Quick Pick Reviews #15

desirableDesirable // by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Genre: MG, Contemporary/Magical Realism (2008)

My Thoughts: This was a fun little book. And when I say little, I actually mean little. It was surprisingly short. Especially considering that the main character is in the eighth grade! I read it in a half-hour…

The story is about a boy named George who is anything but popular. He’s pretty much a loner and not even the other unpopular kids want to hang out with him. That is until his grandpa gives him a birthday gift of cologne called “Desirable”. Once he puts it on, suddenly everybody wants to be his best buddy… including the principal of his school.

I liked how it ended, but I didn’t quite see how it got to that place. [**SPOILER] With Danielle giving him the cologne. I didn’t see enough evidence that she even knew he had it in the first place. It would have been better if it had been a gift from his mum. [End Spoiler] That said, I still enjoyed this book! [3.5 Stars]


royal-giftA Royal Gift // by Marietta Moskin

Genre: Lower MG, Historical (1982)

My Thoughts: What an adorable book! This is the story of a Royal Wedding and two old ladies (sisters: Miss Agatha and Miss Prudence) who decide to give a gift to the prince and his bride. And the gift (with the twist at the end)… well, I won’t spoil it.

As a chapter book, there are gorgeous illustrations on every spread… some in black and white and others in colour. The whole book has a very old fashioned feeling to it. (Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book is out of print! My copy came from my SIL and she got it from a library book sale. It’s a pity if it is out of print because the book and story are so beautiful.)

I really liked the author’s note at the end. She calls this story “one of those ‘it might be true’ type of stories.” Apparently, it made the rounds when the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George VI and the Queen Mum) were married in 1923. [4 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

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Quick Pick Reviews #14

bad-kitty-uncle-murrayBad Kitty Vs. Uncle Murray // by Nick Bruel

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2010)

My Thoughts: This book is part of a series that gets its beginning from an ABC picture book called Bad Kitty. In that book, it introduces a character called Uncle Murray in a tiny little cameo. He’s so memorable that he ends up one of the main characters in this book! There’s just something very fun about Uncle Murray.

For me, one of the best parts of the book was Uncle Murray’s “Fun Facts”. I actually really enjoyed these facts about why cats get scared and how they react to situations that startle them. It’s a nice little addition to all the silliness and slapstick humour.

I absolutely LOVE how this book leads us directly to the next book in the series. (See below.) [4 Stars]


bad-kitty-babyBad Kitty Meets the Baby // by Nick Bruel

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2012)

My Thoughts: Bad Kitty is back… The book begins where the last book left off. We get to meet the baby! Very cute story. I love how Bad Kitty is positive that that the baby is a New Puppy. (Oh no! Not another puppy!) And then when the neighbourhood kitties arrive, they conclude that the baby is a New Kitty.

But perhaps my favourite part is when Bad Kitty’s owners talk to her about why the baby is so similar to her and Puppy. [**SPOILER] Especially on the adoption front. [End SPOILER]

And Uncle Murray gets a little cameo with his “Fun Facts”. In this book, they discuss ways to rescue cats from being stuck in a tree. (Hint: You’re NOT supposed to call the fire department, Uncle Murray!) [4.5 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Quick Pick Reviews #13

Clementine’s Letter // by Sara Pennypacker

clementines-letterGenre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2008)

My Thoughts: This is another super cute story about Clementine. And she’s ready to conquer the third grade! Especially with her Teacher at the helm of their class. But then comes the news that he’s a finalist in a contest where he might get to go on an archaeological dig in Egypt. But Clementine doesn’t want her Teacher to leave them!

This is where Clementine’s letter comes into the story. I really enjoyed Clementine’s journey in this book. And I liked how the letter is used at the end of the story. She reminds me so much of Ramona Quimby, although I do think I like Ramona just a tiny bit better. Not exactly sure why. [3.5 Stars]


The Moffats // by Eleanor Estes

moffatsGenre: MG, Historical Fiction (1941)

My Thoughts: Definitely is a little old-fashioned… but this book about the Moffat family is a fun read. Mrs. Moffat lives with her four children—Sylvie, Joe, Jane, and Rufus—in a yellow house. Their landlord is trying to sell it… to the great dismay of the Moffats.

My favourite episodes were: 1) about Joe at the dance recital; and 2) how the children end up losing the Salvation Army man out of the back of his own horse and wagon. I also liked how the story does come full-circle at the end with what happens to the yellow house. (I can’t stand those Murdocks… trying to buy the house from underneath the Moffats’ feet!) [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #12

The Christmas Doll // by Elvira Woodruff

Genre: Lower MG, Historical (2000)

christmas-dollMy Thoughts: This story seems to me to be a hybrid of a Charles Dickens/George MacDonald tale… It’s about two little orphans who run away from the workhouse and end up on the streets of London. I did like the relationship the two sisters had, and the boy they meet is a fun addition. I love the element of the doll-maker, so that was definitely a bonus for me.

In many ways, the story isn’t terribly realistic. It almost has a fairy tale quality to it. However, if you know that going in, you can enjoy it for what it is. A very nice Christmas story with a sweet and happy ending. [3 Stars]


The True Gift // by Patricia MacLachlan

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporary (2009)

true-giftMy Thoughts: A sweet story about a brother and sister who are staying with their grandparents over Christmas. Liam feels like White Cow could use a friend, and so he goes out to find her one.

I really liked how the siblings worked together on Liam’s project. While I don’t think this book quite match the magic of MacLauchlan’s Sarah Plain and Tall books, it does stand as a nice and enjoyable Christmas story.  [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #11

Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick // by Jennifer L. Holm

eighth-grade-making-me-sickGenre: MG, Contemporary (2012)

My Thoughts: This is the sequel to Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf. The subtitle pretty much sums up the style of this book: Ginny Davis’s Year in Stuff. And it’s surprising how much plot we get from just reading report cards, notes from mom, bank statements, etc. This book picks up where the last one left off and Ginny’s life proves to be as interesting as ever.

I will say that the title of this book is actually quite plot relevant (as opposed to the Meatloaf title; I don’t remember meatloaf factoring into the plot of the first book.) [4 Stars]


Baby-Sitting is a Dangerous Job // by Willo Davis Roberts

baby-sitting-dangerous-jobGenre: MG, Contemporary (1985)

My Thoughts: A cute book about a teen named Darcy who gets a baby-sitting job for a family known to have three, rambunctious kids. That’s how she ends up being kidnapped along with the children. I like how she and the children bond and work together.

Is the book realistic? Not really, but it’s fairly entertaining. I do love the cover on this re-release. (I’ve seen the original 1980’s cover and, well, this one is so much better. Although I’m not exactly sure what the tree house has to do with the plot!) [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #10

Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle // by Betty MacDonald (1957)

Genre: MG, Magical Realism

hello-mrs.-piggle-wiggleMy Thoughts: I love Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle! I love reading about her cures for unruly, unhappy, and unfortunate children. I just happened upon this book at a used book sale and picked it up for a bargain. This is the fourth book in the series and I don’t know if I’ve actually read this one before now. I don’t recall any of the stories.

I do think the stories in the first books are slightly better than these ones. There’s definitely a formula in MacDonald’s writing and I can imagine she was starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel when it came to writing this one. Still, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle at her worst is still worth the read!

It’s always fun to see the creativity for how Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle will solve the problem at hand. The final story is, I think, my favourite in the book. It ends with, not only the original child getting a change of attitude… but the whole family! [3.5 Stars]


The Land of Stories: Treasury of Classic Fairy Tales // by Chris Colfer (2016)

Genre: MG, Fairy Tales

treasury-classic-fairy-talesMy Thoughts: I’ve never read the Land of Stories series before. I’m guessing they’re books that retell fairy tales, which means they probably give their own spin to the original stories. One thing I’ve noticed with such books, they don’t mean much if you aren’t familiar with the original accounts. So, my guess is meant to remedy to that… By giving us the famous fairy tales and folk tales like: Cinderella, Rapunzel, The Little Mermaid, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks, etc. (Each tale does mention whether it was based on the Grimm Brothers’ retelling or Hans Christian Andersen’s story or whatever.)

Most of the stories were exactly what I remember them to be, which was nice. However, there were a few little things that bothered me. I don’t understand why the author changed some strange details. Now, it’s possible that I don’t remember these details… like Rapunzel having a child during the time when she’s parted from the prince (before he finds her after he’s blinded). (What?! Why?! What is purpose of this baby?!) Or there are some little details that he got wrong, like when Snow White’s mother pricks her finger on a knitting needle. Does the author even know what a knitting needle is? No knitting needle I’ve ever seen is so sharp as to draw three drops of blood?

But those things weren’t major and overall I did enjoy the stories! [3.5 stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #9

Maid of the King’s Court // by Lucy Worsley (2016)

Maid-of-King's-CourtGenre: YA, Historical (Henry VIII)

My Thoughts: This is the story of Katherine Howard, who becomes Wife #5 to Henry VIII. It’s told through the eyes of her cousin, Elizabeth (but not to be confused with Princess Elizabeth, who eventually becomes Good Queen Bess.) It’s certainly an interesting look inside court life at the time of Henry VIII, especially interesting to me were the games the courtiers all played. The flirtatious activity among… well, everybody. This is really what gets Katherine Howard into trouble.

In the history books, there’s so much attention given to Henry’s first three wives. (This makes sense, since they are the mothers of his three children that became Edward VI,  Mary I, and Elizabeth I.) This book gives a little insight into his next two wives…  [3 Stars]


Crossing Ebenezer Creek // by Tonya Bolden (2017)

crossing-ebenezer-creekGenre: YA, Historical (Civil War)

My Thoughts: I thought I’ve read everything there is to read about the American Civil War, but apparently not. This book brought to my attention something new. (And I always love learning something new about history!) This story revolves around General Sherman’s March to the Sea. And joining that march were the newly freed slaves, courtesy of the Emancipation Proclamation. We get two POVs in this story: Mariah and Caleb.

I will have to say that I wanted to love this book more than I did. But for some reason, I did not really connect with either of the protagonists. I think this may have been due to the fact that there are too many other characters “cluttering” the story. Not that there couldn’t have been other characters. I think it’s important to the story to include the other people. But the writer in me wanted to combine some of them. As a reader, I was getting too confused! Who was who? The cover is also slightly misleading. I would have loved to see a row of silhouetted characters standing over on the other side of the water. (It IS a beautiful cover, though.)

This is a heart-breaking story. I won’t spoil exactly what happens. You’ll just have to read to book. [3 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #8

Clementine // by Sara Pennypacker (2006)

Genre: Lower MG, Contemporaryclementine

My Thoughts: A cute story about an ants-in-her-pants girl named Clementine. She gets in trouble for helping her school friend cut her hair. And she’s always being sent to the principal’s office.

But Clementine has a big heart. I love how she tries to help out her dad and mom. This book is definitely meant for a younger audience. I loved the illustrations! [4 Stars]


Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing // by Judy Blume (1972)

Genre: MG, Contemporaryfourth-grade-nothing

My Thoughts: I can’t believe I haven’t read this book until now. Peter is in fourth grade, and his nemesis is his little brother: Fudge. In some ways, this book reminds me a lot of the characters of Beezus and Ramona (Beverly Cleary). Fudge is definitely a Ramona character, and (from what I can tell) goes on to having his own books.

I loved the story of the turtle and how that plays into the plot. And the visit by the dad’s client and his wife. The birthday story is also pretty funny, especially the kid that doesn’t want to stay, but then doesn’t want to leave. [4 Stars]


Raymie Nightingale // by Kate DiCamillo (2016)

Genre: MG, Historical (1975)

raymie-nightingaleMy Thoughts: This is the story of three girls: Raymie, Beverly, and Louisiana. As Louisiana likes to say, they are the Three Rancheros. They are all preparing to enter the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. I love the idea of incorporating Florence Nightingale into the story (I loved Florence Nightingale when I was a kid. In fact, all my dolls were named Florence.) Although, that part of the story didn’t pan out in any way that I felt was very meaningful. It somehow lacked something.

Overall, though, the three girls are delightful. I love their chemistry and antics. And Louisiana’s grandmother is adorable. (Just saying!) [3.5 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #7

The Ravenmaster’s Secret // by Elvira Woodruff

ravenmasters-secretGenre: MG, Historical Fiction

My Thoughts: Set in the Tower of London in the 1700s… the best part of this book were the little historical tidbits about living in the Tower with the ravens. Forrest Harper is the son of the Ravenmaster. For those unfamiliar with ravens at the Tower, there’s a legend that the Tower (and by extension, the Crown) will fall into enemy hands if ever the ravens were to leave.

The story itself is about Forrest and how he (and his young rat-catching ally, named Rat) befriends a Jacobite (Scottish) prisoner. I won’t spoil the prisoner’s name as this is an important part of the plot. But I will say that this book includes a raven who can perform tricks, covert messages, and a plot for a daring prison escape. [3 Stars]


The Girl with 500 Middle Names // by Margaret Peterson Haddix

436283-M

Genre: MG, Contemporary

My Thoughts: I picked this title up because it intrigued me. What kind of girl has 500 middle names? I was curious. Well, I’m glad I did. The story is about a girl named Janie. Her mother is determined to get her out of the run-down, poorly-funded school she attends. Now she goes to a new school… where she has no friends. And to top it, her mother loses her job.

I enjoy how Janie takes her situation and decides to do something about it. Hence the 500 middle names. She’s feisty. And she’s ultimately willing to learn. Especially when it comes to Kimberly, the rich girl. [3.5 Stars]


Let’s Pretend We Never Met // by Melissa Walker

Let's pretendGenre: MG, Contemporary

My Thoughts: Mattie suddenly moves with her parents to Philadelphia to be closer to her ageing grandmother. She meets her next door neighbour, Agnes, who acts a little strange sometimes. And Mattie soon finds out that if she wants to make friends at school, she needs to keep her distance from Agnes.

I loved how this book deals with befriending the “weird” people in our lives. Mattie learns the value of Agnes, even with her quirks. I love how the teacher (and the door-people at the apartment) play a supportive role for Agnes in this story, helping Mattie see Agnes’ value in the world. The grandmother, Maeve, is an enjoyable character. I felt they dealt well with her onset of dementia, especially as Mattie starts to figure out that that’s what’s going on.

Love the cover on this one. The two girls standing with their backs to one another, with Agnes focused on her birds. And Mattie, not quite sure what she wants to do about Agnes. [3.5 Stars]


Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Quick Pick Reviews #6

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “B”. “B” is for Biography.

Note: Quick Pick books are always recommendations. (If I don’t recommend the book, it’s not a Quick Pick!)

Jim Henson: The Biography // by Brian Jay Jones

JimHenson-BiographyCover.jpgGenre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: Everything you wanted to know about the Muppets… it’s all here. Jim Henson’s creative genius is amazing and this book tells of his humble beginnings with Sam and Friends from his involvement with Sesame Street to the rise of Kermit and the whole Muppet gang. I particularly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes peek at The Muppet Show and the Muppet movies. I loved the chapters about the making of The Labyrinth. (I love that movie!)

Warning: I would not really recommend this book for kids. I don’t think it was written for kids. Also, [*SPOILER] I was saddened by all the accounts of infidelity. I can’t tell you how I hated those sections of the book. 😦 [*END SPOILER]


The Narnian // by Alan Jacobs

660367Genre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this biography of C.S. Lewis. From his childhood in Northern Ireland to his home at the Kilns. This is not the first biography I’ve read about Lewis, but I thought this is definitely one of the better ones.

Of course, my favourite parts dealt with the time in his life when he was writing the “Narnian” books.

P.S. I find the cover of this book a little odd. The photo of Lewis in his bathrobe with a lion prowling behind him. Well, I guess it’s certainly memorable!


High Society: The Life Grace Kelly // By Donald Spoto

6465776Genre: Adult, Biography

My Thoughts: I have been a long-time fan of Grace Kelly. My favourite Hitchcock movie (Rear Window) stars her. So, I particularly enjoyed finding out more about her life. I found it interesting that she (and those around her?) didn’t consider her to be a great beauty. (Really?! What planet were they living on?)

The story of how she fell in love with Prince Rainier was also very interesting. I mean, I knew the basics, but I didn’t know it was because they first became “pen pals”!

After reading this book, I just had to go to youtube to watch/re-watch a lot of the clips from her movies mentioned in the book. And considering that I have never seen High Noon (her first movie), it may to high time that I did. Or perhaps even re-watch High Society!