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.

 

 

Feb 212019
 

A thoughtful romance between two misfits. Light, sassy banter regarding deeper, darker subjects.  Go ahead!  Give it a chance!

Key writes this survival tale with an intensity that puts you in the shark-infested waters with the protagonists, just where you don’t want to be. It was a highly uncomfortable but very entertaining read. The only issue I had with the story was the young boy’s reaction to his father’s accident. It seemed unrealistic.

Joseph has a hard time in school. He can’t pay attention in class and the bullies love to torment him. Heather is the new girl in school, but when the bullies decide to make her a target, they may just get more than they bargained for. A wonderful story of friendship, respecting differences, and putting in the effort to achieve your dreams. Amazing adult characters and lots of humor elevate this book a notch above the rest.  **If you have kids who loved “Ghost” by Jason Reynolds, this might make a good comp!

This little book tells the tale of a sheep who just can’t get any sleep due to the other occupants of the barn.  Great pictures and lots of fun.

Feb 082019
 

 

     In Locke’s complex mystery, the reader takes a hard look at the secrets and racism endemic to an East Texas town and the repercussions on the small town population living with them. A complex weaving of past and present and the politics that keep them melded. This is so much more than the standard who “done it”. Beautiful writing and an engaging read. None of the characters are of the “too sweet” variety.

     Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel Jose Older is an urban fantasy with tight friendships and teens using their creative talents to battle heinous, power hungry demons. I rarely read sequels in this genre; however, this was well worth it.

Patina is the second book in Jason Reynold’s “track” series.  It is a small book dealing with large issues such as: the chronic illness of a mother, the death of a father, and the tumultuous period of life when fitting in sometimes means being willing to stand out. Patina is an “old soul” trying to fit in to a school where everyone seems wealthy, white, and uninterested in the things that rock Patina’s world.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson is a gorgeous picture book explaining the importance of kindness and the regrets a student has upon losing her chance to be kind to a classmate.

 

 

Jan 312019
 

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm by Ted Genoways.  

All politics aside, this One Book One Nebraska selection is just what it says on the tin.  Genoways spent time planting, harvesting, and working cattle alongside one Nebraska family and details the challenges they have faced and overcome and the obstacles which remain. Additionally, the author describes the history of farming in Nebraska, the industrialization of farming, the introduction of agribusiness corporations, and the changes made in farming following the Great Depression. Anyone interested in farming or Nebraska history would enjoy this book and it would be a great book club selection.

 

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a book written in verse with an almost mythical intensity. Xiomara is a teenage girl dealing with a changing body and the reactions of boys and men to those changes. Toss in family strife and disagreements regarding religion and you have a great teen book racking up awards right and left. This book has won the 2019 Michael L. Printz Award and the Odyssey Award. As evidenced by the Odyssey Award, it is great on Audio.

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech.

The author didn’t stint on the beautiful writing in this little book about a young boy caring for a sickly, newborn donkey. Louie learns how to provide the emotional and physical care the young donkey needs. There are themes of responsibility, making friends, and missing a sibling; however, they are offset by humorous writing and a sweet little donkey who will steal your heart.

  

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts. 

A young boy desires a pair of shoes just like all of the cool kids in school wear; however, his family can’t afford to buy them.  He finds a pair at the local thrift shop but they are too small.  A wonderful tale of generosity, friendship, and the difficulties of fitting in when you don’t have the funds to buy the “latest thing”.

 

I’m Still Here. Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown.      https://www.overdrive.com/

This digital audiobook was an informative and honest look at what it means to wake up and walk out into America as a Black Woman, Mother, and Coworker.

 

Jan 252019
 

Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Surete, is a much more morally ambiguous character in this the fourteenth installation of Louise Penny’s Three Pines series. These characters are so “real” that it is necessary to remind oneself that it would be impossible to call them up or go visit them in their little, homicidal, Canadian village. Penny adeptly mixes literary fiction with good old-fashioned mystery in her series and to good effect. When Gamache muses “Things sometimes fell apart unexpectedly. It was not necessarily a reflection of how much they were valued”, we may wonder if this is a somewhat autobiographical inclusion to the almost nixed series. Family drama, old feuds, Canadian politics, the drug trade, and even the Nazis find a way into this tightly woven story. I highly recommend the whole series.

I have been hearing teenage girls rave about these mysteries for some time, so it was time to give one a read.  April Henry packs a punch in this intense mystery about a young woman returning to her childhood home to solve the mystery of her parents’ deaths. A little romance and a lot of suspense will keep you turning the pages of this young adult mystery.

     A creepy, little ghost story. Weaving narratives from a tragedy in the 1800s with a present-day ghost story, this novel does a masterful job of engaging the reader. The resolution was a little complicated, but overall a thoroughly enjoyable tale.

Gordon the Goat is in charge of the farm until Gordon the Goose makes his entrance. As they fight over the right to boss all of the other animals around, it is easy to see how tiring constant conflict can be. A funny little farm story.

    https://www.overdrive.com/

Annie Spence, a librarian, has written many the love letter and many the break-up note to the books in her life.  As with most books of collected essays, some were funnier than others. All were told in very forthright language.

Jan 172019
 

As we head into another cold, blustery, and possibly snowy weekend, it is important to remember to stock up on books as well as food. What type of books do you favor in the winter? Today’s list includes a little something for everyone. Take a look.

 

Settle in for a creepy winter tale set in Vermont. With shifting timelines, this novel explores just how far some people will go to resurrect their lost loved ones. And just what that might mean for others in the community.  You’ll warm right up as you dive deeper into the blankets to hide (I am firmly in the “chicken” category. This was just enough creepy without being straight up horror). There were a few characters who weren’t needed in the overall story arc, but nothing is perfect.

Since flu season is upon us, you most likely have enough Kleenex around the house and are therefore prepared for this novel. At least physically.

“The Last Time We Say Goodbye” looks at the aftermath of a teen suicide. The effects of a young boy’s death on his parents, sister, friends, and classmates are profound and heartwrenching. This is a very nuanced look at a broken family.

A stubborn and independent young girl left mute in the face of tragedy and neglect meets an ornery Shetland pony.  “Dirt” becomes Yonder’s only friend in a world where her life is ransacked by bullies and social workers. Yonder is made of stern stuff; however, and watching her character develop from a somewhat passive participant in life to a take-charge hero out to save her pony is inspirational. This book has an Accelerated Reader level of 6.0; however, the cover and writing feel more geared to a younger audience.

“Wordy Birdy’s friends can’t get a word in edgewise. This little book explores the importance of listening. And who could resist such great illustrations? The faces of Wordy Birdy’s friends say as much as Wordy Birdy herself.

 OVERDRIVE AUDIOBOOK

In “Finding Langston”, we are introduced to life in post-WWII Chicago by Langston who is a recent arrival from Alabama.  Bullied by the boys at school and spending a lot of time alone at home while his father works, Langston feels adrift and isolated. He yearns for the land and family he left behind just as he yearns for the mother who died. One day he comes across the library. A place where he is welcome, unlike the libraries back home. This luminous and beautifully told tale promote a love of poetry, literature, and libraries. It would be a wonderful way to introduce diverse authors and the “Great Migration”. At times, this story is laugh-out-loud funny and at other times it will just break your heart. https://www.overdrive.com/

 

Jan 102019
 

 

“Sweet Little Lies” is the first in the Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis.  Humor, friendship, family angst, and love fight it out for top billing. Pru and Finn, the main characters, share a troubled background as both lost their parents and are striking out on their own. Prudence works on a tour boat in San Francisco Bay and Finn is trying, with the “help” of his irresponsible brother, to keep O’Riley’s pub afloat.  If you like contemporary romance, it is well worth your time.

Into every life, a little rain must fall. This is the first in a new Christina Dodd series called Cape Charade.  The storyline was a little convoluted; however, it did deliver in the suspense department. Unfortunately, it lacked the chemistry and humor usually found in Dodd’s books.

The rain continued to fall in this book.  A teen girl becomes extraordinarily ill at camp and becomes hospitalized.  While she is undergoing procedures galore and a life-changing illness, she meets Conner and his dog Verlaine. The first part of the story is well written and an eloquent portrayal of the anger, depression, and fear of the protagonist; however, halfway through it loses its way and becomes overly sentimental and schmaltzy.

 

     After a somewhat lackluster week of reading, I wasn’t looking forward to reading a book about Fairies.  I was wrong!  This was magic! Haven is the home of Fairies including wish granters like Ophelia. This is a parallel world fantasy and there isn’t much in the way of world building because most of the novel takes place in “our” world. The characters are simple but fantastic and the plot and the story line are good. This was much more fun and adventurous than I had anticipated. A great moral lies at its heart without the story ever feeling “lecture” like. Add a little bit of magic to your life, read this one. 

“The Big Umbrella” by Amy June Bates does more with a few words and illustrations to portray community, kindness, and inclusion than many adult books I have read on the subject.  This little gem is definitely worth sharing with your child.  Like the big umbrella, you too will end the book with a smile.

I listened to “The Feather Thief” by Kirk Wallace Johnson on audiobook through Overdrive. Who could guess the story of a flutist and fly-tier who steals a bunch of rare bird carcasses from a natural history museum in England could be so interesting? This is a story of opposing values and needs. The author needed something to give him respite following a harrowing ordeal and a nerve-wracking, stress-inducing program to bring Iraqi refugees to the United States. A police officer had to prioritize solving more violent crimes over this one. The thief wanted to make some cash to provide him with the things he thought he deserved. The collection he stole had been obtained for the museum by someone who was self-taught and wanted to provide not only financial security for himself but also knowledge to his nation. This was one of the most buzzed nonfiction books of 2018.

 

 

 

Jan 032019
 

Start your new year off right with this fabulous series by Louise Penny.  Set in a tiny village in Canada named Three Pines, you will come to love the recurring characters and the fabulous writing.  Glass Houses happens to be the thirteenth in the series.  I don’t start Louise Penny books unless I have the time to finish them the same night and if I don’t have the time….well, I finish the book anyways.  This mystery required a suspension of belief at the start of the novel when a mysterious grim reaper figure shows up at Three Pines and stands in the village square for a couple days during the winter. Hmmm…..  How easy is it to stand still in the bitter cold?  And not need to use the facilities (although, granted, this would perhaps kill some of the mystery). However, once the murder happens and ties into the larger picture of Canadian criminal intrigue, the story rolls along gracefully.

My New Year’s Resolution is to put Words We Don’t Say by K.J. Reilly into the hands of every Teenager I know. Utilizing humor and an occasional use of “texting”, this novel portrays the real grief a teenage boy deals with as well as the way he has isolated himself from others. He still attends school and does community service; however, he only shares his real feelings through texts that he never actually sends.

The main protagonist in Soar has courage, wit, and is a heart transplant recipient. The plot is fantastic. A town obsessed with winning finds out the high school baseball boys have been pumped full of steroids after one of the boys dies. Jeremiah can’t play his beloved baseball due to his heart condition but he decides to “coach” the currently nonexistent middle school team. Dealing with bullies and negative comments becomes a way of life. This is a winner all the way around! Characters, plot, and writing are all wonderful.

Charlotte wants a pet. Any kind of pet will do.  Charlotte’s parents get her a pet rock. Humorous illustrations show Charlotte trying to walk her rock (more of a boulder really) and trying to feed her rock the broccoli she doesn’t intend to eat herself. Fun and charming.

Check The Soul of an Octopus out of Overdrive on audio book. I am a confirmed land lover but this engaging story of a journalist who becomes obsessed with an octopus at an aquarium in Boston was fascinating. This obsession leads her into an investigation of the life of the octopus and the differing personalities they express as well as deep relationships with those who work and volunteer with the octopuses at the aquarium. All of the things I never knew I needed to know about octopuses….did you get that? 🙂

 

 

 

Dec 282018
 

Ms MacNeal’s “Mr. Churchill’s Secretary” shows a Britain divided and awaiting the bombing of England by Nazi forces. The IRA and the Fascists are cooperating with the Nazis in a bid to bring down the old empire. Maggie Hope, a woman of English citizenship who was raised in America, is Churchill’s secretary. She has advanced degrees in mathematics and cryptography; however, she isn’t a welcome addition to Churchill’s staff and between Churchill’s idiosyncrasies and the old boys’ network, Maggie Hope is beginning to believe her talents would be better utilized elsewhere until she uncovers a chilling conspiracy.  This novel offers a rather different WWII perspective and there is a bit of bite to the story.

 

“Billie Standish Was Here” is an eloquent portrayal of true friendship, loyalty, and shared trauma between an eleven-year-old girl and an elderly woman. A very sensitive story of lessons learned and secrets kept. These characters were so real that I expect to miss them for a good long time.

An indomitable narrator views her family situation with a sense of humor. “Someone to play with? When you’re the youngest of nine kids, you aren’t a player. You’re the ball”. Annie has problems at school…she’s dyslexic. She has problems in church…she doesn’t always believe. And she has problems at home…her Mom loses her temper sometimes and attacks her children. A sweet, but not naive, look at a family who will need to decide just how much they want to stay together. “Snow Lane” addresses some serious topics but does so in a gentle manner and the resolution is hopeful. 

 

Your heart will melt for this little dog looking for his forever home. The story is told in letter form as the dog writes letters to prospective families. Too adorable to believe.

Check out the digital audio book of “The Stranger in the Woods” by Michael Finkel on Libby.  Finkel details the time the decades Chris Knight spent alone in the woods of Maine. He survived from stealing from other residents of the lake area the necessities he needed to survive the frigid Maine winters.