Flashback: The Merry Spinster, Tales of Everyday Horror by Mallory Ortberg

My boys and I are heading for warmer weather and some much needed R&R. So while I’m busy reading books on the beach, here’s a look back at some of my favorite books from 2018.

Those teeth!

Those teeth!

After reading and hearing so many good things about this book I couldn't wait for my hold to finally come in at the Library.  I actually finished this about a week ago when my youth department was still decorated for early spring/Easter.  Reading the short story The Rabbit while sitting at my desk eating lunch was a very creepy experience.  I swear all the stuffed bunnies were staring at me.  Like they knew what I was reading.  Like stuffed bunnies talk.  

The Merry Spinster, Tales of Everyday Horror is a short story collection that takes our well-loved and well-known childhood stories and makes them dark, creepy, and chilling.  The title story, The Merry Spinster is a play on the Beauty and the Beast tale.  In this version, it's Beauty's mother, not father who stumbles upon the Beast.  The mother, a rich executive, heads to the city to take care of some investments.  While on her way home, she became horribly lost and ran out of gas.  After wandering around trying to find help she stumbles across a great house that is all lit up but no one answers the door.  What does she do?  She walks in. 

Guess where this is going?

After helping herself to some dinner the mother decides to tour the house and grounds.  The bottle of wine that she drank at dinner may have helped with that decision.  Wine bottle in hand, she heads out to pick the roses that she promised to bring her daughter Beauty.  When the Beast, or Mr. Beale in this version, confronts her about stealing and trespassing, the mother is pretty unapologetic.  True to the tale, the mother has to give up Beauty to come live with Mr. Beale.  

Unfortunately for Mr. Beale, he didn't do any research on his new bride and he had no idea what he was getting in to.  

Not every story was a winner for me.  Not going to lie-The Thankless Child went right over my head.  

The Rabbit was deliciously creepy.  That one I enjoyed the most and I don't want to spoil any of it.  I don't think I'll look at stuffed animals the same way again.  Overall this was a great collection and I didn't realize how much I liked short story collections until I read this.  

Since this book was published the author has transitioned genders and now goes by Daniel Mallory Ortberg.  

You can get the book here: 

BooksMichelle DunbarComment
Happy Valentine's Day!

This Valentine’s Day, treat yourself to something you know you really want-a new book! I mean, diamonds are nice and all but nothing is as great as finding a new book or series that lets you escape into a new world.

Here are some steals and deals I found on books that I have personally read and loved. Have a great day everyone!

From the Publisher: The Dark-Hunters are ancient warriors who have sworn to protect mankind and the fate of the world is in their hands. . .

He is solitude. He is darkness. He is the ruler of the night. Yet Kyrian of Thrace has just woken up handcuffed to his worst nightmare: An accountant. Worse, she's being hunted by one of the most lethal vampires out there. And if Amanda Devereaux goes down, then he does too. But it's not just their lives that are hanging in the balance. Kyrian and Amanda are all that stands between humanity and oblivion. Let's hope they win.



This one is intense! It opens with a foot amputation and deals with every type of trigger warning there is. From the Publisher: Aster has little to offer folks in the way of rebuttal when they call her ogre and freak. She's used to the names; she only wishes there was more truth to them. If she were truly a monster, she'd be powerful enough to tear down the walls around her until nothing remains of her world. Aster lives in the lowdeck slums of the HSS Matilda, a space vessel organized much like the antebellum South. For generations, Matilda has ferried the last of humanity to a mythical Promised Land. On its way, the ship's leaders have imposed harsh moral restrictions and deep indignities on dark-skinned sharecroppers like Aster. Embroiled in a grudge with a brutal overseer, Aster learns there may be a way to improve her lot--if she's willing to sow the seeds of civil war.

I devoured this book and loved every word of every page! Get ready to cheer on a sociopath and you don’t have to guilty about it. From the Publisher: Jane’s days at a Midwest insurance company are perfectly ordinary. She blends in well, unremarkably pretty in her floral-print dresses and extra efficient at her low-level job. She’s just the kind of woman middle manager Steven Hepsworth likes—meek, insecure, and willing to defer to a man. No one has any idea who Jane really is. Least of all Steven. But plain Jane is hiding something. And Steven’s bringing out the worst in her. Nothing can distract Jane from going straight for his heart: allowing herself to be seduced into Steven’s bed, to insinuate herself into his career and his family, and to expose all his dirty secrets. It’s time for Jane to dig out everything that matters to Steven. So she can take it all away. Just as he did to her.


This is a great series and Alisha Rai is an amazing writer. I’m not usually one for contemporary romance but this series will make anyone a convert. From the Publisher: One night. No one will know. That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts—and the last names that made them enemies. Until the night she didn’t show up. Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want . . . so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed? Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence—and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families. Being together might be against all the rules . . . but being apart is impossible.

We have a copy of this at the Library and I was so excited to read it-and then I had nightmares for weeks. This book is terrifying. And it’s not just terrifying because it’s a violent book, but because of how easy it is to imagine actually happening. Trigger warnings for all types of violence against women and children. From the Publisher: In the wake of a fever that decimated the earth’s population—killing women and children and making childbirth deadly for the mother and infant—the midwife must pick her way through the bones of the world she once knew to find her place in this dangerous new one. Gone are the pillars of civilization. All that remains is power—and the strong who possess it. A few women like her survived, though they are scarce. Even fewer are safe from the clans of men, who, driven by fear, seek to control those remaining. To preserve her freedom, she dons men’s clothing, goes by false names, and avoids as many people as possible. But as the world continues to grapple with its terrible circumstances, she’ll discover a role greater than chasing a pale imitation of independence. After all, if humanity is to be reborn, someone must be its guide

Prices are accurate as of 2/12/19.

Michelle DunbarComment
Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

I love steampunk!  The incredible inventions requiring cogs and steam valves, the fashion, the goggles, the explosions!  Airships galore! Steampunk is so much fun to read and I was very excited to come across a steampunk inspired story for middle grade readers.  

Cogheart introduces us to Lily Grantham, a young girl living at a horrible finishing school for young ladies learning all about how to be a respectable young lady and nothing about her dream job-becoming an airship captain and air-pirate. When she is told the horrible news of her inventor father’s disappearance after his airship crashes, Lily is sent home to live with her father’s housekeeper Madame Verdigris and the household staff that is almost entirely comprised of automatons.  But home is wasn’t she remembers. Many of the automatons have been run down and their maintenance neglected. The housekeeper is now in charge and has moved into her father’s rooms. Told she is now destitute due to her father’s poor management, Lily is devastated to learn all of her father’s automatons will be sold. While Madame Verdigris continues to search the house for valuables, Lilly learns her father had created a perpetual motion machine that would change the future of mechanicals and automatons.  Thinking she has found the secret, Lilly escapes her home and sets out to seek help from the only person she thinks she can trust, her godfather Professor Silverfish.

Along the way, Lilly finds an ally in Robert Townsend, the son of a clockmaker who discovers a mechanical fox being chased by ruthless gun-toting thugs.  After rescuing and repairing the fox, Peter discovers the fox belongs to John Hartman, father to Lily and that she is in great danger. Together, Lilly and Robert set out on a dangerous mission to find what really happened to Lilly’s father, save her family’s fortune and mechanicals, and find the mysterious device that has put them all in danger.

Packed full of action and adventure, Cogheart is a thrilling story of love, family, and the drive to protect those you care about.  There’s airship battles, evil mechanical men, and plenty of shady characters who cannot be trusted.  Lilly and Robert make a wonderful team and are both incredibly smart and brave. Lilly never saw the mechanicals as machines or servants, they were her friends and some, just like family. The relationship between Lilly and her mechanical friends really highlights the importance of being kind to everyone-especially those that are different from you.   

This was a really fun read and I highly recommend it for your favorite middle grade reader and steampunk lover in your life. It’s the first book in a trilogy and I’m excited to see what adventures Lilly and Robert have next!

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:

Full disclosure time:  I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley.  Thank you to Netgalley and Jolly Fish Press for the opportunity to read and review this title. All opinions are my own.





The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Paris in 1889 is a dazzling backdrop to any story, but add in a magical heist and it becomes breathtaking.  Séverin Montagnet-Alaire was set to lead the House of Vanth until his birthright was taken from him. Dismissed by the other great Houses, Séverin creates his own fortune with his lavish and successful hotel, and by stealing back what rightfully belongs to him.  He and his crew of unlikely treasure hunters set out to reclaim the magical artifacts belonging to the House of Vanth, as well as creating trouble for the ruling order over all the Houses of France, the Order of Babel.

When another House leader offers Séverin the opportunity to reclaim his rightful place as head of his House, Séverin leads his team onto a dangerous journey that will test everyone’s skills and loyalties.  

This book has an amazing cast of characters and their magical, or forging, abilities are fascinating.  There’s Laila, born stillborn but crafted into a new body by magicians, has the ability to read all objects, except those forged, with her touch.  Zofia, a socially awkward and completely genius engineer, has a tendency to magically start fires and cause explosions. Tristan with his love of insects, especially large spiders, and his ability to forge incredible flowers. Enrique with his love of history and his disappointment at being unable to forge.  All members of Séverin’s team and bound to him through magical contracts. The group is such a tight knit family that completely accepts one another for who they are and without judgement.

The world building within this story is incredible.  The magical ability to forge dictates your place within a family and within society and abilities differ from person to person.  The way the character’s outfits and costumes can change with a sweep of a hand would be incredible to see on the big screen-or you know, the t.v. screen because it would be a great series.  Laila has a headband type piece that transforms into her entire costume and it sounds incredible. The story is fast paced with with plenty of action to keep the pages turning.

Political intrigue, mysterious artifacts, magical abilities-it’s all so amazing.  

I loved this story and I’m looking forward to what will come next in the series.  


If you would like to discover this world, and help support the site, you can grab a copy here:

Full disclosure time: I borrowed this copy from the Library. Don’t see it at your Library? Recommend it to your favorite Librarian. It’ll make them look really good when it gets checked out right away!



I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) by Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers

The hosts of one of my all time favorite podcasts, Pantsuit Politics, have written their first book!  I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) is just as wonderful as the podcast.  Beth and Sarah are known for their ability to have tough discussions about difficult topics and do so without any shouting or insults.  In fact, they say that at the beginning of each and every podcast. Their ability to bring nuance to each and every discussion has led to a devoted following and one of the most informative and enjoyable podcasts available today.

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) is their guide to having these nuanced conversations in our everyday lives.  They provide real life tips and advice on how to talk politics with friends and family of differing political views and opinions.  At the end of each chapter, Beth and Sarah provide questions for the reader to help further the conversations that need to happen in real life and provide scriptures that have helped guide them in their own interactions.  

You can hear Beth and Sarah in this book.  It is true to their personalities and provides that seem level of grace, intelligence, and thoughtfulness that they give us each week in their podcast.  If you are looking for a nuanced take on politics and life, I highly recommend picking up this book and checking out their podcast, Pantsuit Politics.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:




Full Disclosure:  I received an advanced copy of this book from the authors-but I did also preorder this book.  All opinions are my own.

The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell

When the world starts to get a bit heavy, I love getting lost in a good fantasy novel.  Make-believe worlds, magical systems, and creatures of all shapes and sizes can take you away from the real world for a time and give your mind that much needed break.  When things began looking particularly dire, like the latest round of news cycles, I knew I needed something really fantastic and most importantly, fun.

Enter, Middle Grade Fantasy!  This genre is one of my new favorites and my latest adventure was The Train to Impossible Places by P.G. Bell.  Reader friends, buckle up because this is one fun and wild ride!

When Suzy wakes up to strange noises in her house one night, she is shocked to find train tracks running through her home and her parents sound asleep on the couch.  The train tracks turn out to be for the Impossible Postal Express train that is owned and operated by trolls and delivers packages to all of the Impossible Places.

So what does Suzy do?  She jumps aboard of course! Thinking she will have an incredible adventure and be back home before her parents wake up, Suzy’s plans quickly head south when her first package begs her to be saved-yes, the package- from the evil witch.  Now in a race to save her mysterious package, her new friends, and the wondrous world of Impossible Places, Suzy must rely on her love of physics and wits to save the day. Along the way, Suzy will discover new friends, amazing new places, and help stop an evil mastermind who is meddling in the workings of other Impossible Places.  

Suzy is a wonderful character.  She’s smart, loves physics, is inquisitive and her bravery knows no end.  She is one of those really good kids that doesn’t come off as annoying or preachy-she just really seems to be a genuinely good kid and does her best to be a kind friend and fix her mistakes.  

I absolutely loved the descriptions of the Impossible Places!  All of the different worlds and the way the train tracks would adapt to each was really fun.  There are a few illustrations of the different worlds and the train that were wonderful-I wish they had been in color, but that’s just what I always prefer.  I really loved Suzy’s undersea adventure with the treasure hunters-super cute. The fact that a postal train will deliver a message in a bottle and gossip to sailor ghosts is just delightful.  

If you have an adventure loving reader who is looking for their next fantastical escapade, I would highly recommend this for independent readers-grades 4 & up. If you’re reading this aloud, it would be great for younger kids as well.  According to Amazon’s website, book 2 in the series should be available October 2019.


You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:


 

Full disclosure time:  I borrowed this copy from my local library. In fact, I ordered for my own Youth Department.  Always check your library first and if they don’t have it, recommend they buy a copy.  We really do like getting recommendations!


The Vampire of Maple Town by Kane McLoughlin

The Vampire of Maple Town is full of magic, mystery, vampires, and secrets.  How far would you go for love? Would you destroy an entire town?  Would you keep your loved ones locked away to keep them safe? Would you sign a contract that exchanges your life for another?   

Vampire of Maple Town.jpg

After being rescued by a mysterious woman in a magical coach, Charlie finds himself the new resident of a mansion at 13 Chiaroscuro Lane.  Becoming the adopted son of the town’s mysterious doctor Victor Prowl isn’t as great as it seems. Unable to interact with the outside world, Charlie spends his time aimlessly wandering the mansion.  But living in comfort in the mansion doesn’t help lessen the loneliness Charlie feels until one day he discovers a magical friend. Aria, a bird made of paper, is able to fly and sing as any other bird may do and quickly becomes Charlie’s new companion.  Together, the two begin to spend their days exploring the village after Victor leaves for work each morning. They discover new friends, new love, and secrets that will threaten the entire village.

If you took a great vampire story and set it in an old-fashioned version of Wonderland, you would come very close to the feeling of this story.  There are magic dolls turned to life who broker magical deals with life altering consequences. Witches who aren’t allowed to show their magical talent.  Vampires who are also doctors and werewolves that should never be trusted. Witches who are learning their skills and witches who aren’t as dead as they seem. Not to mention blacksmith apprentices who may have powerful secrets of their own.  Village festivals, feasts, balls, blacksmith shops, and forests become the setting for both young love and revenge.

This was an interesting take on vampires.  Sunlight doesn’t affect them and Charlie goes most of the book without drinking any blood, let alone craving it when he’s around other people.  In fact, Charlie spends most of the story trying to figure how he could be one of the evil creatures that he keeps hearing about. He isn’t mean or cruel and seems to be a normal boy who just wants to find his place in the world.  

Really enjoyed this one.  The story moves quickly with plenty of twists and turns. Bonus-as of this posting, it’s only $2.99 for Kindle!


If you would like a copy, and want to help support the site, you can buy your copy here:

Full disclosure time:  I received a free copy of this book from the author through a LibraryThing giveaway.  All opinions are my own.



I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
I Am Princess X.jpg

I have walked past this book countless times.  It has an eye-catching spine and intriguing title but it still took me forever to pick it up.  Even though I’ve read Cherie Priest’s steampunk thriller Boneshaker and know that she’s an amazing author, it took forever.  Even after placing the Rebecca Caudill 2018 award sticker on it’s spine, it took forever.  

What was I waiting for?  The right time to need a book about badass teenage girls who are going to bring down an evil genius.  Well, maybe not a genius but he is definitely evil.

This story is awesome!  May and Libby met on the playground in elementary school.  After bonding over a love of drawing and storytelling, they create brave and amazing character named Princess X and her magical world became their escape.  Together, they created an entire universe where Princess X lived in a haunted house and fought monsters. Until one day, Libby was gone. Libby and her mother died after their car drove off a bridge.  Days later, Libby’s body was finally found. The crash took more than May’s best friend, it also took away Princess X and the escape those books created.

But three years later, May notices a sticker on a shop window that will completely upend her world.  The sticker has a drawing of Princess X on it-her Princess X. Who found Libby and May’s books? Why now?  

With the help of computer hacking neighbor, May sets off to solve the mystery of Princess X and her connections to Libby.  What if Libby is still alive?

Some fan art from The Kid

Some fan art from The Kid

This story is amazing!  The characters are great and the story moves very quickly.  May has a lot to deal with-just like any other teenager. Her parents are divorced, friends are hard to make, and trust doesn’t come easily.  But May is smart and brave and goes to great lengths to solve the mystery of her missing friend. She teams up with Patrick, a young man who lives in her building and who recently lost a scholarship after he hacked into his school’s grading system and messed with an ex-girlfriend’s grades.  Patrick isn’t evil-he’s just impulsive and made a crappy decision. What he thinks will be a quick way to make some money fixing May’s computer quickly turns into something bigger when he hears about Princess X. He’s read all the webcomics and knows the details of the story. Together, the two of them face some pretty big obstacles in solving the riddles found throughout the story.  

I especially loved that the two were never romantically linked.  I really appreciate when authors keep friendships platonic and let young woman just be themselves around others.   

The writing is great, the story moves quickly, and there’s lots of action to keep the pages turning.  It’s also approved by The Kid. If this sounds like a book you’d enjoy, you can find a copy at your favorite Library like I did, or pick one up here and help support the site:

Full disclosure time:  I borrowed my copy from the Library.  Always check your Library first and suggest titles for your Librarian to order!  We like suggestions.



Bruno’s Hat by Canizales

Many of the books for children about bullying tend to focus on the bully or the victim and very rarely come from the viewpoint of the bystander.  As teachers and parents, we teach kids how to stand up for themselves, how to ask for help, and hopefully, how to be a kind person. But do we spend enough time teaching kids how to stand up for their friends?  If you’re looking for just that type of resource, let me introduce you to Peter and his best friend Bruno.

Peter and Bruno play together everyday and are very best friends.  But one day, Sergio makes of Bruno’s weird hat and Peter doesn’t know what to do.  Should he help Bruno? Should he try to be cool like Sergio and not a weirdo like Bruno?  Instead of helping Bruno, Peter makes the choice to do nothing which really hurts Bruno’s feelings.  Luckily mom always knows best and with a quick phone call for a playdate, Peter and Bruno are back on track to being best friends. Thanks to Bruno’s mom, both boys have a weird hat and that makes them cool.

With simple language and engaging illustrations, Bruno’s Hat is a wonderful story to help children learn how to be a good friend.  If you are interested in furthering the discussion with your child, you can check out www.flyawaybooks.com for a downloadable guide.  

If you would like a copy, you can get one, and help support the site, here:




Full disclosure time:  Thank you to Flyaway Books for the advanced copy of this book.  All opinions are my own.

 
The Boy, The Bird & The Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods
Isn’t this a gorgeous cover?

Isn’t this a gorgeous cover?

I’m pretty sure I heard about this book from one of the dozen book-related podcasts I listen to but for the life of me, I can’t remember which one. The title was catchy and I remember some raving about wonderful writing but I couldn’t recall what the book was actually about. It came as part of a huge stack of Library holds and I was worried I wouldn’t get a chance to get around to it. Luckily, the Hubs had a meeting and The Kid was occupied and the chicken needed some time to roast which left just enough time to devour this little book about love, family, and believing in something bigger than yourself.

The Boy, The Bird & The Coffin Maker is about those three things-a little boy who needs a home, a loyal bird, and an old man who needs a family. When sickness hits the small magical village of Allora, where the fish literally jump out of the sea and into your arms, few are spared. Alberto, who used to be the furniture maker, becomes the coffin maker when his wife and three children die alongside many others in the village including the original coffin maker. Now all alone, Alberto devotes his time to ensuring the villagers all have a coffin and a funeral when they pass. After the death of a local woman, Alberto begins to notice food missing from his kitchen. When he finally catches the thief he is surprised by how young the culprit is and can’t figure out where the boy had come from. Could the recently deceased woman had a child? How did no one ever know? It turns out, Tito and his mother had been on the run for years trying to stay ahead of his cruel father. With Tito is a mysterious bird who won’t leave Tito’s side. But Tito won’t need to be alone if he can just learn to trust Alberto and start a new life as a coffin maker’s apprentice. When Tito’s father comes to Allora looking for his son, Alberto has to do all he can to keep Tito safe.

With this being such a slim, little book, I don’t want to give too much more away. The writing is absolutely gorgeous and I really loved this story. Alberto is a genuinely kind and compassionate person who wants what’s best for TIto. Opening up his home to Tito allowed him to finish grieving for his lost family and to find a purpose to continue on with his life. The mayor of the town is a wonderfully rich buffoon who hires Alberto to make him a the grandest and most expensive coffin. Their interactions were very funny and I loved how Alberto was always able to semi-politely run him off.

The character of Fia, Tito’s mysterious bird, was very interesting. Alberto has no idea what type of bird she is and after injuring her wings, she doesn’t fly as well as she should. At the beginning of the story, Fia fits inside Tito’s shirt pocket. Throughout the story she steadily grows larger and larger until at the end, she becomes so large her wings span half the room. It’s with her discovery of a ruby flower that Alberto and Tito have a way to escape Tito’s father.

The writing was absolutely wonderful and I really enjoyed this story. While it’s a middle grade novel, don’t shy away from it if you completed middle school a few decades ago-it’s a great book.

You can get your copy, and help support the site, here:


Matilda Woods has another book, The Girl Who Sailed the Stars, set to be published in June of 2019.

Full disclosure- I borrowed this copy from my local library.  Always check your library first and if they don’t have it, recommend they buy a copy.  We really do like getting recommendations!








Summoned to Thirteenth Grave
Summoned to Thirteenth Grave.jpg

Summoned to Thirteenth Grave is the epic conclusion to the long running Charley Davidson series by Darynda Jones. Told in the same wonderful sarcastic, witty, and oh so snarky style I have grown to love, Charley and Reyes take on the their biggest threat yet all while keeping their relationship ultra steamy and highly caffeinated. 

If you’re new to the Charley Daniels universe, I highly recommend starting from the beginning. This series is equal parts hilarious, snarky and steamy. If your an audiobook lover, this one is amazing on audio! Lorelei King is the perfect narrator for this series and does an outstanding job.

Charley is more than a private investigator, she’s the Grim Reaper. Yes, THAT Grim Reaper. With the help of her best friend and assistant Cookie, Charley solves missing person cases, catches cheating husbands, and solves cold cases with the help of some friendly-and some not so friendly-ghosts. Dealing with hellhounds, demons, and bratty child ghosts requires high doses of coffee and sarcasm. Throughout the series, Charley’s incredibly tight and loyal circle of family and friends grows to include daevas, hellhounds, and a magical guardian in the form of a ghost rottweiler.

If you’re interested in the series, start with book 1. There’s going to be some pretty massive spoilers so stop now if you want to start completely fresh.

After being sent to a hell dimension she not-so-affectionately names Marmalade for an eternity, Charley is back on earth with an even bigger problem. A hell dimension has opened on earth causing a deadly plague to spread rapidly. With the clock ticking, Charley and Reyes have to fight off demons, save their daughter, and keep their family and friends safe. But of course things don’t go smoothly. There’s a suspected serial killer to track down and in doing so, Charley discovers a long-lost relative to Rocket, a friendly ghost who keeps track of the departed. There’s also the ghost of a young boy who claims to be the son of a young woman who went missing a decade earlier. And if this isn’t enough for Charley to deal with, she only has three days to get it all done. Yep, just three short days to save the world so her daughter, most commonly known as Beep, can fight Lucifer and save the world herself. It’s kind of a lot to throw at one person!

The best part of this series is watching Charley interact with those around her. She is fiercely loyal, incredibly protective, and won’t think twice about making a snarky comment about you. Charley is brave and intelligent and has no problem with jumping in to a situation head first. And her husband? The two of them are so hot for each other they melted the Sahara desert. Really. It’s a lake of glass now. I have really loved going on this wild ride with Charley and the crew and Darynda Jones does an excellent job in wrapping it all up.

If you would like to jump in to this series, you can find copies and help support the site here:


Full disclosure time: I received an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The previous twelve books in the series I borrowed as audiobooks from my local Library. All rambling opinions are my own.

Hygge: The Danish Art of Happiness by Marie Tourell Søderberg
Hygge.JPGHygge

Hygge is a warm, gentle hug of a book that gives you all the wonderful feelings. It has gorgeous photographs, recipes, design ideas, and a very helpful Hygge Dictionary.

Very simply put, hygge is the Danish word that describes finding happiness and joy in the little things in life. Hygge is finding the time to take walks with friends, plan a simple dinner party, meet someone for drinks, or bake rolls in the morning. It’s incorporating more candles into your decor and curling up with a good book by the fire.

It’s really refreshing to read a book that is the opposite of the current trend on how to fit it all in and be the most time efficient in your day. It’s almost like an anti-productivity guide and I’m here for it.

Hygge is far from a new release-the copy I borrowed from the Library was published in October 2016-but it’s a new read for me. I knew a little bit about the concept so I did make sure to make a cozy reading nest-soft, fluffy blanket, a good beer, and a trio of little pups curled in my lap. It was one of the most pleasant and calming reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.

If you’re looking for an excuse to slow down, get your friends together, and enjoy more in life, definitely give this one a read. I found it to be a very thoughtful look at how we spend our time and how we can focus more on the little things. The little facts and tidbits about Denmark and it’s people were very interesting. The amount of candles they go through is astounding and I found their love of sweets endearing. Everything is made better with cake.

You can find a copy, and help support the site, here:

Full disclosure: I borrowed my copy from the Library. Always check your Library first, it makes Librarians happy when you use the Library. Librarians also like book recommendations so if your Library doesn’t have it, ask them to order it.



Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone
Jane Doe.jpg

I had to wait for what seemed like forever for this book to come back from a very long line of Library Patrons wanting this book so I’m well aware of how far behind I am on the ‘Jane Doe Fan Train’.  But the wait was definitely worth it and I loved every single line of this book. If you haven’t had a chance to read this and are a fan of the mystery/thriller genre, definitely check this one out. It was such an amazing reading experience.

After her best, and only, friend dies of suicide after a horrible romantic relationship, Jane sets out with a new identity and a plan to destroy the man that caused the death of her friend.  

Jane is an amazing character.  She has a mission, she is focused, and she is totally prepared to go all in to take down Steven, the man who destroyed her life.  Jane creates a false identity to work in data entry at an insurance firm where Steven Hepsworth is an unimpressive middle manager.  Using her looks and acting skills to appear meeker and far more insecure than she is, Jane quickly catches the eye of Steven and begins to go on dates with him.  

Steven is the biggest piece of garbage and I hated every word that came out of his mouth and I was so glad the Jane was going to bring him down.  

Anyways.  Jane goes on to drug him and plant cameras in his home to collect her ammunition against him.  She goes to church with him to insinuate herself with his family and most especially, his Pastor father.  But along the way, Jane reconnects with an old college boyfriend and their relationship puts a crimp in her plans to destroy Steven and then move back to her highly successful legal career in Malaysia.  

I don’t want to give away too much more because it is one wild and epic ride!  

Reader friends-this book is intense! I absolutely loved it and then felt a little bit of guilt over loving the character of Jane so much and then very quickly got over it.  Jane is a self-described sociopath and has zero desire to change her ways. She drugs people, videotapes them without their knowledge, and has no problem sleeping with someone if it gets her what she wants.

Jane is such a great character.  She is cold and calculating but the more you learn about her, the more it makes sense.  Her childhood was crap and she has no problem with using people to get what she wants. However, she is very aware of her behavior and has no desire to change and I really respected that.  She was only setting out to hurt someone that deserved it, none of this was done casually. She’s incredibly intelligent, quick witted, and honest about who she is. Steven’s character was arrogant, patronizing, misogynistic, greedy, and just all around arse-hole-ish.  Yeah, just made that one up.

It’s a quick read, just over 250 pages, but there is so much going on that it feels like a heftier book.  Looking back over the many, many books I read last year, this is one of the very best of 2018. It’s definitely the most memorable and I had the most fun rooting for Jane’s character. Also, the author Victoria Helen Stone is great to follow on social media.

I absolutely loved it and would love to hear what you have to say about it.  

You can get your copy, and help support this site, here:

Full disclosure-I borrowed this copy from my local library.  Always check your library first and if they don’t have it, recommend they buy a copy.  We really do like getting recommendations!



 
 
The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

Isn’t that a great cover?

TheParagonHotel.jpg

The Paragon Hotel is one of those books that makes you feel as though are standing right next to the characters as they live out their story.  You can feel the rattle of the train, hear the music of the nightclubs, and feel the fear as more characters are victimized.

Set in 1921, “Nobody” Alice James is on her way to the west coast to escape her ties to the New York Mafia.  Suffering from a bullet wound, Alice is helped to safety by Max, a porter on the train with a weakness for damsels in distress.  But that feeling of safety is short lived when Alice realizes where she is-The Paragon Hotel, the only all black hotel in Portland, Oregon.  There Alice meets Dr. Pendleton, who is not pleased about treating her, the owner of the hotel and decorated war hero. The hotel is managed by Mavereen, a strong and stern woman who protects her friends and family fiercely.  Last, but definitely not least, is Miss Blossom Fontaine, a cabaret dancer who is hiding some seriously big secrets. Together, the group has to survive the KKK, a missing child, a lynching, and bouts with the police. And secrets-so many, many secrets.

There is so much that goes on in this book that there is no way for me to summarize it more.  

I absolutely loved this book.  It moves very quickly with a lot of jumping back and forth in time and Alice’s backstory is very interesting.  Alice’s character has lived so much in her short life but remains incredibly strong and her quick wits save her far more than once. Blossom is hiding a huge secret that does get revealed in the end-and I nearly dropped the book when that was revealed!  I really loved how the author handles both Max and Dr. Pendleton’s time in the army. They were amazing soldiers who were incredibly brave and treated as heroes while still in France but all that was ignored when they came back to the States and were subjected to the cruelty of racism and hatred.  

There are a lot of tough topics, obviously, in this book.  Racism, interracial relationships, police brutality, found family, the treatment of women and so many others make an appearance.  I was unaware of how openly racist Oregon was a hundred years ago-and obviously, I have some more learning to do. To see how the police had zero cares about a small child disappearing was incredibly frustrating to read.   Blossom’s lifestyle is under constant scrutiny. It’s amazing to me, having lived now and not then, how women were treated as though any choice they made outside of marrying a man and having babies was so scandalous. She was a talented singer and dancer and for wanting to pursue a career in that automatically made her promiscuous or worse.  

I loved the characters, I loved the intensity of it, I loved how the big issues were handled.  It’s a great book and I can’t wait to see what others have to say about it. I don’t usually read Author’s Notes but I recommend you do with this one. Lyndsay Faye includes historical facts that were definitely new to me and provide the context for the story.

The Paragon Hotel comes out January 8, 2019 by Lyndsay Faye.  Thank you to Penguin Random House for an advanced copy, all opinions are my own.  

If you’d like a copy, and want to help support this site, you can get one here:


The Graces and The Curses by Laure Eve

When I came across a copy of The Curses by Laure Eve I was immediately drawn to the cover. It’s this gorgeous green with a beautiful font for the title. It’s also about witches, rich kid problems, and family drama-all of my favorite things. But The Curses is actually book two in the series and after devouring it in one sitting, I really had to know what happened in the first book. Since I read them out of order, I can honestly say that you don’t have to read book one first, but it does provide a lot of insight in to a few of the characters. Both of the books are excellent and were exactly what I was hoping for-magically inclined teenagers with rich kid problems doing magic and creating havoc. It’s just fun reading.

A gorgeous Library copy of The Graces

A gorgeous Library copy of The Graces

The Graces introduces us to the Grace family. Summer, the youngest of the siblings and a headstrong goth kid. Thalia and Fenrin are twins who are gorgeous and wanted by everyone. All the siblings have their own unique style that looks ridiculous on anyone else who tries to copy them. Living in a mansion with their equally gorgeous parents who they are on a first name basis with, the Graces are legendary in their small town. They are a series of contradictions. Incredibly wealthy and powerful, the siblings don’t have cell phones or drive cars. They’re parents don’t mind that they have wine in their bedroom fridges but hate that they own a t.v. For Summer’s birthday, there is a huge party on the beach but for the twins, they throw lavish parties that no one from school is allowed to come to after an “incident” at the twins’ eighth birthday party. Everyone wants to be friends with the Graces but no one ever is.

That is, until River moves to town. River, awkward and friendless, wants what everyone else wants-to be friends with the Graces. When she magically becomes best friends with Summer, their relationship will lead them all down a dark and destructive path. What the Graces don’t know, is that meek and mild River is more powerful than she lets on. It’s with her help that the siblings hope to destroy the Curse that has plagued the Grace family for generations. Unfortunately for them, it’s that wish for happiness that will cause incredible heartbreak for their family.

The story of the Curse and it’s impact on the Grace family continues in book 2, The Curses. Now, if you don’t like spoilers, stop here.

I mean it.

SPOILERS

The Curses opens with the resurrection of Wolf, a long time family friend of the Graces. His death was caused by River-maybe accidentally? Maybe not. Now that he’s back, everyone thinks they can go back to normal. But a lot has changed. River isn’t a part of the group anymore. Wolf is acting differently and Fenrin is constantly tired and drained. Someone is granting wishes from the villagers in exchange for money and it’s not a Grace witch doing it.

One thing hasn’t changed though. The siblings are still trying to find a way to end the family curse-no Grace will ever find happiness with a non-witch. Many love matches have ended in horrible deaths and accidents. Even the Grace parents, Gwydion and Esther are an arranged match-not a love match. When the siblings try to track down someone from the family’s past to help end the Curse, an evil greater than they could have imagined is released. More dark family secrets are revealed but old friendships return in time to help save everyone.

I think what I loved the most about these books is the Grace siblings. While they are definitely rich and indulged, they’re not jerks. They have family secrets to protect so they can’t be as open as other teenagers but they’re not mean about it. The siblings are fiercely protective of each other and love each other completely. They are also clearly a product of their environment-they are super wealthy, live in a huge house, have anything they could want, and have nearly zero rules. Could you imagine being 15 and your parents not caring that you have wine in your bedroom?

I really enjoyed these books. They’re a lot of fun and the writing was really engaging.

If you’d like a copy for yourself and someone you want to cast a spell on, you can pick up a copy here:

Thank you to Netgalley and Amulet Books for the opportunity to read The Curses by Laure Eve. The Graces was borrowed from a local Library. All opinions are always my own. Books bought through the links help support this site.

 
Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager Weinstein

Happy 2019 everyone! While I’ve been away I’ve had the opportunity to read some amazing new books and started to dive into my backlist titles and I can’t wait to share them all with you. I’m very lucky to work in a Library that takes vacations seriously-we were closed for almost two weeks over the winter holiday so today has been a little crazy being back at work.

The best part of today has been going through the deliveries that came in while we were gone and one book in particular really caught my eye-Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian. Full disclosure: this is from my Junior Library Guild subscription for the Library and was not purchased by me. I just got really excited and wanted to share how cute this book is!

Lyric is here to save the day!

Lyric is here to save the day!

Isn’t that the most delightful title? I love it! It’s also illustrated by Vera Brosgol who wrote Be Prepared, one of my favorites graphic novels from last year. Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian is a very bright and colorful picture book that tells the story of the evil Doctor Glockenspiel and his devious plan to get one billion, trillion dollars or else he’ll set loose an army of moths to eat all the world’s books! When the world’s best superheroes are defeated by Doctor Glockenspiel there’s only person who can save the day-Lyric McKerrigan! She has just the right book at just the right time to distract guards, help the superheroes escape, and defeat the evil moths.

It’s so stinking cute friends. Books are definitely powerful weapons against evil and I love how well this book shows this. Locked behind bars? A book on picking locks can save the day! A picture book with a strong, intelligent female lead character? Yes, please!

Need a copy for someone in your life? Want to donate one to your local Library? You can get a copy, and help support this site, here:

Also, here’s a link for Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol.

I could have sworn I did post on this but I must have missed it. It’s absolutely delightful and I highly recommend it. The Kid devoured it in one sitting.


 
Merry Christmas
Dory and Snickers in their new Christmas Island.

Dory and Snickers in their new Christmas Island.

I hope that however you celebrate, your day is as warm and comfy as these two pugs in their new bed! Here’s to a safe, content, and book-filled holiday season! See you all in the New Year!

Farm TalesMichelle Dunbar
The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

Back in the summer, I started a subscription to Book of the Month when they had a $5 promo deal.  I was so excited to find new books and authors and have a diverse selection of beautiful books lining my shelves.  But here’s the thing, I found that and more.

This is not an ad, it’s a confession.

I selected my books every month and often added in previous titles at the amazing discounted price.  I have beautiful books lining my shelves and even got a copy of Calypso that I can’t wait to bring with when I see David Sedaris at my local theater next month.   

Mermaid and Mrs Hancock.jpg

What I didn’t think about, which was very obvious, was how much time I really had to devote to reading another selection of titles.  I am so very lucky to have the opportunity to read books before they are published and select the titles for the Library. I literally sit in a building that has over 30,000 titles that I can pick up at literally every moment of my workday.  I buy books for myself every chance I get.

My physical TBR was made unattainable by starting BOTM.  It’s amazing. I love it and I love the books.

Back in September, one of my selections was The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar.  Set in 1785 London, we get to follow the lives of businessman Jonah Hancock, courtesan Angelica Neal and a mermaid, and how the three of them are thrust onto an unlikely path together.  After unexpectedly receiving a mermaid from one of his ship’s captains, Jonah is intent on making back the money lost by the captain’s foolish investment. Working with his niece Suki, they display the mermaid to great fanfare and it quickly becomes a sensation.  After catching the eye of local madam Mrs. Chappell, the mermaid is commissioned for display at her brothel. It’s at the opening night of the mermaid’s exhibit that Jonah meets the beautiful and desirable Angelica Neal. Newly single and in need of someone to care for her-or pay her bills, whatever-Angelica quickly latches on to Jonah.  But the evening doesn’t go as planned for anyone involved. What will follow is a story of lust, greed, and unexpected friendship.

This story was wonderful!  The writing is very witty and I really enjoyed getting glimpses of the everyday life of Angelica and the other courtesans.And poor Jonah.  That guy just couldn’t seem to catch a break. First his captain sells Jonah’s ship to buy a mermaid, then he has to make back his lost investments, deal with an unreasonable sister, and the whole time he just doesn’t want to make anyone mad.  Slight spoiler on Anglica-you were warned: Her character grows so much over the course of the book. She begins as this spoiled and arrogant person who needs to be surrounded by beautiful things in order to be happy. But she’s never really happy.  She is so out of tune with the world that she truly has no idea what trouble she is in or how to save herself that it’s almost sad. When she is finally offered a safe and happy home, she does an extraordinary amount of growing up and realizes that she can find happiness in simpler things.       

Really big spoiler-

Really big-

I still have no clue what the mermaid was at the end.  No clue. I reread and reread and someone please tell me what that was! Because-buckets?  Huh? And I’m very serious-what do you think it was?

But I loved this book and the characters and I really got drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down.

If you’re thinking of starting Book of the Month, I can honestly say I’ve enjoyed the experience.  If you’re looking for less commitment, you can get your copy, and help support the site, here: