Monday, December 31, 2012

Alex The Parrot by Stephanie Spinner

I wish I could have met this parrot.  He understood words, could communicate with you, and he had an attitude.  He would have been fascinating to watch in action!

Knopf Books sent me a copy of this picture book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

He was an African grey parrot and she named him Alex, short for Avian Learning Experiment.  When she began training him, it was thought birds couldn't learn much based on the size of their brains.  That obviously wasn't true.  Alex not only learned words but what the words associated with.  He could also connect colors or shapes to words.  That's pretty wondrous for a brain the size of a walnut.

Washoe is mentioned in this story, too.  She was a chimpanzee that Central Washington University worked with on sign language.  I actually got to meet her when I was taking a clerk's certification course at the college.  I don't remember her, but I remember the male chimp.  He got mad at the trainer for being ordered around and gave him the finger when his back was turned.  Yep, that one had learned sign language alright!

Animals are a lot smarter than you might think.  My cat likes to play Fetch.  When the ball gets lost, she just stands in one spot and reasons out where it must have gone.  She's always right too.  I wouldn't want to be her prey.

Happy reading.    

Some Like It Hot by K J Larsen

Cat DeLuca hadn't seen Billy for years.  He'd kissed her and they planned to marry at eight, but life had sent them in other directions.  Now he's back, pretending he's Humphrey Bogart and insisting he's a private eye like her.  It wasn't true, but he didn't deserve to die for it.

Poisoned Pen Press and Net Galley allowed me to download this ebook for review (thank you).  It will be published March 5th.  This is another in the series, so there are others you can pick up and read while you're waiting for publication.

The whole case turns into a mess.  Most things Cat looks into tend to go that way, but this one is worse than usual.  It takes all of Cat's family and friends to keep her alive and help her solve the case.  

Jewelry theft is the cause of murder in the beginning.  Billy's death was incidental.  And the earrings were even bigger trouble when they were located again.  Somehow, Marilyn Monroe still gets to men even if she is dead.

This is a cozy mystery that is a pleasant read.  Poor Cat and her boyfriend Chase don't get to spend too much time together in this story.  Maybe the next book will remedy that.

Happy reading.    

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Cold Snap by Eileen Spinelli

How's the weather where you are?  In this story, it's cold out there!

Knopf Books sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

Toby Mills is a small community.  Everyone knows everyone else.  They know each others habits.  All the children play with each other.  And a cold snap affects them all.

My favorite part of the tale was watching the icicle on the founder's nose get longer.  As the cold days stretch on, the icicle keeps growing.

When everyone is totally depressed about the weather, the Mayor's wife comes up with an idea.  She has a huge bonfire and food and drinks and snow treats and everyone has fun.  The next day the weather begins to warm, too.

Have you had sugar-on-snow candy?  There's recipe in this book.

Happy reading.     

Automatic Woman by Nathan L. Yocum

Jacob "Jolly" Fellows is a thief catcher.  When he's hired to recover an Automatic Woman (robot like), he thinks it's just another case.  When the Automatic Woman kills his employer and almost kills him, he knows this case is going to be more than a simple theft.  Especially when he's charged with murder...

Curiosity Quills Press and Net Galley let me download an ebook of this story (thank you).  The book has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

An unusual and interesting story, it's set in Victorian England and has many well-known characters to the story.  Some were living people, others fictional people, but Mr. Yocum made them all meld into the story to make the tale more tantalizing.

It seems the inventor added something different to Automatic woman; she has a spark of life.  Everyone wants that secret and suddenly Jolly goes from following a thief to fleeing for his life.  This is a Victorian mystery with a bit of steampunk thrown in.  I'd like to see the author write another in this series.  I don't think our Automatic woman is done yet.  And I know Jolly isn't.

Happy reading.    

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko

Jewish holidays and Christian holidays are different.  The author does a nice job of showing how the different holiday traditions can be combined.

Knopf Books sent me a copy of this picture book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

Sadie is growing up in a household where two religious beliefs are celebrated without discrimination.  While this is a compromise, it's in no way giving up any beliefs.  It's incorporating them and celebrating them both.  

The illustrations are colorful and full of activity.  It's easy to get caught up in the spirit at Sadie's house.  You can even learn about a religion you may not have been familiar with before.  Learning new things is an important part of life.  Why don't you stop for a visit?

Happy reading.  

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Kyra is an excellent potions master, but she's more than that.  She doesn't want to admit it and doesn't let anyone else know about it.  You can only hide things so long.

Disney Book Group and Net Galley allowed me to download an ebook of this story for review (thank you).  It will be published March 12th, so make a note on your TBR list to pick up then.

Kyra knows the kingdom she grew up in is in danger.  She sees death in the future.  To save her people, she must kill her best friend.  The princess has changed and she's the vessel of destruction.  Kyra has no choice, even if it hurts her heart.  But when she tries, she misses!  She never misses.  And, in this case, she didn't miss either.

The young adult characters in this story are strong, self-sufficient, and willing to fight for what they believe in.  I found myself entwined with Kyra and the princess and the young man named Fred she met while hiding out.  They were so easy to relate to, there was humor in their antics, and it's a very good adventure.  There are a lot of secrets in the story and that's what makes it good fun to read.

In fact, I enjoyed this one enough I have preordered the book so I'll be sure to get a copy for my library.  The tale tantalized me and I want to read it again.  It's one of those books you can pick up and read over and over and it won't get old.  Why don't you get a copy and check it out?  

Happy reading. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Cowboy Christmas by Rob Sanders

OK, I'm going to tell you right up front that I like this book!  It's cute, great fun, has wonderful illustrations and it's a keeper for me.  Still want to hear about it?

Golden Books sent me a copy of this book for review.  It has been published and I'd recommend getting one.  If you don't have a young one around, you can always add to it your own collection.  (I do that.)

The cowboys are on a cattle drive and feeling really bad about Santa not being able to find them and no Christmas celebration.  Then they start reminiscing about when they were a kid.  The cook encourages to do their best at living up to those memories.  They start with a cactus tree and it doesn't get any better as it goes along.  The illustrations are wonderful.  The cowboys remind me of Yosemite Sam.

When all hope is gone and they are resigned to having a lonely Christmas with the cows, they get a big surprise!

This story touched me and I'm sure your little ones will charmed, too.  Better check it out and get yourself a copy before they're gone.

Happy reading.   

Absent by Katie Williams

Can you imagine dying at school and then being there in spirit form?  Paige can't leave the school grounds; she transports back to her point of death.  And she's not the only one there...

Chronicle Books and Edelweiss gave me the opportunity to read this ebook for review (thank you).  The book will be published May 7th, so make a note on your TBR list to pick it up then.

I'm not one who reads a lot of ghost stories, but this one caught my eye.  Paige knows she didn't commit suicide.  So how did she end up jumping from the rooftop and dying?  The idea of a ghost story with a mystery mixed in sounded interesting.

And interesting it is.  There is Brooke, a classmate that died of an overdose and Evan, who committed suicide years before because he was gay.   They can't move on, so they stay in classes that interest them or amuse themselves with exploring the building.  When Paige discovers she can enter the body of someone who is thinking of her, she gets to experience being different people.  She begins by getting even with her enemies, but it's no fun.  What she find out as she "lives" the other lives is that no one has a perfect life.

The author does a good job of bringing the story to a reasonable conclusion.  Even if you're not sure about ghosts, this a good story and I enjoyed it.

Happy reading.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Chicken Problem by Jennifer Oxley

Cat and Peg like pie.  They like math, too, but pie is number one.

Random House Children's Books sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

Cat and Peg go to a farm to have a picnic with the pig.  They have pieces of pie for everyone.  The problem is there is one piece too many.  It's a small piece, but they should have someone else to share the picnic fare.  Cat gets a chick out of the chicken cage and they have someone to eat the problem cake.  But now they have a new problem:  the chickens all got out of the unlatched cage!!!

The best part of this book is how they have math problems on the pages and you can learn simple addition and subtraction problems as you are following the chicken hunt.  The young ones probably won't even notice they're doing it.

Here's a non-threatening method of learning math while reading a fun book about Peg and her Cat.  Why not give it a try?

Happy reading.     

Cover of Snow by Jenny Milchman

Nora wakes late and feels groggy.  She doesn't usually sleep late.  Her husband is up, though, his side of the bed is empty.  She goes in search of him but he's in none of the usual places.  She's suddenly filled with terror when she looks up the back stairs and sees him hanging...

Ballentine Books and Edelweiss allowed me to download this ebook for review (thank you).  It will be published on January 15th, so make a note to check with your local bookstore then.

I found this to be a very impressive effort by a first-time author.  Ms. Milchman writes a good story with plenty of depth.  It's a believable plot with lots of action.

Nora rehabs houses and that was what she was doing with the home she and her husband shared.  They'd had an enjoyable evening and made love before they slept.  How could he do something like this?

She's determined to find out what caused his death.  Her first surprise is to find that he had drugged her the night before so she wouldn't wake when he carried out his suicide.  When she checks what kind of drug was used, it had been given to him by prescription a week before his death.  He never took pills.  Why then?  What had happened that made him get them?

The more she finds out, the less she knows.  The man she married had secrets he didn't share with her.  Most of the town isn't willing to share them with her either.  It takes an autistic mechanic she meets when he's installing a tail light on her car who finally starts giving her hints about the past.

The chief of police encourages her to leave town.  Her mother-in-law accuses her of causing her husband to kill herself.  Her parents are too busy to be with her.  She finds she really doesn't have many friends in this small town.  And the few she has are being murdered.

Something is out of control in this town.  Can she figure it out in time to stop it before she's killed?

It will keep you on your toes and twist your mind while you try to figure out what's going on.  It's a good read.

Happy reading.     

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Room for the Baby by Michelle Edwards

There is a baby on the way.  Where will they put the crib?

Random House Books sent me this picture book for review (thank you).  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

The family decides to clean up the sewing room to make room for the crib.  Wait until you see what they do with all the scraps that have been collected over time!

The new baby will need diapers, clothes, blankets and more.  She recycles clothes and leftover materials to make these.  She unravels old sweaters and uses them to knit new mittens and more.  This Mom is excellent at recycling 

This really brought back memories of home.  My Mom always had a sewing room.  She had material, yarn, embroidery thread, tons of buttons, piles of sewing thread and more.  Anything you needed for a craft, she probably had in the sewing room; if you could find it!  She also did just like this Mom does.

This is the story of a family filled with love where everyone helps get ready for the new baby.  How they re-use all the things in the sewing room is my favorite part of this story.

Why not share this book with your little one and see just what you might have around to recycle with?  My Mom made me doll clothes from old dresses.  I still have them...

Happy reading.     

Footprints in the Sand: A Piper Donovan Mystery by Mary Jane Clark

Piper went to Sarasota, Florida, to be a maid of honor for her cousin and to help her mother make the wedding cake.  She was unlucky enough to get caught up in murder...

William Morrow and Edelweiss gave me the opportunity to download and read an ebook of this story (thank you).  It will be published on January 8th, so look for it at your local bookstore on that date.  Piper has been in other Wedding Cake mysteries, so grab one of those now to hold you over.

The author does a good job of giving you more than one suspect.  There are several sub-plots to keep your mind busy.  And I never suspected the real killer.

One thing that seemed a bit out of place to me was the addition of a few Amish characters.  It seemed a bit odd and Levi's action was a bit extreme.  I didn't feel it added to the story.  She fits them in the story well but I wondered why they were there.

Piper decides she'll have to find out who killed the bridesmaid since the police aren't succeeding.  Her investigation leads her into danger and she's fighting for her life near the end of the story.  It's fast paced, has unusual place for murder, and everyone is learning lessons as the story progresses.  I found it to be a quick read and enjoyed it.  

Why don't you take a walk on the beach and see if you get back alive?  Piper can show you where to go...

Happy reading.     

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What Can A Crane Pick Up? by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Has your child ever seen a crane?

Alfred A Knopf sent me a copy of this book for review.  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

The biggest cranes I've ever seen have been on TV in New York City.  When I worked for a city in the past, I saw them used by construction crews on our capital improvement projects.  This children's picture book shows young ones just how much a crane can hold and the various sizes they come in.

If you have a child that is interested in construction equipment, this is good book for them.  The text is poetic and makes it fun to read.  It might even lead you to buy some Tonka toys for your young one, you never know.

Happy reading.

Jinx by Sage Blackwood

Stay on the path.  Don't venture off.  After all, there are things in the woods...

HarperCollins and Edelweiss allowed me to download an ebook of this story for review.  It will be published on January 8th, so watch for a copy in your local bookstore then.

Jinx has the misfortune of having his parents both become victim to the forest dangers.  Then his house burns down.  Soon, he's no more than an unwanted stepson in the small home built after the fire.  When his stepfather takes him for a walk in the woods and then steps far off the path, he somehow knows he's not meant to come back.  But he sure never expected to meet a wizard or to have his stepfather hauled off by trolls.  His life becomes much more interesting from here on.

This is mix of magic and monsters with a fight over power on all sides.  Jinx doesn't know his own powers, but he's learning.  If he lives long enough, he'll be just fine.

Jinx is not sure if Simon is a good wizard or bad.  Simon's wife is a witch with an attitude.  And the young witch and young prince he runs into on the path are carrying their own curses and secrets, too.  It's an interesting story and this just sets the groundwork for future stories.  I think we're going to see more of Jinx and his friends and I'm glad. 

Happy reading.   

Monday, December 24, 2012

Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty? David Levinthal

Binky is a detective.  He works in the Pinecone division downtown.  He's solving notorious nursery tale mysteries...

Schwartz & Wade sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  John Nickle illustrated it.  It has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

As soon as I started reading this, I could hear Joe Friday in my head.  Binky the frog is a lot like Joe.  For those of you too young to remember him, he was a detective on TV.  "Just the facts, ma'am."

Besides Humpty Dumpty, Goldilocks, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and Jack and Beanstalk are all his cases.  They're silly, fun stories that your little detectives will love.  All the criminals must pay for their crimes, even Goldilocks.

It's suitable for ages 4-8 and would be great fun to read aloud with various voices.

Why not take a walk with Binky and see how he handles his cases?

Happy reading.   

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Honor Bright leaves her Quaker home in England to follow her sister to America, where the sister will wed her new husband.  Honor doesn't plan on being sea sick the entire trip.  She also doesn't expect her sister to contract a disease and die before reaches her betrothed.  In a new land with new sayings and where everybody is a stranger, Honor will have to find her own place and attempt to fit into a new life.

Dutton and Edelweiss allowed me to download an ebook of this story for review (thank you).  It will be available for sale on January 8th.  You'll want to make a note so you can look for it at your local bookstore.

I was very impressed with this story.  It's set in 1850 and the challenges facing Honor are multiple.  She ends up living with her sister's beau and his sister-in-law.  Her husband had died shortly before Honor arrived.  It's an uncomfortable relationship between them all, and she knows she has to find another answer.  She does meet a young Quaker man that she's attracted to and she decides to marry him.  But life in his family's house is no easier than the one she just left. 

Another challenge for her is slavery.  She's in a location that is part of the Underground Railway and she sees no harm in sharing a bit of food and a warm place in the barn to sleep for one night.  Her husband and his family do.  So does the slave catcher, Donovan.  The worst part is that Honor finds herself attracted to Donovan, too.

Some people compromise their beliefs; others defend them.  Donovan's sister helps them escape; he helps capture them.  Honor is in the middle. 

The ending is horrific but very believable.  It shocked me, made me sad, and I want to rewrite it, but it's an appropriate end to such a volatile situation.  It may not impact you as much, but it's an ending I won't forget.  You read the book and let me know what you think of the ending. I'd like to know if it hit other people that way.

Happy reading.         

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lemonade in Winter by Emily Jenkins

Pauline and John-John are all excited about the idea of a lemonade stand.  Who cares if it's winter?

Schwartz & Wade sent me a copy of this book for review (thank you).  The book has been published, so check with your local bookstore for a copy.

I found this to be a charming story.  The children decide to do the stand despite the weather.  They dig up all the money they have and any they can find in the cushions and go a shopping spree for supplies.  Then they set up their stand.

They have a few sales but not many people are out and about in the cold weather.  Their various marketing tactics are amusing and effective both.  While it doesn't turn out quite like they planned, they make the most of their proceeds and feel very proud of accomplishing their goals.

This author does a very good job of inserting counting into the money collection.  There is also a reference page in the back that talks about money sizes, values, and more.  Training your child with lemonade money will make it more fun.

Happy reading.

Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

Inspector Alan Banks is back again on another case.  This one is a mix between new cases and an old cold case that was never solved.  Annie is back after recovery from being shot and almost dying; she's supposed to be on light duty.  To add to Banks' problems, he now has an extra person on the case.  Unfortunately, it's an inspector from Professional Standards.  Banks isn't sure if she's checking out the victim for police corruption or if she's building a case on him.  After all, sometimes he steps on the wrong side of the law when solving cases.

William Morrow and Edelweiss allowed me to read this ebook for review (thank you).  It will be on the shelves on January 8th, so make a note on your TBR list.

Mr. Robinson writes a very detailed investigative search.  He includes the emotional aspects and shows that there is a tie between several illegal activities. Inspector Banks keeps trudging along, digging out facts and connecting the dots.  When he has solved the first two murders, he's still not willing to give up on the cold case file.  He's a character I find easy to admire, despite his human weaknesses.

I'll be watching for the next book in this series.  It takes me a while to read them, but they are worth the time.  Why not give this one a try and see what you think?

Happy reading.