Thursday, May 24, 2012

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm

Book Jacket

Life isn't like the movies, and eleven-year-old Turtle is no Shirley Temple.  She's smart and tough and has seen enough of the world not to expect a Hollywood ending.  After all, it's 1935, and jobs and money and sometimes even dreams are scarce.  So when Turtle's mama gets a job housekeeping for a lady who doesn't like kids, Turtle says goodbye without a tear and heads off to Key West, Florida, to stay with relatives she's never met.

Florida's like nothing Turtle has ever seen.  It's hot and strange, full of wild green peeping out between houses, ragtag boy cousins, and secret treasure.  Before she knows what's happened, Turtle finds herself coming out of the shell she's spent her life building, and as she does, her world opens up in the most unexpected ways.

Inspired by stories of her great-grandmother, who immigrated to Key West at the turn of the last century, two-time Newbery Honor winner Jennifer L. Holm beautifully blends family lore with America's past in this charming gem of a novel, rich in historical detail, humor, and the unique flavors of Key West.


The cover and title led me to believe this was a romance-of-the-summer book, and nothing could be further from the truth!  Turtle in Paradise had me hooked from the first paragraph, and its small-town charm and colorful kid protagonists made it impossible for me to put it down until I finished the story.

Turtle is a jaded pre-teen who expects trouble in life, but always rises above.  I love having a cynical protagonist who is brave and adventurous and enduring.  She's also incredibly funny as she explores Key West with her gaggle of boy cousins.  And those boy cousins!  They're the Diaper Gang, because they are the babysitters of the island.  Boy babysitters are my new favorite thing, with their kind disregard for crying (they just swaddle the kid and put it in a wagon) and top secret diaper rash cure.

This story touches on history, family, adventure, and the elusiveness of happy endings--all in a very 5th grade friendly (with no loss of adult interest, by the way) format.  I adored Turtle in Paradise.  It might be my new favorite for the Caudill award.

Five out of five sponges.

Release Date:  May 2010
Reading Level: Grade 3+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: CAUDILL

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Harpist in the Wind by Patricia A. McKillip

Book Jacket

Though Morgon the Riddle-Master was reunited with his beloved Raederle, his purpose in life and the reason for the stars on his forehead remained a mystery.  All around him, the realm shook with war and disaster as mysterious shape-changers battled against mankind.  Without the missing High One, Morgon must assume responsibility for all his world.

After leading an army of the dead to protect his island of Hed, he and Raederle set out for Lungold, where the wizards were assembling against the evil Ghisteslwchlohm.  And behind them came Deth, the crippled harpist, Morgon's friend and betrayer.

But Lungold was only the beginning of the quest that would lead him to the truth of ancient struggle and the fate of the High One, until at last he could solve all mysteries and know his own awesome destiny!


McKillip must be some kind of genius for getting me to read her entire trilogy.  Her fantasy world of magic and shape-changers is incredibly cerebral and image-heavy.  Not my favorite thing.  And in each of her three books, I'm tempted to just give up on the story halfway through.

But then something happens.  A new question, a hidden motive, and I have to know what will happen.  The plot jumps forward at a neck-breaking speed, and there are more characters to keep track of in too short of time, but....somehow she makes me care!  I don't even know how.

You might have noticed I have mixed feelings about this series.  I suppose I can most easily say that Morgon's story is one I adore, while the way it is described is not my favorite.  That said, I kind of want to read them again someday, to see how hints led the way to the big reveal.  And because now I have a grasp on who is who and how things get done.

All that aside, Morgon and Raederle make up one of my very favorite couples in all of literature.  They are both powerful, both flawed and scared.  They fight for each other and against each other, and they care about each other very deeply.  I wouldn't mind having a romance like theirs.

Four out of five towers.

Release Date:  1979
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

Book Jacket

Part memoir and part education (or lack thereof), The Know-It-All chronicles NPR contributor A.J. Jacobs' hilarious, enlightening, and seemingly impossible quest to read the Encyclopedia Britannica from A to Z.

To fill the ever-widening gaps in his Ivy League education, A.J. Jacobs sets for himself the daunting task of reading all thirty-two volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica.  His wife, Julie, tells him it's a waste of time, his friends believe he is losing his mind, and his father, a brilliant attorney who had once attempted the same feat and quite somewhere around Borneo, is encouraging but, shall we say, unconvinced.

With self-deprecating wit and a disarming frankness, The Know-It-All recounts the unexpected and comically disruptive effects Operation Encyclopedia has on every part of Jacobs' life--from his newly minted marriage to his complicated relationship with his father and the rest of his charmingly eccentric New York family to his day job as an editor at Esquire.  Jacobs' project tests the outer limits of his stamina and forces him to explore the real meaning of intelligence as he endeavors to join Mensa, win a spot on Jeopardy!, and absorb 33,000 pages of learning.  On his journey he stumbles upon some of the strangest, funniest, and most profound facts about every topic under the sun, all while battling fatigue, ridicule, and the paralyzing fear that attends his first real-life responsibility--the impending birth of his first child.

The Know-It-All is an ingenious, mightily entertaining memoir of one man's intellect, neuroses, and obsessions and a soul-searching, ultimately touching struggle between the all-consuming quest for factual knowledge and the undeniable gift of hard-won wisdom.


I'm officially a fan of Jacobs, and will read any books he writes on unusual life goals (see also my review of The Year of Living Biblically).  He is embarrassingly honest about his pride and his flaws, and he wrote a book about reading the Encyclopedia Brittanica.  Anyone who can make that a page-turner is obviously a great writer.

I loved the setup, going alphabetically through the topics he read, sometimes offering bits of trivia, sometimes using a term to delve into his personal life.  I was impressed that his life lined up so neatly with his project--struggling to get pregnant with his wife, struggling to figure out his relationship with his father--both of these issues continually crop up throughout his journey, and by the end both relationships are a little better because of the project.

Reading the entire Encyclopedia is impressive, but it's even more amazing how Jacobs draws timeless wisdom from the random facts he learns.  A non-fiction funny, wise, interesting book about one guy's weird goal?  I'm so glad I read it.

Five out of five school field trips.

Release Date:  September 2004
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Flora's Fury by Ysabeau S. Wilce

Book Jacket

Aside from her troublesome attraction to magick, Flora Fyrdraaca has spent her entire life doing what's expected of her.  Who else is going to keep order in her crazy family?  Yet at sixteen, she realizes that this life has been strewn with secrets and lies.  Lies have kept her from becoming a ranger, from perfecting her use of magick, from claiming her hidden birthright.

And then there's the matter of Flora's true mother.  Tiny Doom, killed years earlier by the Birdies, the Rupublic of Califa's evil overlords.  Was even her murder a lie?  Flora is sure of it--and she will do whatever it takes to find her, whether in the Waking World or Elsewhere.

Certain that only Tiny Doom can free Califa from the Birdie's rule, Flora embarks on a journey that takes her from sea to island to desert, and into an alliance with a brooding stranger with secrets of his own.  But only when Flora is very far from home does she discover how much the future of Califa is at stake--and how far the Birdies will go to destroy her.


Flora's back!  I adore Wilce's series (beginning with Flora Segunda and Flora's Dare).  The characters are brilliant and dysfunctional and heroic.  The setting is positively fantastic--it may be my favorite fantasy setting ever.  I know that's a huge claim.  I haven't really thought it through, but Califa is definitely in my top five.

Since I have such an intense love for the places and people of the first two books, I was initially dismayed with Flora's Fury.  Flora pretty quickly goes to new locations and primarily hangs out with new characters, with the exception of her loyal dog Flynn.  Apparently I love Wilce's world as a whole more than any specific characters, because I ended up loving this book. 

The criminal island of Barbacoa was super fun.  I really liked Tharyn the wer-bear.  And I loved Handhands haunting and helping Flora through her adventures.  And of course, Flora remains awesome.  She is older now, but still extremely self-involved and selfless at the same time.  She wants to help her family and her country, but she usually does so in her own way, without considering the actions or needs of others.  This makes her incredibly complex and relatable.  People are contradictory a lot of the time, and Flora is no exception.

For some reason, the Flora series doesn't get as much press or attention as it deserves.  Let's change that!  Read Flora, and spread the word of its greatness!

Five out of five long distance packages.

Release Date: May 2012
Reading Level: Grade 8+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL WIL

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thou Shalt Not Road Trip by Antony John

Book Jacket

When does a spiritual journey turn into a rockin' road trip?  The moment Luke's book, Hallelujah, becomes a national best seller.

Luke's publisher sends him on a summer cross-country tour with his unpredictable older brother, Matt, as chauffeur.  Without Luke's knowing, Matt offers to drive Luke's ex-crush, Fran, across the country too, and things get a little crazy.  Luke thinks he's enlightened, but he actually needs to loosen up if he's going to discover what it truly means to have faith, and do what it takes to get the girl he loves.


Yikes.  A lot of this book was an uncomfortable trip down memory lane, back to those years when I thought being a Christian meant standing apart from others and looking down at them.  I even wrote stuff and pridefully imagined I would change the world if it ever got published.  Thankfully for me, nothing ever was, and I got to grow up and learn about true faith and love without all the drama Luke goes through.

Luke is a wonderful protagonist, because he is equal parts endearing and frustrating.  He's genuinely confused by life, and when anything outside his world view comes his way, he is completely unable to handle it.  Thankfully he has Fran in his life, a girl who has been abandoned by her family and friends, but never gives up on following God and making a difference in the world.  Even if most people are unwilling to be helped by someone with purple hair and tattoos.

I had no problem with Luke and Fran's struggling spiritual journey, but I was a little disappointed in the way Luke's Christian fans were portrayed.  I'll even lay off the open hostility they show to Fran, because as much as it pains me, that is too often true.  But the stupidity they have en masse, unable to tell that Luke's highly stylized and metaphorical book isn't 100% fact.  Ugh.  We Christians are not all stupid.

John juggles a lot of themes in his book, dealing with faith, family, and romance in some new and really awesome ways.  I loved it.

Four out of five Route 66 road trips.

Release Date: May 2012
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: YPL JOH

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Book Jacket

With more than five million copies sold, Flowers for Algernon is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance—until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

This is a classic I avoided for years because it just seemed too sad.  I finally got around to reading it, wasn't as sad as I expected.  I think my lack of emotion is largely because I knew what would happen.  I can imagine how gut-wrenching the end of the story would be if I were reading it completely unspoiled.

Still, there's no question why Keyes' novel is a classic.  The diary format works wonderfully well, both in documenting the narrative and in revealing the slow increase and later, the faster decrease, of Charlie's intelligence.

Charlie's story illuminates the double-edged sword of intelligence--both how we react to others' intelligence and how we deal with our own.  I loved the examination, especially because it made me uncomfortable with my own prejudices.

Four out of five inkblots.

Release Date: 1966
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of our collection.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Guyku by Bob Raczka

Book Jacket

When you're a guy, nature is one big playground--no matter what the season.  There are puddles to splash through in the spring, pine trees to climb in the summer, maple seeds to catch in the fall, and icicles to swordfight with in the winter.

Nature also has a way of making a guy appreciate important stuff--like how many rocks it takes to dam up a stream, or how much snow equals a day off from school.

So what kind of poetry best captures these special moments, at a length that lets guys get right back to tree climbing and kite flying?  Why, guyku, of course!  And there's no better author-and-illustrator team to capture all the fun than two guys named Raczka and Reynolds.


Let's get past the fact that this book is about boys, yeah?  Why limit these awesome childhood memories to only half the world's population?  So we're just going to pretend that my kid girl memories are welcome in this boy book.

That said, I loved it!  The haikus flow so easily they don't even seem like haikus.  The emotions that three simple lines evoke are powerfully nostalgic.  I remember climbing trees, skipping rocks, building dams, catching helicopters from maple trees, hiding under snow-laden bush branches.  This book makes me want to run outside and be a kid again, with all the wonder and boundless energy of childhood.

The illustrations that accompany each haiku are fantastic.  The combination of words and pictures form really wonderful stories, my favorite of which is this:

If this puddle could
talk, I think it would tell me
to splash my sister.

Five out of five seasonal adventures.

Release Date: October 2010
Reading Level: Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Heir of Sea and Fire by Patricia A. McKillip

Book Jacket

By the vow of her father and her own desire, Raederle was pledged to Morgon, Riddle-Master of Hed.  But a year had passed since Morgon disappeared on his search for the High One at Erlenstar Mountain, and rumors claimed he was dead.

Raederle set out to learn the truth for herself, though her small gift of magic seemed too slight for the perils she must face.  The quest led through strange lands and dangerous adventures.  Only her growing powers enabled her at last to reach Erlenstar Mountain.  And there she discovered what she could not bear to accept.

Accompanied by Deth, the High One's Harper, she fled.  And behind them came a pursuer whose name was Morgon, bent on executing a grim destiny upon Raederle and Deth.

Her only hope lay in summoning the Hosts of the Dead, led by the King whose skull she bore...


Okay, so first, the book jacket is false.  Ignore it and trust my review:  this book is awesomesauce!  When I read the first book in this series, The Riddle-Master of Hed, I was underwhelmed.  The world-building happened super fast, and I could barely keep up with what was going on.  This time around, I had a much better understanding of the various countries and magic philosophies, so I could let myself get caught up in the story rather than constantly wondering what was going on.

It helps that Raederle is so amazing I'm actually considering naming a child after her.  She is right up there with Eowyn in terms of super cool girl fantasy characters.  Raederle is powerful, but scared of her power.  She worries that her nature will overshadow her upbringing.  She is told to stay home and get married off to someone now that Morgon is presumably dead, but instead she runs away and embarks on a quest of her own.

There are shape-shifters, illusions, life at sea, wizards come back to life from trees and pig-herdesses.  The magic in this trilogy is so fun!  And McKillip has great wit, a lot of which comes from the names she gives her characters--people seeking to kill Deth, for instance--and countries--no one likes the kings of Hel.  This is a great fantasy for people who don't want to invest in an 800-page tome. 

And Raederle and Morgon?  Are um, super adorable.  I didn't realize how much I shipped them until they were suddenly in the same room together, and then I did mental cartwheels and high fives at their awesomeness.  This is romance at its best--two strong characters who can stand on their own, but who are even stronger together.  I can't wait to see what is in store for them in the finale book of McKillip's trilogy!

Five out of five puddle/lakes.

Release Date: August 1977
Reading Level: Grade 7+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Lousy Rotten Stinkin' Grapes by Margie Palatini

Book Jacket

Fox eyed a bunch of tantalizing grapes hanging from a vine growing high on a tree.

"Those juicy morsels are for me," he said with a grin.

The problem was, Fox was only so high...and the grapes were so, so, so high.

"No matter," said he.  "I am sly.  Clever.  Smart.  After all, I am a fox."

He made a plan...

And what a plan it is!  Here Margie Palatini and Barry Moser, who collaborated on Earthquack! and The Three Silly Billies, give an ingenious--and hilarious--twist to the well-loved Aesop's fable "The Fox and the Grapes."


Okay, I've got a personal bone to pick--I love foxes!  They are adorable, and I like when they are straight out clever.  Not when they think they are clever but are actually dumb, like in this story.

Regardless of that, do I like this book?  Not really.  The message is good--don't turn your back on something good just because you needed help to get it.  But I wasn't a fan of the way it was written.  The dialogue is almost stream-of-consciousness, with a lot of dashes and elipses.  It doesn't read like a children's story at all.

The pictures, however, are stunning. 

My love of foxes might be coloring my review, but I didn't find much extraordinary about this book. 

Three out of five hanging possums.

Release Date: August 2009
Reading Level: Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: MONARCH

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton

Book Jacket

Why did you pick up this book?  Did it have something to do with the eye-popping colors on the cover?

You can thank Bob and Joe Switzer for those shocking greens, blazing oranges, and screaming yellows.  The brothers invented a whole new kind of color--one that glowed with an extra-special intensity.  It took them years of experimenting, but their efforts paid off brilliantly.  Day-Glo colors helped win a war, save people's lives, and brighten everyday life--including this book!


It is super weird for me to think of people creating colors.  I had never really thought about the fact that day-glo colors are found nowhere in nature, and must therefore have been invented by someone.  Now I know that those obnoxious colors that hurt your eyes but do a great job drawing attention to themselves were made by the Switzer brothers.

This book is a biography-lite.  The story of Bob and Joe begins in their childhood, follows them as they pursue different dreams, then come together to create something that subtly changed the world. 

The illustrations are fun, and the random additions of day-glo colors to the pages makes the book's point every time--you cannot look away.  The story is both entertaining, informational, and inspiring.  Life might take you on a path you never expected, but some really great things might come from your detour! 

Four out of five rescue flags.

Release Date:  July 2009
Reading Level: Grade 2+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM

Monday, May 7, 2012

That Cat Can't Stay by Thad Krasnesky

Book Jacket

Cats.  You either love 'em or hate 'em.  But what happens when Mom loves cats and Dad doesn't?

To the delight of the cat-loving children, Mom keeps adopting stray cats.  Poor Dad's objections get more and more absurd:

Mom found a calico.
Dad said, "That thing has got to go.
There's no use begging.  Don't say please.
I don't like cats.  They scratch my knees.
They carry fleas.  They make me sneeze.
They're always getting stuck in trees.
I want it gone.  Vamoose!  Away!
I'm telling you, that cat can't stay."

But clever Mom convinces Dad to let each cat stay for a short time.  Once they're comfy in the house, they never leave!  One stray, then two, then three move in, and Dad is at his wit's end.  When stray cat number five arrives, Dad finally takes a surprising stand.

A delightful romp for dog-lovers, cat-lovers, and even cat-haters.


I'm definitely a fan of cats, and I'm also a fan of reverse psychology.  A strange combination to have in a children's book, but there you go.  That Cat Can't Stay is a great story of families, compromises, and flowy funny rhymes.

I liked the Mom, who points out what little chance these poor cats will have in the outside world.  I liked the Dad, who complained and railed against them, but was ultimately too compassionate to throw the cats out.  I liked the kids, who gleefully watched their house fill up with cats.  I liked the cats themselves, who were drawn with over-the-top distress when found and then over-the-top comfort when made part of the family.  And I liked the ending, which made everyone in the family happy.

The pictures are great.  The story is funny.  And it made me want to adopt a whole bunch of strays.

Four out of five cats in trees.

Release Date:  April 2010
Reading Level: Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: MONARCH

Friday, May 4, 2012


I have been very bad at keeping up with LEGO blog posts.  It is somehow too much work to plug in my camera, move pictures from one file to another, and then upload them here?  To make up for my laziness, I am now posting a MEGALEGO post.  There are pictures from our April LEGO clubs, as well as our first club in May.  Lots and lots of pictures below the cut!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy

Book Jacket

Gum has been around for centuries.  The ancient Greeks chewed sap from mastic trees.  The American Indians chewed spruce resin.  Men in top hats and women in puffy dresses chewed gum to cure things like stomachaches.  Gum wasn't that exciting.  But what if gum chewers could blow bubbles while chewing it?

In the late 1920s a factory in Philadelphia was working on a top secret project.  Month after month the workers experimented with different ingredients and formulas.  And month after month all they had to show for their hard work was a big sticky mess.  Would there be no bubble gum?  Sometimes the best inventions come from the most unexpected places...


Confession here:  I am really awful at blowing bubbles in gum.  I used to be so jealous of kids who could blow bubbles as big as their heads, or who could blow a bubble, close it off, and blow another into a chain!  Bubble gum is a tumultuous topic for me (not really), so learning about its history was pretty fascinating!

I love stories of accidental inventions.  I love stories of people inventing something far outside their field of expertise.  I love stories that explain how something we take for granted (like the pink color of bubble gum) was really just a case of right time-right place.  Life and progress is a strange meandering journey, and discovering a little bit of how things are made is almost always interesting. 

Also, the simple sentences used make for great out-of-context hilarity!  "He knew lots about math but not much about gum."  That is the saddest random fact to assign to someone.  I think I might use it on acquaintances from now on.

Next time your kid asks for a piece of gum, have him or her read this first! 

Four out of five Dubble Bubble gums.

Release Date: May 2010
Reading Level: Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: MONARCH

The Story of Snow by Mark Cassino

Book Jacket

How do snow crystals form?

What shapes can they take?

Are no two snow crystals alike?

These questions and more are answered inside this exploration of the science of snow, featuring photos of real snow crystals in all their beautiful diversity.  Perfect for reading on winter days, this book by a nature photographer and a snow scientist will inspire wonder and curiosity about the marvels of snow.  And for those inspired to collect and study their own snow crystals, there are snow-crystal-catching instructions in the back.


I love snow!  When I was little, my "if I could change the way the world works" wish was for it to snow in the summertime.  After reading The Story of Snow, I am scientifically equipped to explain to my younger self that my dream is simply impossible.  Which is sad, but regardless of the temperature when it falls, snow is awesome!

This book does a great job of teaching simple lessons (the conditions under which snow is formed, the different types of snow) in an easy to grasp way.  Real pictures, with life-size comparisons, litter every page, making the whole lesson beautiful as well.

I learned a lot from this short book, and I imagine any kid who grows up playing in snow will find it fascinating.  If only I hadn't read it on the cusp of summer.  Now I have to wait several long months to fully appreciate my new knowledge.

Four out of five debris made into snow crystals.

Release Date: October 2009
Reading Level: Grade K+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: BLUESTEM

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Stickman Odyssey: An Epic Doodle by Christopher Ford

Book Jacket

Greek Epic the way it was meant to be stickman form!


This is...pretty much exactly what it says on the tin!  The story of Odysseus as a graphic novel of stickmen.  And it's awesome!  I love Greek mythology, and I especially love it when reinterpreted in different contexts.  Hilarious cartoons is a great new way to explore ancient myths.

What surprised me most was how expressive Ford manages to make his stick figures.  They are simply drawn, but they easily convey emotions and moods.  I never thought I would feel bad about the artistic quality of my stick figures, but, well.  It has happened.

The characters are also awesome.  Zozimos is hopelessly self-centered.  Alexa is the best ever--I loved how Zozimos kept talking about how he loved her for her beauty, and she would respond peevishly, "Yeah, but how about when I saved your life?  Do you love me for that?"  But the moral of this story is that Zozimos doesn't realize how much he depends on others, and the his fate is bound up in whether or not he can learn to ask for help!
Yup.  A hilarious cartoon Greek myth teaches a lesson, too.  This book is perfect for kids, and for anyone with a sense of humor, really.

Five out of five doomed prophecies.

Release Date:  August 2011
Reading Level: Grade 6+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: GRAPHIC FOR

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Trail of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz

Book Jacket

For the first time in Spellman history, Isabel Spellman, PI, might be the most normal member of her family.  Mom has taken on an outrageous assortment of extracurricular activities--with no apparent motive.  Dad has a secret.  Izzy's brother and sister are at war--for no apparent reason.  And her niece keeps saying "banana" even though she hates bananas.

That's not to say that Izzy isn't without her own troubles.  Her boyfriend, Henry Stone, keeps wanting "to talk," a prospect Isabel evades by going out with her new drinking buddy, none other than Gertrude Stone, Henry's mother.

Things aren't any simpler on the business side of Spellman Investigations.  First, Rae is hired to follow a girl, only to fake the surveillance reports.  Then a math professor hires Izzy to watch his immaculate apartment while he unravels like a bad formula.  And as the questions pile up, Izzy won't stop hunting for the answers--even when they threaten to shatter both the business and the family.


By this fifth installment of the Spellman family's misadventures, reading about Izzy's life is like curling up in front of a fireplace with a cup of hot chocolate.  Never has dysfunction been so cozy.  It helps, I suppose, that although the Spellmans are still ridiculous, they are a bit more mature and communicative.

Mostly thanks to Demetrius, the recently freed wrongfully-convicted criminal who is now working for Spellman Investigations.  Both the Spellmans and I agree:  Demetrius is awesome!  I loved his logic and abililty to sidestep compromising conversations.  I loved his sneaky baking and random relationships with grandmothers and mysterious girlfriends.  He was a wonderful addition to the series, and I can't wait to read more about him.

I actually really liked the mystery parts of the book.  I cared about who was lying, how they were lying, and whether the lies would ever be uncovered.  Usually the PI stuff is skippable for me, but this time I was invested.

Rae is making a comeback for my affections, which inevitably means David is falling behind.  I still liked him, but these crazy siblings!  I can't ever like them or hate them at the same time.  Momma and Poppa Spellman were more likeable this time around.  And Isabel?  Well, I completely understand why she acts the way she does and chooses the way she does, but it did make me a little sad.

I'm super bummed that I've now caught up with real life and will have to wait for the next Spellman book like the rest of humanity.  Sad.

Five out of five running faucets.

Release Date:  February 2012
Reading Level: Grade 9+
Where In Dunlap Public Library's Collection: Not currently part of Dunlap's collection.