‘Heart of Barkness’ by Spencer Quinn: Don’t miss this tail-wagging adventure

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“Heart of Barkness” by Spencer Quinn brings back mystery-lovers’ favorite four-legged detective, Chet, with his sidekick, the two-legged Bernie Little. It’s Bernie Little’s detective agency, but both Chet and Bernie are very aware that it takes two to solve most mysteries. That’s why whenever Bernie introduces himself to someone, he introduces both of them. Chet and Bernie are a team and they are inseparable.

In this mystery, Chet and Bernie meet Lotty Pilgrim, a country singer who seems to have hit rock-bottom. She is playing in dives and lives on a small, run-down ranch. Her manager/boyfriend is much younger than she, and from the start, Bernie is no fan of his.

Bernie has just gotten out of the hospital after a near-death experience (read about it in the last Chet and Bernie book, “Scents and Sensibility”), and Chet is thrilled to be reunited with his other half. In fact, the mystery begins when Chet and Bernie go to hear Lotty sing. Bernie puts a $100 bill in her tip jar, but the money gets stolen by someone at the bar. Chet and Bernie go after the thief, and what happens after that is just one part of what becomes the mystery and history of Lottie’s life and her problems.

Chet’s narration is spot-on doggy, with appropriate distractions (Slim Jims and steak smells) and some canine self-deprecating awareness. After all, when a dog is telling the story, there is definitely some translation needed, but Chet is one sharp dog, and he catches some things mere humans might overlook. Chet explains it beautifully when the thief grabs the money from the tip jar,

“Something sneaky was going down. I knew that in a flash. You might be thinking, Wow Chet, how fast your mind works. But you’d be wrong. My mind had nothing to do with it. My teeth were the smart ones. Sneakiness gives them this powerful urge, the urge to…to do something, let’s leave it at that.”

So they chase the thief, recover the money but not the guy, and consider it done. It’s not. The ties that connect the different characters, the obvious good guys and the obvious and not-so-obvious bad guys are sometimes hard to see. But Chet and Bernie have a special power – the power of the dog and human combination – and they go where others might fail.

Quinn’s narrative, via Chet, is touching but always humorous, too. While reader’s will feel Lottie’s plight and worry about Bernie’s romantic situation, they will chuckle while reading Chet’s wonderfully canine narrative.

Mystery lovers devour the Chet and Bernie series. Dog lovers do, too. No fleas involved.

This review was originally posted on Bookreporter.com.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by the publisher, Forge, for review purposes.

‘Spin the Dawn’ by Elizabeth Lim is an engrossing fantasy about a young girl whose ambition proves world-changing

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In a fictional world reminiscent of ancient China, Elizabeth Lim creates “Spin the Dawn,” the story of Maia, daughter of a tailor who is as skilled as any tailor but who is barred from the profession because of her gender. Her father has lost his ambition since the death of Maia’s mother, and two of her brothers were killed in the Emperor’s war. Now, it’s just Maia supporting the family.

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‘Storm Blown’ by Nick Courage is a middle grade adventure during a terrible hurricane

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In “Storm Blown,” author Nick Courage writes about a fictional hurricane and two of the children whose lives are affected by that storm. He’s not writing about just any storm, though. This is a once-in-a-lifetime storm, a storm that is fickle and doesn’t behave as storm experts expect. Because the story is told from many perspectives, including that of a storm expert, readers get the benefit of learning about not only storms, but human behavior.

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‘The Summer Country’ by Lauren Willig is an ambitious tale of prejudice and plantations in Barbados during Victorian times

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“The Summer Country” by Lauren Willig refers to the island of Barbados, where it is summer all year long. The story is about three women, and from the beginning it alternates between 1812 and 1854. The story begins in 1854, when Emily Dawson and her cousin Adam travel to Barbados for different reasons. Adam is representing the family business now that his grandfather, Jonathan Fenty, has died, while Emily is traveling to visit Peverills, the sugar cane plantation that her grandfather left her in his will.

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‘Welcome to Wonderland: Beach Battle Blowout’ by Chris Grabenstein is much beloved in this student review

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“Welcome to Wonderland:  Beach Battle Blowout,” by Chris Grabenstein, will excite readers from the first page to the last. This funny and action-packed book is sure to make people laugh and gasp in suspense at the same time. Adding on to the series, New York Times bestselling author of “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” spins a story that, of course, has a beginning, a middle — and a twist.

P.T. Wilkie and his business-wiz friend Gloria Ortega make a really good team. As P.T. likes to say, Gloria is the “sizzle to his steak.” P.T.’s grandpa, who is the owner of the Wonderland Motel, finds out that all of the bigger attractions like Disney World are not going to be in this year’s Florida Fun in the Sun competition, so the smaller attractions have a chance to win the title of the hottest family attraction. The Wonderland Motel will have to get ready! Continue reading

‘Endling: The First’ is the second book in the heartwarming and thoughtful Endling series

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Don’t miss Katherine Applegate’s newest series, “Endling,” consisting of the first book, “Endling: The Last” and this book, “Endling: The First.” Applegate’s genius is her ability to write a book filled with adventure and endearing characters, and at the same time use the beliefs and lessons learned in the stories to teach readers about kindness, compassion, and above all, justice.

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‘The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters’ by Balli Kaur Jaswal is a fascinating story about family and figuring out what’s important

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In “The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters,” Balli Kaur Jaswal tells the story of three Sikh sisters whose lives have drifted apart, but who honor their mother’s final wish by taking a pilgrimage to India to visit places in her home state of Punjab that she didn’t get to see during her life and taking her ashes to spread as she desired.

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