Friday, May 30, 2014

Have You Seen My Dragon?

Title: Have You Seen My Dragon?
Author and Illustrator: Steve Light
Published: April 8th 2014 by Candlewick Press
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 48
Genre: Children's
Ages: 2 - 5 year olds

I would call this a multi-aspect reader. On one level, your child is following the story of a little boy that is wandering all over the city looking for his pet dragon. Hidden within each black and white drawing is an easy to find dragon. Then to add to the fun, in the upper right hand corner of each section, there is a number next to an item that can be found on the page.

I know that sounds complicated, but it is very self-explanatory once you open the book.

So not only are they reading, but in a way playing a simplified version of Where’s Waldo and then they add to the fun by counting 8 fire hydrants or 12 pigeons or even 20 lanterns.

This is an entertaining book making counting a game and not just another boring repetitive lesson.

Steve Light has come up with a very inventive learning tool that will teach your reader in a multitude of ways, and each time you take it off the shelf, you will feel like there is something new within the pages.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Dead Will Tell

Title: The Dead Will Tell
Author: Linda Castillo
Published: July 8th, 2014 by Minotar Books
Format: ARC; Hardcover Pgs 320
Genre: Police Procedural
Source: Amazon Vine
Series: Kate Burkholder #6

In the past, I have found the Linda Castillo’s books have grabbed me from the first paragraph of the first chapter and I am in a race to the end. No so with this book.

For me, three quarters of the book just laid there, very little interest and little more than words on the page. Tomasetti’s subplot involving the not guilty verdict and release of one of the men that was responsible for the deaths of his wife and daughters came across as an afterthought or filler. Whereas the main story of the Hotchstetler family and the night of brutality that they suffered, and those responsible, did not pique my interest until the very end of the book with the usual Linda Castillo twist.

I am not completely sure where this book went wrong for me, but I did not feel the usual passion that I associate with Castillo’s writing. There was no intensity, emotion, or bonding associated with one character that I have experienced in the past.

I am assuming that the whole point with both storylines is their mutual argument in that the past never dies. That somehow, somewhere, someone is always watching and waiting and revenge will be exacted. Still, something was missing and I was not engaged in either story that was told.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Blossom Street Brides

Title: Blossom Street Brides
Author: Debbie Macomber
Published: March 25th 2014 by Ballantine Books
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 336
Genre: Romance
Series: Blossom Street #10

By the end of the book, I thought that Macomber had titled the book wrong. Instead of Blossom Street Brides (plural), it should have been named Blossom Street Mothers and Daughters.

You had one mother stressing over her daughter who she felt was marrying too young, but that story line was secondary to another plot points that involve a woman who is losing her mother to Alzheimer’s, one mother losing her relationship with a daughter that was siding with her father after a divorce, and one mother that is trying to help an adopted daughter through nightmares and fears of being returned.

All wrapped around the main story line of a woman realizing that holding out for one man was wrong when the right one walked in the door. Granted, this was the spontaneous wedding, hence the bride, but still, there were multiple story lines and only one main wedding.

The Blossom Street books are woven around the women and businesses of Blossom Street in Seattle. The yarn shop is where they all have met and from this starting point, Macomber has branched out and introduced new characters while bringing back the ladies and their lives that have been introduced previously. The books within the series are long and winding and a little on the overly dramatic side, but they are romances so you should be prepared for relationship angst and theatrics.

I do not know why I keep coming back to this series. It is sweet, it is sappy, and even in their difficulties her characters all seem to have perfect lives where working in a jewelry store can pay well enough to purchase a condominium in Seattle and afford spontaneous travel. I guess that is the point of Macomber’s books, for a short time, they take you out of your reality and place you into the perfect world of Blossom Street.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Following Papa's Song

Title: Following Papa's Song
Author and Illustrator: Gianna Marino
Published: April 3rd 2014 by Viking Juvenile
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children's
Ages: 3 - 5 years; Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

Are children’s book supposed to make the mom tear up?

About to embark on their first migration to their summer feeding grounds, this beautiful tale tells of Little Blue and the new and wondrous adventure that he will share with his father.

When Little Blue’s curiosity gets the best of him, and he is separated from his father, all he has to do is remember what he was told.

“If you listen closely, you will always hear my song”

A simple tale of a father and son that will span a separation and impart a message of trust and bonding.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Room with a Clue

Title: Room with a Clue
Author: Kate Kingsbury
Publisher: October 1st 1993 by Berkley
Format: ebook; Papeback Pgs 204
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series:Pennyfoot Hotel Mystery #1

Well thank goodness that is over. I was looking for a lighter reader as a filler before I tackled my next book and since I had come across Room with a Clue as a free download, I figured why not. I should have kept looking.

Once the murder occurred, the who and why was obvious, but the how took a little more figuring and since I had long lost interest, it was nice of Kate Kingsbury to sum up the whole plot at the end.

Add in a missing python that was to be the center attraction of a tableau, an addled ex-military man, a widow trying to run a boutique hotel, the mother of a minister with bladder control issues, a mystery guest and the forced use of British colloquialisms all taking place during Edwardian times was enough for me to stop after the first book.

Good luck to those that will continue, but with its repetition and slow pace this was definitely not for me.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Thyme Out

Title: Thyme Out (or Second Thyme Around)
Author: Katie Fforde
Published: May 3rd 2001 by Arrow (first published 1999)
Format: Paperback; Pgs 384
Genre: Romance

I am not sure if this book got better as I went along or it just wore me out and I gave in.

Being a typical romance, the reader knows from page one how it is going to end up. Once I got past the main character’s name, and names have always been an issue for me, I slowly plodded to the end and through some very dry humor; I found that I ended up liking Perdita. She still came across as very young and naïve, but she was trying.

Perdita Dylan has carved out a very physically demanding job as a small specialty farmer that delivers high-end vegetables to local restaurants. On her usual rounds to a local hotel, she discovers that he ex-husband Lucas is now the head chef. Unaware of this turn of events, since the last time she saw him he was in finance or something like that, she enters and hopes to get out without being noticed.

Since that was too much to hope for, verbal battles ensue and when the owner of Grantly House approach her and Lucas to appear in a chef and gardener type of show, she does everything she can to get out of it, but her finances are in turmoil and this just might hold her over a bit.

Add to this her 87-year-old friend Kitty who lives on the other side of Perdita’s garden and is the woman that has cared for her and about her for the last 20 years. When Kitty suffers a stroke, Perdita cannot handle it all alone and the neighbors can only do so much. With a business in chaos and a house falling down around her, Perdita calls on Lucas and of course, this simple act, has Perdita seeing him in a new light.

As I said, I am not sure if the book got better as I went along or it just wore me down, but the more exhausted Perdita became, the funnier her comments were.

Not everyone’s life ends in a happily ever after, but that is the recipe for romances, so if you are not looking for a twist or anything too in depth, Thyme Out which is either a reissue of Second Thyme Around or the other way around, is a simple summer read that will appeal to many readers.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Oliver's Tree

Title: Oliver's Tree
Author and Illustrator: Kit Chase
Published: March 20th 2014 by Putnam Juvenile
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 32
Genre: Children's
Ages: 3 - 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

Not everyone is the same and when three friends play hide and go seek, it is apparent that not everyone can find a tree to hide in.

Lulu and Charlie help Oliver, a baby elephant, to search out a tree that is just right for him.

Sounding very much like a Goldilocks tale the three set off to find something that is just right for Oliver.

When Oliver’s feelings are hurt and he stomps off, his two best friends search out the perfect solution to their problem.

This simply story teaches ingenuity and friendship. Just the thing for your young problem solvers when their friends need them most.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up

Title: When to Speak Up and When to Shut Up
Author: Dr. Michael Sedler
Publisher: January 1st 2003 by Chosen Books
Format: Paperback, Pgs 160
Genre: Spiritual Self Help

I respected and appreciated what the message of this book was and I loved the parables of supposed real world situations, but I found myself bogged down from the scripture.

That being said, I have learned a great deal from this book, considering that I am by nature a “speak now and take no prisoners” type of person; I have had to learn how to rein myself in now that I am the parent of two adult children. I have had to learn that at this stage of my life, parenting is walking a tightrope. You are on a very fine edge of saying too much and not saying enough.

As I have taken my time with the book, it is surprising how many times I have just read a section and then I am confronted by a situation that was just discussed. Timely is a bit of an overstatement, so let’s just say that I needed this book more than I thought I would.

Each chapter ends with questions as a way to reinforce what was covered, but also for me, an additional learning tool as to why I respond the way I do.

This is going to be one of those keep on the shelf books that I will need to pull down from time to time to sustain the lessons learned. You will not get it all in one sitting and as you change and your situations change, we all could use a refresher on when and why to speak up and to base this on good decision making.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stay With Me

Title: Stay With Me
Author: Alison Gaylin
Publisher: June 24th 2014 by Harper
Format: ARC Paperback
Genre: Thriller / Suspense
Source: Amazon Vine
Series: Brenna Spector

Alison Gaylin is an underappreciated author. I do not think that she get the recognition that she deserves for the phenomenal Brenna Spector series that she writes. Usually, an author falls apart by book three, but ‘Stay With Me’ is by far one of her best books.

From the first paragraph to the startling conclusion, Ms. Gaylin holds the reader with a steady concentrated rhythm that never lets you down. Building upon her previous books (And She Was and Into the Dark) this author builds upon the intensity of the disappearance of Brenna’s sister three decades prior. What Brenna remembers from that day is her sister getting into the passenger seat of a blue car and driving away. From that day on, Brenna has been afflicted with Hyperthymestic Syndrome, which gives her perfect autobiographical memory – every word, every moment, and every detail of everyday of her life since Clea’s disappearance.

Through the last three books, the search for Clea has intensified. Individuals come forward with information that only Clea could know. Tidbits from her diary and a bag of her clothing are taking center stage. Suddenly there is an even more desperate situation - Brenna’s daughter, Maya, is missing. Why her? Why today?

As Brenna and her ex-husband and his current wife search for Maya, all points in this very desperate story come to a culmination. Lies are revealed, old truths are exposed and as everyone is cut to their bloody core the last chapter is finally revealed.

I did not see this coming. How I did not see it, I do not know; there were so many prior false leads and now it is all laid bare.

I do not know where Alison Gaylin will go with this series, but I am in for the long haul. Where she wants to take me I am willing to go and I will drag every reader who loves excellent thrillers and suspense with me.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Duck and Goose Go to the Beach

Title: Duck and Goose Go to the Beach
Author and Illustrator: Tad Hills
Publisher: April 8th 2014 by Schwartz & Wade
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 40
Genre: Children's
Series: Duck and Goose
Ages: Age Level: 3 - 7 | Grade Level: P - 2

Duck and Goose are friends. One the optimistic adventure seeker and the other a pessimistic naysayer. Together, they are the perfect match. Especially when their roles seem to reverse.

Duck loves the quiet meadow where they live; everything they need is there until, on a lark, they decide to take an adventure. Past the stump and over the stream, across the fields and up and down the hills until they find the beach and all the new friends that live there.

I had never heard the term drip castle before, but what a great thing to try the next time we travel to the ocean. Basically you make a slurry of sand and water and drip one layer on top of the next until your create your own free form castle.

I found Duck and Goose Go to the Beach more of a read to instead of a read together book. Not that the reading level was too challenging, just that for some reason it worked out better that way.

This is a great end of spring, get ready for summer book. One to bring out on a relaxing day and read of the adventures of two friends and the great day that they had.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well

Title: Aunt Dimity and the Wishing Well
Author: Nancy Atherton
Publisher: April 17th 2014 by Viking Adult
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 288
Genre: Paranormal Cozy
Series: Aunt Dimity #19

If it was not for the previous eighteen books, there is no way that you would recognized all the names and faces at Hector Huggins’s funeral. A myriad of names are thrown at the reader and even I, being a long time reader of the series, had to stop and put back stories to them all.

Rolling up to Hector’s funeral is his beloved nephew Jack MacBride, fresh from the Australian outback and here in Finch to sort out Hector’s final affairs. Namely, the disposition of Hector’s home, Ivy Cottage. During renovations, a wishing well is discovered on the property and when Lori speaks into the wishing well for the rain to cease and her wish comes true, the villagers cannot get to the well fast enough to speak their desires.

Finch being Finch means that there will be no end to the chaos that ensues when wishes are suddenly granted, but Lori with the help of Aunt Dimity, starts to become suspicious. Who is the puppet master behind the granting of the wishes? There are too many coincidences for this to be anything other than planned.

Was it me, or was Lori being overly whiney in this book. Who is bedridden merely by having their thumb whacked by a hammer – unable to participate in the simplest of things because her thumb is trussed up like a mummy? Grated, a second wish of Lori’s was a surprise at the end, but that does not explain why she was completely incapacitated.

The final chapters in the book were very good, almost as if someone else had written them. Throughout most of the book, the repetitiveness was burdensome. At times, I would have sworn full sentences and ideas were repeated. Then suddenly at the end, the ideas and structure were clear and straightforward. The epilogue tied the book together completely without having the reader once again rolling their eyes over facts that had been previously gnawed to death.

This is one of my favorite series. Some books are much better than others and the reader has to be patient. The folks from Finch are wonderful even if the gossip vine travels faster than the speed of light; they do have your best interest in mind even if they are too wrapped up in their own lives to bring Lori a casserole when she has whacked her thumb.

Monday, May 5, 2014

The House on Mango Street

Title: The House on Mango Street
Author: Sandra Cisneros
Publisher: Arte Público Press; January 1, 1984, paperback
Format: Paperback, Pgs 110
Genre: Memoir

When I first picked up this book, I was expecting a straightforward story of Esperanza, a young Latino girl growing up in a city.

What I found were vignettes narrated in the first person present tense that takes the reader through this young girl’s life. She is determined to leave her impoverished Chicago neighborhood, but to do so, there is so much that she has to say good-bye to. So much that is and always will be a part of her. There is one promise that she makes, that rings throughout the book, if you leave, you must come back for the ones that are left behind.

The house on Mango Street is not the one that her parents told her about, the one that they dreamed about. It is not beautiful and white with indoor stairs and pipes that work. It is shabby and red, but this is where she and her sibling are to grow up. In a neighborhood that teaches them and scares them and helps them to dream.

As the stories unfold, you see Esperanza growing from an inquisitive youngster to an adolescent. Where boys are to be watched but also your friends until that one horrible encounter where he life is turned upside down.

The ways of the world were not hidden from Esperanza; she sees how women are held down, how men can be abusive, how the nuns are not always fair. That does not stop her from wanting more. One day she will leave and one day she will return.

Though a short book, it took me a while to fall into its rhythm and to become mesmerized by the amazing young woman that Esperanza was growing into. You hope for her, you wish for her, but most importantly, you hope and wish for the ones that she will come back for.

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Sinner

Title: The Sinner
Author: Tess Gerritsen
Publisher: August 19th 2003 by Ballantine Books
Format: Hardcover; Pgs 352
Genre: Thriller
Series: Rizzoli and Isles #3

I loved the first two books in this series, but for some reason, book number three left me a bit empty. Not that I had read this book before, but there was something familiar about it. The book Devious by Lisa Jackson came to mind. Maybe it was because they both involved assaults on nuns, but I do not know.

The book series Rizzoli and Isles bears little resemblance to the television series, so you will have to separate one from the other. The characters names are the same, but their lifestyles are different. At least in the first couple of books, I have no idea if Tess Gerritsen will begin to meld the two in future installments.

What begins with the assault on two nuns leaving one dead and one barely alive quickly devolves into corporate cover-up when a third woman ends up on Maura’s autopsy table missing her face, hands and feet.

What could leprosy have to do with the nuns in a cloistered convent and why is Maura’s ex-husband suddenly back in her life.

This twist makes up the prominent storyline in The Sinner.

I did like this book even if it was overly familiar. It starts in one place and with a guided hand, the reader ends up somewhere that they did not see coming. I did not feel the same thrill that the first two books had. Both of them creeped me out - this book felt more sedate.

I will be continuing with the series, being a physician, Ms. Gerritsen can draw a medical picture in graphic detail. I may not understand everything that her characters are saying, but it is drawn with an intensity that you know is real.

If you are looking for a good series, start with the first two, know that three is a bit of a letdown, and I will let you know about the others.