‘Then She Was Gone’ by Lisa Jewell Is a Dark and Emotional Suspense

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In “Then She Was Gone,” author Lisa Jewell takes readers on a dark ride into the minds of some pretty crazy people. Laurel Mack is the mother of three children, one of whom disappeared — into thin air — one afternoon on the way to the library. That was ten years ago. Now Laurel’s life has changed. She’s alienated the two children she has left as well as her husband. They divorced, and she has just met a man who seems to be too good to be true.

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‘Welcome to Wonderland: Sandapalooza Shake-Up’ by Chris Grabenstein is the 3rd book in the Wacky Wonderland Motel series

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Move aside, Disney World! Here comes the Wonderland Motel in “Sandapalooza Shake-Up,” the third book in the humorous mystery series by clever children’s author Chris Grabenstein. Fans of the series know that P.T. and his friend Gloria solve mysteries while having a great time in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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‘The Window’ by Amelia Brunskill Is a Beautifully Written YA Mystery

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How did Anna die? That’s the question that her twin sister, Jess, can’t get out of her head in the novel “The Window” by Amelia Brunskill. Identical twins Anna and Jess were inseparable growing up, but lately, not so much. In fact, after Anna’s death, Jess starts to investigate what really happened, and what she uncovers is that Anna was deliberately increasing the distance between them.

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‘This Fallen Prey’ by Kelley Armstrong Is the Third in the Rockton Series

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“This Fallen Prey” by Kelley Armstrong is the third entry in the novel series about Rockton, a place in the far North Canadian Yukon where the permafrost never melts and a hidden settlement protects people who need to disappear for almost any reason.

Casey (not her real name) arrived at Rockton in the first book to be the detective. She was fleeing her old life and embraced the chance to start over in Rockton. What she didn’t expect was the plethora of killings that she then needed to solve.

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‘The Wife’ by Alafair Burke Is a Suspense-Filled #MeToo Novel

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In “The Wife,” Alafair Burke manages to combine several characters who bring plenty of backstory to the novel. The titular wife, Angela, is the survivor of a kidnapping she had suffered as a teenager. She and another teen were kept by a sadistic rapist and tortured for years. She finally escaped with a baby, but the other girl was killed.

When Angela met Jason Powell, a successful professor, the fact that he wanted to marry her overwhelmed her. But she was thrilled at the chance to leave East Hampton, where her parents and those around her struggled to make a living. Angela had had her life disrupted when she was kidnapped, so she never finished high school. That left her feeling insecure around Jason’s highly educated friends, so she became a homebody, happy to be left to raise the son whom Jason considers his as well.

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‘The Ambrose Deception’ by Emily Ecton Is a Clever and Creative Caper for Middle Grade Readers

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“The Ambrose Deception” by Emily Ecton is an unusual mystery/adventure set in Chicago, as experienced by a trio of middle school students who have been chosen for a unique assignment — not for their brains, nor for their talent — but because of their rather unusual abilities and what have perceived as their failures.

But these three teens are admirable and determined. When their inclusion in a scholarship competition is announced to their schools, members of the staff are sure a mistake has been made. Yet each of the three has a unique talent that will help them in the competition — but only after they get together to solve the mystery.

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‘Truly Devious’ by Maureen Johnson Is a Thrilling Mystery

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“Truly Devious” by much-loved young adult author Maureen Johnson is a fabulous novel. It begins as a mystery about a murder that took place over 80 years ago at an elite private school in Vermont.

The novel is really two stories combined into one mystery. There is the decades-old mystery of Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter, who disappeared while on a car ride. The wife’s body was found, but there has been no trace of the three-year-old daughter, and what happened to her remains a mystery. The kidnappers did contact Ellingham, demanded a huge sum of money, and escaped with the money.

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‘Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow’ by Jessica Townsend Is a Fantasy Trip Through a Magical Country

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“Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow” by Jessica Townsend is a middle grade fantasy about Morrigan Crow who, at the start of the novel, is fated to die before her eleventh birthday. She is a “cursed” child, whose very presence brings bad luck to those around her.

Her mother is dead, and she lives with her extremely horrible father, her emotionally distant stepmother, and her grandmother. Only her grandmother even marginally appears to feel affection for Morrigan. In one terribly sad scene, Morrigan hears her father talking about how it would make more sense to educate his hunting dogs because Morrigan will not live much longer.

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6 Fabulous Children’s Picture Books for Gift-Giving

There are many, many wonderful picture books that would make fabulous gifts for children in the holiday season or anytime. To pick just six of the books that children will enjoy at any time of year was difficult, but each book will perfectly fit a need for young children in a range of ages and interests.

“ABC Dream” is an incredibly beautiful alphabet picture book by Kim Krans. Each page of illustrations is a work of art, and children will love finding and naming all the things in each letter’s page. Each page is thoughtful and lovely. Read the full review here. (Random House)

“Nanette’s Baguette” is by ever-popular, ever-clever author and illustrator Mo Willems. In this story, Nanette is finally allowed to go to the bakery and get the baguette. Willems is careful to describe baguettes (warm and wonderful-smelling). And the book is filled, completely filled, with rhymes for baguette and Nanette. For example, “Look! There’s Mr. Barnett with his pet, Antoinette! Nanette pets Antoinette. Did Nanette forget the baguette?” The story is sweet and appropriately predictable, and kids will want to hear it over and over again. (Hyperion Books for Children)

iwantmyhat“I Want My Hat Back” by Jon Klassen is a picture book that belongs in the library of every toddler or young child. Children from three and through third grade will enjoy this clever story on several levels. The youngest readers will simply enjoy the story of a bear who wants his hat back. Those who are ready to make inferences will greatly enjoy realizing that through the language in the dialogue, Klassen reveals what has really happened. There are two stories going on; one is the literal story and the other is what must be inferred. Read the full review here. (Candlewick Press)

A picture book about a floating cat named Papillon will enchant children. In “Papillon Goes to the Vet,” A. N. Kang persuades children that going to the vet (or doctor) is not a terrible experience. When Papillon swallows a toy, he feels sick and is unable to float. But an overnight at the vet’s cures Papillon and he’s good as new the next day. (Disney -Hyperion)

Children love rhyming books, and Corey Rosen Schwartz is an expert at creating fractured fairy tales with great rhythm. “Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale” is a book that she labored over for years. It’s about Cinderella and her twin sister, Twinderella. This imaginative fairy tale take-off is filled with fractions and math and twins galore. Unlike many fairy tales, in this one the main character loves to do math! Read the full review here. (Putnam Books)

And a picture book that will be appreciated by older picture book lovers is “7 Ate 9: The 7ate9Untold Story” by Tara Lazar and very cleverly illustrated by Ross MacDonald. The story is filled with double-entendres, homophones, and idioms. 7 is the “prime” suspect when 9 goes missing. During the course of the story, they visit the “pi” shop where the waitress, B, has the scoop. Finally, to the delight of readers, Private I puts two and two together to solve the mathematical mystery. It’s a story that can be read over and over to squeeze out every bit of cleverness. Read the full review here. (Disney-Hyperion)

Please note: This review was based on the final, hardcover picture books provided by the publishers for review purposes.