Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

I didn't add a review of this book. I do remember being taken in by the writing and the characters. The story is sweet, profound and strong. I would have loved to read this one to my kids.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Bear and the Nightingale AND The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

 At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

 Opening line:
"It was late winter in northern Rus', the air sullen with wet that was neither rain nor snow."

I really loved being immersed in the folklore of Russia in this book. Vasya is a fantastic protagonist! She's witty, stubborn, adventurous, and finds herself getting into a lot of trouble. But she's okay with that because moves to her own beat. She sees "creatures" around the house and woods and becomes a friend and protector to them. She was raised to leave food and other treats for them to pay them for protecting the town.
But two things happen that cause problems and heartache for the town: Vasya's father remarries and a priest moves in. The stepmother sees the creatures too but she has a negative view of them which is ironically opposite of her stepdaughter. She comes across as mentally unstable and the villagers stay clear of her.
The priest takes it upon himself to cleanse the village of the heretics and their beliefs. In the process, he turns the villagers against their own beliefs, which leads to the village being vulnerable to more evil and death.
There are a lot of Russian names that I found hard to keep track of until about half way through the book when I understood who was related to who, etc. I enjoyed learning about Russia in this time period through the story.

Thanks to netgalley for the early review!

Orphaned and cast out as a witch by her village, Vasya’s options are few: resign herself to life in a convent, or allow her older sister to make her a match with a Moscovite prince. Both doom her to life in a tower, cut off from the vast world she longs to explore. So instead she chooses adventure, disguising herself as a boy and riding her horse into the woods. When a battle with some bandits who have been terrorizing the countryside earns her the admiration of the Grand Prince of Moscow, she must carefully guard the secret of her gender to remain in his good graces—even as she realizes his kingdom is under threat from mysterious forces only she will be able to stop.

 Opening line:
"A girl rode a bay horse through a forest late at night."

The Girl in the Tower is every bit as good as the The Bear and the Nightingale. I love the main character, Vasya, and her strength, determination and love for her family. When Vasya is left with no choice to live her own life, she escapes by dressing up as a boy and riding a magical horse across Russia in the depth of winter. She is united to a brother, sister and cousin who are all unwitting players in a play of lies, deception and evil rulers.
Each character is painted in rich colors as well as the landscape and homes of Russia. And against the austere and bleak backdrop of Russia, Vasya shines even more as a strong, intelligent woman who will do what she knows is right.

Thank you netgalley for this early read! I loved it!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Delilah's Desserts by Melanie Jacobson, Heather b. Moore, Julie Wright

Welcome to Tangerine Street

Tangerine Street is a must-see tourist stop with a colorful mix of one-of-a-kind boutiques, unique restaurants, eclectic museums, quaint bookstores, and exclusive bed-and-breakfasts. Delilah's Desserts, situated in the middle of this charming collection of shops and caf├ęs on Tangerine Street, is a bakery that offers a different variety of desserts each day. The emotions that Delilah bakes into these desserts have a strange effect on customers, sometimes altering the course of their lives . . .

A Taste of Magic by Melanie Jacobson
"Delilah stepped back from the giant mixes and brushed a stray lock of her hair out of her face."

The Art of Love by Heather Moore
"Roxy Randall hated her name all through elementary school."

Much Ado about Cupcakes by Julie Wright
"KC glanced at her watch before taking a sip of her lemon-infused water."

I LOVE the stories from Tangerine Street!

2017 Readying Update

I read 137 books.
Which equals over 45,000 pages.
My longest read (I actually listened to it) was:

Here are a few of my favorite reads (in particular order) from last year:

Saturday, November 25, 2017

GAME CHANGE by Joseph Monninger

Can one game really change everything?

Seventeen-year-old Zeb Holloway works in his uncle’s auto repair shop and spends his weekends deer hunting in New Hampshire’s backwoords. He’s a quarterback on his high school’s undefeated football team, but he never plays. Why would he when T.T. Munroe—a walking, talking highlight real—is around? That is, until T.T.’s injured a week before the state championship game.

Now Zeb’s tapped to start. As he assumes the role of QB and team leader, it feels like the entire town is watching. Girls want to talk to him and adults want to shake his hand. When a college recruiter says Zeb could have a future beyond his small New Hampshire town, he realizes there’s a bigger life out there for him…if he can play his heart out.

  Opening line:
"Later, in the week that followed, Zeb Holloway watched the injury form again and again."

A coming-of-age story told from a second string football players perspective.
Zeb Holloway doesn't plan on playing much on his high school football team, thanks to the awesome QB who is bring the team to state. Until the QB is hurt. Zeb is thrust in the spotlight and he's not too sure what to think about the instant notoriety.
The story follows Zeb through the week leading up to the state game. He wrestles with who he is, where he's from and what he really expects out of life. Each day leading up to the game seem to solidify and center him in what he wants. Things move a little fast compared to what it might move in real life but I liked the day-to-day decisions and effects.

There are a few "F" bombs and a bit of swearing.
There is kissing.
There is "boy" humor.

Thanks to netgalley for the early read!

Friday, November 24, 2017

IF MY MOON WAS YOUR SUN by Georges Bizet, Sergei Prokofiev, Nele Palmtag

Did you hear the story about Max, the boy who kidnapped his grandfather from a nursing home ? You didn't see it on the news? Well, let me tell you about it.

Max lives in a small town, much smaller than yours. His grandpa is losing his memory, but still remembers quite a bit. You can imagine how they hurried, Max and his grandpa, followed by old Miss Schneider, who insisted on coming along. Why were they in a hurry? Because everyone was after them. Max had skipped school to rescue his grandpa, and they were just starting out on what promised to be one of the best days of their entire lives.

A touching story about dementia and the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren, with full-color illustrations and a read-along CD audiobook featuring twelve classical pieces for children by Georges Bizet and Sergei Prokofiev.

 Opening line:
"Early one morning--just a week after his ninth birthday--Max woke up filled with a feeling that something was missing."

Max misses his grandfather, who is in a nursing home with the early onset of dementia. He visits his grandpa often and one day comes up with a plan to break his grandpa out of the home and take him on an adventure. Max is afraid of losing his grandpa because of the loss of memory; he doesn't want grandpa to forget him.

This was beautifully told and illustrated. I didn't get the audiobook and music, only the book to review. I want to listen to it now. The only teeniest part that bothered me: I hope no grand children try to kidnap their forgetful grandparents! :)

Thanks to netgalley for the early read!!

Friday, November 17, 2017

HAVENCROSS by Julie Daines

When a shocking scandal involving her father spreads through London society, Elaine Cardinham and her parents are forced to retreat to their country home in Cornwall for refuge. But Havencross is no sanctuary for Elaine. She is haunted by the mysterious disappearance of her brother—and the heartbreak she left in her wake all those years ago. It has been five long years since Gareth Kemp last saw Elaine—when she rejected his marriage proposal. Her reappearance convinces him of one thing: he has never stopped loving her. To put his feelings for her aside, he focuses his attention on the dangerous smuggling plaguing the Cornish coast. As Elaine attempts to run from her past, she ventures ever closer to a dangerous truth—and Gareth may be the only one who can save her from a deadly finish.

 Opening line:

"Two hundred fifty miles into this journey and not a word spoken."

Deception, lies, romance, unrequited love and smugglers all roll along in Ms. Daines newest, delightful book.

Elaine's family is still reeling from the death of her brother and now from the scandal of something her father did. They move from London, and the wagging tongues of gossips, back to Havencross, their little country home. Elaine has no hope of marriage prospects now. How she wishes she would have accepted the marriage proposal of Gareth now.
Gareth's family is always reeling from a death. His father was killed by smugglers and he wants them brought to justice. But the local authorities don't seem to make any progress on finding the killers. When he sees Elaine again, he tries to stay away from her; she did break his heart, after all.

This story is set in Cornwall, England, in the era when there were smugglers. The story is woven masterfully to include tension, romance and suspense. There were tender moments between different characters. I really enjoyed the interchange between Elaine and her Aunt Rose and creating your own Camelot.

If you like regency romance, a well-written story and characters you can love, this book is for you!