10 picture books guaranteed to make you smile

Picture books are like magic. Some are filled with amazing, interesting facts and are clever ways to educate while entertaining readers. Others have wonderful morals and authentic authors’ messages. Yet others, while they may have important messages, also serve to make readers smile and be happy. These ten picture books, most of which do, indeed, have a moral, are also just wonderfully sweet and entertaining. Continue reading

‘Efrén Divided’ by Ernesto Cisneros is a middle grade story of family, friendship, and finding one’s voice

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On one hand, “Efrén Divided” by Ernesto Cisneros is the story of a middle school boy whose undocumented mother is deported and the effect of that terrible event on his life. But as important as that part of the story is — and it is central to what happens — “Efrén Divided” is also about family and friends, because when Efrén’s mother is deported, he and his family must find out whom they can trust and who really cares for them. And finally, Efrén also discovers that to truly help others, he needs a voice to speak for them and a platform from which to do so. Continue reading

‘A Flicker of Courage’ by Deb Caletti is a farcical fantasy for middle grade readers

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“A Flicker of Courage” by Deb Caletti is a book that will appeal to children who love extremely fantastic books — fantastic in the sense that everything that happens in this story is either the best or the worst in the world, and Henry Every, the main character, and his four friends will have to vanquish evil and do heroic deeds without being caught or killed themselves. Continue reading

‘Highfire’ is indeed a dragon; adult fantasy by Eoin Colfer

 

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Folks who worry about a personal lack of imagination need no longer be concerned; they can simply absorb and digest “Highfire” by Eoin Colfer and the gobs of creative delights he offers.

Colfer’s latest novel is a shining example of those delights. Each of the characters is hilarious and sympathetic. The hero, for example, is fifteen-year-old “Cajun-blood” kid Everett (Squib) Moreau, who is impish, sly, and funny; a bad boy and a good person. But he’s not the first character we meet. That’s Vern. He’s a dragon who loves human beings. That is, he loves to eat them. Humans, you see, have destroyed almost the entire universe of dragons. Vern seeks revenge.

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‘The Better Liar’ by Tanen Jones

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How do we repress and distort our childhood memories? In “The Better Liar,” Tanen Jones explores how adult siblings remember their childhood times together. She also ventures into spooky territory, with the story told using three different first person narratives.

One is Leslie, the older sister. The other two are Robin, the younger sister she found dead in Las Vegas just after their father left them a joint inheritance — either they both are there together to accept it, or neither gets it; and Mary, someone she meets by chance who agrees to impersonate her sister so they can both get the money.

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‘Alone in the Wild’ by Kelley Armstrong is the newest in the mystery series about Rockton, the mysterious town for people who want to disappear

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“Alone in the Wild” by Kelley Armstrong, like all the novels in this series, begins with a bang; it involves an infant and a corpse. Casey and Eric, Rockton’s sheriff and detective, a couple who are getting away for a one-night vacation camping in the wild, find a dead woman with a live infant hidden in her clothing. That sets off the mystery of whom the infant belongs to and why the baby was left with a woman who clearly wasn’t the child’s mother.

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Four fabulous board books with animals, pirates, dragons and even a construction site

Board books are wonderful for kids of a wide range of ages. They are perfect for chubby young fingers that might damage the delicate pages of a picture book, but toddlers who love picture books also still enjoy these sturdy books that can be packed in a diaper bag. And these four board books, two fiction and two nonfiction, will be enjoyed over and over and over again. Continue reading

‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins; review of the audiobook

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When I received the audiobook of “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins, I was not aware of the controversy surrounding it. All I saw was a story about Lydia, a Mexican woman, the owner of a bookstore in Acapulco, whose entire family is slaughtered by narcotraficantes (drug dealers) after her journalist husband publishes an exposé of the local drug cartel king. It’s about her journey with her 8-year-old son north to America with other migrants trying to hide and escape the killers’ search for the two of them.

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‘The Last Sister’ by Kendra Elliot is a nail-biting mystery that pushes all the right buttons

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Kendra Elliot has sold over seven million books, and after reading “The Last Sister,” this first book in a new series, “Columbia River,” her success is understandable. And this is a perfect opportunity to jump into a Kendra Elliot series at the beginning. Main character FBI special agent Zander Wells was introduced in a previous series, but readers “meeting” him for the first time will be charmed and touched by his story.

In this mystery, a man and his wife are brutally murdered in a small Oregon logging town. Emily, who is the first to find the murders, is horrified, especially when she sees that the husband was hanged just like her father when he was killed decades earlier. She also notices a racist symbol carved into the hanging man’s forehead, so when the sheriff declares it a murder-suicide, Emily calls the local FBI office and won’t get off the phone until they agree to send an agent to the scene to investigate it as a hate crime.

Zander and his partner Ava arrive and realize that they may have more than just one crime to figure out. Is there a connection between the current stabbing/hanging and what happened to Emily’s father all those years before? When there is another murder, it seems that everything has to be examined, including where Emily’s older sister went immediately after her father’s murder.

Elliot’s omniscient narrator works superbly in terms of letting us know what the characters are thinking and feeling. We are able to see the night of their father’s murder from both Emily’s point of view and that of her younger sister, Madison. So we know more than they do about what each sister is hiding from the other.

Slowly, clue after clue is uncovered and revealed, allowing us to try to connect the different threads at the same time as the characters in the novel try to put the puzzle pieces in place. We are thinking about the clues, and we are also feeling a genuine camaraderie with Emily as she struggles to keep their decrepit old mansion home in one piece while someone is slashing her tires and harassing Emily and her three sweet great-aunts. Their only source of income is their diner, because the logging operation that financed the opulence that Emily’s ancestor’s enjoyed was long closed.

Readers will find they enjoy meeting the three aunts, who all dress alike, and each of whom is a character worthy of admiration in her own right. When a mystery is certainly thrilling but also a character study of the people inhabiting the pages, readers know that the author got it right. And when the mystery is finally solved, and very satisfactorily, readers will be happy to remember that this is just the start of a series in which Zander, Ava, and maybe Emily will return to entertain us and amaze us.

This review was originally posted on Bookreporter.com.