Shadows & Dreams by Alexis Hall

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This is the second book in Hall’s Kate Kane: Paranormal Investigator series. The Kate series first appeared a few years ago, but has been republished by Carina Press.

Readers should start with the first book—Iron & Velvet—which introduces Kate and her world, but I’ll offer a brief spoiler-free TLDR for readers who want to read this review. Kate lives in contemporary London, all the fictional supernatural entities are real, and just like ordinary people, they require the services of a private investigator.

Shadows picks up three months after Iron, and concerns the fallout from the end of Iron, as well as a new threat. What starts as a search for an almost-hookup’s missing brother escalates into something bigger, and once again Kate is forced to deal with vampires, werewolves, faeries, and more— when all she really wants to do is relax at home and spend time with Julian, her girlfriend.

I should mention that Julian used to be a nun… and that she’s an 800-year-old vampire… Read more

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal

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I was excited when I found Unmarriageable at my town library. Adaptations of Pride and Prejudice are one of my favorite tropes, and Soniah Kamal’s offering was already on my radar.

But then real life interfered, and even after renewing the book, I wasn’t able to read it before the due date.   Not returning the book wasn’t an option because I didn’t want to rack up library fines- nor did I want to hoard the book and keep other people from reading it.

So I bought the Kindle edition- and I added the Audible edition as well.

In Unmarriageable, Kamal brings Pride and Prejudice to Pakistan at the turn of the 21st century. Alys Binat lives with her family in Dilipabad, a small town in Pakistan. She and her older sister Jena teach English at the British School, and their three younger sisters are still students at the school. While Mrs. Binat has Big Plans for all five of her daughters, Alys is perfectly content with her life, and does not intend to get married just for the sake of getting married. Read more

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

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Romancing the Duke is the first book in Tessa Dare’s Castles Ever After series of Regency-era historical romance novels. I enjoy Dare’s books, but I have not read nearly enough of them, something I am attempting to remedy. I’m slightly behind with my book reviewing, but I recently listened to the Audible edition of this book.

Izzy Goodnight finds herself in a predicament after her father’s death. He has left her with virtually nothing, so when she receives a castle from a family friend, she sees this as her last chance at independence.

There’s just one problem: the castle already has an owner. Ransom, the Duke of Rothbury, has been living in seclusion ever since he was blinded in a duel six months ago. He most certainly did not sell his home, and while he wants Izzy to vacate the premises, he admits that he needs help sorting through his correspondence and figuring out how his house was sold. Read more

Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley

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Speaking from Among the Bones is the fifth book in Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mystery series. These books feature a precocious child sleuth who solves mysteries in her sleepy English village in the 1950s. I’m slightly behind with this series, but I’ve been savoring them slowly so that I don’t run out of books.

Bishop’s Lacey is preparing to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of St. Tancred, whose tomb is located in their village church. Naturally, Flavia wants to be there for the big event, and when the tomb is opened, they find a body. However, it’s not St. Tancred in the tomb- it’s the body of Mr. Collicut, who played the organ at church. There is no way that he could have wandered into the tomb on his own, so it’s clear that he met with a gruesome end. Who could have killed Mr. Collicut? Read more

Guts & Glory: The American Revolution by Ben Thompson

 

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Guts & Glory: The American Revolution was written by Ben Thompson. I picked up the Audible edition of this book (as well as the others in the series) during a sale, and my girls and I listened to it while we were driving around during all of our after-school activities.

This book is a wonderful introduction to the foundations of American history. Thompson uses a jocular storytelling format to convey information, and I found myself enjoying listening to this book as much as the kids. Much of the story is slightly irreverent, which naturally appeals to children. He uses modern pop culture examples to draw comparisons with events from the Revolution, like comparing Bunker Hill to an epic battle from Lord of the Rings or saying that he has to pay tax “every time he buy[s] a new Xbox game or a Big Mac”. Understanding history is so important, and I have a great deal of appreciation for Thompson’s ability to make learning about history appealing. Read more

Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

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Herding Cats was created by Sarah Andersen, and it is a collection of her Sarah’s Scribbles comic. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I’ve seen some of Andersen’s comics shared on social media, and I appreciate her brand of humor.

Herding Cats is an astute look at “adulting”, and how stressful modern life can be. There is a new comic on each page, and the jokes are more observational humor rather than a cohesive storyline with characters. Some of the jokes are broad, like time management and being anxiety prone. Some of the jokes are oddly specific, like trying (and ultimately failing) to refold a shirt at a clothing store. But all of the jokes were relatable to me as a thirtysomething year old woman. Read more

Big Nate: Silent but Deadly by Lincoln Peirce

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Big Nate: Silent but Deadly was written by Lincoln Peirce. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my oldest daughter is a big fan of the Big Nate comic strip and I knew that she would be interested in reading it too.

Nate is an average American boy who goes to elementary school. He has somewhat of a contentious relationship with teachers and administrators, and he has friends and adversaries within the school community. He’s a bright boy, but he doesn’t like to do schoolwork, which is something most children can empathize with. He plays sports, and interacts with his family. Read more

Unicorn of Many Hats by Dana Simpson

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Unicorn of Many Hats is the seventh book in Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and her Unicorn series of comics. I was very excited to read this book and share it with my oldest daughter because she loves this series.

The premise is fairly simple: Phoebe is an elementary school student, and her best friend is a unicorn named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. Marigold is mostly invisible, but she does have some interactions with the other characters.

Unicorn of Many Hats tends to follow a similar setup to the other books, wherein the good part of a year is covered, without the characters really aging from one book to another. There are story arcs devoted to starting school, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Many of the familiar secondary characters have returned, including frenemy Dakota, Max, Phoebe’s geeky parents, and even the goblins make an appearance. Read more

The Uncanny Express by Kara LaReau

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The Uncanny Express is a middle grade novel written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Jen Hill. This is the second book in The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book with my girls because we enjoyed reading The Jolly Regina, which is the first book in the series.

After their pirate adventure in the first book, Jaundice and Kale are looking forward to returning to their bland lives sitting at home, darning socks, and eating cheese sandwiches. Their plans are thrown off-kilter when they are directed to go to the train station to meet their aunt, and inadvertently end up on a train speeding off to the Uncanny Valley.

Jaundice and Kale agree to help a glamorous magician and serve as her assistants, but then she disappears- even though the train never made any stops. Luckily, one of the other passengers on the train is the famous detective Hugo Fromage. Can he help solve the mystery of the missing magician? Read more

Here Comes Teacher Cat by Deborah Underwood

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I preordered this book back in March, so it was very exciting when the Amazon delivery van pulled up in front of my house. My three girls wanted to read this book immediately, and I was happy to oblige.

Here Comes Teacher Cat is the fifth picture book in the Cat series. These delightful books were written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudia Rueda. If you aren’t familiar with Cat, you should know that the books follow a similar format. The narrator addresses Cat directly, and Cat responds by holding up signs that express his feelings. Cat is a bit of a curmudgeon and he can be selfish at times, but he has a good heart.

As the title suggests, Cat spends this book working as a substitute teacher for a class of little kittens. At first, he seems intimidated by the job, but he quickly realizes how much fun he can have and the students seem to appreciate his “improvements” to music, building blocks, and art. But can they clean up their mess before Ms. Melba returns? Read more