Edgewater by Courtney Scheinmel

For some reason, although I do love the idea of this book along with the striking cover, this book didn’t seem as awesome as I hoped it would. It starts out as an all-American story. Lorrie and her family have ye olde “family money,” and live quite well off of it until the summer before her senior year at her elite boarding school. While at equestrian camp (yes, you read that right), she is called to the dean’s office for what qualifies as “insufficient funds.”

edgewaterWhile I don’t usually feel sorry for characters who suddenly lose their family fortune, and in this case I did get frustrated with Lorrie a few times. She was complaining to the boy who had the exact same thing happen to him just a few years prior. She kept telling herself that at least she was still better than him. Come on, though, I think Sheinmel wanted us to kind of hate her in those moments.

This is also an American story, like I said. I kept drawing parallels between the Kennedy’s and Lorrie’s boyfriend’s family. Because Lorrie is dating Charlie Copeland, the son of an esteemed US senator, and he lives in the house. Because in Idlewald, Road Island, there are houses builders that try to emulate the Copeland estate, and there are families who want to stay as far away as they can from Lorrie’s own crumbling mansion.

I honestly want to hear what you think about this one. A lot of Goodreads reviews talked about how much they adored this book (and as a YA debut, I really like it, too). However the ending of this book seemed too… neat. There’s a scandal in the last 1/4 of this piece that makes me yearn for an ending that is just as messy. So when there’s so much hope and love and acceptance at the end, it just kind of made me think Sheinmel was afraid to pull an R.R. Martin.

 

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher

family fletcherI was planning on reading this long before I did, but here I found myself, a  year after it was published, reading all about this wonderful family. This is a book about four brothers and their relationship with their dads. The thing I loved about this, though, is that the fact that they’re the children of a gay couple is not at the forefront of this story.

 

The primary plot point of this book was the children themselves, and their growing pains as they evolve as individuals and as a family. It was refreshing to read a book that wasn’t all about the parents here. Yes, at one point Sam (the eldest at age 12) makes a comment about “theater kids” and then has to backtrack a bit, but that’s it! As someone who reads a lot of LGBTQ lit and seeks out good stories, I was so thoroughly pleased with this one. Good on you, Levy!

 

Speaking of… Guess who got a shout-out from the author after her tweet? tweet

Agree? Disagree? Do you have a book featuring two dads that you loved more? I’d love to hear from you!

The War That Saved My Life

the war that saved my lifeI find myself reading through the Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award List for this year, and I’m so pleased I made this decision. Most states have these lists, this is the list of books educators and librarians form Illinois want kids to read this year. It’s geared towards older elementary-middle school-aged children. I never would have chosen this book on my own. Not because the premise isn’t interesting to me (it’s set during WWII in Great Britain, ad the protagonist is a  girl with a club foot), but because I generally don’t like historical fiction. It pains me to say it because, as a librarian, aren’t I supposed to like everything? I don’t. But I really enjoyed this book.

Ada has a club foot. Her Mam doesn’t want the neighbors to know about her daughter’s deficiencies, and so has forbidden her to leave the house. When she “misbehaves,” her Mam shuts her in a cupboard under the sink where cockroaches and rats like to crawl on her because it’s so damp. Ada’s brother Jamie is six, and given their socioeconomic standing in combination with his age, has no concept of why his sister is treated the way she is. When the children are sent out of London because of the threat of air raids, Ada and Jamie run away in the night and join the other children at the train station. Hours later, they’re in a station in Kent where Ada realizes, to her embarrassment, that they’re the dirtiest children there. Nobody volunteers to take them in.

The children are brought to a woman who lives alone in a large house, who’s “friend” Rebecca has recently died. She’s depressed and doesn’t believe she has any right to take care of children. Slowly, they start to heal each other’s emotional wounds. Susan, the children’s caretaker, has a good understanding of psychology as she seems to know how to calm Ada down when she gets truly upset.

While this story is historical fiction, this book’s sucker-punch was how the children overcame their mother’s abuse. After years of telling the neighbors that her daughter was too stupid to leave the house (I’m paraphrasing here. The words used were not the kind I’d like to repeat) they were finally in the custody of a loving adult. There are real life children who went through that kind of abuse then and now, whether because people were too poor to afford treatment for physical handicaps or because they didn’t understand them well enough. This story has a happy ending of acceptance and friendship for the children, as many of the true victims of abuse don’t.

Has anyone else out there read this book? If you haven’t, would you based on his review?

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

lockwood and co.My amazing coworkers. I can’t say enough good things about them. But one of their best qualities, I find, is their ability to find books I’ve passed up and make me want to read them. The Screaming Staircase (book one of the Lockwood & Co. series) is one such book. When L came to work raving about it, I knew I should give it a shot. But I kind of wrote it off because she branded it “horror.” Not only that, she did a creepy impression of a ghost who had “almost had it’s neck snapped” that stayed with me for days. I digress. When another coworker came in and said she’d finished the book in record time, I took notice. She’s a known horror-phobe… especially in children’s books. She worries for the characters. That’s when I knew.

In a parallel universe, where The Problem (ie hauntings) runs rampant, Lucy Carlyle begins working for Anthony Lockwood. He’s the proprietor of the smallest Psychic Detective Agency in London, competing with the likes of the Fitz Agency that have been around since The Problem began.

Oh, and did I mention? The only ones who can see the ghosts, ghouls, spirits, and mayhem-makers are children, adolescents, and teenagers. Lucy was trained in the art of psychic detection from the age of five.

Now Lucy, Lockwood, and their dry companion George are off to Combe Carey Hall, for what promises to be the most terrifying night of their lives.

The one critique we all had was that perhaps it might be a bit scary. Does anyone out there have similar thoughts?

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

stellaI’ve known about this book for a while. Well, since the beginning of 2015 when it was published. So I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t read it when it came out, but in my defense I was going through my “only YA and picture books” phase, and I didn’t get out of that until about four months ago. So here we are today. I’m reformed.

In my reformed state I’m here to tell you that Stella by Starlight was one of those books that I’ll probably never forget. From Stella’s tenacity that I truly believe I see every day in my patrons and remember feeling myself, to her confusion about why things are happening the way they are, I’ll never forget it. Nevermind the fact that a certain political candidate has Klan members at his rallies nowadays, this book was extremely relevant to the social climate today even though it took place during a time when Jim Crow laws were being enforced.

What starts out as a fire witnessed by Stella (11-year-old wannabe reporter from Bumblebee, NC) and her brother Jojo quickly becomes an issue throughout the town. That wasn’t just any fire. It was the Klu Klux Klan, and they’ve made their presence more than known to the people of color in Bumblebee. When Stella’s father, the local minister, and another local father go to register to vote, a family is targeted. Suddenly the idea that she might not be the best writer in her class is overshadowed by the reality that there’s a family of 12 that suddenly finds itself without a home. While Stella grapples with the implications of racism in her town, she also sees kindness from her African American neighbors and even some of the white people in town.

This was difficult to read, simply because it is so relevant today. Your heart breaks for Stella, her family, and the fact that many children had similar or worse experiences than she did at this time.

Have you read Stella by Starlight? If so, let me know what you thought of the book. If you haven’t, does this sound like something you’ve read recently?

The Door By the Staircase by Katherine Marsh

door by the staircaseHere’s an example of an excellent audiobook I never would have found if it weren’t for Hoopla. What’s all this “Hoopla,” you may ask? It’s a new database at my place of work that has the most attractive interface of any library e-content book I’ve ever seen. On to the book review!

I had an inkling I’d like this one based solely on the fact that it’s a retelling of the Baba Yaga stories out of Russia. And it doesn’t try to be anything else. In fact, one of the first interactions our main character, Mary, has with anyone at the house is with Baba Yaga’s assistant, who quickly informs her that Madame Z., as she’s known throughout the book, is trying to fatten her up so she’ll be plump enough to eat. But Mary is too resilient for that. She’s much braver than anyone bargained for, and that comes in handy.

Replete with a flying mortar and pestle, a house that runs around on chicken legs, an enchanting cat, and a town full of otherworldly neighbors, this is a brilliant retelling. Let’s face it, it’s hard to make all that work and still seem menacing, but Marsh pulls it off.

I’d also recommend this audiobook above the text version for anyone trying to sell this book to children. The pronunciations are very difficult here, especially to those of us who aren’t familiar with Russian.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

Release Date:

September 1, 2015

Summary

I adored this book, especially after the disaster that was A Whole New World by Liz Braswell. I was just really pulling for Disney/Hyperion to slay it on this awesome book, and they really pulled through for me.

In a world where mythical creatures called “Othersiders” have reshaped society, it’s up to the Hunters to keep humanity safe (and alive). Each is armed with a pack of dogs (usuallyl 3-4) from the Otherside, but Joyeux Charmond has the largest pack out of the group of hundreds of hunters she lives with. From the moment she moved from her small town to the big city, she’s been on guard. Unsure of whether her uncle–a man of power–can be trusted, she worries that he or his Psimon bodyguard (a mind reader) might try to end her life. Her rosy ideals are not ready for a life where she must guard herself from even her fellow Hunters. Joy must decide who to avoid and who to trust, especially in this (literally) post-apocalyptic world.

Opinions

If you’re a big fan of mythology and folklore, this is for you. It’s got everything from Cerberus to a pack of vampires and sneaky dragons. It’s also deeply disturbing because of the religious references. It seems like how radical Christians would act if they weren’t chosen for the rapture, which is what the radicals think happened.

Hunger Games fans will enjoy it, as will any fantasy fanatic.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publication Date:

August 18, 2015

Review:

Absolutely stunning. This novel takes on the idea of ghosts, both real and emotional as they affect an entire family. Cara’s family struggles to survive during the accident season every year. From October 1-31, there’s an increase in scrapes, broken bones, and other more fatal injuries. Like when her dad drowned. Or her uncle. This accident season, even more odd things are happening. For one, Elsie (the weird mousy girl from school) is in every one of her photos. Not just the ones she’s taken in this last few weeks, but in every photo on her phone and in the photo albums at her mom’s house, Elise is there… watching. When she tries to confront Elise about everything, she’s not at school and nobody knows where she is. Or who she is, for that matter.

Then there’s Bea. Her best friend has been acting extra weird around her sister Alice, and she and her ex-stepbrother Sam are both starting to notice. Speaking of Sam, he’s looking at her differently these days too. Just as it’s about to come to a close, Bea reads (in her Tarot deck) that this accident season will be one of the worst.

Filled with ghosts and monsters straight out of a fairy tale, this novel set in rural Ireland was a real treat of a ghost story. It’s anything but typical, and I can’t wait for someone to please please please read this so that I can actually talk to them about it!

Verdict:

Holly Black meets John Green meets Ireland. Boom. (That’s an “I would recommend to anyone” for all of you not familiar with my weirdness).

Have you read this book? Is there anything similar out there that I can read before I lose my mind? Can we start a support group? 

At The Same Moment Around the World and Julia, Child

At the Same Moment Around the World by Clotilde Perrin

This book was great to me, not only because it resembles Isabelle Arsenault’s illustration style (and I’ve gone on about that before) but because it’s got absolutely phenomenal cultural representation. It’s a great introduction to time zones–the whole thing is all about what various children around the globe are doing in one moment–but it also features many countries that are underrepresented in picture books. For example, “in Nuuk, Greenland, it is three o’clock in the morning, and Lexi can’t sleep,” along with Hanoi, Vietnam, and Baghdad, Iraq. Obviously all children are fictional, but the introduction to various countries is crucial, especially those that are often featured on the news in a way that might be scary for young readers. It’s important that they see there are people like them all over the world, and we all do similar things!

Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Can you guess who this one is about? You’re right! In this book, Julia and Simca’s friendship is front and center, and readers explore a world of culinary delights that unite children and adults alike. Charming illustrations accompany and feature scenes like a lovely French street market, cooking class with snobby would-be cooks, and of course two friends who want to share their passion for food with others. It’s no wonder that I love this book–it features two of my very favorite things in the world!

Side note: Here’s another one by Kyo Maclear. I think I have a new favorite picture book author for 2015!

What great picture books are you guys excited about this week? 

The Things You Kiss Goodbye by Leslie Connor

I was so impressed by this book. I can remember going to little “talks” in high school where they would talk about how many high school relationships are abusive (that statistic is up to roughly 10% according to a CDC article I found while writing this). It seemed so high to me at the time. I’d never experienced anything like what I imagined an abusive relationship was like. I got these ideas–from Law & Order: SVU and from those talks in my health class in high school–that abuse was always rape o physical abuse, that the women and men who take that kind of abuse are just hit one day and afraid to say anything because they’re too surprised. That’s true, and I’m not saying that that doesn’t happen. However a lot of what I’d consider abuse now as a twenty-something isn’t as overt as that.

Plot

This book was a breath of fresh air as someone who’s been in an abusive, controlling, manipulative relationship. This book is important for the very reason that it describes Bettina’s relationship with her boyfriend Brady as picture-perfect. It’s the kind of relationship that all teenage art kids dream of (I know I did) where the basketball star notices you and wants to make you his because he sees how unique you are. You’re his special snowflake that he defends in front of his jock friends. But when he starts to act cruelly, Bettina can’t believe it. She’s so shocked that she doesn’t say anything to him. And when she does he brushes it off, telling her that it’s all in her head, that she needs to lighten up, that it was just a joke. That brushoff is what made this book seem real to me.

She is lucky enough to find someone who gets her through her abuse and who reminds her often enough that she’s better than that abusive relationship that she eventually leaves Brady.

Verdict

This book had me crying on the train to Chicago before a big date night, and my mascara ran all over. It was a mess. Needless to say don’t read this in public unless you’d like to make a spectacle of yourself. I normally totally judge books by their covers, but this one is definitely deceptive. It seems like it’ll be a fun little romp into the land of teen dating and the life of a girl whose parents are Greek (like, Greek Greek) and control most of her life. It was not. It’s a sad book. I cannot stress this enough. But I also know it’s an important book because it describes a realistic abusive relationship between two teens.