Monday, January 13, 2014

Gooney Bird and All Her Charms by Lois Lowry

I'd ordered Gooney Bird and All Her Charms with my 6 year old niece in mind. I've been collecting books to send her and I expect that this will go over well. It's my first time to read a Lois Lowry Gooney Bird adventure and it's an easy series to enjoy.

Gooney Bird loves hats, glasses, dressing up, but in a way that reminded me a bit of Pippi Longstocking because she chooses her accessories with a sense of fun and purpose. She has a serious hat that she wears for important meetings - such as her meetings with the librarian, the school principal, etc. She's not shy but she's not pushy either. She speaks her mind but listens to her classmates. She's comfortable with the limelight but doesn't have to always be the star. She's the active, self assured, funny girl that I imagine young girls would love to spend time with, befriend, emulate.

In this particular story, Gooney Bird's second grade class is studying the human body. Gooney Bird's great uncle lends the class a skeleton as a teaching aid and the students gradually adjust to having a skeleton and are excited to share what they learn about the different systems of the body. The book mixes the biology lessons with humor - and does this very well. The second grade class covers the nervous system, the digestive system, the circulatory system, the respiratory system, skeletal system, and muscular system with humor and a way that kids would understand. The new teaching tool does have a strong opponent and a disaster of sorts that requires teamwork from all the classmates to resolve.

The one thing that I didn't enjoy was how the Keiko, the young Japanese American girl, was always scared, worried, easily upset. I'd much rather have a Japanese girl with a samurai spirit instead of a scared nervous and hyper feminine type.

I look forward to reading the other books in the series and sharing this with my niece Sofia.

  • Age Range: 6 - 9 years
  • Grade Level: 1 - 4
  • ISBN-10: 0544113543 - Hardcover $12.74
  • Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (January 14, 2014), 160 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Prime Reviewers Program & the publisher.

About the Author:
Lois Lowry is the author of more than thirty books for young adults, including the popular Anastasia Krupnik series. She has received countless honors, among them the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the California Young Reader’s Medal, and the Mark Twain Award. She received Newbery Medals for two of her novels, NUMBER THE STARS and THE GIVER. Her first novel, A SUMMER TO DIE, was awarded the International Reading Association’s Children’s Book Award. Ms. Lowry now divides her time between Cambridge and an 1840s farmhouse in Maine. To learn more about Lois Lowry, see her website at

A Fatal Likeness by Lynn Shepherd

The blurb:
With The Solitary House, award-winning author Lynn Shepherd introduced readers to Charles Maddox, a brilliant private detective plying his trade on the gaslit streets of Dickensian London. Now, in this mesmerizing new novel of historical suspense, a mystery strikes disturbingly close to home—and draws Maddox into a world of literary legends, tormented souls, and a legacy of terrible secrets.
When his great-uncle, the master detective who schooled him in the science of “thief taking,” is mysteriously stricken, Charles Maddox fears that the old man’s breakdown may be directly related to the latest case he’s been asked to undertake. Summoned to the home of a stuffy nobleman and his imperious wife, Charles finds his investigative services have been engaged by no less than the son of celebrated poet Percy Shelley and his famed widow, Mary, author of the gothic classicFrankenstein. Approached by a stranger offering to sell a cache of rare papers allegedly belonging to the legendary late poet, the Shelley family seeks Maddox’s aid in discovering whether the precious documents are authentic or merely the work of an opportunistic charlatan. 
But the true identity of his quarry is only the first of many surprises lying in wait for the detective. Hardly a conniving criminal, Claire Clairmont is in fact the stepsister of Mary Shelley, and their tortured history of jealousy, obsession, and dark deceit looms large over the affair Maddox must untangle. So, too, does the shadow of the brilliant, eccentric Percy Shelley, who found no rest from the private demons that pursued him. With each new detail unearthed, the investigation grows ever more disturbing. And when shocking evidence of foul play comes to light, Maddox’s chilling hunt for the truth leads him into the blackest reaches of the soul.
Steeped in finely wrought Victorian atmosphere, and rife with eye-opening historical revelations, A Fatal Likeness carries the reader ever deeper into a darkly magnetic tale of love and madness as utterly harrowing and heartbreaking as it is undeniably human.

I didn't know that much about the Shelleys and Lord Byron and had been looking forward to a period mystery of sorts. It may be that I lack the background but I was disappointed by A Fatal Likeness. The plot was based on historical details and was carefully researched. Unfortunately, I found the Shelleys slow and frustrating. The book would pick up whenever Maddox would enter the picture. I expect that I'd enjoy detective stories with Charles Maddox if he was dealing with a less convoluted plot.

ISBN-10: 0345532449 - Hardcover $26.00
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press (August 20, 2013), 384 pages.
  • Review copy courtesy of the publisher and the Amazon Vine Reviewer Program.

About the Author by the Author, courtesy of Amazon:
I write what I like to call 'literary murder'. In other words crime novels with a literary twist. I started with Murder at Mansfield Park, which was 'Jane Austen meets Agatha Christie', and I've now moved on to Charles Dickens with Tom-All-Alone's (UK)/The Solitary House (North America). It's inspired by Bleak House as my birthday present on his bicentenary.

I can't remember who it was who said you should write the sort of books you enjoy reading, but they were right - both my books combine my two great literary loves: classic English novels, and good detective fiction. I studied English at university (and have a doctorate in it too).

My other loves include cats (I have two), the English countryside (which I'm lucky enough to live in), Renaissance art (which I'm sadly not lucky enough to own), Palladian architecture, and America's finest police shows (Law & Order, Without a Trace, need I go on). Pet hates include wasps, monkeys, The Simpsons (just can't deal with the yellow faces), and the lazy use of the word "solutions" (I write for businesses as my day job, so that's the corporate copywriter creeping in).

I'm writing my third book now, which will be out in 2013 from Corsair (UK) and Random House (North America).
My Twitter ID is @Lynn_Shepherd, and my website is