Apr 192019
 

A beautiful sunny day is the perfect type of day to start on your Spring and Summer reading lists.

In “The Great Believers”, we alternate between a 1980s America at the peak of the AIDS epidemic when fear and misinformation were rife and the 2010s. The 1980s setting was much more interesting and the characters leap off the pages.  This book is well worth the read.

You may need that sunshine and kleenex to get you through these books.  “Girl in the Blue Coat” by Monica Hesse is a sad tale of love, friendship, betrayal, and redemption in Nazi Germany as a young woman searches for a missing Jewish girl.

I really enjoyed this book. It was well written. I appreciated how the author showed the complexities of trying to protect someone without inhibiting their independence and how this constant struggle to maintain an equilibrium can be exhausting. The subtlety the author used in explaining how we lash out or thoughtlessly hurt others and how we might forgive and be forgiven was lovely. I liked the overall message of accepting people as they are….the metaphor with the leaves was superb.

 

It is entirely rude to take someone’s picture first thing in the morning and use it on a book cover without their explicit permission; however, since the story and illustrations of this grumpy monkey and his friends are adorable, I suppose I will forgive them.  “Grumpy Monkey” by Suzanne Lang.

 

Apr 122019
 

Miss Dido Kent is invited to Bellfield Hall when her niece’s engagement falls apart. Catherine wants her spinster Aunt Dido to find her ex-fiancee. However, when a young woman is murdered on the estate, Dido ends up with more questions than answers. Aunt Dido’s character is sarcastic and fun as she tries to solve this cozy “closed house” mystery. “Bellfield Hall” by Anna Dean.

Claudia returns home to start school to find her best friend, Monday Charles, missing and no one seems to care. As she tries to focus on her eighth-grade year and pressures the adults around her to help her locate Monday, Claudia’s life starts to unravel. This story is compulsively readable. This is a dark and disturbing tale of teen disappearance. Trigger warnings for child abuse. “Monday’s Not Coming” by Tiffany Jackson

Ruby Moon Hayes and her mother have been bouncing from place to place since Ruby’s father was killed in the line of duty. Now they have returned to Vermont where her mother grew up.  When her Mom clashes with her new boss and is threatened with arrest, Ruby decides she wants nothing to do with Vermont. However, as she meets another young classmate who doesn’t fit in, a refuge, and a homeless woman who was once a scientist, life starts to look more interesting. A fascinating story with ties to current political issues and past scientific breakthroughs.  “Ruby in the Sky” by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

Zara’s dog Moose is always getting into trouble at school. We follow Moose as he gets into trouble and then becomes a therapy dog who can accompany Zara to school and no longer has to dread the word “goodbye”. It is such a sweet story and Moose’s school antics come across well in the illustrations.  “Hello Goodbye Dog” by Maria Gianferrari.

 

Apr 052019
 

The good news:  There are two adorable Elementary and Middle-Grade books this week. The bad news: My adult book was horrid, so it won’t be making an appearance.

 

“Archivist Wasp” is set in an interesting, post-apocalyptic world. The story was good and at times intense but a lot of things just happened without being explained. I would read the second one as I appreciated the strong protagonist and decent ending.

An imaginative, thoughtful story, it pulls in the “golem” from Jewish tradition and also the tragic reality of children in the age of “chimney sweeps”. The language is just gorgeous. I really like this story. It feels “Grimm-like” only with rays of hope and kindness. This book is just magic.

 www.overdrive.com

A young girl deals with the death of her mother, the separation from everything and everyone she has ever known, and a culture shift when she is “taken in” by her aunt. This book has characters who jump off the page and is packed with humor. The only things that could have been left out were the quirky “spelling” of the main character and the father’s family who never actually became part of the “current” story. A great audiobook if you have any road trips in the future.

If you have ever spent too much money on a gift for a child only to have the child fascinated with the box it came in, these are the books for you!  Fun and simple these stories showcase the power of a child’s imagination. “What to do with a box” by Jane Yolen & Chris Sheban and “Not a Box” by Antoinette Portis.

Mar 292019
 

Since the dreariness is never-ending, you just as well pick up a good book and take advantage of the crummy weather.

 The Coachman by Susan Gibbs

This historical romance has a strong heroine interested in the child labor of the times.  Lauren was taken in and raised by Bethnal Green Workhouse when she was four-years-old.  She was even given her name there.  Gradually rising from poverty thanks to good luck, ambition, and education, she finds herself in many a precarious position.  Gregory Stoke is a royal coachman tasked with transporting this social do-gooder around the countryside.  I enjoyed reading about the social concerns of the time and the romance was decently done.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Agnieska lives in a village at the edge of a dark wood and ends up being the “chosen one”. Unfortunately, being the chosen one means leaving your friends and family and going to live with the dragon for ten years. As Agnieska learns more about magic, she also learns more about the deceptive nature of mankind. The romance was steamier than I expected.  The fantasy portion was a little more descriptive than it needed to be but overall Uprooted is a good Fairy Tale/Fantasy.

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce

Max and her uncle get into trouble when they revisit his hometown and find an evil king has been put in charge. This would be a typical good vs bad guy tale with great illustrations; however, Max isn’t your typical hero.  A great story of friendship and bravery.

My Pillow Keeps Moving by Laurie Gehl

A man keeps selecting the same dog as his pillow, footrest, and coat, only to find that it isn’t really any good at being any of those things. It is very good about being fluffy and soft. Soon, the man decides to be satisfied with all of the wonderful things the dog CAN do.  This is a sweet, funny story which will leave the kids in stitches (so to speak).

Mar 222019
 

Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield

 

This novel was set in an English pub where life centered around storytelling and that is exactly how this story was written–as a verbal tale you are hearing in a dim, loud room with the river flowing nearby. Once you slow down from modern life and sync with the rhythm of the story, Setterfield draws you into the ebb and flow of this historic village life and the people who live there.

 Sadie by Courtney Summers

This book is showing up everywhere!  It is formatted like a podcast and reads like a play which caused some connection problems for me. It is dark and unrelenting with a good mystery and no firm resolution or feel-good ending.

 

The Last Kids on Earth and the Zombie Parade by Max Brallier

Super fun illustrations and story. Lots of monsters and zombies. This book is extremely fun but with thoughtful characters and great friendships. 

 

Elmore by Holly Hobbie

Elmore is a prickly porcupine who just wants to make some friends but it is hard to make friends when they have to dodge quills!  Life is tough sometimes. However, Elmore uses his sweet heart and great ingenuity to come up with a plan.  This is adorable!

 

Mar 082019
 

Another weekend….another bout of nasty weather.  There is nothing special on tv but you can choose the world you wish to visit by selecting the book of your dreams!

 

Harry and Amanda haven’t been the same since the deaths of their spouses.  Now they are on a collision course with Amanda’s fairy-tale loving daughter, Oriana, in the driver’s seat.  The first part of the novel is quite a slow examination of grief and loss; however, the last half is worthy of a fairy-tale. “Harry’s Trees” by Jon Cohen.

Rose’s mother and stepfather went out for supper one night five years ago and never came home. The police think they were killed by a professional and the case has gone stagnant.  Joshua, Rose’s stepbrother, has devoted his time to publicizing the case on social media in the hopes of learning something new. Rose doesn’t have the time for that because kids in her school, kids around her, have started to be murdered. The story is action-packed and the murder of the kids is tied up in the end. “Dead Time” by Anne Cassidy.

     Divorced parents, tense custody arrangements, new boyfriend, girlfriend, and brother….these are all stressful things but when racial hatred seeps into the school she always thought was safe, Isabella feels even more unsure. This author does a fabulous job of making all of these topics relatable. It was especially enjoyable to see the adults in the book acknowledge their mistakes and take responsibility for making better choices in the future. The teens took positive and supportive action to protect their friends. Timely topics, to be sure.  “Blended” by Sharon Draper

Brock is Phillip’s best friend. Brock’s parents call Phillip imaginary, but they just don’t know any better. They have a grand time together until Brock gets left behind at the fair.  Now, they just need to find their way back to each other. An imaginative story of friendship.  “We Forgot Brock” by Carter Goodrich.

Mar 012019
 

 by Marjorie Blain Parker. Illustrated by Sydney Hanson

I am flipping the order of books this week because, truly, what could be more adorable than this cover? The story inside of course! A great message and great illustrations to keep your youngest reader interested.

by Angela Dominquez

     This is a wonderful little book! Stella deals with living between two different worlds. She feels she doesn’t fit in with either her family in Mexico or her friends in the United States. In spite of the difficulties she faces, she has a loving relationship with her brother and mother and a great best friend. Her character grows in strength throughout the novel until she is able to face down her own fears and the class bully. A great book to make lives of immigrants/new citizens seem more relatable to those who haven’t had the experience.

by Kasie West

     This thoughtful, young romance looks at a teen boy being shuffled through the foster care system after losing touch with his mother and a young girl attempting to hide her anxiety disorder from her friends. Shifting expectations and building self-confidence are examined throughout the book. Quite a good read.

by Leo Tolstoy.5

If you are ever going to attempt Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”, now is the time. After all, we are in never-ending winter, so it shouldn’t be hard to imagine we are freezing along with the French and Russian soldiers.There are many things that Tolstoy does exceptionally well: write war scenes where you can feel yourself sinking into the mud while your inept commander dithers away, describe social gatherings of the glittering stars of the Russian elite, and yet describe a scene of sweet family intimacy so well you feel you are right there.
There are a couple of things he doesn’t do as well: write female characters who aren’t saints or devils and put exasperating philosophy treatises at the end of a 1200 page book. Cruel and unusual.
I would love to get Tolstoy’s take on the current political climates of the U.S. and Russia.

by Stacy McAnulty

Check out this audiobook at: www.overdrive.com

A heartfelt story which addresses many issues any middle-grader might be facing: being different, having different family structures, bullying, making and maintaining friendships, and how to be confident in one’s own skin. At times the main character bordered on being a little too precious; however, I think the author pulled off the story with great characters and solid writing. This is one of my favorites. I can see kids coming for the interesting lightning story and staying because the rest of the story is relatable.