The Mystery of Eatum Hall by John Kelly & Cathy Tincknell

5 stars Picture Book

This book is a hoot!  I loved it!  The illustrations alone are worth the read but when you add in the text, you will absolutely fall in love with it. It’s a book where there are clues everywhere, but who is looking?

Glenda and Horace, are invited to spend the weekend at Eatum Hall and they’re all excited.  All the gourmet food that they can eat and they can eat a lot! Yet, when they arrive, they cannot find their host.  They find a note instead (with fun clues in it) that tells them to enjoy themselves and their host will join them later. 

There were plenty of times while reading this book that I was chuckling but now, I was laughing.  Here in this isolated older house, were a plump goose and a pig and they’re looking forward to staying here by themselves. As they look around, they don’t even see all the clues that are everywhere around them.  I would have been running out the door, had it been me.  The illustrations are fantastic and you can get lost just admiring them.  Their host provided the best for them and they begin to settle in.  They were going to take advantage of this relaxing weekend. 

Noticing the clues around them, Glenda comments on the doctor’s love of art while Horace remarks on how smart the doctor is, as the doctor has put a lot of detail in making sure that his guests are comfortable in his absence. Meanwhile, the author reveals to his reader, the true identity of Dr. A. Hunter, and what his true plans are.   

This is definitely an exciting and fun book.  I’ve read and thumbed through it a few times, just admiring how it all comes together and it truly is a book worth reading. I highly recommend it.

I do feel that some children might be too young for it though. Why?  There’s a lot of inferring that occurs in this book to truly enjoy it and they might not get or understand it and/or the child might not care for the book’s ending.  Just know your child before reading this book to them.

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

2.5 stars Fiction

This wasn’t as good as The Rosie Project but it was an okay read.  I ended up listening to the audio of this book and it was a good audio to listen to.  The book picks up right where The Rosie Project left off but you don’t really need to read that book to appreciate it.   

I did laugh while reading this book but I found Don so annoying that I wanted to lock him in a closet. I knew that Don was just trying to help but I thought that he was relentless in his tactics. Immersing himself in Rosie’s pregnancy, his concern consumed everything and every part of her life. I would expect some of this behavior from Don, but he was over-the-top.  I don’t know if I could have been as calm as Rosie during the whole ordeal, but Rosie knew who Don was when she married him so she knew somewhat, what would occur if/when she got pregnant.  I thought she handled the situations very well.  

It was nice to see Don concerned about his wife and child (but the extremes were just too much) and I liked how Don referred to the baby as Bud.  I wished that Rosie would have made more of an appearance in this book instead of letting Don steal the show.  Even more interaction between the two of them would have been good.   

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager

5 stars Thriller

Lock every door, if only that were the answer.  I found myself, burning the midnight oil, racing through the final pages of this book.  I knew that I wouldn’t be able to sleep until I read the final sentence of this book, for that would finally put my mind at ease.  

I liked how the story started out; giving me a glimpse into the character’s current situation and then, I was slowly introduced into the rest of the storyline.  Day-by-day the details intensified until I was completely under the books control.  What happens when I finally got caught up to what was presently occurring in the book, I really didn’t care, for I was really enjoying the suspense in this book and trying to figure out some questions that I had.  This large novel was becoming smaller by the minute!

When Jules took the job as a house sitter at the Bartholomew, I didn’t know what to expect.  Making $12,000 for 3 months of housesitting was quite extraordinary but depending on the circumstances, that amount of money might just be right for some people.  The rules that Jules had to abide by were crazy but again, they were only for 3 months.  The no talking to anyone at the complex unless they spoke to you first rule was one rule that I would have a really hard time abiding by. I’m a talker and I like to make eye-contact, so no talking would mean I would probably have to look at the floor so I am not tempted to say something. Talk about antisocial behavior. 😉  I liked how Jules found a few individuals at the Bartholomew that she could talk to and confine in.  The book just got creepier and twisted the more I read, what was going on?

My aunt had a dumbwaiter in her old house and I remember thinking, when I was little, that it was the coolest thing.  We used to cram lots of stuff in it and play with it. Like Jules, we had some scary thoughts pertaining but that’s as far as ours went, just thoughts. I hadn’t thought about it in years but after reading this book, I had dreams of dumbwaiters. Thanks, Riley.

I loved the intensity of this book. I felt on-edge and as if I was Jules shadow.  There were a few storylines twisted amongst the main story and I liked how the author put it all together.  The flashbacks which were dispersed throughout the story were short and they provided details for the rest of the story. I really enjoyed this book! I’ve read Final Girls by Riley but I feel that I enjoyed this book more.  I need to read The Last Time I Lied soon, then I think I’ve read all of his books.

Has anyone read The Last Time I Lied?  Is that book a good thriller?  Has anyone read all of his books? If you have, which one was your favorite?    

The Evil Princess vs. The Brave Knight by Jennifer L. Holm

4 stars Children’s

Sister and brother, evil princess and brave knight.  They lived together in a castle but that didn’t always mean that they got along. The Evil Princess liked to be mean to the Brave Knight. The Brave Knight liked to be brave but he could also be mean, when the Evil Princess was evil to him. The Magic Mirror got tired of their mischief so she sent them each to their rooms!

That was fine…….at first. They played in their rooms and did what Evil Princesses and Brave Knights do by themselves.  Then, it got rather boring as they each had no one to play with.  The Magic Mirror said they could each come out ONLY if they played nice together.  When they came out of their rooms, it was boring playing nice together then, they decided to go on a quest together and then, well……let’s just say that the Evil Princess and the Brave Knight just might need to spend more time in their rooms later. 

This is a cute picture book that teaches a good lesson on playing together and getting along but what really gets resolved in the end?   It also helps children discover that not all kids get along and that perhaps they need to find something to do beside doing the same thing every day.  The illustrations were comical and colorful.  A very fun and engaging book.

The Ferret’s a Foot by Colleen Af Venable

4 stars Graphic Novel

Sassypants and Harnisher are at it again!  They saw Mr. Venezi put a sign in the window advertising for an assistant and they want to put a stop to that.  Working together they correct all the pet-shop signs but a little bit later the signs have all been messed with.  Someone(s) has changed all the signs and now the duo needs to figure out who has done it and why?

This book was funny but I didn’t think as funny as the previous books that I have read by these famous detectives.   I thought the fish were hilarious and Herbert, the turtle.  I like how they talk about the animals and how the animals all want to be together.  The illustrations are easy to follow and their facial expressions are sometimes really funny.  It’s a crazy, mixed-up pet shop which is owned by a Mr. Venezi, who doesn’t quite know what to put in his pet-shop nor does he know how to name what he does have. 

I like how the book introduces information about the pets and later, at the back of the book, there is a two-page section titled, “Hamsiher Explains….” and here the author explains what was introduced in this graphic novel.  There is also a one-page dictionary of terms that were used in the book including that word used in a sentence.  This is a cute, entertaining, graphic novel series and I hope the author continues to write them.  

Last Witnesses: An Oral History of the Children of WWII

5 Stars Nonfiction

These stories lives came with a punch, they struck viciously against my heart as I read them. To think that all of these individuals were children, innocent little people, who did nothing yet they received such a life-altering experience, that still haunts them today. I didn’t and I couldn’t read this book, all in one sitting. From the beginning, I wanted to appreciate each chapter: each individual’s situation and account. Upon reading, I realized that this is not a book that I could read straight through. The emotions and the energy in each of their stories lives, makes it a book that needs space.

From the voices of Russian children, we hear their side of what occurred to them during WWII. From a few pages to up to six pages, they tell us what they remembered. The children were affected in a variety of ways by the war: many had to leave their homes, some watched their fathers leave to fight in the war hence leaving them with lots of questions running through their minds, some children had to prepare for the war themselves and some even tried to stay in their own homes while the war ragged outside. They told their account and it was translated but the tone and the feelings are still in the words on the page. It’s as if these survivors were sitting with me, telling me how they reacted to a world that had turned upside down on them.

I could tell you about many of the individuals in this book as every story life in this book is worth mentioning. Their stories are different but every single one of them, are forever changed. How many times I read the word, “Mama!” I cannot count them all. How many times I read, “I was hungry,” I cannot count them all. How many times I read about death, how it had become part of these children’s regular, daily schedule, I cannot count them all.

There was Marlen, age 11, who is now a member of a town council. Marlen remembers always being hungry while living in the orphanage. He remembers needing to be first in line or you might not get anything to eat. With it being -20 degrees outside, Marlen takes off his hat and had a soldier ladle some soup into his hat instead of finding a metal tin. Marlen quickly runs back to the orphanage. He now has frostbite on his ears but he has supplied frozen soup to everyone there. Now, this adventure puts a smile on my face.

This is a book worth reading. I enjoyed this book and I appreciate the individuals who shared their stories lives with me.

The Chain by Adrian McKinty

5 stars Thriller

When I first saw the cover for this book, I was intrigued and then, when all the reviews started popping up saying how great it was, I put myself on the list to read it. As I started reading it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and then, I started applying the book to my own personal life.  What would I do if I was in Rachel’s shoes?  How far would I go?  I was literally sucked into this book! In the end, what really surprised me, was how involved Rachel became. I was captivated by what was happening inside these pages but Rachel was possessed.

Kylie was taken from the bus stop.  As she makes her way into their car, Kylie’s mind reflects back to all the warnings that she had received over the years about getting into a stranger’s vehicle.  Yet, here she was, sitting next to a hooded man, driven by a woman she didn’t know. 

Her mother, Rachel will soon receive the first of many calls from an “Unknown Caller, and she will wish that she had done many things differently.”  Rachel will then begin fulfilling the requirements to get Kylie back.  Rachel, a woman who is fighting cancer hopes that she too, can fight this chain letter which she will discover, cannot be broken.

I enjoyed all the different viewpoints that the author provided in this story.  I felt these gave me a complete picture of the events and it provided a more elaborate account of what was happening.  I liked how Rachel matured in the story.  In the beginning, Rachel was scared and timid but by the end of the novel, she was a totally different character. As the story progressed, I felt as if something came over Rachel and she was on a mission.  I kept wondering what came over her, why was she acting the way she was and when was this going to end? Planting myself in her shoes, I don’t know if I could have stepped where she did or went as far as she went.

I did feel that the book changed tempo halfway through.  One part felt intense and vibrant while the other part felt stealthy and sly. This was a fantastic, on-edge mystery that kept me focused till the very end.  

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

4 stars Middle School/ Ya/ Children’s Chapter

I listened to the audio of this book and I thought it was really good.  The only issue I had was some of the voices on the audio.  It sounded like some of the voices were dubbed in, for they were louder than any of the other voices on the CD’s and it was annoying.  I enjoyed how the students discussed their opinions and their lives, and I enjoyed the discussion on the last CD.

As the students gather weekly in the Art room, they have become a small family.  They were chosen to be a part of this group and at first, they’re not quite sure exactly what their part is, in all of it.  They are a small group, a group of their own peers.  Meeting weekly to discuss anything they wanted, without any distractions or interruptions.

I like how the conversations started to change overtime.  They become more lucid and fluid, their tones changed and they started to care more for one another.  They weren’t just peers anyone but they became friends and sometimes they became brothers and sisters, someone they could depend and lean on.  They’re not all the same which makes their conversations interesting and sometimes intense. 

They’re kids, they speak from the heart and they show their emotions without warning.  It’s a great audio and it’s rather short.  The interview/conversation with the author at the end was interesting so make sure you stay tuned to that, if you listen to the audio.  I highly recommend the audio version of this book.      

The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath

4.5 stars Fantasy/Western

This was better than I imagined.  I loved the cover and that is what sold me on reading it.  The story is part fantasy and part western but the story is total enjoyment as Hettie tries to save her little sister, Abby.  Bonded with Diablo (a.k.a the Devil’s Revolver) Hettie unfortunately is walking into many situations blindly.  Her accuracy holding a firearm is one talent she can count on and one that she uses to her advantage.

I like how Hettie takes matters into her own hands.  She doesn’t wait around and hope for someone to help her out and she doesn’t whine, she moves.  She almost moves too fast, sometimes.  She immediately goes after Abby.  When she sees Ling in trouble, she steps in.  She’s not afraid of speaking her mind to anyone, she is herself. When bonded with Diablo, the unknown of what has occurred doesn’t shake her, she just continues on. 

With magic and loaded weapons, Hettie learns the truth behind Diablo and the price this demonic weapon carries. This was a high energy read for read and the magical aspects of the novel were entertaining.  I can’t wait to read what happens in the next novel. 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this novel from NetGalley and IBPA in exchange for an honest review. 

Velva Jean Learns to Drive by Jennifer Niven

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

Velva Jean’s daddy often took off, leaving his family wondering when he’d return.  Later, he’d walk back through the door, as if he’d just stepped outside for a break, and the days and the months that he’d been gone, you’d think they were just all your imagination.  When their mama died, the kids were at a loss, for their daddy was out somewhere.  When he got done wandering, he would discover that his wife had died and the letter that he had written to his wife, the one that she kept reading after he left, is what his children believe caused her death.

I enjoyed this novel as I followed along beside Velva Jean as she explored and grew-up in Sleepy Gap, North Carolina during the 1930’s. Velva Jean had dreams of singing in the Grand Ole Opry and considering her situation, I was impressed with this dream.  With her mama, gone and her daddy, a no-show, Velva Jean and her sibling were taken in by her grandparents. 

I think the grandparents did the best they could and I had to laugh when they sent two of the kids off to a bootlegger.  This incident lands the kids in jail which changes them forever on many levels.  The kids feel they have now crossed the fence from being “good” kids, they’ve met some new people, they seen new sights, and they’ve been arrested.

I liked the flow of this book.  It wasn’t an intense, action-packed novel but it had a calm, even-flow pace to it. It had the pace that I would think living in the mountains would have.  There was a singing competition that stirs things up as Velva Jean wants to compete, religion comes into the picture as Velva Jean started to worry about future, and it gets interesting when Velva Jean begins to mature and she runs into a fellow from her past.

I’m going to look into the other books in this series and I like books about the Appalachian Mountains and I enjoyed this novel.