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Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas
I had a blast reading Juana and Lucas: Big Problemas. Author and illustrator Juana Medina, like the main character in her book, is from Bogotá, Columbia. I know some bilingual teachers who would be uncomfortable with the code switching in this book; I love it. For me, inserting some Spanish words in places where the context or illustrations make the word meanings plain adds color and flavor to this chapter book written mainly in English.
Juana, her Mami, and her dog Lucas have an almost perfect life together. They have a routine and a support group of family and friends that keep them happy. Things start to change when Mami gets a new hairstyle and starts wearing more perfume. The new man in Mami’s life is Luis, an architect. Juana likes him but she doesn’t want things to change, and she doesn’t want Mami and Luis to get married. We learn about Juana’s dad who passed away and about the sadness of not having a father. We share in the characters’ preparations for the wedding and the move. All of this is portrayed sensitively, but also with humor. The illustrations fit the book well.
I learned about a favorite Columbian soup, ajiaco. It is creamy and made of several types of potatoes that cook to various consistencies. It has corn on the cob, capers, chicken, sour cream, and herbs, and is topped with a slice of avocado. The other unfamiliar food to me is chocolate con queso. This special treat consists of hot chocolate with chunks of cheese—chihuahua, queso fresco, or mozzarella. Evidently it is a delight of sweet and salty and is served with bread. I’m ready for a trip to Columbia!
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Candlewick for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: Age Range: 5 – 8 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3
Publication: May 14, 2019—Candlewick
by Jo Bannister
Hazel Best, a personable young constable with aspirations to be a detective, finds herself the focus of an admirer turned stalker. The investigation heats up when the stalker enter her home and later her friend Ash is bludgeoned. Saturday, a young man Hazel befriended, suddenly reappears in Norbold, having gotten his life together. There are two murders that are possibly related to Hazel’s stalker, but no one knows how the events could all be tied together. As tension mounts, Hazel’s friends and even a local businessman with a dark background gather around to support and protect her. It is a race against time as Hazel and her friends try to identify the mysterious attacker.
A fun part of this book is Patience, Ash’s very likable lurcher. Ash is gradually overcoming the town view of him as mentally unstable. At one time he earned the nickname “Rambles With Dogs,” but has since tried to rein in his public dialogues with Patience. Ironically, he does, in fact, talk to his dog, and Patience replies but only Ash can hear her.
Silent Footsteps is a police procedural that will keep you turning pages as the police investigate the various threads to try to make sense of them. The characters are interesting and continue to develop in this latest mystery. I figured out the murderer before Hazel, her friends, or the police did, but that is understandable considering the timing of the revelation of various facts. This discovery in no way mitigated my enjoyment as I still had to anticipate a resolution—and it was quite surprising.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Severn House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: #6 in the Gabriel Ash and Hazel Best Mystery Series. I have only read one other mystery in this series. This book works quite well as a standalone, although I must admit it makes me want to read the first books in the series to get more understanding of the characters. That does not take away from the mystery at all, however.
Publication: May 1, 2019—Severn House
“You’re far too honest to be any good at it,” said Ash. “Spies have to be able to lie convincingly. You lie as convincingly as my eight-year-old when the biscuit barrel is empty and there are crumbs on his T-shirt.”
With the best will in the world, Ash in a blonde wig was never going to be mistaken for a twenty-eight-year-old policewoman. There wasn’t enough rope in Norbold to suspend disbelief that far.
“…the sheep people are constantly trying to keep their stock from committing suicide. Dropping dead from no appreciable cause is the average sheep’s highest goal in life.”
by Sara Leach
Illustrated by Rebecca Bender
Lauren’s family makes a difficult two day car trip to North Dakota for Auntie Joss’ wedding because flying has been a disaster before for Lauren who has Autism Spectrum Disorder and is learning how to control her reactions to changes and to certain things that make her uncomfortable. She takes things literally and doesn’t always understand jokes or react instinctively to facial expressions or body language. She is, however, an intelligent child with a passion for reading and insects.
Several problems arise in Penguin Days with the whole wedding scenario. Lauren is under the impression she will be the only flower girl when, in fact, she is one of three. She doesn’t like her dress because it isn’t comfortable and itches. Without meaning to, Lauren ruins the dress. Lauren’s mom has several solutions up her sleeve because she works hard to understand what Lauren is thinking. You’ll enjoy learning how the parents solve these problems and enlist the help of extended family members. Lauren even begins to make friends with her cousins as the story comes to a close.
If you are ever in public and you see a child having a meltdown, don’t judge. Maybe he is a child who needs more discipline and boundaries, but maybe, just maybe, you are witnessing a child on the Autistic Spectrum. If the child is lucky, like Lauren, she is receiving professional help to learn how to control her inner fireworks and to interact with others socially. In the U.S., where for whatever reason autism is on the rise, we are becoming more aware of autism and learning how to manage its effects better. Not everyone, however, has the money or skills to navigate that system. Also, the intervention is most effective when it happens early, and the changes do take hard work, consistency, and time. Meanwhile, Penguin Days is a wonderful, sensitive tool to help the child with autism and the rest of us to understand how autism plays out on the inside and manifests itself on the outside of the child on the Autistic Spectrum.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Children’s Fiction
Notes: 1. Very good illustrations
2. Sensitive book sharing the perspective of both the autistic child and her family.
Publication: January 18, 2019—Pajama Press (Myrick Marketing)
“You’re precious.” “Gems are precious,” I said. “I’m not a gem. But I would like to be an amethyst. They are purple.”
Mom and Dad always say my brain works differently than other people’s brains because I have Autism Spectrum Disorder. They say my different brain is one of the things they love about me.
The barn got really noisy. Mary Lou mooed. Kevin yelled. And somebody was screaming. I lay on my back in the prickly hay. Mary Lou stepped toward me. I curled into a ball, covered my head with my arms, and started rocking back and forth.
Shadow Among Sheaves
by Naomi Stephens
The Biblical story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth is known and quoted as an example of devotion. Upon the death of her husband and sons, Naomi encourages her daughter-in-laws to return to their home countries, but Ruth says: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee, for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16).
In Shadow Among the Sheaves author Naomi Stephens uses this story in a new setting. Nell (Lady Hawley) and her daughter-in-law Rene move from India back to England in the glory days of the British Empire. Rene, from the highest caste in India, has promised to take care of Nell, but because of discrimination against Indians, they are treated as outcasts and beggars. Stephens’ story follows the same general lines as the Biblical story but is fleshed out with a deeper plot and extensive character development. Using the complexities of the ethnic divide and the social and class norms in Britain at that time, Stephens weaves a riveting tale of love and conflict.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: Christian, Romance
Notes: You do not have to be familiar with the Bible story of Ruth and Naomi to enjoy this book, but if you would like to read it, the book of Ruth is found in the Old Testament and is only four chapters long.
Publication: April 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)
An aching belly, an empty room, skin pulled tight over hungry bones—all of these sacrifices were worth it, she knew, if it meant staying with Nell, if it meant her family would be her family forever.
Thomas had never been a monster, exactly, though he had always been monstrously arrogant.
Music began tumbling across the now barren fields. The notes were thick and plucky, sticking to the window like hands pressed up against the glass.
The One Saving Grace
by Julie Houston
As I went through each one of three books I chose to read as an introduction to author Julie Houston, I watched her develop as a writer. Her plots have become more complex, her characters have more depth, and she has found a balance that uses less vulgar language.
The One Saving Grace is the second book about Harriet and her long-time friend Grace. They did everything together as children, adored and hated “Little Miss Goodness” Amanda in unison as teenagers, and now they find themselves torqued around as adults by Amanda again. But Amanda is the least of their worries as the past becomes enmeshed in the future with unpredictable romances popping up and Harriet’s husband’s ex-girlfriend lurking the the background with revenge on her mind.
In the first book about Harriet and Grace, Harriet is confronted with an unplanned pregnancy she can not cope with on many levels. In this book, her moral dilemma is an affair. As I read the book, the author led me to somewhat understand Harriet’s temptation. As I stand back, book finished, and look at her predicament, however, I have a hard time reconciling the Harriet who was devastated by the suspicion of her husband having an affair with the the Harriet who is willing to lose her family to temporarily satisfy her carnal desires. Sex is a major theme in the book, but is never described in detail.
The best part of The One Saving Grace is the surprises that reveal motivation and the resolution of conflicts. The theme of postnatal depression is also important in this book and one not to be overlooked as it affects not only Grace, who desperately wanted a baby, but also her family and friends.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
Notes: This is the second book about Harriet and Grace, but works great as a standalone as Houston inserts background information as needed.
Publication: February 19, 2019—Aria
I actually felt a bit miffed that someone else was after Mrs. Doubtfire…like when you were a teenager, you might not fancy that spotty, tongue tied guy with the bum fluff on his top lip who’s been drooling over you for months, but you certainly don’t want him going off with anyone else.
I’d make my way up to the gym machines to face Tina Trainer, who had obviously taken her instructions at the same place Dante got his inspiration for the Inferno.
Envy I’d always reckoned to be the most corrosive of all emotions, eating into one’s soul like a particularly pernicious acid….Envy is a mere novice, a total non-starter compared to her grown-up sister, Guilt.
Mr. Finchley Discovers His England
by Victor Canning
Edgar Finchley, a clerk in a law firm, has not had a vacation in ten years when his new boss surprises him with a three week holiday. This mild-mannered, middle aged bachelor anticipates trading his typical, longstanding daily schedule for a different holiday routine, but is surprised to find himself wrapped up in a series of adventures.
Victor Canning’s Mr. Finchley Discovers His England was originally published in 1934 before WWII when the author was twenty-three. A best seller upon publication, it is a humorous work reflective of a more innocent time and makes a fun read. I enjoyed all of Finchley’s exploits. Despite the light-hearted nature of the book, the character of Finchley develops as he finds courage and flexibility he never knew he had. This book is full of well written, vivid descriptions and many British terms. I enjoyed learning words such as “roach” (a type of fish) and “rean” (a varian of reen, an irrigation ditch). Mr. Finchley Discovers His England is a delight to those who enjoy an author who can craft superlative descriptions and has an extensive vocabulary.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Ferrago for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Category: General Fiction (Adult), Humor
Notes: 1. The first in a series.
2. There is a chapter which devotes itself to a cricket match This part of the book would be more interesting to a reader who is familiar with the game and terminology.
Publication: April 18, 2019—Ferrago
The sun tipped the edge of the hills in a blazing tiara and every copse and thicket, each barn and cottage, sprang into a bold relief, white wall vivid against chestnut green, and a church clock, black and gold against the grey of the stones.
…he came slowly to see what until now he had never realized; that danger, the wonder of the unexpected, the exhilaration of living and not knowing what one would be doing or where one would next be were the only thing that gave colour to life.
He was beginning to see that McGrath was the type of man who bullied and stormed at people—and was surprised when they accused him of losing his temper.