2018 Reading Challenges

Hi all! I hope you all had a happy holiday season!

I’m getting all prepped for the upcoming year and have decided on my new reading challenges! This year I’ll be combining two challenges in the hopes of whittling down some of my TBR shelves.

Challenge #1: Sweeping the Shelves

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For the first challenge, I’ve decided to tweak Lia’s Down the Rabbit Hole challenge a bit and clean up my real world bookshelves instead of my Goodreads lists. So starting after New Years, I will instituting “Sweeping the Shelves”. This will be a weekly post that talks about a handful of books that I own but haven’t read. I will list them, with descriptions, and then decide if I want to keep them or donate them.

Challenge #2: 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

I’ve been doing the PopSugar Challenge since 2015 and this year will be no exception. I am planning on tweaking it a bit too, though. I’m going to try to read only books I already own or can get for free from the library or internet. This should help me clean up my shelves as well, as I plan to donate most of the books I read that were owned by me to either the library or the mission, depending on their condition. I’m also going to let myself branch out from the list a bit. This year I managed to read 76 books, but only about 40 of those matched up with the PopSugar list. I’m going to attempt to stick a little better to the list this year, but I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t finish it.

So those are my two reading challenges for this year. I think they should work fairly well together, with Sweeping the Shelves helping me to decide what to read for the PopSugar Challenge. And hopefully it’ll help me clear out the books I’m probably never going to read to make shelf space for some fun new books in 2019!


How about you guys? Did you do any reading challenges this year? Are you planning any for 2018?

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Book Review – Furiously Happy

Book: Furiously Happy – Author: Jenny Lawson

Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor, Mental Illness, Memoir

Description from Goodreads:

In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

My Review:

There is NO way I’m going to do this book justice, but I wanted to review it in case that might entice you to read it, even if it doesn’t seem like your normal choice for a book.

Jenny Lawson is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever come across. I stumbled across her previous book, ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’, in the library a couple years ago and was intrigued enough by the tiny mouse Hamlet on the cover to pick it up. I LOVED it. Since then, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of her second book and the wait was not in vain.

tinymousehamlet
Tiny Mouse Hamlet

This book is HILARIOUS. I literally laughed through the entire thing, which is amazing when you consider the context of some of the chapters. The text jumps from quirky taxidermy, to anxiety-induced terror, to hugging koalas dressed as a koala, to serious depression, to insignificant arguments about being attacked by swans. The pace never really stalls on one topic for too long, which allows the author to explain the serious stuff with poignancy, but also keeps the reader from falling too far down the rabbit hole and gives the overall impression of a light-hearted, but meaningful read.

I will say, if you are looking for a serious book about mental illness, this is not the book for you. There ARE chapters about it, but as I said above, the author jumps about and never focuses on one thing for too long. I personally loved that, as the discussions made me feel connected to the author (especially considering my own anxiety issues), but didn’t force me to delve so deep that I felt miserable.

Making the reader feel miserable is completely the opposite of what this book is trying to do. Trying to make readers who don’t have these issues completely understand all the intricate details of the illnesses isn’t what the book is trying to do. What the author IS trying to do is give the readers who don’t have issues a small glimpse of what those mental issues can do to someone, while still providing them a fun read, and to let the readers who do have issues know that they aren’t alone and that they should focus on the Happy Times, because they WILL come around again.

And that’s the main message of this book: Be Furiously Happy. Pack as much happy as you can into those moments of clarity. Not only does it make living more fun, but once the storm hits again, you can remember the Happy Times and know that they will return, if you can just keep yourself afloat long enough.

I don’t want to go into too much detail on the Happy Times the author talks about in her life, because that takes all the fun out of reading it. AND YOU SHOULD READ IT. RIGHT NOW. The only thing I’ll leave you with is the picture on the inside of the cover with the confirmation that it DOES happen in the book…Raccoon Cat Rodeo anyone? 😉

furiouslyhappy_catrodeo

Similar Book(s):

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

Hyperbole & a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, and Other Things That Happened – Allie Brosh

What’cha Readin’?

My librarians are AWESOME! I popped in a couple of weeks ago and while I was there I requested a book. They must have ordered it IMMEDIATELY because it was available for me to pick up on Friday!

This fabulous event caused me to want to check in with all of you, share my current TBR pile, and see what you guys are reading.

My Library Book:

Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson)

Description from Goodreads: In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

furiouslyhappyAccording to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

Why I Picked It: Jenny Lawson is one of those hard-to-find authors who can talk about really terrible things without depressing the crap out of you (think Allie Brosh, but in novel form). I stumbled across her first book, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, at the very beginning of my 2015 reading challenge and it was brilliant. I’ve been following her blog since and she is completely hilarious. I’m only about 40 pages into this book so far and I am definitely happy that I requested it (and that my librarians are so awesome).

My Christmas Reads:

The Guardians: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King; E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core!; Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (William Joyce)

Description from Goodreads: This boxed set of the first three Guardians books is the perfect companion to the Rise of the Guardians movie!

guardiansOf course you know the Guardians. You’ve known them since before you can remember and you’ll know them till your memories are like twilight: Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the others. But where did they come from? How did they become beloved and worthy of holidays? And what nefarious evildoer prompts them to band together and protect the children of the world?

Answers are revealed and imaginations unfurl in this this treasure trove of a boxed set. Both a standalone collectible and the ideal complement to the mesmerizing Dreamworks Animation movie Rise of the Guardians, this set includes the first three titles in the Guardians chapter book series: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core!, and Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies.

Why I Picked It: Ok, fess up time. I LOVE the Rise of the Guardians movie. Like, seriously love it. Like, “I could put it on in the morning and replay it all day” love it. I know, I know, it’s a kids movie. But WHAT A KIDS MOVIE! It’s extremely well done and a totally unique re-imagining of characters I’ve always loved. And, yeah, reading the books AFTER the watching the movie can be dangerous territory…but I’m gonna give it a go anyway. 😉


So what are you guys currently reading? Have any holiday books lined up?

A Tribute to Cat Winters

Well, this is a bit of a diversion for me, but I just finished ‘Odd & True’ and felt the need to sing my praises for the author: Cat Winters.

I have never found a Cat Winters book that wasn’t binge-worthy. Granted, I’ve only read 3 of her novels so far, but that’s still really impressive. So I thought I would give you my thoughts on the books I’ve read and introduce everyone to this fabulous author!

In The Shadow of Blackbirds

13112915Description from Goodreads: In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

My Review: This was my first Cat Winters novel and, boy, did it catch me by surprise! The description sounded interesting, but I didn’t realize I’d become enthralled enough to read it in one sitting! The author combines true history (the horror of WWI and the Spanish Influenza outbreak) and a supernatural romance…and manages to come out with a wonderful and completely believable tale.

The Cure for Dreaming

curefordreamingDescription from Goodreads: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. 

My Review: Coming off the Blackbirds book, I had a feeling this one would be better than it sounded, and I was right! It was another single-sitting, page-turner! Once again, the author manages to join together real history and the supernatural into a story that feels completely true to life. She really seems to understand (and explain well) what living in the early 1900s must have been like for a strong-minded young woman.

Odd & True

oddandtrueDescription from Goodreads: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

My Review: Sigh, another great one. I love how the author always manages to spin a tale that seems creepy and supernatural, but often has real issues and struggles at the heart of it. This one is more of a coming-of-age tale; that time in everyone’s life when the magic dies and reality sets in…but only if you let it.

Her other books (which my library doesn’t have, darnit) include:

The Uninvited

theuninvitedDescription from Goodreads: Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days. But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

The Steep & Thorny Way

thesteepandthornywayDescription from Amazon: A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now the killer is out of jail and back in town, and he’s claiming that Hanalee’s father’s death wasn’t an accident at all. Instead, he says that Hank was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who just so happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

In order to get the answers she needs, Hanalee will have to ask a “haint” wandering the roads at night—her father himself.

Yesternight

yesternightDescription from Goodreads: In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys (An Anthology with Several Other Authors)

slashergirlsDescription from Goodreads: A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.


Have you given Cat Winters a try? Read any of the books I haven’t gotten to yet? What did you think?

Book Review – A Study in Charlotte

Book: A Study in Charlotte – Author: Brittany Cavallaro

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, YA

Description from Goodreads:

The last thing Jamie Watson wants is a rugby scholarship to Sherringford, a Connecticut prep school just an hour away from his estranged father. But that’s not the only complication: Sherringford is also home to Charlotte Holmes, the famous detective’s great-great-great-granddaughter, who has inherited not only Sherlock’s genius but also his volatile temperament. From everything Jamie has heard about Charlotte, it seems safer to admire her from afar.

From the moment they meet, there’s a tense energy between them, and they seem more destined to be rivals than anything else. But when a Sherringford student dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Jamie and Charlotte are being framed for murder, and only Charlotte can clear their names. But danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

My Review:

Let me start off with a confession: I totally thought both Charlotte AND Jamie were going to be girls when I started this book. I don’t know why; it specifically states in the description “keep HIS distance”. I must have read it wrong. ::shrugs:: Anyway, that notion was disabused in the very first page, so I quickly realized I was incorrect. And that I was disappointed. (Me = ::giant sigh:: “This is going to turn into a romance book, isn’t it?”)

Not that this book wasn’t awesome. It really was. Once I got over my confusion about genders (and my confusion on how Jamie got a rugby scholarship to a USA school), I found myself enthralled in this homage to the Sherlock Holmes novels. The characters were both familiar and new. Charlotte has a lot of the same issues as Sherlock, though for completely different reasons, and Jaime is (temperamentally at least) extremely similar to Doctor Watson. But they were also completely original characters with their own spirits and issues.

It did seem a bit strange to me that Jaime felt like it was destiny that he become Charlotte’s Watson, even given his family history. His dad was completely obsessed with the Holmes’ too, almost to the point of willingly endangering his child in order to push the two together. It made it feel a TAD creepy at times. But, hey, it’s a Sherlock book, so we’ll overlook that for now. 😉

The mystery was really interesting. I was kept guessing until the very end of the book, which was a nice change from some of the other mystery books I’ve been reading recently. I loved the nod to the Sherlock mysteries; it was a great way to tie the timelines together a bit and pull in the Sherlock lovers. They even included the Moriarty family! But everything was brought into the story in a way that made sense. Nothing felt pushed in just to have a callback to the original stories.

And, yes, it is looking like the series WILL be romancy. But I do think it works for these two characters. Fingers crossed it doesn’t turn into either a “I want to be with you, but circumstances are keeping us apart (over and over an over again)” or a gushy “I love you so much, you are the only thing in the world that matters” kind of romance. Let’s keep up the mysteries! That’s kind of the point of a Sherlock book, right? 😉

I don’t want to spoil things too much, so I won’t say much more. But this was a great leading book for the series, finishing off the current mystery but leaving the reader with just enough hints towards other mysteries that might take place in the future. I’ll likely pick up the second book, “The Last of August”, once my library snags a copy.

Similar Book(s):

The Clockwork Scarab (Colleen Gleason)

Library Haul – I Never Just Stick to the List!

Well, I’m out of projects at work, so I was taking a break from my back-up editing and perusing Goodreads when I stumbled upon a book called ‘The Long Earth’. Sounded intriguing, so I decided to make a trip up the street to the local library to grab it and one other book that I’d been looking at a few days ago. Then this happened…

The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter)

thelongearthNORMALLY, WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING TO DO, HE LISTENED TO THE SILENCE. The Silence was very faint here. Almost drowned out by the sounds of the mundane world. Did people in this polished building understand how noisy it was? The roar of air conditioners and computer fans, the susurration of many voices heard but not decipherable…. This was the office of the transEarth Institute, an arm of the Black Corporation. The faceless office, all plasterboard and chrome, was dominated by a huge logo, a chesspiece knight. This wasn’t Joshua’s world. None of it was his world. In fact, when you got right down to it, he didn’t have a world; he had all of them. I seem to be on a sci-fi kick lately and, though I haven’t been super fond of my attempts at the DiscWorld series, Terry Pratchett’s storylines always sound so intriguing that I thought I’d give him another chance.

Borne (Jeff VanderMeer)

borneIn Borne, a young woman named Rachel survives as a scavenger in a ruined city half destroyed by drought and conflict. The city is dangerous, littered with discarded experiments from the Company—a biotech firm now derelict—and punished by the unpredictable predations of a giant bear. Rachel ekes out an existence in the shelter of a run-down sanctuary she shares with her partner, Wick, who deals his own homegrown psychoactive biotech. One day, Rachel finds Borne during a scavenging mission and takes him home. Borne as salvage is little more than a green lump—plant or animal?—but exudes a strange charisma. Borne, learning to speak, learning about the world, is fun to be with, and in a world so broken that innocence is a precious thing. But as Borne grows, he begins to threaten the balance of power in the city and to put the security of her sanctuary with Wick at risk. For the Company, it seems, may not be truly dead, and new enemies are creeping in. I don’t normally enjoy dystopians, but I keep coming back to this one on Goodreads. I’m not sure why, but I figure I’ll go with my gut and try it out.

Shadows at the Fair (Lea Wait)

shadowsatthefairIgnorance is truly bliss for recently widowed Maggie Summer, owner of Shadows Antiques, when she arrives at the prestigious Rensselaer County Spring Antiques Fair. Sadly, she won’t remain ignorant of the suspiciously high mortality rate among her fellow antiques dealers for long. Rumors are everywhere. The most recent victim, John Smithson, died of poison at a show just last week, and many of the same dealers are here at Rensselaer. They make the identical circuit year after year, so they know each other well. Or do they? The opening night wine has hardly stopped flowing when death claims another victim. Maggie will still sell a few antique prints, but she’ll spend most of her time looking for a killer and trying to save a vulnerable young friend. Will Maggie herself become a potential victim? The answer may be in one of Maggie’s prints, but she has hundreds in her booth. Where should she begin? I do so love my guilty pleasure cozy mysteries. I passed by this one three times while looking for my other books and decided to just go for it. 🙂

Matchless (Gregory Maguire)

matchlessWith ‘Matchless’, Gregory Maguire has reinvented the Hans Christian Andersen classic ‘The Little Match Girl’ for a new time and new audiences. Originally asked by National Public Radio to write an original story with a Christmas theme, the New York Times bestselling author of ‘Wicked’ and ‘A Lion Among Men’ was once again inspired by the fairy tales we all loved in childhood—and he composed a poignant and enchanting tale of transcendence. A lovely and beautifully illustrated gift, ‘Matchless’ places Andersen’s pitiful waif in the august company of Maguire’s previously re-imagined Snow White (Mirror, Mirror), Cinderella (Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), and, of course, the Wicked Witch and other denizens of Oz. I’m not sure what caught my eye about this book, maybe it was the really bright green cover sitting on the end of it’s shelf or maybe it was the author’s name (he always uses that very distinct font). I don’t really like Gregory Maguire; ‘Wicked’ was disappointing and I barely got started on ‘Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister’ before I DNF’d it. But I really, really WANT to like Gregory Maguire, so I keep trying anyway. Sigh.

And from my own shelf…

I’m actually currently in the middle of another book, which has been quite fun so far. Guess it’ll be on hold for a bit now. 😉

Off To Be The Wizard (Scott Meyer)

offtobethewizardMartin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard. An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin… and not, y’know, die or anything. I bought this one because it just sounded hilarious. I kind of have a thing about modern people getting stuck in the past (and vice versa); when done right, they can be really entertaining stories. I’m about halfway on this one and it has been a blast so far. I’ll be honest, the main character is a little annoying, but he’s growing on me. And I think there might be a “wizard” battle on the horizon!


So what’s on your To-Read List?

T5W – “A Happy Child is a Child Reading a Good Book”

Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is: Children’s Books! Now, I love me a good children’s novel, so I’m going to do a bit extra in this post. Instead of just 5 books, I’m going to give you 5 more recent novels and 5 older novels. 🙂 — To keep things a bit shorter, I’ll just give you the descriptions from Goodreads by themselves instead of adding a personal review, but I have read each of these books and would recommend them all highly!

Recent Novels

Circus Mirandus (Cassie Beasley)

circusmirandusMicah believes in the stories his dying Grandpa Ephraim tells him of the magical Circus Mirandus: the invisible tiger guarding the gates, the beautiful flying birdwoman, and the magician more powerful than any other—the Man Who Bends Light. Finally, Grandpa Ephraim offers proof. The Circus is real. And the Lightbender owes Ephraim a miracle.

The Island of Dr. Libris (Chris Grabenstein)

islandofdrlibrisBilly’s spending the summer in a lakeside cabin that belongs to the mysterious Dr. Libris. But something strange is going on. Besides the security cameras everywhere, there’s Dr. Libris’s private bookcase. Whenever Billy opens the books inside, he can hear sounds coming from the island in the middle of the lake. The clash of swords. The twang of arrows. Sometimes he can even feel the ground shaking. It’s almost as if the stories he’s reading are coming to life!

The Book of Storms (Ruth Hatfield)

bookofstormsEleven-year-old Danny’s parents are storm chasers – which sounds fun and exciting, and it is, so long as you aren’t the son who has to wait behind at home. And one night, after a particularly fierce storm, Danny’s parents don’t come back. Stranger still, the old sycamore tree in Danny’s yard seems to have been struck by lightning, and when he picks up a fragment of wood from the tree’s heart, he finds he can hear voices … including that of next door’s rather uppity cat, Mitzy. The stick is a taro, a shard of lightning that bestows upon its bearer unnerving powers, including the ability to talk with plants and animals – and it is very valuable.

Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse (Chris Riddell)

gothgirlMeet Ada Goth. She lives in Ghastly-Gorm Hall with her father, Lord Goth, lots of servants and at least half a dozen ghosts, but she hasn’t got any friends to explore her enormous, creepy house with. Then, one night, everything changes when Ada meets a ghostly mouse called Ishmael. Together they set out to solve the mystery of the strange happenings at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, and get a lot more than they bargained for.

The Wishing Spell (Chris Colfer)

wishingspellThrough the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, Alex & Conner leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about. But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought.

Older Novels

The Children of Green Knowe (L.M. Boston)

greenknowe“Tolly” Toseland 7 is rowed up to great-gran Linnet Oldknow by servant Boggis – there has always been a Boggis at Green Knowe. The real “castle” is over 900 years old. Gran tells old family stories, and songs. Over the generations there have been many who can see, hear, and feel the ghosts, evoked by white-on-black illustrations. Toby 14, Alexander, and Linnet 6 linger after the Plague, as does the cursed topiary Green Noah.

A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)

wrinkleintimeMeg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

Circle of Magic (Tamora Pierce)

(From 1st novel) With her gift of weaving silk thread and creating light, Sandry is brought to the Winding Circle community. There she meets Briar, a former thief who has a way with plants; Daja, an outcast gifted at metalcraft; and Tris, whose connection with the weather unsettles everyone, including herself. At Winding Circle, the four misfits are taught how to use their magic – and to trust one another. But then disaster strikes their new home.

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Castaways of the Flying Dutchman (Brian Jacques)

7997A boy and dog trapped aboard the legendary ship, the Flying Dutchman, are sent off on an eternal journey by an avenging angel, roaming the earth throughout the centuries in search of those in need.  Their travels lead them to Chapelvale, a sleepy nineteenth century village whose very existence is at stake.  Only by discovering the buried secrets and solving the dust-laden riddles of the ancient village can it be saved.  This will take the will and wile of all the people-and a very special boy and dog!

Canyons (Gary Paulsen)

canyonsCoyote Runs, an Apache boy, takes part in his first raid — the one that will usher him into manhood. He is to be a man for but a short time….More than a hundred years later, while camping near Dog Canyon, fifteen-year-old Brennan Cole becomes obsessed with a skull that he finds, pierced by a bullet. He learns that it was the skull of an Apache boy executed by soldiers in 1864. A mystical link joins Brennan and Coyote Runs, and Brennan knows that neither boy will find any peace until Coyote Runs’ skull is returned to an ancient sacred place.


What are some of YOUR favorite children’s books?