In this fast-paced, engaging kids’ book, a dog scours the world for the ingredients to the perfect biscuit, while an evil biscuit company is hot on her heels.
The first book of the Snoutz Adventure series tells the story of Pipper, a puppy and food blogger seeking her next great adventure and scoop. While hanging out with her pals—Sophie, a librarian; Sidney, a mail carrier and aspiring rock star; firefighter Hilda; designer–inventor Archibald and personal trainer Chance—the dogs help her realize that she should track down the secret ingredient for a perfect dog biscuit. Meanwhile, the leading dog biscuit manufacturer, Bogus Biscuits, has been cutting costs and producing biscuits that are making everyone sick. When Bull Bogus catches wind of Pipper’s quest, he sends Bumbles Brug to tail her and determine the secret to the perfect biscuit so he can steal it and use the recipe to save his failing company. Pipper travels around the world, visiting the pyramids in Egypt for inspiration on the perfect design, trailing a vivacious dog in France who teaches her about the beauty of ginger and other ingredients, and venturing into other countries where she picks up tips from locals. Pipper’s friends at home discover that she’s being tailed, so they alert her and then infiltrate Bogus Biscuits in a plan to get their products off the market. Murphy and Fingerhuth do an excellent job creating tension, which keeps the reader wondering whether Bumbles will derail the investigation. The book effectively presents the world of contemporary technology: Each chapter includes a blog posting by Pipper, including comments that readers have left, and the characters use cellphones to message each other. In addition to Sharp’s rich, colorful illustrations, the authors offer a glimpse of foreign cultures—Pipper learns phrases from each country, she eats local dishes, sees iconic buildings and mentions major cultural attractions—which amount to a great overview of countries most kids have never visited. There’s also a crash course in healthy nutrition, featuring recipes for salads and other foods (including dog treats).
An educational tool that’s well-disguised as a compelling, fun read, excellent for kids interested in dogs, food and travel.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.
Tragedy turns into triumph in Carlson’s debut novel about a young woman who regains her self-confidence after multiple losses and years of dejection.
Before readers meet 28-year-old Jamie Shire, she has already hit rock bottom. Jobless, she drinks away her days on her best friend’s couch as she wallows in loneliness. Among Jamie’s troubles: Her mother died when she was a child, the only man she ever loved wouldn’t reciprocate, her unborn daughter died, and she continuously feels rejected by her father and brother. After a chance encounter with a wealthy woman at a coffee shop, Jamie accepts a live-in job researching philanthropic causes at Fallow Springs Estate. Reaching out to the house staff and eventually working with Darfur refugees afford Jamie some valuable context for her own pain; she’s able to gain confidence as she learns to stop fearing rejection and start pursuing her dreams. Throughout the novel, the author skillfully creates mood. In the beginning, when Jamie borders on depression, her emotional touchiness and oversensitivity will create an uneasy feeling in readers. But as Jamie slowly regains confidence, readers will also feel increasingly optimistic. Alongside the main character’s emotional struggle is the struggle faced by Darfur refugees, although this plotline doesn’t advance too far; yet details from Jamie’s trip to the refugee camp in Chad—the types of beer served at the aid workers’ bar or a depiction of a young refugee sitting blank-faced and tied to a pole because he might run away—effectively transport readers to faraway places. Jamie’s story will interest readers, but, with a weak ending, the story leaves many unanswered questions. Who is Jamie’s wealthy employer? Does Jamie’s work in Chad help anyone but herself? And what of the conflict Jamie feels between herself and the refugees, between the haves and the have-nots?
With so many minor questions left unanswered, Carlson’s captivating novel proves to be more about the journey than the destination.