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1. Minecraft Lab for Kids by John Miller and Chris Fornell Scott

{Guest post from Hannah Rials} What is going on? Now we’re writing books that are encouraging kids to play video games? I thought we were supposed to be discouraging this? I’m so confused!
I’m sure a lot of you parents are thinking that right now. And yes, kids should be getting outside, exploring their world, reading books, and every else like that to live a balanced life. However, science and research are revealing more and more how helpful video games can be in a child’s cognitive development. Minecraft, for instance, helps with creativity, sharing, innovating, continuous learning, problem solving, craftsmanship, teamwork, interdependence, flexibility, storytelling…just to name a few.
Minecraft Lab for kids
Minecraft does not have to be just a kid’s activity. This book provides six different quests that teach gamification, which is the process of applying game principles to real life. Parents, you will learn about the world of Minecraft, while also bringing your children out of it. You’ll learn the lingo, the levels, the different things that you can do within the game, and you’ll come to realize why your kids love it so much and how beneficial it is to them.
Minecraft lab for kids
But having this book, showing your kids how the skills they are learning inside the game are relevant in out-of-game experiences, is a wonderful opportunity for family bonding and for crafting and creativity!
How you can Gamify these quests:
Quest 1 – This quest is all about taking inventory of your resources. That’s easy. Together, your family can take an inventory of something in your house: the pantry, the refrigerator, your movie or book collection, etc.
Quest 2 – Textures, Patterns, and Landscapes, which talks about cooking and gardening. Do we really need to explain this one? I think you’re getting the hang of it!
Quest 3 – This is about architecture, so this gives your family a wonderful excuse to take a neat vacation to some city with unique architecture. Road trip to Charleston, SC or New Orleans, LA. Going abroad? Well, basically all the cities over there have interesting architecture! Have some fun!!
Quest 4 – Here, we look into the arts: the colors, textures, and styles of a museum. So obviously, you need to find a museum to day trip to! Even if your town, or the one next to you, doesn’t have the equivalent of the MET or le Louvre, that’s okay. All museums are great experiences.
Quest 5 – Game making; think how fun this could be! Each of the family members making up their own games and then hosting a family game night to try them out. Sounds like a good time.
Quest 6 – is the culmination of all the skills you have learned previously–you’re making a city. Maybe before you jump head into the game, you and your child can write about your city, make up people, laws, specific places or activities that go on there. Help them create their world both in and out of the game!
Grab your copy of this amazing book that is not only going to excite your young readers, but get their brains reading and exploring this summer!

**some of these links are affiliate links

Something to Do Minecraft-Inspired Activities:

 Who can resist making this fun Creeper from TP rolls?! Instructions at Kids Activity Blog
 Minecraft activities
Rachel K Tutoring has some impressive Educational Minecraft Activities
 Minecraft Activities
For those interested in using Minecraft for Homeschooling, The Spectacled Owl has some great Homeschooling with Minecraft ideas and projects.
Minecraft Activiities

Hannah RialsHANNAH RIALS: A Maryville native and current college student at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Hannah began writing her first novel at age twelve. Eight years later, the result is her new YA novel Ascension; a modern day teenage romance filled with “double-blooded” vampires and revenge-seeking witches (to be released in August of 2016). When not spending time with her family and playing with her beloved Corgis, Buddy and Noel, Hannah leads a creative group, crafts and cultivates her writing skills. Connect with Hannah on Facebook, Twitter and via her website.

 

 

Breaking News! Proof that Dragons are indeed REAL!

My newest book, Dragons are Real is available and the excitement is almost blowing the roof off at Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press headquarters!
Dragons are real
SO…what if I told you that all of the fairy tales, myths and legends that have been told about dragons over the years are WRONG. What if I told you that Dragons are indeed Real and that they are different than you’ve ever imagined?
This fairly true story is based on the author’s childhood friendship with a REAL live Dragon; a very special Dragon that she and her brother spent two magical summers with.

As readers turn the pages and learn the truth about Dragons, they will see that the fiercest beasts in known history can actually be the best of friends. It’s a lesson in finding companionship in the most unusual of places. Dragons are Real is a magical book filled with stunning illustrations and hints that dragon are indeed all around us :)

Dragons are Real is now available for purchase on both Amazon and Gumroad! We are also offering a special free bonus gift of a Dragons Are Real Inspiration Activity Guide when you purchase your copy of this enchanting picture book.

The post Minecraft Lab for Kids by John Miller and Chris Fornell Scott appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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2. Book Review: Black Lightning by K.S. Jones…

I absolutely love Arizona! I’ve been lucky enough to visit twice (Phoenix, Tempe, and Scottsdale areas), and would love to go back and see the Grand Canyon, since I never got a chance to go there. K.S. Jones paints a vibrant and beautiful picture with her words, that allows me to feel my skin sizzle under the Arizona heat, and make my mouth water for buttery cornbread. So what’s my take on a story set in a place that can conjure up Geronimo’s ghost and make you sweat with every page you turn? This is what I posted on Amazon and Goodreads…



Lightning does indeed strike twice with this 5 Star Winner!

K.S. Jones combines a mixture of Apache folklore, natural phenomenon, and science fiction in a dessert setting to create her middle grade sci-fy adventure about 10 year-old Samuel Baker and his incredible journey into another dimension. Fast-paced from beginning to end, Jones weaves a fantastic and emotional tale wrought with love, death, magic, and hope.

Jones’s imaginative story is a must for any bookshelf (or ereader), and though geared for tween boys, there’s plenty of action to get the girls cheering for Samuel and his friend Isabelle to get them back home to the families they love. High fives for K.S. Jones and her electrifying tale!

Tagline and Blurb:

Life moves on — no matter what...

Following his father’s puzzling disappearance and his mother’s death, ten-year-old Samuel Baker goes through the motions of living in a world turned upside down. He wears an Apache talisman, a long ago gift from his father, in hopes its promise of strength and guidance is true. But what he truly wants is the power to bring his parents back. 

Heartless Aunt Janis is elated at the prospect of becoming Samuel’s legal guardian. She is sure an orphan boy will elicit such an outpouring of public sympathy that her husband will win his Senate bid by a landslide. But when Grandpa Tate arrives, things don’t go as expected, especially when black lightning strikes!

Read an Excerpt:

Samuel stood beside his mother’s rain-speckled casket. He had cried his tears dry, so there was no point in trying to find more.

“Chin up, young man,” Aunt Janis said as her fingers nudged Samuel’s jaw upward. “Death is just part of life, and our photographer needs a good picture of you for the newspapers.”

A camera flashed, leaving Samuel’s red and swollen eyes burning as if stung by the sun instead of grief.

So many important days had come and gone without his father, but surely he would come home today, wouldn’t he? Samuel closed his eyes. He pretended his father was beside him holding his hand. They had a right to hold hands, he told himself. Not because he was ten, but because it was his mother’s funeral. Two years had passed since his father left, never to be seen again. Vanished, was the word his mother had used. Into thin air, she’d said.

“Take that silly thing off.” Aunt Janis flicked Samuel’s wood and bead necklace.

“No,” he said and shook his head. “My dad gave it to me.” It was a pinewood tile, the size of a domino shaved nickel-thin, which hung from a leather cord around his neck. Burned onto the front side of the wood was a lightning bolt. Its flipside bore the blackened imprint of a tribal dancer. It had a turquoise nugget and a shiny black hematite bead strung together on each side. His father had given the talisman to him with a promise: It will guide you and give you strength when you need it most.

Today, dressed in a black suit and starchy white shirt, Samuel wore it in hopes the promise was true.

As mourners gathered, Samuel’s friend Brian came to stand beside him. “Hey,” he said.

“Hey,” Samuel answered without taking his eyes off the casket.

“Is that the necklace your dad gave you? You don’t usually wear it.” Brian’s wire-rimmed glasses slid down his straight arrow nose. He pushed them back up the bridge with one finger until they encircled his eyes again. “Can I see it? I promise I’ll give it right back.”

“It’s not a necklace.” Samuel pulled the leather cord off over his head, mussing his overgrown blond hair. “It’s a talisman.” He handed it to Brian. “My dad said it would help me, but it hasn’t done anything yet. I think it was just one of his stories. It’s probably just an old piece of scrap wood with a couple rocks tied to it.”

Brian shrugged after examining the piece then he handed it back to Samuel. “I think it’s cool. You should keep wearing it anyway.”

Nodding, Samuel hung the talisman around his neck again, but this time he dropped it down beneath his shirt where it was no longer visible. It felt warm against his skin.

“Has anybody told you where you’re going to live now?” Brian asked.

“Probably with Aunt Janis and Uncle Jack.”

Brian frowned. He kicked the tip of his shoe into the muddy soil. “They live so far away. Why can’t you just stay here and live with Mrs. Abel? She doesn’t have any kids.”

Mrs. Abel was their fourth grade teacher. She had plainly stated to all who would listen that her job was to teach the proper use of the English language to children who behaved properly. A babysitter, she had said, she was not. Today, she stood in the rain with the other mourners, eyeing the ground where the hem of her long, gray dress lay caked in mud. Tufts of brown hair jutted out from under her pink plaid scarf. Even though she stood a few feet from him, she had not spoken to Samuel since his mother’s death. Few people had. Everyone had words for Aunt Janis and they talked to Uncle Jack, but no one but Brian and a few classmates had spoken to him. Maybe talking to an orphan was harder than talking to a normal kid.

Purchase Links:

Mirror World Publishing

Amazon 

Barnes & Noble

Meet the Author:

Karen (K.S.) Jones grew up in California, but now lives in the beautiful Texas Hill Country northwest of San Antonio with her husband, Richard, and their dogs Jack Black, Libby Loo, and Red Bleu. Black Lightning is her first middle-grade novel. She credits her love of fantasy to the early influences of authors J.R.R. Tolkien, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells. Her award-winning first novel, Shadow of the Hawk, a Young Adult Historical, released in 2015.

Connect with K.S. Jones:



0 Comments on Book Review: Black Lightning by K.S. Jones… as of 7/18/2016 4:55:00 AM
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3. I'm on the Horn Book Podcast!


If you haven't heard it yet, Horn Book has a new podcast.  I made a small contribution to this podcast from June 20, 2016 (Hbook Podcast 1.17).  You can hear me at the very end with my brief review of Have You Seen Elephant? Creating a 30-second audio review is not as easy as it sounds
I'm so glad they allowed me to participate.

You can hear the Hbook Podcast on Stitcher, Soundcloud, or iTunes

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4. A Clatter of Jars - an audiobook review

A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff
Read by Ellen Archer
2016, Listening Library

Quirky magical realism.
Read my full review at AudioFile Magazine.

A Clatter of Jars is Lisa Graff's follow up to 2013's, A Tangle of KnotsI reviewed A Tangle of Knots in 2013, and declared, "If you read no other middle grade fiction book this year, you will have made a good choice." The magic doesn't wear off in A Clatter of Jars, a deftly woven, magical realism story set in the same world as the preceding book, where many people possess Talents - from the mundane (ability to understand frogs) to the powerful (telekinesis).  I particularly enjoyed this story because it features a boy who we may assume has some sort of spectrum disorder, and it has a subtle Lord of the Rings reference.

I often tell kids at the library that it's OK to start with a second book in a series if the first book is unavailable. (I don't like to see them go home empty-handed!)  Most authors do a fine job of catching the reader up on prior events.  However, because of the rich details of the world Lisa Graff has created, A Clatter of Jars is best read after A Tangle of Knots.


An audio excerpt from A Clatter of Jars and my review for AudioFile Magazine may be found here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/114587/a-clatter-of-jars-by-lisa-graff/]

0 Comments on A Clatter of Jars - an audiobook review as of 7/14/2016 10:13:00 AM
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5. Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Title: The Steep and Thorny Way
Author: Cat Winters
Published: 2016
Source: NetGalley

Summary: Biracial sixteen-year-old Hanalee seeks the truth about her murdered father and the dark secrets beneath the idyllic surface of Elston, where she feels ostracized and alienated as the only non-white person.

First Impressions: I love that this is about racism and the Klan yet not in the South. Also touches on eugenics, gay rights, etc.

Later: Retold Hamlet? Yes please. Racism and the Klan in Oregon, in the 20s, with a gay secondary character and a biracial girl struggling with her identity? Double yes please.

Sadly, this didn't quite live up to the promise. Some of the Hamlet parallels got pretty tortured, and it was unfortunate that there were basically no other characters of color besides Hanalee and her dead father. But there were some great moments, too, like the twist where the villain was not at all who you thought they were.

My copy was an e-ARC, and since I have a rather clunky old e-reader, the plentiful period photographs scattered throughout only served to freeze up my device. If you're into that, however, they looked pretty neat.

More: Waking Brain Cells

0 Comments on Book Review: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters as of 7/13/2016 4:55:00 AM
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6. Book Review: The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork

Title: The Memory of Light
Author: Francisco X Stork
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: After a suicide attempt, Victoria lands in a mental hospital. As she reluctantly returns to life, and then starts to pursue it with more energy, she finds herself drawn to other teenage patients, all the with their own problems, and starts to accept that she's not weak, a failure, or oversensitive - she has a disease.

First Impressions: Lovely and quiet examination of recovery and mental illness. I would like to read some perspective on this book's attitude toward medication.

Later On: Somebody I follow on twitter will often post that depression is a liar, and the biggest lie it can tell you is that you're not depressed. The biggest lie that Victoria has to fight is that she has no right to be depressed. She spends a large part of the early book telling herself that she has a good life, a nice house, wealthy parents, and just because her mother died several years before, that's no reason to be depressed. But depression, as with all mental illness, needs no reason. It just is. Coming to that realization marks a turning point for Victoria, as does acknowledging that the pressures of her life pre-suicide attempt were exacerbating her illness.

As I mentioned above, the way medication is and isn't portrayed as part of treatment surprised me somewhat. (Full disclosure - while I know people who have been in treatment for depression, I've never had first-hand experience, so that's the limit of my knowledge.) Victoria doesn't go on medication as part of her treatment, which took me a little aback. Dr. Desai, her therapist, focuses more on analysis and identifying the spiraling negative thoughts that drag Vicky down. I know that medication isn't right for everyone, and therapy and analysis are as important as medication even for those who are on it.

However, I think that there's such a powerful public perception that "pills fix depression" that I would have liked to hear a little more discussion within the book or in an author's note as to why this wasn't part of Vicky's treatment, especially when medication is shown to help others within the story. But that's my personal question.

More: Waking Brain Cells

This review at Latin@s in Kidlit goes more in-depth, and also links to a great article on how mental illness is viewed in the Latino culture.
 Over at Disability in Kidlit, Kelly Jensen (the Twitter person I mentioned above) writes movingly about her experience of depression, starting as a teen.

0 Comments on Book Review: The Memory of Light by Francisco X Stork as of 7/10/2016 11:37:00 AM
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7. Book Review: Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: Tell the Wind and Fire
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: 2016
Source: Netgalley

Summary: In this paranormal retelling of A Tale of Two Cities, New York City is divided between the Dark and the Light magic wielders. The Dark side is shackled and boundaried, and the Light rules.

Lucie is that rarest of rare, a Dark-sider who escaped to the Light. She's famous for it, in fact, the half-Light, half-Dark girl who escaped the Dark and now lives in the Light side of town, dating Ethan, the shining son of the mayor. But as she fights to hold onto her sheltered life on the light and Ethan, the boy she loves, she's drawn to his Dark doppelganger, Carwyn.

First Impressions: I liked Carwyn much more than Ethan. I loved how snarky and mean Lucie became with him. The end made me cry.

Later On: I always like retellings of classics, mostly because it's very fun to see how the themes and characters gets filtered through a modern lens. This is one of my first experiences with reading the retelling without having actually read the original. As such, the ending knocked me for a loop. Can you call it a spoiler when just about everyone knows that Sydney Carton died in the original? But because I wasn't paying attention to the details and callbacks, I was surprised and disappointed when it went there.

When I say I liked how snarky and mean Lucie got with him, this isn't because I like mean girls. More, it was because the self that Lucie was when she was with Carwyn felt more honest. With Ethan, and by extension, with all of the Light side, I had the sense that Lucie was putting on a big show of how very, very Light side she was. With Carwyn, she didn't have to pretend that the Dark side of herself didn't exist. I didn't have a whole lot of faith that Lucie would be able to hold on to this honesty of self without Carwyn around to remind her. Maybe she will, though.

Overall, this was a wonderful book, full of meditations on the nature of fame and public perception and how meaningless labels can be, but the ending works less well for me the farther I get from the actual experience of reading it.

More: Why Did I Do That Thing I Did in Tell the Wind and Fire? by Sarah Rees Brennan (spoilers for other of her books, so read carefully)
Kirkus

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8. Book Review: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

Title: Burning Midnight
Author: Will McIntosh
Published: 2016
Source: NetGalley

Summary: In a world where strange, inexplicable spheres grant people enhanced skills and abilities, and the sale of a really rare sphere can set you up for life, fifteen-year-old Sully works as a sphere hunter to keep himself and his mother alive. He scrapes by on common to middling finds, but dreams of another find like the one that was stolen from him by the villainous businessman Alex Holliday. When he meets Hunter, another sphere hunter in even more desperate straits, she enlists him in an audacious scheme to find the rarest sphere of all - before Holliday can.

First Impressions: Well, that was a fun quest/chase caper took a completely weird turn in the last 15% of the book.

Later On: Truly, I enjoyed this right up until the last chunk of the book. It's an enjoyable little-guy(s)-against-the-corrupt-businessman caper, complete with quixotic quests across national borders and feats of derring-do like diving into old water towers and climbing statues.

Then I got whiplash when the true nature of the spheres was revealed. (highlight to read SPOILER - they're like bait, and the fisherman are aliens headed down to earth to eat everybody in horrific ways.) In some ways it could have been a fun twist, but it was such a departure from where the story was headed up to that point that I was genuinely bewildered and felt like I'd wandered into a different book.

More: Kirkus

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9. A Giveaway and A Review of Sarah Young’s Book: Jesus Calling-My First Bible Storybook

by Sally Matheny

Jesus Calling My First Bible Storybook
by Sarah Young
Today, I’m reviewing a captivating, little book for young children, Jesus Calling- My First Bible Storybook. I’m also giving away a copy! Be sure to read for the details below.

First, I want to mention the beautiful illustrations in this book. Antonia Woodward's use of color and soft lines are friendly and captivating! This forty-page, board book is full-color, cover to cover.

Best-selling author, Sarah Young, presents twenty Bible truths in this book using scriptures taken from The International Children’s Bible. 

The twenty stories are representative of most toddler storybooks. They include:

God Made Everything, Noah’s Big Boat, Baby Moses, the Ten Commandments, David and Goliath, Jonah and the Big Fish, Daniel and the Lions, Queen Esther is Brave, Jesus is Born, Jesus is Baptized, A Little Boy’s Lunch, Jesus Calms the Sea, The Prodigal Son, Jesus Loves Children, Zacchaeus, The Cross, Jesus is Alive, Jesus is Coming Again, and God’s Family.   

After the title, is the chapter(s) in the Bible where the story originates. The stories are written in a simple text so young children can easily understand them. 

Unlike Young’s other Jesus Calling books, this one is not primarily written as if Jesus is talking to you. There are approximately six, short sentences telling the story and most include some dialogue.

Then, there's just one “Jesus Calling” sentence that correlates to a scripture, which is also given.

Here's an example found at the end of a shortened version of The Prodigal Son story (Luke 15):

     Jesus Calling: When you tell Me you are sorry, I will always forgive you.

     1 John 1:9  “If we confess our sins, he will forgive our sins.”



I like this book and believe it to be Christ honoring. I love the illustrations and the multiple scriptures provided. Also, I appreciate the reference given for each story so older readers can go read the full text in the Holy Bible.

It’s a beautiful book containing appropriate portions of God's Word for toddlers.



Would you like a chance to win this book for a little one in your family?

I’m trying to get my words of encouragement out to a wider range of folks. You can help by sharing this blog with others by word of mouth, or with the click of a computer key.

Everyone who enters their email address into the “Follow by Email” box located on the right side of this page, will be entered into the drawing.

When I write something new on the blog, it will come to you in your email. I know what it’s like to receive more emails than you have time to read. so you’ll only get about one email a week—never more than two. 
  
If you already receive my blog posts in your email box, thank you, and you are still eligible to win. All you have to do is leave a comment below stating you are already on the email list. 

It’s as simple as that. :)


Enter by June 30, 2016. The winner will be announced Friday, July 1, 2016.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

0 Comments on A Giveaway and A Review of Sarah Young’s Book: Jesus Calling-My First Bible Storybook as of 6/28/2016 10:41:00 AM
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10. Origami Yoda Doubleheader

Since I read these two books close enough to each other that they were both still hanging out in my blogging document, and because the first ended on something of a cliffhanger, I figured I might as well do a doubleheader.

Title: The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett
Author: Tom Angleberger
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Summary: The origami kids find themselves facing a great evil - the looming specter of standardized testing, and the cramming sessions that go along with them, which have taken the place of all their favorite elective classes. Can their rebellion defeat the Evil Empire?

First Impressions: Entertaining anti-test story. I also loved how many different kinds of kids wound up working together, and how the principal wasn't the ultimate evil. But - uhoh! Cliffhanger.

Later On: This remains a realistic and entertaining middle-school series. The multitude of characters started to lose me, especially when introducing new ones that weren't around or weren't important in the first few books, but the central characters (Dwight, Harvey, and Kellan) are all there and all distinct. This is also taking on a more series-oriented arc with the rebellion against mandated testing.
This isn't the one to start with (all those characters!) but for fans of the rest of the series, it's a worthy entry.

More: Kirkus

Title: Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue
Author: Tom Angleberger
Published: 2014
Source: Local Library

Summary: Picking up where the previous book left off, the McQuarrie Middle School gang's attempts to defeat the deadly dull test-prep program, FunTime, seem doomed to failure. But Princess Labelmaker's got a secret plan - to turn the records of the Rebellion over to Principal Rabbski, in a last desperate hope to get her on their side against the evil test company that's sucking the life out of their school.

First Impressions: Most of these tend to be episodic, but this one was very much so. Still enjoyable, but I can't quite tell whether it's the end or not.

Later On: I really started to lost track of who was who in this book, especially since they each seemed to get one or two mini-stories in this, relating how the Origami Rebellion has changed them and helped them see the world differently. Kids who have been devoted readers probably won't encounter that problem, though.

Apparently there's one more book in the series, Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus, which will follow the kids on the Washington, DC trip that they fought to get back during this book.

More: Ms. Yingling Reads

0 Comments on Origami Yoda Doubleheader as of 1/1/1900
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11. Kishaz Reading Corner: Omnibus - The Millionaire's Nanny Arrangement / Bedded by Blackmail by Naoko Kubota

About the Books

The Millionaire's Nanny Arrangement 

We first met in high school. He was a rough, taciturn boy, yet everyone looked to him for leadership. I was a plain-Jane honors student with braces. Coincidence brought us back together again. Now, he's a big name in finance—any woman would want him—while I'm a widow who's lost my savings, my job and my house—not to mention I'm pregnant! Ryan was kind enough to hire me as a home tutor for his daughter, but I doubt he has any idea how much his generosity has affected me.

Bedded by Blackmail

In London, England, at the most glittering social event of the year, all eyes are on sexy South American billionaire Diego Saez. Already infamous for his astounding rise from rags to riches, Diego is convinced that everything and everyone can be bought....

Society heiress Portia Lanchester has been left penniless. Diego wants her. Now Portia's got only one chance of survival--if she'll surrender to his blackmail...and to him...in his bed!

Buy the Books

AMAZON (bundle) |  ARE (Bedded By Blackmail)

Here's what I'm giving it:

Rating: 4 stars (The Millionaire's Nanny Arrangement)
Rating: 3.5 stars (Bedded by Blackmail)

Here's why:

Disclaimer: I got this book from Overdrive and have received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.

I got this bundled book and was all set for one story to be better than the other. I was pleasantly surprised to find that both books were well-written and had characters that I could stand behind.

The Millionaire's Nanny Arrangement was a tug on the heart strings. Newly widowed Kelsey finds herself without a home or job and a baby on the way. She encounters six-year-old, Mariah and her father, Ryan Storm. Ryan needs a nanny and Kelsey needs a place to stay. Thus the story is set for a sweet romance between two very different people. There are a couple of nicely done twists that kept me reading to the very end.

Bedded by Blackmail was a little bit darker than the other novel. Diego and Portia were interesting characters because what I perceived as their personalities and behaviors came with an unexpected twist. Blackmailing someone is never fun and in this case made me a little bit angry with the way Diego went about it. Yet, the twists more than made up for my anger at the leading man in this story.


Would I recommend this? Yes they were both good.

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12. Book Review: Velvet Undercover by Teri Brown

Title: Velvet Undercover
Author: Teri Brown
Published: 2015
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: After her father disappears, Samantha Donaldson is conscripted to spywork in Germany during WWI.

First Impressions: This felt very WWII to me, perhaps because I've read so many more WWII spy stories in the last few years, so any detail that screamed WWI tripped me up a lot. Not particularly memorable honestly.

Later On: Yep. I still don't remember it very well. Everything sort of fades into a wartime mush in my head.

More: Both Bookshelves of Doom and Ms. Yingling liked it rather more.
Bookshelves of Doom for Kirkus
Ms. Yingling Reads

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13. Book Review: The Shepherd's Crown by Terry Pratchett

Author: Terry Pratchett
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Summary: The fairy nation is set on invading our world, and the witches who would normally stand in their way have just lost their not-a-leader. It's up to her presumptive heir, Tiffany Aching, to defend the Discworld from them just as she's struggling to cement her place among the witches and among the community.

First Impressions: Sniff. Last Terry Pratchett ever. I think it was a good one to go out on, especially with Granny Weatherwax, but others were better.

Later On: Tiffany is still working out how to be a witch of the chalk, how to belong someplace and bear responsibility toward a whole community. While she's battled the queen of the fairies and the hive mind and all sorts of other monsters, she's absorbing the lesson that has been built over the series that people are the most complicated of all.
The death of Granny Weatherwax seems oddly prescient. Where Pratchett has faked us out before, this time he went for it, and the way that Tiffany feels rudderless and lost after the loss of her second major matriarch figure (the first being her own grandmother before the start of the series) serves to bookend this series and emphasize that you never quite get there to that magical place where you just always know what you're doing at all times, but you can get a little further along.

My love for the Tiffany Aching series comes from the realism of her growth over the series. Where she started as a young girl (albeit a ferocious, clear-sighted, and competent one), this Tiffany is wobbling on the edge of adulthood, and it's as good a place as any to leave her.

As has been stated in many places, this book is essentially unfinished. Oh, it has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but it doesn't quite have all the flourishes that make up about 75% of the enjoyment of a Terry Pratchett book. He died during the editing process, so this unfinished feeling is completely valid. Still, it feels like a Pratchett book (an early one, maybe, before he really developed his powers) and I enjoyed it as such.

More: Book Nut

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14. The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Title: The Girl from Everywhere
Author: Heidi Heilig
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Nix Song grew up on the high seas, traveling from place to place and time to time with her time-traveler father. But it's been a lonely childhood and a frustrating teenagerhood, especially when her father is obsessed with finding a map that can take him back to Hawaii in the 1840s, when Nix was born, and her mother died. When they land in Hawaii, but several years too late, they get caught up in a plot to thwart American colonialists' plan to co-opt the island nation for American interests. At the same time, Nix meets a mysterious old woman who was present at her birth, and a handsome young American who wants to show Nix Hawaii

First Impressions: While I really liked the premise, this dragged for me pretty hard, and the love triangle felt both unneeded and unresolved.

Later On: I really wanted to like this. I did! Time travel via historical maps? A biracial (white and Chinese) girl who grew up all over time, and who has a prickly relationship with her father and a mystery surrounding her long-dead mother? The Hawaiian setting??? (And not just tourist Hawaii; this is Hawaii the way the people who live there see it, complete with all its ugly colonial history.) An audacious con plot? A roguish and charming love interest/BFF? Sign me up!

All these elements, unfortunately, didn't combine into anything very compelling. The third point of the love triangle was about as interesting as oatmeal, and nothing was really resolved there even though pages and pages were spent on trying to build a relationship between them. I can point to individual things that were done well, particularly the twisty turny it'll-get-you-coming-and-going nature of time travel and the secrets of her mother, but this book just never gelled for me. Which is really too bad.

More: Charlotte's Library

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15. Book Review: Winter by Marissa Meyer

Title: Winter
Author: Marissa Meyer
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Summary: The war for Luna is on. Cinder and all her friends are running an underground rebellion, while Kai works on the political scale to quietly undermine Luna. It's a dangerous game they play, with consequences for both worlds. Meanwhile, the broken and mad princess of Luna, Winter, may end up being the wild card of this war after all.

First Impressions: For as many moving parts as this book had, I think Meyer did a pretty good job of pulling it all together, and giving all characters relationships with each other, not just their love interest.

Later On: You definitely could not read this book first of the series. There are too many threads that have to get tied up from other books. But it's a giant fat book that I could not put down. It dragged me through all the ups and downs, through the tangled and interweaving storylines, to the triumphant and still slightly somber end.

Meyer also does something nice in that almost every character on the good guys' side has at least one scene with every other character where they're working together and depending on each other. The story is not broken out into one couple does this, another couple does this. You get the sense that this whole set of eight people (plus Iko) all really like and support each other and they can work together, even with their differences. For a series that's structured as four romances, it's a way of showing that people still have important platonic relationships outside their love story that I really appreciated in a series aimed at teens.

I do wish we'd gotten more of Winter earlier in the series. While she had some great character moments, she veered into the poor manic mystic territory a lot, and I mean that both in the manic pixie dream girl sense and in the mental illness sense. The lunar people loved her so much that she impacted the course of the war, but mostly because of how beautiful she was, not for anything she ever really did. I was not entirely satisfied with her characterization, which is a shame in the book that was named for her.

More: Smart Bitches Trashy Books
Forever Young Adult

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16. Review of Angus Buchan's devotion book LIVING A MIGHTY FAITH

by Sally Matheny

Review of Angus Buchan's book
Living a Mighty Faith
The bestselling author of Faith Like Potatoes. Angus Buchan has penned a book of 365 devotions. He offers “practical encouragement and amazing stories of how God used a simple potato farmer to help change a nation.”

This book did not have a foreword or an introduction of any kind. I like reading forewords in books—as long as they’re brief. They give me a feel for who the author is and why he wrote the book. So, I was a bit disappointed there wasn’t one here.

However, I was not disappointed in the content of the book. In fact, once I began reading, I did learn more about Buchan. He ties many of the devotions to his own life experiences as a farmer, an evangelist, a husband and a dad.




Not all of the devotions contain a story from Buchan’s life. But all of them are based on true events and real people. Additional interesting notes at the back of the book revealed the sources for the devotions. I almost wish the notes were listed immediately following each devotion because they enrich them so.  

Every page begins with one or two scriptures from the NIV Bible, tie-in devotion, and ends with a short written prayer. Dates are listed but no year, so it can be used again.

I liked the book and it gave me much to reflect upon. While both genders will benefit from reading the book, I think men would especially enjoy it. The tone and content would definitely hold their interest.  

This beautiful, hardbound book would make a great graduation or Father’s Day gift.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.


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17. Book Review: Yes, We Are Latinos! / ¡Si, Somos Latinos! by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, illustrated by David Diaz

Note: I'll be using the term Latinx (pronounced Latin-ex) in this review. There are a number of different ways of speaking about Latinx as a whole, from the traditional Latinos (which is grammatically correct but implies they are all male), to Latino/a, to Latin@, which are both clunky-to-impossible to say aloud and also reinforce gender binaries. But I've been seeing Latinx more and more lately and I like the way that the x represents a wide variety of possibilities in an incredibly diverse group.

Title: Yes! We Are Latinos! / ¡Si! Somos Latinos!
Author: Alma Flor Ada, F. Isabel Campoy
Illustrator: David Diaz
Published: 2013

Source: Local Library

Summary: A collection of poems for children from the perspective of many different Latinx children, accompanied by lovely cut-paper scenes.

First Impressions: A set of glimpses into many different ways of being Latinx.

Later On: While I'm not a particularly poetic person, I picked this up because I love Alma Flor Ada. My favorite part is the sheer variety of the experiences related. There are kids whose families have been here forever, and kids who've just arrived. There are Afro-Latinx kids, and Filipino, and Japanese-Latinx. They live in different parts of the country, they have different family structures. Their roots travel all over Latin America and even Spain, not just Mexico. If you're Latinx, you stand a good chance of seeing at least part of your own experience represented, and if you're not - settle down and learn how incredibly diverse our American lives are.

More: Kirkus

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18. Book Review: The Dark Days Club by Allison Goodman

Title: The Dark Days Club
Author: Allison Goodman
Published: 2016
Source: Local Library

Summary: Lady Helen is looking forward to her coming out, and nervous about being snubbed as the daughter of a scandalous traitor to the crown. But to her shock, on the day of her presentation the Queen of England quietly implies that her mother was no traitor, but a hero. Soon, she's wrestling with the supernatural and her own unanticipated abilities, as well as being torn between an eminently suitable ducal beau and the brooding, scandalous lord who's teaching her what she really is.

First Impressions: This took me forevvvver to read (being sick didn't help). Weird to see the traditional regency romance beats in a YA.

Later On: Maybe again this can be imputed to being sick, but this book didn't really stick with me.
This was a weird mix of a Regency romance, with all the traditional elements (making your debut, societal expectations, balls and dances and flirting, and naturally a love triangle), with a more YA tone of a young woman discovering things about herself, her place in the world, and her family history. A lot of it felt like setup for an extended series, including the dark hints about a Big Bad that Lady Helen's own extraordinary abilities are clearly intended to oppose.

I've really loved the author's other books, so I'll try the next in the series and see if my experience changes.

More: Waking Brain Cells

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19. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

2016, Random House

Tessa and Callie were nine years old when Lori was murdered, and it was these two that put the Ohio River Monster behind bars.  Everyone in Fayette, Pennsylvania was relieved this horrible chapter in their lives was over.

Almost ten years have passed and Tessa and Callie are completely different girls.  Callie's life was full of scholarships, friends and a stable family that has continued to live in Fayette despite their family loss.  Tessa, on the other hand, lost her father to the prison system, her sister to her fierce independence, and her mother to who knows where.  She moved to Florida to live with her grandmother and expects to attend university in the fall after working as a waitress to make it happen.

Then the phone call comes...

Tessa once more finds herself in Fayette, but under very different circumstances.  Her father is dying and her once best friend Callie won't talk to her (even though she's staying at her house at the insistence of Callie's mom).  When Tessa goes to the prison to see her father one last time, she is told he died but her sister was there.  Tessa, who hasn't seen her family in ten years, is frantic to find her sister, but the path to her is becoming more difficult than Tessa imagined.

But Fayette hasn't shaken the Ohio River Monster yet.  Everyone thought he was in prison for the rest of his life, but a new trial is slated once again, where new evidence is to be released.  More terrifying is the fact that another girl has been found murdered in the same style as the other victims.  Callie and Tessa are once again confronted with personal tragedy because the victim was a friend of theirs, someone who was in Callie's inner circle.  Coincidence or copycat?

Callie and Tessa decide it's time to confront the past and begin to find answers to the present.  When they begin to pursue this, they have no idea one of them may be the next victim....

Kara Thomas is not only a storyteller, she's a story weaver.  Although this is the main plot of the novel, there are other threads of mystery woven into the lives of the main characters that will catch the reader's attention.  There are no lull moments in this book.  When the unraveling begins, hang on, because it will be a fast and furious ride.  Recommended 9-12th grades


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20. 1001 Nights Doubleheader

I've had a busy few weeks at work, so I wasn't able to get any posts polished enough to go live. To make up for it(ish), I'm giving you a doubleheader today, where I review two books that are similar in some way and discuss what I think of those similarities and their differences.

Title: The Wrath and Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Summary: Khalid marries a young woman every evening and in the morning he kills her. Nobody can stop him because, well, he's the king.

After her best friend becomes his latest victim, Shahrzad decides that she's going to take him on, find out why all the murders are happening, and then kill him. It's a good plan, but it goes a little off track when she starts to fall in love with him.

First Impressions: The story was compelling but OH MY GOD. The prose. PURPLE.

Later On: I struggled with this book. I know a lot of people who've been swept away by it, but my brain kept inconveniently breaking in. Like, Khalid? Um, why are you doing all this killing? Shahrzad, honey, why aren't you pointing out that this is super-not-okay? I get that you're falling in lurve and all but kiddies, love is about communication. You know what you're not communicating? THAT HIM KILLING ALL HIS PREVIOUS WIVES WAS NOT OKAY. He victimized his country, he terrorized families, he gave no reason, and OH YES A WHOLE BUNCH OF GIRLS ARE DEAD. I was genuinely questioning why he hadn't been the hell overthrown by now. A lot of the girls he picked were from powerful families - why didn't some of them send in an assassin and STOP THIS NONSENSE?

When a book makes me this WTF, I generally stop reading. This one, I kept reading because I actually did want to find out his reasons. Shahrzad is smart and spunky and loving and loyal, and she's gonna Queen like nobody's damn business, so I was initially in it for her. And then, aside from the whole lots and lots of dead wives thing (which would seem to be a dealbreaker), Khalid was an appealing and warm-hearted guy who seems to be genuinely falling for Shahrzad. We do actually get a reason for all the wife-killing and it's not that Khalid is a serial killer who just can't help himself. But it fell flat for me. I never felt the actual threat of it.

And, yeah. The prose. It seemed like every line had to remind us that Khalid had flashing hazel eyes or that Shahrzad had the shiniest most beautimous hair in the palace, or something.

I know a lot of people loved it, but this one really wasn't for me.

More: Cuddlebuggery
Book Nut

Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley

Summary: In this retelling of 1001 nights, the main character sacrifices herself to save her sister and marries a king who's murdered all his previous wives.

First Impressions: This was what I wanted The Wrath and the Dawn to be. The focus on women and the work/powers/community/ties of women was beautiful.

Later On: I still get a warm glow when I think of this book - of how important the relationships between women are. Sisters, mothers, aunts, female friends. There's a lovely little bit where the protagonist, who goes unnamed throughout the book, contemplates how her father's first wife, who is also her aunt, always functioned as another mother to her; a relationship that's not often portrayed this way.

This carries through to the palace. She begins to find out the history of the king's murders through talking to his mother and the palace craftswomen, gradually and patiently assembling the pieces into a whole that will let her save the country. Primarily, this is a story of a woman, backed by women, quietly, determinedly putting things right for a country that has gone terribly wrong.

Is it a swoony romance? No. The king is a man possessed by a demon, and there's no falling in love with this demon. At the end of the book, there's a hint that the man within might have started to catch feelings, but the love story here is the protagonist's love for her family, her community, and her country.

More: By Singing Light
Charlotte's Library
 

 Scheherazade and Shahryār by Ferdinand Keller, 1880, taken from Wikipedia

So now for the compare and contrast portion of our show.

It's always interesting to see how two authors take the same base story and make such different things out of it. Where the first book focused tightly on the developing romance between the king and his queen (with touches of a love triangle and another couple's love story as subplots), the second focused on the larger implications of the king's destructive rampage and how it can be repaired. Maybe I'm Old and Fuddy, but that spoke to me more than the intimate romance. Anytime you get royal characters, I'm almost always more interested in the pressure of the fate of an entire nation resting on their choices and actions.

So my reviews, and the reviews linked here, are basically about how these books worked for generally white or white-presenting American ladies. There's a trickier question: how do they work as representations or interpretations of a piece of classic non-Western literature?

In the original story (Britannica.com), the king is killing women because his first wife cheated on him. Obviously, this doesn't play all that well as a trait of a romantic hero. While the books took different tacks, both wisely altered the king's motivation.

I tried hard to find writing about these books from Middle Eastern reviewers, but was unsuccessful. The 1001 Nights is basically the story that we know from Middle Eastern mythology. It is a framing device for retelling many other stories, but only Scheherezade and Aladdin (which was one of the stories told in the 1001 Nights) have entered Western canon to the point where we know the stories off the top of our heads.

From my extremely limited perspective, I would say that both novels used the Middle Eastern setting as an exotic locale or a fantasy land. This isn't that different from a lot of historical novels or historical fantasy. Did they respect the cultures? That's a trickier one because there's a few things at work here. I'm not of the culture. I'm not even very familiar with the culture. And the Middle East is a huge area, made up of many, many individual countries and subcultures, each with their own history. The effect of the Middle-Easternish fantasy land is to back away from that complexity while still retaining the otherness of the setting as a whole.

But some of the major Western stereotypes of the Middle East as a whole were avoided. Although polygamous marriage was an element in A Thousand Nights, in both books, women were largely respected by their male friends, husbands, fathers, and brothers. War and violence is something else Westerners associate with the Middle East, but in these stories, there was purpose to them.

Like I said, I'm not the person to really examine this. If you have background and opinions that are better informed than mine, please let me know so I can add some links.

FURTHER further reading

Islamophobia in YA

Renee Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn, briefly discusses the process of worldbuilding a Middle-Eastern infleunced fantasy world

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21. The Breakfast Table Book Club

Today’s post is coming to you live from the breakfast table. We get many books to read and review and the really successful ones, the books that become favorites, are those that get the “The Breakfast Table Book Club” approval!

The Breakfast Table Book Club

This is how is works, I have stacks of books everywhere in this house. Often times there are a few books that have recently come in that just sit on the kitchen table. As the family wanders in for breakfast each morning, they’ll grab a book to read while eating their cereal. I always know a popular read when they ask where the book has gone once I move it to the review crates. “When is it coming back?” they ask.

Today I bring you two such titles that have tried to leave the breakfast table but have been a constant companion since they’ve arrived.

The first book is so appropriate for THIS year of all years because it’s an election year. 50 Things You Should Know About American Presidents published by the QEB publishing.

Breakfast table Book Club

Everything you should know about US presidents is broken down into 50 bite-sized chunks. Every president is covered, from the first person to take office George Washington, to our current US president, Barack Obama. Fascinating facts are included on each page, for example, did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt is the longest serving president ? There are also details about the US political system, clearly stating the changes that have occurred from the 17th century until today.

50-Things-American-presidents1

This is a very colorful book and perfect for reluctant readers. I say this because reluctant readers love little snippets of information as opposed to chapter books. This book is well suited for ages 8 to 12. It has become a greatly loved edition on our breakfast table.

books about Presidents

Our second Breakfast Book Club selection is 50 Things You Should Know About Wild Weather by QEB Publishing. Who doesn’t love wild weather. My children are obsessed with it so you can imagine that a fun book on the breakfast table about wild weather would be very welcomed.

books about weather

Rain or Shine- the weather impacts everything we do. Packed with facts, diagrams, infographics and photos, 50 Things You Should Know About Wild Weather takes you on a whirlwind of discovery. Covering the earth’s atmosphere and how weather works, you’ll find out all you need to know about weather fronts, heat waves, hurricanes, avalanches, ice storms, climate change and our favorite topic, tornados and much, much, more. Filled with facts, figures and world records for the wildest weather ever documented, you’ll also discover storm chasers and weather scientists who have tried their best to keep the weather in check. Be warned, it’s a stormy ride.

50-things-you-should-know-about-wild-weather-spread

Wild Weather is in full color and grabs the eye, drawing the reader in.

Both of these selections will have your children not only reading but reciting and retaining the fun facts they learn about weather and presidents. I’m so happy these books have found their way to our breakfast table.

Thank you to QED for offering us these fine books to review.We highly recommend them. They are perfect for any library public, home or school.

****Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission.
This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!

 

The post The Breakfast Table Book Club appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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22. Review: Harmony, USA by Lewis Bryan

Title: Harmony, USA
Author:  Lewis Bryan 
Publisher: BookLogix
Publication date: April 22, 2015
Stars: 4

Summary: Harmony, USA, the quintessential, idyllic small town, is full of beauty and simplicity. But behind the scenes of this neatly kept town lies a killer, and once you begin to peel back the layers, Harmony has secrets upon secrets. 
Everything you convinced yourself is good and pure about small-town life is challenged. One by one, the secrets of Harmony are revealed. You must decide what is right, as you believed it, and what is justice. 
Will those who have done evil ever pull themselves away from the darkness, or will their past consume them forever? 
Harmony lays in the balance.


Review: Harmony, USA by Lewis Bryan was an interesting book to say the least. You would not expect what happens in this little town. Bryan does a great job with the theory of small towns have their secrets. Harmony sure had plenty. Each page kept me intrigued to find out what happened. I myself am not a big fan of mysteries, I feel like you can pick out the killer in the first few pages. But Bryan’s mystery was one that was hard to break. He wrote it in a way that kept you interested yet you couldn’t name the killer. It took me till almost the end of the book to figure it out and I was still shocked at who it was. Although I did feel like focus of the book was not around the killer so much has around sexual assault. There was something that made me feel uncomfortable at times when every character had been sexually assaulted at some point or another. Regardless of that fact the book was extremely well wrote and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a fast yet good read. 

-Victoria

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23. Book Review: Shade Me by Jennifer Brown

Title: Shade Me
Author: Jennifer Brown
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: When the popular girl is murdered, Nikki feels strangely drawn toward the case, even getting entangled with the girl's sexy older brother.

First Impressions: Meh. I know she's supposed to be Tough and Independent but she was awfully cagey with the cop for no reason. And the book treated synaesthesia like a superpower or something. Just weird and unsatisfying.

Later On: Generally I really like Jennifer Brown's stories. She focuses tightly on characters and character development, and how relationships grow and change, especially under the pressure of horrible situations.

This shift to a more plot-heavy mystery didn't work at all for me, especially since the things that were so strong in her other stories suffered for Plot Reasons. We never meet the murdered girl, but somehow Nikki felt a connection, even though her assessment of the murdered girl before she was murdered was decidedly negative. There was a romantic subplot and I know I was supposed to feel a connection to it and to the romantic lead (whose name I can't even remember), but I really didn't.

I know it's fashionable, especially in noir stories, to mistrust the police, but I couldn't figure out any earthly reason for her not to bring the cop in on her suspicions, even partially. He wasn't actively undermining her, gaslighting her, or at any time seemed to be one of the bad guys. In fact, he kept coming around to say, "Look, can I help? I'm doing this; this is my actual job and I'm really trying to do it here. I have information, do you have information?" And she would say no because . . . suspense?! It was unsatisfying.

Finally, my issue with the use of Nikki's synesthesia. Brown did acknowledge it as something that has given Nikki learning difficulties, but it also functioned as a magical signpost to Things That Were Important to the mystery, and a connection to the murdered girl, who (minor spoiler) had synesthesia herself.   But my understanding, which because I'm not a neuroscientist is not exactly thorough, is that synesthesia works differently for different people. How could the dead girl possibly have known what would jump out at Nikki and what wouldn't? Just a little too convenient.

I'll read Brown's next book, but only if it's not a noir mystery.

More: Kirkus Reviews
Disability in Kidlit on repackaging disabilities as superpowers, which is not always a bad thing, but annoyed me in this book

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24. Book Review: To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson

Title: To Catch a Cheat
Author: Varian Johnson
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: After the shenanigans of The Great Greene Heist, Jackson is trying to keep his nose clean. Really! He is!  But he's framed for a cheating con, and the principal is all too eager to take the excuse to strike him down. Complicating matters are a fight with his best friend, and his attempts to kiss his sort-of girlfriend for the first time. (Yikes!) Still, Jackson's got to clear this up. What can a reformed con artist do, but con his way to the center of this mystery?

First Impressions: A fun romp, although I got lost more than a few times with all the characters. And I definitely spent some time wanting to knock Jackson and Charlie's heads together.

Later On: The things I liked (and the things I didn't) about the first one carried over into this book. I still loved the casual diversity (Jackson is black, Charlie and Gabi are Latinx, they have friends of other ethnicities as well) and the fine ear for the complexities of middle-school life. The con stuff got really, really involved, especially when the story juggled multiple characters of dubious intentions. Still, I think that this could become an entertaining MG series.

I was never entirely clear on why Charlie and Jackson were at odds, although I could see how it
played out. Charlie's been in Jackson's shadow a lot, and Jackson is just clever enough to be arrogant about it, and that arrogance would grate.

More: Kirkus
Book Nut

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25. Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes

HarperTeen, 2016

Dinah has been called to the Great Hall to meet with her father.  It isn't something she relishes at all. She gets dressed in her silks with adorning red hearts everything, along with her crown of rubies and makes her way through the Cards to the King's throne...and what happens next begins her saga.

Vittiore is Dinah's step-sister.  Unlike Dinah, with dark hair and eyes, Vittiore is blonde with blue eyes, loved by all, especially the king.  There are favorites in the castle, and Vittiore rises to the top. Dinah is beyond frustrated with this new girl and doesn't give her the time of day.  Perhaps she should...

Charles, Dinah's older brother, cannot be the next in line to the crown because of his condition.  His entire apartment in the palace is filled with hats he makes, which are very coveted. People call him the Mad Hatter, Dinah knows he is more than that.

Wardley, a childhood friend of Dinah's and a Heart Card (soldiers bound to protect the royal family), sees the pain and humiliation Dinah has to face every time she faces her father, and he is there for for her.  His support and friendship will be tested by both Dinah and the court.  Where do his allegiances lie?

Harris never runs late.  He makes sure his student, Dinah, is kept on schedule. He has been with her since Dinah's mother died and is loyal and kind.  In fact, Harris is more of a father figure in Dinah's life than anyone else.  He is the bargaining chip between Dinah and the king...if she doesn't do what he asks, Harris won't be around much longer.

Cheshire is the king's right hand man.  He is always whispering in the king's ear, with a grin of evil on his face.  He is the only one the king trusts and the one Dinah trusts least.  Although not a royal, Cheshire wields a lot of power.

The Cards play an important role in Wonderland.  The Spades are mercenary soldiers even the Heart Cards fear.  They are wild and bent on destruction, which the king believes makes the best type of soldiers against his enemies.  The Clubs are Wonderland's judge and jury.  Most of them work in the Towers, where the criminals and insane are taken until Execution Day, where their heads are cut off.  The Diamonds are the men who work with the royal coffers.  Dinah learns how to handle these different characters, as only a future queen can.  But will they be loyal to her?

Then one evening, she finds a vial with a message hidden in it
within a tart that is served to her.  Is this a trap, or is this meant to help?  After she reads the message and undertakes the journey, even she is no longer sure.  But her life is at stake...

We all know the Queen of Hearts in Carroll's classic novel, and Colleen Oakes has done an excellent job in recreating Wonderland, the characters, and especially the future queen in this amazing fantasy re-telling.  Put the classic back on the shelf and don't read into the pages what will happen.  Allow the book to take you to this Wonderland in all of its wildness, hidden secrets, danger, and pomp.  And when the reader comes to the end of the book wanting to know more, fear not!  There is an excerpt from the next book in the saga!  Recommended for grades MS-HS.

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