Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms

Horten's Miraculous Mechanisms: Magic, Mystery, & a Very Strange Adventureby Lissa Evans

270 pages of prestidigitation, puzzles and illusion – an entertaining middle grade read

Stuart Horten is an only child.  His parents, though clever, are not fully involved in Stuart’s comings and goings.  His mom is a scientist and his dad creates crosswords.  They have their things and Stuart has his – lots of friends, a great yard, a bike, a tree house, and a pond to explore. Life was pretty good until his mom got a new job, his dad discovered that the job was near his old hometown and it being the end of the school year the Hortens could easily move.  Suddenly the boy who had everything with the whole summer ahead of him, found he had nothing with the whole summer ahead of him.

Stuart did still have his bike, but he had nowhere to go, no friends to be with and nothing at all to do.  Out of boredom Stuart went for a walk with his dad.  That walk was the beginning of journey into history, into magic and into a different dimension of time and space. On that walk Stuart learned of a great uncle who had disappeared.  He learned that this man had been an accomplished magician – not the have fun at a birthday party kind, but the amaze and dazzle a full theater kind.  And he learned that he had left his father one last present. It was a money box that was MUCH more than it seemed.

Not long after Stuart had made those first discoveries, he got a call on a phone, no longer connected,  leaving him with a cryptic message.  He couldn’t resist and decided to follow up on it going as far as he could.  This begins Stuart’s amazing adventure.  It gets more mysterious and dangerous with each step.  It is exciting and fun.  Read Horten’s Miraculous Mechanisms – Magic, Mystery and a Very Strange Adventure to find out if Stuart is the right sort of boy to unravel a fifty year old mystery and discover the difference between illusion and true magic before it is all lost forever.

Three Times Lucky

Three Times Luckyby Sheila Turnage

256 pages of serious fun for middle grade readers

Right from the start-“Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.” – you know that Three Times Lucky is something good to read.  Mo LaBeau is a “rising sixth grader” with an interest in uncovering the truth.  She was washed into Tupelo Landing in the middle of a hurricane 11 years ago and she has been searching for her “up-stream mother” ever since.  In the meantime she has found her home with the café-owning, Colonel and hostess/cook extraordinaire, Miss Lana.  And that is where badge-wearing, Jack Starr stops to begin his investigation.

Nothing seems to be staying the same.  One minute Mo is planning on fishing with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, the next she can’t because she is needed to serve at the café.  Miss Lana is gone.  The three-day rule – you can’t be gone from the family without calling by the third day – is stretched.  And then there is a murderer around town.  Miss Lana returns, but the Colonel leaves.  Lavender crashes in the race and Dale is implicated in the murder.  Mo has so many questions and confusing connections that discovering the truth is a real challenge.  In that challenge Desperado Detectives is born.  Mo and Dale want to solve the murder before Starr and with the help of some first-rate informants, courage and determination their investigation progresses.  It doesn’t always go smoothly, easily or without danger but a much is uncovered.

How will the murder get solved?  What will happen when Hurricane Amy hits? What is it that the Colonel can’t remember?  How do all these pieces fit together? Three Times Lucky is full of amazing characters, wit and charm.   You’ll read to find out how the Macon’s deal with his often-drunk dad, to find out if Anna Celeste Simpson will always remain Mo’s “sworn enemy for life” and to discover how life has changed in Tupelo Landing once the investigation is complete.

If you liked Turtle in Paradise, Moon Over Manifest or Dead-End in Norvelt then you’ll certainly enjoy Three Times Lucky.  Read it and let us know what you think.


The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling

Have you ever encountered a group of children that are just out of control? Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia from The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1: The Mysterious Howling are probably three times worse that what you’re imagining.

Miss Penelope Lumley sees an ad about a governess for three children– and the ad says the governess is needed at once. So, setting off on a long journey, Penelope is forced to leave the safety of Swanburne Academy, a school for poor bright females and travels to Ashton Place, where Lady Constance and Lord Frederick Ashton live. Driven by Timothy the Coachman, one of the Ashton’s highly trusted servants, Penelope soon realizes that something is wrong at Ashton Place.

Agatha Swanburne, founder of Swanburne Academy once said, “A book is always judged by it’s cover until it is read.”  Now Penelope is about to read “a book”, and meet the suspiciously nervous Lady Constance, and question about why Timothy the Coachman lurks around every corner, and find out if she can train the children that were raised by wolves to act like normal kids.

Click on the image of the book (above) to view the website of the Incorrigibles.

Buy this book from Amazon.com!

The Case of the Deadly Desperados

by Caroline LawrenceThe Case of the Deadly Desperados: Western Mysteries, Book One

272 pages  – a great middle grade read

The Case of the Deadly Desperados is fast-paced action combining the exciting, real, funny with interesting details that  immerse you in the story and the old West from the start.  The book begins:  “My name is P.K. Pinkerton and before this day is over I will be dead.  I am trapped down the deepest shaft of a Comstock silver mine with three desperados closing in on me. Until they find me, I have my pencil & these ledger sheets and a couple of candles. If I write small & fast, I might be able to write an account of how I came to be here. Then whoever finds my body will know the unhappy events that led to my demise. 
And they will also know who done it.”

P.K. Pinkerton, who dreams of one day opening a detective agency, discovers that his adoptive parents have been scalped and murdered by an axe blow. With her dying breath, Pinky’s ma tells him the killers are after his medicine bag. She tells him to get it and hide away. Of course nothing is easy.  P.K. must grab and run or get caught. There isn’t much inside the medicine bag:  a button from the jacket of his real father, a detective from Chicago, a flint knife from his real ma, a Lakota Indian, and a letter promising the bearer a piece of land that may, or may not, be worth staking a claim. With the killers on his trail P.K. jumps on a stagecoach bound for Virginia City.  He hopes once there he can blend in and make his plan for finding his real pa’s relatives in Chicago.

On top of being chased by Whittlin’ Walt and his gang, P.K. has one other challenge to overcome.  He cannot tell when another human being is telling a lie.  How will he see himself safely through the streets of the city and on his way? Virginia City is a lawless place full of gamblers, hurdy girls, saloon-keepers and gunmen, all of them on the make.  There are possible allies too: Sam Clemens, the new reporter for the paper, a gambler called ‘Poker Face Jace’ who knows how to tell if someone is bluffing, a derringer-packing Soiled Dove, and a Chinese photographer’s apprentice named Ping.  He’ll never escape on his own, but who can he trust?  You’ll have to read The Case of the Deadly Desperados to find out.  You’ll be glad you did!   Click here to find out more about the Carol Lawrence, her books and P.K.’s Nevada Territory.

The Unseen Guest

The Unseen Guest (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, #3)the 3rd in The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

by Maryrose Wood

340 pages of mysterious adventure

The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place grow on you from book to book, as does their tutor, Miss Penelope Lumley – trained at Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females.  They are smart, resourceful, brave and fun.

In this book we meet Bertha, Admiral Faucet (fah-say – not to be confused with the plumbing) and Lord Frederick’s mother.  We learn that she remains in mourning after the tragic loss of her husband in the medicinal tar pits while on a spa holiday many years before.  We also learn that Lord Edward (as that was his name) suffered an affliction that befell him at each full moon – he would scratch and howl and bark and yip.  This ceased upon Frederick’s birth, though it seems that Frederick acquired the symptoms.  His mother knows this.   His wife, Lady Constance, does not. He did not want to bore her with the details.  Miss Lumley, of course, has had her suspicions.

Lord Frederick’s mother has returned to the manor to ask for her son’s blessing on her marriage to the Admiral.  She is struggling to decide whether to follow her head or her heart in this matter.  The Admiral plans to use her money to establish ostrich (that is what Bertha is) racing in England and to produce all the accoutrements needed to support the venture.  He sees millions in his future, but first he must track down his bird.  Bertha has escaped into the woods of Ashton Place and the children are needed to help track her down.  Once in the woods their animal side is more pronounced and Miss Lumley fears she may have lost them.  After all why not stay in the woods when there is a dry, comfortable cave supplied all the quilts and feather pillows you need along with candles, art supplies, all you desire for learning, AND a picnic hamper full of delicious sandwiches – your exact favorite kinds!

Simon Harley-Dickinson comes back to help, as well as Madame Ionesco.  Old Timothy, the groom, again seems to mysteriously appear in all the right places at all the right times.  Things happen because he knows – ALL that he knows remains a mystery.

I am looking forward to the next book.  Until then I will enjoy the notions of never thinking about ELKS and the image of Alexander, Beowulf and Cassiopeia tossing their peas into the air to catch each time the raven calls, “nevermore” as Poe’s poem The Raven is read (Professional educator that she was, Penelope was proud to have devised a way to combine the study of poetry and the eating of vegetables into a single enjoyable lesson.) and Lady Constance’s attempts at hide and seek.

Who is Judge Quinzey?

The Hidden Gallery

The Hidden Gallery (The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #2) Book 2 of Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

By Maryrose Wood

313 pages of curious mystery and adventure

just fun!

Why is it that some people judge and never see, while others accept and look to understand?  I know it is that way in life, (well at least in life at school) and it is like that in The Hidden Gallery.  Lady Ashton has judged the children are ruinous animals and that is all she finds.  Simon has found them curious and intelligent so he finds artists, writers and actors.

In this second book more pieces are coming together to reveal why the wolf children were found in the woods behind Ashton Manor, why Miss Lumley was selected to be their nanny and why the “hunt” always seems planned for the full moon – but the instigator remains unknown.

There are lots of questions to wonder about – why must Miss Lumley use hair poultice to dull and darken her hair?  When she doesn’t use it her hair is rich and auburn…just like the three Incourrigibles.  Why does Lord Ashton consistently maintain an almanac, disappearing on the night of the full moon while yips and barks are mysteriously heard?  Where is Agatha Swanburne the wise founder of Miss Lumley’s alma mater and why is her portrait found in the British Museum?

Agatha Swanburne’s advice guides Miss Lumley while also offering readers words to live by as well.  “When a big leap is required, a running start makes all the difference – so get moving.”  “You care for children and protect them by having faith in them, seeing the best in them, and teaching them to see the best in themselves.” “ You’re not where you were, and you’re not where you’re going.  You’re here, so pay attention!”

I appreciate the notions of the “fickle fulcrum of fate” – the seesaw balance of your life and the feelings of being “optoomuchtic”

I really enjoyed this book – perhaps even more than the first and I am looking forward to reading the third right way.  I hope some of my questions will be answered and that I will find more wise words to live by.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict

by Trenton Lee Stewart

470 pages of mysterious action – you’ll be glad you read everyone

Nine-year old Nicholas Benedict is a force to be reckoned with.  Coming to  a new orphanage, “Child’s End”, or the Manor, opens up a whole new world for Nicholas.  Of course there are The Spiders to deal with and the rules to follow and the chores to do, but there are also one or two friendships to be made and a real mystery to be solved.  Somewhere in the Manor is the lost inheritance of the late Mrs. Rothschild – it’s “a real mystery” It is said to be a vast treasure worth millions of dollars and Nicholas is sure he will be able to find it.  He knows if he can see the ledger closely guarded by director, Mr. Collum, he will be able to find the clues.  He is sure that with the assistance of all the books he can reach in the library he will be learn all that he needs to find the treasure and leave the orphanage,once and for all, behind.

And so Nicholas sets out to do just that  – he will overcome all obstacles to achieve his goal.  One of my favorite passages is the description of his love for reading.  “Oh, how he read!  He seemed to read faster with every book and he was reading books by the dozens.  He has long since finished the encyclopedia and moved on to books about physics and mathematics, engines and mechanics, chemistry and biology.  The sciences compelled him most, but everything interested him and he followed his whims from shelf to shelf.  Last night, for instance he had read a book of nonsense poetry (which tickled his fancy) as well as a history of scientific exploration (which inspired him) before diving into a three-volume atlas of the world.  When at last he’d ordered himself to bed his mind was so aglow with new ideas and new knowledge, he almost expected beams of light to shine from his eyes.”

Nicholas learns much from the Manor’s library, and he also learns how to be with people. He comes to understand who he will be when he grows up – well maybe not who he will be, but how he will be and how he will treat all others in the world.  That just might be the greatest treasure there is.

The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict may be the best to the Mysterious Benedict Society books yet. Read it and let us know what you think!  Enjoy.

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Here is an AWESOME trailer for the book. Enjoy very much!!

(Updated 5-14-12)

The Potato Chip Puzzles

Are you a puzzle lover? Do you get so involved in puzzles that you don’t hear your own name? If you answered YES! to either of these questions, you will love this book. (Okay, a little infomercially.) Winston Breen is a puzzle lover and now he’s in yet another puzzle-solving fiasco.

When he is called to the principal’s to help solve the puzzle, he finds himself mixed up in a puzzle contest hosted by one of the most famous men in the world. The founder of the most famous snack company in this time, Dimitri Simon. What will it be like? Will there be a lot of people in the contest? What kinds of puzzles will they be like? It turns out that the competition is nothing like what Winston thought. Read The Potato Chip Puzzles by Eric Berlin to find out what happens to Winston and this crazy puzzle fiasco.


Puzzles like these occur often throughout this book. Here is a sample puzzle for you to solve.


I am the beginning of everyone and everything, and I am the end of time and space. What am I?

Look for the answer in the next few posts.

Here is the website of Winston Breen: www.winstonbreen.com

Buy this book on Amazon.com!

Go to the original “The Puzzling World of Winston Breen” here.


“The Puzzler’s Mansion” Coming sometime in 2012!

Get em’ all!

The Name of this Book is Secret

     X xxxxx.


     Xxx, Xxxx.

     Xxx xx xxxxxx xxx xxxxx…

That is the end of the first chapter. That’s how secret this book is. The whole first chapter is X’s and the names written are not the real names of the characters. Okay, now to the review.

Cass is a survivalist, always prepared for the next natural disaster. Max-Ernest is a logical boy, with an unidentified impulsive talking condition. Do you think that they would be “collaborators”? Probably not. But they are doing what they do best when they meet, and get mixed up in a dead magician’s story. Including a symphony of smells, an underground house and a two evil villains! Read The Name of this Book is Secret by Pseudonymous Bosch to find out what happens.

The Name of this Website is Secret includes a biography of Pseudonymous Bosch, all about the books and more. It’s awesome!!

The publisher’s version of the series website here.

Buy this book from Amazon.com! 🙂

This book is part of  “The Secret Series.” Here are all of the books:

Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 5

Morpheus Road: The Light

Marshall Seaver is being haunted. I know you may not believe me, and I have trouble believing it as well. He is being haunted by a character that he created in his mind. Gravedigger. Marsh thinks that he may have lost his marbles, and he is having crazy hallucinations or… or what? While Marsh is being haunted by his own creation, his friend Cooper is sent up to his parents lake house to straighten things out. Recently Coop has been getting into trouble with the police and his parents are getting him away to hopefully clear his mind. But he mysteriously disappears and nobody knows where he went. But are Marsh’s hallucinations and Cooper’s disappearance connected? Read Morpheus Road: The Light to find out.

Here are the next two in the series though I have not read them:

Coming Soon: The Blood!