Friday, February 28, 2014

Bad Kitty School Daze

Bad Kitty School DazeBad Kitty School Daze by Nick Bruel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kitty and Puppy fight like, well, cats and dogs! All that hissing and chasing has gotten them in trouble, though, so it's off to obedience school to learn how to play well with others. Can Puppy learn to control his drool? Can Kitty learn how to improve her attitude? The teacher, Miss Dee, sure has her work cut out for her.

The illustrations in this book are just superb! It's practically a graphic novel because so much of the story is conveyed wordlessly through the animals' expressions and body language. I'd not heard of this series before, but they were on a face-out display at Powell's Books and caught my eye, so I picked this one up and right away started cracking up. It's such a fast read, I almost read the whole thing while standing in the aisle, but eventually I decided to go ahead and purchase it for my nephew and read the rest when I got home. A couple of weeks later, a little girl I know had it with her, and we started talking about it--she loved it as much as I did, although for slightly different reasons, given our age & experience differences. We sure agreed about how funny it was, though!

For readers' advisors: fast-paced read, perhaps good for reluctant readers due to the prevalence of visual clues and relative lack of written words (for a chapter book). Perhaps a read-alike for the Captain Underpants series?? I haven't read those in a while, so please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree!

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth

Fancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super SleuthFancy Nancy: Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth by Jane O'Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was cute. Nancy is rather more mature for her age than is quite believable, but fans who have outgrown the Fancy Nancy picture books will probably like this new series of short chapter books. The vocabulary is pretty advanced for easy chapter books, but O'Connor does continue the pattern of Nancy using big words and then explaining their meanings, which helps.

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Nancy Clancy, Secret Admirer

Nancy Clancy, Secret AdmirerNancy Clancy, Secret Admirer by Jane O'Connor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second book in the series is just as cute as the first. This time, love in is the air, and Nancy and her best friend, Bree, decide they simply MUST play matchmaker, pairing the babysitter with the guitar teacher. How can they pull it off? By playing Secret Admirer, of course! Many hijinks and big words later, their plan is about to come to fruition (a fancy word for getting to the end). Will it work?

For readers' advisors: early chapter book series aimed at grades 1-3. Fun for Fancy Nancy fans who've outgrown the picture books. Similar audience to Junie B Jones, although I personally like these much better, since Nancy & Bree are more like how I hope my daughter is in a few years. Junie B drives me nuts!

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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette and Espionage (Finishing School, #1)Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sophronia Temminick is shipped off to Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality as a covert recruit--meaning neither she nor her family know it's actually a training academy for lady spies. Sophronia becomes suspicious during the journey to the floating school when their carriage is ambushed by flywaymen intent on stealing a mysterious "prototype" from Mademoiselle Geraldine...who turns out not to be the headmistress after all.

Sophronia's natural inquisitiveness and propensity for sneaking, er, exploring, lead her to make friends in unusual places--always useful when one wants to gather information and thwart nefarious plots. With help from her roommate, Dimity, a few of her fellow first-year students, and her friends Soap and Vieve, Sophronia discovers a demoted classmate knows more than she should about the missing device, and they collaborate to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.

Carriger does a fantastic job of world-building, bringing to life a Victorian England where servants are mechanical, vampires and werewolves can be teachers, and a school can float courtesy of massive coal-fired boilers. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Sophronia's universe, and I look forward to the rest of the series. I will have to check out Carriger's adult series, now that I know this is a YA spinoff of that one.

For readers' advisors: setting doorway is primary, story is secondary, as the plot doesn't really ramp up until later in the book. No sex or bad language.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

The Garden Plot

The Garden PlotThe Garden Plot by Marty Wingate
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pru Parke is nearing the end of the year she allotted herself to find a full-time gardening job that would allow her to remain in England. Pru is a transplant from Dallas, Texas, but her training and passion are for historical English gardens. So far, though, she's only managed to cobble together a series of part-time and temporary jobs, including the latest: turning the Wilsons' back yard from an eyesore into a showpiece. Unfortunately, before she has time to do much more than cut back all the ivy, she literally stumbles over the recently deceased body of the Wilsons' landlord and friend, Jeremy Pendergast.

Although the Detective Inspector seems like a decent...and attractive...gentleman, Pru can't bear the thought of her new friends being murder suspects and is quick to leap to their defense, which occasionally lands her in hot water with the police for interfering in their investigation. It also puts her own life in jeopardy on more than one occasion.

I received a free ebook copy from NetGalley, and I very much enjoyed reading it. I am looking forward to more installments in this new cozy mystery series. However, I hope that Ms. Wingate puts additional effort into character development and strengthening her plot lines in future books because it bothers me that so much of the storyline in The Garden Plot depends on Pru making foolish decisions and withholding information and evidence from the police, not to mention the unprofessional behavior of DCI Pearse as he begins dating a suspect in an ongoing murder investigation. Don't get me wrong--I liked the main characters, I just didn't think their choices always made sense.

My original rating was 4 stars.  I stayed up too late finishing the book, since I didn't want to go to bed without knowing what happened.  But then over the course of the next day, my rating fell as I started thinking about all the things that bugged me, like, for example, how Pru didn't put two & two together regarding the "mice" in her basement, and how she went to all the trouble to copy her photos onto her laptop and two flash drives and then didn't bother to give anyone the drives or to even really look at the photos herself.  And why was Pru's one-year deadline so rigid?  I agreed with her friend Jo that that made no sense.

For readers' advisors: story doorway. No sex, no real on-screen violence, and I don't recall any swearing.

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