Note to Readers

I have not received any compensation for writing this post other than a free digital or print copy of the book. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning

Release Date - January 2014

Diane Daniels Manning

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Benny is a young teen with mild autism who dreams of two things. He wants his mom to become part of their family again, and he wants a dog. Despite his dreams of becoming a dog owner, his father and stepmother seem happy to say no.

At 70, Bess Rutledge is ready to demolish her poodle kennel. This last litter will end her long-running business, and she'll no longer raise and train poodles for dog shows. All of that changes when she meets Bennie. He lights a spark that has her thinking maybe her dream of making it to the Westminster competition doesn't have to just be a dream anymore. Despite all, Bess is still reluctant and Benny must find a way to break through the walls she's erected.

Almost Perfect is set in an area I know well. I have an aunt and uncle in West Redding, so I've spent many spring vacations at their home. It was fun to go back in time to when the Danbury Fair operated, now the area is covered by a huge mall with a carousel that my kids love. Knowing the setting was one reason I was drawn into the story.

I'm also very familiar with Westminster. I used to watch it yearly, though Almost Perfect did go into some of the detail involved in getting dog to rank highly enough to make it into that show.

There were things that bothered me about the story. Bess and Benny initially meet and that starts a connection. Then the plot takes a weird twist and Bess's prize poodle is stolen right in front of her. I never understood the real importance of this mystery in terms of the overall plot. It seemed extraneous.

There's a secondary plot involving a growing relationship between Benny's therapeutic school's principal and Bess's son. Again, it didn't seem like this plot was really critical.

Benny's family also have their place in the story, and after a few chapters, I decided their only purpose was to make me want to climb into the book and smack some sense into all of them.

I did enjoy the main portion of Almost Perfect, but when it would switch to one of the other plots, I found myself repeatedly wondering why this other storyline was so necessary. I ended up quickly glimpsing at those sections to get back to the main part of the story.

This book is marketed as a young adult. I'm not sure teens would find the story as appealing as adults.  Given that, it may be best to use Amazon's "Look Inside" feature and see what you think.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Disconnected by Lisa M. Cronkhite

Release Date - June 2014

Lisa M. Cronkhite
The Poisoned Pencil

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

Let me start by saying that Disconnected was a challenging book. There were times I loved the novel, and other times when I wondered why it was going so off course.

Amelia (Milly) lost her parents, but she's hazy on the details. Since then, she's lived with her grandfather,until his house burned down, and now she and her grandfather live with her aunt in an old Victorian. One thing is clear, she's not comfortable in her own skin. Many of her actions are prompted by a voice only she can hear that of Amelia, and Amelia is a bit of a bully.

When a mysterious older man starts following Milly around, she can't help but wonder - what is happening? Why can't she remember all the details of her past?

There were times I really liked Disconnected. It's a pretty intimate look at mental illness, something that needs more publicity, especially following Robin Williams' death. I think everyone was shocked by that tragic event. Yet, there were other times when I felt like the title - Disconnected.  Milly ends up facing so many issues, and I don't want to give away the ending, but once a revelation is made, I was just really disgusted and wondered if that plot turn really needed to be part of the story, especially the way it was thrown in at the last minute. Her relationship with Blake, it never is really fleshed out enough. Perhaps if the novel had been longer and more fleshed out, I would have connected better.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! by Petr Horacek

Release Date - June 2014

Petr Horacek
Candlewick Press

Book Review by Bob Walch

This well designed and sturdy board book combines pictures of common animals with the sounds they make. It is ideal for a young child who likes looking at colorful pictures and the book’s thick pages are a breeze to turn. Mom and dad will have fun making the sounds that identify each critter.

A good way of fostering a lifelong love of books in a child is to begin with a simple, colorful picture book like Honk, Honk! Baa, Baa! You’ll be surprised how often the youngster returns to a favorite volume like this and loves just flipping pages and tossing the book around.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Moon by Frank Asch

Release Date - March 2014 (Reissue)

Frank Asch

Book Review by Bob Walch

One night Bear looked up at the sky and thought, wouldn’t it be nice to give the moon a birthday present?’

Since Bear didn’t know when Moon’s birthday was or what Moon might like as a gift, he set out to find out. It is a long journey but Bear thinks he does find out when Moon’s birthday is and what Moon would like for his birthday.

Coincidentally, both Bear and Moon have the same birthdays and like the same things or so Bear thinks. This makes things a lot easier for Bear but, as you’ll see, Bear is really dealing with an echo which complicates this odd little adventure.

You’ll find the flat, one-dimensional illustrations in this picture book rather dark because the story unfolds at night. The story is a bit strange and you may have to explain what an echo is to your child (lots of luck!) before this story makes any sense.

On the other hand, if your child has read and enjoyed the other Moon Bear books, this one will probably be a hit too. So happy reading!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Flashlight by Lizi Boyd

Release Date - August 12, 2014

Lizi Boyd
Chronicle Books

Book Review by Tracy Farnsworth

There are no words in Flashight. Children will make up their own story, if they want to, otherwise, it's all about what's outside in the dark.

While the character in the book is warm and cozy inside his tent to start, he ventures out with his flashlight to see what's outside. Along his journey, he spies a boot, some skunks, and eventually finds some unusual playmates.

The art in Flashlight is mostly black and white sketches that I found endearing. The only color in the books involves the areas where the flashlight shines.