The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty

5 stars Middle School

I think I inhaled this book! Intrigued by an approaching storm, Lucy (age 8) and her friend Cecel, climb a metal fence to watch it (I thought to myself, who climbs a metal fence during a storm?). When the storm’s lightning came in contact with that fence, both girls lived to tell their story, but Lucy was left with a gift.  Savant Syndrome.

Extremely talented in math, thanks to that severe storm, Lucy has been homeschooled by her grandmother.  Currently, she feels that she’s ready for something else.  Grandmother however, feels differently and challenges Lucy to a year of public middle school.  When the challenge is accepted, Lucy sets the ground rules: she doesn’t want anyone to know about her math abilities.  I think that Lucy believes that she knows what her biggest challenges are but when it all played out, I don’t think she really did. 

I loved that the author addressed many upper elementary/middle school issues, and that, the story itself felt realistic and valid.  These were characters that I felt that I knew; I have heard their stories while I subbed for them and their actions were spot-on. I loved a lot of things about this book: characters, relationships, drama, birthday party and its after-effects, how individuals mature, and the service project. I highly recommend this book.

The Forgotten Room by Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig

Mystery 3.5 stars

There are three actual stories in this book but they all have one common thread. That common subject lies in a building, which has had many purposes over the years, if only the walls of that building could talk. 

I liked the idea of how this huge building served many purposes over the years.  The history that this building contained and how it served others was fascinating.  To think, how many people walked and in-and-out of its doors intrigued me.  Then, to read how the three women in this novel were also connected to this building, just added more significance to the structure.  I had to wonder if there were any standing building today that have these same traits.  Hum?

Anyways, back to the book. Following a trio of women, we crisscross over three different time periods (1892, 1920, and 1944) which I found confusing at times as I couldn’t keep everyone straight.  These women are all from the same family, just years apart, which made it more confusing to me.  I finally wrote everyone’s name down on a piece of paper and drew arrows to keep individuals separated as the romance in this novel adds even more complications.

Somehow over the years, these three women find their way back to New York, to this same building yet they’re there for different reasons.  As the novel comes together, you’ll find out what ties them all together. 

It’s a mystery that covers many generations.  With strong-minded women and a terrific setting this book provided for me an interesting read. 3.5 stars

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen McManus

2.5 stars YA

My thoughts:

I picked this audio book up because I enjoyed the author’s first book, One of Us is Lying. This book was totally different.  I enjoyed this book in the beginning but then, I thought the book dragged on. 

The book is about a set of twins that have to live with their grandmother in Echo Ridge, as their mother is sent away for a while. The small town of Echo Ridge might be little, but within its borders, it contains big time drama.  With a tragic past that include girls that have either come up missing or dead, this year is no exception.  With a history to these crimes, the girls can’t take this year’s case lightly.    

I enjoy a novel where an author slowly reveals the mystery to its reader but I thought there was too much other stuff in this novel that didn’t matter.  Let’s cut to the chase and give me, what’s important. I also felt so lost with all the individuals in this novel.  I was so confused with all the people that I had to keep track of.  In short, this book just wasn’t right for me.  There are tons of great reviews for it so, perhaps it’s right for you but I will pick-up One of Us is Next and read it.  2.5 stars

I loved it so much! The Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-El

5 stars Children’s/Middle School

I absolutely loved The Very, Very Far North!  Immediately after finishing it, I had to know if this was going to be a series, as I didn’t want this to be the end of Duane and his adventures in the Far Far North.  This story captured my attention immediately and entertained me until I turned the very last page (make sure you read the letter from Duane at the very end).  Filled with engaging adventures and exciting stories, this book made me laugh, smile, and touched my heart.

It wasn’t until after I read the book, did I read what others thought of this book.  I have to agree with what many other readers reported, this book does have that Winnie the Pooh feel to it.  As Duane makes himself comfortable in his new home in the Very, Very Far North, Duane has that comfortable, quizzical state about him and the adventures that he has, are quite fun and enlightening.

Duane loves three things in life: napping, eating, and exploring.  For Duane, the polar bear, finding C.C. and the shipwreck was the perfect beginning for him.  He learns and forms so many great friendships in the Very, Very Far North, I’m so glad that he went.

As they have new experiences, met new friends, and help each other, I enjoyed that there was no major rivalry or conflicts between them.  Any struggles that they did have, were addressed, handled and then the parties dropped it.  I also liked that each individual in the book was different and had their own personality.  I really loved the way the book was written; it was reader friendly as the text spoke to you. I think young readers will enjoy this.

I can’t wait to read more about Duane, Major Puff, Magic, C.C., Sun Girl, Boo, Twitch, and Handsome in the next book. I’m really hooked on this book and think it would make a great read aloud for elementary-age children.  I can’t wait to share it with others. 

If you have young children, pick this one up.  If you have grandchildren or work in a school-setting with young children, this is one you will want to look into.  It definitely is a keeper!

“You or I might have responded to a polar bear crashing into our home with a little more alarm, perhaps. I won’t speak for you, but I would definitely have screamed at least once, or five times.”

She Crossed the Line Too Many Times. Too Close by Natalie Daniels

5 stars Fiction/Suspense

If only she had listened to her gut feelings, perhaps her life would have turned out differently.  I had to wonder as I turned countless pages, was this woman really off her rocker or was it something else that pushed her over the edge? This was one of those stories that carried me along, page after page, chapter after chapter (and those chapter are long!) until the very end. 

I met Emma, a forensic psychiatrist, who was assigned Connie, a patient at a mental hospital. Emma has a great professional front but personally, Emma is hiding something. What Connie did to land in the hospital, I have no idea at this point, but Emma’s job was to decide if Connie would be able to stand trial. I immediately liked Connie when I met her but as story progressed, my feelings towards her were all over the place.  Connie was clever, crafty and also manipulative yet at times, I was wondering what had possessed her, her actions were driving me up the wall! 

The story flashes back and forth, from the past to the present. We get the story how Connie ended up hospitalized and also about Connie and her relationships now.  The author threw in a few dramatic punches in the stories which I really enjoyed and I couldn’t get this book out of my head. 

With the doctor constantly visiting, Connie gets tired of her endless questions and battering.  She just doesn’t know the answers and doesn’t want to remember. Then, Connie sees an opportunity and decides to turn the tables. It becomes rather fun now when the doctor arrives, as Connie tries on her own invisible white coat and plays her own version of doctor.  In the doctor’s volatile state, Connie manipulates her way into the doctor’s head rather quickly.  I began to wonder with the door closed, who was the patient and who was the doctor, as the line began to get rather blurry.

It all still comes back to, what did Connie do to land herself into the hospital?  The plot deepens as her children are introduced and their feelings towards her are revealed.  I liked that the author slowly reveals parts of this mystery to the readers throughout the chapters, creating suspense and drama.  I could feel the tension building.  This was a great suspenseful story, one that I really enjoyed and one that I highly recommend.

Thanks to HarperCollins Publishing and BookPage for supplying me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I won a copy of this book in a Sweepstakes at BookPage. I’m sorry that I missed the ARC’s debut deadline.   

Murder at the Roosevelt Hotel in Cedar Rapids, Iowa by Diane Fannon-Langton

3 stars Nonfiction

I’ve only read a few true-crime books but the ones that I have read, I have really enjoyed.  There were quite a few reasons why I wanted to read this one: the book was short, this book was being read for a local bookclub that I wanted to check out, the book’s event occurred in my hometown and I hadn’t heard of this event before seeing this book.  I have to agree with a few of the reviews that I finally read on this book; it is filled with information.

I used to watch Dragnet when I was a kid.  I remember it as being a show that reported the facts, and I also, remembered the announcers voice. This book reminded me a lot of that television show.  This book contained a lot of facts: he did/said and she did/said, stating the facts and reacting the events, without getting to the know the actual characters or the/their backgrounds. 

I liked that I knew exactly where this event occurred and that this was an actual event.  The book had a great flow to it as the author spells everything out, from beginning to end. I also appreciate the research that went into this book. I wished that there was more character development in the book and that the book was more than just a detail account of the facts that occurred in this event.   

The Vanishing Season By Joanna Schaffhausen

4 stars Mystery

It’s that time of the year again, Ellery’s birthday is right around the corner.  For Ellery, unfortunately, she suspects that again, this birthday will not be a time for celebration.  It always began with her mail.  Opening the envelope, Ellery knew the minute her eyes landed on the colorful front what she was holding.  The greeting inside was just the beginning, its deception was just a part of the mystery that Ellery was a part of. Would this year be any different?

Ellery is a female officer who has moved into a small town where she is the only female on the payroll.  Ellery believes that some murders have been committed yet there haven’t been any bodies recovered. She has been connecting the “dots” in a few cases and she believes that she’s uncovered a pattern.  Now, Ellery is predicting the next murder.  However, no one is listening to her.  The real story is, Ellery is not telling her colleagues everything she knows about these cases and the clock is ticking.  What are you going to do Ellery?  You can’t delay your birthday.

With twists and turns, I enjoyed this griping mystery as Ellery works to uncover the pieces and get everyone on board.  I enjoyed the small town of Woodbury, the main characters with their flaws and the character’s history.  This was an entertaining, exciting book and Joanna Schaffhausen is an author that I look forward to reading in the future.   

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Milk Street: The New Rules by Christopher Kimball

3.5 stars Cookbook

I wished I enjoyed this book more because I like the gifted Christopher Kimball.  I have been a follower of Chris’ for a long time and his departure from America’s Test Kitchen left me wondering where our relationship was headed.  I was glad to find this cookbook as it sounded interesting but it just wasn’t one for me.

This is a thick, heavy cookbook containing 304 pages, from Christopher Kimball.  If you don’t know Christopher, you should check him out.  Christopher, is a down-to-earth guy, who is serious about cooking.  What I like about Christopher is that he brings cooking down to my level.  He takes normal, basic ingredients and using easy recipes, he prepares meals while explaining the reasoning behind his cooking.  It’s like each recipe is a cooking class. Christopher used to be on America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country which is where I became acquainted with him and I began to follow him.  In this cookbook, Christopher takes 75 rules of cooking and transforms them.

Some of these rules he transformed I was familiar with, while others were interesting.  Rule #8, Jumpstart Your Potatoes. Kimball says for potatoes that you want tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, you should start cooking them in the microwave first.  Rule #19 Season Your Water.  Add hearty seasoning to the cooking liquid when preparing beans and grains as it gives them bolder flavor.  Along with each rule, Christopher provides a recipe or two proving his point.

The recipes are divided into categories: vegetables, eggs, beans & grains, noodles & breads, seafood, chicken, pork, and beef.  At the beginning of each category, he lists all the recipes for that category, plus there’s a nice index in the back.  Each recipe has the start to finish time, how many it will serve, ingredients, and step-by-step instructions.  Christopher also includes other detail information about the recipe, which I find interesting and helpful.  This might include how the recipe tastes, how it came together, where it came from, tips or other information Christopher decided to include. 

Christopher includes other pages in the cookbook that are helpful and are themed, they are like bonus material.   It really is a great cookbook but what I found disappointing is the recipes.  Most of the recipes in this cookbook were things that I wouldn’t cook. I only found a handful of recipes that I would actually make.  Indonesian Stir-Fried Noodles, Shrimp with Kerkennaise Sauce, Thai Stir-Fried Glass Noodles, Lemon- Lime Lacquered Grilled, these were just a few that just don’t look good to me. I’ll be keeping my eye out for Christopher in the future, he still has my vote.  3.5 stars

Roly Poly by Mem Fox

4 stars Children’s Picture Book

What a cute story!  Roly Poly is living a terrific life with his mom and dad.  He has everything he has ever wanted.  Then, one day a stranger appears in his bed and now, this stranger invades his space ALL THE TIME!

I liked how innocent Roly Poly’s little brother Monty was.  He followed Roly Poly around, it seemed as though, Monty just wanted to be with his big brother.  Roly Poly didn’t see it that way though and he was rather annoyed, until one day Monty needed his help.   Roly Poly tried to ignore Monty’s again (like he’d been doing) but he just couldn’t and well, the ending is really sweet.

It’s a delightful book and I think most kids will really like it and I think it’s a great book for families.  I did wonder about why little Monty was sharing a bed with Roly Poly. Would older children question this same thing (cribs, beds, etc.)? Then again, all families do some things differently and perhaps this is just something this family does.The illustrations were fun and I enjoyed looking at all the details that were put into some of them. The text is bold and easy to read.  Would make a good read aloud. 

Spencer's New Pet by Jessie Sima

5 stars Children’s Picture Book

I loved this book!  Absolutely loved this wordless book! I don’t usually love wordless, picture books so much but this one won my heart.

It’s told like a silent movie which opens up with Part 1: The Pet.  It begins with a boy and a dog. The illustrations are black-and-white except for the dog which is portrayed as a red, balloon dog.  The boy is so happy to have the dog!  We see him walking out the circus tent with his dog on the end of a string.  He teaches the dog tricks and goes to the vet. In Part ll: The Park, the boy takes his dog to the park where the boy realizes that his dog is fragile and might get popped! Oh no! He tries to hold onto his dog but……later, we see the boy chasing him throughout the park. 

In Part lll: The Party, the duo is still running through the park and they run into a kid’s birthday party being held in the park.  I’m holding my breath as he chases his dog through the festivities.  What happens in the end, I can’t tell you, I won’t tell you!  Please don’t peak at the ending for it will spoil the whole fun of the book.  It was wonderful, truly magnificent book, I thought!  High praises for this wordless, picture book!   5 stars