Monday, May 31, 2010

Book Review: Toby and the Secrets of the Tree by Timothée de Fombelle

✰✰✰✰ The sequel to Toby Alone continues the epic eco-adventure of Toby Lolness and his fight to save his miniature world. After living with the Grass People for several years, Toby realizes that he must return to the tree. He is alarmed by what he finds. Not only is the tree dying, but his beloved Elisha is being held captive in a Treetop Nest. Her fiancé is none other than Toby's enemy and former best friend, Leo Blue.

Meanwhile, Joe Mitch, the "Friendly Neighbor" with an obsession for digging holes, continues his destructive ways. Mitch forces his captives, including Toby's parents, the Scholars, and the Grass People, to dig a crater that threatens the well-being of the tree.

While time is running out for all, Sim Lolness continues to withhold the secret of Balina as Toby struggles to stop both Leo's relentless quest to conquer the Grass People and Joe Mitch's quest to destroy the tree. Toby bravely endures betrayal and hatred in his pursuit to find friendship and love. Along the way he makes new friends and meets some old ones in his journey to free his loved ones and save the oak tree he calls home before all is lost.

In this miniature world where the people are just 1.5 mm tall, life is all too fragile and uncertain. de Fombelle has created a tiny civilization whose survival depends on the well-being of a single oak tree. The tree and the destruction that plagues it mirror the Earth's woes. Similarly, prejudice exists in this mini world where two races struggle to survive with the Tree People viewing themselves as superior to the Grass People. Thus, the Toby Lolness series offers a unique example of sociology and ecology.

The Bottom Line:
As a sequel, Toby and the Secrets of the Tree seamlessly continues the suspense of the first book. Since this book begins in the middle of Toby's adventure, be sure to check out Toby Alone first. Like the first novel, Toby and the Secrets of the Tree, is told in a style that uses flashback to fill in the backstory. Both novels are fast-paced and action-packed. de Fombelle's beautiful descriptions of the tree awaken and appreciation for nature. Additionally, the pen and ink illustrations by Francois Place enhance the story.

Due to the graphic violence depicted in parts of the story,
Toby and the Secrets of the Tree is appropriate for kids and teens ages 12 and up. This imaginative adventure is highly recommended.

Toby and the Secrets of the Tree by Timothée de Fombelle, illustrated by Francois Place and translated by Sarah Ardizzone. Advanced Reading Copy published by Candlewick Press in 2010. 432 p. ISBN: 978-0-7636-4655-4 Note: I received a complimentary Advance Reading Copy from Candlewick Press in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Book Review: The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties by Toon Tellegen

✰✰✰✰ Welcome to the magical world of Toon Tellegen, where each tender story has a dream like quality. The animals in Tellegen's world are just like us; they love parties. This collection of short stories includes 9 delectable treats ready to please both kids and adults alike. The open-ended stories have a philosophical quality that leads to creative discussion.

Each story is beautifully illustrated with pen & ink watercolor drawings by illustrator, Jessica Ahlberg. Her delightful and humorous artwork adds to the poetic quality of the stories with soft, muted shades that complement the sepia print perfectly.

The Bottom Line: The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties is a charming collection of sweet stories as tempting as birthday cake. Dutch author and poet, Toon Tellegen, invites the reader into his magical world filled with animal adventures. These stories are perfect for reading to your favorite youngster at bedtime. This tiny treat is sure to be treasured by those who love animal stories and fairy tales. Recommended for children in grades K - 4.

The Squirrel's Birthday and Other Parties by Toon Tellegen, illustrated by Jessica Ahlberg, and translated by Martin Cleaver. Hardcover published in 2009 by Boxer Books. 156 p. ISBN: 978-1-906250-93-5 Also, be sure to check out Toon Tellegen's other books: Letters to Anyone and Everyone ISBN: 978-1-906250-95-9 and Far Away Across the Sea ISBN: 978-1-907152-37-5 For more information, visit the Boxer Books website.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Book Review: Billy Bones: The Road to Nevermore by Christopher Lincoln

✰✰✰✰✰ Take a trip to the Dark Side with Billy Bones in his second supernatural adventure. This time around 10 year old Billy Bones Biglum and his niece Millicent Hues have their hearts set on a sea voyage aboard the Spurious II. However, they get sidetracked when Uncle Grim's head and Millicent's soul are captured by the evil Shadewick Gloom. To make matters worse, the world of the living has been suspended in time.

To save his friends, Billy transforms back into a skeleton boy and must somehow find a way into Nevermore, a nightmare place more feared than the Dark Side itself. Along the way, Billy meets up with his great-many-greats grandfather, the crafty and ghostly pirate called Glass-Eyed Pete. Together they hatch a fantastical plan to enter Nevermore and with a little luck rescue the captives. Meanwhile,
when a Field Agent Down (F.A.D.) emergency is declared, Billy's skeleton parents, Lars and Decette Bones, rally all the skeletons together to assist in the search.

Will Billy and his comrades be able to save their friends in time and free all the prisoners trapped in Nevermore? Only time will tell. Billy must set things right before time starts again or all will be lost, including Millicent's soul.

The Bottom Line:
Billy Bones: The Road to Nevermore is fast-paced and action-packed with quirky, supernatural fun. The cast of eccentric characters combined with the values of friendship and loyalty make it the perfect choice for a quick summer read. Also, kids will love the gothic style illustrations throughout. Highly recommended for kids in grades 4 - 6.

Billy Bones: The Road to Nevermore by Christopher Lincoln. Hardcover published by Little, Brown and Company in 2009. 208 p. ISBN: 978-0-316-01475-5 NOTE: For more supernatural fun, don't forget to check out Billy's first adventure in Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet (ISBN: 978-0-316-01473-1)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Book Review: Murder in Paradise by Alanna Knight

✰✰✰✰✰ Inspector Jeremy Faro is back in his 14th mystery. In this installment we are treated to a trip back in time when Jeremy Faro was still a constable and in hot pursuit of his nemesis Macheath. Chasing Macheath across the English countryside, Faro finds himself in Kent. As fate would have it, he runs into an old school chum, Erland Flett, and is invited to stay at the artist William Morris' Red House.

Suddenly immersed in a Bohemian style community, Faro is distracted from his pursuit by the impending nuptials of his friend to the beautiful and mysterious Lena Hamilton. While Faro recognizes the young lady, Flett has no idea that he is in reality engaged to Scotland's infamous murderess, Madeleine Smith.

When Flett falls ill, Faro is left to wonder if Smith has been up to her old ways. As he tries to ferret out the truth and save his friend, Faro's pursuit of Macheath heats up in this well-crafted whodunit.

The Bottom Line:
Author Alanna Knight has masterfully blended the real-life characters of Madeleine Smith and the pre-Raphaelite artists into Inspector Faro's fictional world creating a house party murder theme that is highly entertaining. The twists and turns of this Victorian era mystery will leave you wanting more. Although this is the 14th installment in the Inspector Faro mysteries, it is not necessary to have read the prior books. Very highly recommended for mystery lovers who enjoy historical settings.

Details: Murder in Paradise by Alanna Knight. Paperback published in 2009 by Allison & Busby Ltd. 382 p. ISBN: 978-0-7490-0797-3 Note: I received a complimentary copy from Allison & Busby Ltd. in exchange for a review. This was made possible by the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Celebrate Mother's Day with the Perfect Book

Mother's Day is this Sunday May 9! While dinner and flowers are the tradition, why not make your celebration more special by giving her a book or two. You can make the selection yourself or make a date with your mom to visit her favorite bookstore.

Long after the candy is gone and the flowers are past their prime, your mom will still be enjoying the book you have selected for her special day. Here are my top 20 suggestions for the special woman in your life:


  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon: A Novel by Sarah Addison Allen ISBN: 978-0553807219
  • The God of the Hive: A novel of suspense featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie R. King ISBN: 978-0553805543
  • House Rules: A Novel by Jodi Picoult ISBN: 978-0743296434
  • The Inn at Angel Island by Thomas Kinkade ISBN: 978-0425234341
  • The Postmistress by Sarah Blake ISBN: 978-0399156199
  • The Telling by Beverly Lewis ISBN: 978-0764205736
  • The Walk: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans ISBN: 978-1439187319
  • Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert ISBN: 978-0670021659
  • Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk by Robyn Okrant ISBN: 978-1599952390
  • Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard ISBN: 978-0316042796
  • Day-votions for Women: Heart to Heart Encouragement by Rebecca Barlow Jordan ISBN: 978-0310322030
  • Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story by Charlotte Smith ISBN: 978-1439187555
  • Giada at Home: Family Recipes from Italy and California by Giada De Laurentiis ISBN: 978-0307451019
  • The Good Mother's Guide by Ladies' Homemaker Monthly ISBN: 978-1604331424
  • The Gospel According to Coco Chanel: Life Lessons from the World's Most Elegant Woman by Karen Karbo ISBN: 978-1599215235
  • Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom by Kristin van Ogtrop ISBN: 978-0316068284
  • The Little Big Book for Moms, 10th Anniversary Edition by Lena Tabori ISBN: 978-1599620756
  • Mom Rules: Notes on Motherhood, the World's Best Job by Jill Milligan ISBN: 978-1602399877
  • Mommy Prayers: For *the missing binkie *the late preschool pickup *the birthday party from hell...and other everyday absurdities by Tracy Mayor ISBN: 978-1401323721
  • Paula Deen's Savannah Style by Paula Deen ISBN: 978-1416552246
Don't forget that Mother's Day is not only a day for celebrating mothers and motherhood, but also for celebrating all the special women in your life including step moms, aunts, sisters, cousins, in-laws, and godmothers. Consider buying a special book for each.