Book Reviews · Charlie's Corner · Read-a-thons · Recommendations

Charlie's Corner: Book Reviews: A to Z Mysteries

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share baby/children’s product and book reviews.

A to Z Mysteries
Books C, D & E
By: Ron Roy
Illustrated by: John Steven Gurney

Published: March 1998
Published by: Turtleback Books
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Middle-grade fiction, series, mystery, children’s books, chapter books

The Canary Caper (Book 3)

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C is for Canary…Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose get an urgent call from Mrs.
Davis. Her canary is missing! The little bird has vanished without a trace, and
he’s not the only one. Two other pets are missing. The kids suspect a
pet-napper, and now that Ruth Rose’s cat, Tiger, has turned up missing too,
it’s become personal!

The Deadly Dungeon (Book 4)

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Dink’s favorite mystery writer, Wallis Wallace, has invited Dink, Josh, and
Ruth Rose for a sleepover – in a haunted castle! But as soon as the young
detectives arrive, they start hearing screams behind the walls. Will they
discover who – or what – is haunting Moose Manor?

The Empty Envelope (Book 5)

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E is for Envelope…Dink keeps getting envelopes in the mail addressed to “D. Duncan.” But the letters inside all start with “Dear Doris” and don’t make any sense! Josh and Ruth Rose think someone’s playing a trick on Dink. But Dink is sure there’s more to it than that, especially after Doris herself shows up and demands her letters!

My Thoughts

One day while helping my mom sort through some boxes, I came across a pile of books that belonged to my brother and I, when we were kids. Among these old treasures included three books from the A to Z mystery series. They made a good addition to my Middle Grade March TBR.

The A to Z Mysteries are a great way to introduce kids to short chapter books, as well as the mystery genre. Each installment begins with a map and includes pictures too. Readers follow three friends as they solve simple cases they uncover, in their community and on their journeys.

I would recommend the A to Z Mystery series by Ron Roy to children in grades 2-4.


Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: May 2020

Total Books Read in May: 6
Total Books Read in 2020: 2
9

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Titanic: The Long Night
By Diane Hoh

Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5

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What You Wish For
By Katherine Center

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: 5/5
Note: I was sent a copy of What You Wish For by Katherine Center, from the publisher via Net Galley, in exchange for an honest review.

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My Lost Family
By: Danny Ben-Moshe & Dasha Lisitsina

Genre: Non-fiction, Audiobook, Documentary
Rating: 5/5

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Nights in Rodanthe
By: Nicholas Sparks

Genre: Romance, Contemporary fiction
Rating: 4/5

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An Awakened Heart (Orphan Train, 0.5)
By: Jody Hedlund

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5

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The Land Beneath Us (Sunrise at Normandy, 3)
By Sarah Sundin

Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Rating: 5/5
NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin, from the publisher, via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 6
Total Number of Fiction: 5
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 1
Total Books Sent for Review: 2
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 4
Total Library Books Read: 1

Formats Read

Physical Books: 1
eBooks:
2
Audio Books:
3

Currently Reading

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June TBR

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Book Reviews

My First Experience With Graphic Novels

During the month of April, I decided to read a graphic novel, for the first time. It is a genre, I have been curious about, but I didn’t really have any interest in typical superhero comics. Then I came across one that was more to my interest. Here are my quick thoughts on the graphic novel I read.

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The Beatles in Comics!
By: Michels Mabel and Various Artists

Genre: Graphic Novel, Biography, Non-fiction
Rating: 2.5 Rating
Quick Thoughts: The Beatles in Comics! is a graphic novel telling the rise and breakup of the Fab Four. Each chapter begins with a paragraph on a certain era of The Beatles career and is illustrated by different artists. It was interesting how each artist depicted their sections and I enjoyed re-visiting the biography of one of my favourite bands. However I did find it quite repetitive and decided on a 2.5 rating.

My overall first impression of graphic novels:

Although I am happy to have finally experienced this genre with a topic of my interest, I don’t think that it is a format I will be picking up on a regular basis. That is unless I come across more that really grab my attention.

What do you think of graphic novels? Have you read any? Leave me a message in the comments.

Articles · Challenges

On the Fence Try a Chapter 2: Historical Fiction Kindle Edition

Back in March, I decided to sort through my Kindle library and weed out some books that I was on the fence about. I read the first chapter of three eBooks and got rid of those that didn’t catch my interest.

Click here to see that post and to recap, my results were as follows:

Book: Snowfall and Secrets (Omega Mu Alpha Brothers, 1) by Kimberly Loth
Verdict: Keep
Status: Read & Reviewed
Rating: 2.5/5

Book: Bundle of Trouble (Maternal Instincts Mystery, 1) by Diana Orgain
Verdict: Keep
Status: Read and Reviewed
Rating: 2.5/5

Book: Murder on the SS Rosa (Ginger Rose Mysteries 1) by Lee Strauss
Verdict: Toss
Status: Deleted

Although both of the books I decided to keep had their positive points, they both didn’t garner a very high rating. Hopefully this second round of On the Fence, Try a Chapter will uncover some more enjoyable stories.

For this edition I will be sampling historical fiction books from my Kindle library. Here are the three books I considered:

The Engagement Party
By: Kimberly Freeman

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Synopsis

Flora Honeychurch-Black awakens on the day of her engagement party excited yet somehow unsettled. Throughout the day, despite the well-meaning attention of her friend Liberty and the distraction of the household’s many preparations for the night’s celebration, Flora’s unease grows. Her much-loved, erratic brother Sam unwittingly adds to the tension, behaving oddly and drawing mirth from her suave fiance Tony and derision from some of his sophisticated coterie of friends.
As the storm clouds gather outside and the engagement party begins, Flora realises that something is amiss. Where is Sam? What secret is he hiding? The answers may be more than Flora – and her new relationships and loyalties – can bear.

Source: Goodreads

First Impression

This short story opens on the day of our main character Flora’s engagement party. I like that this is set in a country I haven’t read a lot from (Australia) and the 1920s time period.

Keep or Toss?

Keep! Although this short story isn’t highly rated, I think it will be a good introduction to Kimberly Freeman’s writing. I am interested in learning how all the details in the synopsis will fit into just 36 pages.

Waiting for Summer’s Return (Heart of the Prairie)
By: Kim Vogel Sawyer

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Synopsis

All alone on the Kansas prairie, Summer Steadman has few options. With her husband and children lost to illness, she has no desire to continue on farther west to where she and her husband planned to build their future. Instead, she seeks employment in a small Mennonite community in order to be near the graves of her family.
Widower Peter Ollenburger, the local gristmill owner, needs someone to teach his young son. When he hears of a “learned woman” in town, he believes she is the answer to his prayers. He soon discovers, however, that helping this outsider may have troublesome consequences.
There is little this father will not do for his son, but as the boy begins to look at Summer as more than a teacher, Peter must make a choice. Does he marry this woman to give his son a new mother, or does he marry only for love?Will Summer’s broken heart ever be able to love again?

Soource: Goodreads

First Impression

In the first chapter we are introduced to a woman named Sumer who has recently lost her husband and four children. She is stranded in an unfamiliar town and seeking employment. Readers are also introduced to a widower name Peter, who is in search for a tutor for his son. Both of these characters have seen tragedy in their lives and I anticipate this novel will be their heartwarming love story. This chapter, although long was interesting and so it didn’t take long to fly through.

Keep or Toss?

Definitely keep! The first chapter has made me really eager to bump this up on my TBR.

All My Love, Detrick
By: Roberta Kagan

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Synopsis

True love is difficult to come by. What would you sacrifice for love? Your home? Your material possessions? Your family and friends? Your principles? Your life?
Prologue
Detrick, a seven-year-old Aryan boy, with blonde hair that shines like the rays of the sun rides his brand new bicycle down a main street of Berlin in 1923. Young and carefree, he’s fully experiencing freedom for the first time. It is mid-day and the street is filled with humanity. Vendors hawk their wares and haggle with potential shoppers, while a few of the new inventions called automoblies honk as make their way through the crowded roads. There is so much to look at, to smell, and to take in, the fresh baked bread, the chocolate candy, the fresh fruit. Detrick is swept away by all of the activities surrounding him, so he is not paying attention when suddenly a horse drawn cart appears causing him to fall. Embarrassed and upset he decides to walk his damaged bicycle home by a different path, one where he is unlikely to be forced to face his friends. A path through the Jewish sector of town. It is here that he meets Jacob Abdenstern, a lovable Jewish bicycle repair man who offers to help the little boy. Detrick having an alcoholic, anti-Semitic father finds a friend and much-needed paternal figure in Jacob. A relationship flourishes between the two of them that will alter both of their lives forever.

Source: Goodreads

First Impression

Whew another long first chapter, or in this case prologue. We are introduced to a young boy named Detrick who befriends a Jewish bicycle salesman. Beginning in Berlin 1923, I anticipate this will be a heartbreaking story.

Keep or Toss?

Keep. In the past I read a fair bit of historical fiction centered around the Holocaust, but it has been quite a while since I’ve visited that time period. It is a topic that I have to be in the mood for. I’ve decided to save this book for another time.

So that makes for 3 books that I will be keeping on my TBR. Two of these titles I hope to read in the near future.

Book Reviews · Read-a-thons · Recommendations

Charlie's Corner: Book Review: Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons

Welcome to Charlie’s Corner, named after my little boy. Here I will share baby/children’s product and book reviews.
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Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons
By: Ashli St. Armant
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin

Published: October 2019
Published by: Audible Original

Format: Audiobook, Audible
Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Series

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

Viva Durant, New Orleans’ youngest detective, is on a quest to solve a jazzy mystery involving hidden treasure, while exploring the city’s unique culture, history, and music. This family-friendly audio original features original jazz music from the creator, Ashli St. Armant, and an enthusiastic performance from Audible Hall of Fame narrator, Bahni Turpin.

Plucky 14-year-old Viva Durant heads to New Orleans every summer to spend time with her loving but stern grandmother, known as Gram. After Gram reads Viva an article in the local paper about a missing treasure related to the world-famous song, “Miss Mary Mack,” Viva traverses the Crescent City on an epic adventure to solve the mystery. Along the way she meets some of the city’s most colorful characters as her journey takes her to the French Quarter, a jazz club, a creepy cemetery, and even the circus. Can Viva rise to the occasion and solve this musical mystery? Listeners will find Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons a joy to listen to!

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

I came across Ashli St. Armant’s, Viva Durant and the Secret of the Silver Buttons when searching Audible Originals. I thought it would be a cute story to listen to for the Middle Grade March Read-a-thon. Surprisingly, I ended up loving Viva’s story and it became my second 5 star book of .

California girl Viva is given her first taste of freedom, while visiting her grandmother in New Orleans. She is taken by a newspaper article about a missing treasure, connected to the children’s song Miss Mary Mack. Using the article and the song lyrics, Viva goes on a treasure hunt that takes her into the French Quarter, on a discovery of music history and even to circus school. Additionally, it is all set to a soundtrack of some great Jazz music.

I thought that a mystery involving such a widely known song as Miss Mary Mack, was so clever. It features a stellar audio production and Banhi Turpin’s performance brought Viva to life. The setting felt authentic and vibrant. This audio book will also introduce a whole new generation to the Jazz genre, including those who may not have had the opportunity otherwise.

Viva Durant is a wonderfully put together audio book that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

Challenges · Read-a-thons · Wrap-ups

Bout of Books 28 Read-a-thon Fail

Grab button for Bout of Books

The Bout of Books Read-a-thon ran from May 11-17. This is my wrap-up of my reading progress.

Total Books Read: 1

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My Lost Family
By: Danny Ben-Moshe and Dasha Lisitsina

Genre: Non-fiction, Audiobook
Rating: 5/5

Challenges

Day 1: Introduce yourself in 6 words.

Boy Mom, Cat Mom, Book Lover

….and unfortunately that is as far as I got. I had high hopes that I would make some great reading progress during this read-a-thon. Unfortunately life got in the way.

I did make decent progress on Nights in Rodanthe by Nicholas Sparks, but wasn’t able to get to An Awakened Heart (Orphan Train, 0.5) by Jody Hedlund.

I’m hoping for better luck in the next round of the Bout of Books Read-a-thon.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy by Jenna Brown

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Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy
By: Jenna Brown

Published: May 2017
Published by: Two Creeks Press
Format Read: Trade Paperback
Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3/5

NOTE: I won a copy of Jenna Brown’s Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy, from the publisher via Goodreads. The following is my honest review.

Synopsis

About Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy
Jenna Brown is a Nashville entertainment lawyer. She has green eyes, ivory skin, long wheat-colored hair, and an attitude. Jenna runs her practice from an office in an old building on Music Row. She wears pearls, drinks sherry, and collects antique perfume bottles, but she isn’t sentimental and knows how to handle herself in a dive club after midnight.
In Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy, Jenna copes with copyright infringement, a client accused of murder, a macho boyfriend, an assortment of singers and songwriters, a gunshot wound, a blueblood music lawyer, a stripper, a twenty-year-old secret and a forty-year-old mystery, two thugs, a money-laundering conspiracy, a near-concussion, a kidnapping, a charming drug trafficker, crooked cops, and four murders.

Jenna Brown will appeal to readers who like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone, Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, and Robert Parker’s Spenser, as well as the books of Lisa Scottoline.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Jenna Brown’s debut novel Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy takes the reader on a behind the scenes tour of the country music industry in Nashville. This was a quick mystery about an entertainment lawyer, who takes it upon her self to exonerate her client in the murder of a washed-up song writer.

I enjoyed learning about the city and its history. I also learned more about the role of a lawyer in the careers of musicians, song writers and publishers.

Jenna Brown seemed to have a never ending supply of contacts, she enlisted to help her investigate the case. I often became mixed up with these characters and this muddled the ending for me.

Otherwise Death of a Rhinestone Cowboy was an enjoyable mystery and I would recommend it to fans of the genre.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Decked (Regan Reilly Mysteries, 1) by Carol Higgins Clark

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Decked
(A Regan Reilly Mystery, 1)
By: Carol Higgins Clark

Published: July 1992
Published by: Grand Central Publishing
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Mystery

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

When P.I. Regan Reilly attends a class reunion in England, the long-dead body of her former roommate turns up. Clues to the mystery follow Regan as she sails home–and into the hands of a killer.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

The daughter of the late great suspense writer Mary Higgins Clark, has made a name for herself in the same genre. In this first installment of the Regan Reilly Mysteries, Carol Higgins Clark takes her main character from an Oxford school reunion to the high seas, aboard a luxury cruise ship.

Even though I was able to predict “who done it”, early on, I still enjoyed and flew through this novel. My main critique was that the reader is told too much, instead of letting the story play out naturally.

I would recommend Decked by Carol Higgins Clark to fans of the mystery suspense genre.