Nooks & Crannies

Greetings, earthlings. I realize it’s been a while since my last post, and the reason for my absence can be explained in two words–book fair. Yes, my spring book fair pretty much consumed my life for about ten days, and I barely had the energy to drive home from work and fall into bed, much less form coherent thoughts about what I was reading. But I was reading during this stressful event, and I bring you my thoughts on my latest read today.

Nooks & Crannies by Jessica Lawson was recently named as a nominee for the 2017-18 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. It’s being marketed as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Clue, and I’d say that’s a fairly fitting description. It’s funny, perplexing, sometimes infuriating, and rather entertaining. I look forward to discussing this book with my students and getting their take on this engrossing and somewhat convoluted mystery.

Tabitha Crum never expected a piece of paper to change her life. But when she and five other children are invited to the estate of the Countess of Windemere, she knows some type of change is coming. Maybe that’s a good thing. After all, her life thus far has been anything but grand. Her parents barely tolerate her presence, her only friend is a mouse named Pemberley, and her future may involve washing dishes at the local orphanage.

When Tabitha arrives at Hollingsworth Hall, she quickly realizes that all is not what it seems…and her inner detective comes to life. She and the other five children have been invited here for a very specific reason–something that rocks them all to their cores–but the eccentric Countess appears to have more sinister motives for this invitation. And when, one by one, the children begin disappearing, Tabitha knows she–and her trusty mouse, Pemberley–must investigate all of the strange happenings around her.

What–or who–could be to blame for this unfolding mystery? Could the rumored ghosts that inhabit the manor truly exist? Is the butler responsible, or could it be the Countess herself? Whatever’s going on, Tabitha is determined to get to the bottom of it, but even she may be unprepared for what she uncovers.

Secrets will be revealed, and those secrets could have the power to change Tabitha’s life and the lives of those around her. What will Tabitha discover in the nooks and crannies of Hollingsworth Hall? You’ll have to see for yourself…


As is the case in many children’s books similar to this one, most of the adults in the book are absolutely horrendous. This is especially true of Tabitha Crum’s parents. I wanted to reach through the pages of the book and give both of them a good shake. Truly horrible people. The same is true for many of the other adults depicted…and some of their kids as well. (The apple doesn’t fall far, does it?) Luckily, those bad apples ultimately get what’s coming to them in the end, so karma (or the Golden Rule, if you prefer) is, in my opinion, a big deal in this book.

I think Nooks & Crannies is a great selection for upper elementary and middle grade readers–or anyone who likes a good mystery, really. I also think this book might make for a good class read-aloud. A book like this one is sure to keep kids engaged and eager for more.

If you like Roald Dahl, Charles Dickens, Agatha Christie, or Sherlock Holmes, you’ll find something to love in Nooks & Crannies. I found this book to be charming, thrilling, delightfully whimsical, and absorbing. I’m hoping my students feel the same way. (If I do my job well promoting the book, I’m sure they will.)

To learn more about Nooks & Crannies and Jessica Lawson, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Sometime next week, I’ll put together a book trailer for this book. If you’d like to see it when I finally post it, visit my YouTube channel.

The Great Shelby Holmes

I’ve been a fan of Elizabeth Eulberg’s novels for a while, and nothing has changed now that I’ve read her first middle grade novel, The Great Shelby Holmes. You can probably guess from the title alone why I like this book so much. If it’s not readily apparent, I’ll clue you in–it’s essentially a kids’ version of Sherlock Holmes, and it’s outstanding.

(For those keeping track, I read a wonderful YA adaptation, A Study in Charlotte, last month. It’s a great time to be a Holmes enthusiast.)

The Great Shelby Holmes takes place in present-day New York City–Harlem to be exact–and the Holmes we’ve all come to know and love is now embodied by a nine-year-old girl named Shelby. John Watson is the new kid, having just moved to 221 Baker Street from a military base with his mom.

Watson, who longs to make friends in his new home, is sort of stuck with Shelby, who is probably the oddest, smartest, most infuriating girl he’s ever met. He quickly learns that Shelby is known throughout their neighborhood as a detective. Everyone seems to like and respect her–except maybe the police–but Shelby doesn’t really have any friends.

Watson finds himself wanting to be Shelby’s friend, but she doesn’t exactly make it easy. She’s often insulting, bossy, and dismissive, and Watson wonders if trying so hard to connect with her is even worth it. But he keeps on because hanging around Shelby is never boring.

When a classmate comes to Shelby about her missing show dog, Watson joins Holmes in her investigation. As it turns out, Watson is more help than Shelby expects him to be. Together, this unlikely pair works to solve the case of the missing dog.

Will solving this case and working together be easy? No. Will Holmes share everything, including clues and possible leads, with Watson? Again, no. Will they solve the mystery and become friends at the same time? Affirmative.

How will everything unfold for Holmes and Watson? Well, you’ll have to figure that out for yourself.


I thoroughly enjoyed The Great Shelby Holmes, and I thank my not-so-secret pal at school for giving me such a great book. I fully intend to read the further adventures of Shelby Holmes and John Watson. According to Elizabeth Eulberg’s website, we can look forward to at least two more stories from this entertaining duo.

While this book is written for a middle great audience, I think it’s perfect for introducing elementary school students–3rd grade and up–to Sherlock Holmes. That being said, I do think readers familiar with the original Holmes and Watson–or even just the film or TV versions–will find this book even more enjoyable than their younger counterparts. There are nods to the other versions of the Holmes stories that fans are sure to appreciate, like an English bulldog named Sir Arthur or a pseudonym with the surname Cumberbatch.

If you’d like to learn more about The Great Shelby Holmes or other books by Elizabeth Eulberg, visit the author’s website. You may also want to connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Happy reading!

Dangerous Lies

When I chose my latest read, I guess I needed a break from all the Christmasy stuff I’d been reading lately. That’s what I figure anyway. I honestly don’t know why I chose Dangerous Lies from all of the other books just sitting on my Kindle. Maybe because it seemed so far removed from anything mushy. Maybe because I liked author Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series. Maybe my finger slipped when I was trying to select something else. Who knows. Whatever the case, I finished reading Dangerous Lies late Friday night, and I’m bringing you a post on it today. Here goes…

Stella Gordon is living a lie. After witnessing a murder and landing herself in the cross-hairs of the vicious leader of a drug cartel, she’s whisked away to Thunder Basin, Nebraska, for a new life in the witness protection program.

Stella–formerly Estella Goodwinn–is forced to leave her identity, her friends, her boyfriend, her money, her addict mother, and her home in Philadelphia behind while she waits to testify against the man who killed her mom’s dealer. To say that she’s unhappy to be stuck in the middle of Nebraska for the duration would be a huge understatement.

While in Nebraska, Stella is living with Carmina, a former cop who expects Stella to live by a very strict set of rules. Stella, who’s been virtually on her own for years, balks at this and does whatever she can to get under Carmina’s skin. She’s planning on meeting up with her boyfriend (also in witness protection) at the end of the summer, so why bother doing what Carmina wants anyway? It’s her life.

Eventually, Stella tries to make the best of the situtation…while still planning to leave at summer’s end. She gets a job at a local diner, and she makes an unlikely friend in Chet Falconer, a local guy who draws Stella in and makes her realize that maybe Nebraska isn’t all bad. Stella, who is growing closer to Chet by the day, hates that nearly everything he knows about her is a lie, but she knows that telling him her secrets could put both of them in very real danger.

It seems, though, that danger is coming for Stella anyway. Early on, she makes an enemy of the town golden boy, a boy who seems oddly familiar, and that makes Stella a target once more. Does this guy have some connection to Stella’s former life? If so, what could that mean for her time in Nebraska? Just when Stella is getting comfortable in her new life, could her past–and her secrets–catch up with her?


I’m going to stop there (mainly because I can’t think of anything else to say).

Dangerous Lies is a mystery, thriller, and love story wrapped into one quick, gripping, easy-to-read package. While a tad predictable at times, it still kept me eager to turn the page, and it helped me escape reality for a while. (Given that it’s just days before winter break and I work in an elementary school full of excitable kids and exhausted adults, I need the escape.)

Here’s one huge thing Dangerous Lies has in its favor: This book features a girl who’s been forced into a horrible situation and still manages to stand up for herself and others. She doesn’t care that the town sports hero is never called on his crap. When he steps over the line, she calls him on it and works to make sure everyone else does the same. It may put a target on her back, but she continues to do the right thing anyway. That’s awesome.

I would probably recommend Dangerous Lies for upper middle grade readers and young adults. The book includes a fair amount of violence, some sexy times, underage alcohol use, and references to drugs. In my opinion, nothing is gratuitous, but use your best professional judgment when recommending this book to the tweens and teens in your circle.

To learn more about Dangerous Lies and other books by Becca Fitzpatrick, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

A Study in Charlotte

Most people who know me know that I have a certain fondness for Sherlock Holmes. Actually, that’s probably a bit of an understatement. It’s more like I’m obsessed, especially with the BBC’s Sherlock. Just this morning, I was wrapped up in my 221B Baker Street blanket, leaning on my Sherlock Holmes book pillow, and drinking coffee out of my “I am Sherlocked” mug.

Anyhoo, I tell you all of that to preface my latest read, A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro. If you’re a fellow Sherlockian, you’ve already picked up on the wordplay in the title. (It’s a play on A Study in Scarlet, the story that first introduced readers to Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.) Based on the title alone, I knew I wanted to read this book. When I read the synopsis and discovered it was about the teenage descendants of Holmes and Watson–who were real-life people in this world–I was hooked. None of that changed as I began reading. In fact, this enthralling novel made me even more enamored of all things Holmes (and Watson, of course).

Jamie Watson doesn’t feel like he belongs at his new school, Sherringford, which is way too close to his absentee father. He misses his home in London, but he may have just found a piece of London–one tied to his family’s infamous past–right here in Connecticut. There’s another Londoner at Sherringford, but a friendship with this girl is sure to come with all sorts of difficulties. You see, this girl is Charlotte Holmes, great-great-great-granddaughter of the one and only Sherlock Holmes…and Jamie is a descendant of Dr. John Watson.

Jamie would like to strike up a friendship with Charlotte, but it doesn’t seem very likely at first. Charlotte is as cool, temperamental, and borderline antisocial as her last name would suggest, and she seems to look at Jamie with something akin to disdain. Circumstances, however, are about to drive these two crazy kids together, and they will form a partnership that rivals that of their ancestors.

When a Sherringford student is killed–and all signs point to either Jamie or Charlotte being the culprit–they must team up to solve this mystery. Who could possibly want to frame them for murder, and what does all of this have to do with their family histories?

As Charlotte and Jamie try to work together, Jamie quickly learns that Charlotte is not exactly easy to be around. She may be a genius, but she’s battling some serious demons and hiding secrets that could get both of them killed. How can he convince her that she can trust him? Does Jamie really trust her?

At any rate, Holmes and Watson are on the case at Sherringford, and nothing will be the same for either of them when the truth is finally revealed.


Charlotte Holmes is, in my opinion, an absolutely perfect descendant of Sherlock Holmes. She views sentiment as an inconvenience (in most cases), she’s unbelievably brilliant, and she has no time for small talk or trivial matters. She’s endured truly horrific things in her life, and she hasn’t always handled them well. She’s got very real problems–her drug habit being chief among them.

That being said, Jamie Watson is, like John with Sherlock, Charlotte’s ideal counterpart. He looks out for her when she forgets to care for her own well-being. He reminds her of her humanity…and that of those around her. He balances her, and these two are much stronger together than they are apart. That’s something I hope we’ll see lots more of in future books. I predict that there will be a bit of a romance between the two eventually, and, while I could do without that addition to their relationship, it’s sure to be fascinating to see how things play out.

A Study in Charlotte is the first book in a planned trilogy. The second book, The Last of August, will be out on February 14th, 2017. Based on the events of book one at the title of book two, I’m sure this story will be a nail-biter. I can hardly wait.

For more information on A Study in Charlotte and Brittany Cavallaro, visit the author’s website. You can also follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, and Goodreads.

And now, my friends, I think it may be time for a Sherlock marathon. Who’s with me?

Serafina and the Twisted Staff

Warning: Read Serafina and the Black Cloak before proceeding. Spoilers ahead.

Late last night, I finished reading Serafina and the Twisted Staff, the sequel to Robert Beatty’s acclaimed Serafina and the Black Cloak. I kind of knew what to expect going into this second book, but I don’t think I was prepared for exactly how terrifying it would be. If the first book was dark, this one was pitch black. I read the bulk of this book at night, and I was jumping at every little sound I heard. (If you know me at all, this is not surprising. I’m a wuss.) At any rate, Serafina and the Twisted Staff definitely delivers if you’re looking for a good story and a good scare.

Our tale begins almost immediately following the events of the first book. The year is 1899, and the Biltmore Estate is beginning preparations for Christmas.

Serafina, now known to all who inhabit the Biltmore, is searching for her place in the world, but she doesn’t know exactly where she belongs. Is it with Braeden Vanderbilt and her pa at Biltmore? Or is it with her mother and the catamounts in the surrounding forest? And how can she possibly find a measure of peace when her home is once again in danger?

While patrolling the forest surrounding Biltmore one night, Serafina notices that animals are fleeing the area. What could possibly make so many animals behave so oddly? Serafina isn’t sure, but she thinks it has something to do with the strange man and his vicious wolfhounds who attempt to kill her. She’s saved by her mother and a new ally, but it’s clear that the forest is no longer safe…for anyone or anything.

Serafina knows the old man in the forest is not working alone. He comes onto the scene at the same time that a mysterious carriage arrives at Biltmore. But who is in the carriage, and what danger could this person be bringing to Biltmore?

As odd things begin happening at the palatial estate–and Serafina is blamed–she grows more convinced that danger is afoot, but she doesn’t know how she can help. Someone is trying to drive Serafina out and tear her from her one and only friend. But who? And why?

Serafina leaves Biltmore and tries to find some solace in the forest, but danger surrounds her on all fronts. She soon realizes that there’s no way to escape the horror unfolding, and she will have to do everything in her power to save both Biltmore and everything and everyone around it.

Who will join her in the fight to come? Who will betray her? And will Serafina finally be able to unleash her true self before the evil forces targeting Biltmore succeed in their ghastly mission? Read Serafina and the Twisted Staff to find out!


I’ve left a ton out of this post, but it would take forever to cover everything. I don’t have that kind of time (and I’m ready for my Sunday afternoon nap). Read the book for yourself. You can also check out the official book trailer below. It’s a little spoilery, but it covers a lot of what I’ve left out.

Given how this second book ended, I’m confident that we’ll see more of Serafina in the future. At this time, however, there’s no word yet on a third book.

For more Serafina fun, visit author Robert Beatty’s website or connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

See How They Run

Possible spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read All Fall Down, book one in Ally Carter’s Embassy Row series, you might want to take care of that before reading this post.

This week, I finally made time to read See How They Run, the second book in the Embassy Row series. This sequel picks up pretty soon after the first book concludes. I’m not going to rehash everything that happened in All Fall Down, but I will say that our protagonist, Grace Blakely, has uncovered some shocking truths about what really happened to her mother…and her own part in those events. Now, Grace is dealing with the fallout of what she’s discovered as well as attempting to handle a whole new set of problems. Of course, problems seem to be par for the course when a person’s every move has the potential to cause an international incident. Such is life on Embassy Row.

As the granddaughter of the U.S. Ambassador to Adria, Grace should be used to a certain amount of political intrigue. But nothing could really prepare her for what’s being revealed to her. It’s not enough that she’s just realized that she’s largely responsible for her own mother’s death. No, now she’s learning that her mother was part of some secret society charged with manipulating events for the supposed protection of Adria and the small country’s history, secrets, and continued welfare. Grace is supposed to continue the society’s work, but she’s not sure if she can trust this shadowy organization. After all, how can she trust others when she doesn’t even trust herself?

While Grace is processing this new information–while trying to get a handle on her PTSD–she’s also dealing with new arrivals on Embassy Row. Her brother, Jamie, is visiting from West Point, and he’s brought a friend with him. Jamie is worried about Grace, but his friend, Spence, seems interested in her. Why, she wonders? What could Spence possibly see in the crazy girl that everyone else tiptoes around?

To further complicate matters, Alexei, her brother’s former best friend and son of the Russian Ambassador, is back in town, and he’s not thrilled about the new guy sniffing around Grace. Alexei and Spence come to blows, but surely a simple fight over a girl couldn’t lead to an international fiasco, right? Yeah…think again.

When Spence’s body washes up on the Adrian coast, fingers immediately begin pointing Alexei’s way. Grace is certain Alexei did nothing wrong, and she becomes determined to prove that her friend is being framed. Her friends agree to help her, but how can they possibly prove Alexei’s innocence when all evidence seems to point his way? And who could possibly want to kill Spence anyway? Surely a simple fight isn’t enough to lead to murder. Could Spence have been involved in something else that none of them knew about? Could that have been what led to his demise?

Grace is determined to find the answers she seeks, but she may not be ready for what those answers ultimately mean…for Alexei, her past, her family, or herself. What could her discovery mean for her future in Adria? Time will tell…


Before I give too much more away, I’m going to start wrapping things up. I will say, however, that See How They Run ends on a cliffhanger, and there are huge implications for the third (and final?) book, Take the Key and Lock Her Up. Book three is supposed to be released on December 27th of this year.

If you enjoyed All Fall Down, I think you’ll appreciate See How They Run as well. It shines a light on the darkness within Grace’s mind, and readers get a glimpse at what it might be like for someone who suffers with PTSD. (Although, can we really call it post-traumatic stress when the trauma is ongoing?)

If you like mysteries and political thrillers with a YA twist, this is definitely the series for you. To learn more about the Embassy Row series and other books by the fabulous Ally Carter, check out the author’s website, Twitter, and Facebook page.

The Killer in Me

Last night, I finished yet another book that I got to read courtesy of NetGalley. This book, The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison, is due out on July 12th, and it’s a great read for teens and adults who like murder mysteries and psychological thrillers.

The Killer in Me is a somewhat convoluted tale, and readers may stay just as confused as the protagonists…but that’s a good thing. That’s what keeps the pages turning. Am I right about what’s going on? Am I wrong? What’s really happening here and how will everything end? The doubt I experienced while reading this book made me even more eager to keep reading, simply so that I could get the answers I desperately craved. (I actually got so involved in the book that I forgot to eat dinner last night. I looked up at one point, saw that it was 9pm, and just kept right on reading. Dinner could wait.)

Nina Barrows has been plagued by strange dreams for as long as she can remember. Every night when she closes her eyes, she sees the life of another–a man she knows as the Thief. This man is a killer, and he’s good at what he does. He leaves no trace of himself or his victims, and no one suspects what he’s truly capable of.

No one but Nina.

She’s done enough research to believe that the Thief is real, even if she only knows of his exploits through her dreams. She needs to catch him in the act and expose him for the killer that he is. But how? How can one teenage girl expose a serial killer, especially when there’s no evidence–other than the images in her own mind–of what he’s done? Who would believe her if she told the truth about her dreams and their connection to possible criminal activity? Would they think she had something to do with these killings? More to the point, does she have something to do with them?

Eventually, Nina finds help in the form of Warren, a guy from school who would do nearly anything for her. He accompanies her on a quest to find the truth about the Thief, a man they come to realize is a seemingly normal guy named Dylan Shadwell.

Nina and Warren track Shadwell to his home in New Mexico. It is here that Nina uncovers a shocking truth that could change everything she thought she knew about herself, her dreams, and her complicated past.

What is Nina’s connection to Dylan Shadwell? Is he really the normal guy he seems to be, or is he playing an elaborate game with Nina at the center? Will Nina’s obsession with uncovering the truth amount to a wild-goose chase, or will she discover more than she ever wanted to know?

Who is the Thief? Is it Shadwell? Is it Nina? Is this mysterious killer even real…or is he a figment of Nina’s imagination?

Discover the remarkable truth for yourself when you read The Killer in Me by Margot Harrison.


I don’t want to give more away than I already have, so I’m going to wrap things up quickly. It’s enough to say that there are some “Holy crap!” moments in this book. Some you may be able to see coming. Others will likely shock you. You’re in for a thrill ride either way.

In my most humble opinion, The Killer in Me is a good book for upper middle grade, teen, and adult readers. Yes, it’s essentially about a serial killer–who may or may not be real–and that brings with it some gruesome imagery. It’s not, however, gratuitous. It’s true to the story and is not overly graphic (most of the time). Some middle grade readers will be able to handle it. Know your readers, and recommend this book accordingly.

If I’ve whetted your appetite for this book and you’d like to learn more about The Killer in Me, visit author Margot Harrison’s website. You can also connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

Happy reading!