Book Review: Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle

(As part of the blog tour for Paula Berinstein’s newest book in the Amanda Lester series, Amanda Lester and the Blue Peacocks’ Secret, this week I’m reviewing the second and third books as well as the new one.)

Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle (Amanda Lester, Detective, #3)

Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle by Paula Berinstein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Who would have thought a little twerp like David Wiffle could bring an entire detective school to its knees?

Synopsis: Things have gone from bad to worse at the secret detective school, Legatum Continuatum. David Wiffle has disappeared after apparently destroying the school’s most precious artifact. Editta Sweetgum is also missing, having run away with the Moriarty family after the showdown involving that artifact. And two other students are also missing, presumably with the Moriartys as well. The teachers are dividing into factions, lawsuits have been filed, and the entire school seems ready to fall apart. In some areas, it’s ready to literally fall apart, as earthquake damage is still under repair. Amanda’s family seems set to self-destruct, too, now that her father has taken off for Tibet. Then things get really weird, with rainbows appearing in the sky in the wrong color order, and zombies appearing in town.

Review: The third book of the series picks up right where the second left off, so some space in the first chapter is given over to recapping the events leading to this point. After that, events pick up pace, with Amanda and her friends tasked with solving a whole bunch of problems that the adults are unable to handle. The point of view remains in close third-person, so the reader gets a good idea of what Amanda thinks of things, though other characters sometimes act in seemingly inexplicable ways (simply because Amanda has no idea of the explanation). The interpersonal relations are realistically thorny, as the teenage characters cope with emotional and physical challenges. The story ends with some open questions readers will want to find the answers to in future installments of the series. Like the previous book, it has a Q&A section at the end with author that includes pointers to more information about some of the scientific curiosities that play a part in the action.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed this book more than the previous one. I feel there’s a bit of a Roald Dahl influence, especially in the larger-than-life characteristics of the adults versus the more realistically drawn young people.

Source: Kindle e-book courtesy of Lola’s Blog Tours

View all my reviews

Related Posts:

Book Review: Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis

(As part of the blog tour for Paula Berinstein’s newest book in the Amanda Lester series, Amanda Lester and the Blue Peacocks’ Secret, this week I’m reviewing the second and third books as well as the new one.)

Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis (Amanda Lester, Detective Book 2)
Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis by Paula Berinstein
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Life was already weird enough at Legatum Continuatum, the secret school for descendants of famous detective, in England’s Lake District. After the events of the last few months, including her father’s kidnapping, two murders, a teacher’s disappearance, an explosions, and a criminal plot to corner the world’s sugar market, she was battered, fed up, and downright depressed, especially since one of the kidnappers had turned out to be the boy she thought was her best friend.

Synopsis: As classes resume at Legatum Continuatum after the Spring Holiday, Amanda and her friends are joined by a new student: Scapulus Holmes. Nearly everyone is impressed and/or intrigued by him, much to Amanda’s disgust. But she has other things on her mind, too, as she overhears the teachers panicking over a missing object, her filmmaking idol Darius Plover asks for her input on his new film, and one of her classmates is several days late returning from the break. And then there is an earthquake, causing extensive damage and revealing some unusual orange crystals and a skeleton. Amanda and Scapulus are going to have to find a way to work together to keep the crystals out of the hands of the Moriarty gang and maybe help the school recover the mysterious missing object.

Review: The second book in the Nancy-Drew-meets-Harry-Potter-minus-magic series picks up the loose ends from the first volume and weaves them right in to a new adventure. The characters are realistically flawed, and their interactions ring true to anyone who has spent time around tween and early teens. The cast of characters is diverse without feeling forced, which is refreshing. Less refreshing is the fat-shaming that occasionally pops up in the close third-person narration, which generally reads as Amanda’s internal voice. All of the characters are facing challenges and hiding secrets, sometimes putting them at odds with each other just when they need to come together, and sometimes making their character development uneven and unconvincing. Berinstein brings in some interesting scientific ideas, taking understandable artistic license, and includes pointers to more information in the Q&A section at the back of the book.

Personal Thoughts: I want to like this book more than I did. At one point, Amanda explains that, “Voiceovers are stupid. You’re telling rather than showing the audience what you want to get across.” That rather summed up one of my issues with the book, which is that too much is told flat-out in the narration rather than revealed through dialog or action. Still, I like the world and the characters too much to stop reading.

Source: Kindle e-book courtesy of Lola’s Blog Tours

View all my reviews

Related Posts:

Episode 04: The Dramatic Moment of Fate

TTSCover
A Few Words as of Greeting [VALL]

Mr Soames’s Tea-Time [3STU]

We Progress, My Dear Watson, We Progress [MISS]

Watching the Ever-Changing Kaleidoscope [RESI]

Curled upon the Sofa, Reading and Re-reading [CARD]

Well, Jack, You Are Very Hot [HOUN]

One or Two Points of Contact [RETI]

Related Posts:

Episode 03: My Collection of M’s is a Fine One

TTSCover
A Few Words as of Greeting [VALL]

Mr Soames’s Tea-Time [3STU]

We Progress, My Dear Watson, We Progress [MISS]

Running like the Wind [SIGN]

Curled upon the Sofa, Reading and Re-reading [CARD]

Contest Between the Two [FINA]

One or Two Points of Contact [RETI]

Related Posts:

Book Review: Up to This Pointe

Up to This Pointe
Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I’ve been in Antarctica a total of eighty-three minutes, so I’m positive more exciting surprises will probably (hopefully) reveal themselves, but for now, the most intriguing thing about McMurdo, the American science station, is all the condoms.

Synopsis: At seventeen, Harper Scott is on the verge of achieving her lifelong dream. Since they were very small, she and her best friend, Kate, have been following The Plan. The Plan involves total dedication to ballet, and it culminates in both of them joining the San Francisco Ballet shortly after their early graduation from high school. But Harper doesn’t have Kate’s undeniable natural ability, so despite all the years of hard work, one audition might just crush her dreams. When things get suddenly and surprisingly complicated, Harper decides to follow her distant relative Robert Falcon Scott’s footsteps to Antarctica. She manages to land a highly coveted research assistant position for the six-month winter at McMurdo. No matter how far she goes, though, the problems she has to deal with come right along.

Review: This is a finely-crafted young adult novel, packed with descriptive details that bring life in San Francisco and Antarctica to life. The chapters alternate between Harper’s present, in Antarctica, and what happened back in San Francisco several months earlier. The sharp dichotomy between the first two chapters sets the tone for the book, as the reader knows where Harper ends up, but has no idea how she got there. Enough information about ballet is provided that readers without a background in dance can understand, but not so much that it becomes overwhelming. Life at McMurdo, too, is explained through the eyes of a newcomer without any tedious “information dumps”. For reader who do want to know more, there is a short bibliography at the end, listing recommended books and films.

Personal Thoughts: I’ve long been fascinated by Antarctica, and I dearly hope to visit one day. (I found all but one of the books on Antarctica in the bibliography already in my to-read queue here at GoodReads.) I loved the glimpse into the life of those staying there long-term, rather than tourists. I kind of wish they hadn’t gone for the ballet pun in the title, but that’s really just me.

Recommend to: Fans of character-driven contemporary realistic fiction

Source: e-ARC courtesy of NetGalley

View all my reviews

Related Posts:

Book Review: Roller Girl

Roller Girl
Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


At first I couldn’t tell what was going on – just a bunch of skating, hitting, and falling.

Synopsis: Astrid and Nicole have been best friends since first grade, after an incident involving the class Mean Girl, Rachel. They do everything together. Astrid assumes this means that they’ll spend the summer following fifth grade together at Roller Derby Camp – Astrid’s newfound passion. She is stunned to discover that Nicole has other plans, namely, Dance Camp… with Rachel. With middle school looming and things changing all around her, Astrid rolls into the toughest summer of her life.

Review: A smart and funny realistic look at that stage so familiar to anyone who was once an almost-teenager, when friends start growing into their own people, and sometimes growing apart. Astrid speaks, thinks, and feels like a regular kid, someone you might know (or remember). She likes the way things are and doesn’t want them to change, but she ultimately faces those changes with good humor and strength. There are lessons in her story about growing up, accepting yourself and others for who they are, and working hard to achieve a dream, even when it doesn’t turn out quite the way you hoped, but it avoids didactic condescension easily. Totally charming.

Personal Thoughts: I happen to love roller skating, and I am a little sad that I didn’t encounter the whole roller derby phenomenon at an age/time/place when I might have joined in. I’ll just have to live vicariously through Astrid, I suppose. I loved everything about this book, from the painfully realistic depictions of the way pre-teen girls interact to the wonderful relationship between Astrid and her mother. (There’s a fourth-wall-breaking moment in which Astrid literally winks at the reader about an interaction with her mother that cracked me up.) I adore this book.

Recommend to: Fans of Raina Telgemeier… and pretty much any tween girl, actually. (Although I’d *love* to see some tween boys reading this one.)

Source: Checked out from my public library.

View all my reviews

Related Posts:

2016 Reading Challenges Check-In 1/12

 

Here we are, a month into 2016, and I have not forgotten about my Reading Challenges for the year!

Let’s see where we stand. First up…

I Love Libraries RC BBN

I Love Libraries Challenge
hosted by Bea’s Book Nook

Goal: Middle Grades (18 books)

End of January Progress: 17% (target pace: 8%)

 

One month in, and I’ve read three library books. I haven’t managed to post a single review for any of them (we’ll come back to that later), but it’s still not a bad start.

Moving on to…

Mount TBR 2016Mt. TBR Challenge
hosted by My Reader’s Block

Goal: Pike’s Peak (12 books)

End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)

Right on target with one book from Mt. TBR. I’d kind of like to get ahead of this one, though, to be honest.

Okay, now for the embarrassing confessions.

NERC2016Button12016 Netgalley/Edelweiss Challenge
hosted by Falling For YA

Goal: Bronze Level (10 books)

End of January Progress: 0% (target pace: 8%)

Oh, dear. I did start a book from NetGalley. Did I finish it? No. Is my Nook sitting on my nightstand, looking sad and neglected? Yes.

 

Writing-Reviews-Challenge1
2016 Review Writing Challenge
hosted by DelightedReader.com

Goal: 50 Reviews

End of January Progress: 0% (target pace: 8%)

No reviews yet. I really have no excuse, either. That image is pretty spot-on.

So, how’s your 2016 reading going?

Related Posts:

Episode 02: Forty Years of Age

TTSCover

A Few Words as of Greeting [VALL]

Mr Soames’s Tea-Time [3STU]

Watching the Ever-Changing Kaleidoscope [RESI]

Curled upon the Sofa, Reading and Re-reading [CARD]

Always Glad of a Bit of News [REDH]

We Progress, My Dear Watson, We Progress [MISS]

One or Two Points of Contact [RETI]

Related Posts:

Challenges 2016

I found this list of 2016 Reading Challenges.

I promise, I will not sign up for all of them. But I am signing up for these:

 

I Love Libraries RC BBNI Love Libraries Challenge
hosted by Bea’s Book Nook

Goal: Middle Grades (18 books)

I check out a lot of library books. This should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, given that I spend 40+ hours per week in a public library. The books are right there! And they’re free! I am choosing a low-ish goal for this, though, because I have a few other book sources I want to focus on in 2016.

Mount TBR 2016Mt. TBR Challenge
hosted by My Reader’s Block

Goal: Pike’s Peak (12 books)

And here’s the main complement to the library challenge, because this one is specifically for books one already owns but has not read. A great many of the books in my GoodReads to-read queue are not books I own, but I certainly own more than 12 books I haven’t yet read. In an attempt to give myself the best possible start (and – okay, let’s be honest – because I really, really, really love the planning phase of these things), I’ve tagged 12 books for this already.

NERC2016Button12016 Netgalley/Edelweiss Challenge
hosted by Falling For YA

Goal: Bronze Level (10 books)

I have a terrible habit of requesting books from Netgalley and Edelweiss and then neglecting to read them before the files expire. This challenge is intended to force gently prod me to actually read the books. The next step, of course, is to write and post a review of each book, but there’s a whole separate challenge for that. I’m going for the lowest level on this one, because, honestly, 10 books would be way more than I read from Netgalley/Edelweiss in 2015.

Writing-Reviews-Challenge1
2016 Review Writing Challenge
hosted by DelightedReader.com

Goal: 50 Reviews

I already mentioned my issue with downloading e-ARCs and then letting the files expire. Now that I’ll be reading them, how about some reviews, eh? My feedback percentage on Netgalley is appallingly low, and I’d like to change that. I’m not limiting my reviews to e-books, though. I’m setting a goal of 50 reviews – just under one review per week.

I’m not sure that I have ever successfully completed any Reading Challenge I have signed up for in the past. 2016 will be the year, yes? Yes.

Related Posts: