Book Review: Dry by Clare Liardet

Dry cover imageI enjoy a good cocktail. But sometimes I love to get the fruity, fizzy, refreshing experience I like without having alcohol. I know plenty of other people who feel the same, and that’s why I was excited to get a copy of Dry: Delicious Handcrafted Cocktails and Other Clever Concoctions by Clare Liardet. The subhead of the book lets you know what you’re in for: “Seasonal. Refreshing. Alcohol-Free.” Sometimes that’s just what I need.

I really like that the book starts out with a list of equipment necessary to make the recipes as well as a depiction of types of cocktail glasses. I have to admit that while I have indulged in cocktails all my adult life, I never have been sure of the names of some of the glasses they’re served in. Highball, tumbler, flute…the illustrations make it easy to know what you’re pouring into and sipping from.

There’s also a list of ingredients that go into the cocktail recipes, which includes flowers, spices, fruit, sugar, herbs and more. It’s easy to stock the pantry and spice rack with many of the ingredients, which means you can whip up something on a whim without worrying about going to the store.

With the intro complete, Dry launches into recipes under categories such as, Friday Nights, Lazy Sundays, Long Summers and Fireside Glow. That makes it simple to find things to fit your mood and the time of year. But truly it’s fun just to thumb through the collection and find something that suits your fancy and make it on the spur of the moment. One of my favorites was the Fiery Ginger and Apple Boost. Like the author, I love ginger beer but not necessarily the calories that come in the drink. This recipe gives that fizzy tang without so much sugar.

I also like the author’s comments that go with each recipe, letting readers know at a glance if something is healthy, flavorful, can be adapted, or is inspiring. I found Dry to be a handy-sized book that’s easy to use at home or take on vacation. I expect to use it often for years to come.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Uncharted by Erin Cashman

UnchartedAnnabeth is still grieving the death of her mother, a death she feels responsible for, when she has to attend a memorial for friends of her parents at a secluded manor. While there she reconnects with a boy from her past, Griffin, who, like Annabeth, grew up in the orbit of his parents’ college friends. But when others in the circle begin to disappear, including Annabeth’s dad, she must unravel carefully hidden secrets that endanger her life and save him if she can.

Uncharted by Erin Cashman is full of mystery, intrigue, and a touch of fantasy. As Annabeth uncovers more secrets, she questions who she can believe and trust. No one seems transparent, and she has to rely on her instincts to keep moving forward. Plus, she can’t deny that she’s falling in love with Griffin, despite the fact that she finds his explanations of events unreliable. The mystery, when it’s revealed, is intriguing.

I recommend Uncharted for readers aged 14 and up. A word of caution for sensitive readers: the story contains scenes and descriptions of physical torture and violence.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Science Comics The Brain by Tory Woollcott

Science Comics The Brain cover imageIf your middle-schoolers are interested in how the body works, then they’ll probably love the new title in the Science Comics series called The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine by Tory Woollcott and Alex Graudins. The graphic novel format, along with a story to follow, is a great way to explain a complex topic.

In this title, Fahama has been kidnapped by a mad scientist who is all brain and his zombie assistant. He wants to steal her brain so he can study it. To stall and give her sister time to realize she’s missing, Fahama asks lots of questions the scientist has to answer.

Some of the things she discovers are the different parts of the brain and which parts of the body they control, how memory works, how humans register touch, and more. A helpful glossary of terms can be found in the back.

I recommend The Brain for ages 11 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Monster School by Kate Coombs

Monster School cover imageMonster School, written by Kate Coombs, showcases a group of very unusual students. There’s a multicultural monster with purple hair and three scaly tails, a vampire who doesn’t like homework, a skateboarding pumpkin head, and more. Each has a poem about what it’s like to live their lives; which are similar in many ways to students everywhere, but with a twist. For instance, Compare and Contrast starts with these lines:

Ms. Blackhurst is a banshee.

She has burning eyes.

She gets mad a lot.

When she does, she screams

like horrible dreams

in a voice that’s filled with rot.

The collection of poems makes a great book to read at Halloween; it’s humorous, and the characters experience a range of activities and emotions. Lee Gatlin’s illustrations are whimsical and lighthearted, and they go well with the poetry. I recommend Monster School for readers aged 5 to 8.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee

The House in Poplar Wood cover imageTwin brothers Felix and Lee are bound by a pact made between Death and Memory. Felix works with his father, who serves Death, and Lee works with his mother, who serves Memory. Even though they all live under the same roof, the house is divided, and the parents aren’t allowed to see each other or the twin that doesn’t live with them. It’s an agreement neither boy thinks he can break, until the mayor’s daughter, Gretchen, starts pestering them about solving a murder.

The House is Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee adds a touch of creepiness into a fantasy story about ending old feuds, making new friends, and mending families. The boys don’t like their servitude. Felix especially wants to be able to stop helping Death carry out his grim duties. They don’t trust Gretchen at first, because their families have been feuding as long as anyone can remember. But Gretchen doesn’t like her place in her family either. As a second child, she is often ignored and pushed around. The trio can only find a way to upend accepted norms and change their families’ lives by working together.

Readers who like inventive tales, a bit of mystery, and stories of friendship and family will find lots to love in The House in Poplar Wood. It can be a bit dark at times, so sensitive readers may want to read it with caution. I recommend it for ages 11 and up.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher

Journey of the Pale BearSeeking escape from his stern stepfather and stepbrothers, Arthur is desperate to find a ship that will take him from Norway to Wales, where he hopes to live with his father’s family. But no ship needs a scrawny, unexperienced cabin boy. When he comes face-to-face with a caged polar bear, and she seems to calm in his presence, he gets the offer he’s seeking: passage to England in exchange for taking care of the bear. As he gets to know the bear, the two become connected in unexpected ways, and Arthur’s life changes forever.

In Journey of the Pale Bear, author Susan Fletcher takes a true event from the past and turns it into an adventurous tale about a boy seeking his place in a harsh world. In the mid-1200s the King of Norway sent a white bear as a gift to the King of England. The bear lived as part of a menagerie in the Tower of London. Fletcher’s tale expands that nugget of known history by imagining a desperate boy who tends the bear on the journey. The pair fight off pirates, weather a storm, and experience raucous crowds in London. It’s a journey that’s full of action, but it also has tender moments between Arthur and the bear.

Journey of the Pale Bear is the kind of story that a variety of readers will love. It’s great for those who like historical fiction, readers drawn to adventure, and those who like stories about bonds between humans and animals. I highly recommend it for readers aged 9 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Skylark and Wallcreeper

Skylark and Wallcreeper cover imageWhen waters from Hurricane Sandy flood the nursing home in Queens where Lily’s Grandma Collette lives, residents are evacuated to a shelter in Brooklyn. Collette insists that Lily save a small box that she later finds holds a pen. When Lily loses the pen, she goes on an unexpected journey to recover it and discovers stories about her grandmother’s life growing up as part of the Resistance in Nazi-occupied France.

Skylark and Wallcreeper by Anne O’Brien Carelli showcases the importance of family and friendship while shedding light on two historical events: life in southern France during World War II and the hardships suffered during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Collette is 12 years old when she decides she has to do something to help her countrymen defeat the occupying Germans. Along with her friend Marguerite, she takes on roles of messenger, spy, and saboteur. There is always danger that the two will be exposed and suffer dire consequences.

Decades later Collette’s granddaughter, who is 12 during the hurricane, proves to be courageous and daring, as well. While not fighting an enemy army, she does have to battle the elements and put herself at risk to make sure her beloved grandma stays safe.

Skylark and Wallcreeper is an adventurous tale that show young people fighting for what they believe in, forging friendships and strengthening family relationships. I recommend it for readers aged 9 to 12.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Flawed by Andrea Dorfman

Flawed cover imageWhen Andrea Dorfman meets a plastic surgeon named Dave she expects to not like him. She thought plastic surgery made people feel flawed. Part of her reasoning came from her own experience growing up with a large nose. She bonded with a friend who also had a large nose, only to feel betrayed when that friend had nose reduction surgery in high school.

Despite her misgivings, Andrea liked Dave. To learn more about him and understand, she enlisted him in a project where they mailed each other postcards. In each missive, they revealed things about themselves that may have been difficult to express in person.

Dorfman reveals her side of the story in her short, graphic memoir, Flawed. First presented as a time-lapse film made for the National Film Board of Canada, Flawed is a reminder that people can’t be judged for how they look, what they do, or other outward signs of appearance. It’s only when we get to know the person inside that we can discover what they mean to us. It’s a timely message that applies to many aspects of life.

The publisher provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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