You’ll Be Sorry by author/illustrator Josh Schneider is a cute tale about why you’ll be sorry if you do something naughty to your little brother or sister. Let’s be honest, parents, how often have you said “You’ll be sorry if you …”? But why exactly will the child be sorry? My parents always said that I’d be sorry because my brother would grow up to be bigger than me. I was four years older, so that wasn’t an immediate incentive.
Josh Schneider has taken the frequent parent quote and turned it into a cute children’s story that has a moral without overdoing it. On the first page, Schneider writes:
“Don’t hit your brother, or you’ll be sorry,” said samantha’s parents. But Samantha liked to hit her brother, and did not think she’d be sorry. She thought she would be very sorry not to hit him
With this as the introduction to the story, all three of my girls (4, 7, 9) were hooked. Who hasn’t thought that? Maybe only children, or people who never get angry. Schneider hooks us with honest feelings…
And then he takes it to a whole other level of silliness and fun! Samantha, predictibly, doesn’t listen to her parents. Thankfully, the hitting happens off-screen, Schneider illustrates it only with an empty room and her brother’s “Waaaaaaah”. I was waiting for the parental response in You’ll Be Sorry, but what actually happened surprised me – Samantha’s brother begins to cry and won’t stop. He cries and cries, water pouring from his eyes as the family first needs galoshes, and then a rowboat, and as the house floods, her brother is still crying buckets of water. This is when the crying really starts to affect Samantha – she has to leave her room and her soccer game is canceled.
Schneider illustrates You’ll Be Sorry with a long-nosed white mouse family that has very human facial expressions, including the sly look on Samantha’s face right before she hits her brother. Schneider also has many pages that don’t include Samantha’s family, but propel the story: fish swimming in the tears, a waterfall on the stairs, seahorses near the soccer goal, and the flooded homes. The pages are all filled with the green-colored water, with red boots, clothes, or fish as accents. The end result is illustrations that focus on the story rather than detract attention from the storyline.
Of course, by the end of You’ll Be Sorry, Samantha is sorry she hit her brother, and she might just be sorry enough not to repeat her behavior. Will it make an impact on your young
miscreants sweethearts? Perhaps. One can hope. Even if it doesn’t make any impact on squabbling siblings, it’s a fun story with sweet illustrations that kids will enjoy and a moral that will help the parents read it for the 426th time!
All of us here at A Gaggle of Book Reviews recommend picking up a copy of You’ll Be Sorry!
This book was received from the publisher for review
Staked is the debut novel from author J. F. Lewis, and it’s a very different vampire novel than what I have been reading. The story centers around Eric, a relatively young yet incredibly powerful vampire, who has some major problems with memory loss and anger management; blackouts are never a good thing! Eric isn’t a dark, brooding, sexy, romantic hero, this is a guy’s guy vampire; a vampire who owns a strip club. While I love the romantic hero vampires, it’s refreshing to see a vampire with an attitude problem.
Eric has what most guys would consider a dream job – running a strip club, with human girlfriends whenever he needs them. As a bonus, he has plenty of money, so he doesn’t need to worry about the success of his business. In Staked’s vampire world, vampires don’t need to kill when they feed, but sometimes it happens; since Void City is run by vamps, you’re just charged a fee for body removal. By running a strip club, Eric also has a large number of potential “donors” available every day. Even though he’s a “guy’s guy vampire”, Eric still reigned in the interest of this female reader, plus, part of Staked is told through the voice of Tabitha, Eric’s current girlfriend, so there’s more than one side to the story.
While Eric wants to just drink some blood and enjoy himself, he ends up with one problem after another. In Void City, there’s a grudge between vampires and werewolves, and when Eric gets into a fit of rage and kills a werewolf in self-defense, he ends up the target of every werewolf in the area. When Eric has to fight, it’s quickly made clear that he’s an uber-vamp, one who can keep bouncing back from anything and everything, killing any enemy in his path. Meanwhile, Eric’s got more problems than just his anger-management, he just “changed” Tabitha, and he’s not all that happy about it. His pre-vampire fiancée is still refusing to become a vampire or return to fiancée status, choosing to age alone, and there are all kinds of love triangles happening, some of which are pretty volatile. What will happen when Tabitha finds out Eric’s been sleeping with Rachel, her younger sister?
The characters in Staked are unique enough to grab my attention, even after innumerable hours reading vampire novels. Eric definitely fits into the “anti-hero” category, with major issues including rage-blackouts, relationship problems, and massive memory gaps. Tabitha is Eric’s current girlfriend/new vampire, and she is having a bit of buyer’s remorse; while she is in love with Eric, his assistant Talbot sure is hot… Eric’s friend Roger has known him as long as he’s been undead, but something feels a bit “off” about him. And, why on earth has Marilyn, who was Eric’s fiancée at the time of his death, stayed with him for 40 years, now managing the strip club? There are a lot of nooks and crannies in every character, stones that need to be overturned, though we might not always like what’s lurking underneath. Staked’s unique characters will pull you in, and since there’s an equally unique plot, you won’t be able to put it down.
Once you get caught up in the world of Staked, you’re stuck in its thrall. There’s enough violence and death to keep the novel going, but not so much that you can’t read it before bed. Staked walks a great balance with the suspense and gore, keeping the reader wanting to know the answer to the mysteries, but not completely grossed out; it’s a balance that one rarely sees in first novels. At the end of Staked, I couldn’t quite accept it was over, I needed just a few more pages! I’m hoping that the sequel, Revamped will be published relatively soon, I’m looking forward to more from Jeremy Lewis!
We definitely recommend Staked to men and women – it’s a great take on the vampire anti-hero! If you need a break from romantic vampire tales, pick this one up now.
This book was received from the publisher for review
Carpool Diem is a new book by Nancy Star. Star has taken the theme of soccer moms and the actual sport of soccer and taken it to another level, creating characters that will make you laugh, because it’s all just so true. If you’ve spent any time around youth soccer, you must take a look at this book, it was written for you!
Our main character in Carpool Diem is Annie, a high powered executive who travels for work, as does her husband Tim, who is also very busy and traveling a lot for work. Their nanny Hildy takes care of their 12 year old daughter Charlotte, and Annie is starting to realize that Hildy knows far more about what Charlotte is doing and more about everything in general. It’s right around the time that this realization is setting in that Annie is fired, and turns into a stay-at-home-mom slash consultant. Once she’s home, Annie realizes even more how out of it she’s been, when she meets her “new” neighbor, a woman who has lived in the house next door for two years.
Soon Annie has taken charge of their household as only someone who has focused on reorganization can do, with her work hard/play hard credo. After a career of doing and getting only the best, Annie is trying to put that philosophy to work for her at-home life, starting with getting Charlotte onto the Power, the super-duper-A+ travel soccer team. Coach Winslow West is the coach of the Power, and his over-the-top email missives to the team are interspersed in Carpool Diem with chapters focused on Annie, Tim, and Charlotte’s storyline. Winslow’s emails are a sight to behold, filled with new rules and exclamation points!
Nancy Star has really written perfect characters for Carpool Diem. I’ve been the parent who hopes for rain to cancel soccer practice, and reading about Winslow West’s “you only leave the field if lightning has touched the ground” rule made me laugh out loud; there are plenty of other lines just as funny, too. Annie pushes herself, Tim, and Charlotte hard, wanting everyone to do their best and be “winners”. At some points in the story, readers may want to slap Annie, but we all know she has to calm down at some point. Right? Star has also gotten the fun nuances of twelve-year-old girls, too: the perfect mix of sullen, giggly, and needy.
The characters are socca-riffic, and they pull along a great storyline. I was surprised at which underdogs I started to root for – frequently it was characters I had disliked at first. The plot really sweeps you through the book, it’ll keep you from putting it down, reading it in your warm car while your kids play soccer in 28 degree weather.
If you’re an at-home mom who has ever watched the uber-successful moms, and wished they could spend a day in the trenches, Carpool Diem is a must read! If you’ve ever wanted to thwack the soccer coach who goes way overboard about team rules, parent attendance (or absence), and being a socca-starter, you shouldn’t miss Carpool Diem. Between the over-the-top characters and the storyline that always has a surprise, Carpool Diem is a book you should definitely pick up. Put it in your socca-bag!
This book was received from the publisher for review
Where the Heart Leads: From the Casebook of Barnaby Adair is the newest historical mystery/romance from bestselling author Stephanie Laurens. If you love a good Regency romance, you’ll adore this novel. If you have never read a romance, but like a good historical fiction novel, or a good historical mystery, you will be surprised by how much you like this book.
I was raised by English majors. I don’t think I met anyone who read romances until I was in my mid-thirties. My family talked about reading “popcorn books”, (aka books that aren’t classified as literary fiction), but they were talking about anything on the bestseller list, people read popular mysteries, or occasionally sci fi/fantasy, but not romances. When I started reading chick lit, and then paranormals, I thought there was a big difference between those and romances. There really isn’t much of a difference at all, and I’m annoyed with myself for dismissing an entire branch of fiction because of this attitude! The storyline, character development, and rich background research in Where the Heart Leads leads to an enchanting story, one that is of higher quality than a lot of “quality” literature.
Where the Heart Leads follows the life of Barnaby Adair, the third son of an earl, through his fourth mystery in Lonndon during the 1830s. Adair works in conjunction with a policeman at Scotland Yard named Stokes. (If you’re up on your good mysteries, think Lord Peter and Parker about 90 years earlier.) Penelope is the sister of a Viscount, and has used her place in society to help others, specifically by running the Foundling House, which helps teaches orphans from the East End skills to help them gain legal employment when they are older. Recently, however, 4 boys have disappeared after the death of their guardian, and before someone from the Foundling House could arrive to pick them up. Penelope is worried about the 4 boys, and convinces Adair to help her find the boys and protect the next East End boys who become orphaned from the same fate.
Laurens writes with such detail that we can almost smell the world of the ton and the opposing world of the East End. The clothes and foods are likewise beautifully detailed, and combined with the depth of character truly pulls you into the story so you can’t put down Where the Heart Leads. Barnaby Adair is a confirmed bachelor – no wife would be happy with him performing his investigations assisting Stokes and the police. Penelope is likewise determined not to marry, as she is insistent that her duty is to the children of the Foundling House, and no husband would agree with her level of involvement there. The two are drawn together in the investigation, and in Penelope’s search for a passionate affair without any strings attached. As they investigate, Scotland Yard officer Stokes and popular milliner Griselda, who grew up in the East End. The two couples work together and with both the local “rozzers” (police) and the East Enders to locate the boys, make them safe, and thwart a burglary scheme.
If you’ve never tried a Regency romance, you will be swept away by Where the Heart Leads! If you are already a romance lover, don’t wait to pick this up, you’ll love it! If you’re a mystery lover, you’ll really enjoy the class struggles and the unique methods of investigation in the 1830s. Stephanie Laurens has created fabulous characters and a world that is lively and fun. I’m looking forward to checking out her other novels, too.
This book was received from the publisher for review
Kristin Harmel’s newest release is an engrossing young adult novel called When You Wish. This is a delightful story of a girl pushed to be a star by her mother, but Star herself doesn’t feel comfortable with her “star” persona, and tries to discover who she really is. Readers might remember my earlier reviews of Kristin Harmel’s wonderful chick lit books How to Sleep with a Movie Star and The Art of French Kissing, and this book is right up there with the others – if you’ve read her other books, you will definitely want to pick this one up! If you’re not already a fan, When You Wish will quickly convince you to pick up her other novels.
When You Wish has a similar feel to Kristin’s chick lit books, with a strong female character and vibrant secondary characters. Unlike Kristin’s books for adults, When You Wish has a title that won’t make you blush, and any “romance” is teen-appropriate. Some authors have trouble moving from adult novels to young adult, but Kristin has found a great balance – there’s enough tension to keep the reader pulled in to Star’s life, and yet parents will feel comfortable with their kids reading the novel. Assuming, that is, that the parents don’t snag it to read for themselves!
I’ve talked about the need for great female leads in my Maximum Ride reviews, as well as in other reviews of young adult novels. As a mom of 3 girls who are growing up far too quickly, I continue to search for strong, fun, and engaging girls in young adult and tween novels. Star is a very different character than Max, but they share an inner strength paired with an anxiety about trusting that inner strength, which makes them realistic and approachable. In When You Wish, Star leaves her celebrity life in search of her estranged father, but also to find out who she is when she isn’t surrounded by her entourage. Start finds the world outside the pop star circuit to be very different from what she is accostomed to, but she makes decisions based on her own moral compass and finds that she points herself in the right direction.
There’s a surplus of boy “coming of age” books, and a surfeit of the girl equivalent that aren’t sappy and/or clichéd. When You Wish is sweet, but below the sweetness lies a strength that comes from Star’s determination and courage. There is a very hot guy involved, but Star does what needs to be done for herself, not just to get the cute guy. There’s plenty of crush-activity for teens to be happy, and plenty of spunk in Star so she never comes across as a stereotypical teenage girl.
No stereotypes or clichés seems to be Kristin Harmel’s writing creed. At first glance, Star’s mother seems like a typical stage mother, but there are hidden depths that you discover as the book progresses. The same is true for the father Star seeks, the entourage she left behind, and the people she meets along the way. It would be very easy to make this book into a teen version of Thelma & Louise, and not do any character or plot development, but Kristin has steered clear of that path and written a book that is well worth the shelf space.
I highly recommend When You Wish for young adult readers (too much kissing for my tween). Not-so-young adults shouldn’t overlook this novel, though! When You Wish is a very heartening, feel-good story that pulls you into Star’s gravity with a great cast of characters and a story that keeps you turning page after page. Go pick up a copy and read a story that will have you smiling when it’s finished – we all deserve great reads like this!
The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is the newest novel by bestselling author Joshilyn Jackson. A mix of mystery, parenting, paranormal, and the drama of family dysfunction, The Girl Who Stopped Swimming will quickly pull you under its spell. Jackson pulls on her own southern heritage to create a realistic-feeling impoverished rural Alabama town, and then she pulls on her life in the suburbs of Atlanta to create the contrasting perfect suburban neighborhood. The characters that spring from those contrasting towns are also drawn from people the author has observed, and they have an authentic feel.
When we first meet Laurel, the main character of The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, she is living a quiet life as a mother and fabric artist in the suburb of Victorianna, far from her mother’s impoverished roots. Laura had grown up with ghosts at her childhood home and in her mother’s rural hometown of DeLop, she had never seen any ghosts in Victorianna. Or, she hadn’t seen any ghosts until she was awoken by the ghost of her daughter’s best friend, who leads her to her body floating, floating in Laurel’s pool.
Laurel’s family is quickly pulled into the mystery of 13 year old Molly’s death; the police are questioning 13-year-old Shelby, Laurel is having problems trying to rescue Molly, and husband David has called in Laurel’s mother for assistance. The formerly peaceful home is filled with tension: Laurel’s worries about what she might have seen the night Molly died, Shelby’s silence, the presence of a teenage guest from DeLop, marital tension between David and Laurel, and then the intensity of emotions that comes when Laurel brings her sister Thalia home. The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, pulls you into the characters’ emotions, and you won’t want to stop reading.
Each of the characters in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming jumps off the page, with incredible depth of emotions and personality. Laurel and Dave’s characters go far beyond the meek suburban wife and stereotypical computer geek that one sees at first glance, with hidden depths that we see deepen during the course of the novel. Creating 12-13 year old kids is hard, but Jackson pulls of Shelby and her DeLop friend Bet; they aren’t perky and chatty, they are quiet and somewhat sullen, and thereby real.
Even the towns in The Girl Who Stopped Swimming are filled with personality, with none of the cardboard stereotypes that would have been easy to write. Jackson has based the fictional town of DeLop on a former mining town, and has based Victorianna on the prosperous suburbs around Atlanta. With both the towns and the people, there is enough reality to make them ring true, but enough fiction that Jackson can manipulate them to comply with her storyline.
With The Girl Who Stopped Swimming, Jackson has written a book that will capture your attention, a book where you can identify with something from all of the characters, and a book that will fully engage you in the joy of a good novel. I was stuck in Boston’s North Station for an hour after missing a train, but I was thrilled to have a (relatively) quiet place to read The Girl Who Stopped Swimming! This book can balance family drama, mystery, ghosts, and unique characters with a plot that doesn’t stop moving. You will be pulled into the story, and maybe it will make you happy you missed your train! The Girl Who Stopped Swimming is a great pick – grab a copy and check it out for yourself and then read Joshilyn Jackson’s other books: Between, Georgia and Gods in Alabama!