Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen

Wonderful! I love a good time travel book and this one had me unable to put it down on a rainy Saturday and just keeping on until the end. And then I kept thinking about it afterwards-always a good sign that a book has gotten into my head.

This one had me often making comparisons to The Dream Daughter, since it involved a parent and child and makes the reader wonder just how the author will be able to figure out a satisfying ending.

Kin is a time travel corruption bureau field agent from the future who ends up stranded in 1990s San Francisco. As his brain forces out memories of his old life Kin makes a new one for himself. He has a job in IT, he gets married, he has a daughter. Life is pretty good except for the blinding headaches and dizzy spells he sometimes gets.  And then a man shows up who makes him brain start unlocking memories and the past (future) is told to him. Kin is forced back into the future, away from his family. He is desperate to connect with his daughter, but also he needs to reconnect to his past life, which includes people who care about him who he doesn’t remember.

I loved the future details, the set up of the story, the emotional core, and all the little details that made things from the future and past click. I thought this was great.

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The Lost Roses by Martha Hall Kelly

I absolutely loved this! It’s a prequel to Lilac Girls, which I never did actually read. And having read little about this it wasn’t until I read the Author’s Note at the end that I realized that this was not only a prequel about the generation before the (apparently?) main character of Lilac Girls, but also that these were real people! I thought it was just general historical fiction and had no idea so much of it (people, their homes, their businesses) was actually real.

The setting is World War I and it takes place in America and Russia, as well as Paris. Basically all the Russian history was fascinating and unknown to me. I seem to know much less about WWI than WWII. I loved all the details about the peasants and the aristocrats and the scenery itself (wolves and woods) was fascinating.

The main characters are the two close friends Sofya (Russian) and Eliza (American). Each desperately hopes the other is safe and the p.o.v. switches back and forth between them, as well as another girl, Varinka. Varinka is a Russian peasant who definitely has an atrocious, truly awful, life.  And yet, I disliked her. Much of the Russian conflict had me thinking that both the peasants and the tsar’s regime were acting like savage animals and one was not better than the other. There was some fairly horrifying stuff in here. Of course I loved the resiliency and bravery of Sofya and Eliza as each dealt with the impact of the war in different ways-Sofya was more a matter of actual survival, while Eliza found a way to channel her own sorrows into helping others

A fascinating and riveting read.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

Can you believe……this is the first Agatha Christie I’ve read?! I know! It’s crazy! But I was rereading a bit of Dear Fahrenheit 451 and when I read the Agatha Christie letter I thought “I really need to read these.” After all, though I don’t consider myself a mystery reader I do like Sherlock Holmes and there are some other mystery series I’ve read. So, next time I was at the library I went to the Christie shelf to pick one out. I chose The Body in the Library. What a treat! A touch prissy and old-fashioned and British in a way that I love (people describing others “Oh yes, she was quite shrewd”.) As for the mystery it was clever and I didn’t know who did it. Also, I appreciated what an efficient story this was. This is the way I like my mysteries-not a ton of character development, very much a telling of what is happening. Miss Marple is a delight with her village observations. I’m looking forward to reading more!

Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

YET AGAIN! As I prepare to write a little review and log this on Goodreads I find out that Goodreads is listing the book as “#1” of a series. That sort of spoils this a bit for me. In part because the ending felt solid to me and absolutely in no way did I think “wouldn’t it be good if this was a series?” And also because can’t a good book just be a good book and special all by itself?
OK, well. Before I knew that…
This isn’t the sort of book I would normally pick up for myself. I do love the cover-the paper cut, the pretty colors, etc. But it’s a spooky story. I read a great review of it before it came out, bought it for the library, and then checked out my own copy to read it. Many of the kids at school are always looking for spooky stories and I wanted to be able to say I read this and truly be able to recommend it. I do not typically read (or watch) anything scary and this was quite spooky! I think my students will love it. I’m a big baby so you really can’t go by me to judge the fright level. I will say that I finished reading it yesterday and then in the evening had to go outside to lock up the chicken coop. There was an almost full moon in the woods and the sky was a bit misty around the moon. And yes, I got totally freaked out going into the coop and being afraid of living scarecrows coming out of the woods to get me, dragging their trowel hands. I hustled back inside pretty quickly.
I really liked how she combined elements: grief and recovery from a tragic loss, making friends with unlikely people, taking charge and being brave, piecing together clues in the frightful mystery of what’s happening. It all worked really well.

The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson

When I read Truly Devious I loved it up right until the end and then I got so mad at it that I said I wouldn’t bother reading the second one. Well of course that was a lie and here I was, back for more, but prepared this time to get angry all over again at some cliffhanger.
The basic set up of this trilogy is going to be “one mystery solved, another mystery begun” for each book.  For Truly Devious did solve one mystery (mostly) but left us still wondering about the historical mystery, and ultimately introducing yet another.
I didn’t quite remember the details of book #1, but everything I needed to know was very neatly and seamlessly included.
In this installment Stevie (who seems more and more like a savant detective) is putting together clues new and old to figure out the ancient Ellingham kidnapping case. But maybe someone doesn’t want this mystery solved?
I found the bits with David and Edward King a bit tiresome, mostly because I was really interested in the clever mysteries.
And while I gasped at the end this time I didn’t throw the book since I was prepared to be left on a cliffhanger.

Me for You by Lolly Winston

This book should have been nothing but a depressing sad downer of a book–but it wasn’t! It was really quite lovely and wonderful. Yes, it is sad because the book opens with Rudy’s beloved wife unexpectedly dying and then you see his grieving process. But it was lovely because, well, it seemed so real and sweet. I think I especially liked it that Bethany, his wife, was really great for him and that would never change, even as he finds comfort, friendship, and even romance with someone else. I found I really cared for the characters and wished the best for them.

Blended by Sharon Draper

I feel like I should have liked this a lot more than I actually did. Sharon Draper is a terrific author. She is also the reader for this audiobook and I have to admit I didn’t love her reading of it. This is a pretty intense story about racial identity, racial profiling, divorce. I knew all that going in, but wow things got even more shocking/serious. This is a book I listened to with my daughter, which was nice. We paused the story a lot and had lots of important conversations.