Review of Ah-hA to Zig-Zag, by Maira Kalman

March 19th, 2015

ah_ha_to_zig_zag_largeAh-hA to Zig-Zag

31 Objects from Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

by Maira Kalman

Cooper Hewitt, Skira Rizzoli, 2014. 54 pages.
Starred Review

Maira Kalman is pretty much the definition of quirky. On the title page, under the subtitle it says, “Maira Kalman went to the museum. She chose objects from the collection and made this book for you. Completely for you.”

First, it’s very loosely an alphabet book. Each letter has a picture of something from the museum and some writing about it. Something like this (with the picture from the front):

E.

(Except for your dog)

This is the cutest dog on Earth. with the cutest Eyebrows on Earth.

“I really am Extremely cute.”

Or:

F.

The hat on this woman From France is Fluffy and Frothy and Fantastic and Funny.

Or:

V.

It is Very Very Very Very (Very) nice to snuggle.

Or:

Y.

Dance. Run. Smell flowers. Jump for joY. Laugh. CrY. Be mean. Be kind. Eat toast. Be cozy. And be forever Young.

After Z for Zig-Zag, we have:

Oops!

We left out

O.

Oh well. We all make mistakes. Yesterday I wore two different socks. No big deal.

Then there is a double-page spread at the back with photos of all the objects portrayed and notes about what they are. The dog for E is “Figure of a poodle, England, 1820-40; Glazed earthenware.” The lady for F is from “Postcard, A Travers la Normandie; Coiffes et Costumes anciens, about 1909; Printed card with hand coloring.” V refers to “Salt and pepper shakers, Town and Country, 1946; Glazed earthenware, cork.” Y deals with “Square, Boy and Girl, 1947; Printed silk.” And O features “Pair of stockings, France, 1850-1900; Knitted silk.”

Then at the end, Maira Kalman tells the story of Nellie and Sally Hewitt.

They loved to sing and dance.
They were just a little bit wild.
A little bit.
They had sharp eyes. The kind of eyes that really LOOK at things.
One day they decided to collect the things they loved, and create a museum.
And they really did it.
Which is a lesson to be learned.
If you have a good idea — DO IT.

This book gives me a good idea: I should go to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

I have another good idea: I should tell you to check out this book!

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Completely Clementine, by Sara Pennypacker

March 18th, 2015

completely_clementine_largeCompletely Clementine

by Sara Pennypacker
pictures by Marla Frazee

Disney Hyperion Books, New York, March 2015. 178 pages.
Starred Review

The only thing awful about a new Clementine book coming out is that it looks suspiciously like the final book in the series. I do not want to say good-by to Clementine any more than she wants to say good-by to her teacher, Mr. D’Matz.

Yes, Clementine is finishing up her third grade year. I like the way Marla Frazee has even drawn her on the cover looking older. Though I read the book in an advance reader’s copy, and will definitely have to check out the final version in order to appreciate Marla Frazee’s always brilliant finished art.

The big drama of this book is that Clementine is not speaking to her father. He ate meat loaf, and Clementine has become a passionate vegetarian. She won’t speak to her father, but she will draw him pictures of sad animals in terror of being eaten.

Some big things happen in this book that were anticipated in earlier books. Margaret’s mother is getting married. Clementine’s friend Joe has grown. School is letting out for the summer. And Clementine’s mother is about to have her baby.

When I first heard about a new baby coming, I wanted it to have a food name. My name is a fruit, which I used to hate but now I like. I call my brother vegetable names to make it fair, which he used to hate but now he likes too. So I thought our new brother or sister should have a food name too, so he or she wouldn’t feel left out.

My dad said yes, because he’d always wanted a kid named Noodle. “It’s so good,” he pleaded, “for either a boy or a girl!” But my mother said Absolutely not!

Then I tried a compromise, which means nobody wins, but nobody loses, either. “How about a thing-name then? Let’s give the baby a name that’s also a thing, at least.”

My father loved this idea too. My mother rolled her eyes at all his suggestions: Lug Nut, Pencil, Q-tip, and Noodle again. But she didn’t hate the thing-name idea. “Dawn,” she said, “that’s a lovely name. Or maybe Colt, if it’s a boy.”

“So do you want to hear them?” I asked.

“Maybe later. We still have two weeks. I have a feeling the perfect name will show up by then.”

And it’s not really a spoiler to say that indeed it does.

This is a grand completion to a wonderful series especially right for second and third graders. (But which adults also can’t help but love. So if you’re looking for a wonderful read-aloud, look no further.)

sarapennypacker.com
marlafrazee.com
DisneyBooks.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise, by Sean Taylor and Jean Jullien

March 17th, 2015

hoot_owl_largeHoot Owl

Master of Disguise

by Sean Taylor
illustrated by Jean Jullien

Candlewick Press, 2014. 48 pages.
Starred Review

This book makes me laugh out loud — and then I can’t resist reading the whole thing aloud in a dramatic voice. I think I will be booktalking this book with the younger elementary school grades this year. It uses simple sentences and is easy to read, and is brilliantly funny.

The stage is set on the page before the title page:

Watch out!
I am Hoot Owl!
I am hungry.

And here I come!

One by one, Hoot Owl spots a tasty animal. His narration includes dramatizations like this:

The darkness of midnight is all around me.
But I fly through it as quick as a shooting star.

And look there . . .
a tasty rabbit for me to eat.
Soon my sharp beak will be gobbling that rabbit up!

The next page contains a refrain that is repeated with all the objects of Hoot Owl’s desire:

Everyone knows that owls are wise.
But as well as being wise,
I am a master of disguise.

I devise a costume.

Look —

I disguise myself as . . .

With the rabbit, he disguises himself as a carrot. With the sheep, he disguises himself as a mother sheep, with the pigeon, he disguises himself as an ornamental birdbath, and with the pizza, he disguises himself as a waiter. Which one of those disguises do you think works? With which one of those disguises do you think the prey does not go away?

So the final joke is, forgive me, a hoot. But along the way, I love Hoot Owl’s dramatic attitude. The atmospheric lines in between finding prey are wonderful:

The night has a thousand eyes,
and two of them are mine.
I swoop through the bleak blackness
like a wolf in the air.

How can I resist reading this aloud?

And look there . . .

a pigeon stands,
trembling,
afraid that
a dangerous
creature-of-the-dark,
such as an owl,
might be passing by!

When Hoot Owl finally does satisfy his hunger, the world can sleep again…

Until Hoot Owl returns.

candlewick.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Lion in Paris, by Beatrice Alemagna

March 14th, 2015

lion_in_paris_largeA Lion in Paris

by Beatrice Alemagna

Tate Publishing, 2014. 36 pages.

This oversized picture book is a treat for anyone who loves Paris. When I say oversized? I mean enormous. Looking at this book is an event.

The cover opens upward (with the spine on top, horizontal), and you see the lion’s paws unfolding a map of Paris, which will trace his route.

A few sentences show on the plain page on top, while the page in your lap has a large picture with photos of faces and other details inserted in the drawings.

The book begins:

He was a big lion. A young, curious and lonely lion. He was bored at home on the grasslands, and so one day he set off to find a job, love and a future.

The lion begins his journey around Paris at the train station, the Gare de Lyon, and from there we get a wonderful tour of Paris, from a lion’s eye view.

I think my favorite page is looking up the steps to Sacré Coeur:

The lion’s heart was beating very fast as he continued his long walk. At the top of an endless flight of steps he saw a white castle. “It looks like a cream cake, doesn’t it?” said an old lady, smiling at him. “Grrr,” replied the lion. They went back down all the steps together.

At the end of the book, the lion finds a permanent place where he is happy.

The author explains the story in a note at the end:

The lion in this story was inspired by the statue of a lion in the Place Denfert-Rochereau in Paris. It was erected by the architect Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi between 1876 and 1880. I wondered why the Parisians are so fond of this lion. I think it is because he looks very happy where he is.

And who can blame the lion? I know I have been happy when in Paris. This book brings some of that joy back.

tate.org.uk/publishing

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Super Pi Day at City of Fairfax Regional Library

March 14th, 2015

Today was Super Pi Day! 3.14.15, celebrated especially between 9:26:53 am and 9:26:53 pm.
(My son says it should be called Slightly-More-Accurate-Approximation-of-Pi Day, but I’m going with Super Pi Day.)

PiDay1

I got my geek on, with my Floating Point Pi Earrings from ThinkGeek, my Pi t-shirt from the Mathematikum in Giessen, Germany, Apple Pi socks, and of course my Prime Factorization Cardigan. I also brought in a Chocolate Angel Pi Pie.

My favorite comment was when I was explaining all this to one of the Library Friends. She said, “It’s good to see someone who loves what they do.” My translation: “You really are a Math Geek.” Yes, I am. Yes, I am.

Since a Children’s Used Book Sale was going on all day, we couldn’t use the meeting room, and decided to run an all-day Pi Day Scavenger Hunt.

Scavenger Sign

Participants only needed to answer 8 of the 10 questions, and we hoped they’d be pulled into the library to answer them. They were to write the answer on the pie piece, and get a prize when all the pieces were filled in. These were the questions:

1. For any circle, pi equals the circumference of the circle divided by what?
2. Albert Einstein was born on March 14th. What famous equation did he write?
3. Some people think we should celebrate Super Pi Day next year. Why is that?
4. What library number would you look under for books about pi?
5. What library number would you look under for books about pie?
6. List another irrational number.
7. What U.S. city has the zip code 31415?
8. Find a book in the library with “circle” in the title. List the title.
9. What letter comes after pi in the Greek alphabet?
10. Someone in the library is wearing a prime factorization sweater. What is her name? (Hint: You can google it.)

The prize was a wristband from thepidayofourlives.homestead.com celebrating Pi Day, along with some circular candies.

We ordered 57 wristbands. A hat came along with it, and none of my coworkers wanted to wear it, so I added it to my Pi gear:

PiDay2

Response was wonderful! By the end of the day, we’d given out 56 wristbands! I loved watching the kids working to figure out the answers. And I’ve never gotten the chance to talk to so many people about my prime factorization sweater all on the same day!

I admit this family, with Super Pi, Pi a la mode, and a Pi-rate, were my favorites:

Customers

But overall, it was simply a huge success!

I was going to fill in the answers, but instead, why don’t you add them in the comments if you know the answers? :)

Happy Happy Slightly-Better-Approximation-of-Pi Day!

Review of Naptime with Theo & Beau, by Jessica Shyba

March 12th, 2015

naptime_with_theo_and_beau_largeNaptime with Theo & Beau

by Jessica Shyba

Feiwel and Friends, New York, 2015. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Okay, this is the cutest bedtime book ever. I showed it to a usually cynical friend, and even he told me I had just made his day better.

The text is simple:

Beau is sleepy.

Theo is sleepy.

It must be naptime!

The photos accompanying this simple text could not possibly be more adorable. A toddler boy (Beau) and a dog (Theo) got in the habit of napping together. Mom (Jessica Shyba) took their pictures.

The two young creatures are roughly the same size. They sleep cuddled up together. You know how nice it is to watch a child sleep? It turns out it can be even sweeter to see a child sleep cuddling up with a sleeping dog.

Of course the big mystery is: How did Jessica Shyba get such stunning photographs of them without waking them up? (But my kids were little before the age of digital photography — so I suppose that’s the answer. Though the photos do seem awfully well-lit.)

You can see more photos, now with Beau’s little sister, on the author’s Momma’s Gone City blog.

In a book? Well, besides being adorable, looking at these pictures will also make you sleepy, which, it seems to me, is the perfect criteria for a bedtime book.

Sleep tight!

mommasgonecity.com
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Shadow Scale, by Rachel Hartman

March 9th, 2015

shadow_scale_largeShadow Scale

by Rachel Hartman

Random House, New York, March 2015. 599 pages.

This sequel to Seraphina brings us back to the rich and detailed fantasy world where dragons take up human form. In the first book, Seraphina dealt with her heritage as a half-dragon, and in this book, she seeks to find the other half-dragons.

Much of the book happens in Seraphina’s mind, which at first is a little confusing, but eventually has you wrapped up in the details. My biggest complaint is that in the big final conflict scene, I’m not entirely sure what exactly happened. But I do think I got enough of it.

This is a good book for those who like their fantasy complex. There was a rather neat solution to the love triangle (though I personally am not entirely happy with it. But it did work).

There’s war going on, and Seraphina has a role to play. But there’s another half-dragon able to enter the minds of the others and then manipulate them to her own purposes.

We’ve got intrigue and strategy combined with a virtual tour of several countries of that world. This is a wonderful follow-up fulfilling all the promise of the award-winning first book.

And why did I again think there’d be a trilogy? I’m happier with this misunderstanding than I am when I mistake a quartet for a trilogy. This book did complete the story and tie up loose ends. And though it is based on Seraphina, I didn’t remember all the plot details of the first book, but everything I needed to know was filled in. And the plot threads were all wrapped up at the end.

An intricate and satisfying tale.

SeraphinaBooks.com
RachelHartmanBooks.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Sonderling Sunday – Das Buch der Tausend Tage, Day 32

March 8th, 2015

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday, that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books!

Okay, it’s a little late for it tonight, but hey, it’s Daylight Savings Time, so my body doesn’t realize that I should be tired. I’ll try for a short one.

And it’s time to go back to one of my favorite English books, Book of a Thousand Days, by Shannon Hale, >Das Buch der Tausend Tage, with the so gorgeous German cover.

Buch_Tausend_Tage

Last time (which I can’t believe was a year ago!), I left off before Day 32, which starts on page 31 in the English edition, and Seite 42 in the German edition.

Right away, there’s something that’s more easily said in English:
“whisper-shouting”
= flüsterte und rief zur gleichen Zeit
(“whispered and shouted at the same time”)

This is fun in German:
“mending a stocking” = stopfte einen Strumpf

It’s interesting when onomatopoeia is done so differently, but it works:
“Rap, rap, rap” = Tack, tack, tack.

“rotten” = abscheulich

“palms” = Handflächen (“Hand surfaces”)

“wooden spoon” = Holzlöffel

“puddle of moonlight” = Lache Mondlicht

“double stitched” = doppelt genähtem

“I knew he was teasing me” = ich wusste, dass er mich nur neckte

“friendly insult” = wohlgesonnene Beleidigung (Google: “sympathetic insult”)

“sturdy ankles” = stramme Knöchel

“slippers” = Pantoffeln

“the kind with the toe curled up prettily”
= solche mit einer hübsch gebogenen Spitze
(“such with a pretty bowed tip”)

“metal catch” = Eisenhaken

“pine bough” = Tannenzweig

“winter nap” = Winterschlummer

“Midwinter” = Wintersonnenwende (“winter-sun-turn”)

“to feast until it hurts” = zu prassen, bis es wehtut

“felt tents” = Filzjurten

“blotchy face” = fleckiges Gesicht

“browned and callused hands” = braunen schwieligen Hände

“barrel of water” = Wasserfass

“silliest song” = albernste Lied

“bodiless piglet” = Ferkel ohne Körper

“Happily snuffling” = Fröhlich schnüffelts

“grumble” = nörgeln

“brush” (for writing) = Pinsel (Ah! I just learned where the word “pencil” came from.)

“wistful” = wehmütig

“twisting and floating” = zuckend und schwebend

And that’s all for tonight! I finished Day 32.

But what useful things we’ve learned! After all, who would want to travel in Germany without knowing how to say “bodiless piglet”?

Review of What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night, by Reife & Susan Tuma

March 7th, 2015

what_the_dinosaurs_did_last_night_largeWhat the Dinosaurs Did Last Night

by Refe & Susan Tuma

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2014.
Starred Review

All you have to do is look at the cover of this book to get your imagination spinning. And to start laughing.

The authors explain in an Introduction how Dinovember got started. They were tired and busy with a new baby in the house. Susan’s parents had sent some hand-me-down toys that their daughters weren’t terribly interested in and languished in a toy box.

The next time we saw those dinosaurs was on Halloween. It had been a difficult day. Leif’s sleepless nights had gotten worse. Trick-or-treating had been canceled because Adele was sick, and the kids had gone to bed disappointed and emotional. Susan and I were exhausted, cleaning up after another day spent cooped up inside the house. We could tell our daughters had been desperately bored because even the neglected contents of that toy box had been dumped all over the living room floor. Susan started sorting through them as she cleaned, and held up a couple of the dinosaur figures.

“I remember these,” she said. “I always loved them.”

As we got ready for bed, Susan set the dinosaurs on the bathroom sink where our daughters would find them the next morning. I asked what she was doing and she shrugged.

“Just having a little fun.”

We went to bed without giving it another thought.

The next morning, our daughters nearly broke down the door to our room.

“Mom and Dad, you have to see this!” Alethea said. “The dinosaurs came to life last night – we caught them brushing their teeth!”

Susan and I dragged ourselves out of bed as the girls looked on impatiently. As soon as our feet touched the floorboards, they grabbed our hands and pulled us into the bathroom. At first glance, it seemed as if the dinosaurs were exactly the way Susan left them – standing in the same places, frozen in the same positions. Then, we looked closer. We looked at our girls’ faces and saw the way they smiled and how their eyes had grown wide. We realized that, sure enough, the kids were right: the dinosaurs had come to life. And, with that, we knew they would do it again.

This was how Dinovember was born — every night of November, the dinosaurs got up to mischief while the children were sleeping. Eventually, the parents took pictures, started a blog — and wrote a book.

I like this summing up in the Introduction:

At its heart, Dinovember is a celebration of imagination. Imagination is both a prerequisite for participation and, ultimately, what we hope to inspire. We want to train our kids to value their creativity, to cultivate imaginative thinking, and to look past what’s possible.

After talking about their daughter’s aspirations to be an artist-scientist, they also say:

The dinosaurs have unwittingly taught Susan and me a similar lesson — that we can be parents and people at the same time. We’ve often felt like we had to be either the parents our kids needed or individuals with our own hopes and dreams — never both at once. When we tried in the past, we seemed to be maintaining two different identities, taking them on and off like costumes in a Metropolis phone booth. We’ve played with enough plastic dinosaurs by now to know that it doesn’t have to be that way. Our kids aren’t a hindrance to the things we want to do — they’re integral to everything we do. They’re our partners in crime and our grass-stained, runny-nosed muses. They’re part of the story we’re telling, and, one day, we’ll be part of theirs.

As for the rest? The photographs say it all. Dinosaurs caught in the act, again and again.

I do have one complaint about this book: The print is teeny-tiny. Not good for beginning readers who might learn to read with this book, and not at all good for older eyes hoping to read the book to grandkids.

However, you don’t actually have to read the words to get yourself laughing out loud. The expressions on the dinosaurs’ faces are classic!

My main problem is how on earth to classify this book. My library has it as Juvenile Fiction. And if you look at it as the story of “What the Dinosaurs Did Last Night,” it works that way. It could be thought of as a Picture Book — but what about the teeny-tiny print? I think I’m going to list it under adult Nonfiction — since the authors address adults in their Introduction, and then you can see the book as a book of ideas for parents. And then it does fit under Creativity — because ultimately, that’s what this book is about. But make no mistake: This is truly a book for all ages, and people of different ages will take different things away from this book.

This book is something unique — and a triumph of the imagination. I dare anyone to look at one of these pictures and not instantly start imagining the scenario that got the dinosaurs into that position!

dinovember.tumblr.com
littlebrown.com

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal

March 6th, 2015

shades_of_milk_and_honey_largeShades of Milk and Honey

by Mary Robinette Kowal

A Tom Doherty Associates Book (Tor), New York, 2010. 320 pages.
2010 Nebula Nominee for Best Novel
RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Fantasy Novel 2010

Thank you to my sister Melanie for giving me this book for Christmas.

The book is essentially Jane Austen – with magic. Now, it didn’t enchant me as much as the other Jane Austen with magic series which began with Sorcery and Cecelia. I think the reason was that the sibling rivalry was a bit intense for my taste. The younger, more beautiful sister, Melody, is intensely jealous of her older sister Jane’s accomplishments. (I missed the love between Elizabeth and Jane in Pride and Prejudice.) Those accomplishments include ability with Glamour – magical enhancement of art and music.

The story is fun, in many ways mirroring Pride and Prejudice. I rightly looked for romance to develop with the most distasteful man Jane was initially introduced to. But things do stay interesting. I didn’t particularly like the jealousy subplot, as Melody also has some men to choose from. Does she really need to like the same ones as her sister? Meeting and getting to know the various eligible men and their sisters takes up most of the book. It was also not a surprise that one of the men turns out to be a cad.

Here’s a taste from the first chapter:

When all was settled, Jane seated herself at the pianoforte and pulled a fold of glamour close about her. She played a simple rondo, catching the notes in the loose fold; when she reached the point where the song repeated, she stopped playing and tied the glamour off. Captured by the glamour, the music continued to play, wrapping around to the beginning of the song with only a tiny pause at the end of the fold. With care, she clipped the small silence at the end of the music and tied it more firmly to the beginning, so the piece repeated seamlessly. Then she stretched the fold of glamour to gossamer thinness until the rondo sounded as if it played in the far distance.

The door to the drawing room opened. Melody leapt to her feet with a naked expression of welcome on her face. Jane rose slowly, trying to attain a more seemly display. She placed her hand on the pianoforte as the room spun about her with the lingering effects of working glamour.

But only their father entered the room. “Hullo, my dears.” The plum brocade of his waistcoat strained across his ample middle. He looked around the drawing room in evident pleasure. “Are we expecting company?”

Melody said, “Mr. Dunkirk said he would honour us with a visit this afternoon.”

“Did he?” Her father looked befuddled. “But I saw him not fifteen minutes ago passing through our fields with the FitzCamerons. They looked for all the world as if they were going hunting. Are you certain you did not mistake his meaning?”

Melody’s face soured. “His meaning was clear. But perhaps he preferred to spend the afternoon in the company of a lady than a farmer’s daughter.”

Jane winced as Melody flew from the room.

If you’re in the mood for a fun old-fashioned romance with a nice dose of magic, this book is a fun read.

tor-forge.com

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, a gift from my sister Melanie.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?