The Strangers (Greystone Secrets #1) by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Oh my goodness this was so good and fast and readable-I basically read it in a day! The funny thing is, I think when I got this I thought I was getting another book that I keep forgetting the title of and it has a similar cover. This cover does NOT go with the usual Haddix type books and while it had a slightly different style than her usual clone alien strange etc.mystery type books, it had all of her fast paced readability.

Three children find out that three other children with the same exact names and birthdays have gone missing and their mom “suddenly” has to go on a trip. Bizarre clues appear pretty quickly and the kids know something is going on. I loved how they dove into it and also accept the possibility of alternate worlds. I look forward to the next book and finding out more about it! (and yes, I’m ok with this being a series because this book alone was very satisfying and because I want to know more about the alternate world.)

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My Life as a Meme by Janet Tashjian

Ms. Tashjian was the author visit at school this year and I was pretty excited to get her. I loved The Gospel According to Larry way back when it came out and I was a YA library. Well now she’s a popular author of the My Life as a series and that’s what we focused on at school (and Sticker Girl.) My Life as a Meme had just come out so although it wasn’t widely read at school I was able to pick up a copy at the bookstore and read it a few days before she came.  I haven’t read all of them so I can’t say if it was the best in the series, but I really, really liked it. I think what I most liked I don’t know if kids would most like–Derek finds himself in a digital citizenship predicament just like I teach my students about and I loved that. And even more that he recognized that and thought about what he’d learned. One can only hope real life would play out like that. But other than that, I thought it was a solid story. I liked the aspect of the Malibu wildfires and putting a story to that. Here on the east coast that something that we just see in headlines and it’s hard to really comprehend. Derek is a funny likable character and I especially liked the relationships he has in his family.  A good read I would recommend to my students.

Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid by Jeff Kinney

Obviously all the kids at school were super excited for this release and I figured I could quickly read it before putting it on the shelf. Indeed, I could. Like the Wimpy Kid books it’s a fast read with ample illustrations.  This is the same format and the premise is that Rowley is going to write his own diary and end up writing all about Greg because he’s such a good friend. I doubt anyone is picking this up who hasn’t read the Wimpy Kid books so everyone knows going in that Rowley is Greg’s friend that Greg is pretty much a jerk to. And although I like the Wimpy Kid books and have found several of them hilarious, I’ve always thought that Greg is not someone you’d want to be friends with.So here’s my big takeaway for this book–Greg is even worse than I’d thought before and I ended up just really disliking him and not even finding it funny because he’s so awful to Rowley and Rowley? Is anyone possibly that dumb? I think it was the scene where he’s “trapped” in a room with Greg and has to go to the bathroom. What kind of person doesn’t just say “oh shut it, Greg, I’m going to the bathroom.” So I was torn between pitying Rowley for being such a gullible dope who might be very stupid and being annoyed with him.

The Portal (Tangled in Time) by Kathryn Lasky

I was pretty bummed to get to the end of this and realize that it’s but the first in a series and everything was not resolved.  There are a lot of threads in this story, sometimes successfully woven together, other times less so. Rose is recently orphaned and lives with her grandmother, who she doesn’t really know. Girls at her school have taken bullying to extreme levels and everything stinks. An aspect of Rose that I liked was her interest in fashion. Her grandmother seems to have some dementia but is mostly lucid when they work together in her elaborate greenhouse. And that’s where the time slippage happens, sending rose back to the 1500s where she starts work for Princess Elizabeth. I loved Rose’s 21st century perspective on the behaviors and customs of the 16th century (especially her outrage over dwarfs as entertainment and clothing laws.)

There’s a mysterious locket, a mystery about her father, and of course the terrible history of Princesses Mary and Elizabeth and King Henry killing his wives.

Decent time travel fiction, but again I wish it wasn’t a series.

The Spies of Shilling Lane by Jennifer Ryan

I loved The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir so when this prepub came into my hands I couldn’t wait to read it. It is also a WWII story featuring some feisty women, and this time also a marvelously mild mannered nervous, fond of routine, landlord, Mr. Norris.  The action starts when Mrs. Braithwaite, a bossy lady with a huge presence who thinks she’s better than everyone, gets booted out of the WVS in her village. Everyone is fed up with her, plus her philandering husband divorced her, so somehow she’s tarnished. Unsure what to do she heads to London to visit her daughter Betty. To say the two aren’t close is an understatement. When she arrives in London she discovers her daughter is missing and sets out to find her, thus setting in motion a whole chain of exciting action and events, because of course–there are spies.

I loved seeing Mrs. Braithwaite and Mr. Norris as unlikely heroes. I adore a stout lady wielding a handbook and dealing with crooks. And, like in Chilbury Ladies’ Choir, there really is more than meets the eye here. It’s not just a jolly “let’s play spies” romp. There is some soul searching, revelations about the past, serious danger, and the ever present truth of the bombings changing people’s lives in an instant.

A solid, entertaining, and ultimately heart warming WWII story.

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss by Rajeev Balasubramanyam

I enjoyed this very much and was happy to get it as a prepub. However, I think that the flyleaf testimonial comparisons to The Rosie Project, A Man Called Ove, and Eleanor Oliphant are not very good comparisons. I think this story has a totally different feeling going on.

Professor Chandra is almost 70, brilliant and professionally a success, but for the elusive Nobel Prize. To get to where he is he may or may not have been a great father, husband, or person. It’s hard to say, really. he is divorced with 2 adult and 1 teenage children. One of the adult children is estranged and the teenager lives in America and he doesn’t see her very often and she’s spiraling out of control. A series of events lead the Professor to take a break and go on a bit of soul searching, at times spiritual, journey.

I think if I can give myself some unemotional space I can respect Professor Chandra and his journey and what it means to be human, to love oneself and others.  But when I don’t all I can think about is what a d**&^  his ex-wife’s husband is and how I want Chandra to punch him repeatedly.

Overall, a good story and super well written.

The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick

A feel good story featuring family history/secrets and a quirky librarian at the heart of it all. yes, please! I really enjoyed this story, even though I was a little fixated on exactly what her job was (professional hazard.) Also, I got a little fed up with just how much of a doormat she was. And how unapologetic her sister was. I get that she was that way because of the family history and terrible backstory but I did get a bit frustrated. That said, I loved the tracking down and unraveling of the “mystery” of the found book.