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Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 97 pgs.
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Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis, is a fun mystery that younger kids can read without parents worrying about too much danger. These are mysteries that kids could do on their own with little adult help. I loved Nancy Drew as a kid, but I knew that the ones I read in middle school were not right for my younger daughter. These, however, are perfect. Nancy, George, and Bess are the Clue Crew and they love solving mysteries. All are invited to Deidre Shannon’s eighth birthday party (sweet half sixteen birthday party). At this party, each guest is told to wear a sea creature or similar themed costume. Deidre, of course, is a spoiled, popular girl with a blog who wants all of the attention on her at her party. She is the queen of the sea.

Nancy, George, and Bess learn about topiaries, interact with teenagers, and meet a mystery guest who doesn’t speak but has pink toenail polish. When the party’s big surprise — Marina, Queen of the Mermaids — is ruined by a snake in the pool, the clue crew gets to work on solving who slung the fake snake into the pool to ruin the party. I love that they write down possible suspects and investigate each one by not only talking to them but also listening to their conversations and following them into joke shops. These books still have illustrations, which my daughter loved, especially since she’s never seen a topiary before.

Nancy Drew Clue Book: Pool Party Puzzler by Carolyn Keene, illustrated by Peter Francis, also offers younger readers an opportunity before the big reveal to think about all the suspects, write down their own clues, and come to their own conclusions about who the culprit is. My daughter and I discussed all the clues and suspects while reading and before the big reveal. She was happy to learn that she had guessed correctly at who the snake slinger was.

RATING: Cinquain

The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, opens with Kaz, a young ghost boy who quickly loses his family when their haunt is torn down. As the wind carries him away, he finds himself in an unfamiliar library where a young girl, Claire, notices him. She’s the granddaughter of the librarian but she can see ghosts on her own without them calling attention to themselves. Claire seems to think she’s an amateur detective, and she carries her own notebook around with her in the library and records information about the ghosts she meets. The only problem is that Kaz really doesn’t know anything about the “solid” world and he has trouble being a ghost. Kaz really prefers that people don’t walk through him and he doesn’t like passing through walls.

My daughter and I read this together and she liked the early chase of Kaz throughout the library when he realized Claire could see him. And along they way, they become friends. One thing we wondered about was why Kaz was not as sad as we expected when he learned none of his family was in the library, too. Much of this story was focused on uncovering the mystery of who the ghost in the library was, but by the end, Claire and Kaz have become friends and plan to help him find out where his family has gone.

The Haunted Library by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Aurore Damant, was a challenging story with unfamiliar words, and while Kaz seemed clueless and relied on Claire to teach him, we enjoyed the mystery. We hope the next installments will have more of Beckett, who also lives in the library, Grandma Karen, and Claire’s parents, and maybe a ghost or two more.

RATING: Quatrain

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hours
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Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid, narrated by Nicole Lewis, is one of the “it” books of the year because it challenges readers to see interactions from the other person’s point of view. Alix Chamberlain is a wealthy, white, entrepreneur and mother who leaves her chic New York City life for Philadelphia. As she continues to work on her first book and maintain some sense of her successful self in a place she refuses to publicly acknowledge as her new home, she seeks out help with her two-year-old daughter Briar. Emira Tucker is a 25-year-old black woman who is unsure what she wants to do with her life after college — with some serious typing and childcare skills, it seems like she could find a full-time job and get health insurance but something is holding her back.

This book starts off with a bang in a racially charged incident in which a security guard attempts to detain Emira and Briar in a local grocery store near the Chamberlain home. Naturally, this incident is caught on video by a young, white professional who offers to post the incident on the internet to seek out justice. Emira is having none of it and her babysitting job is something she loves and she really cares for Briar. Her main focus is protecting this girl. As we take this journey with Emira and Alix, the interactions between the two are awkward from an objective viewpoint, but on closer inspection, Alix is trying so hard to be her friend, it borders on obsession. There’s nothing really untoward here between Alix and Emira, but the dynamics of this relationship are cringe-worthy in many ways.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid is multi-layered and tension filled, highlighting cultural differences between blacks and whites, especially affluent whites with good intentions. Emira is a smart woman if a bit rudderless and under pressure to find a job and stable insurance. Alix should be a stable and savvy businesswoman, but she acts childish and seems not to have evolved much beyond her high school years. This would be a good book club pick for discussions about race and class. But I really did not like Alix. I found her character absolutely ridiculous and high-schoolish, trying too hard to be cool for her babysitter. Her need for acceptance and friendship from Emira is odd and obsessive. The introduction of her old high school boyfriend further complicates the story, but his character seems to be a foil for Alix’s character. The narrator, however, was a gem, very articulate, and great about differentiating between the characters.

RATING: Quatrain

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 224 pgs.
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We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai is a collection of essays written by women who also fled their homes due to violence, persecution by rebels or government forces, and more. Yousafzai recounts some of her own refugee story as an opener to the collection, but readers will see the parallels of her story and the stories of these women. Many of these women had very strong convictions like Yousafzai either before they were forced to leave their countries or after they had grown up and learned why their families fled their homes.

“I wrote this book because it seems that too many people don’t understand that refugees are ordinary people. All that differentiates them is that they got caught in the middle of a conflict that forced them to leave their homes, their loved ones, and the only lives they had known. They risked so much along the way, and why? Because it is too often a choice between life and death. And as my family did a decade ago, they chose life.” (pg. x1)

It is a sad commentary on an American perspective that cannot see these refugees for who they are — average people with happy lives who have one choice: stay in their homeland and die or leave and live. Many of the women in these essays were just teenagers or younger when they left their homes; some of them left with their parents, while others fled their countries on their own after their parents or families were murdered or died. The essays highlight some of the political and societal upheavals occurring in countries across the world, but they are very light on how these women transitioned to their new lives and how hard it was. Many of the essays felt like surface retellings of their stories, which may be because of language barriers or because these are short essays and not entire memoirs — it’s probably very difficult to talk about and condense these experiences into emotional essays.

We Are Displaced by Malala Yousafzai provides a set of stories that will showcase the struggles other people face in different countries, perhaps encouraging readers to get more involved, but at the very least to be a little more compassionate than they have been. For me, I wanted more emotion from the essayists, and I wanted to learn more about their displacement in many cases (some essays were more detailed on that), and what they were doing now.

RATING: Tercet (3.5)

This Is Not a Sky by Jessica Piazza

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 38 pgs.
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This Is Not a Sky by Jessica Piazza is the first interactive poetry chapbook I’ve ever read that has QR codes that link to famous works of art. Her ekphrastic poems infuse some masterpieces with new life and connects the art viewer and the poetry reader through her poems. Shining a new light on the relationship between reader and writer, painter and museum goer/art aficionado, Piazza is breaking down barriers and asking the audience to imagine alongside the artist, to create their own realities. Interpretation does not have to be confined to the outlines on the canvas or the lines and words chosen by the poet, much is left outside those constructs, leaving wide open spaces in which to venture on our own.

I love the idea of an interactive poetry collection, but in some cases (22%), the QR Code links to the artworks failed to bring up the correct work or went to an error page. However, a quick search found the pieces Piazza used for inspiration, so it wasn’t too much of a burden. I can truly say that you can enjoy these poems without looking at the artwork or being familiar with it.

In “Cafe Terrace at Night” after the Van Gogh painting, Piazza draws from the subdued lantern light the hidden “tipsy” patrons, looming dark figure in the doorway, and the ominous nature of the darkened streets and inebriated passersby. There’s an undercurrent of danger on these streets where patrons are dressed well and enjoying themselves, except for a lone woman who may be concerned about the shadow in the doorway or may be ruminating on some greater loss.

Gun” after Andy Warhol is a stunning poem, each part represents each of the guns portrayed. In this case, I’m happy the QR Code worked because Warhol painted several different gun paintings in his life. In Piazza’s poem, his painting says so much more about gun violence – the smugness of it, the horror, the guilt, the righteousness, and the empty satisfaction of it. This is a multilayered poem that begs you to read it more than once. I think I spent the most time with this poem. It’s one of my favorites in this slim collection. Underneath these layers, you’ll also find hints of verbal, emotion, and all kinds of abuse and the toll it can take on its victims, even so, is gun violence their only satisfactory response?

Adam and Eve” after Chagall, the narrator (who could be Eve) says, “Overtaken by this goneness (his fingers/in mine soft and white, malicious).” There is so much darkness in just these two lines. Waiting for the last bang of the apocalypse is heady business that engulfs Adam and Eve, but even in the middle, she wishes it to end but by ice. The poem not only calls out the differences in Adam and Eve, but the fate of these two having already been decided. There’s a desire for change but it is useless as the end has already happened. We’re taking a look back as the reader and viewer to lives no longer being lived. Is this a call to reassess our own lives now, rather than wait? Perhaps, but that’s your call.

This Is Not a Sky by Jessica Piazza is art unto itself and a must read for those who love painters and some of the most iconic artists of our time. Piazza will have you looking at the art on the museum walls in vastly different ways. She creates vignettes for the players and for those outside the frame.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Poet:

Jessica Piazza is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Red Hen Press: “Interrobang” (2013) and, with Heather Aimee O’Neill, “Obliterations” (forthcoming, 2015) as well as the chapbook “This is not a sky” (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Southern California, a Master’s degree in English/Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University. She is co-founder of Gold Line Press and Bat City Review and a contributing editor at The Offending Adam. Her poetry has appeared in Agni, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, No Tell Motel, 32 Poems, Forklift, Ohio, National Poetry Review, Pebble Lake Review, Anti- and 42 Opus, among other places.

Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 128 pgs.
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Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster is a delightful book that stretches the imagination of young early readers in which Isadora Moon, half vampire and half fairy, finds herself nervous about show-and-tell at school. But once she starts telling her class about her summer vacation camping near a beach, she becomes so engrossed in her own tale she and you will nearly forget she’s nervous to speak in front of her classmates.

Isadora’s dad is the glammed-up vampire in the family and his hygiene habits become a bummer for some of the other campers over the summer, and her mom just takes it all in stride, helping him pare down his suitcases for their vacation in the rough. It must be fantastic to have a mom who is a fairy because she can create anything you’d want, but it’s all in the boundaries she sets for Isadora. What my daughter loved was the adventure and the Isadora’s favorite animal, Pink Rabbit. I loved that he was a stuffed bunny who had expressions and ould walk around wherever Isadora did.

This book is a little above where my daughter’s reading level is now, so there were times when she struggled with certain words, but we worked on how to sound those out and what those words meant. It was a good way to stretch her reading skills without losing her interest in the story. We’ll likely be looking for the first two books in this series, since somehow we ended up with only book 3. Starting with this book, however, didn’t seem to be a problem. We didn’t feel like we were missing anything. The cover of our book suggests a lot of color, but most of the illustrations were black and pink. We’re not sure why, but it didn’t detract from the things that mattered in the story. The illustrations did enhance some of the action for us. We also loved the family photo album at the end of their summer camping trip. That was a nice touch.

Isadora Moon Goes Camping by Harriet Muncaster is a wonderful book about learning to take risks outside our comfort zones. I love how adventurous Isadora is and how willing she is to make new friends and go the extra mile for her family. My daughter often wanted to read “just one more chapter” each night, which is a tell-tale sign that she enjoyed the book and loved the characters.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Harriet Muncaster studied illustration at Norwich University College of the Arts before going on to get an MA in children’s book illustration at the Cambridge School of Art. In creating the art for her first book for children, she was thrilled to have found a good outlet for her lifelong fascination with miniatures. She lives in Hertfordshire, England.

Olivia Otter Builds Her Raft by Dara Kass and Jessica Piazza, illustrated by Abe Tensia

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Olivia Otter Builds Her Raft by Dara Kass and Jessica Piazza, illustrated by Abe Tensia, is a delightfully illustrated picture book that teaches younger kids about what it means to work with others and craft a reliable family net they can rely on. The colorful watercolor paintings – that’s exactly what they look like — compel younger readers to think about water movement and the life of an otter in its natural environment. Olivia Otter is swept up in a storm stronger than the ones she’s experienced before and she has nothing to hold on to, but she knows she’s a strong swimmer and a survivor. Olivia misses her mom and her family, but their memories are still with her.

Kids will easily read this book after some practice as Kass and Piazza have chosen words that young kids are already familiar with. My daughter and I loved that Olivia wanted to build her own raft of otters. Slowly over time she does just that, and these otters know that they can count on each other. When her small group stumbles upon a larger group of otters, it’s time to choose to live with more otters or be in their small group. Kids will learn what it means to be part of a larger society in this book — how to share and care for others who are not blood relatives, but are their family nonetheless.

Olivia Otter Builds Her Raft by Dara Kass and Jessica Piazza, illustrated by Abe Tensia, is a delightful picture book about survival and what family actually means. It will also teach children that no matter their gender, they’re equally capable of great things. Ultimately, I hope that my daughter and other young kids who read this book will learn to build their own rafts, expanding their family wide enough to support them no matter where they are in the future.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Authors:

Jessica Piazza is the author of two full-length poetry collections from Red Hen Press: “Interrobang” (2013) and, with Heather Aimee O’Neill, “Obliterations” (forthcoming, 2015) as well as the chapbook “This is not a sky” (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). Originally from Brooklyn, NY, she holds a Ph.D. in Creative Writing and English Literature from the University of Southern California, a Master’s degree in English/Creative Writing from the University of Texas at Austin and a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University. She is co-founder of Gold Line Press and Bat City Review and a contributing editor at The Offending Adam. Her poetry has appeared in Agni, Indiana Review, Mid-American Review, Rattle, No Tell Motel, 32 Poems, Forklift, Ohio, National Poetry Review, Pebble Lake Review, Anti- and 42 Opus, among other places.

Dara Kass, MD is the founder of FemInEM. An emergency medicine physician and advocate for the advancement of women in medicine, she is passionate about creating a community where women in EM can act as champions for one another. She is a graduate of SUNY Downstate Medical School and Kings County Hospital’s residency program.

Abe Tensia was born in Wyoming and spent most of her childhood as an indoor kid/reluctant car camper.  After relocating to Maine to attend Bowdoin College, she realized that nature were pretty cool after all and began sharing her favorite bits through pen and ink drawings.  Her work celebrates creative play and the natural wonder and whimsy of the great outdoors, both things near and dear to her own heart.

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, illustrations by William Sulit

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 336 pgs.
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I think Beth Kephart is the most reviewed author on my blog. And you will probably understand why when you realize that many of her books are like prose poems that tell stories with big themes and complex and colorful characters. She is one of my favorite authors, and I especially love that her husband is illustrating some of her more recent books.


Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, with illustrations from William Sulit, is as beautifully poetic as Kephart’s previous novels, but this one is suspense wrapped in the wilds of the Adirondacks. Taking inspiration from a prison break at the Clinton Correctional Facility and the family heirlooms — Camping and Woodcraft by Horace Kephart — in her father’s home, Kephart has woven an inspirational tale of courage tugged from 13-year-old Lizzie’s connections with her family and dearest friend, Matias. This middle-grade novel will charge young readers to think about their own lives and whether their willing to go the distance to save their own family and friends.

“I don’t remember if I ran, but maybe I did. I don’t remember how my heart felt, except for the squirm of it, like it was riding a carousel inside my chest.” (pg. 96)

Using the victim impact statement as a story-telling device, Lizzie takes us on the road to recovering her missing Uncle Davy and her friend Matias, but to take the journey, she says we must first understand who they are. We’re given glimpses of life in Matias’ homeland of El Salvadore — the beauty and the violence — and in many ways Lizzie’s journey to save them is like stepping foot into those El Salvadorean jungles where fear takes hold and makes things larger than life, scarier than they may be … at least in the Adirondacks. William Sulit’s watercolor renderings from Matias are beautiful and add a sense of wonder to the story, providing us a glimpse of what his art could be.

“‘I heard it roar. The loudest commotion you ever heard. Like an old man snoring through a megaphone that had been slapped against my ear.'” (pg. 289-90)

I was swept up in this story of Lizzie, her famous antique finding Uncle Davy, and her artistic friend Matias. I loved that Lizzie wanted to be brave and to find her family but at the same time her limitations are realistic. The woods carry a mystical quality for our young biologist, especially since she’s as entranced by her friend Matias’ paintings as she is enchanted by the natural world. She holds tight to memories and her family, but she also holds tight to knowledge, including the knowledge in The Art of Keppy, a practical guide for woodland explorers. My only moment of confusion and pause came when a character (who really isn’t) appears as Lizzie tells us what happened to the escapees and how this “character” had been tricked. This sequence took me out of Lizzie’s story and I was disoriented for a moment. I’ve debated whether this was intentional or not, but regardless, I wanted back into Lizzie’s world … to know what happened.

Wild Blues by Beth Kephart, with illustrations from William Sulit, looks at the consequences of choice for the young protagonist, Lizzie. She chooses to leave her mother alone for the summer and be with her uncle in the woods and with her summer friend. She chooses to run after Matias when she learns he is missing, getting lost herself. When she returns home to find her uncle gone and police looking for escapees, she must make another choice and that choice can have the most dire of consequences. Would you have the same courage, touched with naivete? Does she make the right decisions? Many of these questions are not answered, but it would be a great book club discussion.

RATING: QUATRAIN

Other Books Reviewed:

About the Author:

Beth Kephart is the author of twenty-two books, publishing memoir, young adult literature, a corporate fairytale, an autobiography of a river, and an essay/photography collection.

Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir (Gotham), based in part on Kephart’s teaching at Penn (where she won the 2015 Beltran Teaching Award), won the 2013 Books for a Better Life Award (Motivational Category), was featured as a top writing book by O Magazine, and was named a Best Writing Book by Poets and Writers. Small Damages (Philomel) was named a 2013 Carolyn W. Field Honor Book and a best book of the year by many publications. Going Over (Chronicle) was the 2014 Parents’ Choice, Gold Medal Winner/Historical Fiction and a Booklist Editor’s Choice. One Thing Stolen (Chronicle) was a 2015 Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner. Kephart’s 2014 Shebooks e-memoir is Nest. Flight. Sky.: On Love and Loss One Wing at a Time. Her 2013 middle grade historical novel, Dr. Radway’s Sarsaparilla Resolvent (Temple University Press), was named a top book of the year by Kirkus.

Kephart is a National Book Award nominee and a winner of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fiction grant, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Leeway grant, a Pew Fellowships in the Arts grant, and the Speakeasy Poetry Prize. She writes a monthly column for the Philadelphia Inquirer, is a frequent contributor to the Chicago Tribune, has given keynote addresses on the state of literature and teaching, and served as a judge for the National Book Awards, the National Endowment for the Arts, and PEN. 

Kephart was one of 50 Philadelphia writers chosen for the year-long Philadelphia’s Literary Legacy, exhibited at the Philadelphia International Airport. Excerpts from her Love: A Philadelphia Affair were the subject of a six-month Airport exhibit. She is a Radnor High Hall of Fame.

Kephart’s most recent book—This Is the Story of You—was published by Chronicle and is a Junior Library Guild and Scholastic Book Club selection, on the 2017 TAYSHAS list, a VOYA Perfect Ten, and a Top Ten New Jersey Book.

Kephart will release two middle grade books with Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum/Simon & Schuster. She is the co-founder of Juncture Workshops, offering memoir workshops and resources to writers across the country

Scattered Clouds by Reuben Jackson

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 130 pgs.
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When you have fate kick your butt and keep you from getting a poetry collection you’ve been eager to read (especially when you want to be at a reading), does that lead you to enjoy the collection even more when you finally get a copy?

This is my question because this was my journey to getting Reuben Jackson’s new collection. But I digress.


Scattered Clouds by Reuben Jackson is like a best hits record, but it’s also a deeply personal look at Washington, D.C., love in all of its incarnations, and the power of music (in this case Jazz). “Fingering the Keys” is a section of previously published poems by Jackson, giving readers some initial flavor of his work as he reflects on his younger years, roadtrips with his father, the harsh realities of being black in America. But as a kid you don’t always understand why you can’t do certain things like stay in that roadside teepee shaped motel in South Carolina. In “on the road,” the narrator speaks about the bargain struck with his dad to stay the night, but then says, “it worked,// so why did he return without/room keys?”

Each of these line breaks and pauses are like an interlude in which the undercurrent of the head in the music of Jackson’s poems comes to the fore full force, knocking the reader off their feet and sending their mind into overdrive. There are many of these “aha” or “Mmmhmmm” moments where readers are like I understand and I see where you are and what’s going on, even in the most innocent of moments. When we’re young and trying to find out who we are and want to be, we experiment, but there are those of us judged more harshly for experimenting outside “the comfort zone.”

a lonely affair

even the most die-hard liberals
have their moments;

like the man wearing the
end apartheid button
who followed me across his bookstore;

Jackson is well aware of the power of word choice when he speaks about the man’s bookstore, knowing full well that though this man is liberal, the narrator is from outside his known community and should be followed. Is he following him because he wants to talk, to share, or simply to monitor, to prevent, to presume? In “a lonely affair,” our narrator continues along his path, lonely as it may be, to ensure revolution does not fizzle out. By being there, out in the world and reading his poems, he’s affecting change.

“sunday brunch” has to be my favorite poem in this collection. The matter-of-fact response and sarcasm is priceless. I refuse to ruin the surprise, but how would you answer “Where do your parents summer?”

The section of “city songs” will transport you D.C. and beyond in ways you don’t expect. Readers are thrown into the deep pit of tragedy and sorrow, of borrowed breaths, and deep loneliness even in urban landscapes. The intimacy of the first section gives way to the wider world — it intrudes upon the intimacy and wrenches away the slightest sense of shelter. We’ve moved into a world where culture bears heavily down on those who do not fit neatly in it. Rather than change the tone, Jackson’s language almost lulls the reader into each situation, letting the reality of them seep under the skin.

“sky blues” is the crescendo of the collection, exploring the beauty of late-in-life love — a mutual respect and passion for the fullness of who we are. In the poems of the “Amir & Khadijah: A Suite,” Jackson becomes lyrical with love, the kind of love that can buoy a spirit in rough tides and become a lift of spirit. It’s Jackson’s song of hope, either for himself or for all of us. His heart is full of love and it is reaching out to us in line after line searching for connection.

Here, too, we find Jackson’s poem for Trayvon Martin as an angel guides the young boy home, away from danger. These final poems nod to the past and the struggles, with a hope for the future. Scattered Clouds by Reuben Jackson is the balm for the sting of “real” American life, laced with a hope that we can overcome, persevere, and take the lessons we’ve learned from those lost to us and apply them to our future selves to create a better tomorrow. It’s the coverage we need away from the storm without forgetting that storms do come.


I cannot urge you enough to buy these collection. Rarely do I outright tell you to buy something, but if you buy one poetry collection this year, let it be this one.


RATING: Cinquain

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus

Source: Gift
Paperback, 68 pgs.
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Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, is another adventure with kindergartner Junie B. She’s a child whose had the full attention of her parents for all five years of her life, but things are changing, and she’s about to get a baby sibling.

What happens when she learns her baby brother is a cute little “monkey” is hilarious.

Junie B. believes her brother is unique and now sees why her parents wallpapered the baby room in a jungle theme. This little monkey will make her the most popular kid in school, especially when her two best friends vie for the honor of the first to see him in person. My daughter and I are having a grand old time laughing at Junie B. when she often repeats “and so” and “guess what … that’s what.”

My daughter is also still correcting Junie B.’s words like “bended.” I love that she’s paying attention to what she’s reading and correcting Junie B. This means she’s making progress in her reading skills, and that couldn’t make me prouder after these last two years of struggles.

Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, is a fun story about not taking advantage of your friends and learning to pay closer attention to what adults are saying and not taking it so literally.

RATING: Quatrain

The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely (audio)

Source: Audible Purchase
Audiobook, 19+ hours
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The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Sebastian York, is a delectable treat with the uber sexy voice of Sebastian York at the help. The duet of books in the series follow Joy Delivered CEO Jack Sullivan and Co-CEO Casey Sullivan as they navigate not only sex toy business affairs, but also unexpected seduction. This steamy set of books will hear up your days and are what I would call ear candy. Very light on complex plots but heavy on seduction and play.

In “Nights with Him,” what can Jack Sullivan do when he realizes his one night stand is the same Dr. Milo he has a therapy appointment with the next morning? Sullivan is in need of therapy after losing his fiancée in a tragic accident for which he blames himself but not in the way the wonderful paparazzi and media think. Michelle Milo is a no-nonsense woman who is very focused on her career and earning respect from her colleagues. In a business deal, therapy is punted to another therapist while he pursues more than a one-night stand with Michelle. But perhaps this kind of therapy is what he needs.

In “Forbidden Nights,” Casey Sullivan has been direct and a true business leader, but some of her boyfriends have said they don’t like her controlling ways in the bedroom. Hotel mogul Nate Harper has been her friend for many years, and he’s her best guy friend, but what happens when they cross that invisible line when Casey asks for his help in letting go? Nate agrees because his fantasy can become reality but he knows he cannot be her true love. Being with his best friend, Nate soon begins to realize what he’s been missing since his divorce. How will they navigate their new relationship? Will they both back away and return to friendship land, or will they take a leap into the unknown, all the while screaming into the passionate night?What happens when years of desire and lust ignite a passion that can’t be denied?

Both of these are high on sex, low on plot and complexity. The characters become entangled with one another at any time, any place, and any where. The scandal with Michelle and Jack is wrapped up quickly and vanishes just as fast, even as it was the biggest obstacle to their kinky happily ever after. Meanwhile, Nate and Casey’s story is a bit more sweet, romantic, and sexy. The Joy Delivered Duet by Lauren Blakely, narrated by Sebastian York, is a piece of dark chocolate that you want to swallow whole while also wanting to let it melt in your mouth. Delectable, at times dirty and erotic, but entertaining.

Rating: Tercet

Other Reviews:

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus

Source: Gift
Paperback, 69 pgs.
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Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, is the first book in the series, and it is clear that Junie B. is not ready for kindergarten. But really, what kid is ready? She struggles with riding the bus, how to behave in class, and a whole host of other things, but this is normal behavior for a kindergartner.

My daughter and I have been reading these together, though she’s the one reading to me. The “wrong” words like “bended” and “funner,” etc., do continue to make her stumble while reading but she seems to be getting a better handle on correcting Junie B.’s words as she reads. In some ways, these “wrong” words appear to make her a stronger reader. She’s critically thinking about what she’s reading as she goes. While these words make me cringe, I can see how they’ve helped my daughter with her reading struggles over the last two books.

Junie B. can be a bit sassy and so can her friends, but this is part of finding our place in the world as a kid — learning boundaries, and making friends of strangers. Park really understands how children at this age think and act. What happens when Junie B. doesn’t get on the bus to go home after school? Will she be found out? Are her parents frantic? Is Junie B. scared? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, was a fun read and gave us a lot to think and laugh about. We learned about how kids can be mean sometimes, and how we have to learn how to cope with change.

RATING: Quatrain

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