Monday, October 4, 2021

Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce


Myrtle and her governess, Miss Judson, are once again thrust onto the crime-fighting scene in this winter tale set in Swinburne. On the morning of the annual reveal of the dry goods Christmas display, the shopkeeper is found dead under very strange circumstances. And the display hints at the tragedy that derailed the shopkeeper's career as a professor and archeologist decades ago. 

During the investigation into those academic years, Myrtle discovers a photograph that includes her mother in a group of students. A fellow classmate of her other fell to her death during their college days, but her demise was never explained or solved. Now Myrtle is trying to track down the others in that photo to find out anything they might know about that tragedy as well as who may have wanted to take revenge on the shopkeeper. 

Myrtle, with her exceptional powers of detection and observation, is sadly hampered by a protective father, a proper governess, and rather unimaginative officers of the law. What's a plucky girl to do but try to solve the crime on her own?  Even if the process uncovers less than flattering facts about her mother. Join Myrtle on her hunt for truth and justice!  A lovely cozy mystery for ages 10 and up. I can't think of a more perfect book to read together as a family on a crisp autumn day or chilly winter night (preferably by a roaring fire)! 

Wholesome, witty, vocabulary-building and full of Victorian charm, order the whole series (this is book #3). Check out the author's website for information about the first two books in this delightful series! Hoping that author Elizabeth C. Bunce will pen many more Myrtle adventures!

Disclaimer: I received a free advanced reader copy of Cold-Blooded Myrtle from Algonquin Publishing for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Death in Castle Dark by Veronica Bond


"And this is why we can charge so much for the Castle Dark experience, and why people are more than willing to pay it, by the way: we hire real actors, we cater elegant dinners, and we give people the experience of total immersion. They are living in this castle, moving from room to room, touching the objects, sitting on the furniture, " part-owner Derek boasted to Nora. 

Nora had recently missed out on a coveted theatrical role and was interviewing for a position at Castle Dark. After touring the grounds, it wasn't a difficult decision to join the cast. Staying in a castle and acting out various stories in which visitors are the ones investigating a crime seemed a rather sweet gig. Until murder becomes a reality and the actors and staff at Castle Dark no longer know who they can trust. 

A detective just happens to have already been retained previously (working undercover as a gardener) so the investigations begin immediately.  Unfortunately, Nora was the one who discovered the body and she is bound and determined to find the guilty party--if it's the last thing she does. And it almost is, as danger approached ever closer.

Death in Castle Dark is a rather lighthearted cozy-type mystery. The prospect of a mansion with secret passageways and opulence all around makes for an entertaining backdrop to murder. With a bit of romance thrown in, readers will find the book to be a worthy escapist novel. There were some passing references to past indiscretions mentioned, but nothing in graphic detail. Overall, it was an enjoyable read--perfect for a crisp autumn day or a companion on a chilly winter evening.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Death in Castle Dark from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson


Book 2 in the Wingfeather Saga delivers action-packed adventure & suspense from the very first page. Having narrowly escaped the Fangs of Dang at the end of Book 1, the Jewels of Anniera (Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby) are on the run along with their mother and grandfather headed to the Ice Prairies where the Fangs cannot survive the cold.

With the Fangs in hot pursuit, the Igiby's once again narrowly escape with their lives and soon face the next predator: Stranders intent on keeping them hostage. With some clever sleight of hand, the Igibys manage to make their escape but soon become separated. And as Janner and Tink begin to quarrel, it's not clear whether the family will all arrive safely together. 

Before the book is done, one or more of the family has faced imprisonment, servitude in a fork factory, transformation into a Fang, and the wrath of sea dragons. Moreover, their grandfather's unsavory past comes back to haunt him and threatens the safety of the whole family.  How can Janner possibly carry out his responsibility to escort his heir-apparent brother to Anniera with enemies and obstacles everywhere they turn? 

Readers will be on the edge of their seats, riding a roller coaster of fear, relief, nail-biting suspense and the uncertainty of the future of the Igibys. I did find some parts of the book to be pretty scary and parents may want to consider previewing before reading to children under 10 years of age.  This series definitely needs to be read from the beginning to fully understand the characters and the fantasy world that Peterson has created. I highly recommend this imaginative fiction full of adventure, peril, and deep family bonds.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of North! Or Be Eaten from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.



Sunday, September 5, 2021

We May Be Done But We're Not Finished

If you are approaching, have reached, or even surpassed the fifty-year mark in your life, you may be wondering what life will hold for you in your "twilight" years. I have to admit that, when I was younger I had the impression that once I reached that age it was only a matter of coasting into my senior years and then limping to the finish line of my life. I believed that dreams and goals were only for the young.

Deb DeArmond and several of her friends definitely changed my view of "retirement."  I was struck by the varied experiences of these women of faith--some faced health scares, the end of marriages, or going back to school.  While they may have had different challenges and dreams, the one thing they had in common was learning that God could still use them.  

In this past year of so much uncertainty, we all could use a dose of hope. And DeArmond's book is an incredible source of hope. Readers cannot help but admire the tenacity and resilience of the women who contributed to this book. I loved that author biographies are included in the back with the other books they have written. 

This book is a collective treasure of wisdom that will inspire and guide women of all walks of life to being open to where God may lead them in the second half of their life. Grab copies for a mother, grandmother, or any woman in your life who needs to be reminded that retirement isn't an end but rather the beginning of fresh possibilities!

Disclaimer: I received a free Kindle copy of We May Be Done But We're Not Finished for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.


Thursday, September 2, 2021

All Pets Allowed by Adele Griffin


All Pets Allowed is the second installment detailing adventures that take place on Blackberry Farm. Having left the city behind for winding roads and a slower pace of life, Becket and Nicholas are super excited about the prospect of picking out pets when they reach their next birthday. 

The delightful illustrations from LeUyen Pham were a fabulous part of the book. Here's one example:

Becket and her twin brother, Nicholas, could not be any more opposite. This becomes obvious in how they celebrate their birthday, how they spend their free time and even how they select a pet.  After bringing home their fur friends, they discover that their pets may also be opposites.

As Becket and Nicholas learn to care for their respective pets, they learn some people lessons, too--about themselves and others. They navigate how to tolerate an annoying classmate, learn to let go of things they don't need, learn new skills and most importantly learn to work together as a family. I like how the book introduces the concept of family identity and how each family is unique and special because it is made up of people who have unique gifts.   

I love the intergenerational influence of having grandmother live nearby. For readers who are concerned about the environment, they will find a green advocate in Becket. Being environmentally responsible was a strong theme woven throughout the book.

All Pets Allowed is the second book that takes place on Blackberry Farm. While readers will have no problem jumping into the further adventures of Becket and her family, I recommend reading the first book, The Becket List, as well to understand how the children came to live at the farm. I hope there will be more adventures to come for the Branch family!

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of All Pets Allowed from Algonquin Books for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Love Is

Zondervan has created a delightful book illustrating 1 Corinthians 13 set within the context of nature and the animal world. Each page is a visual treat that draws children into each colorful illustration by Paola Escobar.  There is so much to see on each page that it will take multiple readings to discover all its beauty.

What better text than Scripture to fill a young child's mind with? The setting of nature offers opportunities to explore the animal kingdom, discussing animals and the natural world. Nature is the perfect backdrop for the "Love" chapter of the Bible for Creation is certainly an obvious expression of the Father's love for us.

I hope that Zondervan will publish more books using Biblical text. Planting God's Word in a child's heart and mind at an early age is one of the greatest literary gifts we can give them. This would make a beautiful addition to any home, school, or church library.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of Love Is from NetGalley for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Mometrix: PSAT 8/9 Prep Book

The study guide opens with "secret keys" regarding general test-taking tips and strategies to help give students greater confidence. This section is followed by a tailored three-week study plan for the exam. Checklists are offered for students to systematically go through the content areas.  Within the study areas, links to short online instructional videos are offered. These help more thoroughly explain topic areas with relevant examples. Within the math review section, practice problems and solutions are offered right within the sections (these are in addition to the official practice tests included).

Once the material has been reviewed, students are encouraged to complete the first practice test with no time limit.  This allows the student to become familiar with the format and to apply tips learned without worrying about time restraints. The answer key includes explanations for each answer. The objective for the untimed practice test is mainly to gain understanding of why students' answers were incorrect. 

After reviewing the results from the first practice test, it is recommended that the student completes the second set with time limits in place. Following the two practice tests, tips for overcoming test anxiety are also included. This is followed by a section pertaining to a fear of math. For those areas needing more attention, students can go back through the bonus video material to help reinforce the learning.

There was some supplemental material accessible from the company website but it was not printable. As a consumer, I would prefer to have materials in hand. So if that means paying a little more for a book with materials included, I would recommend that. Assuming that the test is still administered as a paper test, I think the best study should happen in the same format (on paper). So while the online study materials are still beneficial, I strongly recommend considering offering them in print on the study guide in the future.

I think an explanation in the introduction about the PSAT suite of tests would have been helpful. Prior to this review, I had not been aware there was more than one form of the PSAT test.  I have had 4 children take the PSAT test and I had not been aware of any study materials so I am encouraged to have found something to help my remaining two children.

For a comprehensive overview of content within PSAT 8/9 Prep Book, visit Mometrix. The company also sells flashcards and other supporting materials.   

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the PSAT 8/9 Prep Book from Mometrix for the purpose of review. No other compensation was received.

Cold-Blooded Myrtle by Elizabeth C. Bunce

  Myrtle and her governess, Miss Judson, are once again thrust onto the crime-fighting scene in this winter tale set in Swinburne. On the mo...