Current Picks: Book Reviews

The Montessori Toddler

Are you already a follower of Montessori principles, or are you curious to find out what it's all about? In The Montessori Toddler: A Parent's Guide to Raising a Curious and Responsible Human Being (2019), Simone Davies, a parent and Montessori teacher, gives background on the Montessori philosophies that you can apply at home. Even if you aren't ready to adopt the whole lifestyle and education, you'll find great information about toddlers and their development, as well as activity guides and resources to encourage creativity, cooperation, and responsibility.




The Murder Pit

Arrowood and Barnett investigate cases in the shadow of Holmes and Watson but never seem to live up to their high standards—and certainly do not attract the high-level clients of the latter pair.

In The Murder Pit, the former pair represent an untruthful couple who say they want to rescue their recently married, mentally deficient daughter from her aggressive in-laws. A murder occurs and the victim's body is not easily found, but the A & B pair sleuth on through covert and sometimes violent occurrences to resolve the matter.

The Murder Pit (2019) is the second book by Mick Finlay to feature Arrowood and Barnett. Check out Arrowood for the pair's first mystery.



Such a Perfect Wife

Crime reporter Bailey Weggins, the spunky protagonist in this mystery, will stop at nothing to find out what happened to a young mother who disappeared while jogging one morning. Bailey is tenacious and constantly sticks her nose in where it doesn't belong. All small towns have secrets, and Bailey just keeps trying to dig them all up.

Such a Perfect Wife (2019) by Kate White is an entertaining page-turner! And it's part of a series, so you can check out Bailey's previous adventures.

The Stationery Shop

Set in 1950s Tehran, this ill-fated love story features teenagers Roya and Bahman. Roya's favorite place is Mr. Fakhri's stationary shop and she goes there every Tuesday after school to indulge her love of novels, poetry, and everything stationery. It is here that she meets Bahman, a young political activist and, despite parental disapproval, class differences, and Iran's political unrest, their love blossoms.

The story actually begins 60 years later in Boston. Raya has spent her adult life in America as an immigrant, always wondering why the love of her life never showed up to their rendezvous in a city square amidst a violent coup. Out of the blue, she discovers that Bahman is a resident in a nursing home nearby. Will visiting him finally give her the answer? Has their love lasted a lifetime?

I really enjoyed this romantic tale by Marjan Kamali, who writes very evocatively of the 1950s streets of Tehran. Her descriptions of Persian food had me looking up recipes, especially for the cooling melon ice that she mentions multiple times in The Stationery Shop (2019). I went out and bought some cantaloupe the next day and it was just as refreshing as I imagined!



The Spies of Shilling Lane

When Mrs. Braithwaite is ostracized by the community because of her recent divorce and her bossiness running the local Women's Voluntary Service, she decides to travel to London to see her daughter, Betty. When Mrs. Braithwaite arrives where Betty is staying, she discovers that Betty is missing. With help from Betty's landlord Mr. Norris, Mrs. Braithwaite finds herself involved in quite an adventure to bring Betty home.

Mrs. Braithwaite also discovers her life and herself changed forever for the better amid wartime London. The Spies of Shilling Lane (2019) is a delightful read, much better executed than Jennifer Ryan's debut, The Chilbury Ladies' Choir. A great readalike for The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.



The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Harriett (Hal) Westaway is at the end of her rope, emotionally and financially. At 21, she is mourning the sudden and violent death of her mother and trying to make ends meet as a tarot card reader. She borrowed money from the wrong person and is now receiving threats. She is skeptical when she opens a letter from a law office, but it turns out to be a request for her presence at the reading of the will of her grandmother, Hester Westaway. There is a slight problem: Hal's grandmother was Marion and she died before Hal was even born. She couldn't help speculating. This could be the ticket out of her current mess, if she could get away with it and IF her conscience would let her get away with it. A few thousand pounds could get her back on her feet and the loan sharks off her back. Surely, a wealthy family wouldn't miss that amount of money.

When she arrives at the rundown estate and meets her "family," she begins to wonder if the money is worth the risk. She finds herself enjoying being part of a family, but this family has a tragic history and a few secrets hidden away where no one was supposed to find them. Hal finds herself uncovering secrets that involve her more than she could have imagined. This suspenseful plot and intriguing characters will keep readers spellbound until the very last page of Ruth Ware's The Death of Mrs. Westaway (2018).



Someone Knows

Allie Garvey was only 15 years old when she, and four other teenagers, played a prank in the woods that went horribly wrong. The teens never tell anyone. For twenty years, the dark and horrible secret eats away at Allie, both physically and in her relationships with others. Now, Allie wishes to uncover the truth about what really happened that night—and hopefully be released from her own self-inflicted life sentence.

Someone Knows (2019) is greatly entertaining and told from several points of view. You might lose a couple of nights' sleep, as this book is quite hard to put down. Lisa Scottoline really knows how to get into the heads of characters.



The Night Tiger

Set in 1930s colonial Malaysia, The Night Tiger follows the adventures of several local children amidst a spate of mysterious deaths, which some people are attributing to the mythical weretiger.

Ren, an 11-year-old house boy, is on a mission to find the severed finger of his recently deceased master, an old British doctor. He needs to bury the finger with the doctor's body before the 49th day after death to ensure the doctor's soul will be at peace.

His story merges with that of Ji Lin, a young girl working at a dance hall to earn extra money to pay off her mother's debts. One night while dancing with a salesman, she ends up with a mysterious item from his pocket, a preserved human finger. Her subsequent search for the owner of the finger leads her and her brother, Shin, into intrigue and danger.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo (2019) interweaves the supernatural and Malaysian folklore with themes of colonialism and class and gender divides, all mixed together in an intriguing murder mystery.



How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper (2019)

Andrew works for the local council determining if those who have died have a next of kin. He's also perpetuating a big lie with his coworkers. Years ago, he told them that he was married and has two children, even though he's single. When Andrew takes a new employee named Peggy under his wing, it becomes harder to keep the truth of his life a secret as they become friends—and possibly something more. What has caused Andrew to shut himself away socially? Will his relationship with Peggy change his life for the better? How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper is a quirky, sometimes humorous novel. Give to readers who enjoyed Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and The Keeper of Lost Things.
Tags:

Then She Was Gone

Ellie Mack was a golden girl, beloved by all, especially her family. When she was fifteen years old, she disappeared on her way to the library. Ten years later, her grieving mother Laurel becomes involved with a very charming man who has two daughters. His 9-year-old Poppy happens to have a very strong resemblance to Ellie.

Then She Was Gone is a captivating, heartbreaking, and bizarre novel that will keep you turning the pages, with great interest, until the very last page. Check out this psychological suspense novel from Lisa Jewell.

Series Spotlight: You Choose Stories—Justice League

In order to enjoy this series, the reader should be a fan of the Justice League stories. There are seven Super characters in the Justice League, and they work together to protect the Universe! Many books and movies feature the Justice League.

The You Choose Stories—Justice League series engages the reader by requiring them to make decisions. The reader will notice as they start reading the book that…there, on the lower right corner of the right side page…in red…are choices to make:

If Batman goes after Black Manta, turn to page 23.

If Batman stays to help save the island, turn to page 29.

Throughout the book, the reader will make choices to continue the story.

Although this sounds complicated – and it will be too complicated for some readers – for those children who enjoy the "game" with the story – this will be an enjoyable book. Choose from Cosmic Conquest, The League of Laughs, The Portal of Doom, and The Ultimate Weapon.

Each book has 105 pages, and there are several full-page color, cartoon-style illustrations throughout the book. At the end, there is a glossary with pronunciations and definitions. There are four titles in the series – so far. The Lexile is 640-710.


Tags:

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (2017)

Lazlo Strange is earnest in his quest for knowledge. He's someone who could be your best friend. Even his enemies can't completely hate him; they just don't understand him.

The story begins when he's young, when suddenly the name of a city he's read about disappears forever. Books, spoken tales, even memories weren't safe. It no longer has a name. It's just...gone. Lazlo is convinced something happened and is determined to learn everything about this city, and somehow, travel to it. Cooped up in the library, assisting researchers going to-and-fro, it seems that day may never come—but he believes. He never stops dreaming, until a day he may finally have a chance to see this nameless city for himself.

And what he finds there is unbelievable.

Filled with adventure, exciting new locations and love, Strange the Dreamer will entrance you with its beauty and otherworldly feel. In Laini Taylor's epic fantasy, Lazlo's strange journey will not disappoint.


Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly (2018)

Renee Ballard, first introduced in Michael Connelly's Late Show, joins forces with longtime detective Harry Bosch to work on the unsolved murder of a 15-year-old runaway girl on the sad streets of Los Angeles. The two officers from different police forces work on the case only when their other duties allow.

Renee is surprised to find the mother of the murdered girl living in Harry's home. Then the mother disappears, adding to the mysteries the officers want to solve. Harry's regular duties crash down on him and he is suspended and then kidnapped.

In Dark Sacred Night, you'll find a compelling police procedural featuring the beginning of a strong partnership. 


Normal People by Sally Rooney (2019)

Marianne and Connell begin a secret relationship when they are seniors in high school. Connell is popular and outgoing, but at times feels insecure since his mother, Lorraine, cleans houses for a living. Marianne, meanwhile, is wealthy, and a loner in part because of her abusive family background. Normal People recounts their relationship over the next four years as they go to college and decide what to do with their lives. It a story of two people finding their way to adulthood and the strong bond they develop with each other. Sally Rooney's latest novel is a great pick for book clubs.




Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson (2019)

Artist Henrietta "Hen" Mazur is convinced her next-door neighbor Matthew Dolamore is a killer. While at Matthew's home for dinner one night, Hen sees a fencing trophy that she believes belonged to murder victim Dustin Miller, who lived down the street from Hen when she lived in Cambridge. Hen isn't sure what to do because she has bipolar disorder and is doing well now, but while in college she had an episode and was arrested for attacking another student because Hen believed the student was a murderer. Hen feels the police won't believe her now, but when Hen begins to follow Matthew, she becomes a witness to his violence and her and Matthew's lives become forever intertwined.

I always look forward to a new Peter Swanson novel and this one doesn't disappoint. Before She Knew Him is a page-turner in the style of Alfred Hitchcock.