The Faithful Spy by John Hendrix

This is another one of those books that you can buy for the amazing cover and not feel guilty because the story is just as incredible as the artwork.  Full of vibrant colors, captivating illustrations, and handwritten text, The Faithful Spy tells the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a young pastor who set out to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a devout young pastor who felt compelled by God to put an end to World War II before it began.  The Faithful Spy gives us the complete picture starting with Bonhoeffer early years, his studies at Seminary school, and how he was able to make contacts with and help the resistance against the Nazis.  Hendrix is able to seamlessly weave together Bonhoeffer’s life story alongside the rise of both the Nazi party and the resistance providing a real depth to the story. Within the Author’s Note, Hendrix writes how he wanted to tell the story of how Germany was so easily swayed by Hitler and his atrocious ideas and he does an amazing job of doing so.  

This would be a great pick for your younger history buff-I wouldn’t go much below 12 years old because you know, Nazis are kind of a deep topic.  The artwork is absolutely incredible and really adds to the story. I really appreciate the “Research and Authenticity” section at the end. Hendrix provides some great information about why he included what information he did and also why he excluded the information that he did.  

Fun Fact-this is a Junior Library Guild pick, which I found out after I had already ordered a copy of this for the Library and then received a second copy in my JLG shipment.  But some goofs are just meant to be-this gave me the chance to purchase one of them for myself and I loved reading it. I even caught The Kid reading it one night even though it’s not a full on graphic novel.  It provided a great opportunity to have a conversation about power and hate.

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




 
The Ghost Portal by Cheryl J. Carvajal

When Joshua Forester’s mother dies of cancer, his entire life is upended.  His abusive father wants nothing to do with him. An uncle he never knew existed suddenly appears and whisks him away to another across the country.  Joshua is left with more questions than answers when he finds himself enrolled at a private boarding school where his uncle is dean.

And this private school is no place for rest and healing after his mother’s death.  He has mandatory church services to attend, difficult classes, teenage cliques to avoid, and nearly nothing to his name after leaving all of his possessions behind.  If having a loaded academic schedule wasn’t enough stress, Joshua is forced to try out for the football team even though he has never played before. But none of this is truly as frightening as Joshua’s gifts. He was able to see the cancer in his mother long before the doctors were able to diagnose her.  He can read minds and has prophetic dreams. All of this is made even more dangerous when a dark force pulls Joshua towards a portal to the ghost world and a deadly demon that guards the entrance.

Poor Joshua.  This kid just can’t catch a break throughout the entire book.  His father is abusive, his mother dies of a horrible illness and then he’s kidnapped by an uncle he’s never met.  I spent much of the book hoping that the uncle would come to some horrible end-he was such an irritating character and frustrating to read.  He knows that Joshua has special powers and refuses to give him any answers to his questions. Multiple times Ian, the uncle, uses his own power/ability to make Joshua feel drugged and sleepy so he’ll stop trying to figure out why he can read minds.  Ian also provides zero support for his grieving nephew. He enrolls him at the boarding school where he is the Dean but doesn’t let him bring anything with him. With almost no wardrobe, school supplies, or money, Joshua is just supposed to be grateful that he wasn’t left with his father.  The kids at his new boarding school are stuck up and his uncle overloads his class schedule leaving Joshua little time to himself or to complete his schoolwork.

But Joshua is able to make a few friends.  He’s able to forge a bond with the less than stellar players on the football team and together they help Joshua cope with his increasingly scary nightmares and weird ability to instantly read Latin.  Joshua also finds a friend in Jane Evans, a girl from school who can also read minds like Joshua. She also has a very handy ability to disappear when she doesn’t want to be seen. I really liked how the friendships were written-the kids are understanding of each other’s differences but also expect one another to hold up their end of the relationship.

I wish there had been more information on the portal and how Ian and his school played a part in it.  There are still a lot of questions that went unanswered. I’m not a fan of how the “local tribe” was introduced and used at the end-it felt too convenient.

Overall, it was a good read.  The story flowed well and the characters were well developed.  Joshua was very convincing as the hurt and angsty teenager. I hope it’s the beginning of a series and we can find out more about the shadowy groups behind the portal and how or why Joshua and his family have the gifts they do.  

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



 
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This book has been all over the place.  For months now, I have seen this gorgeous cover on book lists, ads, and recommendation sites.  There is a reason-it’s just as good as everyone is saying.

Once Upon a River is a story of family, hope, and very dark secrets.  It begins in a small inn set on the banks of the Thames. Full of villagers and drinkers, the inn is the center of storytelling and local history for the area.  And gossip-so much gossip. When a large man enters the inn holding a large puppet the entire inn is left in a state of silent shock. Before the large man collapses to the ground, the puppet is placed in the arms of the son of the inn’s owners.  But it’s not a puppet-it’s a young girl who is very clearly dead and no one knows who she is.

But she’s not dead, and the girl-who-was-dead-but-is-no-longer is about to bring together a seemingly unconnected group of people.  There is the wealthy couple who live down the river and lost their only child two years before. A woman living in a lodging house and takes part in a scandalous profession.  The successful farmer with his large family and loyal animals. The unwed woman who cleans for the parson. The town midwife and healer who declares the little girl alive and knows instantly that she belongs with her.

There is little that can be said about this book without spoiling all of the amazing twists and turns.  It took a bit for me to get in to the story but once it clicked, I couldn’t put the book down. Who is this little girl?  Why did everyone think she was a puppet or a doll? Was she dead? Why does everyone want to be around her? So many questions in this book and there is an answer for all of them.  

The river is a huge part of the story and is written about so beautifully that it feels alive and like it’s a character itself.  There is history and magic but maybe the magic is just the effects of all the pain and struggle that the characters go through or maybe it’s real and it was there all along.  It’s an absolutely beautiful book and I absolutely loved it.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield is available December 4, 2018 from Simon & Schuster.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book-all opinions are my own.  

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






Girl Squads by Sam Maggs

If you think that female friendships are full of competition, catfights, and spite-then you can thank all the crappy writing that has filled our books and television screens for far too long.  Sam Maggs takes a deep dive into 20 awesome female friendships that helped change the world and make it a better place.

Covering five categories-athletes, political and activist, warrior, scientist and artist squads, Maggs tells the stories of some pretty amazing ladies who stuck together to create change throughout history.  Some are pretty well known ladies like Anne Bonny and Mary Read, as well as our three amazing ladies on the U.S. Supreme Court. Others were a joy to discover like the Haenyeo free divers who are continuing the 2,500 year-old practice of diving for the various sea creatures found on the sea floor or the Trobairitz who were active during the 12th century.  

Sam Maggs covers the globe and all of time to bring us some of the most fascinating female friendships that have helped shaped history.  I really enjoyed her points on how no matter how far back you go in history, women have worked together to bring about important change. It’s been through women working together, not alone, that brought about education and equality for women.  

Maggs writing is both informative and entertaining.  Her other titles look equally awesome and I’m looking forward to checking out more of her work.  I really enjoyed this book and it would pair really well with Brazen as a great holiday gift. Hint, hint.  

Big thanks to Netgalley and Quirk Books for the free digital copy-all opinions are my own.

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


 



Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

Reader Friends-have you heard that boys won’t read books with girls on the cover? It’s baloney. You just have to hand them a book, tell them it’s amazing, and watch the magic happen. I borrowed this from the Library for me to read and once I brought it home, I had to repeatedly track it down because The Kid couldn’t put it down. Now, I’ve seen it shelved in various places at different Libraries. Some put it in Adult, some YA, and some just have dedicated graphic novel sections. According to the publisher First Second, it’s aimed at ages 14-18, well, The Kid is 10 and we don’t follow the rules.

Brazen covers the lives of 29 amazing and history-making women. There are some pretty well known women like Nellie Bly and Mae Jemison, as well as some that were new to me like Frances Glessner Lee and Sonita Alizadeh. I really enjoyed the section on Giorgina Reid, the woman who helped save a lighthouse in Montauk by terracing the side of the cliff it was built on to help prevent erosion. Like many of the stories, if men had taken her seriously, the world would be a much better place. And have less erosion.

The artwork is absolutely delightful. The story panels use a limited number of colors and they change from story to story. At the end of each section there is a two page drawing of the featured subject and I had to remind myself several times that I couldn’t rip them out and frame them-I don’t think the Librarian would be very happy with me. They are so bright and vibrant and just beautiful.

I really loved this book-it covers so many different women from different time points in history and places around the world. There are artists, scientists, activists, musicians, and athletes-a little something for everyone.

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


 



Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval

The artwork in this book is absolutely stunning. Every drawing felt just slightly off-like there was just a little something not quite right- which added even more creepiness to the story.

Mila is a loner whose summer is about to take a dramatic turn when she meets Agnes, a beautiful girl who claims her teeth are ghosts who travel the world and have adventures. Thinking her slightly crazy, Mila agrees to meet up with her next day to hear the full story of Agnes’ teeth. What she finds instead is a wild adventure starting with a kiss gone weird, a sea king, and an amazing female army ready to battle. But Agnes still has one major secret-she’s a ghost. And not just any ghost, she holds the spirit of a sea king and her teeth are the king’s soldiers. Mila has to help the warriors save the sea king and return him to his people.

This book is wild-absolutely bonkers wild and I really enjoyed it. The artwork is incredible and the story is great. Mila is such a teenager-all emotions and confused feelings-but she steps in when it counts. The female warriors are completely badass and the fight scenes are amazing with all the swords and flying blood.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.

Watersnakes by Tony Sandoval is available November 20, 2018 from Lion Forge.

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



 



Happy Thanksgiving!

If you celebrate, I hope you and your favorites are having a wonderful holiday. Wishing you a day full of fun, friendship, family, and of course, really good books.

Michelle Dunbar
City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender

If you liked the Jackaby series, you’re going to love this one!

City of Broken Magic by Mirah Bolender is an action packed magical ride of monsters and mobsters.

Laura Kramer is a Sweeper apprentice working hard to keep her city safe from the magical infestations that are killing residents. Her boss and Head Sweeper, Clae Sinclair, grew up in a Sweeper family and has been battling manifestations his entire life. Together they make up the entire Sweeper force of the city of Amicae and work alongside the police department in an uneasy alliance.

When Laura and Clae are hired by the wealthy wife of a notorious mob family, they find more than malevolent amulets. They find a mysterious young man enslaved by the Sullivans who appears to have magical abilities. Clae, ever clever, rescues the young man under the guise of payment in exchange for ridding the Sullivan house of evil amulets. Now the young man, Okane, is free from the torture and enslavement of the Sullivans and free to begin training as a Sweeper apprentice.

Now a team of three, the Sweepers have a ritual to prepare for, a city to protect, and evil manifestations getting their way.

This book was so good! It’s fast paced, full of action, and the characters are fantastic. Clae is prickly and unsociable but as the story goes on, you completely understand why. There is more than one skeleton in his closet and a long line of deceased Sweeper apprentices. With mysterious parts of his shop completely off limits and a quest for lasagna, he has the mysterious boss persona down. Laura is young, smart, and wants only to prove her worth. Growing up unwanted by her parents, she is raised by her single aunt and lives in one of the poorer parts of town. Longing to learn more about the world outside her walled city, she snatches up scraps of movie posters found along streets and alley walls. And Okane. Poor Okane. Born with magical abilities and tortured his whole life by the Sullivans, he lives his life in fear of everything.

I really enjoyed the city of Amicae. It’s one of several cities mentioned in the book but is the setting for the bulk of the book. The city is contained by high walls that the residents believe keep them safe by preventing evil magical infestations. Unfortunately for the residents, that is completely false. There is a complex system of magic and amulets that can be both helpful and harmful depending on their creation. It takes place 500 years ago but I don’t think it ever tells where that 500 years ago was-and it doesn’t matter. You get dropped into this amazing world and everything fits perfectly.

I loved this one-it’s amazing and I’m looking forward to more books in the series.

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




 
Sunday Library Love

Like many people this time of year, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here. On the heels of a chaotic Halloween week we attended the first of several winter holiday parties and need to plan future ones that we’re hosting. Meetings, school events, and just everyday housework always seem to be more work when it’s cold outside. The dining room construction is at the true messy stage and it’s starting to impact my last minute jelly making for Christmas gifts.

But it’s not all work. We had business to attend to in the same town as our favorite comic book store so of course a visit was in order. We finally got to meet the Bear at A Boy and His Tiger in Macomb. It’s an overall great shop-great service, great selection, and a great doggo. The Kid picked out a few new books and comics and I managed to keep myself to only one new book.

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All of the home construction, holiday cooking, and constant clean up has had one amazing perk-I’ve listened to 3 audiobooks just this last week. All have been Library loans and paired with our overwhelming DVD selection-ALL my holds came in at once- from the Library, it’s been a Library Love type of week. That’s right-we rarely purchase or rent movies, we borrow nearly everything from the Library. Thanks to our wonderful interlibrary loan network, we have access to nearly every title and usually have a very short wait.

Listened to:

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

This was great on audio-the narrator was really good and there is no way I would have pronounced the main character’s names correctly. From the Publisher: Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself; his wife, Neni; and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty - and Jende is eager to please. Clark's wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses' summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers' façades. When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende's job - even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.


Who Thought This was a Good Idea?  By Alyssa Mastromonaco

Read by the author, this was another great listen that I’ve been wanting to read for a long time.  Funny, honest, and not at all gossipy, this book takes us behind the scenes of political campaigns, the inner workings of the White House, and how incredibly stressful it is to work in Washington.  Mastromonaco gives advice throughout the book on how to prepare for job interviews, the do’s and don’ts of negotiations, and how to not be your own worst enemy. It’s a lot like listening to a really great friend over a glass of wine.  A definite listen for those who would like to reminisce about the time we had intelligent, capable, and caring people in the White House.

Some Enchanted Eclair by Bailey Cates

If you want mouthwatering descriptions of food, some light witchcraft, a murder mystery, and southern accents-this is your series. From the Publisher: When Hollywood invades Savannah's historic district to film a Revolutionary War movie, magical baker Katie Lightfoot and her witches' coven, the Spellbook Club, take a break from casting spells for casting calls. One of the witches snags a part as an extra, while Katie's firefighter boyfriend, Declan, acts as on-set security. Katie and her Aunt Lucy decide to stay out of the action, but after the movie's "fixer" fires the caterer, the Honeybee Bakery comes to the rescue, working their magic to keep the hungry crew happy. But when someone fixes the fixer - permanently - and a spooky psychic predicts Katie will find the killer, the charming baker and her fellow conjurers step in to sift through the suspects - before someone else winds up on the cutting room floor.



Watched:

Paddington 2

Super cute and funny.




Father Figures-The Boys picked this one.



Yeah, The Boys picked this one too.




Read:

Charlie Hernández & The League of Shadows by Ryan Calejo

This was a really great middle great adventure filled with Latino and Hispanic mythology.  I purchased it for the Library and snuck it out before the kids saw it.































Tom Gates is Absolutely Fantastic (At Some Things) by L. Pichon

This is such a fun and engaging story with characters that every kid can relate to.

Tom Gates is your average kid doing kid things-just some things he does better than others. He doesn’t like getting up early for school, he can’t seem to remember his permission slips, but he’s great at art and writing stories. But that permission slip? It’s really important and he’s going to need to remember it if he’s going on the class trip. Luckily for Tom, his parents are in the loop and keep him from being the only one in class who doesn’t get to go. And he wouldn’t want to miss this one-his class trip is full of raft making, midnight snacks, rock climbing and fifth grade shenanigans.

This book is loaded with doodles, drawings, funny monsters, and other craziness. At the beginning, we’re told to watch for the extra monsters that are hidden throughout the story. It completely sucked in The Kid-even though it isn’t a colorful graphic novel-and he read the whole book in one sitting. I really liked how it wasn’t mean-spirited or mouthy. The kids are totally relatable and the storyline was very funny.

The drawings and doodles are such a fun addition to the story and really kept my son interested in the story. Tom is like so many other tween boys that I know and his struggles with school and organization were hilarious.  If you have a younger reader who is just starting out with chapter books or a reluctant reader, this would be a great option.

Thank you to Candlewick Press for the copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

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

Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

Luckily for us, author Gabrielle Moss hit a personal and professional rut in 2016 and in an act of wanting to remove herself from reality for a bit, she purchased a crate of Sweet Valley High paperbacks on eBay. Her birthday gift to herself put her on a path to give us the perfect present-Paperback Crush is an absolutely delightful walk down nostalgia lane.

Moss takes a deep dive into the impact the early days of YA fiction had on our expectations of friends, family, and school. She lets us in on the secrets and life lessons those early novels taught us as we followed the antics of the Babysitter Club. How we learned that young love is both amazing and frustrating and if you’re not careful, you may end up kissing just like those in a Judy Blume novel. Moss does an incredible job of covering everything related to these wonderfully awkward tweenie series-the novel covers, character diversity, life lessons, and how the story lines evolved over the decades. What began as sweet little stories in the post-war boom of the 40’s, by the 80’s, readers were learning how incredibly scary the real world is.

Paperback Crush also has author interviews from YA authors Candice Ransom, Rhys Bowen, Caroline Cooney, and Christopher Pike. I really enjoyed the behind the scenes look at how many of those iconic covers were created and how the models were chosen.

I found Paperback Crush to be a fun and honest take on the novels that so many of us grew up with. It’s an absolutely delightful read and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more.

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



 
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

Feel free to jump on this book for it’s cover alone-it’s just as stunning as the story itself. I got sucked in to this book a few days ago and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

After the world finally turns against us, leaving the earth covered in water, a floating city in the Arctic Circle is constructed. Geothermal heating and greener, more sustainable sources of energy are now the new normal. But even with all the amazing technology that allows humans to survive in the ocean, humanity still has it pretty rough. Living spaces are hard to come by and most are too expensive for everyday people with Landlords holding rents high to stay rich. Added to the stress of poverty is a mysterious illness called the breaks, that is spreading throughout the city and causing those inflicted to get lost in the memories of others.

Everything changes the day a woman is seen approaching the city on the back of an orca whale. With a polar bear.

Yep. Riding an orca whale with a polar bear.

Her arrival draws together four individuals who seemingly have nothing in common but once they meet, they begin a defiant battle against the political corruption of the city.

Reading Friends-this book is completely bonkers and I loved every single minute of it. There is political intrigue, mob syndicates, shady landlords, and genetic manipulation. Once again I’ve fallen into a book about the disastrous effects of unchecked climate change and it’s not a pretty picture of our future. I want nothing to do with living on a floating city in the Arctic Circle. No. Thank. You.

But noodle stands? I want those, and their frequent mentions made me very hungry.

This book offers a very interesting look in to what actually makes people a family and how lifetimes of deceit, regret, and abandonment can still allow for hope. How people can be so different from one another and still have so much in common.

I loved this book. It keeps popping into my thoughts with it’s incredible and terrifying world building.

Loved it.


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


Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri

It’s no secret that The Kid will only read graphic novels. They are what has gotten to love reading and lets him read widely. I really wish that I had something like this book years ago when it was struggle to get him to read. Reading Friends-this book is incredibly cute.

Tiger vs. Nightmare by Emily Tetri is an adorable introduction to graphic novels for younger children.  Tiger has a very special friend, a Monster who lives under her bed and scares away her nightmares.  They spend their evenings playing games and sharing Tiger’s dinner.  Tiger’s parents believe Monster is an imaginary friend, but Monster is much more.  When one nightmare becomes too big for Monster to fight off, Tiger and Monster must work together to keep Tiger’s dreams from becoming scary.

Beautifully illustrated and gently told, the story is both entertaining for little ones and teaches the lesson that sometimes you just need a friend’s help. 

Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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

Dry by Neal Shusterman and Jarrod Shusterman

What happens when the taps run dry? When you turn the faucet handle and nothing comes out? How long can the human survive without water?

Be warned-this book will cause intense feelings of hoarding, stockpiling, and doomsday prepping.

Alyssa remembers where she was on the day of the Tap-Out. At home with her family, they initially thought the odd noises from the faucet were just a plumbing issue. Instead, it was their worst nightmare. Water to their home was shut off, rerouted to critical locations such as hospitals. An emergency run to Costco is chaotic with people scrambling and fighting for the last of the bottled water and other beverages. When Alyssa’s parents learn about a water desalination unit operating on a local beach, they set off in hopes of bringing back water. But as the hours drag on, Alyssa can’t reach her parents and they don’t show up. Now on their own, it’s up to Alyssa to keep Garrett safe.

Back in Alyssa’s neighborhood, her neighbors aren’t used to rationing anything, let alone critical resources. All but her next door neighbor Kelton, whose family takes survival prepping to the next level. Living off the grid in a fortified house, Kelton and his family have known a day like this would come. When the neighbors begin to notice how little the Tap-Out is affecting Kelton’s family, they stage a revolt. An unspeakable tragedy follows with Kelton, Alyssa, and her little brother Garrett left running for their lives.

What starts as an inconvenience turns into a fight for their very survival.

This book made me want to stock up on pallets of water, hand sanitizer, antibiotics, MREs, and anything else that might be critical. In the novel, it takes only days for people to completely turn on each other instead of working together to solve the problem. With all the talk of climate change currently in the news, this book felt even more scary.

Dry is listed as Young Adult but don’t let that stop you-it’s fast paced and gritty and I loved every word of it.

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


Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has a safe and fun-filled day of tricks, treats, and spooky stories!

Need a last minute spooky story for a kid’s party or bedtime? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

This is a wonderful book for your shyest little ones who may need a little reassurance. From the Publisher: When Tomás and his family moved to a new house on a new street, he took it into his head that the new people might not like him. 
"Of course they'd like you," his mamá said. "Why wouldn't they? ¿Por qué no? "
But Tomás didn't answer.

Tomás's Mom encourages him to go out and meet the kids in his neighborhood, but Tomas is too shy. Instead, he sits on his stoop, watching the world go by. But on the night of Halloween, opportunity arrives in the form of a tiger costume, complete with a mask that hides his identity. He can go trick-or-treating without anyone knowing it's him. But Tomás will soon discover his costume doesn't hide him quite as well as he thinks...

This book is so cute! From the Publisher: Bonaparte is having a tough time. It’s hard for this young skeleton to just hang loose when he can’t keep hold of himself. 
 
When he plays catch, his throwing arm literally takes a flyer. Eating lunch can be a real jaw-dropping occasion. How can he start school when he has so many screws loose?

Luckily, Bonaparte hit the bone-anza when it came to his friends. Franky Stein, Black Widow, and Mummicula all have some boneheaded ideas to help pull him together. But will it be enough to boost his confidence and get him ready for the first day of school?

Not technically a Halloween book, but it’s wonderfully silly and creepy! From the Publisher: Jasper Rabbit is NOT a little bunny anymore. He’s not afraid of the dark, and he’s definitely not afraid of something as silly as underwear. But when the lights go out, suddenly his new big rabbit underwear glows in the dark. A ghoulish, greenish glow. If Jasper didn’t know any better he’d say his undies were a little, well, creepy. Jasper’s not scared obviously, he’s just done with creepy underwear. But after trying everything to get rid of them, they keep coming back!

Middle grade novel full of spooky ghosts and adventure. Best part-it takes place in Scotland. From the Publisher: Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn't like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they're about to get much stranger.

When Cass's parents start hosting a TV show about the world's most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her "gift," she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil -- and herself.

And she'll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

It’s Neil Gaiman. Enough said.

Ok. Nobody Owens, or Bod, is a normal human boy. But his life started off in tragedy and he’s now being raised by the ghosts of the graveyard.

Beautifully drawn and masterfully told-it’s a classic.

Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

Stuck in Manistique is a funny and heartwarming look at how seemingly simple decisions can lead to big consequences.
When Mark, an only child without any family, receives word that his only aunt has passed away heads to northern Michigan to handle the details of her estate. Mark's childhood was filled with stories of his adventurous and world traveling aunt who worked with Doctors Without Borders and lived in war zones. But what his life was not filled with was actual interactions and memories of his aunt. Without any contact for decades, Mark has no idea what he's getting himself in to.
Emily, a recent medical school graduate is getting ready to start her residency at a prestigious Chicago hospital and is planning on a romantic getaway with her boyfriend when a deer derails her plans. Stuck without a car and seriously considering her future, Emily ends up at the Manistique Victorian, a bed and breakfast formerly owned by Mark's Aunt Vivian. While Mark thinks he's only helping out a stranded woman for one night, he instead sets off a series of events that leads to friendships, break-ups, humor and sadness.
There was something about the beginning of this book that kept nagging at me and it took a while to figure out what it was-the dialogue is completely real and believable. There are no flowery speeches or quick come-backs. The characters have very real conversations with misunderstandings and jokes that fall completely flat.
Stuck in Manistique is full of quirkly characters. Mark meets Bear Foot, a local handyman who was both a friend to Aunt Vivian and her go-to guy to get things done. After learning of her death, he builds a fire to help guide her spirit and borrows a boat to take Mark out on the lake to spread Vivian's ashes. But of course, the fire doesn't go as planned and the boat doesn't start. There's George, an elderly man who has a fight with is wife and leaves his casino tour for a night of peace. But of course, George's wife died years ago and his struggles with dementia leave Mark and Emily constantly worrying about his safety. There's the couple who are trying to be the first to circle the lake in an electric car-but are they a couple?
Stuck in Manistique is a series of "what-else-can-go-wrong" that is equal parts humorous and heartbreaking. I really enjoyed this book and I'd definitely recommend it for when you're in the need of some great, light reading.
Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book. All opinions are my own.

Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta is available October 29, 2018 from Celestial Eyes Press.

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



 
Go-To Baby Shower Gifts

I love to give books as gifts to children of all ages, but I especially love books as baby shower gifts. It has been said over and over again, but it’s worth mentioning, reading to children is one of the best ways to help them develop language, empathy, and a life-long love of learning. Whether you read to them before nap time, bedtime, snack time, play time, or take them to your favorite local library for Story Time, reading to children should be a part of their everyday schedule.

When they’re still infants, you can get away with any picture book that is bright, colorful, and tells any story that interests the parents. It’s not until they develop their little grabby hands that you need to switch over to durable board books, and luckily many picture books are offered in board book formats.

Many of my go-to authors write humorous stories that are just as much fun for adults as they are for children. Not going to lie, if a book has dinosaurs or vegetables in underpants, it’s an automatic buy for me. In fact, the board book Vegetables in Underpants is my most checked-out board book at the Library.

The Baby Loves Science! series from Ruth Spiro is fantastic. It covers topics like thermodynamics, gravity, green energy, and coding. Very bright illustrations and simple language introduce young children to the science around us.

From the Publisher: Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of particle physics and chemistry – quarks, protons, neutrons, atoms and molecules – and ties it all to baby’s world. Beautiful, visually stimulating illustrations complement age-appropriate language to encourage baby’s sense of wonder. Parents and caregivers may learn a thing or two, as well!

With tongue firmly in cheek, the Baby Loves Science series introduces highly intellectual science concepts to the littlest learners.

Ame Dyckman writes hilarious children’s stories and Wolfie the Bunny is one of my favorites. Great illustrations and fast moving story make for enjoyable reading for everyone.

From the Publisher: The Bunny family has adopted a wolf son, and daughter Dot is the only one who realizes Wolfie can--and might--eat them all up! Dot tries to get through to her parents, but they are too smitten to listen. A new brother takes getting used to, and when (in a twist of fate) it's Wolfie who's threatened, can Dot save the day?

Mo Willems, author of the Pigeon books, Elephant and Piggie, and the Knufflebunny series is back with a new gang of characters-Squirrels! I Lost My Tooth! is brand new and hilarious. I just used this one for storytime and the kids loved it! The oldies-and-definitely-goodies Elephant and Piggie are also excellent choices for little ones. They’re silly but kind, funny but teach a great lesson on friendship.

Ryan T. Higgins has created one of my absolute favorite characters-Bruce. Bruce is grumpy, likes to be alone, and loves to cook. Unfortunately for his, his gourmet goose eggs hatched and he’s now the not-proud mother to 3 geese. A colorful cast of woodland creatures enter Bruce’s life and he deals with it all in the grumpiest way ever. The illustrations are incredible and the stories are fantastic. So far, there’s four picturebooks in the series and at least one board book.

I was lucky enough to hear Dan Santant speak at the Illinois Reading Council’s conference just this month. Not only is he super funny, he’s an extremely talented illustrator. He has a newer book out, Drawn Together, that I highly recommend for grade school age children. After the Fall is all about how Humpty Dumpty fell and then got back up again in the most amazing way. It’s just beautiful to look at and adults will love the new twist at the end.

Do you have any books that you love to share with children? Share your favorites in the comments!

House of Gold by Natasha Solomon

House of Gold is a rich and sweeping tale of the Goldbaum family during the early 20th century.   Wealthy, beautiful, and full of rich-people problems, the Goldbaums are one of the wealthiest families in the world with the ability to make or break entire countries.  With all of that power comes impossibly high expectations of all members of the family. Greta, daughter to the head of the Austrian house is set to marry her cousin Albert.  Not only has she never met Albert, she has no say in the matter. Greta’s big brother Otto is brought up to lead his family and take his father’s place at the bank and has just as much say in his future as his little sister.  

As the years pass, Greta learns to tolerate her marriage, fall in love with her husband, become a mother, and learns the strength to survive a war.  With her family’s money being both a blessing and a burden, Greta lives her life as close to her own terms as possible.

This is one of those vast, multi-layered stories that is great for when you want to really immerse yourself for days on end.  The e-book version of House of Gold that I read clocked in at nearly 450 pages and takes you all the way from the wedding planning of Greta and Albert’s wedding to the birth of their second child.  It’s full of history, politics, religion, and the way that money really does rule the world. The detail given to the dresses, dinner menus, furnishings, and gardens is incredible. And the rich people problems-it’s a wonderful escape. Greta frets for months on how to plan a garden.  Who to hire, what to plant, the significance of every little stone-all while the Goldbaum kitchens are handing out food to the poor and starving. There is a side story of Karl, a young man who lives in the sewers of the city and stays as close to the Goldbaum mansion as possible because the food they give away is the best in the country.  

House of Gold also gives us insight into high-society arranged marriages.  I find the separate bedrooms, lack of communication, and the way they act more like a business partnership than a life partnership absolutely fascinating.  

I really enjoyed this one.  If you want to get lost for days in someone else’s life, I highly recommend this one.  

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

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book. All opinions are my own.