Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White, by Melissa Sweet
This is a children’s biography of the lovely E.B. White. This is a gorgeous book written and illustrated by Sweet who uses collage and mixed media art to bring to life White’s works. So good it made me tear up in places.
Cinders and Sparrows, by Stefan Bachmann
Zita is an orphan working as a servant when she gets a message, delivered by scarecrow, that she is the heir to a castle. She travels to cavernous Blackbird Castle to find she comes from a family of powerful witches. She begins to learn magic from the cold Mrs. Cantanker and becomes friends with the servant boy and girl. There is a mystery surrounding the castle and Zita must learn to use her magic well before it’s too late. Cinders and Sparrows is a great read. It has enjoyable characters, great worldbuilding, and just enough spookiness.
The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix
Brand new Garth Nix? Of course I must read it! This book is a bit of a departure from his standard fare, which usually takes place in imaginary worlds. This one is set firmly in a real-life London of 1983. It reminded me a bit of Diana Wynne Jones, which is never a bad thing. The story follows Susan as she goes to London to discover the identity of her father. She gets caught up with Merlin, a young person who is part of a family of ‘booksellers’ that are really the magical keepers of the arcane. When evil forces start hunting Susan, she and Merlin must go on the run to find her father and put a stop to a devilish plot. This is a one-off for Nix and a lot of fun. While I love his Abhorsen series, I do like it when he steps aside and writes single books—like he did with A Confusion of Princes.
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
Another audio book. I was in the mood for some Agatha and got this one from the library streaming service. Apparently, it is her bestselling book. I can understand why. Ten strangers are invited to a modern mansion on a tiny remote island off the coast of England. Then they start dying one by one. Who’s the murderer if there is no one on the island but themselves? The audio was narrated by Dan Stevens (of Downton Abbey fame) and he was wonderful. He brought a lot to the story. Not that you can really go wrong with an Agatha Christie book.
The Switch, by Beth O’Leary
Career-minded Leena is off her game, not having gotten over her sister’s death the year before. Eileen is ready for a new start after her husband of fifty years left her for another woman. So what does this granddaughter/grandmother pair do? Switch their lives. Leena moves to her Grandma’s place in rural Yorkshire. Eileen moves into Leena’s posh flat with her very modern roommates. This book is absolutely charming. Each character goes through a lot of changes and comes up with a happy ending that you’ll love.
Witch Hat Atelier (Vol. 1), by Kamome Shirahama
This manga was recommended to me by a coworker. Coco wants to be a witch and when she discovers that to be a witch only requires special ink and a knowledge of symbols, she causes her life to blow up. The magician, Qifrey, rescues her and takes her to learn magic in his school. He has an ulterior motive—to find the dangerous witch who gave Coco the magic ink. This is a cute story with almost too-cute art. It didn’t really grab me though, so I won’t be reading any more volumes.
Ikenga, by Nnedi Okorafor
I’m a huge fan of Okorafor and this is her first foray into middle grade fiction—although I think her YA novel Akata Witch could be for younger readers. In this one, Nnamdi is mourning the murder of his father, the town’s police chief, and vows to avenge him. When he is given a totem, the Ikenga, it gives him Hulk-like powers which he uses to track down the murderer. Nnamdi soon learns that might doesn’t make right and has to navigate some delicate situations that require a lot more than strength. Great story and interesting setting (Nigeria) that would serve as a good introduction for kids looking to read books beyond the U.S.
The Clockwork Crow, by Catherine Fisher
Another middle grade read. I loved several of Fisher’s young adult series, so I had to pick up this one. Fisher’s work often combines fantasy with sci fi in really imaginative ways. The Clockwork Crow combines fantasy with steam punk and is just as much fun. Orphan Seren, on her way to her new home, becomes guardian to a package that turns out to be clockwork parts. When she puts them together, she creates a sentient clockwork crow. Together they work to uncover the mystery surrounding her new home. Lots of fun and set at Christmas time.
The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal
I’m a huge fan of Kowal’s Lady Astronaut series, and this third book was fantastic. Maybe even better than the first two and I loved those books. This one takes place on Earth and on the Moon base, following Elma’s good friend and fellow astronaut Nicole Wargin as she navigates the vagaries of politics, misogyny, aging, and a mole trying to sabotage the space program by destroying the Moon base. This book is so damn good!
Mañanaland, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Ryan’s last book, Echo, is one of my very favorites (and should have won the Newbery) and while not as great as that one, Mañanaland is a delight. It has a fairytale quality to it that makes it seem both magical and ordinary. The story is about Max who feels like he’s old enough to be told why his mother left him as a baby, but his father doesn’t want to talk about it. When his father has to go away for a few weeks, Max finds out more of the secrets his father and grandfather keep from him and he has to choose what to do with that knowledge and figure out what kind of person he wants to be.
Beach Read, by Emily Henry
A fun romance about two writers—of very different genres—who decide to write in the other’s genre to see who gets published first. Since her father’s death, January, a successful romance writer, has had writer’s block. Enter her college foe and fellow writer, Augustus. He writes serious literary fiction. To show him that romance is not easy to write, January dares him to write a romance. They agree to do “research” for each of their new books together—he takes her to research a cult and she takes him on cliché romance dates. You can guess the rest. It’s a very sweet book.
Leonard & Hungry Paul, by Ronan Hession
This is Irish author Hession’s first book and it is lovely. It’s a nice story about nice people going through some life changes and doing it nicely. You’d think a book that I use three “nice”s to describe would be boring. It was not. I was eager to read about introvert Leonard’s hesitant romance and the slightly odd Hungry Paul’s small efforts to make the world a better place. This is a hard book to describe because the biggest villain is Hungry Paul’s sister who is cranky with pre-wedding jitters. I kept thinking something bad would happen, but it didn’t. I feel like I need to recommend this book to everybody who wants to escape into a story where nothing much happens, and that is a very good thing.
(Side note: I ‘reread’ Martha Wells’ Network Effect by listening to it. As I’ve already reviewed it twice before, I thought I better not do another. However, I do recommend the audio. The reader does a great job of bringing Murderbot to life.)
Thanks for visiting. If you are looking for information about Moving Pictures or The Iris Project, click on the links above. Here you’ll find short stories and other works by me, including arts and crafts and hats. Thanks for visiting and I hope you enjoy.