Picture Book Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan & Tom Knight

9780374301231Review: The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan, illus. Tom Knight
Source: ARC courtesy of Raincoast Books. Thank you!
Publication: February 6, 2018 by Farrar Straus & Giroux
Book Description:

From the creator of the Honest Toddler blog, The Big Bed is a humorous picture book about a girl who doesn’t want to sleep in her little bed, so she presents her dad with his own bed – a camping cot! – in order to move herself into her parents’ big bed in his place. A twist on the classic parental struggle of not letting kids sleep in their bed.

Bunmi Laditan and Tom Knight’s The Big Bed is a witty and funny story about a savvy young girl who attempts to- not so subtly!- move her dad out of the ‘big bed’ so she can sleep with her mom. As a mom with a three year old who would often like nothing more than to sleep in our ‘big bed’, I could absolutely relate and happily giggled my way through the picture book.

In The Big Bed, we meet our young protagonist who has a major issue she needs to discuss with her father: who gets to have Mommy during the night? The young girl presents her father with all the ways he’s great during the daytime, but nighttime is another matter. The little girl wants to sleep in her parents bed- well, in the big bed with her mommy- and cannot fathom why this might be a problem. Why, the girl wonders, can’t her grandma tuck her father in at night? Why does her father mind when she accidentally pees a little in bed? A little pee-pee never hurt anyone- and in fact, readers learn, pee-pee will keep scary bears away! Why can’t her daddy just- maybe, possibly- let her sleep in the big bed along with mom while he sleeps on….a cot? A COT! Yes, the perfect solution for EVERYONE, the girl thinks! We’ll even buy new nice sheets for the cot for daddy to enjoy! As her mom laughs hysterically at the idea and dad smiles (and probably marvels) his way through his daughter’s detailed presentations, readers get to go along for a very entertaining story.

Overall, what a fun read; cleverly written and perfectly matched with bright, wonderfully expressive and lively illustrations! Parents with young kids who are facing sleeping issues might especially relate and find great humour in Laditan and Knight’s story, but The Big Bed stands on its own as a genuinely witty picture book.

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

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Review: No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2) by Lucy Kerr

No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2)Review: No One Can Know (A Stillwater General Mystery #2) by Lucy Kerr
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: February 13, 2018 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

When a pregnant car crash victim arrives at Stillwater General, ER nurse Frankie Stapleton and the team must work swiftly to deliver the baby safely. After hours of grueling effort, they finally save the baby, but the mother dies. The staff is already rattled, but then they learn that the accidental car crash was actually deliberate.

Just when they thought the hard work was over, suspects begin rearing their heads one by one and no one is safe. There’s no shortage of motives. The victim was a social worker, and someone may have been seeking revenge. Or perhaps someone was trying to intimidate her up-and-coming politician husband. Then the baby goes missing.

Now Frankie must race to uncover the truth in time to catch a killer and save a child in Lucy Kerr’s riveting second Stillwater General Mystery, No One Can Know.

No One Can Know is the second entry in Lucy Kerr’s thoroughly entertaining and thrilling Stillwater General Mystery series. The debut, Time of Death, introduced readers to our protagonist: emergency room nurse Frankie Stapleton and her rather complicated return to her small hometown of Stillwater. In my review of Time of Death, I noted that I was captivated early on with Frankie’s voice and the series’ intriguing premise of combining suspense and murder investigation with medical emergencies and family drama. In No One Can Know, Kerr continues to excel with a tightly written mystery that manages to entertain, engage and keep the reader guessing all at once.

Still experiencing the aftereffects of her involvement in investigating the death of Stillwater community member Clem Jensen, Frankie finds herself at the centre of another highly suspicious, horrendous tragedy. When Frankie and her ER colleagues try and save the life of a highly pregnant women involved in a car wreck, the case ends up being larger than anything Frankie or her colleagues could have imagined. As Frankie learns more about the mother who lost her life and the deceased’s husband- who has high political aspirations- she finds herself deeply involved in the case and unable to let go- much to the frustration of the Stillwater police officer heading the case (who happens to be her former fiance Noah). Frankie continues her own sleuthing into the increasingly tangled murder investigation and as the media frenzy surrounding the politician’s wife’s death grows, she discovers that Noah might need her help and support more than ever. As with Time of Death, Kerr does a great job here in combining relationship drama (both family and romantic) with elements of suspense and genuine twists. The ending of No One Can Know is one of quiet surprise and reveal, leaving a lot of room open for darker and bigger directions the series could take!

Overall, a strong, more than worthy second entry in a solid mystery series that looks to have many more exciting and riveting stories in it. Though not absolutely essential to have read book one, I do recommend starting with Time of Death as it offers a lot of background and character introduction to Frankie, her family, and more details into her long history with Noah. Readers who enjoy amateur sleuth mysteries, medical dramas, or slightly darker cozy mysteries with a strong protagonist might do very well to check Lucy Kerr’s series 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.

Best of 2017, Part 2: Picture Books & more!

Welcome to Part 2 of my Best of 2017 posts, which is all about picture books (including early fiction, readers and non-fiction picture books)! This reading year was picture book intensive– as you can tell from the sheer volume of awesome titles! There are so many incredible, unique, innovative and beautiful titles I had the absolute pleasure of reading and discovering this year. I have divided the list into three parts: the VIPs (i.e. titles of exceptional merit, in my opinion), other standout/best titles, and then non-fiction. If you’re interested in checking out more of my best of picks, you can take a look here at Part 1 of my Best of 2017 picks– including everything from Children’s lit, YA to Humour!

 

Picture Book & Board Book VIPs:
Town Is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz, illus. Sydney Smith
Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Professional Crocodile by Giovanna Zoboli illus. by Mariachiara Di Giorgio
The Little Red Cat Who Ran Away and Learned His ABC’s (the Hard Way) by Patrick McDonnell
A Day with Yayeh by Nicola I. Campbell, illus. Julie Flett
When We Were Alone by David Alexander Robertson, illus. Julie Flett
King of the Sky by Nicola Davies, illus. Laura Carlin
After the Fall by Dan Santat
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
You Don’t Want a Unicorn! by Ame Dyckman, illus. Liz Climo
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall
Yak and Dove by Kyo Maclear, illus. Esme Shapiro
Samson in the Snow by Philip C. Stead
Tony by Ed Galing, illus. Erin E. Stead
When the Moon Comes by Paul Harbridge, illus. Matt James
A Greyhound, A Groundhog by Emily Jenkins, illus. Chris Appelhans
Look, Look Again by Agnese Baruzzi (board book)

 

Rest of the Best Picture Books, Board Books & Readers:
The Fog by Kyo Maclear, illus. Kenard Pak
Counting with Tiny Cat by Viviane Schwarz
Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. Richard Jones
La La La: A Story of Hope by Kate DiCamillo, illus. Jaime Kin
Lines by Suzy Lee
Ida, Always by Caron Levis, illus. Charles Santoso
Bob, Not Bob!: *to be read as though you have the worst cold ever by Liz Garton Scanlon, Audrey Vernick, illus. Matthew Cordell
The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illus. Ana Aranda
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Wild One by Jane Whittingham, illus. Noel Tauzon
His Royal Highness, King Baby: A Terrible True Story by Sally Lloyd-Jones, illus. David Roberts
This House, Once by Deborah Freedman
Boat of Dreams by Rogério Coelho
The Road Home by Katie Cotton, illus. Sarah Jacoby
Nothing Rhymes With Orange by Adam Rex
Tree: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup
That Neighbor Kid by Daniel Miyares
South by Daniel Duncan
My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis by Paul Meisel
Marigold Bakes a Cake by Mike Malbrough
Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List by Kate Klise, illus. M. Sarah Klise
The Gold Leaf by Kirsten Hall, illus. Matthew Forsythe
Treat by Mary Sullivan
The Book of Mistakes by Corinna Luyken
The Teacher’s Pet by Anica Mrose Rissi, illus. Zachariah OHora
Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illus. K.G. Campbell
Love Is by Diane Adams, illus. Claire Keane
The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse by Mac Barnett, Jon Klassen
The Lines on Nana’s Face by Simona Ciraolo
Gary by Leila Rudge
Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin
Plankton is Pushy by Jonathan Fenske
Lily Wool by Paula Vásquez
123 Dream by Kim Krans
Charlotte the Scientist Is Squished by Camille Andros, illus. Brianne Farley
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story About Knitting and Love by Michelle Edwards, illus. G. Brian Karas
Shapes, Reshape!: A Minibombo Book by Silvia Borando
1 Big Salad: A Delicious Counting Book by Juana Medina
Hotel Bruce (Bruce #2) by Ryan T. Higgins
A Perfect Day by Lane Smith
The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet! by Carmen Agra Deedy, illus. Eugene Yelchin
Smoot: A Rebellious Shadow by Michelle Cuevas, illus. Sydney Smith
Over and Under the Pond (Over and Under) by Kate Messner, illus. Christopher Silas Neal
We Are Growing! (Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! #2) by Laurie Keller, Mo Willems (Reader)
Before & After by Jean Jullien (board book)
Flora and the Ostrich: An Opposites Book by Molly Idle (board book)
Arctic Animals by Tad Carpenter (board book)

 

Non-Fiction:
I’m Just No Good at Rhyming: And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Upsby Chris Harris, illus. Lane Smith
The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk by Jan Thornhill
Whose Poop Is That? by Darrin P. Lunde illus. Kelsey Oseid
This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from around the World by Matt Lamothe
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson, illus. Christian Robinson
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating, illus. Marta Álvarez Miguéns

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2017. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

Best of 2017, Part 1: Children’s Lit, Young Adult, Adult Fiction & more!

Hope everyone is having a wonderful, safe and lovely holiday season, whatever your celebrations may be!

I am rather late in posting this, but I wanted to get in my 2017 reading highlights before the end of the year. In no particular order, here are my book selections for part one, hope you enjoy!

 

Children’s Fiction/Middle Grade:
The Goat by Anne Fleming
Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt
Karma Khullar’s Mustache by Kristi Wientge
Greenglass House (Greenglass House #1) by Kate Milford
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand
Howard Wallace, P.I. by Casey Lyall
Shadow of a Pug (Howard Wallace, P.I #2) by Casey Lyall
Ghost (Track #1) by Jason Reynolds
The Cat Stole My Pants (Timmy Failure #6) by Stephan Pastis
Royal Crush (From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess #3) by Meg Cabot
Roll by Darcy Miller
The World’s Greatest Detective by Caroline Carlson
Jolly Foul Play (Murder Most Unladylike #4) by Robin Stevens
Mary Anning’s Curiosity by Monica Kulling
The Swallow: A Ghost Story by Charis Cotter
Olga and the Smelly Thing from Nowhere (Olga #1) by Elise Gravel
Catstronauts series by Drew Brockington (graphic novel)
Wallace the Brave by Will Henry (graphic novel)
Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten (graphic novel)
Bird and Squirrel on Fire (Bird & Squirrel #4) by James Burks
Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illus. LeUyen Pham, color by Jane Poole (graphic novel)
Phoebe and Her Unicorn in the Magic Storm (Heavenly Nostrils, #6) by Dana Simpson (graphic novel)
Grandfather and the Moon by Stéphanie Lapointe, illus. Rogé, translated by Shelley Tanaka

 

Young Adult:
The Agony of Bun O’Keefe by Heather Smith
The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
Short for Chameleon by Vicki Grant
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson
The Other F-Word by Natasha Friend
You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan
Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail (YA/MG crossover)
The Dead Inside by Cyndy Etler (YA non-fiction)

 

Adult Fiction & Mysteries:
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Nine Lessons (Josephine Tey Mystery #9) by Nicola Upson
Hunting Hour (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery #3) by Margaret Mizushima
Everything You Want Me to Be by Mindy Mejia
On Turpentine Lane by Eleanor Lipman
Forgotten City (A Claire Codella Mystery #2) by Carrie Smith
The Boy is Back (Boy #4) by Meg Cabot

 

Adult Non-Fiction, Humour and Other:

Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah’s Scribbles #2) by Sarah Anderson
It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot
I Hate Everyone Except You by Clinton Kelly
Texts From Dog II: The Dog Delusion by October Jones
Fowl Language: Welcome to Parenting by Brian Gordon
Onward and Downward: The Twenty-Second Sherman’s Lagoon Collection by Jim Toomey

 

Note: Some titles appearing on this list may have been published in previous years; titles on this list are ones that I read in 2017. Some titles appearing on this list may also have been provided by publishers in exchange for honest reviews; this has no bearing on making this list. These are my personal selections.

A Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway!

Something lovely for the winter and holiday season: a chance to win one of four beautiful perfect-for-winter and holiday books! Courtesy of the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, I have four seasonal reads to share with you, and one lucky Canadian reader will have the chance to win their top picture book or board book pick. The details for the Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Let’s take a closer look at the books:

S is for Santa: A Christmas Alphabet (board book) by Greg Paprocki
Publication: September 12, 2017 by Gibbs Smith
From the creators of BabyLit, a Christmas board book for infants and toddlers, to evoke the wonder of Christmas. A collection of twenty-six illustrations featuring colorful Christmas-themed concepts sure to evoke a sense of wonderment for toddlers and nostalgia for parents, including Christmas carolers, kids playing in the snow, toys piled high under the tree, sparkling decorations and lights, flying reindeer, the gift of giving, more toys, and of course jolly ol’ St. Nick and his elves.

S is for Santa: A Christmas Alphabet is a bright and cheerful alphabet board book just right for the Christmas season. Illustrated by Greg Paprocki, the board book features vibrant full colour vintage-like Christmas-themed illustrations- a different scene for every letter of the alphabet. From A is for angel and B is for baking, to Y is for yummy and Z is for Zephyr, this stylish board book is perfect for those with infants and/or toddlers due to the short text. There is something so warm, happy and nostalgic about S is for Santa– it even took me back to my childhood when I would pore over my (now quite old!) Christmas-themed Little Golden Books. I have had a chance to read this one over multiple times (and a few times with my three year old who is obsessed with anything Christmas-related!) and there is something to appreciate and enjoy in every reading of it.

 

Winter Dance by Marion Dane Bauer, illus. Richard Jones
Publication: October 24, 2017 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Snow is coming, and it’s time to get ready! The squirrel gathers nuts, the geese soar south, and the snowshoe hare puts on its new white coat. But what should the fox do? Each animal advises the fox that its own plan is best, but the fox thinks otherwise-yet it’s not until he meets a golden-eyed friend that he finds the perfect way to celebrate the snowfall. Stunning illustrations by the new talent Richard Jones are the perfect complement to the Newbery Honor winner Marion Dane Bauer’s lyrical and playful homage to the natural world.

Oh readers, this is a lovely, lovely picture book! With utterly gorgeous and mesmerizing illustrations by Richard Jones and lyrical text from Marion Dane Bauer, Winter Dance is a quiet gem of a picture book. With a glorious red fox as our guide, readers are taken on a journey to find out about what various animals do when the snow comes. Fox learns all about what bats and bears, and multiple other animals do- and all the various animals think the fox should follow their respective plans, but fox is not convinced! It is not until fox meets another similar red-furred friend that plans for the coming snow are decided. A beautiful read- in text and illustration- from start to finish.

 

Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter written and illus. Kenard Pak
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Henry Holt & Co.
As leaves fall from their trees, animals huddle against the cold, and frost creeps across windows, everyone knows—winter is on its way! Join a brother and sister as they explore nature and take a stroll through their twinkling town, greeting all the signs of the coming season. In a series of conversations with everything from the setting sun to curious deer, they say goodbye to autumn and welcome the glorious first snow of winter.

Readers who have previously enjoyed Kenard Pak’s Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn will undoubtedly love to read and see what the talented author-illustrator brings with Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter. With numerous well-received and starred reviews to his name, Pak’s illustrative style has become more well-known and unmistakable as his own. Like Winter Dance above, Goodbye Autumn, Hello Winter uses a quieter, more hushed kind of narrative that is just as evocative and bittersweet as something roaring for attention. The story follows an older sister and her younger brother as they say ‘Hello’ to animals and objects of the natural world and listen to the various replies. Pak’s illustrations are, as ever, just wonderful- dynamic yet restrained- and the story as a whole is perfect for readers on the lookout for a lulling, soft story.

 

Santa’s Magic Key by Eric James, illus. Simon Mendez
Publication: October 3, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Unlock the magic with this book and special keepsake key to start a new family tradition.

It’s an age-old question. How does Santa get into every house around the world… no matter what doors, locks, chimneys, or windows exist? Find the answer to this question in Santa’s Magic Key! In this unforgettable holiday story, a boy realizes on Christmas Eve that his new house does not have a chimney, and with the post office closed and Santa coming bythe end of the night, he has no way of telling Santa. But when the boy finds a mysterious key, he’ll soon discover just how this key will solve his problem. Add a new classic to your holiday collection with this magical tale that reveals how Santa can always spread gifts and joy on Christmas Eve by using his magical key. This beautiful book comes with Santa’s special key just for you to hang on your Christmas tree as an ornament or outside your door!

Santa’s Magic Key written by Eric James and illustrated by Simon Mendez is a seasonal parcel that contains a picture book as well as a keepsake item. In this case, the keepsake item is a special key for Santa that corresponds with the story of a young boy who discovers more magic of the season through a chance meeting with Santa and the giving of a golden key. The hope or idea of Santa’s Magic Key is to start a tradition of hanging the special keepsake key on your own tree or outside your door, as a way to welcome Santa into your home- no matter if you don’t have a chimney! For any families who have enjoyed Elf on the Shelf– and are perhaps looking for something lower maintenance or simpler- or families just looking for a kindhearted, sentimental Christmas read with a suggestion of new tradition, then Santa’s Magic Key might be one to try out!

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Giveaway Info:

The Winter Holiday Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from December 12, 2017 to December 20, 2017. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one picture book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

Update: December 23rd, 2017:

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED! Thank you so much to everyone who participated.

The winner is MARIE S.! Congratulations! Please email within the next 48 hours with your prize pick and Canadian mailing address.

 

I received copies of the four titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.

Picture Book Review: Wild One by Jane Whittingham & Noel Tuazon

Review: Wild One by Jane Whittingham, illus. Noel Tuazon
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Pajama Press. Thank you!
Publication:
Book Description:

Can you stretch like a cat or hang like a bat? This little one can do those things and so much more as she bounds energetically through her day. Author Jane Whittingham‘s sprightly couplets take her from the park to the pool, to dinner and bed, while Noel Tuazon cleverly illustrates the animal companions of a child’s imagination.

Published in a sturdy format with a padded cover, rounded corners, and extra-heavy paper, this picture book is perfect for sharing with wiggly, little wild ones of your own. And as the last pages are turned, the story’s final, sweet “goodnight” will leave the liveliest listeners ready to snuggle like a bear at bedtime.

Canadian librarian and writer Jane Whittingham (who you might know from the terrific review blog Raincity Jane) and Canadian illustrator Noel Tuazon have teamed up to bring readers the exuberant, fun and all-around winning picture book Wild One. Written in rhyming couplets- a form in picture books I absolutely adore when done fittingly – Wild One tells the story of a young girl’s very busy, very active day, with actions mirroring those of animals. Accompanied by Noel Tuazon’s soft yet sunny and bright illustrations, Wild One is a lovely treat.

When we meet the young heroine of our story, she is “in the park, stretching like a cat”, then moving on to monkey bars, “hanging like a bat”. From the park to the pool, to supper time and snuggling in bed, we follow the little wild one about her dynamic day- well mostly all dynamic! When she has to leave her play time fun and head home with her mom, wild one slows down considerably…but not for long! Wild one goes through her mightily busy day with highlighted actions and activities accompanied by corresponding animal actions (energetically and sweetly brought to life by Tuazon’s drawings). In a sweet closing spread, after snuggling down in her bed “like a bear”, Wild One ends on a loving and continued happy tone, with the young (now sleeping) girl being wished a good night from her parents.

Overall, a joyful, fun and charming picture book. Perfect for a preschool age and under crowd, I think Wild One would go over tremendously well as a read aloud with busy, wiggly and active toddlers. It could even be used by a willing reader to facilitate an action/movement read aloud with everyone acting out the animal movements in the story! Wild One is a picture book that begs for reading aloud and having fun with, due its ideal compact length, clarity, perfectly fun rhymes, and complementary (adorable) illustrations.

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

Review: Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson

Review: Nine Lessons (A Josephine Tey Mystery #7) by Nicola Upson
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Publication: October 10, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Called to the peaceful wooded churchyard of St-John’s-at-Hampstead, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose faces one of the most audacious and unusual murders of his career. The body of the church’s organist is found in an opened grave, together with a photograph of a manor house and a cryptic note. The image leads Archie to Cambridge, where the crisp autumn air has brought with it bustling life to the ancient university and town.

Both Josephine Tey and Archie’s lover Bridget have recently settled in Cambridge, though both women are not equally happy to see him. One has concealed an important secret from Archie which now threatens to come to light. Meanwhile, the change of seasons has also brought with it a series of vicious attacks against women in town, spreading fear and suspicion through the community.

Soon, another body is revealed, and in the shadow of King’s College Chapel, Archie uncovers a connection twenty-five years old which haunted both victims—as well as some of their living companions. As Archie and Josephine each grapple with savage malefactors intent on making their victims pay, they must race to stop another attack in this beautifully written, intricately plotted mystery.

 

Curling up with a compelling, detailed and surprising historical mystery is one of my great reading pleasures, so imagine my delight to have been introduced to a new, terrifically written historical mystery series! Nicola Upson’s well-reviewed Nine Lessons is the seventh entry in the critically acclaimed Josephine Tey Mystery 1930s-set series, though the first one I have had the pleasure of reading. Beautifully, elegantly written with a subtle darker edge at its core and rounded out by terrific, engrossing characters, I found Nine Lessons to be quite a standout historical mystery title.

Nine Lessons begins in a churchyard with the discovery of a body in an open grave. Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose, as readers can surmise, has seen his fair share of crime scenes and death; but this, the finding of the church organist’s body is something…different. Penrose, with the aid of his police colleagues, finds out almost incomprehensibly disturbing details about how the deceased, former Cambridge student Dr. Stephen Laxborough, might have been killed. As Penrose begins piecing together strange and frustratingly vague clues left on the deceased person, more murders- all linked, somehow, to Dr. Laxborough and a group of Cambridge classmates- occur. While Penrose focuses most of his time and attention on the Laxborough murder and connected crimes in and around Cambridge, a string of heinous, violent sexual crimes against women are happening in the same city. As the two crime threads intersect at intervals, readers are introduced (or re-introduced) to Penrose’s friend, mystery author and amateur sleuth Josephine Tey (a character Upson has based on the highly-regarded Scottish author). As Tey finds herself exploring in both crime threads to aid Penrose and women in the Cambridge area, readers are proffered glimpses into Tey and Penrose’s somewhat delicate history and how they have come to be with their current romantic partners. How the crime threads are investigated and culminate is pretty terrific- meticulously plotted and presented. Moreover, there is another related piece to Nine Lessons that I want to bring up: just how much substance and critical weight to the subject matter Upson covers in Nine Lessons. Everything from police and public response to sexual assault, victim (female) blaming and shaming after rape, historical and public conceptions and intolerance regarding same-sex partnerships, and more. You might be wondering, with such an incredible scope, just how does everything tie together and wrap itself up by the end of 300 pages? Lest you worry, I can say that Upson does a superb job with making Nine Lessons read cohesively- never overwhelming or burdening the reader.

Overall, an excellent, complicated mystery that leaves the reader satisfied: polished, interesting and compelling from start to finish with tremendous depth. I was so intrigued by the main characters of Archie and Josephine- and their clearly complex history- during my reading, that I have now made it a goal to go back and read the series from the beginning. While I don’t think any curious readers diving into the series at this entry point will have any issues following along, my interest has definitely been piqued and I am aiming to go back and gain more insight into Archie and Josephine’s separate and joint histories. For any readers who adore this sub-genre of mystery/suspense, I highly recommend this title and series; if you’re not yet convinced, Nine Lessons has made Publisher’s Weekly Best Books of 2017 in the mystery/thriller category!

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: Unholy City (A Claire Codella Mystery #3) by Carrie Smith

Review: Unholy City (A Claire Codella Mystery #3) by Carrie Smith
Source: Hardcopy courtesy of Crooked Lane Books. Thank you!
Expected publication: November 7, 2017 by Crooked Lane Books
Book Description:

Despite their rocky history, Detective Claire Codella and Precinct Detective Brian Haggerty come together when senior churchwarden Philip Graves’s bloody body is found lying in the herb garden of historic St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side just two days before Good Friday. Upon first glance, it looks like a random act of big city violence, but it soon becomes clear churchwarden Philip’s death was the result of a meticulously calculated ploy by someone who knew him.

There are five vestry members and a choir director in addition to the ten homeless men asleep in the church basement. Any one of them could have done it, but what did Philip Graves do to warrant such a merciless death? Struggling to share the case and salvage their personal relationship, Claire, Brian and trusted Detective Eduardo Muñoz work around the clock to uncloak the desires, secrets, and resentments that find home through the iron gates and into the hidden beauty of one historic Romanesque church in Unholy City, the haunting third installment in Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella mysteries.

Unholy City is the third entry into Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella Mystery series, behind the debut Silent City and sophomore entry Forgotten City. As with the previous two series entries, Unholy City is a sharply written, highly engaging mystery with another unique criminal investigation at its core.

The focus in Unholy City is somewhat of a departure from the homicide investigations that occurred over the course of books one and two. While the crime itself is no less shocking in terms violence, there is an altogether unusual, perplexing mystery that meets Claire and fellow Detectives Brian Haggerty and Eduardo Muñoz. Their investigation into the death of a churchwarden at an Upper West Side church explodes into an exceedingly thorny examination into the supposedly quieter lives of multiple vestry members and their increasingly convoluted recollections of their time and relationship with the deceased. Unlike the first two Claire Codella novels, it seems as though Unholy City is more primarily focused on the crime and scene at hand; slightly less time is given to Claire and her partnership (professional and now personal) with Detective Haggerty in favour of concentration and detail on the strangely hushed, almost locked-room nature of the church homicide. Smith is meticulous in how the particular details of the major crime(s) committed are studied, examined and played out; more so than the previous series entries, Unholy City‘s major investigation is a case that involves logistics, deductive reasoning, and exhaustive suspect interviews. The third-person narrative also continues to rotate between that of Claire and her team’s work, to that of parties involved on the other side of the police investigation. This alternating viewpoint structure really works in this series to sustain reader’s attention and in this entry especially, works so well in layering and adding surprising character reveals, as well as in smoothly propelling the story toward the climax and reveal.

Overall, another very strong, well-written, well-plotted and well-paced entry into what has become a favourite new mystery/crime series. Now three books into Carrie Smith’s Claire Codella Mystery series and I continue to be hooked: not only by the titular protagonist who continues to engage and evolve, but also by the changing nature and scope of the investigations at the heart of the novels. I have likely mentioned this about the series, but will say it again: I do hope to read and explore many further titles in Carrie Smith’s terrific crime series.

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

Picture Books: More Halloween Ready Reads!

A few years ago, I put together a book list just in time for Halloween called, ‘Picture Book Picks: Halloween Ready Reads‘. Given the number of spooky seasonal reads I’ve had the chance to pore over since then, I thought it high time to do an update of sorts!

Here are some of my newer picks- a mix of Halloween reads, as well as goofy, monsterly, fun and spooky selections. (The picks from the original post are single spaced at the bottom of the post!)

Pug & Pig Trick or Treat by Sue Lowell Gallion, illus. Joyce Wan

I Am Bat by Morag Hood

Superbat by Matt Carr

Rapunzel by Bethan Woollvin

Monster Trucks by Joy Keller, illus. Misa Saburi

Peep and Egg: I’m Not Trick-or-Treating by Laura Gehl, illus. Joyce Wan

Mouse’s First Night at Moonlight School (Moonlight #1) by Simon Puttock, illus. Ali Pye

Creepy Pair of Underwear! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown

Jampires by Sarah McIntyre, illus. David O’Connell

Wolfie the Bunny by Ame Dyckman, illus. Zachariah OHora

Go to Sleep, Monster! by Kevin Cornell

Giant Pants by Mark Fearing

Wee Sister Strange by Holly Grant, illus. K.G. Campbell

Penguin and Pumpkin by Salina Yoon

What Is Chasing Duck? (The Giggle Gang #1) by Jan Thomas

The Baby That Roared by Simon Puttock

The Black Rabbit by Philippa Leathers

Room on the Broom by by Julia Donaldson, illus. Axel Scheffler

Fright Club by Ethan Long

The Monsterator by Keith Graves

I Will Not Eat You by Adam Lehrhaupt, illus. Scott Magoon

Quit Calling Me a Monster! by Jory John, illus. Bob Shea

I Want to Be In a Scary Story by Sean Taylor, illus. Jean Jullien

The Scariest Book Ever by Bob Shea

The Hallo-Wiener by Dav Pilkey

Night Animals by Gianna Marino

I Don’t Like Koala by Sean Ferrell, illus. Charles Santoso

Rattlebone Rock by Sylvia L. Andrews, illus. Jennifer Plecas

Eek! Halloween by Sandra Boynton (board book)

Boo Who? by Ben Clanton

If Your Monster Won’t Go to Bed by Denise Vega, illus. Zachariah OHora

Leo: A Ghost Story by Mac Barnett, illus. Christian Robinson

Little Blue Truck’s Halloween (A Lift-the-Flap Book) by Alice Schertle, illus. Jill McElmurry

 

Titles from original post:
Bedtime for Monsters by Ed Vere
Creepy Carrots! by Aaron Reynolds, illus. Peter Brown
The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! by Scott Magoon
The Monsters’ Monster by Patrick McDonnell
That Is Not a Good Idea! by Mo Willems
Crankenstein by Samantha Berger, illus. Dan Santat
Moonlight the Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Melissa Sweet
Leonardo, the Terrible Monster by Mo Willems
The Doghouse by Jan Thomas
There’s a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Jeremy Draws a Monster by Peter McCarty
Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas
Buddy and the Bunnies in: Don’t Play With Your Food by Bob Shea
Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon
Ghost in the House by Ammi-Joan Pacquette, illus. Adam Record
Bear Feels Scared by Karma Wilson, illus. Jane Chapman
The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone, illus. Michael J. Stollin
The Dark by Lemony Snicket, illus. Jon Klassen
Ollie’s Halloween by Olivier Dunrea
Vampirina Ballerina by Anne Marie Pace, illus. LeUyen Pham
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams, illus. Megan Lloyd

Halloween Picture Book Giveaway!

Comic by ‘The Little World of Liz Climo‘ author-illustrator Liz Climo

Something fun and not at all too scary for Halloween: a chance to win one of four perfect-for-Halloween picture books! Courtesy of the lovely folks at Raincoast Books, I have four new seasonal spooky reads to share with you, and one lucky reader will have the chance to win their top picture book pick. Halloween Picture Book Giveaway details are at the bottom of the post, so please read on!

Now let’s take a look at the books:

Herbert’s First Halloween by Cynthia Rylant, illus. Stephen Henry
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
Herbert is deeply doubtful about his first Halloween—but with a little help from his dad and a special tiger costume, Herbert might just find confidence on Halloween night. Together, father and son practice roaring, carve a pumpkin, and venture out in search of candy. And by the end of the night, Herbert finds his doubts have melted away. A sweet introduction to Halloween and to being brave, this book is sure to delight the youngest of trick-or-treaters.

Just right for any child a bit uncertain about Halloween and trick-or-treating, or skeptical about wearing a costume, Herbert’s First Halloween is a gentle and friendly story from beloved children’s author Cynthia Rylant and illustrator Stephen Henry about a young (adorable) piggy named Herbert getting ready for his first experience of Halloween night. With the help of his kind and patient dad- who shares memories of his own Halloween and favourite costume- Herbert discovers much to enjoy about Halloween.

How to Catch a Monster by Adam Wallace, illus. Andy Elkerton
Publication: September 5, 2017 by Sourcebooks
Get ready to laugh as a young ninja heads into the closet to meet the monster that’s been so scary night after night! But what if things aren’t whatthey seem and our monster isn’t scary at all? What if our ninja hero is about to make a friend of strangest sort? Is there a monster living in your closet? Are you brave enough to catch him? Parents and children will love sharing this fun and inventive picture book, which reminds us that things aren’t always as scary as they seem.

A goofy and totally fun rhyming picture book, Adam Wallace and Andy Elkerton’s How to Catch a Monster is their Halloween offering in their popular ‘How to Catch…’ series. In How to Catch a Monster, a young child who recently got the role of a ninja master in a school play, decides to come face to face with the monster in their closet. Feeling “brave and strong, and full of courage, too”, our young ninja faces down a fuzzy green and blue monster, while discovering some very surprising facts about the possibly not-so-scary (maybe even sweet and fun!) monster!

Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna, The Very First Chicken by Douglas Rees, illus. Jed Henry
Publication: September 26, 2017 by Henry Holt
Tyrannosaurus Rex wants breakfast. He stomps and he roars and he gnashes his teeth―and he scares all the other dinosaurs right out of the forest. Only Edna, the very first chicken, is unafraid. She won’t let that bully T. rex push her around! But will Edna’s mighty beak and terrible flapping wings be a match for T. rex’s mighty claws and terrible jaws? This hilarious tale of bravery will have readers clucking in triumph! Jed Henry’s charming illustrations accompany Douglas Rees’ upROARious tale.

Okay, okay, so Tyrannosaurus Rex vs. Edna, The Very First Chicken might not be Halloween book per se, but it’s got roaring dinosaurs and one very cool, very, very brave chicken facing down a terrifying T-Rex! In this story all about bravery, a cute and ferocious chicken named Edna goes face to face with a monstrous, bossy T-Rex who disturbs the other dinosaurs and yells about wanting breakfast and threatening to eat anyone is his path. Edna commands the T-Rex’s attention and fights her way to teach the T-Rex a few lessons. A tale from Douglas Rees and illustrator Jed Henry all about courage, filled with wackiness and laugh out loud moments, this one would make for a perfectly zany read aloud.

The Pomegranate Witch by Denise Doyen, illus. Eliza Wheeler
Publication: August 1, 2017 by Chronicle Books
When a scary old tree blooms with the most beautiful pomegranates ever seen, the neighborhood kids’ mouths water with anticipation. But the tree isn’t theirs—and it has a protector! So begins the Pomegranate War, a fun, rollicking, rhyming tale of a battle between the sly, plucky young rascals and their wry, witchy neighbor who may have more than one trick up her sleeve. This delectable romp from award-winning children’s poet Denise Doyen and acclaimed illustrator Eliza Wheeler honors classic children’s literature and revels in nostalgia for free-to-roam days full of playful invention.

A perfect-for-Halloween story told in rhyme, Denise Doyen and Eliza Wheeler’s The Pomegranate Witch reads like a modern fairy tale. This is a tale about a haunted pomegranate tree on abandoned farmhouse land; a tree filled with the beautiful and delicious pomegranates ever seen and protected by the terrifying Pomegranate Witch. A group of brave children- and one fast-acting young boy- try to battle the witch for a taste of the elusive fruit. The Pomegranate Witch might make for a great witchy read aloud for elementary age and up students; Denise Doyen’s writing is atmospheric and fun, while Tell Me a Tattoo Story artist Eliza Wheeler continues to delight with her beautiful illustrative style.

Giveaway Info:

The Halloween Picture Book Giveaway is open to Canadian residents, ages 18 and up. The giveaway will run from October 29, 2017 to November 5, 2017. One winner will be randomly selected at the end of giveaway via Rafflecopter. The winner will have 48 hours to respond via Twitter or by emailing me at fabbookreviews[at]gmail[dot]com, confirming their name, their mailing address, and their one picture book prize pick. If the first drawn winner does not contact me within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.

Thank you to everyone who entered!

Winning entry drawn via Rafflecopter is:

KIRSTEN N.!

Winner has been notified and has 48 hours to claim the prize or another entry will be drawn.

 

Click here to enter the giveaway via Rafflecopter!

I received copies of the four picture book titles from Raincoast Books in exchange for honest reviews. Opinions and comments regarding the titles are my own. Prizes provided courtesy of Raincoast Books.