1930s Newbery Reviews

Meggy Macintosh

Meggy MacIntosh had a gentle manner and an adventurous spirit inherited from her father who had fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie. But there was no adventure in Edinburgh where Meggy was the neglected ward of her titled uncle, so she ran away to North Carolina to find her heroine, the celebrated Flora MacDonald. Meggy reached the Carolinas in March 1775 where she finally meets the Highlanders of her dreamson. (Summary via goodreads.com)

This book is an interesting historical fiction novel about a Scottish girl who makes the trek to America and becomes a Patriot. Meggy spends a lot of time adjusting to the new, wild environment of the New World, and she is torn between her childhood heroine (a supporter of the king) and her growing sense that America is worth fighting for. Sadly, there’s a fair amount of racism toward slaves and Native Americans contained within. I enjoyed Meggy’s story, but it was greatly marred by its racist content.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Garram the Hunter

Garram, son of the chief of the Hillmen tribe, is forced to flee his home when it is revealed to him that a planned usurping of his father’s position as chief will take place soon unless Garram goes into hiding. The journey that Garram subsequently embarks upon helps prepare him for the inevitable confrontation with his father’s political enemies that is sure to occur when he eventually returns home. (Summary via goodreads.com)

If you like hunting and fighting, you might like this book. That’s pretty much all that’s involved in the story. As you might expect, a white American man isn’t a very sensitive author to write about tribal Africa. It’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it certainly isn’t one I’d read again.

Rating: Meh

Middle Grades July Roundup

Quick reviews of my latest middle grades reads. #spon | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s been a while since I posted a review! Life has been crazy in the best ways (and also in some of the not so great ways) since I last posted, but I’m hoping to get back on a regular posting schedule now. I’m starting off with a quick roundup of my recent middle grades reads. (All summaries via Goodreads.com)

The Artsy Mistake Mystery

*Note: I received this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Outdoor art is disappearing all over the neighbourhood! From elaborate Halloween decorations to the Stream of Dreams fish display across the fence at Stephen and Renée’s school, it seems no art is safe. Renée’s brother, Attila, has been cursing those model fish since he first had to make them as part of his community service. So everyone thinks Attila is behind it when they disappear. But, grumpy teen though he is, Attila can do no wrong in Renée’s eyes, so she enlists Stephen’s help to catch the real criminal.

This book is a cute follow-up to the previous mistake mystery. Stephen and Renee have to discover who has been stealing art from around the neighborhood and clear Renee’s brother Attila’s name. Just as in the previous book, The Artsy Mistake Mystery shows how Stephen gains control of his anxiety by counting his and others’ mistakes and by realizing that it’s okay to make them.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

At first glance, Duncan Dorfman, April Blunt, and Nate Saviano don’t seem to have much in common. Duncan is trying to look after his single mom and adjust to life in a new town while managing his newfound Scrabble superpower – he can feel words and pictures beneath his fingers and tell what they are without looking. April is pining for a mystery boy she met years ago and striving to be seen as more than a nerd in her family of jocks. And homeschooled Nate is struggling to meet his father’s high expectations for success.

When these three unique kids are brought together at the national Youth Scrabble Tournament, each with a very different drive to win, their paths cross and stories intertwine . . . and the journey is made extraordinary with a perfect touch of magic. Readers will fly through the pages, anxious to discover who will take home the grand prize, but there’s much more at stake than winning and losing.

This is a fun story about kids participating in a Scrabble tournament. Each of them has a different backstory, from the boy whose father wants redemption for his own Scrabble tournament loss to the girl who feels left out of her super athletic family to the boy who can read the letters of the tiles with his fingertips. Even if you’re not into Scrabble, it’s interesting to watch as the kids (and some of the adults) struggle with ethical dilemmas, making friends, and of course memorizing words.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

Locomotion

When Lonnie Collins Motion “Locomotion” was seven years old, his life changed forever. Now he’s eleven, and his life is about to change again. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. And suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life, his friends, his little sister Lili, and even his foster mom, Miss Edna, who started out crabby but isn’t so bad after all.

Jacqueline Woodson’s beautiful poetry (mostly free verse, but also haikus, sonnets, epistles, and more) tells the story of a young boy whose parents died in a fire and whose sister is in a different foster home. Lonnie uses his poetry to deal with tragedy, find his voice, and find home. This book is sad but lovely, a quick read that will stick with you long after you put it down.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

July 2017 Small Goals + What I’m Into

I'm sharing my small goals for July 2017 and the things I've been into lately. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my July 2017 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

June was a whirlwind! I ended up with a lot more work responsibilities than anticipated, so I’m really enjoying my week off for Fourth of July.

  • Finalize summer plans. Yep! Everything is settled, and this month is set to be a super fun, hopefully relaxing one.
  • Get back into cross stitching. Not even a little bit. Sigh.
  • Read through my backlog of books. I read and reviewed all of the ARCs that were still on my Kindle, and now I’m working my way through the paperbacks on my floor.

Now for my July goals:

  • Relax! Enough said.
  • Watch A Very Potter Musical. No, I still haven’t seen it.
  • Get my pants hemmed (finally). This one’s a boring goal, but it needs to be done. Surely I can get one boring task done this month!
  • Finish reading my stack of books. See above…

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The next book in the Incorrigible Children series is calling my name.

Movies I’ve watched: I finally watched Hidden Figures, and it was wonderful! Just as powerful and fascinating as I had hoped.

Podcast I’m loving: I’ve been listening to the Kind Rewind, in which Travis and Teresa McElroy watch and talk about nostalgic favorites.

My favorite Instagram:

This chicken and waffles was soooo good. Some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

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ARC Mini Reviews

Quick reviews of my latest ARCs, including Seven Days of Us. #spon | Book reviews by newberyandbeyond.com
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Note: I received the following books for review consideration. All opinions are my own. All summaries via Goodreads.com

A Tale of Two Kitties

With a well-placed paw on a keyboard or a pointed stare, Kathleen’s two cats, Hercules and Owen, have helped her to solve cases in the past—so she has learned to trust their instincts. But she will need to rely on them more than ever when a twenty-year-old scandal leads to murder…

The arrival of the Janes brothers has the little town of Mayville Heights buzzing. Everyone of a certain age remembers when Victor had an affair with Leo’s wife, who then died in a car accident.

Now it seems the brothers are trying to reconcile, until Kathleen finds Leo dead. The police set their sights on Leo’s son and Kathleen’s good friend Simon, who doesn’t have much of an alibi.

This is a cute cozy mystery about Kathleen and her vaguely magical cats who must attempt to solve a murder in Minnesota that might be connected to the small town’s past. There are all the usual cozy mystery aspects–a handsome police detective boyfriend, lots of small town friends, a local diner–so if you like cozy mysteries in general, you’ll probably like this one. I wished the magical cats had a little more to do with the plot. Maybe their walking through walls and vanishing abilities get more play in other books in this series.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

The Curious Affair of the Somnambulist and the Psychic Thief

For several years Miss Lane was companion, amanuensis, collaborator and friend to the lady known to the Psychical Society only as Miss X – until she discovered that Miss X was actually a fraud.

Now she works with Mr Jasper Jesperson as a consulting detective, but the cases are not as plentiful as they might be and money is getting tight – until a case that reaches across the entirety of London lands in their laps.

This book is like a supernatural version of Sherlock Holmes. Miss Lane, a former psychic researcher, has become disillusioned with the psychic world and joined forces with Mr. Jesperson to focus on more down-to-earth cases. But Miss Lane gets pulled back in when psychics around London start disappearing. The book focuses heavily on the supernatural aspects (yes, psychic powers are real in this book), which I didn’t care for myself. But if you’re interested in a mystery that combines psychic powers and Sherlock Holmes-like deduction, you might check this book out.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Seven Days of Us

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.  As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

This book is packed with drama. There are secrets aplenty, relationship breakups, children from previous relationships, illnesses, deaths, and much more. These events draw a disparate family together during a Christmas quarantine. This book reminded me of Hello from the Gillespies, an old favorite of mine (honestly, I’d recommend that one over Seven Days of Us). Still, this was an enjoyable book, and if you’re looking for some juicy drama with a tidy (but not too tidy) ending, Seven Days of Us is for you.

Rating: Good but Forgettable

Best Books I’ve Read in 2017 (So Far)

Halfway through the year, I'm pausing to remember the best books I've read so far in 2017. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with the Broke and Bookish to share the best books of 2017.

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year! It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was writing my 2017 goals for the blog. But here we are! Today I’m sharing the best books I’ve read this year so far.

  1. The Mysterious Howling (review to come soon). It’s a fun beginning to a MG series in which a 15-year-old girl becomes the governess for a trio of children with a peculiar problem.
  2. The Septimus Heap series (review to come soon). I loved this series soooo much! It’s like a lighthearted version of Harry Potter for younger readers. Fun, heartwarming, great characters and setting and plot, and magic. What more could you want?
  3. Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes (review to come soon). If you’re interested in interpreting the Bible, I highly recommend this eye-opening book.
  4. InterruptedThe first Jen Hatmaker book I ever read, and my favorite. She offers an intimate look at her own journey with her faith and her church, and I found it very encouraging.
  5. The Big Book of Christmas MysteriesIf you, like me, can’t get enough mysteries, this book will keep you happily occupied through the holiday season.
  6. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective AgencyA beautiful, simple (but not simplistic) writing style paired with an unusual setting (at least for me–this series is the only one I’ve ever read that’s set in Botswana) and lovely characters. Oh yes, and there are mysteries, too.
  7. Frog and Toad TogetherI know I read this at some point as a child, but there’s something so wonderful about the Frog and Toad books.
  8. Doomsday BookI don’t need to reiterate my love of Connie Willis. She is the best.
  9. Geekerella [arc]. A fun, sweet Cinderella retelling, updated to include a geeky setting.
  10. The Inquisitor’s TaleProbably my favorite Newbery book from this year. It’s unique and fun.

What are your favorite books of 2017 so far? Leave your links in the comments!

ARC: Witch Summer Night’s Cream

A quick review of A Witch Summer Night's Cream by H.Y. Hanna. #spon | Book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received this book from the author for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Caitlyn Le Fey is looking forward to celebrating Midsummer’s Eve in the tiny English village of Tillyhenge. But when a teenage girl is mysteriously murdered and a priceless love potion goes missing, she and her cousins are plunged into a puzzling mystery.

Is the girl’s death connected to the midnight bonfires at the ancient stone circle? What about the two strangers who recently visited the enchanted chocolate shop belonging to the “village witch”? With her naughty black kitten and toothless old vampire uncle – not to mention the dashing Lord James Fitzroy – all lending a helping hand, Caitlyn sets out to do some magical sleuthing.

But Midsummer’s Eve is fast approaching and spells are going disastrously wrong… Can Caitlyn use her newfound witch powers to find the killer – and maybe even mend a broken heart? (Summary via Amazon.com)

In the latest installment of the Bewitched by Chocolate series (you can see my previous reviews here and here), Caitlyn’s cousin is suspected of murder and Caitlyn has to use her wits and her magic to prove her innocence.

As in previous books, Caitlyn’s relationship with her cousin Pomona is hilarious. Whether they’re debating fashion or chasing murderers, they’re funny and supportive of each other, despite their many differences. There is less information revealed about Caitlyn’s birth family than I would have liked–when will she find out what happened to her birth mother? Why are her grandmother and aunt so reticent? But on the other hand, there is significantly more magic in this book, which was fun.

On the whole, I think this was one of the strongest installments in this series yet. It’s lighthearted and fun with interesting family relationships and a lot of magic.

Top Ten Book Series I Need to Finish Reading

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share the top ten series I need to finish reading. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve noticed lately that I’m really bad about reading the first book of a series, enjoying it, and then never getting around to reading the rest of the series. This year I’ve done my best to finish series, even ones I started years ago–which is why I just finished reading the wonderful Septimus Heap series. I would have missed so much by never reading anything beyond Magyk, so I’m taking this chance to list all of the series I still need to finish in the hopes that it will prompt me to read them soon!

  1. The Incorrigible Children
  2. Thursday Next
  3. Inspector Gamache
  4. Books of Bayern
  5. Princess Academy
  6. No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  7. Junior Bender
  8. The Last Dragonslayer
  9. Finishing School
  10. These Vicious Masks

What series are on your TBR list? Leave your links in the comments!

June Small Goals + What I’m Into

I'm sharing my June small goals and what I'm into this month. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my May small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

I can hardly believe May is over! Here’s how I did on my May goals:

  • Survive my dental appointment. I survived! Unfortunately, it looks like I’ll need a follow-up procedure as soon as my insurance kicks in, but the first part is over.
  • Plan something fun for Memorial Day weekend. Yes! My husband and I slept in, traveled to a nearby park, and had a cookout with friends. So fun.
  • Get all the free things to celebrate my birthday. Of course I did this! I took advantage of all the free meals and retail discounts I possibly could.

I took it pretty easy on myself for May because I knew it would be a busy month. Sadly it looks like this summer isn’t going to be any slower, so with that in mind (and the knowledge that we’ve only got three more weeks of June!), here are my June goals:

  • Finalize summer plans. We have a weekend away with friends, a week long trip to visit family, a pet sitting engagement, and all the regular work/church/home stuff to take care of. I need to get our plans down on paper so I can get organized and contact the people who are also affected by these plans.
  • Get back into cross stitching. I’ve mentioned this goal before, but it has been months since I sat down with my cross stitching and actually worked on it (oops).
  • Read through my backlog of books. Not only have I got a large stack of library books and Paperback Swap books, but I’ve also got several ARCs moldering on my Kindle. I need to read and review those soon!

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The final Septimus Heap book is just waiting for me to read it! I’ve sped my way through the rest of the series, and I’m so excited to finish it.

TV shows I’ve been watching: Death in Paradise just posted season 5 to Netflix, and I’ve been loving it.

Podcast I’m loving: I just started listening to Still Buffering. It’s a podcast with three sisters (two in their 30s, one still a teenager) who talk about teenage life in the past and the present. It is a really fun listen.

My favorite Instagram:

Why do I have this many books? Even I don’t know!

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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

ARC: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles is the latest funny but dark installment in the Warlock Holmes series. #spon | Book review by NewberyandBeyond.com
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Note: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes. (Summary via Goodreads.com)

The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles is the second installment in the Warlock Holmes series, and I was excited to get my hands on it. The book opens where the last book left off–with Warlock Holmes in a deathlike state and Watson doing his best to revive him. Once the pair are back in action, they face a variety of paranormal and demonic enemies, using only Watson’s logic and Holmes’s magic. I’m not familiar enough with the Sherlock Holmes canon to remember if each of the stories in this book are based on those original stories, but certainly the title story (which takes up about half the book) is.

This book is really funny, but it’s darker than the first. It’s amusing to watch Watson as he uses deductive thinking and logic to solve problems, while Holmes uses whatever magical means–however ridiculous–are available to achieve the results he wants.  But eventually Warlock Holmes has to confront his past and the fact that his magic may be tearing apart the world he lives in.

Packed with hilarious characters, paranormal events, and callbacks to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, this book is a great choice if you’re into paranormal retellings of the classics.

Rating: Pretty Darn Good

ABE: Wrap Up

Just like that, another Armchair Book Expo has come and gone! I had so much fun talking about books, reading about books, and participating in giveaways, but as always, the best part was interacting with my fellow book lovers!

If you missed any of my posts, you can check them out here:

Until I can make to to the Book Expo and BookCon in New York, I’ll keep participating in ABE. Thanks to everyone who made this experience so much fun!

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