All ratings are on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (great).
A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep & Joanne Ryder – 3
Miss Drake is not looking for a new pet, but when 10-year-old Winnie comes into her life, the girl just will not leave her alone. So the dragon takes her on as a project. But a mysterious book will give them more danger than they might be able to handle.
I found this fantasy novel for middle graders inventive and funny. The two main characters were great. Unfortunately, the plot was a little slow for my tastes, although I can imagine the target audience enjoying it.
NOTE: I received a copy of this book via Amazon’s Vine program.
License to Dill by Mary Ellen Hughes (Pickled and Preserved Mysteries #2) – 5
Piper’s ex-fiancee arrives in town hoping to get back together even though she has told him repeated they are over. However, the attention soon turns to the soccer team visiting from Italy and the mini-tournament against a team of locals. The Italian team’s manager was an exchange student when he was in high school, and his reappearance has opened old wounds from back then. When he is murdered, it becomes a question of which of those deeds from the past came back to haunt him in the present?
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were just as fun and charming as they were in the first in the series. The plot was wonderful with so many suspects and twists to the story I had a hard time putting it down. Yet things came together for a logical climax.
NOTE: I received an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Great Smokies by Sandy Dengler (Jacek Prester #4) – 4
Jack and Ev are sent to Great Smokey Mountains when the superintendent is poisoned. Then someone shoots at her replacement. What do these women have in common and why is someone out to kill them?
A couple of sub-plots take over a little bit in this one, but overall it’s a solid mystery. Things do come together at the end, which is nice. What I really love are Jack and Ev and how their relationship continues to grow and change. Ev’s journey especially continues here. And the thoughts on prayer woven through the book are great as well.
NOTE: This book was published in the 90’s as The Quick and the Dead and recently rereleased as the ebook Great Smokies.
Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss – 5
King Derwin of Didd is tired of the same old four things coming down from the sky, so he decides to get his magicians to create something new – Oobleck. However, his page Bartholomew things something is dangerous about it. Is he correct?
One of Dr. Seuss’s older books, it can be long and isn’t told in his typical rhyme. Still shows his creativity, however, and there are some good lessons worked into the story without preaching as well. Fun for older kids and adults looking for a longer picture book.
A Tine to Live, a Tine to Die by Edith Maxwell (Local Foods Mysteries #1) – 4
Cam Flaherty has taken over her great-uncle’s farm and is hoping to adjust to her new life as a farmer in her first growing season. However, things take an unexpected turn when she finds her recently fired farm hand, Mike Montgomery, dead in the hoop house with a pitchfork in his neck. Can she figure out who killed him?
The book starts a little slowly, but once the story really gets going, it builds to a suspenseful climax. Cam is an introvert and a little blunt, which is a nice change for a series heroine. I wish more nuance had been given to an issue brought up in the book, but overall this is an enjoyable debut.
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #1) – 4
11-year-old Flavia is most concerned about the tricks her sisters are playing on her during the summer of 1950 until the day their housekeeper finds a jacksnipe with a postage stamp attached to his bill on the doorstep. This really upsets her father, but Flavia is shocked to stumble across a stranger dying in their cucumber patch a few hours later. How are these two events related?
This is a well plotted mystery with an unusual (at least for an adult audience book) main character. Flavia can act her age at times and she does drone on in the narration about chemistry (her passion) on a few occasions, but for the most part she leads a cast of fun characters. The plot is very entertaining with some nice surprises along the way to a suspenseful climax.
Story Thieves by James Riley (Story Thieves #1) – 5
Owen lives in the world of his favorite books – at least in his mind. But when he meets Bethany emerging from a book, he realizes he might be able to do that for real. Despite Bethany’s strict rules, Owen tricks her into going and changing the outcome of the sixth Kiel Gnomefoot book. However, the consequences are more than he bargained for. Will he and Bethany be able to return things to the way they should be?
Having dreamed of jumping into books myself, I loved the premise of this book even before I read it. It delivered on the promise in spades. I wasn’t super impressed with the Kiel Gnomefoot story within the story, but that was a minor complaint. The plot overall was very engrossing and the characters were fun. I can’t wait to see what happens to Owen and Bethany next.
Hearse and Buggy by Laura Bradford (Amish Mysteries #1) – 5
After her divorce, Claire has settled into the town of Heavenly, Pennsylvania, thanks to her aunt. She’s begun to make friends among the Amish and even opened a store that sells the items her new friends make. However, the potential peace of her new life is shattered when a man is found murdered outside her store. He left town recently after being accused of stealing from the Amish. Even though murder is not in their beliefs, might one of Claire’s new friends killed him?
The characters in this book are already fully developed and alive. They drew me into the story and made me care about several sub-plots that do slow down the mystery early on. Still, once the mystery takes center stage, it is well plotted with clues and red herrings along the way.
Buttercream Bump Off by Jenn McKinlay (Cupcake Bakery Mysteries #2) – 5
Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches. Even Mel’s widowed mother is getting back into the dating game. But Joyce calls part way through the evening when she finds her date floating face down in his pool. Baxter was despised by all who knew him, but who actually decided to kill him?
It had been a while since I read the first in the series, but the characters came back to me very quickly. I enjoyed seeing them again and meeting the fun cast introduced here. The plot was a little thin at times, but Mel’s antics as she investigated the case more than made up for it. This was fun, and I will be visiting these characters again soon.
Cyrus the Unsinkable Sea Serpent by Bill Peet – 5
Cyrus is a bit bored with his life as a sea serpent, so he takes a dare from a shark to attack a passenger ship about to leave the dock. Will he go through with his plans? Or will he wind up helping the sea?
While Cyrus’s reasons for being near the ship aren’t good, the end result is great. There is a very subtle lesson in peer pressure vs. doing the right thing near the beginning. Adults will pick up on the outline early, but everyone will enjoy watching Cyrus in action. Bill Peet’s illustrations add some great humor to an enjoyable story.
Murder in the Mystery Suite by Ellery Adams (Book Retreat Mysteries #1) – 3
Jane Steward is trying to get more income to her family’s Storyton Hall, already famous as a retreat for readers. But her idea of a Mystery and Mayhem Week begins with a murder and a stolen book. What secrets will she uncover?
This book attempts to do something a little different with the cozy genre, and I’ll admit it took me a little while to get on board, but once I did I found I liked the idea. I also really did love the characters. Unfortunately, the plot came up short, leaving us with some loose threads and a plot hole or two along the way. I wanted to like this book more, but the weak plot really does bother me.