Wednesday, September 30, 2015

As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley

To read my reviews of the other books in this series, click here: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Speaking from Among the Bones, and The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches.

 As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce, #7)

Title:  As Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust (Flavia de Luce Mystery #7)
Author: Alan Bradley
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Mystery
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Dead Body
Premise: "Youthful chemist and aspiring detective Flavia de Luce once again brings her knowledge of poisons and her indefatigable spirit to solve dastardly crimes -- but this time, she leaves behind her beloved English countryside, and takes her sleuthing prowess to the unexpectedly unsavory world of Canadian boarding schools!"-- Provided by publisher.
Opinions: I love this series.  I was so concerned that the last book but might have been the last one in the series, so I was thrilled to see the release of another one. It reads and feels like an Agatha Christie series, but with a tweenager heroine. Flavia is brilliant, spunky, slightly rebellious, and I love to see the world from her perspective.  This book shows what happens when you take Flavia out of her comfort zone, shipped across the Atlantic and put up in her mother's old boarding school in Toronto.  Flavia is used to being the odd duck in her family, now she's trying to come out of her mother's dead shadow to prove to herself who she wants to be in her world. When I skeleton comes crashing down from her bedroom fireplace her first night in the refurbished old church turned all girls' school at least that feels somewhat familiar to her. However, she must decide to follow her nature and unravel the mystery of the dead body and missing classmates or try to fit in with the crowd and not make waves.  It was a fascinating turn of events, plus it leaves hope for future additional Flavia de Luce novels, which just makes me happy.  So if you like murder mysteries then you should read this whole series.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Spelled by Betsy Schow

There is a reason this publisher is printing this book for the third time in the two and a half months since it was first released. It's that great.


Title: Spelled
Author: Betsy Schow
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fiction (Children's Classics Mash-up)
Rating: FABULOUS!!!!
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after.

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story" (

Opinions: I was so excited to get this book as Betsy is a friend of mine. I was able to see this book flourish and grow and I couldn't wait to read it in its final iteration. As soon as it came out I ran home and started reading it out loud to my husband. By the end of the first few chapters he said, "You're loving this aren't you?"  Well, yeah.  But I wasn't sure if he was. My husband is a huge fan of the original Frank L. Baum's Wizard of Oz--he's even read the series to our daughter since she was about two. So I stopped reading it out loud to him after a few nights because I didn't think he was into it.  Then we went to a doctor's appointment together and he caught me reading it to myself. "Isn't that the one we're supposed to be reading together?" he asked.  Busted. We read the rest of it together and he thoroughly enjoyed it. I laughed. I cried.....I nearly snorted soda out my get the picture.

Just be prepared for snark. Be prepared for sass. And be prepared for everything you think you know about the Wizard of Oz and other children's classics to be flipped on its head, tossed in a cyclone, and rewritten in the most creative, inventive, unique way then turn it into a YA novel. I cannot wait for you to meet Dorthea (Dot) re imagined, Prince Kato (like no prince you've ever seen) and Rexi. You are in for a true adventure with Spelled.

P.S. The last time I went to see my counselor she told me she was currently reading this book because she knew that I was friends with the author and had recommended it. She said that she didn't get into it right at first, but that her teenage daughter refused to let her put it down. Now she is immersed and has to know how its going to play out.   Yeah, its that addictive.  And the good news......the publisher has picked up the entire series. So we'll all get to see what happens to Dorothea next.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

I know, I know....its been eons since either of us has posted. It's been a rough few months, but now that summer is almost over and the kids will soon heading back to school I hope to post more often.


Title: Whistling Past The Graveyard
Author: Susan Crandall
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: Death, Violence at the time of Civil Rights
Premise: "The summer of 1963 begins like any other for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle. Born to teenage parents in Mississippi, Starla is being raised by a strict paternal grandmother, Mamie, whose worst fear is that Starla will turn out like her mother. Starla hasn’t seen her momma since she was three, but is convinced that her mother will keep her promise to take Starla and her daddy to Nashville, where her mother hopes to become a famous singer—and that one day her family will be whole and perfect.

When Starla is grounded on the Fourth of July, she sneaks out to see the parade. After getting caught, Starla’s fear that Mamie will make good on her threats and send her to reform school cause her to panic and run away from home. Once out in the country, Starla is offered a ride by a black woman, Eula, who is traveling with a white baby. She happily accepts a ride, with the ultimate goal of reaching her mother in Nashville.

As the two unlikely companions make their long and sometimes dangerous journey, Starla’s eyes are opened to the harsh realities of 1963 southern segregation. Through talks with Eula, reconnecting with her parents, and encountering a series of surprising misadventures, Starla learns to let go of long-held dreams and realizes family is forged from those who will sacrifice all for you, no matter if bound by blood or by the heart" (

Opinions: This book was chosen for book club reading this last year. Unfortunately it was so popular that I was on hold forever at the library and finally got to read it two months after we held our discussion. The biggest hang-up with this book is that, even though is masterfully done, I'm afraid it can be lost in the influx of civil rights era books that have been released in quick succession over the last few years.

Having said that.....I love Starla. Starla is 9. She acts 9. She thinks like a 9 year old. She talks 9. She feels very real to me. And when she ends up running away and is forced to deal with some incredibly adult matters I was there with her as her thoughts battled her emotions to come to grip with reality in the 60s. I loved seeing her growth, her character arc, and her willing to fight for those she loves and for what she feels is right.  The difficulty of this story is that the dark matters revolving around self-worth, abuse, civil rights, and the treatment of others were so intense (especially knowing that Starla is only 9) made me wonder whether or not I could personally handle reading the rest. I love Ms. Cyrena and I love Eula, but Starla is my hero. And in spite of the danger, the darkness, and the heart-wrenching lessons she learns I'm glad that I endured the journey with her.  And it made for an incredible and complex book club discussion.  Overall my favorite line is toward the end when Starla is trying to come to grips with what she learned about the trials she went through....."God's plan ain't a free pass. Uh-uh. He give us moments to make choices, and we make them. We accountable for those choices. God's job ain't to make our lives easier, it's to make us better souls b the lessons he give us."

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It's Just My Nature! by Carol Tuttle


Title: It's Just My Nature! A Guide To Knowing and Living Your True Nature
Author: Carol Tuttle
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Non-Fiction Self-Help
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Reveals a startlingly accurate method for assessing your personality and behavioral tendencies with a new system called Energy Profiling TM" (King County Library).
Opinions: This book explains that everyone's personalities down into four types: Air, Water, Fire, and Earth with a thorough explanation of the reasons and science behind this breakdown. Everyone has all four aspects to their nature, but this book suggests that everyone has one of the types that is dominant over all the others. And then explains that if you accept what your true nature is and to live by it that you will feel more at home in your own skin.  I had heard about this premise before from several friends who have already read into Carol Tuttle's Energy Profiling system. When a friend loaned  me this book I was eager to see what all the hype was about. The intriguing thing is it made a whole lot of sense to me. Eventually I was able to pin down that I am a Type 1: Air person who lives by hope and looking up and having an upbeat personality. Secondly, I am a Water type as I tend to be sensitive and also try to make others feel comfortable. The break down of each type is fully explained including the strengths and difficulties a person of that type would face. It also suggests how to work with someone of a differing type then yourself, which I found extremely helpful. The more I read, the more I began to understand other family members better and what it is that I could modify in my own behavior to help meet their needs. I was grateful for the insight in how to work better together as a family to help each other grow closer together. I am looking forward into reading her book Child Whisperer to help me further understand my children's personalities and how I could be a better mother to support who they are. I especially enjoyed being able to go back to my friends who recommended this book and see if they agreed with my assessment. It's a great topic of discussion.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Numbers Game by Rebecca Rode


Title: Numbers Game (Numbers Game #1)
Author: Rebecca Rode
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Murder associated in a dystopian society
Premise: "Treena is nervous for Rating Day. A single number will brand her forever—a valuable citizen, or a pathetic waste of space. Her top-Rated boyfriend is confident their scores will coincide so they can attend the academy together. But when the big day arrives, her true number shocks everyone.

To get her life and boyfriend back, she must go undercover and expose a military spy. Doesn’t sound too hard, except that someone wants her dead. And then there’s Vance, the mysterious soldier with a haunted past and beautiful brown eyes. Together, they discover a dark numbers conspiracy, one that shatters the nation’s future. Treena must join up with Vance if she is to survive the dangerous game of numbers—and the terrible war that rages within her heart."

Opinions: I ordered this book last week, but saved reading it until I could have the author (and friend and critique buddy) sign it last night at the official release party. So yeah. I took the day off today from doing pretty much everything (except making my daughter's birthday cake) so that I could read this book. I could not put it down. Part of it was from fascination to see how the final product fared against the beta draft I read a while ago. Part of it is because of the story itself. Let's just say . . .I loved the final product. It is strong, compelling, and hard to put down.

I love the split point of view between Treena and Vance. I was intrigued by each person's character growth. The secondary characters are strong and definitely add to the story. The part I love most though is the creation of the world, to the point it was its own character to me. Everything about the world was vivid, impressive, and complex. It impacted everyone and everything. The tendrils of information about the past are given smoothly and not an info dump and definitely strengthen the story. Its a fascinating world that Rebecca created.

Some of the timing was slightly confusing to me, but some of that could be because my kids had to be fed and all, and I might have missed something. Especially when it came to the development of the relationship between Vance and Treena, but that's because I'm a sucker for drawing that kind of thing out.

Despite any of that I still stand by what I had told Rebecca previously, "This story is better than Scott Westerfeld's book Uglies . . . and I LOVE that book."

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Steelheart.


Title: Firefight (The Reckoners #2)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Mild Swearing, Moderate Violence
Premise: "David and the Reckoners continue their fight against the Epics, humans with superhuman powers, except they may have met their match in Regalia, a High Epic who resides in Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan"-- Provided by publisher.
Opinions: Wow!!!! I mean WOW!!!  I loved David's character growth in this book. I love the questions raised in this book about trust, the ability to change, and hero worship. The characters are complex and fascinating, and the plot is seriously gripping. This book is hard to put down and loved to read with my husband.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Making the Team by J. Scott Savage

To read my review of the first book in the series, click here: Zombie Kid.


Title: Making The Team (Case Files 13 Series #2)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Horror
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Creepy Monsters that the kids fight in a humorous way
Premise: "A mysterious private school has opened in town and Nick, Carter, and Angelo join forces with their rivals Angie, Tiffany, and Dana to uncover the mystery behind the school's inhumanly good football team" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This is mild-mannered horror at its best. I love this series.  I usually shy away from horror, but this is mid-grade version of horror. This book is full of laughs, pranks, punchy references, bodily noises, and loads of laugh out loud moments. I love the inter-relationship between the two groups of kids as they are trying to work together and the fantastic relationship with Nick's parents. It is also a great story about learning to cope with change.  For parents: This book is amazing, but it does have monsters that could be scary for more sensitive kids. Keep in mind I'm a highly sensitive adult. I was crept out, but the humor and the kids' ability to work together to overcome obstacles made this all worth it.  So my suggestion is read the book out loud or with your kid to gauge their reactions as to whether or not they can handle it.