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 teh 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!)

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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!


Quick Pick Reviews #5

The theme for this set of Quick Picks is that of Magical Realism. These books are about kids who live real lives, but there is some sort of magical element that appears.

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

Odessa Again // by Dana Reinhardt

{0F0CBFDF-EAE8-45E0-9405-6D224FD326B2}Img100 Odessa’s mom and dad are newly divorced and that means a lot of changes for Odessa and her brother, Oliver. Her new attic bedroom gives her the ability to allow for her change things about her day. I like the magic in this book and also the realism. In some ways this book was trying to be a little Parent-Trap. (And I love The Parent Trap movie!) But I like how it ultimately didn’t quite go that route with the happily-ever-after ending. Not that the ending was miserable. Just… realistic.


All the Answers // by Kate Messner

61v2HSzjk9L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_ What would you do if you found a blue pencil that gave you all the answers to your questions? That’s exactly what happens to Ava. She starts with answers to math questions, but then she goes on to asking some tough questions. At first, I wasn’t sure about Ava sharing this knowledge of the pencil with her best friend, Sophie. But I soon realized that Sophie was able to get Ava to ask some crazier questions than she’d normally have done. And then, I liked how it came to Ava asking some crazy questions herself… especially the question about cancer.

The only thing I didn’t really like was the revelation of how the blue pencil works. To me, this is unnecessary. It brought me out of the story. If there is some magical element in a story, I don’t need an explanation, I should accept it on its own terms.


Joplin, Wishing // by Diane Stanley

Joplin, wishingJoplin inherits a mysterious broken platter from her grandfather. She has it pieced together, only to discover that the little dutch girl in the pattern, Sofie, has come to life. I liked this book well-enough. Joplin and Barrett make a nice team. And I really liked the neighbour, Chloe. I almost wished there were more of her. The “antiques dealer”, Lucius Doyle, makes a good antagonist. And the fact that he’s been around for a long time is really fascinating. And creepy. I didn’t “like” him, but I did like how he was portrayed. (Note: The ending was a little weird to me regarding how they solve Sofie’s problem. It felt like it didn’t quite belong in this book… more realism than magical.)


Quick Pick Reviews #3

It’s Memoir Time! Yes, every single one of these books is a memoir. I love a good memoir. Here are three memoirs that I read recently. (How many times can I can use the word memoir in a paragraph? Five, apparently.)

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

51aLUqonYFL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Book: As You Wish
Author: Cary Elwes

My Thoughts: As a huge fan of The Princess Bride movie, I found this book fascinating. On top of that, I work in independent film, so in some ways, this book felt like research… really fun research. It is chock full of great behind-the-scenes stories. I actually “read” this book as an audio book, which was performed by Cary Elwes himself. Bonus! And in addition to his own memories, the book includes the memories (in their own voices) of many of the other actors, including Rob Reiner, Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, etc. I especially laughed (out loud!) at the stories involving Wallace Shawn. The stories of Andre the Giant were also very interesting. And the story about missing ROUS actor for a key scene of filming! When the book came to the end, Elwes discusses the sadness of wrapping the movie. And this translates to the reader not wanting this book to end.


51oSP98YTeL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Book: This Time Together
Author: Carol Burnett

My Thoughts: This too was an audio book read for me. Carol Burnett does her own reading, which is amazing. She has such a distinctive voice. For this memoir, she has gathered together some delightful stories from her life in show biz. Some of the anecdotes are as funny as her comedy sketches. Some are just beautifully insightful, even poignant. Burnett is a born storyteller. One of my favourite stories is of how she met Jimmy Stewart (both times). And the Cary Grant story is also pretty fun. And I particularly enjoyed the stories about her involvement in the movie Annie (probably because that is how I first “met” Carol Burnett… on the TV screen as Miss Hannigan!)


51-EUN8mdEL._SY346_Book: Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom

My Thoughts: This is a very touching account of the last days of a dying man. Morrie had a lot of wisdom, and Albom here is at his best. He captures that wisdom and actually succeeds in making these talks an interesting read. I love the dynamic between the young man and the old, dying man.

I’m not exactly sure if this is a re-read for me or not. I know I’ve known about this book for a long time, and I think I may have read it… but did I? If so, then I know I got something new out of it this time around. It certainly brought back memories of when I cared for my own grandmother. (She died in 2011.) She had Parkinson’s, which is different than ALS, but has some similarities. (Like Morrie, she was one of the wisest people I ever knew.)


6827652._UY450_SS450_Book: Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures
Author: Robert K. Wittman

My Thoughts: The book starts with detailing the 1990 theft of some great works of art from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, including a painting by Vermeer. Wittman then tells of his rise within the ranks of the FBI, to finally establishing and running the Art Crime Division. He goes on to recount some of his greatest achievements. I enjoyed his “undercover spy” stories. Particularly memorable is his work regarding some shady dealing with the hit TV show, Antique Roadshow. The end of the book brings us back to his work on retrieving the Garner Museum artwork. But I promise not to spoil the end for you 😉

Quick Pick Reviews #2

I’m on a bit of a non-fiction kick at present. Below are three non-fiction books (for adults) that I finished recently.

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

51VgMgGUWCL._SY346_Book: When Books Went to War
Author: Molly Guptill Manning

My Thoughts: If you are a book lover, than you’re in luck. If you are also a lover of history (particularly of the World War II variety), then this is the book for you! This book tells the story behind how the U.S. used books to help bolster the troops during the Second World War. I really enjoyed this book. I also love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and finding out that that book was one of the most sought-after books by the soldiers… well, Bonus! My heart is happy when I hear how books play an important part in people’s lives. 🙂


51XOMTe3NCL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void
Author: Mary Roach

My Thoughts: This is a book full of fun-filled facts about all things space. I particularly liked the historic parts that dealt with the Space Race, from the Russian cosmonauts to the Mercury and Apollo astronauts. But the modern stuff is also good. Like the origami-folding tests given to Japanese astronaut hopefuls! Origami? Really?! (How interesting!) Roach also asks questions that most people would be too afraid to ask (like detailing the challenges of using the bathroom in space). I particularly like the story she tells of her own experience to try to “pass the test” to become an astronaut. She’s told she’s going to get a phone call from Europe. The call comes in at something like 3:00 in the morning and she’s quite grumpy at being woken up from a sound sleep. But it’s only later that she realizes that that was part of the test. Oops. Obviously she’s not cut out to be an astronaut!


51+aO13QmWL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_Book: Dead Presidents: An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation’s Leaders
Author: Brady Carlson

My Thoughts: Carlson takes us on a journey through history with a focus on the various the Presidents of the United States… but it’s all about their deaths. And considering the topic, oddly enough, his voice is quite chipper! In other words, this isn’t a morose read. It’s interesting. One of the more fascinating stories for me was of President Garfield’s death. After he was shot, the doctors couldn’t find the bullet! But they kept poking their unsanitized fingers around his wound; in fact, making him a whole lot worse. Actually, according to the book his death was not due so much to the assassin’s bullet, but due to the care given to him by his medical team! (Poor Garfield. He wasn’t even in office that long. He probably never knew that one of his greatest legacies was to have a cat named after him!)

Quick Pick Reviews #1

Here are my Quick Pick books from the past few weeks or so…

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

hqdefaultBook: Speechless
Author: Jennifer Mook-Sang

Basic Plot: An avid video-gamer, Jelly really wants to win his very own video game unit… And all he has to do is write the award-winning speech. But he’s got some tough competition from a classmate who doesn’t care about video games, but wants to win by any means possible.

My Thoughts: Jelly was a fun and likeable character. I like how he gets involved in the food bank and this becomes key to the speech-part of the plot (later on in the book). At times I thought Victoria a little over-the-top in her meanness, but the quick scene at the end with her parents was telling. A fun book about that dreaded time in school… giving speeches! (But, as an adult, I am forever grateful that I was forced to give those speeches. Because learning to speak in front of an audience is actually a life skill I use.) Bonus: I LOVE the cover of this book!


pagesbetweenusBook: The Pages Between Us
Authors: Lindsey Leavitt & Robin Mellom

Basic Plot: When two best friends find out that they don’t have any classes together, they decide to share a notebook to communicate with one another. However, their friendship is tested when suddenly when different priorities crop up.

My Thoughts: I loved the dynamic duo of this book… Olivia and Piper are both likeable girls and their devotion to each other is beautiful. I like how they navigate through the different school clubs! From LARPing to Lego Club and Chess Club. It’s fun to go back and forth between their separate viewpoints. (Although, at times I did find it a tiny bit confusing about which girl I was reading at any given point. Since, I’m assuming each author took a particular character as “her” character, it’s not like I can blame this on the author not being able to distinguish between two voices. I’m not sure what would have fixed this.) The lead up to the big “breakup” between the friends worked well, I thought. As did the resolution.


deadpossumsBook: Dead Possums Are Fair Game
Authors: Taryn Souders

Basic Plot: Ella is a control freak. That is going to give her some serious problems when her Aunt Willa comes to stay with her family and share her bedroom. On top of this, Ella has to deal with a MATH FAIR, and she hates math!

My Thoughts: This one certainly has a fun, clever title! I liked Ella, although I don’t quite understand her anxiety (losing control?) over sharing her room with her aunt. As a photographer/aunt myself, I understand Aunt Willa! (I find it interesting that she doesn’t do digital photography in this day and age.) I think Ella, like so many, don’t like math just because nobody is “supposed to like math” except maybe nerds. Ella, with help from the math fair and Aunt Willa, comes to realize that math isn’t all that bad!