Author Matthew Dunn’s background in MI6 reads like the resume of his main character, Will Cochrane, in the eponymous series of which “Act of Betrayal” is the latest. While reading all the books in the series probably gives more background to the story, this reviewer has only read the previous book, “A Soldier’s Revenge” and that gave plenty of background for this novel.
Will Cochrane is the ultimate assassin but also the ultimate friend. His actions are always based on his strict morality, which he uses to do the right thing regardless of personal cost. To save a friend or an innocent person, he would sacrifice his life. But he also is human, which means that he’s made mistakes. In fact, he killed the wife and daughter of a Russian spy by accident after painstakingly creating a plan to kill only the spy. It backfired and killed the spy’s family instead of the spy, but that spy is now one of Cochrane’s closest allies. That doesn’t mean they go out for coffee together, but that they can rely on each other in times of great need. Continue reading
While the name “Malala” is quite familiar to adults, children may not know who the author of this picture book is. In “Malala’s Magic Pencil,” Malala Yousafzai tells her story and it’s one that opens the eyes of the kids hearing her tale.
She starts her story telling about a show that she watched as a child about a magic pencil that could create anything that was drawn with it. The boy who used it, the hero, always used the magic to protect people who needed help. Malala thought of the things she would do with a magic pencil.
An abandoned black cat with two missing back legs was rescued and flown from New York to Ohio to begin a new life as a therapy cat for disabled veterans and others who are amputees.
The extremely friendly cat was abandoned on the streets of New York. He couldn’t walk because of missing back legs. When Mary Tschinkel of Friendly Ferals heard about him, she was determined to help. She commented about the negative stereotypes about black cats:
“I can’t tell you what a wonderful cat this is. He’s gorgeous. Black cats – people should be inspired to adopt a black cat – they are wonderful there’s nothing better than a black cat! Superstitions are stupid.”
The story of “Rabbit” is a gritty account of a childhood that is something out of a nightmare. Yet the book is also full of inspiration and hope. It’s depressing but at the same time filled with humor. Patricia Williams’ story is certainly one filled with extremes.
The author’s life began with a mother who was ill-equipped to care for five children. Her childhood was filled with alcohol, drugs, and abuse — physical, sexual and emotional. By the age of 15, she was the mother of two children. Her nickname for her whole young life was “Rabbit.” The fact that she managed to turn her life around is a testament to her fortitude, her determination, and surprisingly, her sense of humor.
“A Million Junes” by Emily Henry is a tender young adult story about a girl and a boy who fall in love. But their romance is marred by family friction. This “Romeo and Juliet” family feud goes back generations, and no one knows exactly what started it.
The magic, though, begins on the first page in the very first sentence when the main character, June, says, “From my bedroom window, I watch the ghost flutter.” And this ghost is not the only ghost who lives within the pages of the story. Feather, as this pink, benign ghost is called, has a more sinister counterpart. Nameless is the dark ghost with no name who haunts both June’s family and their neighboring enemy – Saul Angert’s family.
Those who adopt a dog often think of how much they have to teach their new family member, but few consider how much the animal kingdom has to teach us, even about childbirth and childrearing. As Jennifer Verdolin, author of “Raised by Animals” would tell you, they have lots and lots of good advice for humans. But since animals can’t talk, Verdolin has researched that information and consolidated it into an easy-to-read, fascinating book.
Animal lovers know that animals aren’t really that different from us. They can express affection, experience joy, get lonely, copy our actions and have families. But Verdolin explains that animals do much more than merely reflect human values; often, animals teach their offspring those very values. In fact, do our values spring from the combined knowledge of what we’ve learned from the animals around us? Verdolin might very well argue for that theory.
“Restart” by Gordon Korman is typical fabulous Korman middle grade fiction wherein a boy — usually in middle school — goes through an experience that changes him. In “Restart” Korman’s protagonist, Chase Ambrose, is a fairly dark character.
The reader learns that this middle school sports prodigy, a football player who has won awards, is also a terrible human being. He delights in bullying others. In fact, one fellow student has been so tormented by Chase and his two best friends that he’s left school and gone to a private school. Chase and his friends had set firecrackers to go off in the piano he was playing on during a concert.
“Scar Island” is the third book by Dan Gemeinhart, but it follows his formula of a boy facing what appear to be insurmountable challenges. In this story, Jonathan Grisby is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a correctional facility built, similarly to Alcatraz, on an island in the middle of the ocean . Scar Island consists of the crumbling, depressing old building that looks like a fortress and features a veritable maze of passageways, cells, and abandoned rooms.
Although there aren’t many other boys there, some are truly terrible, while others are not. It seems apparent almost from the beginning that Jonathan is one of the smartest boys on the island, while another boy, Sebastian, is the bully who wants to be in charge. There is also Benny, who is the head warden’s pet and delights in small cruelties.
Steve Antony‘s picture books are brilliant. Each one is like a treasure filled with amazing animals, and each one teaches manners, patience and cooperation.
It started with “Please, Mr. Panda,” in which Mr. Panda has a box of doughnuts he is willing to give away. He asks the animals one by one if they want doughnuts. When some say they want one or all of the doughnuts, Mr. Panda replies that he has changed his mind and they cannot have any doughnuts. This continues until one animal finally responds correctly, with the magic word “please.” That animal gets all the doughnuts. It turns out that Mr. Panda does not like doughnuts! Make sure that the endpapers are examined as part of the book reading. Each of them is different from the other, and both definitely add to the story! Continue reading
“Saturdays at Sea” by Jessica Day George is the last book in the five-book series that began with “Tuesdays at the Castle.” It’s a lovely fantasy series for middle grade readers who aren’t really interested in romance, but do love adventure and magical creatures.
“Saturdays at Sea” is the last episode, as Celie and her family leave their beloved Castle to meet the family of her sister Lilah’s bethrothed, Lulath, in their seaside country. In the last book, Celie found a ship’s figurehead, and they decided that a ship would be built as a wedding gift for the couple using wood from all parts of the different countries that have figured in the series — to unify them all — and the figurehead.
With “City of Saints & Thieves,” author Natalie C. Anderson managed to write a story that had me so enthralled, so committed to the main character, so intrigued by the plot and the setting, that I stayed up much later than I should have two nights in a row to complete the novel, enjoying every minute.
The story is compelling, and the setting is fascinating. The story takes place in several parts of Africa, mainly Kenya. Tina, the sixteen-year-old main character, is an orphan after her mother is killed while working for an extremely wealthy businessman, Roland Greyhill. She thinks he killed her mother because she had seen them argue the night before the murder, and she had heard him threaten her mother. Her mother was shot in his office, and the local police did not bother to really investigate the crime.