It is the winter of 1139. A civil war in England has sent refugees fleeing from Worcester to the abbey at Shrewsbury hoping to find a safe haven there. Traveling with a young nun the group, including an orphan boy and his 18 year old sister. But somewhere in the dangerous countryside they disappear. Brother Cadfael sets
In the winter of 1139, raging civil war has sent refugees fleeing north from Worcester, among them are two orphans a boy of 13 and his beautiful 18-year-old sister and a young Benedictine nun. They set out but disappear somewhere in the wild countryside. Brother Cadfael wants to go search for them but he is called to the Church of Saint Mary where a monk has been found beaten and bleeding beside the road. He will surely die without Cadfael’s medicinal knowledge. The monk’s fevered ravings give Cadfael a clue to the missing party and he soon embarks on a dangerous quest to find them.
Fearful yet determined, Ivy Stanton returns to the small Appalachian town she left fifteen years ago… the night her parents were murdered. But in coming home to Kudzu Hollow, she discovers she is not alone in her search for the truth: Matt Mahoney, the man who saved her life, who haunts her dreams, who was wrongfully accused of the crime, has come back, too, demanding answers — and justice. When Matt looks into Ivy’s eyes, he sees a woman whose pain mirrors his own. The feelings she stirs within him promise a life he never thought he’d have. But evil still resides in this sleepy mountain town, as do secrets worth killing for. Now danger stalks them both, and Matt is fighting for more than vengeance… he’s fighting for their future.
On her thirtieth birthday, Annalise Blakely gets a strange package. Inside, along with one of her company’s hand-crafted dolls, is a note: I don’t need this anymore. I have my own. Annalise puts the package aside-she has enough on her mind. Since her mother died, Annalise has been working nonstop to keep Blakely Dolls a success. Her deadbeat dad wants to be back in the picture. And she’s dating again.
But the policeman she’s seeing has chilling news: someone is murdering women, dressing them up as Blakely Dolls, and leaving them for the police to find. And, although no one knows it yet, the killer is stalking Annalise, the model for the original doll, for his final display. (from Goodreads.com)
Ten years ago, Mariah Ann (Ryan) Kendall walked away from her hometown, the nightmares of her childhood, and the love of her life……and straight into the arms of the devil, himself. From an abusive marriage to a life on the run, Ryan somehow survives and eventually makes her way back to the home she ran from to begin with. Confronted with more than one demon, Ryan is forced to face the ghost of her alcoholic father and the house where he died. She must also face Colton Wade. Her childhood sweetheart – the boy she left behind without so much as a goodbye, is now a man filled with bitterness and anger. Attraction simmers between them, in spite of their tumultuous past. But secrets can be deadly and soon Ryan learns that Colt has a few of his own. And among those secrets, a monster lies in waiting. A monster that soon leaves body after body in its wake. A monster that will stop at nothing to get what it wants; Mariah Ann Kendall, dead. (from Goodreads.com)
Brandon is a foster kid who is bullied by his teacher, his classmates, his foster mother and the town thugs. He is a dreamer who could care less about school or any of the people around him. He escapes to the woods where he has built a tree house and daydreams about the Green Man. One day he finds an old man asleep at the base of his tree. He believes he has finally found the Green Man and the man goes along with it. Because he has flunked 6th grade, Brandon has to attend summer school where he meets Shae. She is different from all the other kids he knows and he finds himself a little interested in knowing more about her. Together, Brandon, Shae and the Green Man form a family of sorts in the woods where they are safe and loved. But Brandon is beat up terribly by the town thugs who then go after the Green Man. Brandon must find his courage and step up for what is right.
Some people are just lost. They become disconnected from the world and live in their own minds. Brandon is beginning down that path. He can’t seem to find anything worthy in the real world. He wants to live in his idea of a perfect world where nature matters and the Green Man is there to protect the forest and its inhabitants. It is easy to see why he wants to disconnect from the world. He doesn’t know who his parents are; his mom abandoned him as an infant. He has been shuttled around foster homes his whole life. His current foster mom Mrs. Clancy seems to care more about watching tv shows and doing crossword puzzles than paying attention to Brandon. His teacher is a nightmare who bullies him and allows the other students to bully him. The forest is really his only refuge. Shae isn’t quite as broken down as Brandon, but she too has her issues as does Ed Calhoun/Green Man, a Vietnam vet who became a homeless bun, drinking in the park and living in the woods. Together they start to heal each other. The story doesn’t have a happy ending, but it does have a hopeful ending. Hopeful that things will start to get better.
The residents of Spence Mansion are going into the greeting card business. Ghost Olive C. Spence writes the cards and young Seymour Hope illustrates them. The new business came about because author Ignatius B. Grumply started getting letters from an old love who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Nadia S. Richenov is determined to get Ignatius back now that he is a successful author and she is having money troubles. Then there are the two escaped criminals who look a lot like the new couple in town offering home security systems. There is a rash of burglaries but no one will listen when Seymour tries to tell them the truth. Olive brings back her old butler, also a ghost, to act as security at the mansion, but he just drives Ignatius crazy. The book is told through letters, greeting cards, newspaper articles, text messages and notes. I’m not a huge fan of this format as I think it doesn’t do a great job of telling the complete story. However, the book was a fun, quick read with a nice light mystery.
Lucy and Cam want nothing more than to get out of the Sunnyside Trailer Park. Their plan is to compete in the annual BotBlock competition, win $5000 and 15% college tuition. They have a plan to complete their mission that includes raising the admission fee, building and programming their robot and getting to the beachside competition. Lucy wants to escape a mom with manic-depressive disorder who seems to be off her meds and Cam wants to get away from a house filled with children and his mom’s abusive boyfriend. In addition to their problems at home, they are also hassled by a bully at school. Their road to victory is hit with several roadblocks when Lucy’s mama takes them on a runaway roadtrip to escape the authorities.
Mental illness is a hard topic to cover in middle grade fiction. It isn’t often written about and when it is sometimes it is overblown or completely unrealistic. Chasing the Milky Way does not suffer from either of those problems. It is a very realistic look at what it is like to live with a mentally ill parent. Lucy deals with so much more than most kids will ever deal with, but I am sure kids with mentally ill parents will recognize a lot of her story. It is a book that was a bit hard to read because it seemed so realistic. I just knew disaster was around the corner and I kept not wanting it to arrive. I wanted Lucy and Cam to succeed but knew there was very little chance it was going to happen. It was almost like watching a horror movie where you knew the bad guy was going to attack at any moment. You cover your eyes or hide behind the chair and peak out at intervals. That is kind of like how I felt reading this book. Mama is not the bad guy of course, her illness is, but it still felt like it could jump out at you at any moment, which I am sure is how mental illness sometimes feels. This book is going to be a hard sell to a lot of readers, but the ones that tackle it are going to have their eyes open to a world I hope they never experience.
Johnny is a sheep who is left on the doorstep of Mrs. Mutton. She takes him in and raises him like any child. He goes to school and even though he is different he is basically treated like a weird child. This is a collection of three adventures, but really includes several short chapters that can all be read on their own. Graphic novels are extremely popular in the library and I am sure this one is going to find its fans. It is more geared towards beginning chapter book readers than some of the other graphic books I have read. Johnny is in kindergarten and dealing with first year of school type issues: friends, bullies, teachers, parents, etc. It was a light, entertaining read.
Boys of Blur is one of those books you are going to be thinking about long after you finish the last page. You will be wondering what just happened and how did all that fit into one short book. You will look at the book with squinted eyes as its cover and description has bamboozled you into thinking this was just your typical boys coming of age book. You will think all of that and then wonder if you should read the book again to see if there were things you missed. This was a very ambitious book that worked on a lot of levels. Sure it had a few issues, but it kept my attention. In fact, at a certain point in the book it grabbed my attention with both hands and wouldn’t let go until I completed the book. I’m still not 100% sure what exactly happened, but I know this is not a book I will soon be forgetting.
If you read the description and look at the cover of the book, you will think this is a book about sugarcane and boys running through the burning fields. It is about a boy named Charlie who comes back to the town of his birth, Taper, for the funeral of the legendary town football coach. He is accompanied by his stepfather Mack, mom Natalie and baby sister Molly. In Taper, Charlie meets his distant cousin Cotton who helps him begin his epic quest. He also learns his abusive father is in town somewhere and that Mack is thinking about taking over the football program at least through the end of the season. But this is mostly the story of sugarcane and muck and zombies. That’s right, zombies! Cotton takes Charlie into the sugarcane to show him these strange white stones on mounds of earth and the dead offerings that are left there. They meet Lio, with his helmet and sword, and Lio’s two panthers. Then comes the stank, the Gren, who are the dead risen again to be the army for the Mother. She wants to take back the world and bring it to ruin. Charlie and Cotton become embroiled in the struggle against the Gren. It is up to Charlie to find a way to stop the Mother and save Taper and ultimately the world.
When I started this book I really did think it was going to be about Charlie coming to terms with his abusive father and about Mack taking over the football program. I figured there would be a lot of running through the burning sugarcane chasing rabbits and football games and Charlie not fitting in with the other kids. Sure all of that stuff was there, but it was such a minor point of the book. I was not prepared for the story to take a turn for the supernatural. I wasn’t prepared for zombies or beings who control the dead. I wasn’t prepared for dead boys coming back to life. Maybe not being prepared made the book that much more intense. I wanted to keep reading to find out what the heck was going on. Sure sometimes I didn’t think the Gren story always worked, but it kept my attention as did the human story.
Charlie struggles to come to terms with his past. Mack and his father were football rivals who both went on to success. Unfortunately, his father’s demons got the better of him whereas Mack kept shining. That rivalry is still alive and well in the small town of Taper where football, even twenty year old football, still counts for a lot. So Charlie has to deal with other people talking about his dad like he is a hero when all Charlie knows is the abuse. I liked the fact that the adults were still valuable characters in this book. So often in middle grade novels the adults/parents are absent idiots who play no part in the story. Mack and Natalie are good parents and the story is even told from their point of view at times. Charlie’s dad also has his moments to shine even though his past doesn’t make him a hero.
I didn’t realize this was a homage to Beowulf until after I finished the book. It has been many years since I read Beowulf and I am not as familiar with it as I once was. It is mentioned briefly in the story, but it was not until I refamiliarized myself with the story that I realized how much Boys of Blur takes from Beowulf. It is not an exact reproduction of course but more of a homage to the epic poem. The Gren monsters attack the town and people of Taper, Charlie comes to do battle with the Gren then must battle the Mother. I don’t think you need to familiar with Beowulf to enjoy this story, but it is a great introduction and could lead young readers to seek out the original.
Violet Diamond is growing up different. She is a mixed race child in a predominantly white family and town. Her Black father died before she was born and she has never met his family. Her white mother and sister and grandparents love her and treat her like normal, but Violet often feels anything but normal. She gets frustrated when people look at her funny when she is out with her blond haired mother or sister. She gets frustrated when people think she is adopted instead of her mother’s natural child. Her family tries to tell her that race doesn’t matter, but to her it does since she is the one who is different. One day she overhears her mom and grandma talking about her other grandmother. She convinces her mom to let her meet the grandmother who has rejected her her entire life. At first Bibi is standoffish and distant as she blames Violet’s mother for her father’s death, but she does warm up to Violet and invite her to visit. Violet gets to meet her African American family and get to know her grandmother.
Even though I am white as can be, I did feel like I understood Violet just a bit. I grew up in a small town that had exactly two Black families. There was only one Black kid in my high school when I was there. I always wondered how they felt when they looked around the classroom or the cafeteria and saw no one like them. At least the one Jewish kid could hide in plain sight, but they were not able to blend in. Thankfully my small town as become more diverse in the past twenty years, but I am sure there are other towns out there just like it. Living in a city with a more diverse population you don’t think about race nearly as often. I see people of many colors, religions, and economic circumstances everyday. That isn’t to say there aren’t still problems, but it feels more like there shouldn’t be.
I thought this book did a wonderful job of portraying Violet’s frustration with her situation. There is never any doubt that she loves her family or that they love her. It is the people outside her immediate circle that bother her. Mixed race families can make people curious and sometimes rude; they will wonder if the children are biological, fostered or adopted. There are so many blended families today that I do wonder if this will become less and less of an issue. I thought this book was a good introduction to race for young readers. It doesn’t delve too much into negative aspects of black vs. white, but does show how it can impact a child’s life.
A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.
“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to becool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better. (from Goodreads.com)
In 1960s Toronto, two girls retreat to their attics to escape the loneliness and isolation of their lives. Polly lives in a house bursting at the seams with people, while Rose is often left alone by her busy parents. Polly is a down-to-earth dreamer with a wild imagination and an obsession with ghosts; Rose is a quiet, ethereal waif with a sharp tongue. Despite their differences, both girls spend their days feeling invisible and seek solace in books and the cozy confines of their respective attics. But soon they discover they aren’t alone–they’re actually neighbors, sharing a wall. They develop an unlikely friendship, and Polly is ecstatic to learn that Rose can actually see and talk to ghosts. Maybe she will finally see one too! But is there more to Rose than it seems? Why does no one ever talk to her? And why does she look so… ghostly? When the girls find a tombstone with Rose’s name on it in the cemetery and encounter an angry spirit in her house who seems intent on hurting Polly, they have to unravel the mystery of Rose and her strange family… before it’s too late. (from Goodreads.com)
Brown Girl Dreaming is Jacqueline Woodson’s wonderful novel in verse memoir of her childhood. She moves from her birthplace in Ohio to her mother’s people in South Carolina to New York. It is a story of leaving things behind as she leaves her father behind in Ohio and her beloved grandparents behind in South Carolina. It is a story of love and loss and hope and dreams. Woodson dreamed of creating stories and being a writer from an early age but struggled with a learning disability. The book also shows the struggle of Blacks during the Civil Rights era. We are shown what it means to be Black in South Carolina and how that is different in New York. Woodson’s story is beautiful and lyrical and a wonderful story to read. I’m not sure how much traction it will get with the elementary/middle school readers as novels in verse are sometimes a hard sell.
Nate loves musicals and dreams of being on Broadway. He concocts a scheme with his friend Libby to escape Jankburg, PA and run away to New York City and audition for E.T. the Musical. Nate is bullied at home and at school for being gay even though he says he is undecided on his sexuality. In New York, Nate realizes just how different the big city is. He is exposed to both the good and bad of city life as he sees how diverse the city is. His audition goes better than expected, but is still wonderfully strange. Nate’s dreams are coming true just as his scheme is coming to light at home. He is helped along the way by Libby and his Aunt Heidi. Then his mom shows up in New York and family secrets come to light.
I actually loved Nate. I thought he was an awesome mix of innocence and curiosity. I admit I laughed out loud when he did his first audition. I also really liked how Federle brought up the issue of sexuality in such a nonissue kind of way. It is a topic I think needs to be dealt with more in middle grade fiction. Thankfully it is slowly making its way into the mainstream, but there are still very few books that deal with it for this age group. Nate is called a fag and lady Nate and homo and all the other terrible words you can think of. Even his family uses derogatory language with him. I like that Nate is undecided, but obviously kind of interested in boys; he at least checks them out occasionally. Even so this is a very gentle introduction that is couched more in bullying then exploring your sexuality. I think it is a good way for kids to think about it and wonder how much bullying they do themselves without realizing it.
Celebrity Rehab star and Thelonious Monster frontman Bob Forrest’s memoir about his drug-fueled life in the L.A. indie rock scene of the ’80s and ’90s and his life-changing decision to become a drug counselor who specializes in reaching the unreachable.
Life has been one strange trip for Bob Forrest. He started out as a suburban teenage drunkard from the Southern California suburbs and went on to become a member of a hip Hollywood crowd that included the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Johnny Depp, and River Phoenix. Los Angeles was their playground, and they hung out in such infamous haunts as the Viper Room and the Whisky a Go Go.
Always one to push things to their limit, Bob partied the hardest and could usually be found at the center of the drama. Drugs weren’t Bob’s only passion. He was also a talented musician who commanded the stage as the wild and unpredictable lead singer of Thelonious Monster. They traveled the world, and their future seemed bright and wide open. But Bob’s demons grew stronger as he achieved more success and he sank deeper into his chemical dependency, which included alcohol, crack, and heroin habits. No matter how many times he went to rehab, sobriety just wouldn’t stick for him. Soon he saw his once-promising music career slip away entirely.
Eventually Bob found a way to defeat his addiction, and once he did, he saw the opportunity to help other hopeless cases by becoming a certified drug counselor. He’s helped addicts from all walks of life, often employing methods that are very much at odds with the traditional rehab approach.
Running with Monsters is an electrifying chronicle of the LA rock scene of the 1980s and ’90s, the story of a man who survived and triumphed over his demons, and a controversial perspective on the rehab industry and what it really takes to beat addiction. Bob tells his story with unflinching honesty and hard-won perspective, making this a reading experience that shocks, entertains, and ultimately inspires.
This book by Jackson Galaxy and Kate Benjamin is packed with ideas for making your home more cat friendly. Cats at war? Help is in this book! Have a shy cat who hides a lot? No problem! Catification not only has ideas for cat furniture and climbing walls, but it also has information about why cats are the way they are. For example, I discovered that the reason altercations happen on my staircase is because it is a matter of turf. By building a superhighway with multiple lanes for traffic, I can eliminate these altercations. The ideas in here range from $10 cost to $600 or more, so there is something for every budget. If you wish to make life better for the feline(s) in your life, I highly suggest picking up this book. It is a delightful, easy and fast read.
Arty is obsessed with space and finding life on Mars. His best friends Tripp and Priya support his obsession as does his dad who works in an observatory. When dad loses his job and decides to move the family to Las Vegas, Arty is devastated. There are too many lights in Vegas for stargazing. Arty is left with a mysterious neighbor when the parents go house hunting. Turns out the neighbor is not a zombie who will eat your face, but a retired astronaut who never made it to space. Arty and Cash bond over the stars and build a machine to make alien contact.
This is a lovely story about friendship not just with people your own age but who share your interests. It is also a story about not giving up on your dreams or letting others destroy them. I really enjoyed Arty’s family and their obsession with space. All the kids are named after stars even though they have shortened their names. I liked Arty’s friends as well. Tripp provided a nice comic relief and Priya was a great girl friend who isn’t a girlfriend. Cash was probably the most interesting character as he went from a gruff, unfriendly possible zombie/serial killer to a dying man trying to encourage his young friend. One editing quibble: at one point Arty says something about realizing Cash was as interested as he was in astrology…pretty sure it should have been astronomy. That threw me off and really stuck with me.
Astri and Greta live with their aunt and uncle on a farm in Norway. Their mother has died and their father has gone to America to find a better life. The aunt sells Astri to a goatman, Mr. Svaalberd, who doesn’t treat her very well. On the goatman’s farm she finds Spinning Girl who doesn’t talk but spins beautiful wool. Astri is determined to run away and find a better life for her and Greta. When she does finally get away, she is pursued by the goatman throughout her journey. Astri, Greta and Spinning Girl make their way to the coast and a ship to America. Turns out the money Astri stole from goatman will not get them all on the ship. Spinning Girl is left behind as Greta and Astri sail for America. Throughout the story Astri recounts tales and legends, mainly East of the Sun West of the Moon, to help her get through her horrible days. This is a time in history when the old ways have not given way to the new Christian beliefs completely. There is talk of trolls and huldrefolk and magic spells and rituals. It is an interesting mix of fantasy and reality in this historical tale. I found a lot of the historical information really interesting, especially how people had to supply themselves for voyages to America. I am not sure how many fans this book will find among the intended age group though. It is a little confusing with the mix of fantasy and reality and is plenty violent. I really wanted to like it more than I did.
I received this book from Netgalley.
Octobia May lives with her Aunt Shuma who runs a boarding house. Octobia is obsessed with Mr. Davenport, one of the boarders. She believes he is a vampire for much of the book. Octobia and her best friend Jonah start following Mr. Davenport and belief he killed a girl. No one believes them until Mr. Davenport and banker Mr. Harrison try to railroad Shuma when she goes for a loan. There is a lot of mystery and intrigue in this book as Octobia and Jonah try to figure out what is going on with Mr. Davenport. Octobia is a strange child who seems obsessed with death; she died for a little while and talks to the statues in the graveyard. There is a lot of important topics discussed in the book that aren’t often talked about in middle grade fiction. Some of the boarders are holocaust survivors, no one will loan Aunt Shuma money because she is black and single, schools are segregated, there is talk of passing as white for light skinned Blacks, mixed race children and what it means to be free. You would think all of that would make this a more enjoyable story. It doesn’t! I think Octobia’s vampire obsession at the beginning of the book just made the whole thing seem more unrealistic and put me off the rest of the story. It was a bit on the long side and seemed less cohesive than I would have liked.
I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.
Billionaire CEO Shawn Dunn has plenty of sex, power, and money. A woman turning down his advances? Unfathomable. Yet that’s what she does, again and again.
Kara Hayward is supposed to be off limits. Her sister is hiding from the dangerous assassin she escaped from, and it’s best for everyone if Shawn keeps his distance. Certainly as far as Kara is concerned. Shawn’s only after one thing and then he’ll walk away, just like her ex-husband.
But Shawn has larger desires and he’s used to getting what he wants. He doesn’t care if being together is dangerous. He doesn’t believe that threat to him, or his empire, is real. Right up to the night he has everything taken away.