Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Lie Beside Me by Gytha Lodge - OPTIONAL


Lie Beside Me (DCI Jonah Sheens #3)
by Gytha Lodge
, 368 pages. Random House, 2021. $17.

Language: R (129 swears, 50 “f” + British swears); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Louise wakes up with a hangover, she tries to snuggle in closer to her husband. Except that the man in her bed is not her husband -- and he’s dead. As DCI Sheens and his team do their best to piece together what happened while Louise was drunk, they have to wade through lies, red tape, and even the drama in their personal lives.

I found this book much more engaging than the prequel, though I don’t know if it’s because Lodge doesn’t skip through time as much in this one or if I simply enjoyed the mystery being worked on better. Readers get more details and involvement in the recurring characters’ lives than in the prequel as well, and I appreciate the cliffhanger ending because it leaves readers hanging on those personal crises and not an unsolved case. Unlike when I started this one, I’m looking forward to the next book. The mature content rating is for drug and alcohol use, illegal activity, innuendo, mention of sex, and rape. The violence rating is for blood and murder.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Batpig: When Pigs Fly by Rob Harrell - ADVISABLE

Batpig: When Pigs Fly
by Rob Harrell,
240 pages. GRAPHIC NOVEL Dial Book for Young Readers, (Penguin Random House), October 2021. $15 

Content: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Gary was just an average pig, hanging out with his friends Carl (a fish) and Brooklyn (a bat) when an unfortunate (fortunate?) event gave Gary superpowers! Now, in an effort to fight wrong doers, and maybe even supervillains, Gary needs the help of his buddies - he needs his secret kept, he needs a cool costume and a catchy slogan - and maybe some advice. 

We first met Batpig in Harrell's Wink, as a comic Ross used to help make sense of his condition. I loved those panels so much and was excited to see Gary's "origin story". Really funny, and there's a bunch of silly gross stuff -like sticking gum up Gary's nose - that will not only keep the readers engaged, but will leave them wanting more. I know I'll need more than 1 copy of this - hope this is going to be a series.

Lisa Librarian

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer - ESSENTIAL

The Double Life of Danny Day by Mike Thayer
, 320 pages. Feiwel & Friends (MacMillan), 2021. $17 

Language: G; Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (Bullying, Fights, Dangerous Behaviors) 

BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Born on Feb 22 at 2:22am has some advantages for 12yo Danny Day. He lives every day twice. The first is a "discard day" because whatever happens that day is only remembered by Danny and the whole day repeats the next day. That day is a "Sticky Day" and crazy *try anything* Danny from the day before is replaced by a Danny who does well in school, is polite to adults and tries to keep his twin baby sisters out of trouble, because he knows just what is going to happen. Only Danny (and the therapist his parents got him when he was 4) know about this "double day" thing, but, moving from Texas to Idaho brings Danny all sorts of new experiences, including Braxlynn and Jaxson, a mean girl and her bully boyfriend; Noah, who might be cheating at a lunchtime video game gambling ring, and Zak - probably the only person in the world who won't think Danny is completely crazy if he shares his secret. 

Oh, the kids are going to love this! Video gaming, time bending and getting the upper hand on the mean girls and bullies? What's not to love. Couldn't put it down and am going to book talk this to the gamers - both boys and girls. A super great plot idea and well executed.

Lisa Librarian

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins by Sarah Miller - ADVISABLE

Violet and Daisy: The Story of Vaudeville's Famous Conjoined Twins
by Sarah Miller
310 pages. NON-FICTION, BIOGRAPHY Schwartz and Wade (Penguin Random House), 2021. $18 

Language: G; Mature Content: PG (reference to intimacy); Violence: G. 

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW 

Violet and Daisy Hilton were conjoined twins who were born in the early years of the 20th century. Given up by their mother, they were adopted by the midwife who delivered them and immediately put on display. The girls spent their childhood on exhibit, eventually performing in Vaudeville as teenagers. But were the crowds there to see their talents or to see the girls, joined at the back of their spines? Exploited by their caregivers, agents and other people they should have been able to trust, Violet and Daisy knew show business, but could they survive on their own, away from the footlights? 

Sarah Miller is an amazing researcher, many of the sources (including the twins) were unreliable, so gathering all the interviews, court reports, news articles etc. and putting it together into this engaging and historically accurate biography was quite a feat. I really liked it. An interesting story to have in the high school library, but the reader interest may be limited unless its other issues are addressed: individual identity, exploitation, early 20th century entertainment, and the treatment of people who are different.  Includes photographs, source notes and an index.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen - ESSENTIAL

 Summertime Sleepers: Animals that Estivate by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. NON-FICTION PICTURE BOOK. Charlesbridge, 2021. $17. 9781580897167 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS, HS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

We all know about hibernation for some animals during the winter. But did you know that during the summer, some animals ESTIVATE? That’s right. Whether a few days or a few weeks, during the hot, dry summer, there are some animals which sleep away their time. 

 Stewart introduces us to several such animals and Brannen brings the illustrations to create a very interesting look at this entirely new (to me and to my middle grade science teachers) concept! My 7th grade and my Biology teachers both want to share this book next year. 

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas Kimberly Willis Holt - ADVISABLE

The Ambassador of Nowhere Texas
Kimberly Willis Holt
320 pages. Henry Holt (MacMillan), 2021. $17 

Content: G 


BUYING ADVISORY: MS - ADVISABLE 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

Rylee Wilson's dad is Toby from "When Zachary Beaver Came to Town." They still live in Antler Texas, and things haven't changed much in the last 30 odd years. Everyone has gotten older, and their neighbor, Miss Myrtle Mae has recently passed away. Rylee and her best friend Twig have had a falling out, and Rylee is navigating a new friendship with Joe - who recently moved to Antler after his father, a first responder, was killed on September 11th. After Toby receives a photo of himself and Zachary Beaver from Miss Myrtle Mae's estate, Rylee and Joe embark on a search to find Beaver and see what happened to him. 

I loved the connection to 9/11, and the theme that those who weren't there have a different understanding, a different kind of memory about it. Kimberly Willis Holt is a great writer for middle grade readers, although a bit slow, this slice of small town life is a sweet story. More of a companion than a sequel, a recent reading of Zachary Beaver makes it more enjoyable, but not entirely necessary as it is indeed a different story.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, June 11, 2021

Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter - HIGH

Better than the Movies by Lynn Painter
, 349 pages. Simon and Schuster, 2021. $19. 

Language: R (100+ swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: PG-13 (teenage drinking and sexuality); Violence: G; 
 
BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: HIGH 

Liz Buxbaum is a quirky high school girl who wears adorably-printed dresses and is obsessed with rom-coms and soundtracks. Liz’s long-time crush, Michael, has moved back into town and she needs her annoying next door neighbor, Wes, to help her get Michael to ask her to prom. As she spends more time with Wes, she begins to realize that he might not be so terrible. However, her lies and schemes to win over Michael are piling up and alienating her from her friends, her stepmom, and eventually, even Wes. Can Liz still get her rom-com perfect ending? 

On the surface, this appears to be a bubblegum sweet teenage rom-com, however, there is some depth to this storyline. Liz is struggling with all the major milestones that come with senior year and still grieving for her mother, who passed away when she was young. She feels like she is losing her mom all over again, now that she is moving ahead with her life. The book does a nice job of balancing the heaviness of her grief with the snappy dialogue between Liz and Wes and the fixes Liz finds herself in pursuing Michael were totally awkward and hilarious. This would be a nice addition to a high school library that teenage girls would eat up with a spoon. 

Reviewer: BookswithBeddes 

American Betiya by Anuradha D. Rajurkar - PUBLIC ONLY

American Betiya
by Anuradha D. Rajurkar
366 pages. Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House), 2021. $18 

Language: R (30 swears 21 'f'); Mature Content: R (on-page sex); Violence: G. 

PUBLIC ONLY

18yo Rani was raised in a conservative family. Her parents, both immigrants from India, have high expectations for her, and she must focus on her schooling and her future. No dating, no boys - not even as friends, but when she meets Oliver at an art show, there is instant chemistry. Oliver is Rani's parent's worst nightmare, and although Rani knows their expectations, she lets Oliver know that a relationship is only possible if kept a complete secret from her family. Rajurkar's book is a look at cultures clashing, microagressions and stereotypes in a high school relationship. Rani is trying to become her own person, but as Oliver, who has a rough home life, begins to spiral and their relationship shifts, she must decide between Oliver and her family. 

I loved the representations of Indian culture, especially when Rani was with her cousin in India. This is a great "first love" teen romance, and I liked the tension involved with Rani trying to find her own way without completely cutting off her parents and their wishes.  Thoughtful and realistic, but too mature for a school library.

Lisa Librarian

Thursday, June 10, 2021

IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Johnson, Council, Choi, and Ashley Seil Smith - ADVISABLE

 IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi, illustrated by Ashley Seil Smith. PICTURE BOOK. Dottir Press, 2020. $19. 9781948340083 

BUYING ADVISORY: EL (K-3), EL, MS, HS – ADVISABLE; ADULTS - ESSENTIAL 

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE 

With poetic stanzas, the authors explore many different aspects of intersectionality. The illustrations are the right amount of exuberant and there is lots of great backmatter. Perfect for a talk about supporting each other and the back matter provides an education for parents, teachers, and students alike. My middle school teachers are looking forward to sharing it when school starts in August.

 Cindy, Library Teacher, MLS 

Love and Lavender by Josi S. Kilpack - ADVISABLE


Love and Lavender
by Josi S. Kilpack
, 320 pages. Shadow Mountain Publishing, 2021. $16.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - ADVISABLE

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Hazel wants to continue teaching young girls mathematics, and Duncan wants to enjoy his clerk work again without his incompetent coworker. With their current contentment threatened, Hazel and Duncan agree to marry for convenience to receive their inheritances and secure their individual futures. Futures that must wait to begin because the man granting their inheritances requires that they live as man and wife for a year first.

Communication is key to relationships, and I love how Kilpack highlights this principle. With Duncan’s need for transparency, Hazel has to become comfortable with feeling vulnerable and saying what she means. Clear communication is also addressed by Hazel’s brother, Harry, when he expresses a desire to change their relationship to an uplifting and supportive one instead of the sarcastic one they have used to cut each other down. Finally, Hazel must also learn how to interpret her emotions, or the communication between her mind and her heart. There are several references to the previous three books in the series, but this one stands well alone. The mature content rating is for discussions of sex.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Tell Me When You Feel Something by Vicki Grant - OPTIONAL


Tell Me When You Feel Something
by Vicki Grant
, 336 pages. Penguin Teen (Penguin Random House), 2021. $18.

Language: R (148 swears, 23 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

When Davida (17yo) realizes that Viv and Tim were only part of her life for a month and that she doesn’t really know them, she wants to walk away and go back to life before knowing them. But Viv’s in a coma and Tim is lying about something. Despite wanting no part of it, Davida is in the middle of it -- but no one can tell her what “it” is.

Through multiple points of view in the past and present as well as police interviews, Grant skillfully directs readers through stages of understanding. First is disorientation as readers get used to pivoting through time and points of view, second is deceit by giving just enough information to make unconscious assumptions, and third is the lightbulb where all the clues and overlooked details fall into place. The initial confusion was hard to accept, and it took me several tries of picking up and putting down the book to acclimate to how Grant chose to tell the story. Grant addresses serious topics, including feeling responsible for our dysfunctional families and the importance of support systems and values. The mature content rating is for drug use, underage drinking, innuendo, mention of genitalia, nudity, and sexual assault. The violence rating is for mention of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge - OPTIONAL


Watching from the Dark (DCI Jonah Sheens #2)
by Gytha Lodge
, 352 pages. Random House, 2020. $27.

Language: R (91 swears, 26 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG13

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Zoe was the friend who took care of everyone else, putting her friends’ happiness above her own. So why would someone kill her? As DCI Sheens and his team take over the investigation of her murder, they discover that webs of deception are everywhere and everyone has something to hide.

I’m impressed with the skill it took for Lodge to mislead readers while still getting her characters to the correct answer. The ending was satisfying, though I felt that the story as a whole was slow moving. Both of these aspects could stem from how detailed Lodge is for every character and every scene, with the readers never knowing which parts are the important ones because every detail seems highlighted. While technically the second in a series, this book stands well alone; I only felt like I was missing a couple details about the personal lives of the investigators, and they were easy to brush over as irrelevant to the real story unfolding. The mature content rating is for alcohol use, innuendo, nudity, and mentions of sex. The violence rating is for blood, murder, and mentions of suicide.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Traveler’s Tale (Magic Mirror #2) by Luther Tsai and Nury Vittachi - OPTIONAL


The Traveler’s Tale (Magic Mirror #2)
by Luther Tsai and Nury Vittachi
, 131 pages. Reycraft Books (Newmark Learning), 2019. $8.

Language: G (0 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: G; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: EL, MS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Miranda (12yo) and her brother Marko (10yo) are still alone after a month of their parents and grandfather, Ye Ye, disappearing. When half a letter is delivered by some odd men from Ye Ye, they tear it open for clues of where he is and read that he’s in danger! Once again traveling through the magic mirror, Mira and Marko hope to save their grandfather.

This adventure takes Miranda, Marko, and readers into the 1200s on a journey through the desert with Marco Polo. While the information about how to survive in the desert was interesting, the actual history part about the Khans in China and about Marco Polo was dry and harder to read than the historical information in the prequel. I still like the concept and hope that the following books in the series are more like the first one.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen 

Friday, June 4, 2021

Fly Home to Me by Chalon Linton - OPTIONAL


Fly Home to Me
by Chalon Linton
, 224 pages. Covenant Communications, 2021. $15.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

Twenty-five-year-old Piper has a presentation tomorrow and needs to get through this traffic before the dry cleaner closes so she can look her best. Piper’s annoyance turns to admiration as she sees the van creating the hold up being pushed to the side of the road by one man in uniform. When Piper tries to do a kind thing for him in turn, he refuses but asks her to get a bite to eat with him instead.

On the surface, Piper’s love story is cute. However, I had a hard time enjoying the cuteness because Piper is the one with all the baggage. While her love interest has some moments of obvious imperfection, he still puts off the vibes of being flawless -- highlighted by the fact that he does little to no changing through the book as Piper struggles to overcome her insecurities to make the relationship work. This unbalanced dynamic feels like a red flag to me, which made it harder to support and like their story.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Heart of the Frontier by Brittany Larsen and more - OPTIONAL


Heart of the Frontier
by Brittany Larsen, Jen Geigle Johnson, Jennie Hansen, and Carolyn Twede Frank
, 304 pages. SHORT STORIES. Covenant Communications, 2021. $17.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: LOW

Before America had 50 states, there were territories and the Wild West was full of ranchers and cowboys. These four stories tell about characters making their lives out west and falling in love with the land as they do so. And maybe they fall in love with some cowboys, too.

I love cowboys as much as the next girl, but I found it difficult to convince myself to keep reading this book because I was given little reason to care about the characters and their woes. The fourth story was the best one, and it felt rushed where the other three seemed to drag. Overall, it’s just okay.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Sixteen Scandals by Sophie Jordan - OPTIONAL


Sixteen Scandals
by Sophie Jordan
, 256 pages. HMH Books for Young Readers, 2021. $18.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As the youngest of four daughters, Primrose knows exactly what her privileges will be now that she’s sixteen years old and making a debut -- not the least of which includes leaving the nursery. Those hopes are quickly shattered when her mother announces that Prim must wait for her last single sister to find a match before Prim can have her entrance to society. Disappointed and hurt, Prim takes matters into her own hands and sneaks out.

I recognize that the word scandal is literally in the title of this book, but I didn’t expect Prim to be as daring as she was; her story felt like a race from bad to worse decisions. While somewhat entertaining, I was embarrassed for Prim as I read her determination to make poor choices under the flimsy excuse of this one night being her only opportunity to do so. Overall, Jordan’s book is well-written and ends in a satisfying way, despite Prim being frustrating. The mature content rating is for alcohol use and innuendo.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Castle of Refuge by Melanie Dickerson - OPTIONAL


Castle of Refuge (The Dericott Tales #2)
by Melanie Dickerson
, 336 pages. Thomas Nelson, 2021. $19.

Language: G (0 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG

BUYING ADVISORY: HS - OPTIONAL

AUDIENCE APPEAL: AVERAGE

As the daughter of a viscount, Audrey should have options for her future, but, after an unfortunate accident, her future dims. Audrey puts her trust in God as she runs away, knowing that He can provide for a better life, even if that life is as a servant in the castle where she could’ve been the mistress.

Audrey’s story was a slow read for me because she isn’t the one who changes. Audrey is a Mary Sue character, and Edwin is the one who has a character arc, even though more chapters are from Audrey’s point of view. The story was still cute, just slow and a little repetitive. The most annoying part for me was that Edwin’s family being falsely accused of treason was mentioned countless times with no explanation beyond that it’s been resolved. I learned after finishing the book that the treason part of the story is the main conflict of the prequel. Also, Dickerson’s book is advertised as being a retelling of the Ugly Duckling, but I saw few connections to the original story.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen