Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

61uonxdctxlWolf Hollow is a middle grade novel written by Lauren Wolk. This book had been on my radar since before it was published, and I finally got around to reading it a couple of weeks ago.

Annabelle lives with her family in a small Pennsylvania town called Wolf Hollow. The year is 1943, and there is a war going on, but life is relatively peaceful in their bucolic corner. That changes when Betty Glengarry is sent to Wolf Hollow to live with her grandparents. It is known that Betty was sent away because of her behavior, and instead of changing her ways in her new surroundings, she bullies Annabelle and her brothers.

Betty proves that she is conniving and manipulative when she begins to blame Toby for acts that she has committed. Toby was not born in Wolf Hollow, but he has been living in the countryside around the town for several years. He lives like a hermit, and keeps his interactions with other people to a minimum. He has always been a benign presence, but Betty’s claims call his trustworthiness into question. When Betty disappears, Toby is implicated. Read more

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Gemini by Sonya Mukherjee

81i42blouywlI received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Gemini is a YA novel by Sonya Mukherjee. It had not really been on my radar, but the premise was intriguing.

Clara and Hailey are identical twins. They have tried their best to accentuate their individuality with small things (Hailey has pink hair), but it’s virtually impossible for them to truly be individuals because they are conjoined.

There’s a big of a backstory: after the girls were born, their parents gave up their careers in Los Angeles to move to a small Northern California town to raise the girls in relative seclusion. They go to public school, and they have friends, but a smaller town means fewer prying eyes. Their mother is obsessed with keeping the girls away from the general public. She’s afraid that the girls are going to end up in the tabloids, she’s afraid of exploitation, and she’s afraid that her beautiful girls might be subjected to unkind words. Read more

An Untimely Frost by Penny Richards

51ulnmhfqdlI received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I love historical mysteries, especially those set in the 19th century. I tend to prefer books set in England, but I was excited about the opportunity to read An Untimely Frost, which is set in 1881 Illinois. This is the first book in a new series by Penny Richards.

Lilly Long is an accomplished actress, who has spent most of her young life performing with a traveling theatre troupe. The book begins with the dramatic revelation that her new husband is a cheat and a con man, who assaults her and flees with her life savings.

Lilly is the impulsive type, so when she sees that the famous Pinkerton Agency is hiring, she sees an opportunity for a new career. Her employers are naturally skeptical that such a young woman would be able to handle the rigorous nature of being a detective, but Lilly points out that her skillset as an actress would prove useful in the field of private detection. Read more

Henry and Beezus by Beverly Cleary

51dauu2xfelMy three girls and I have been listening to the Henry Huggins series in the car. A couple of years ago, Audible had a great sale and I picked up most of Beverly Cleary’s book for about $4 apiece. The girls had not really been interested in listening to the books before, but we have been reading the Ramona books, and they recognized Henry as one of the minor characters from the Ramona series. He’s much older than Ramona, so they don’t really cross paths in her books, but she plays the role of young antagonist in his books. This was enough for them, and they were sold.

Henry and Beezus is the second book in the Henry Huggins series. Henry is a ten-year-old boy living in Oregon. He has a dog named Ribsy, and many neighborhood friends. There are many small incidents throughout the book, but the main theme revolves around Henry’s attempts to earn enough money to buy a bike. This proves to be rather difficult, and involves dubious schemes like finding boxes of gum in a vacant lot and selling it to his friends at school. Will Henry ever be able to earn the money for a bicycle of his very own? Read more

Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary

51hzm0gexylI have been reading the Ramona series with my seven year old twins. We are also listening to the Henry Huggins series in the car, so 2016 is officially our Beverly Cleary summer.

Ramona the Brave takes place almost a year after the events in Ramona the Pest. Ramona is now a first grader. She is proud that she is no longer a “kindergarten baby”, but she must get used to a new classroom and a new routine. The book begins with Ramona standing up to boys on the playground who are teasing her big sister about her nickname (Beezus). Towards the end of the book, Ramona has an encounter with a big dog- can she still be brave? Read more

A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

51im2bhf5szlMy absolute favorite book genre is boarding school stories, and also I love Sherlock Holmes stories and spinoffs… so I was very excited about A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. This YA novel is the first in a planned trilogy about a new Holmes and Watson pairing.

Jamie Watson is an English boy at an American boarding school- the same school that Charlotte Holmes attends. They are the descendants of the famous Holmes and Watson, and Charlotte has been demonstrating her aptitude for sleuthing since she was a child. Jamie, however, has not had any opportunities to sleuth, and he feels simultaneously awkward and excited when that opportunity arises unexpectedly.

A student is found dead- a rather nasty fellow- one whom both Jamie and Charlotte had negative encounters with in the very recent past. So, in order to avoid implication in the boy’s death, Holmes and Watson must try to solve the case. Read more

The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale

51qebdodpflI received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoy reading about Victorian history, so I was very excited about the opportunity to read The Wicked Boy by Kate Summerscale. This is my first experience with her, and I will definitely look for her other Victorian books in the future!

During the summer of 1895, a pair of brothers named Robert and Nattie Coombes told their neighbors and relatives that their mother had gone away for awhile. They invited a family friend to stay with them for company; instead of staying in the upstairs bedrooms, they camped out downstairs. They took trips to Lord’s to see a cricket match, and they sent their family friend to pawn some household items. Eventually, relatives began to doubt the veracity of the boys’ tale and entered the locked bedroom. Mrs. Coombes was found dead, and the boys were arrested for murder. Read more

Serafina and the Twisted Staff by Robert Beatty

51mm8vlj1dlI received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I was thrilled beyond belief when I found out that there was going to be a sequel to Robert Beatty’s middle grade novel Serafina and the Black Cloak. I had been impressed with Beatty’s debut last year, and I wanted to find out what was going to happen to our plucky protagonist next.

It should be noted that Serafina and the Twisted Staff reveals information about the first Serafina book and its infamous black cloak, including the identity of the person wearing the black cloak. This review will skirt around such spoilers.

Serafina and the Twisted Staff begins relatively soon after the events of the first book. Young Serafina struggles to find her place in the world; she is not wild enough to survive in the forest, but she feels too wild to live amongst the civilized folk at the grand Biltmore estate. Read more

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary

81t22mmqwblA couple of years ago, Audible had a great sale on children’s audiobooks. I ended up getting most of Beverly Cleary’s books for about $4 apiece. I’ve been reading the Ramona books with my seven-year-old twins, so we’ve decided to listen to the Henry Huggins books when we drive around town.

Beverly Cleary might be best known for her Ramona series, but she wrote the Henry Huggins books almost twenty years before Ramona’s first book. The girls were excited to listen to Henry Huggins because they know Henry as a friend of Ramona’s sister Beezus. Henry is also the traffic boy when Ramona is in Kindergarten, and she antagonizes him, both inadvertently and deliberately.

Henry Huggins starts a couple of years before the events in the Ramona series. When the story begins, Henry is a third grade boy who finds a stray dog after his swimming lesson. The dog is so skinny that Henry calls him Ribsy. Henry is downtown by himself, and must get the dog home on the bus. This is quite the misadventure, and it sets the tone for the rest of the book- and, I daresay- the rest of the series. Henry is not a naughty boy, but always seems to get himself into “scrapes”, usually involving Ribsy. Henry grows very attached to Ribsy, but what will happen when Ribsy’s owner comes looking for him? Read more

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse

512busy-soelWhen I found Girl in the Blue Coat at my town library, I was pleased because I could take it home right away without having to make a request through the library network.

Girl in the Blue Coat was written by Monica Hesse. This is a World War II novel, which seems to be a popular setting lately. Hanneke lives in occupied Holland. She is done with school, and has a rather bland and unassuming job. This is, however, only a front- she is really helping transport black market goods around Amsterdam and delivering them to whoever is willing to pay her boss’s prices. You would be surprised what people would pay for chocolate or other coveted goods.

Hanneke tries to stay out of her customers’ business. It’s better that they know as little about each other as possible, right? That changes when one of her customers asks for help. She doesn’t need anything material; the customer asks Hanneke to help find the Jewish girl who was hiding in her house, but has disappeared. Read more