book review MG fiction

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter

Rex Dexter is itching to have a dog. He was practically born to have one. His name is Rex, for crying out loud. It’s a dog’s name. Any pooch is preferable, but a chocolate Labrador is the pinnacle. The best of the best. The dream of all dreams.

When Rex’s B-Day for Me-Day finally arrives, his parents surprise him with a box. A box with holes. A box with holes and adorable scratchy noises coming from inside. Could it be? Yes! It has to be! A . . . a . . .


Pet poultry?

How clucky.

One hour and fourteen minutes later, the chicken is dead (by a steamroller), Rex is cursed (by the Grim Reaper), and wild animals are haunting Rex’s room (hounding him for answers). Even his best friend Darvish is not going to believe this, and that kid believes everything.

Rex’s uninvited ghostly guests are a chatty, messy bunch. And they need Rex to solve their mysterious deadly departures from the Middling Falls Zoo before it happens again.

But how?

New York Times best-selling author Aaron Reynolds delivers a wickedly funny debut title in The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter series.

Expected publication: April 28th 2020 by Disney-Hyperion
OMG- this book is hilarious! One caveat is that it's probably not the best for kids who have recently lost a pet. Other than that, highly recommend for all the giggling potential.

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Book Review News

All right kids, buckle up for a book reviewers saga. I’ve toyed on and off with dropping my Amazon Affiliate account. I never wanted to sell books. But, you know, every couple of months I’d get that credit- spend it on books for myself and think, yeah this isn’t a bad gig.

A few weeks ago I got some long legal-ease saying that they were lowering the commission rate. I didn’t even read it as its been a while since I earned anything anyhow. Then I read how Amazon was basically running a Go Fund Me for their employees even though its common knowledge that they are raking in money hand over fist. That really sealed the deal for me.

So, I went into my dashboard and tried to cancel my account. Only- my account had already been canceled.

Now I’m in an I broke up with you- you definitely didn’t dump me first situation. At least it was easy.

In these weird days where we don’t know what day it is, can’t go to the store/ don’t have any money to go to the store- I think I’m going to just write book reviews and link you all to Goodreads (I know, I know, Amazon owns that too)

I love reading books early and sharing them with you, and my biggest fear right now is that this new normal is going to affect publishing. So, if you can afford it, buy new releases so that there continue to be new releases.

book review fiction

The Heirloom Garden

In her inimitable style, Viola Shipman explores the unlikely relationship between two very different women brought together by the pain of war, but bonded by hope, purpose…and flowers.

Iris Maynard lost her husband in World War II, her daughter to illness and, finally, her reason to live. Walled off from the world for decades behind the towering fence surrounding her home, Iris has built a new family…of flowers. Iris propagates her own daylilies and roses while tending to a garden filled with the heirloom starts that keep the memories of her loved ones alive.

When Abby Peterson moves next door with her family—a husband traumatized by his service in the Iraq War and a young daughter searching for stability—Iris is reluctantly yet inevitably drawn into her boisterous neighbor’s life, where, united by loss and a love of flowers, she and Abby tentatively unearth their secrets, and help each other discover how much life they have yet to live.

With delightful illustrations and fascinating detail, Viola Shipman’s heartwarming story will charm readers while resonating with issues that are so relevant today.

Expected publication: April 28th 2020 by Graydon House

What did I think?

Despite the fact that I am no way an excellent gardener this story inspired me to get to know the plants in my yard. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a goal of the author, but here we are. Every chapter focuses on a flower and I loved that. It was such a unique way of framing both stories.

The two timelines are equally heart wrenching. Both 1944 and 2003 life presents challenges for our two main female characters. It’s sort of a romance/ kind of like historical fiction and completely binge-able.

book review Graphic Novel YA fiction

Gotham High

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex and Eliza and The Witches of East End comes a reimagining of Gotham for a new generation of readers. Before they became Batman, Catwoman, and The Joker, Bruce, Selina, and Jack were high schoolers who would do whatever it took–even destroy the ones they love–to satisfy their own motives.

After being kicked out of his boarding school, 16-year-old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to find that nothing is as he left it. What once was his family home is now an empty husk, lonely but haunted by the memory of his parents’ murder. Selina Kyle, once the innocent girl next door, now rules over Gotham High School with a dangerous flair, aided by the class clown, Jack Napier.

When a kidnapping rattles the school, Bruce seeks answers as the dark and troubled knight–but is he actually the pawn? Nothing is ever as it seems, especially at Gotham High, where the parties and romances are of the highest stakes … and where everyone is a suspect.

With enchanting art by Thomas Pitilli, this new graphic novel is just as intoxicating as it is chilling, in which dearest friends turn into greatest enemies–all within the hallways of Gotham High!

DC Comics April 7, 2020

What did I think?

I was nearly jumping up and down when I opened this package from DC comics. I’m pretty psyched about getting the chance to review this new series.

I loved that this series includes diversity and that while the story line is familiar it’s not predictable. I was hooked from the premise alone – putting the Joker, Batman, and Cat Woman all in the same high school. This is the be all end all of origin stories. It’s not just their personalities that have them end up as super heroes or super villains, it’s the circumstances of their upbringing and social status that tip the scales one way or the other.

YA author Melissa de la Cruz knocked this story out of the park. She shows how wealth and jealousy can bring out the worst in people. Artist Thomas Pitilli delivers with art that captures the story honestly, and with picture perfect clarity of the characters and their intentions.

This is a YA graphic novel series that I think both teens and adults will enjoy.

book review fiction

The K Team

Note: Despite the cute dogs this isn’t a kids book.

In David Rosenfelt’s newest series – a spinoff of the much beloved Andy Carpenter mysteries – Andy’s wife forms an investigative team with a former detective and his German shepherd partner.

Andy Carpenter’s wife, Laurie, was a cop, a good one. Now she helps out on Andy’s cases while also raising Ricky, their son. But she’s been chafing to jump back into investigating on her own, and when her former partner and his German shepard K-9 partner come to her with a proposal, she’s in.

From the author of the bestselling Andy Carpenter mysteries comes a spectacular new series with a K-9 main character.

Published March 24th 2020 by Minotaur Books

What did I think?

What a cool premise! I enjoyed reading this first installment of the K Team. The cop turned private investigator is one of my favorites in the mystery genre. Throw in the canine partner and I was sold. This one is perfect Stay at Home reading. I’m looking forward to a sequel.

book review nonfiction

The Lost Family

A deeply reported look at the rise of home genetic testing and the seismic shock it has had on individual lives

You swab your cheek or spit into a vial, then send it away to a lab somewhere. Weeks later you get a report that might tell you where your ancestors came from or if you carry certain genetic risks. Or the report could reveal a long-buried family secret and upend your entire sense of identity. Soon a lark becomes an obsession, an incessant desire to find answers to questions at the core of your being, like “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” Welcome to the age of home genetic testing.

In The Lost Family, journalist Libby Copeland investigates what happens when we embark on a vast social experiment with little understanding of the ramifications. Copeland explores the culture of genealogy buffs, the science of DNA, and the business of companies like Ancestry and 23andMe, all while tracing the story of one woman, her unusual results, and a relentless methodical drive for answers that becomes a thoroughly modern genetic detective story.

The Lost Family delves into the many lives that have been irrevocably changed by home DNA tests—a technology that represents the end of family secrets. There are the adoptees who’ve used the tests to find their birth parents; donor-conceived adults who suddenly discover they have more than fifty siblings; hundreds of thousands of Americans who discover their fathers aren’t biologically related to them, a phenomenon so common it is known as a “non-paternity event”; and individuals who are left to grapple with their conceptions of race and ethnicity when their true ancestral histories are discovered. Throughout these accounts, Copeland explores the impulse toward genetic essentialism and raises the question of how much our genes should get to tell us about who we are. With more than thirty million people having undergone home DNA testing, the answer to that question is more important than ever.

Gripping and masterfully told, The Lost Family is a spectacular book on a big, timely subject.

 Abrams Press; 1 edition (March 3, 2020)

What did I think?

I joined Ancestry and started my family tree at Christmas and it is my number one new hobby. This book couldn’t have come into my hands at a better time. Each year, thousands of people send their DNA in to find out about their past, health, and as you’ll read in this book- verify their familial DNA.

It wasn’t textbookish and the narrative story of one family’s quest to find out why their DNA results didn’t match their family lore was intriguing. I fully enjoyed it and liked learning about the history of the various DNA companies.


Book Review: Hidden Valley Road

Don and Mimi Galvin seemed to be living the American dream. After World War II, Don’s work with the Air Force brought them to Colorado, where their twelve children perfectly spanned the baby boom: the oldest born in 1945, the youngest in 1965. In those years, there was an established script for a family like the Galvins—aspiration, hard work, upward mobility, domestic harmony—and they worked hard to play their parts. But behind the scenes was a different story: psychological breakdown, sudden shocking violence, hidden abuse. By the mid-1970s, six of the ten Galvin boys, one after another, were diagnosed as schizophrenic. How could all this happen to one family?
What took place inside the house on Hidden Valley Road was so extraordinary that the Galvins became one of the first families to be studied by the National Institute of Mental Health. Their story offers a shadow history of the science of schizophrenia, from the era of institutionalization, lobotomy, and the schizophrenogenic mother to the search for genetic markers for the disease, always amid profound disagreements about the nature of the illness itself. And unbeknownst to the Galvins, samples of their DNA informed decades of genetic research that continues today, offering paths to treatment, prediction, and even eradication of the disease for future generations.
With clarity and compassion, bestselling and award-winning author Robert Kolker uncovers one family’s unforgettable legacy of suffering, love, and hope.     

Expected publication: April 7th 2020 by Doubleday Books

This is a tricky review to write. I can’t imagine the pain and turmoil this family must have felt with so many members sidelined.

We have a fair amount of diagnoses in our home, and this was all very relatable to me.

On the one hand, I feel like you’ve got to understand the inner workings and quirks of a large family to know how real and healthy the at-home atmosphere of the Galvin family will be to families who have one or more members with mental illness.

On the other hand, even one family member who struggles is stressful beyond belief

Even though this isn’t incredibly recent, mental health treatment has not progressed all that far. Many people are still suffering, and the only solution is to keep throwing drugs at them to try and solve the problem of a brain that just isn’t wired correctly.

I can’t say I enjoyed this read. I can say that it’s an important book, and if you are interested in mental health, you will find it well worth your time to read about and learn from the Galvin Family.


Book Review: The Evening and The Morning

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author, a thrilling and addictive new novel—a prequel to The Pillars of the Earth—set in England at the dawn of a new era: the Middle Ages

It is 997 CE, the end of the Dark Ages. England is facing attacks from the Welsh in the west and the Vikings in the east. Those in power bend justice according to their will, regardless of ordinary people and often in conflict with the king. Without a clear rule of law, chaos reigns.

In these turbulent times, three characters find their lives intertwined. A young boatbuilder’s life is turned upside down when the only home he’s ever known is raided by Vikings, forcing him and his family to move and start their lives anew in a small hamlet where he does not fit in…. A Norman noblewoman marries for love, following her husband across the sea to a new land, but the customs of her husband’s homeland are shockingly different, and as she begins to realize that everyone around her is engaged in a constant, brutal battle for power, it becomes clear that a single misstep could be catastrophic…. A monk dreams of transforming his humble abbey into a center of learning that will be admired throughout Europe. And each, in turn, comes into dangerous conflict with a clever and ruthless bishop who will do anything to increase his wealth and power.

Thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, Follett’s masterful new prequel The Evening and the Morning takes us on an epic journey into a historical past rich with ambition and rivalry, death and birth, love and hate, that will end where The Pillars of the Earth begins.

On Sale Date: September 15, 2020

I bypassed many other ARCs to dive into this treasure. It was so worth it. Total escapism from the world, the story merged seamlessly with The Pillars of the Earth- which I now need to re-read immediately! I know it’s a long time before you can read it, but I wanted to encourage Ken Follett fans to keep your eyes out for it. I’m hoping they may move up the release date.

It has everything, romance, treachery, history, and it’s the kind of book that you can’t put down. One more page, one more chapter, there’s never a good time to put it aside.

There are three principal characters in each novel. They include a builder and planner, a beautiful young lady with a royal background who travels from Normandy in France to marry in Kingsbridge, and a monk whose dream for the abbey that he works in is to make it a learning center for both clergy and laypeople. Remember how much you hated William Hamleigh in Pillars of the Earth? This story has an excellent villain in the Bishop of the area.

All in all, it’s exactly what you’d expect and want from a Ken Follett novel. and was a great immersive escape in these days when you would rather think about a different sort of world.