious society. After that, there is danger and adventure; there are missing persons, hired thugs, a hidden box, a lost map, and famous explorers; and there is a girl looking for help that only uninquisitive boys can offer.

 

Lemons by Melissa Savage
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Crown Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

What do you do when you lose everything that means anything?

Nine-year old Lemonade Liberty Witt doesn’t know the answer to that question, except what her mom taught her. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what if those lemons are so big that you forget how? How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods.

That’s right, Bigfoot. A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests. How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

 

The Unicorn in the Barn by Jacqueline K. Ogburn, illus. Rebecca Green
Expected publication: July 4, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

For years people have claimed to see a mysterious white deer in the woods around Chinaberry Creek. It always gets away.One evening, Eric Harper thinks he spots it. But a deer doesn’t have a coat that shimmers like a pearl. And a deer certainly isn’t born with an ivory horn curling from its forehead.

When Eric discovers the unicorn is hurt and being taken care of by the vet next door and her daughter, Allegra, his life is transformed. A tender tale of love, loss, and the connections we make, The Unicorn in the Barn shows us that sometimes ordinary life takes extraordinary turns.

 

The Gravedigger’s Son by Patrick Moody
Expected publication: August 1, 2017 by Sky Pony Press

Book Description:

Ian Fossor is last in a long line of Gravediggers. It’s his family’s job to bury the dead and then, when Called by the dearly departed, to help settle the worries that linger beyond the grave so spirits can find peace in the Beyond.

But Ian doesn’t want to help the dead—he wants to be a Healer and help the living. Such a wish is, of course, selfish and impossible. Fossors are Gravediggers. So he reluctantly continues his training under the careful watch of his undead mentor, hoping every day that he’s never Called and carefully avoiding the path that leads into the forbidden woods bordering the cemetery.

Just as Ian’s friend, Fiona, convinces him to talk to his father, they’re lured into the woods by a risen corpse that doesn’t want to play by the rules. There, the two are captured by a coven of Weavers, dark magic witches who want only two thing—to escape the murky woods where they’ve been banished, and to raise the dead and shift the balance of power back to themselves.

Only Ian can stop them. With a little help from his friends. And his long-dead ancestors.

 

Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
Expected publication: August 15, 2017 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Book Description:

Debut author Kristi Wientge tackles the uncomfortable—but all too relatable—subject of female body hair and self-esteem with this sweet and charming novel in the tradition of Judy Blume.

Karma Khullar is about to start middle school, and she is super nervous. Not just because it seems like her best friend has found a newer, blonder best friend. Or the fact that her home life is shaken up by the death of her dadima. Or even that her dad is the new stay-at-home parent, leading her mother to spend most of her time at work. But because she’s realized that she has seventeen hairs that have formed a mustache on her upper lip.

With everyone around her focused on other things, Karma is left to figure out what to make of her terrifyingly hairy surprise all on her own.

Review: Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith

Review: Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: December 13, 2016 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

NYPD Detective Claire Codella is chomping at the bit for a new case. Lieutenant McGowan is determined to keep her out of the news, but she’s about to be back in the public eye in a big way. Broadway legend Lucy Merchant has tragically succumbed to early onset Alzheimer’s. At age fifty-six, she’s tucked away in the dementia care unit of the ultra-exclusive Manhattan care facility Park Manor. When she falls asleep and doesn’t wake up, her billionaire husband is ready for the funeral, but her daughter demands an investigation.

Only three months back on the job after cancer treatment, Codella finds herself at the center of a high profile case nearly everyone–especially her lieutenant–wants to shut down. But the forensic evidence raises alarming questions and Codella needs answers. To find them, she will have to crack the defenses of slippery administrators, frightened caregivers, and unobliging family members, all while unlocking some of her own dark memories.

Forgotten City, Carrie Smith’s gripping follow-up to Silent City, pits the unrelenting detective against a cast of diverse New Yorkers driven by their desires and ambitions and haunted by their pasts. But can she piece together the truth before the murderer kills again?

Forgotten City is the very strong sophomore novel in Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella mystery series that began with Silent City. Tailor made for readers who enjoy their procedurals and detective-centred mysteries brisk and intelligent, Forgotten City is tightly plotted, thoroughly engaging mystery, with a terrifically formidable female detective.

The central mystery in Forgotten City is an intriguing and unusual one: Broadway legend Lucy Merchant, who had been suffering from a rare, genetic early-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease, is found dead in a premier care facility in New York. As moves are made to declare that Lucy died of natural causes, Lucy’s daughter voices her shock and disbelief to Detective Codella and claims that her mother has been murdered- possibly poisoned. Codella is just coming off successful- and well-publicized- cases; her immediate (and bigoted) superior, Dennis McGowan, jealous of Codella’s success, will do anything to keep Codella down and away from any potentially big case. Codella, rather wonderfully, navigates her way around McGowan and begins a thorough investigation into the possibility that Lucy Merchant was somehow murdered in her suite at one of the most exclusive care homes known to man. As Codella slowly but surely unfolds convoluted layers, lies from main suspects, and strange ties between the list of suspects, we gain further insight into Codella’s brutal childhood and her tentative relationship with fellow detective Brian Haggerty. Smith has done a terrific job with Forgotten City: smart, twisty, winding, and compelling from start to finish. While not absolutely essential to have read Silent City before diving into Forgotten City, I would suggest starting with the debut; not only gripping and solidly written, but Silent City also provides a firm introduction to Codella, her cancer treatment and recovery, her past and present police team members, as well as a basis of her history with Haggerty.

Overall, Forgotten City is a very well done mystery novel, with the Claire Codella mystery series being one I would absolutely recommend to fans of detective novels, or those who enjoy their reading to align with shows like The Good Wife, Law & Order, or NYPD Blue. Forgotten City does not fall into any kind of sophomore slump here, with this novel being even stronger, sharper and more evenly teased out than the (already solid) first outing.

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 (67): Mysteries from Maile Meloy, Gin Phillips, Susie Steiner & 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: five titles on the docket and they are all mysteries and thrillers! Titles include: the soon-to-be-released latest thriller from bestselling author Ruth Ware; a very intriguing sounding mystery from Maile Meloy, author of the middle grade The Apothecary series; and the wonderfully suspenseful-sounding Fierce Kingdom from Gin Philips, which immediately grabbed my attention. There is also Persons Unknown, the new DS Manon mystery novel from Susie Steiner; I really enjoyed the cerebral Missing, Presumed, the debut in this series and am looking forward to more! Last but not least, author Julia Thomas’s sophomore mystery novel, Penhale Wood, drop in July. Thomas’s debut, The English Boys, is a clever slow-burn of a mystery, and thoroughly enjoyable, so I am excited to read more from the author.

 

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy
Expected publication: June 6, 2017 by Riverhead Books
Book Description:

When Liv and Nora decide to take their families on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship’s comforts and possibilities seem infinite. The children, two eleven-year-olds, an eight-year-old, and a six-year-old, love the nonstop buffet and the independence they have at the Kids’ Club. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor misfortunes leads the families farther and farther from the ship’s safety. One minute the children are there, and the next they’re gone.

What follows is a riveting, revealing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the once-happy parents now turning on one another and blaming themselves try to recover their children and their lives.

 

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips
Expected publication: July 4, 2017 by Random House Canada
Book Description:

After school on a late October day, Joan has taken her four-year-old son, Lincoln, to one of his favourite places on earth: the zoo. Just before closing time, as they need to go home, she hears some loud pops like firecrackers. Not thinking much of it, they head for the exit…until Joan realizes the eerie human emptiness means danger, then sees the figure of a lone gunman. Without another thought, she scoops up her son and runs back into the zoo. And for the next three hours–the entire scope of the novel–she does anything she can to keep Lincoln safe.
Both pulse-pounding and emotionally satisfying, Fierce Kingdom is a thrill ride, but also an exploration of the very nature of motherhood itself, from its saving graces to its savage power. At heart it asks how you draw the line between survival and the duty to protect one another? Who would you die for?

 

Persons Unknown (DS Manon #2) by Susie Steiner
Expected publication: July 4, 2017 by Random House
Book Description:

Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant and has officially given up on finding romantic love. Instead, she is in hot-pursuit of work-life balance and parked in a cold case corridor—the price she’s had to pay for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. This is fine, she tells herself. She can devote herself to bringing up her two children—the new baby, and her adopted 12-year-old son Fly Dent. He needed a fresh start—he was being forever stopped and searched in London by officers who couldn’t see past the color of his skin. Manon feared Fly, increasingly sullen and adolescent, was getting in with the wrong crowd at school, or possibly that he was the wrong crowd. Being there for the children, and home by five, is what Manon tells herself she needs.

Yet when a wealthy victim is found stabbed close to police HQ, she can’t help but sidle in on the briefing: he is a banker from London, worth millions. More dramatically, he was also Manon’s sister Ellie’s ex, and the father of her toddler son. The investigation swirls with greater and greater urgency, and as it begins to circle in on Manon’s home and her family, she finds herself pitted against the former colleagues she once held dear—Davy Walker and Harriet Harper.

 

Penhale Wood by Julia Thomas
Expected publication: July 8, 2017 by Midnight Ink
Book Description:

On a cold December night in Cornwall, nanny Karen Peterson disappears with three-year-old Sophie Flynn. The next day, the child’s body is found on the banks of Penhale Wood.

A year later, Sophie’s mother, Iris Flynn, appears on the doorstep of investigating officer Rob McIntyre, determined to make him reopen the case. McIntyre has his own personal demons, but Iris hijacks his life in order to find the person responsible for her daughter’s death. Following the slimmest of leads, they are soon confronting ghosts from the past and a chameleon-like killer who will do anything to stay hidden.

 

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Expected publication: July 25, 2017 by Simon & Schuster Canada
Book Description:

On a cool June morning, Isa Wilde, a resident of the seemingly idyllic coastal village of Salten, is walking her dog along a tidal estuary. Before she can stop him, Isa s dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick and to her horror, she discovers it s not a stick at all but a human bone. As her three best friends from childhood converge in Salten to comfort a seriously shaken-up Isa, terrifying discoveries are made, and their collective history slowly unravels. Tackling the slipperiness of your memories, the relativity of truth, and the danger of obsessive friendships, The Lying Game is a page-turning mystery with compelling characters and electric prose, resulting in an unputdownable thriller.