Audiobook Review – Two Can Keep a Secret


Two Can Keep a Secret follows Ellery and her twin brother as they move in with their grandma in the small town their mother grew up in. Death threats start popping up at their school, which has Ellery, a true crime addict, digging into past murders in the town and trying to fit the pieces together.

This is really just a solid YA mystery. Not as clever or as neat as “One of Us is Lying” perhaps, but still filled with plenty of false leads and lots of intertwining threads. I did not guess who the murderer was, but they were in my top two, so I wasn’t completely surprised. Ellery and Malcolm are both likeable, and I enjoyed their little side romance. The writing is snappy, and the ending is satisfying. I would totally recommend to all looking for a clean YA mystery, and I will definitely be reading more from McManus in the future.

My only minor issue is that I listened to the audiobook (courtesy of the library), and I found the male narrator for Malcolm to be slightly annoying/grating. It’s probably just a personal preference though!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Who doesn’t love a fun YA with murder?

Thanks for reading!

Audiobook Review – The Guilt Trip


So, The Guilt Trip starts off with a dead body. Then, backtracking, we follow three couples as they travel to a destination wedding, and stay together in a scenic villa in Portugal. We follow Rachel, a 40yo mother, as pieces of old and new secrets are uncovered, ratcheting the tension ever higher as they get closer to the wedding.

This book was kind of like watching a train wreck in motion, you just can’t look away as these characters start to unravel before your eyes. The tension was excellent, and tightly strung the whole way through. We live heavily inside Rachel’s unreliable, over-imaginative and highly paranoid mind as she struggles to keep her secrets hidden, while also desperately trying to pry open everyone else’s. I think this book did an excellent job of keeping us guessing on what was true and what was a lie as everyone became more and more unstable. And I will give it to this book, I did not know how it was going to end, and it definitely gave me that, “I have to know” feel.

But, Rachel was not my favorite…. I wouldn’t say I actively hated her… but there was definite dislike. She’s highly hypocritical, constantly beating around the bush, quite repetitive in her justifications and worries (maybe trying to convince herself of certain things perhaps, but still a little wearisome), and honestly just overall hard to connect to. I didn’t really get why the other characters liked her… and I definitely didn’t get the connection between her and Jack at all. I guess my one biggest beef was that this book hinges on a past mistake she made that I still just *Really* don’t understand, and it makes her really unlikeable. I actually had to stop and look at my husband and ask if her actions made sense in any way. Answer: Um. No.

But, despite that issue, I still enjoyed the listen. I thought the narrator did a wonderful job with the voices and the tension, and even though I didn’t like Rachel, I blew through this twisty story, and was mostly satisfied with the ending. If you’re into dramatic relationship-based thrillers, I would totally recommend this. (3.75/5)

⭐⭐⭐¾ 

Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the free ARC!

Me trying to remember any horrible life-altering decisions I made 20 years ago. In fairness, fourth grade was tough.😂

Thanks for reading!

The Library Haul – Jul 10


We try to take our littles (ages 5 and 3) the library almost every Saturday to get a fresh armful of books to tide us over for the week. Last week, since my 5yo and his friend have been telling us about the local summer camp bully, we decided to try to pick out a few with a bullying message. Unfortunately, I forgot to get them to officially weigh in on which they liked… so I’ve included other indicators of their interest (which I honestly think work better).

The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill. The bullying recess queen runs the schoolyard, until a new girl (who doesn’t know any better) breaks all the queen’s rules and then (gasp) asks the queen to play. Now that she has a friend, the queen is no longer a bully.

Vibrant illustrations and a quick, fun style… but I’m not going to lie, I have a little trouble with the whole “just be the bully’s friend” message. It’s a nice idea, but honestly I’ve never actually seen that work, and there’s no way I would tell my 5yo to go try to be friends with the 7yo that keeps pushing and hitting the smaller kids. ⭐⭐⭐½

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

Chrysantheum by Kevin Henkes. This was a super cute story about a mouse with a long unusual name. She loves her name until the other kids at school start to make fun of her for it. Her parents continue to boost her up, and eventually the cool teacher weighs in to say she has her own unique name that she loves, and everyone changes their tune.

I loved how this showed the back and forth about how Chrysantheum felt about her name both when she was at school with the mean kids, and when she as at home with her loving parents. I thought the positive influence of the teacher rang true, and enjoyed this cute little story. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

No T. Rex in the Library by Toni Buzzeo. A little girl is sent to time-out for being too loud in the library, and then a T Rex jumps out of a book and begins its own wild rampage through a slew of other story books, while the little girl tries to get him to behave as he should in a library.

Not a whole lot to say about this one. Cute, picture book fun with vibrant images. I don’t think mine totally understood that the girl was trying to get the dinosaur to behave in the library until I explained it to them, but neither did they really care. If there’s a dinosaur involved. That’s a thumbs up from them. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read this one twice, and my 3yo picked it up several times by himself (because, you know, dinosaurs). 😊

Little Boy Detective Blue by Steve Metzger. Detective Blue tries to solve the case of the missing Little Miss Muffett with a slew of clever nursery rhyme twists and vibrant, comic-book like illustratations.

This one went about a mile over my 5yo and 3yo’s head. They’re not super familiar with the old nursery rhymes, and even if they were, I don’t think they would’ve gotten the clever twists. I thought it was a cute book, but maybe a better fit or an older kid (7 or 8) that knows their nursery rhymes. ⭐⭐⭐⭐

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

Dinosailors by Deb Lund. A pack of dinosaurs decide they want to be pirates! And then it’s harder than it looks.

Bright, fun illustrations, and short punchy writing, plus I definitely got a laugh out of the scene of the seasick dinosaurs puking into the sky. I think this would be a hit with any picture book reader and I highly recommend. It would also make a great gift for someone with a picture book reader. I will definitely be looking for the sequel, All Aboard the Dino Train next time we’re at the library. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I was asked to read this book at least three times, my 3yo and 5yo both picked it up multiple times, with my 3yo also narrating to me what happens. 😍

I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët. There are no words in this book, but the illustrations are very clear. My 3yo and 5yo still needed the plot explained the first time but then got it right away. (New girl gets bullied, and then someone decides to walk with her to school and everything turns around.)

Simple but very clear illustrations, there’s not a whole lot to be said about this book. I do like the silent message of being kind to those that could use a friend, and how friends can help disempower a bully. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ ½

Both the 3yo and the 5yo got this book right away, and picked it up at least once by themselves. No requests for rereads… but since there are no words, who needs one! 😊

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson. Jeremy has a neighborhood “enemy” so his Dad suggests that they make him Enemy Pie. But first, Jeremy has to go spend the day with his enemy, and they become friends.

Solid writing and illustrations, but once again, this is that same message I’m not sure about⁠—where the misunderstood bully ⁠magically turns into a friend. Honestly, if anyone has an anecdote where this worked out for them, I would love to hear it. But if there’s a bully in the office, you can be sure, I will steer clear of them. Who needs that kind of negativity in their life? ⭐⭐⭐½

We read this book once, no requests for a reread, and they didn’t pick it up themselves. 😕

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. LOVED THIS BOOK. Seriously, I’m considering buying it for our shelf. It is perfection. Molly Lou Melon is different, but her grandmother gives her all sorts of fantastic advice about how to embrace her own awesome and live life to the fullest. This comes in handy when she moves to a new town and someone tries to bully her for being different. Unbothered, she brings the Full On Awesome, we’re all rightfully impressed, and basically the bully just can’t even deal.

I’m so on board, and if you’re looking to buy a picture book in the next 5 years, I would put this on your list. Six glowing stars! 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

We read this book twice, but I didn’t see them pick it up for themselves. 😊

The Kid from Planet Z by Nancy Krulik. I picked up this early chapter book for my 5yo to read, but he/we didn’t get around to it. No rating, but we might check it out again in the future.

Batman: Catwoman’s Halloween Heist by Eric Fein. This is an early chapter book that follows batgirl and robin as they go to a Halloween costume party and Catwoman shows up to steal a diamond. It also has a few comic book like illustrations. I only read a couple chapters so it doesn’t get a rating from me, but my 5yo was seen with it quite often. I’m not sure sure if he read the whole thing, but for his level of interest it gets a 😍 (super heroes are a pretty easy win from him.)

The Last Firehawk #4: Lullaby Lake by Katrina Charman. Another early chapter book with illustrations, my 5yo devoured the first three of these books, but he’s still working through this one. I think the basic ongoing premise is kid-warrior owl, spunky squirrel friend, and quickly-growing baby firehawk are trying to thwart evil vulture and co., but I’ve only read a few chapters with him. I don’t think he likes them quite as much as the Dragon Master books (I think Firehawk is a little scarier), but they’re still the first thing he pages through every time we check out books, so I’m also giving this one 😍 .

Library regular right here.

Whew! And that’s it for now! Tune in next week for the review of our next library haul!

Audiobook Review – Under a Siena Sun


Under a Siena Sun follows Lucy, a surgeon with Doctors without Borders fresh from the conflict zone, as she moves to Siena for a much-needed change of pace. She soaks up the joys of sunny Siena while working at a private hospital for the rich and famous, but her conscience plagues her as she tries to decide if this is really the meaningful life’s work she wants.

This book really reads like a leisurely tour through the Italian country side. The descriptions are beautiful and it even gets into the medieval history of the area. All of the characters are pleasant and likeable, and honestly any conflicts that arise seem rather minor and are resolved relatively quickly. The romance and language are clean, and if you’re looking for a sauntering stroll of a book (with plenty of friendly dogs there to greet you with a lick), this is probably for you.

But honestly it was a bit on the slow side for me. Although Lucy and her romantic interest are nice, I didn’t really feel the chemistry between them, and I felt like the middle sagged a little from lack of tension. Lucy worries a lot about the prospect of dating a millionaire. Like a lot, a lot. And towards the end it came off a little one note for me. Although both Lucy and her romantic interest definitely have some character growth, I found myself wishing for some twists and turns along the way rather than the straight-forward trajectory they took.

Still, this was a well-written, escape kind of clean romance that I think a lot of people would enjoy. I thought the audiobook narrator did a wonderful job with the different voices and accents, and overall it was a pleasure to listen to. (3.5/5 or this fast-pace loving reader)

Thanks so much to the publisher and NetGalley for the free ARC! 

Me really wanting to go to Italy… or you know, anywhere. 😂

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – The Girl in the Clockwork Tower


What a super cute steampunkish Rapunzel retelling! The Girl in the Clockwork Tower by Lou Wilham follows Persi, a seer forced to work for the evil and anti-magic MOTHER agency, and quirky goofball, Captain Manu, Persi’s assigned Uprising point of contact in a world filled with all manner of familiar magical people (Mermaids, Werewolves, Unicorns etc) and a few subtle pop culture references peppered in.

I absolutely loved the characters. Persi is super sweet, but shows a lot of courage as she tries to subvert MOTHER from the inside, and Manu is just this dramatic, pineapple-loving dandy airship Captain that you really can’t help but love. I absolutely loved the tongue-in-cheek banter between he and his grumpy goblin first mate, Benard. And Manu and Persi were super cute together—just a heroic pair of cinnamon rolls. And I also really liked that even though Manu and Persi are wholesome and have this innocence to them, the story really didn’t shy away from the horridness of MOTHER.

The only thing that was a little off for me was the pacing. I thought the middle dragged a bit, and then the ending felt rushed—without the full closure I was expecting. It sounds like this is going to be the first book in a series, but I still felt there were some threads of the story that seemed to be left hanging. I would totally recommend to fantasy fans looking for a unique retelling with loveable characters, fun banter, and a clean, sweet romance.

Thanks so much to Booksirens and the publisher for the free ARC!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  

Fun world and loveable characters in a steampunk retelling. Thumbs up!

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – The Teeth in the Tide


So this book was a surprise in the best way!

Let me start by saying, I’m not a mermaid person. When I originally saw this book described as a gender-swapped Little Mermaid retelling, I thought, “Eh, not for me.”

Then… when I saw it pitched as “Attack on Titan with mermaids,” I thought… Okay… well THAT I’ve got to see. And this book so totally pulled it off! The dual-POV plot follows a girl struggling with her deep-seated anger with the infestation of cannibalistic mermaids around her small island that threatens to cut them off from the rest of the world, and a merman struggling to escape slavery from the twisted, abusive mermaid queens.

Kenney does NOT hold back with the viciousness of the mermaids as she so vividly paints their world. Perfectly paced, I totally loved the brisk, rich writing style and the intricate and barbaric culture of the mermaids. I liked all the characters from the quietly raging Kestra, to intelligent Mai, and the charismatic ship captain, and the dialogue between them was sharp and fun.

The only thing that didn’t quite work for me was the glimpses of the love triangle that I feel would be further explored in future books. Without getting into spoilers, the chemistry between two points of the love triangle didn’t quite gel for me, and I was a little bit anxious about who the MC would end up.

I felt like the ending tied up the strands perfectly though, closing out the story while leaving room for future tales. As for a content warnings: there is definitely some intense, bloody violence, but language is mild, and romance scenes are fade-to-black, so I’d say PG-13. I would recommend this book to any fans of fantasy with an edge… and extra bonus points if you’re into mermaids!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐  

Beautiful writing, unique story, and it comps to Attack on Titan. What’s not to like!?!

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – Deliver Me


Read and released back into the wild.

Told in third person omniscient and set roughly in the 19th century, Deliver Me by Reda Amirah follows Nour’s escape from her cruel fiancé in Egypt to her life in a friendly music troupe in England, and her relationship with the rakish Lord Thomas.

Told in short scenes in a narrative-driven style, this novella moves very quickly. While I’m not really a huge fan of third person omniscient in general, (I feel like the characters are often kept at arm’s length instead of the immersive feel of other POVs), I definitely found myself drawn into the story, and I thought the plot had a good flow.

I thought Nour was definitely a strong and likeable character, but Thomas wasn’t my favorite with his possessive playboy noble attitude. He and Nour have a stymied lust-at-first-sight relationship that I was pretty dubious of at first, but I did like seeing their relationship grow as the book went on.

I ended up reading this book in one evening, and I found the fast-paced story definitely kept me turning pages. There is mention of rape and scenes of physical abuse, but the steam level is on the lower side. If you’re a fan of narrative-driven romance, then I definitely think it’s worth the read!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 

Recommended for fans of quick, narrative-driven romance.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – A Crocodile in the Family


Okay, so I thought this book was adorable. Of the six NetGalley picture books my 5yo and I read today, A Crocodile in the Family by Kitty Black was my favorite. The plot is simple: a family of birds adopt an egg they find in the jungle, and when an crocodile hatches out of it, all the other animals wonder why they keep him.

The illustrations are expressive and vibrant, the message is super sweet, and overall, the story is just light and fun. This is a story of belonging and love that doesn’t feel heavy handed, but still really hits those cute, wholesome beats. Totally recommend to anyone looking for solid cute picture book for ages 2-6.

Thanks so much to the publisher and NetGalley for the free ARC!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

My 5yo says he liked it, especially when the crocodile hatched and grew up, but he ranked it #5 of the 6 NetGalley picture books we read today.

Five-year-old rating:

🙂

A thumbs up and a half from the two of us.

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – Read All About Dinosaurs


My 5yo LOVES dinosaurs… so we have read lots of dinosaurs books, and this one was an obvious pick for him. So of the six books we picked out and read today on NetGalley, it also wasn’t really a surprise that this was his favorite.

And there was a lot to like in this book! I really liked the colorful dinosaur renderings on each page, and the up-to-date information (like mentioning that T-Rex may have been covered in feathers and showing a picture of what that might look like.) It presented facts that were new to me and gets bonus point for mentioning coprolites (fossils of dinosaur poop) which naturally my 5yo found very interesting.

This book is set up in a simplistic format, with every chapter introduced by a paragraph or two, and then each page in the chapter basically has two dinosaur pictures and short facts about them. Although the facts seemed very loosely related to me, this did not bother my 5yo at all, and I was impressed by the number of dinosaurs shown. My only real nitpick is that I wished they included a pronunciation guide either in the back or on the pages, to help show you how to pronounce the dinosaur names, as we have found that very helpful in other dinosaur books.

Overall, I ranked this #3 out of the 6 NetGalley picture books we read today, but I would definitely recommend to anyone with an avid dinosaur fan on their hands (ages 2-7). Because you can never really have too many dinosaur books.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publisher for the free ARC! 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½ 

My 5yo said he liked learning about dinosaurs so he liked this book “a whole lot” (shocker) and he ranked it #1 of the 6 NetGalley picture books we read today.

Five-year-old rating:

😍

Two thumbs up. I mean, who doesn’t love dinosaurs? 😂

Thanks for reading!

Book Review – Olive and Ginger


I think this book could be accurately renamed “Cat and Toad Muse About the World.” Olive and Ginger by Xenia Mesot really reminded me an advanced version of Frog and Toad. The humor was a little subtle/advanced for my 5yo, but I think he got it when I explained it to him. Overall I thought the stories were clever and we enjoyed the lovely illustrations, but I was a little surprised that Olive and Ginger never actually do a whole lot. Mostly, they just talk about smells, singing, and water from their very different perspectives. Which was cute, but I felt like it was just missing a little something. I ranked it, and I’d still recommend for anyone looking for a cute, clever story for ages 5-7. (especially cat-lovers.)

Thanks so much to the publisher and NetGalley for the free ARC!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½

My 5yo says he liked it, especially when they were thinking through ideas, and he ranked it #4 of the 6 NetGalley picture books we read today.

Five-year-old rating:

🙂

A thumbs up and a half from the two of us.

Thanks for reading!