Monthly Archives: June 2016

Children’s Book Review: A Morning with Grandpa – Delightful Story with Beautiful Illustrations

A Morning with Grandpa

http://inkygirl.com/inkygirl-main/2016/5/2/advice-for-writers-taxidermied-piranhas-and-family-memoriest.html

Author: Sylvia Liu

Illustrator: Christina Forshay

Reading level: Pre-K – 2nd grade

(picture source: http://inkygirl.com/inkygirl-main/2016/5/2/advice-for-writers-taxidermied-piranhas-and-family-memoriest.html)

Mei Mei (little sister) and Gong Gong (Grandpa) spend the morning together in the garden, both of them learning new things. Gong Gong is practicing Tai chi. He slowly goes through the motions, just as this form of martial arts requires. Mei Mei tries to follow Gong Gong’s motions, but can’t help putting her own spin on his moves.

Then Mei Mei shows her grandpa the yoga poses she has learned in school. This are more difficult for Gong Gong as he isn’t as limber as his young granddaughter. But that is okay, he does his best.

This delightful tale of the love between generations and the value of the time they spend with each other. Neither requires perfection, and that is the treasure of sharing something you love with a person you love.

Sylvia Liu’s story brings us into the garden with Mei Mei and her Gong Gong. The beauty of the morning shines through her words as well as the love her characters have for each other. It is obvious Liu has put her heart and soul into A Morning with Grandpa, making it a story that your children will love to have you to read them over and over and you will enjoy it as much as they do.

Christina Forshay’s created exquisite works of art to accompany each page of A Morning with Grandpa.  Her colorful illustrations are mesh perfectly with Liu’s story, both children and adults will enjoy them.

Before the story begins, Liu gives the reader translations of words so everything is clear before you start to read. This picture book also has a section in the back with simple instructions for  yoga and  Tai chi moves as well as pictures of the poses.

Sylvia Liu’s award winning book (Lee & Low Books New Voices Award 2016) will become a well-loved book by preschoolers and early readers alike. It is the perfect book for teachers to read to their classes.

I was very excited to win a copy of A Morning with Grandpa from Kathy Temean’s blog “Writing and Illustrating”. You can check it out here:  https://kathytemean.wordpress.com/. On a personal note, my first grandchild is scheduled to arrive in October and A Morning with Grandpa is one of the first books for his or her library. All children should have a library of fabulous books and I don’t think it could be complete without this book.

 

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Book Review: Maggie Dove by Susan Breen – Christian Cozy Keeps Readers Guessing

Maggie DoveMaggie Dove

By Susan Breen

Maggie Dove has suffered loss in her life. She lost her husband, and then her daughter died in an accident a few years later. She finds comfort in her church family, her friends and the man that once was the boy her daughter loved. Living in her childhood home brings a type of peace and belonging to her. Until the neighbor next door decides he hates the tree in her front yard and wants to either cut it down or move it.

That is the last straw for Maggie. She is willing to fight for her tree to the death. That is until her irritating neighbor is found dead under it. His wife blames Maggie, even though the cause of death is a heart attack. Or is it?

She is even more upset when someone she cares about seems to be in the Police Chief’s radar as a suspect. When she goes to the nursing home to talk to her best friend, Winifred; Maggie gets a bit upset that she doesn’t even seem to be listening. To be fair, Winifred is having a bad time. The once vibrant woman, wife of no less than four husbands, has become so crippled with disease she cannot move without effort and pain. Even though the women have been friends for over fifty years, there were times they didn’t exactly see eye to eye, but this visit ends up being the bee in Maggie’s bonnet to do something about finding the real killer since the Chief doesn’t even seem to be looking for him or her.

Maggie begins her own investigation by talking to people in her hometown that she thinks might have had a reason to kill her neighbor. She is comfortable digging around for clues since everyone knows her as well as she knows them. Unfortunately, she pokes more than one bear, but just can’t stop. Will she be the next victim?

Maggie Dove is a great character. She is the kind of person you would want in your corner. She loves her Sunday School class. Most of them, especially the naughtiest ones, have been on the receiving end of her love and kindness. She professes her faith, yet struggles with doubts at times. Her imperfections are part of her charm.

This is the second book Susan Breen has written. The first is a work of Literary Fiction entitled The Fiction Class. Maggie Dove is her second novel and first mystery. It reads like the first of a series of cozy mysteries so I am going to be watching for the next adventures of Maggie Dove. While it is fair to say the values of the characters are Christian based, this is not a religious book. I found it quite enjoyable and honestly did not know who the killer was until the last chapter.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Chatter Box Monthly Mystery that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: Brooklyn Secrets: History + Mystery = Superb Story

Brooklyn SecretsBrooklyn Secrets

An Erica Donato Mystery

by Triss Stein

Erica Donato is juggling many things in her life. She works part time, is working on her dissertation and is the single mother of a teenage daughter. Like many thirty something women in her situation she is casually dating a couple of men, but she honestly has too much going on to look for a serious romance.

Her daughter, Chris, is wise and mature beyond her years. She takes school seriously and gives Erica little to worry about. But of course mothers always worry – even when your daughter is almost perfect.

Erica is knee deep in researching Brownsville in the 1930s. She is from Brooklyn herself, so her dissertation research is close to home for her. Criminals ran Brownsville in the 1930s as thugs with and without guns could make people disappear and never be seen again.

She decides to go to the local library to do some field research. The information and connections she made at the library excited her, bringing life to the characters she was reading about in the archives. Erika found the library staff engaging and willing to tell her about Brownsville history as well as Brownsville today.

The discovery that thugs under the new name of gang members still ruled the streets of Brownsville was unsettling. The seriousness hit home with her as she was almost the victim of an attack. One of the young girls in the library was not as lucky. Her encounter landed her in the hospital. Soon another girl is attacked with a much worse outcome.

Erica bonds with the mother of Savanna, the hospitalized young woman. She continues her research, but soon she is looking at pictures, news stories and interviewing people with ties to the past and current crimes. Will the past meet the present? Will she be able to help find a killer? Will she become a target?

The characters were multi-layered and came alive with Stein’s dialog. I liked the fact that Erica didn’t remember to get dinner so she and Chris ate a smorgasbord of leftover takeout to clean out the fridge. Honestly, who hasn’t done that?  Chris also took the upper hand when it came to a bit of facebookish cyber stalking. Again, I could absolutely identify. I suspect anyone over 50 has asked a son, daughter or neighbor kid to help them do something on the internet. Secondary characters like the library workers and the scary people Erica encounters popped to life with mannerisms or comments.

Brooklyn Secrets is a fast-paced novel filled with spine-tingling suspense page after page. Stein states in her afterword, “…is a blend of actual history, possible history and complete fiction”. Like your favorite cup of coffee, it is the perfect blend – deliciously smooth with a kick of caffeine to keep you reading just one more chapter. This is the third in the series, but the first one I’ve read. It worked perfectly well as a stand-alone novel. I will go back and read Brooklyn Bones and Brooklyn Graves because I thoroughly enjoyed Stein’s writing style.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: Liberty – Pigs Take to the High Seas in this Adventure Filled Children’s Book

LibertyLiberty
by Darcy Pattison

Darcy Pattison’s newest children’s fiction book, Liberty takes place in a fantasy world. Once the characters cross over into a land called Liberty, man and animal understand and work with each other. The animals become humanlike as they use utensils to eat, wear human clothing and have to work to earn money to pay for life’s necessities.

The novel starts out in a barn yard with the arrival of a new pig. SanitagoTalbert is unlike any pig Penelope pig has ever seen. He is a proud Berkshire pig with grand thoughts of breaking out of the pen he lives in to escape to Liberty. With plans to sail the seven seas, he convinces Penelope that life is more than living in a pen. Her life will be spent having litter after litter of piglets who will all be sold for bacon until she is too old. Then she will be taken away too.

Penelope soon realizes that she wants more than living in the farmer’s pen, so she plans to leave with Sanitago. Liberty is far from the farm, but with her mother’s blessing, Penelope and Santiago escape and begin their adventure.

Their travels and adventures are full of dangerous characters. The newly freed pigs need to find out who they can trust and who is dangerous in their brave new world. They have to race for their lives when an evil captain tries to capture them. They’ve found out his secret and he is willing to do anything to keep them quiet.

Pattison creates an interesting setting, reminiscent of colonial America for the pig’s adventures. The characters come alive with her words. I felt sorry for Penelope when she tried to climb the rigging in the ship but had too much trouble since she had hooves instead of hands.  It is interesting to see how Penelope and Santiago learn to adapt to get the job done.

The ongoing thread of kindness and generosity is woven throughout this manuscript. The pigs are kind to everyone they meet, often putting themselves in danger to help another animal out of trouble. Their kindness is paid back one hundredfold, but they truly are goodhearted and would have helped others without repayment.

Liberty was a fast-paced work of juvenile fiction. Due to the length, I would suggest 3rd to 4th  grade school students might enjoy it more than first or second graders. It could be read to them by an adult at home, teacher at school or a caregiver. There are a few scary parts for younger children, but nothing that would give them nightmares, especially if read to them by an adult.

Darcy Pattison is an award winning of fiction and non-fiction children’s books. Liberty will be available at your local bookstore, Barnes and Nobel and Amazon on July 19, 2016. Pre-order now!

 

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from NetGalley that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

 

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Book Review: The Wrong Road Home – Amazing Story Based on True Events

the wrong road homeThe Wrong Road Home

By Ian A. O’Connor

275 pages

The Wrong Road Home is based on a real person and a true event, but it is a novel. Dr. Desmond Donahue practiced medicine in his native Ireland and in the United States for 20 years without a valid license. As a matter of record, he didn’t graduate from medical school or even high school. He did receive a GED certificate for passing the high school equivalency test from the Chicago public school system. Through an amazingly odd series of events, he worked with top doctors and surgeons before his deception was exposed.

His journey began as a poor boy in Ireland. Often hungry, his family members worked together to barely make ends meet. This shaped the man he was to become, vowing to never be poor again. He set his dreams high and moved where he could find work, always sending some home for the family he left behind.

Donahue either had the best luck or the worst luck as odd opportunities opened up for him at the right time to further his medical knowledge. Friendships were forged that paved the way for the biggest mistake in his life. He falsely obtained the degree he wanted and began practicing medicine. His patients and colleagues had no clue that he was living a lie.

Never getting close enough to anyone, the Doctor kept his secret hidden. He was comfortable and happy, it seemed as though he might live out his life without being exposed as an impostor. But the slightest wind can topple a house of cards, and such a wind blew into Dr. Desmond’s life without warning.

The Wrong Road Home is O’Connor’s fifth book. He has written three novels and two non-fiction books. This makes him the perfect author to write a book of fiction based upon a true story. The descriptions of people and places are colorful and create the perfect settings in all the different countries Dr. Desmond travels and lives in.

Dr. Donahue was so likable I didn’t care what he did by the end of the book. Some doctors I’ve been to with licenses seem to know less than he did. Kudos to O’Conner for making Donahue a well-rounded, compassionate character. Be sure to read the author’s afterword when you finish this highly engaging novel. Per the author, all the names have been changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

I highly recommend this book. It was fascinating and entertaining. Because it is based on a true story and a real person it has a depth that some novels lack. Personally, I cannot wait to read Ian A. O’Connor’s other books both fiction and non-fiction.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Book Review: Goodbye Ms. Chips – Perfect Cozy British Mystery

Goodbye Ms. ChipsMs Chips
by Dorothy Cannell

Goodbye Ms. Chips, an Ellie Haskell mystery, begins with Ellie going back to school. Not grad school or a university, but the boarding school she attended as a girl. She has mixed emotions about returning. Her schooling was marred by witnessing something she should not have. The event weighs heavy on her mind even though she is an accomplished woman with a loving husband and children.

The reason the headmistress called for Ellie is that there has been a robbery and she needs Ellie’s keen observation skills and her proven ability to solve mysteries to help. The object in question is a missing trophy, the Loverly Cup. The Cup is traditionally passed to the championship lacrosse team each year and has been held by St. Roberta’s Boarding School for ages. Unfortunately they did not win this year and must pass the missing trophy to the new winning school during the dedication of the new gymnasium. It must be found before the event.

Ellie may have had misgivings about going back to a school she had mixed emotions about, but her dear friend Dorcas Critchley is now teaching there and Ellie feels compelled to help. Little did she know there is more afoot than the missing Loverly Cup. Deception abounds with double crossing students and arrogant acquaintances from Ellie’s past throwing monkey wrenches in her investigation at every turn. When an accident occurs, Ellie is suspicious of foul play, but can she prove it?

This is the 12th book in the Ellie Haskell Mystery Series. Ellie is an interior designer who is married to a professional chef and cookbook author. Her partner in solving crime is her housekeeper, Mrs. Malloy who arrives late to this investigation due to family visiting. Cannell’s description of Mrs. Malloy is priceless and instantly gives the reader a mental picture that will pop up when she enters a scene.

There is nothing better than a tightly written cozy mystery with engaging characters and a solid plot. There were so many characters with secrets, I did not figure out the culprit until the last pages. Cannell writes a perfect British cozy with delightful characters, twists, turns and a liberal sprinkling of humor. This is the first one I’ve read in this series and it reads perfectly as a stand-alone novel.

Copyright © 2016 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy for free from Random House Books that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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