Cornbread and Poppy by Matthew Cordell

Cornbread and Poppy by Matthew Cordell
Illustrator: Matthew Cordell
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Children’s (6-8 y.o.), Contemporary
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Mistflower

Cornbread LOVES planning. Poppy does not. Cornbread ADORES preparing. Poppy does not. Cornbread IS ready for winter. Poppy…is not. But Cornbread and Poppy are the best of friends, so when Poppy is left without any food for the long winter, Cornbread volunteers to help her out. Their search leads them up, up, up Holler Mountain, where these mice might find a new friend…and an old one. Celebrating both partnership and the value of what makes us individuals, young readers will find this classic odd-couple irresistible as they encounter relatable issues with humor and heart.

I am a nanny of a six-year-old girl who is going into first grade and we chose this book from the state reading list. We unknowingly saved the best for last. Cornbread and Poppy is a must read.

I’m not sure who loved this story more, me or the little girl that I read it to. This book is about procrastination. Something we all do at one point or another in our life. My son’s procrastination is the bane of my existence. We have a new saying in the house now thanks to this story. “Be a Cornbread not a Poppy!”.

Cornbread likes to be organized and prepared aka a “prepper”. In this situation it’s about having enough food to survive the winter. Poppy is a major procrastinator. She’ll do it “later”. Well, of course winter comes and Poppy isn’t prepared. What will she do? I’m all about natural consequences. It was her responsibility to prepare. I’m not sure I’d help her. Fortunately for Poppy, Cornbread is a good friend. He helps her to find food so she doesn’t starve. Where they found the food was the entertaining part of the story.

This story is a wonderful example of friendship, bravery, and humor. The ending had me groaning out loud and the little girl with me laughing out loud. She was quick to say, “Read it again!”. Oh, I read it several times before we returned it to the library. I think the little girl mostly enjoyed my reaction over Poppy. Of all the irresponsible things to do in life, procrastinating is the worst. I’m proud to be a cornbread.

Run, Rose, Run by James Patterson and Dolly Parton

Run, Rose, Run by James Patterson and Dolly Parton
Publisher: Little Brown and Co
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From America’s most beloved superstar and #1 New York Times bestselling author James Patterson comes a thriller about a young singer-songwriter on the rise—and on the run—and determined to do whatever it takes to survive.

Every song tells a story.

She’s a star on the rise, singing about the hard life behind her.

She’s also on the run. Find a future, lose a past.

Nashville is where she’s come to claim her destiny. It’s also where the darkness she’s fled might find her. And destroy her.

Run, Rose, Run is a novel glittering with danger and desire—a story that only America’s #1 beloved entertainer and its #1 bestselling author could have created.

Dolly Parton’s written a book? With James Patterson? Sold.

I picked up this book because it was highly recommended. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything else by James Patterson and I was a bit skeptical going into this one. I wanted to like it because Dolly Parton is well…Dolly Parton. The writing is decent. It moved along rather well and kept my interest, but the chapters are very short, so it has no choice but to go quickly.

I liked Ruthanna and could see Dolly Parton all over that character. I could hear her in the character’s voice and mannerisms, so that was great. I liked the interplay between AnnieLee and Ethan, too. They made a good couple.

That said, I wasn’t a fan of AnnieLee. Her trajectory is rather…it took a lot to suspend my disbelief. It’s like she never does manage a wrong step with her career. She has talent, that’s not to be argued, but she gets a lot of breaks a lot of others wouldn’t get.

I had a hard time with the suspense portion of the book, too. At times, it was too vague and at others, seemed like it didn’t fit. Maybe it was just me, but it felt like two books put together and cobbled into one. There seemed to be a lot of repetition in the book, too.

That said, there’s a sweet romance between AnnieLee and Ethan. I liked that. And there’s a CD of music that goes along with the book that’s Parton’s music, which is fantastic.

If you’re looking for a mystery and a romance that’s got a touch of country, then this might be the one for you.

The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson, Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge

The Last Days of John Lennon by James Patterson, Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The greatest true-crime story in music history, as only James Patterson can tell it.

With the Beatles, John Lennon surpasses his youthful dreams, achieving a level of superstardom that defies classification. “We were the best bloody band there was,” he says. “There was nobody to touch us.” Nobody except the original nowhere man, Mark David Chapman. Chapman once worshipped his idols from afar—but now harbors grudges against those, like Lennon, whom he feels betrayed him. He’s convinced Lennon has misled fans with his message of hope and peace. And Chapman’s not staying away any longer.

By the summer of 1980, Lennon is recording new music for the first time in years, energized and ready for it to be “(Just Like) Starting Over.” He can’t wait to show the world what he will do.

Neither can Chapman, who quits his security job and boards a flight to New York, a handgun and bullets stowed in his luggage.

The greatest true-crime story in music history, as only James Patterson can tell it. Enriched by exclusive interviews with Lennon’s friends and associates, including Paul McCartney, The Last Days of John Lennon is the thrilling true story of two men who changed history: One whose indelible songs enliven our world to this day—and the other who ended the beautiful music with five pulls of a trigger.

The last days of John Lennon. There isn’t much more to say.

Okay, there’s a little more to say. This is the first book I’ve ever read by James Patterson, Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. It reads like a compilation and seemed more to be about length than depth.

I know that sounds strange. This book seemed to touch on lots of little bits here and there about John Lennon’s life, intermixed with the actions of Mark David Chapman on the last days of John’s life. If one is a Beatles or John Lennon fan, then much of the details are already known. Not much new is presented. If you’re reading just for fun or to go on a ride, then this might be the book for you.

The book read like a thriller one might pick up for true crime night or for book club, but there wasn’t much depth to the tale and this is a complicated story.

Fans of Patterson might readily pick this one up. I’m glad I read it and it was a one-sitting sort of read, so it was worth the time.

If you’re interested in John Lennon, his murder or just like crime books, then this might be for you.

IQ by Joe Ide

IQ by Joe Ide
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

A resident of one of LA’s toughest neighborhoods uses his blistering intellect to solve the crimes the LAPD ignores.

East Long Beach. The LAPD is barely keeping up with the neighborhood’s high crime rate. Murders go unsolved, lost children unrecovered. But someone from the neighborhood has taken it upon himself to help solve the cases the police can’t or won’t touch.

They call him IQ. He’s a loner and a high school dropout, his unassuming nature disguising a relentless determination and a fierce intelligence. He charges his clients whatever they can afford, which might be a set of tires or a homemade casserole. To get by, he’s forced to take on clients that can pay.
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This time, it’s a rap mogul whose life is in danger. As Isaiah investigates, he encounters a vengeful ex-wife, a crew of notorious cutthroats, a monstrous attack dog, and a hit man who even other hit men say is a lunatic. The deeper Isaiah digs, the more far reaching and dangerous the case becomes.

Isaiah Quintabe might be a high school drop out but is far from your average young man living in LA. Incredibly smart, he’s slowly getting a reputation for helping solve problems of other locals in his neighborhood where the police can’t – or won’t – help them. With his latest case – one he only took because money is incredibly tight right now – has Isaiah taken on more than even he can handle?

This is a completely new-to-me author and the first in his IQ series. I picked this up on a whim and within the first few chapters had decided to order the second book in the series. Other reviews bill this as “a different Sherlockian style of character” and in many senses they are correct. Deduction and piecing together all the small hints and suggestions most of us ignore in day-to-day life is a big part of how IQ solves problems and pieces together the various puzzles and problems that he helps out in. He also has a somewhat arrogant and difficult manner – much like Sherlock – but to simply cut this story down to “another Sherlock style of mystery” is really doing the book an injustice.

Isaiah is not some one in a million genius born perfect and solving crimes from a tender young age. One thing I loved about this story was it SHOWS us how Isaiah trained himself to notice all the small things and how to make the deductions he becomes known for. This wasn’t some magical talent he was born with – he used his brain and trained himself over and over to learn and gain this talent. He EARNED it. I found that so refreshing and amazing. At first I was a bit annoyed at how the author jumps between two time settings – 2013 where the story is in “the present” and back to 2005 where Isaiah’s brother was killed in a tragic hit and run accident. Isaiah’s world – as he knew it – crumbled and this is where he turned his big brain and incredible intelligence into doing more than just winning math awards and thinking about college. It took me a while, but I realized so much of who Isaiah is in the present grows from his grief and the life-altering course of his brother’s death that both these storylines needed to be told and the story moves far better – even though I still find it somewhat jolting – for weaving the two times together as we learn and unearth more and more of who Isaiah is.

I am also wiling to cut a bit of slack to the writer since this is their first book. Isaiah is an engaging and interesting character, and the world and his cases are engrossing. I have to be honest though I do find the writing just a little bit choppy and had the story or Isaiah’s characters not been so excellent I might not have persevered. I’m very glad I did though as the plot is refreshing and seeing how Isaiah grows into the young man he is makes the trip well worthwhile.

Readers looking for a deduction style story (yes, Sherlockian but oh so much more than just that) with realistic and memorable characters and more than a few twisty plots all seamlessly coming together this is an excellent mystery to try. Be prepared to want the second book on hand immediately after you finish the first. While the story doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger there’s more than a few clues as to where the second book is aimed and the epilogue is like a giant, neon, blinking “We are moving here” sign and there is no doubt what is in store for the next book. I’m very glad I gave this series a shot and am eagerly looking forward to sinking into the second story.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick

The Girl Who Knew Too Much by Amanda Quick
Publisher: Little, Brown & Co
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Fern

In 1930s California, glamour and seduction spawn a multitude of sins in this New York Times bestseller from the author of Tightrope.

At the exclusive Burning Cove Hotel on the coast of California, rookie reporter Irene Glasson finds herself staring down at a beautiful actress at the bottom of a pool….

The dead woman had something Irene wanted: a red-hot secret about an up-and-coming leading man—a scoop that may have gotten her killed. As Irene searches for the truth about the drowning, she’s drawn to a master of deception. Once a world-famous magician whose career was mysteriously cut short, Oliver Ward is now the owner of the Burning Cove Hotel. He can’t let scandal threaten his livelihood, even if it means trusting Irene, a woman who seems to have appeared in Los Angeles out of nowhere four months ago.

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Irene Glasson came to California from the East Coast a number of months ago on the run from her past. Determined to start a new life for herself she had no idea her past would eventually catch up with her. Oliver Ward knows all about moving on from the past as he’s been trying to get his life back on track after a bad accident ruined his magic career and nearly his life. Can they trust each other when they both need to keep their secrets close?

I’ve been an Amanda Quick fan for many years and was a little surprised when I realised just how long it’s been that I’ve been holding off reading this new kick-off of hers – away from the Regency/Victorian Historical setting and into the American 1930s. I feel mentally Amanda Quick to me signifies one of the best authors in the historical romance genres and she’s set the bar quite high. While I adore the 1920s and am fairly flexible in my reading likes, older American settings have never really been a passion of mine so I’ve been hesitant. Therefore, this book has languished in my to read pile.

Such a long enforced-indoors stay, though, (thank you Covid-19) had me curious enough to crack this open and for the most part I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I was both thrilled and relieved that the writing has retained the high standard and easy-to-sink-into aspect that I associate with Amanda Quick (and her contemporary alter-ego Jayne Ann Krentz) and this story has reiterated for me, personally, that this author could write virtually anything and I’d find it largely readable.

The Girl Who Knew Too Much is way better than “largely readable” but I admit it wasn’t quite the gold-standard many of Quick’s earlier novels were. The characters were excellently drawn and familiar with intelligence and subtle good looks and keen to use their brains and skills rather than just coast along. I also felt the plot was very well woven and there were a few threads all linking up together really strongly and it kept the pace moving while giving the story a good sense of being rounded out. I admit the old-style Hollywood aspect to the story was interesting but never really grabbed me – though I freely admit this setting will likely appeal strongly to a large number of other readers. Quick does an excellent job of infusing the story with the sense of that golden era of Hollywood and the Art Deco/extravagance and historical setting of the 1930s and California in general. I strongly feel it was my own personal tastes that simply had me not as enraptured by this aspect to the story – Quick has done an amazing job with the writing and for readers who enjoy this style and setting should find it wonderful to sink into.

As is often the case with Quick (and Krentz) the setting and world she’s built was as addictive as the hero and heroine. There were a number of very strong secondary characters (Luther and Willie most especially) that I would have loved to see more of in subsequent books and I’m glad I’ve got the next already purchased. While there are a few intimate scenes written between Oliver and Irene I don’t feel they’re hot enough to be a turn-off for most traditional romance readers. While descriptive, they are a very small aspect to the story and I feel they are very tastefully written. The emotional relationship and romance between Oliver and Irene is a strong aspect to this story but I feel the mystery/suspense is equally strong and very prominent. I was really pleased that both sides to this story are well balanced and – to my mind – given equal weight throughout the story. This is the sort of book I wouldn’t blush to recommend to my mother or an elderly relative.

Readers who enjoy historically-set novels with both a strong romance and equally strong mystery should really enjoy these. Fans of Amanda Quick’s other novels should definitely give this a whirl as I was vastly pleased her change in time and setting has not dulled her talent one iota. A good book I will enjoy re-reading.

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer

Stranger Than Fanfiction by Chris Colfer
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Chris Colfer comes a funny, heartbreaking, unforgettable novel about friendship and fame perfect for fans of Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl and John Green.

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In this touching novel, New York Times bestselling author Chris Colfer takes us on a journey full of laughter, tears, and life-changing memories.

Four friends, a roadtrip and an interesting addition…what can go wrong?

I knew when I picked up this book I’d like it. Why? I like the writing style of Chris Colfer. It’s choppy in spots, but it’s witty and sounds like teens talking. It really does. I sped right through this book and cried at the end. It kept my attention and made me feel for the characters.

I won’t get into a lot of details, but there is a little bit for everyone. Sam is transgender and trying to sort himself out. Mo has ideas that don’t match those of her father. Topher wants to be the responsible one and is giving up on some of his dreams to help care for his brother with a handicap. Then there’s Joey. He’s gay and hasn’t come out yet. Oh, and Cash. Cash is the celebrity that just so happens to come along on the trip. I have to admit, I thought the story would go one way and the author kept up enough twists and turns to keep me guessing. I liked it. While the ending made me cry, it was exactly how the book should’ve ended. I’m glad, too.

If you want a book that’s fast-paced, fun in spots and sad in others, but worth the read, then this might be the one you’re looking for. Recommended.

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt

Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt
Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Length: Full Length (326 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The riveting true story of the women who launched America into space.

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.
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For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading.

The Rocket Girls rocked.

I’ve been on a non-fiction kick, reading books about people in the space industry. I stumbled on this book while looking at those lists of ‘if you liked______, you’ll like_______’. I’m glad I looked at that list. This book, Rise of the Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt, was great reading. It was like reading about a circle of friends who happened to be really smart and know about engineering/math before women were considered capable of doing such things. But it seemed like I was included in the group. The writing flowed very well and I hated to put this down so I could sleep and such. I had to get back to the book.

It tugged at the heartstrings with stories about the ladies and how they did the calculations for the rocket launches, orbits and such. The women share their stories about how they felt when the Apollo I accident happened, Challenger and Discovery. They talked about the trials and tribulations of their lives, too. They were working moms when that wasn’t a popular thing. I wanted to know more about them and felt like I did know them when I finished reading the book.

What tugged the hardest at my heart had to be when the women got together for a reunion and said ‘this will be the last time we see each other[. Talk about ending on a sad note, but a cool one! They knew they’d done some awesome things. I loved going on the ride with them, even if it was only through the book.

If you’re interested in the lives of the ladies involved in the space race, then this might be the book for you. Pick it up. Recommended.

NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson & Marshall Karp

NYPD Red 3 by James Patterson & Marshall Karp
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (354 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla


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Zach and Kylie’s New Year’s celebrations are cut short when they’re called to the home of billionaire businessman Hunter Alden, Jr. after he makes a grisly discovery in his townhouse garage. When Alden’s teenage son goes missing soon afterwards, and his father seems oddly reluctant to find him, Zach and Kylie find themselves in the middle of a chilling conspiracy that threatens everyone in its wake-especially their city’s most powerful citizens. NYPD Red 3 is the next sensational novel in James Patterson’s explosive new series, a thriller that goes behind the closed doors of New York high society and into the depths of depravity.

New Year’s Eve is a time for celebrations, resolutions, and good times. Everything fades into the background however when billionaire Hunter Alden Jr. finds the decapitated head of his chauffer in his garage. With his son missing and his chauffer dead, Hunter calls on the best of the best – the NYPD’s Red division. But not even New York City’s most elite task force can solve a mystery when the major players are keeping secrets from them. Will Zach and Kylie be able to find Tripp before it’s too late?

Zach Jordan has been one of my favorite characters since the first novel in this series. He’s finally starting to settle into some semblance of a relationship outside of the one with his partner, Kylie MacDonald. This makes me very happy as I really do love the woman he’s started dating. However, poor Zach is intent on beating himself up over every thought, action, or breath he might feel is even the least bit leading or inappropriate in respects to his partner. We’ve long known that he still carries a torch for Kylie – and that she’s moved on – but enough already. Please give this hardworking detective some closure and allow him to move on with his life. He’s too much fun and entirely too intelligent to be stuck in this endless loop of what could have been. All of that aside, he’s the kind of guy I’d be friends with in a heartbeat. He’s honest, he’s open, and on occasion, he’s needy and emotional.

I’ve mentioned in the past that Kylie MacDonald wasn’t exactly my favorite person. Thankfully, she’s finally starting to mellow out somewhat and become more of a real-to-life character for me. She’s not nearly as abrasive as she’s been in the past, and a lot of that comes from what’s happened to her husband over the last couple of novels, I think. Poor Spence, he’s really been the one to take a beating as of late. Hopefully the change in her relationship with Spencer is effecting some character growth for her. On the flip side, no matter whether I like her or not, she and Zach really do work well together, acting as two halves of one whole. He has the detective’s brain, while she has the gut instinct. Putting both together gives you a very powerful team.

Although I think that each installment in this series gets better and better, the added twist to this third installment was a bit too much. The double homicide, the kidnapping, and all of the usual elements in a James Patterson novel worked well. But the surprise of Project Guttenberg left me feeling a bit confused. However, if I put that last bit aside, the intense action and the nose to the ground police work make the story worth reading. The NYPD Red series is still one of my favorite James Patterson series to date.