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Deputy Mattie Cobb is in a dark place and has withdrawn from Cole Walker and his family to work on issues from her past.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.

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Picture Book Reviews: Color Blocked & Give Me Back My Book!

Color Blocked by Ashley Sorenson, illus. David Miles
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: April 4, 2017 by Familius
Book Description:

The color is blocked! Readers must rub, turn, and tap the pages to straighten out pipes, unplug corks, and keep the color flowing. But watch out – the color might run faster than you can keep up! Along the way, readers will learn primary colors, how mixing colors can make secondary colors, and why you should never, ever, put too much trust in a narrator.

If you ever use stories such as Press Here, Please, Open This Book!, A Perfectly Messed-Up Story, Tap the Magic Tree, or any kind of delightful, interactive picture book for a read aloud and/or storytime, then you might want to add Color Blocked to your list! This picture book, written by Ashley Sorenson and vibrantly illustrated by David Miles, is another fun, perfect-for-read-aloud picture book to add to your repertoire. Color Blocked works well as the storytelling approach is appropriately straightforward, allowing for the hands-on aspects of the story to really take center stage.

Readers are immediately taken into a colourful world when everything goes black and white! ‘Uh-oh. Color’s blocked!’; readers are then asked to ‘gently shake this book from side to side to unclog the pipe’. From there, we’re taken on a fun, hands-on journey (along with a committed turtle as our guide), as we try to unclog and untwist pipes- all the while learning about creating colours from mixing different shades. Color Blocked will work very well as a read aloud pick as the storytelling approach is appropriately straightforward, allowing for the hands-on aspects of the story to really take center stage. A truly fun book that I think will go over very well for preschool-age storytimes and up, Color Blocked is an unpretentious, enjoyable reading experience that begs to be shared and experienced with and by young readers.

 

Give Me Back My Book! by Travis Foster & Ethan Long
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

This book is full of wonderful WORDS and beautiful PICTURES! And it’s EXCITING! And it’s FUNNY! It might be the BEST BOOK EVER-if we could decide whose book it is. Redd and Bloo explore the way a book is made and accidentally build a friendship, too, in this tale told only in dialogue. Travis Foster and Ethan Long offer a hilarious story about the joy of reading, which brings people together in unexpected ways, proving that each book truly belongs to . . . the people who love it.

If you are already familiar with Ethan Long’s zany and jolly approach to storytelling (Fright Club, Pig Has a Plan and numerous other popular titles!), then you might already be aware of the kind of story you might be getting here with Give Me Back My Book! Co-authored with illustrator Travis Foster, Give Me Back My Book! is a conversational-based picture book with a wacky, farcical edge.

Friends Redd and Bloo experience a bump in the relationship when Bloo discovers that Redd might have just taken his favourite green book. Alas, Redd, in a truly stubborn fashion that exasperates Bloo tremendously, refuses to give back the green book- until it is snatched away from them both by a sly, hat-wearing worm named Bookworm. Redd and Bloo then must come together to ‘bait’ Bookworm: by creating the most fascinating, captivating new book to make Bookworm return the stolen green book. Give Me Back My Book! relies, as Mo Willems’ Elephant & Piggie titles do, on speech bubbles/character dialogue to carry the entire story. While this format can be tricky, it actually works well here as the back-and-forth is pretty straightforward, clearly delineated- not to mention that the bright and funny illustrations more than perfectly highlight the key moments of the story! I have had the opportunity to read this story multiple times now, and I find that it grows on me more and more each time I read it. I think for an older, willing, and receptive storytime audience (Kindergarten-age, perhaps and above) might especially appreciate the farcical nature of the story; but it’s also wholly enjoyable as a story experienced in pairs or smaller groups! Altogether, a totally entertaining read from the team of Foster and Long that fans of authors such as Ed Vere, Mo Willems, Ame Dyckman, or Jan Thomas might flock to.

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

Recently Read: Great Picture Books from Carey Sookocheff, Jonathan Fenske & more!

Some great picture books I’ve recently read and would recommend!

Let’s start off with a lovely new picture book from Canadian author-illustrator Carey Sookocheff:

Wet by Carey Sookocheff*
Publication: June 20, 2017 by Henry Holt and Co.
This is a quiet, restrained, straightforward story about- you guessed it!- everything wet. From slowly lowering into a pool, to the ever-present puddle at the bottom of a slide, to happy wet kisses from pets, a young boy takes us through the ups and downs of things that get wet. There’s a calm and sweet end to the story that adds to the book’s already-peaceful, perfect-for-nighttime feel. Sookocheff, illustrator of the Buddy and Earl series, has a wonderfully clear, unfussy style of illustration, and uses a suitably delicate colour palette to go along with her latest quiet, gentle story.

 

Now here are three terrifically fun, slightly wacky, perfect-for-storytime picture books:

 

I Want to Be in a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illus. Jean Jullien
Publication: July 11, 2017 by Candlewick Press

The team behind one of my go-to preschool read alouds- Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise– is back with a Halloween-ready story about a little monster who claims to want to be in a scary story…but does monster really want the spookiness and frights that go along with starring in a scary story? This is a slightly more text-heavy picture book, but the interactive element and story is so appealing that I think this could be perfect for a preschool and up ages storytime.

 

Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Publication: April 25, 2017 by Scholastic Press

Fenske, author-illustrator behind the delightfully zany Barnacle is Bored, is back with a follow-up of sorts. No Barnacle this time, but starring a pink plankton, Plankton is Pushy is a Mo Willems’-esque story about manners and patience. Plankton is a surprisingly determined protagonist, and readers of all ages will be on edge to see what happens when his silent- and arguably impolite co-star- Mussel- finally reacts.

 

Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Philomel Books

Mike Malbrough’s debut picture book looked so appealing and adorable that it was on one of my Must Read Monday posts. I’m happy to say that Marigold Bakes a Cake is just as delightful and madcap as I hoped. Orange tabby cat Marigold- a serious, composed baker on Mondays- is the star of the book, with an awesome assortment of birds that make for one bonkers mess. Malbrough’s illustrations are so expressive and vibrant- super!

 

*I received a hardcopy of Wet courtesy of Raincoast Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.

Blog Tour Stop: Jennifer Honeybourn’s Wesley James Ruined My Life!

Welcome to the last stop on the Raincoast Books blog tour for Jennifer Honeybourn‘s contemporary YA debut, Wesley James Ruined My Life! Read on for my thoughts on the book as well as a short Q & A with Jennifer!

Wesley James Ruined My Life by Jennifer Honeybourn
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: July 18, 2017 by Feiwel & Friends
Book Description:

Sixteen-year-old Quinn Hardwick’s having a rough summer. Her beloved grandmother has been put into a nursing home, her dad’s gambling addiction has flared back up, and now her worst enemy is back in town: Wesley James, former childhood friend and life ruiner.

So when Wesley is hired to work with her at Tudor Tymes, a medieval England-themed restaurant, the last thing Quinn’s going to do is forgive and forget. She’s determined to remove him from her life and even the score for once and for all-by getting him fired.

But getting rid of Wesley isn’t as easy as she’d hoped. When Quinn finds herself falling for him, she has to decide what she wants more: to get even, or to get the boy.

Jennifer Honeybourn’s debut novel, Wesley James Ruined My Life, is a contemporary young adult title that blends teen romance and comedy with some more serious issues. From the first-person narrative of sixteen-year-old Quinn, readers are taken into her world, where her once-best-friend/crush and now mortal enemy, Wesley James, has returned to town.

Quinn, as we learn, already has enough on her plate: trying to save up money for a band trip to her dream city- London, England- Quinn is balancing work at a medieval England-themed restaurant, dealing with the aftermath of her parent’s separation, her father’s gambling addiction, and her beloved grandmother’s seriously declining health. Into all of this walks Quinn’s once-upon-a-time former best friend and perhaps crush, Wesley James. Back in town after a few years, and suddenly everywhere Quinn turns, Wesley James is infuriatingly inescapable- and charming, sweet, kind, and stirring up feelings that Quinn does not want to have. In an intriguing turn, readers learn that Quinn’s now years-long despisement of Wesley stems from her holding him responsible for the break-up of her parent’s marriage. As the book description hints, Quinn turns her focus to try and make Wesley pay – somehow- for the perceived damage he has caused her; but, as we can guess, things don’t quite work out or reveal themselves the way Quinn anticipates!

While on the whole a lighter, often frothy and fun (and very cute) read, Honeybourn fortifies and freshens the more traditional rom-com story in a few ways. Namely, with a genuinely likable and cognizant protagonist/narrator in Quinn (Wesley is also very likable); weightier storylines in terms of family matters; and a peculiar, funny, and memorable story point with the themed Tudor Tymes restaurant. Likely to appeal to readers who enjoy YA rom-coms, and those who like the writing of authors such as Leila Sales, Jessica Brody, Sarah Ockler, or Huntley Fitzpatrick, Wesley James Ruined My Life makes for fun, yet rooted YA reading. Overall, Jennifer Honeybourn has done a very good job with her debut YA, crafting an endearing and self-aware protagonist with a sweet romantic element and thoughtful story.

Question & Answer with Jennifer!

Q: One aspect of the novel I really appreciated- and think made the novel stronger!- was the combination of fun and romance with more serious issues. Was there ever a version of Wesley James that did not include more serious subject matter- i.e. Quinn’s father’s gambling addition or declining grandparents? Or did you always set out to write a rooted, real contemporary YA romance that delved into some harder issues?

A: The bones of WESLEY JAMES RUINED MY LIFE were always there, even from the first draft. I don’t think I set out to write about specific issues, they just sort of presented themselves along the way, as I was drafting and learning more about the characters. I wanted romance to play a large role, but not be the only focus of the story, because I felt like there was more to Quinn’s life, things she was grappling with, and that made her more real to me.

 

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. Q & A organized by Raincoast Books. Thank you!

Picture Book Review: Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros & Brianne Farley

Review: Charlotte the Scientist is Squished by Camille Andros, illus. Brianne Farley
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: March 14, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Book Description:

Charlotte is a serious scientist. She solves important problems by following the scientific method. She has all the right equipment: protective glasses, a lab coat, a clipboard, and a magnifying glass. What she doesn’t have is space. She has so many brothers and sisters (she is a rabbit, after all) that she is too squished to work on her experiments! Can she use science to solve her problem? This funny, satisfying story is a playful introduction to the scientific method and perfect for sparking an interest in STEM subjects.

Joining the wonderful, growing stream of science-leaning picture books, Camille Andros and Brianne Farley’s Charlotte the Scientist is Squished is a beautifully illustrated, utterly delightful story that comfortably and easily introduces the scientific method to children- with an adorable story to boot.

You might be wondering how a picture book can all of those things, and I think it comes down to how debut author Andros approaches the story, and how Secret Tree Fort illustrator Farley captures the spirit of the story. The story is set-up with readers being introduced to scientist Charlotte and her big problem: she is squished and unable to properly conduct her science experiments. Her rabbit family is so large and her siblings are making things very difficult for her. So, Charlotte approaches her problem of being squished with the five steps of the scientific method. Andros, with Farley’s delicious illustrations, outlines the five steps- from question, hypothesis, experiment, observation, conclusion- in a comfortable, understandable fashion, that works beautifully due to Andros’ natural storytelling style. Readers get to go along a journey with Charlotte as she experiments with everything from trying to make herself invisible to commandeering her carrot-like rocket ship to space.

Charlotte the Scientist is Squished eases along into a satisfying, well-deserved ending for both Charlotte and her family, all the while maintaining a nice balance between the sweet storytelling side and the science side of things. I think this could make for a great read aloud for a preschool and up age group; older children might be more curious in the science leanings and have their interest piqued by Charlotte’s scientific approach, while a younger audience might especially adore the delightful, bright illustrations and happy ending. Overall, a lovely, fun, educational read that promises and delivers on storytelling, illustrations and a unique angle.

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

Picture Book Review: Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins

Review: Pete With No Pants by Rowboat Watkins
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 2, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Meet Pete.

Pete is gray. He’s round. And he’s not wearing any pants.

So Pete must be a boulder. Or is he a pigeon? Or a squirrel? Or a cloud?

Join Pete in his quest to answer the world’s oldest question: Why do I have to wear pants? Wait, that’s the second oldest. Born from the one-of-a-kind imagination of Rowboat Watkins, this hilarious book (the asides just beg to be read aloud) about finding out who you are features a satisfying and touching ending that will encourage young readers to be true to themselves as it reminds the adults in their lives to support them no matter what.

I like- no, love- a picture book with a funny title, and Pete With No Pants might be up there with the best of them! (Just say it aloud a few times and try not to laugh). The extra good thing about Rowboat Watkins’ Pete With No Pants though is that it is not just a picture book with a fun-to-say-title, it’s also a very good read. Slightly off-kilter, a little sweet, a little sly- like a combination of Mo Willems, Jory John and Bob Shea- Watkins’ sophomore picture book is great.

We meet Pete the elephant ‘shortly after breakfast’, as he decides he is a boulder. Why? Well, he’s big, gray, and not wearing pants- just like a boulder. Pete then proceeds to go through a range of emotions as he quickly goes from professing his love of boulders, to having a very one-sided game of knock-knock with a boulder, to soon declaring ‘Wah! Boulders are the worst‘. We follow Pete as he experiments with being a squirrel, faces his mother’s exasperation at his lack of pants, and unexpectedly finds a wonderful person who loves him for exactly who he is.

Pete With No Pants is a busy, funny, sometimes subversive, story that utilizes speech bubbles and concurrent dialogue from multiple characters; the story relies, to a certain degree, on reader understanding and comprehension, or an able storyteller. Watkins’ illustrations are terrific- expressive and comical, and perhaps do best to be viewed up close. I can see using this story as a read aloud for preschool and up ages: a smaller, enthusiastic crowd with an eye and ear for the wacky and unexpected might especially appreciate Pete With No Pants. I have had my own experience of reading this story to my daughter (almost three) and she loves it best when I perform it in a kooky, loud fashion, with voices. My daughter might just be especially enamored with Pete as she gets to happily giggle and shout for a book called Pete With No Pants (again, just try not to laugh saying that title!)…but that’s totally okay by me!

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

Picture Book Review: Shark Lady by Jess Keating & Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Review: Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illus. Marta Álvarez Miguéns
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: June 6, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Book Description:

This is the story of a woman who dared to dive, defy, discover, and inspire. This is the story of Shark Lady.

Eugenie Clark fell in love with sharks from the first moment she saw them at the aquarium. She couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than studying these graceful creatures. But Eugenie quickly discovered that many people believed sharks to be ugly and scary-and they didn’t think women should be scientists.

Determined to prove them wrong, Eugenie devoted her life to learning about sharks. After earning several college degrees and making countless discoveries, Eugenie wrote herself into the history of science, earning the nickname Shark Lady.” Through her accomplishments, she taught the world that sharks were to be admired rather than feared and that women can do anything they set their minds to.

Canadian author and zoologist Jess Keating and artist Marta Álvarez Miguéns join forces to present the incredible story of fearless, trailblazing scientist, teacher, and marine conservationist Eugenie Clark. Known popularly around the world as Shark Lady– due to her incredible depth of face-to-face research with sharks!- Eugenie Clark’s life and work is fantastically, bouyantly, and respectfully brought to a younger generation of readers with the informational/non-fiction picture book Shark Lady.

Shark Lady begins with an introduction to a young Eugenie Clark visiting the aquarium, imagining what it might be like to swim with sharks and breath underwater with gills. From there, we see Clark’s booming interest in sea life; particularly with sharks who Clark believes to be beautiful- not ugly and scary as many think them to be. Keating and Miguéns take readers through turning moments in Clark’s education (and perseverance as a female in a male-dominated field), and to some of Clark’s staggering discoveries and research on sharks and sea life. The tremendous significance of Clark’s work in marine life and sharks might arguably be difficult to convey in a more restricted page count, however, Keating and Miguéns do a formidable job in introducing and emphasizing Clark’s remarkable life and work. Miguéns’s beautiful, vibrant, eye-catching illustrations work perfectly with Keating’s conversational, straightforward and informative storytelling: never overshadowing or taking over from the story but perfectly highlighting and drawing attention to key moments in Eugenie’s life and research. Reading Shark Lady, one major factor struck me and that is how particularly heartening and hopeful it is to see continued movement in publishing pictorial biographies of a much broader, richer, more inclusive scope of innovators, pioneers and leaders in various fields. Furthermore, I find it can sometimes be tricky to refer to a children’s book as inspirational or strictly educational- sometimes those words equate with tedious for kids- but Shark Lady and numerous other fantastic, well-thought out educational picture books as of late are truly awe-inspiring and educative in the most positive sense.

Overall, Shark Lady is an excellent read that attests to the importance of the informational picture book and of bringing biographies of significant- but perhaps not previously as focused upon- trailblazers to younger readers. Not only a terrific read to suggest to any shark or marine life enthusiastic (and there are a lot of those readers!), Shark Lady would also make for a great read aloud for any sea-life themed storytime; in all, a must-add to any non-fiction collection. A bonus: Shark Lady also includes ‘Shark Bites’ facts about sharks; an easy-to-follow Eugenie Clark timeline; as well as an Author’s Note and bibliography of further sources.

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

Board Book Look at Cozy Classics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Jack & Holman Wang

Cozy Classics: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Jack & Holman Wang
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: May 9, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Book Description:

Cuddle up with a classic! In twelve needle-felted scenes and twelve child-friendly words, each book in this ingenious series captures the essence of a literary masterpiece. Simple words, sturdy pages, and a beloved story make these books the perfect vehicle for early learning with an erudite twist. Budding bookworms will delight in this clever retelling of the classics made just for them!

In L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a storm transports Dorothy to the magical Land of Oz. Can she defeat the Wicked Witch and find her way home ? It’s a first words primer for your literary little one!

It is perhaps no secret that I quite adore the needle-felted Cozy Classics and Star Wars: Epic Yarns from Canadian authors Jack and Holman Wang! I have featured the brothers’ adorable, thoughtful and awe-inspiring work here a few times; now I have another wonderful new one to talk about!

In their take on L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Jack and Holman use twelve words- everything from ‘storm’ to ‘home’- to tell a version of this classic tale . As with other Cozy Classics titles, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz features, per page spread, one highlighted word with an incredibly detailed needle-felted scene on the facing page. As you can see from a few of the photos I took, the Wang brothers are nothing if not painstaking in their care and attention to detail- in both selection of the ten words and in how they bring specific (and some famous!) characters and scenes to life. As someone who has had the great honour to meet Holman in person and see some needle-felt characters up close, I can speak to their utter artistry.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz seems another very tricky title to pull off as a Cozy Classic, as we might often think not only the classic novel but also of the iconic Judy Garland film as a comparison! How can Cozy Classics faithfully represent Dorothy, Toto…the Emerald City? What about the Wicked Witch of the West? As a child who both strangely adored and was terrified of The Wizard of Oz film, I wondered how Jack and Holman would adapt this story- without making it too scary for wee ones! I give full kudos to Jack and Holman for including some of the scarier aspects of the story (we do see felts and scenes with the Wicked Witch of the West and a winged monkey!); but those images are tempered by brighter felts of Dorothy, Toto, the yellow brick road, and other major characters like Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion.

Overall, another fantastical creation from Jack and Holman Wang- I think any fans of Cozy Classics and L. Frank Baum’s work might want to get their hands on this one! I’ve had the utter joy of sharing my home library collection of Cozy Classics (and Epic Yarns!) with my daughter, and they are ones that she has slowly grown into. Initially, the experience was all about the simple child-friendly words and looking at the pictures, but now the meaning of the words and stories have grown as she herself has grown! She actually discovered The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on my shelf before I had even perused it, so we sat down to explore the book together. Now, she sits down with it and chatters away, telling her own short version of the story as she turns the pages- and it is one of the best things I have ever seen.

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

Review: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Source: ARC courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada via First Reads. Thank you!
Publication: May 9, 2017 by Viking
Book Description:

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repairing her own profoundly damaged one. And if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes the only way to survive is to open your heart.

I was immediately drawn to Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine as soon as I read the book’s description; but the recommendation of this title as perfect for readers of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette– which is one of my all-time favourites- was the cherry on top. Going into Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, I believe I expected something more along the lines of a touching, screwball comedy like The Rosie Project; and while there are currents of comedy in the novel, Honeyman takes a wholly unexpected route with Eleanor and presents a searingly heartbreaking yet hopeful story with her debut.

We meet almost-thirty-year-old Eleanor Oliphant as she gives us readers a brief rundown of what she does for a living as well as her structured weekly schedule; we also get to accompany her on a rather curious visit to the doctor where she requests strong pain-relieving medication. In her rapid yet clear first-person narrative, we are brought into Eleanor’s life as she anticipates great- positive- changes coming her way- courtesy of a man she thinks might be her soulmate. As we dig a little bit deeper into Eleanor’s story, though, her soulmate fixation takes a backseat to different matters. Not only does Eleanor meet a new co-worker- a rather sloppy man named Raymond- and continues to have interactions with him beyond her predictions; but we also get some frightening glimpses into how Eleanor has been treated by her mother. Vile and hateful does not begin to describe Eleanor’s mom, and as more snippets of Eleanor’s young life are revealed, clues to an unspeakable tragedy emerge. Honeyman takes some decidedly unanticipated routes with Eleanor, as well as with Eleanor’s carefully evolving acceptance of the kindhearted and no-nonsense Raymond. Part mystery, part drama, part comedy, Honeyman balances a number of story and character elements and rather masterfully threads it all together to make for an unforgettable, devastating and beautiful story.

Overall, an excellent read; Honeyman writes so seamlessly, with such self-possession, and never allows for quirk or the chance for simple laughs to get in the way of story. I read Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine in a very short span of time; this likely would have been a must-finish-in-one-sitting type of read had life not gotten in the way. Crafted like a mystery and darker than I expected, Honeyman’s novel is all the stronger for how the author weaves and reveals Eleanor’s alarming history and her transforming present. I would absolutely recommend this read for readers who have enjoyed novels by Maria Semple, as well as for fans of out-of-the-ordinary literary fiction.

I received a copy of this title courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and comments are my own.