Saturday, March 4, 2023

Book Review: 'Super Family! (Simon & Chester Book #3) by Cale Atkinson

✰✰✰✰½ Chester adores his Grandma, but sometimes he wishes he lived in a "perfect" family like Amie's. Amie has a mom, dad, and siblings, and they do fun things on weekends. All Chester ever gets to do is watch old movies & do puzzles with his Grandma. Chester dreams that if he were part of a normal family, then he could do fun things too. 

Simon is skeptical, but he has to pack for SpecterCon, With Simon gone, Chester goes on a family outing with Amie. This is Chester's chance to have an amazing weekend, but just when they get to the water park, Amie's dad gets called away on business. Chester suddenly has his hands full helping Amie play with her siblings. By the time Amie's dad picks them up, Chester is exhausted, stinky, and has a new perspective.

Meanwhile, Simon is looking for an opportunity to impress the other ghosts at SpecterCon; after all, Simon haunts his very own house. Unfortunately, Simon's nemesis, Clancy, is not impressed. What will it take to get everyone to notice Simon? As SpecterCon continues, Simon realizes that maybe he had things all wrong too. Both Chester and Simon arrive back home with a new appreciation for what they have instead of what they wished they had.

The Bottom Line: Funny, sweet, and thoughtful, author Cale Atkinson takes the reader on a comic journey to see if the grass is indeed always greener on the other side. This humorous tale is enthusiastically recommended for young readers in grades 3 - 6.

Details: Super Family (Simon & Chester Book #3) by Cale Atkinson. Hardcover published by Tundra Books in 2022. 96 p. ISBN: 978-0-7352-7243-9 [NOTE: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.] 

Saturday, February 25, 2023

Book Review: 'Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Dead Man in the Garden' by Marthe Jocelyn

✰✰✰✰½ The third book in the series takes the young detective, Aggie Morton, and her pal, Hector, to a Yorkshire spa, where Aggie's recently widowed mother can take the waters and recuperate. Along with Grannie Jane, they all could use a break. As Aggie's mother settles in to her schedule of treatment, Aggie and Hector stumble onto not one crime, but two! The two young sleuths are delighted at the challenge, but with two mysteries to solve the stakes are higher. Together with the help of a young disabled patient and Grannie Jane, Aggie & Hector must get help before they meet their demise.

The Bottom Line: This installment was a quick, pleasant read that takes one back to a different era. The two sleuths have grown in their abilities to solve crimes and work well together as a team. Highly recommended for young fans of mysteries and historical fiction. I'm eagerly looking forward to the next book in the series.

Details: Aggie Morton, Mystery Queen: The Dead Man in the Garden by Marthe Jocelyn. Published by Tundra Books in 2022. 368 p. ISBN: 978-0735270817 [NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.] 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Book Review: 'Cranberry Valentine' by Wendy & Harry Devlin

✰✰✰ Mr. Whiskers has never received a single Valentine. Maggie is concerned, but Grandmother doesn't have time to talk about it. A few days later, Mr. Whiskers is aghast to discover someone has sent him a Valentine. Who could have done that? In a strange coincidence, a lady in a green coat is asking around town about Mr. Whiskers. What could she want? Now Mr. Whiskers concerned. Armed with a heart-shaped box of chocolates, Mr. Whiskers makes his way to Maggie's house where he's pleasantly surprised.

The Bottom Line: As with Cranberry Thanksgiving, this book comes with a recipe. While we previously enjoyed the Secret Cranberry Bread, this recipe for Cranberry Upside-Down Cake, seemed a bit off. I prepared it according to the directions. It's pretty easy, but since I didn't have walnuts, I substituted pecans. For the yellow cake mix I chose a box of Betty Crocker's Super Moist Butter Recipe Yellow cake mix. It took about 30 - 40" to prepare and another 50" to bake. After waiting 10" I flipped it. [Note: Kids will definitely need help with this.] It turned out of the pan onto the tray nicely; however, there was a layer of sugar stuck to the bottom of the pan. As the cake cooled, the sugar crystallized on top. Boo. 

As a seasoned baker, I was disappointed. If I were to make this recipe again (which I probably won't), I would definitely reduce the amount of sugar from 2½ cups to 1 - 1½ cups. Additionally, I would mix the cranberries with the sugars before adding to the pan and pre-melt the butter. Alternately, it might be best to skip the layer of butter and the sugars and simply fold in about 2 cups of fresh cranberries and ½ cup of nuts directly into the batter; then bake as directed. 

Ah, live & learn. This recipe is VERY sweet, best when served with vanilla ice cream or whipped topping (I used Cool Whip.) 

A slice of Cranberry Upside-Down Cake.

In sum, this Cranberryport tale was a little bit dated and somewhat disjointed in the storytelling. Still charming, however, the story had nothing to do with the featured recipe.

Details: Cranberry Valentine written & illustrated by Wendy & Harry Devlin. Picture book published by Four Winds Press in 1986. 31 p. ISBN: 0-02-729200-2 

Saturday, February 4, 2023

Book Review: 'The Accidental Billionaires' by Ben Mezrich

✰✰✰✰½ When two Harvard students met at a party little did they know they would eventually change the way people connect. One was a brilliant computer programmer with an idea, and the other was a budding businessman with a large bank account. What Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin had in common were social challenges. Mark was painfully quiet and talked like a computer, and although Eduardo struggled to get a date, he took the plunge to join the Phoenix, a Final Club.  

Nevertheless, Mark and Eduardo made a deal. Mark was the brains behind the project, and Eduardo was the money. What could go wrong? After all they were friends, and friends look out for each other, right? Throw in a hunky pair of twins with an idea for a similar website, and now it gets interesting.

Mark lived for Facebook. So much so that he decided to leave college and head to California. Eduardo, on the other hand, would never leave school based on a dream. Enter the infamous Sean Parker, who quickly became a mentor to Mark, and things changed quickly. Loyalties were displaced, as newcomers tried to grab onto the lightning bolt that was Facebook. When all was said and done, innocence was lost, and no one would be the same. 

The Bottom Line: Discover the fascinating story behind the founding of Facebook with this entertaining book. Based on interviews, documents, court proceedings, and scene re-creations, this fascinating account of the beginnings of a revolutionary company will get you thinking about relationships, money, and privacy. The perfect read for a snowy weekend. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys biographies, business, and stories of betrayal. 

Book Club Notes: This was a great book/movie to start the year. Most of the group had been on Facebook; some have even left for other sites making for an interesting discussion. There is so much to talk about that questions weren't really necessary. This was one of those discussions that was a conversation. 

Additionally, we really liked that the movie, The Social Network. It was quite true to the book. So much has happened since this book was first published that it's interesting to do some searches online to see what everyone is currently up to. For example, did you know that the Winklevoss twins have a cover band? It was no surprise to discover that everyone has been busy with various projects. Both the book and movie are enthusiastically recommended for book clubs. On a scale of 1 -5, we rated both an average of 4.25.

Details: The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich. Paperback published by Anchor Books in 2010. 272 p. ISBN: 978-0-307-74098-4 

Monday, January 2, 2023

Book Review: 'Night Lunch' by Eric Fan

✰✰✰✰✰ Magical things happen when a Victorian lunch cart rolls into town at night. As a hungry little mouse keeps the street clean, he hopes for a few crumbs to eat. Eager customers line up, and the mouse keeps sweeping, tummy growling. The feathery chef takes all the orders in stride: coffee, mince pie, sandwiches, sausages, eggs, peppers, and biscuits. Yum! 

As the sky brightens, it's time to stop. Alas, not even a dropped penny is left behind. The little mouse trembles from hunger. The feathery chef notices all and invites the mouse inside for a sumptuous repast for two. And that's not all, before moving on, the owl has a surprise in store for his friend.

The Bottom Line: Luminous, dreamy illustrations bring this magical tale to life. This story about compassion, kindness, and friendship is sure to be read over and over again with your little one. Enthusiastically recommended for all.

Details: Night Lunch words by Eric Fan & pictures by Dena Seiferling. Picture book published by Tundra in 2022. 48 p. ISBN: 978-0-7352-7057-2 [NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.]  

Sunday, January 1, 2023

Welcome 2023!


Good riddance to 2022 and a very warm welcome to 2023! May your days be filled with health, happiness, & lots of awesome books to read. Be well, my friends!

Note: The free clip art comes via Happy Event Day. Thank you!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Book Review: 'Cricket at the Manger' by Edith Hope Fine

✰✰✰✰ A grumpy little cricket just wants a quiet night so he can get some sleep, but it's not meant to be. What is a cricket to do? Suddenly the manger is crowded with sheep, a cow, and even a pig. There's little room left, when a donkey arrives with a couple. That's when it gets even noisier and more people arrive. Much to the cricket's displeasure, a little shepherd girl lifts him up so he can get a better look. And what does he see? A tiny baby in a halo of light. The cricket is puzzled at first, but then he knows just what to do. It's been a very long time since he's done anything but complain, but he's determined to give the little baby something wonderful. Will the grumpy cricket be able to change his tune? Check out this holiday gem to find out. 

The Bottom Line: This sweet tale about the birth of Jesus is told from the perspective of a grouchy cricket. Filled with beautiful illustrations in mixed media, this picture book is sure to be a treasured holiday read. Enthusiastically recommended for seasonal reading and storytimes.

Details: Cricket at the Manger written by Edith Hope Fine & with pictures by Winslow Pels. Hardcover picture book published by Boyds Mills Press in 2005. 32 p. ISBN: 978-1563979934