Bookshop of Dust and Dreams by Mindy Thompson

A magical bookstore that is open to customers from a 100 year time span? Yes please! The store is in 1944 and run by the Fullbright family. Poppy loves the store and its magic and its regular customers. It’s a tough time, though, because of WWII. And blah, blah, blah, Dark magic vs. Light magic and a big battle. 

I wanted to like this more than I actually did. I loved the descriptions of the bookshop and the magic within it-quotations appearing on a blackboard, flowers blooming and vines growing, wallpaper changing-it’s a living breathing thing. And the characters showing up throughout time is also really cool and I think I would have liked to have known a bit more of their own stories. But really the main plot is the dark magic trying to make its way into this world and Poppy desperately trying to keep her family and the shop safe. And that was the least interesting part to me. I think I get a little bored with magic stuff when it’s very descriptive and at the same time not descriptive at all (because it’s not real so you can’t say “oh yes, that is what is happening.”) 

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse

Read 9/30/21

I really enjoyed the first Witches of Brooklyn and I’m pleased this sequel was just as (nearly?) enjoyable. Effie is feeling more comfortable with her witchiness and new friends, so of course something has to come along to upset that. In this case, it’s a new girl. So now Effie is no longer the new girl and feeling less confident of her new friendships. Meanwhile, you get to see a neighborhood witch meeting (they’re all around us! And just regular people!) and be as surprised as Effie to find out the magical problem behind a busy neighborhood intersection. To be honest, I enjoyed this subplot MORE than Effie’s nose being out of joint about not being the new kid, but that’s just because I liked the whole “behind the scenes” aspect of finding out about magic in the neighborhood, how they fix things, who has magic, etc. Solid.

Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour

This was a beautiful, haunting story. When ghosts were matter of factly mentioned I felt like I needed to figure out if this was a fantasy, were there really ghosts, what was happening? And then I thought, “just enjoy the story and let it unfold.” And I did and it was really great. You know that Mila was in foster care and now that she’s aged out is going to a remote farm that specifically takes in young adults from foster care, as well as young children to foster. As an “intern” Mila is responsible for schooling the young ones and she immediately forms a very close bond with her student. Basically everyone there has had some kind of horrible start to their lives, and here is a chance for them to heal and start a new life. I wasn’t sure if there was a sinister vibe or not and it kept me unsettled and on my toes. Parts of the story surprised me, other parts didn’t. I felt like this book was the perfect length, also.

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

I found the cover of this offputting, thinking that the main character was some kind of demon animal human hybrid with antlers? I guess I didn’t read the reviews carefully enough? But enough to think it was something I might want to read. Tabby read it first and really liked it, so I gave it a go and guess what? I LOVED it. As mentioned before I didn’t pay close enough attention to the reviews so honestly didn’t know which way the book was going. Was it realistic fiction? Magical fiction? Fantasy? Misunderstandings? I didn’t know! And that was kind of refreshing because I ended up being surprised by basically every single thing in the story.
I really liked the family history romance in the story. I think it’s important for kids to know that same sex relationships have always been around. I loved how comfortable Snap was with her friend’s gender identity, and I loved the conversation she had with her mom about it. I just thought this was a really neat and unique story. It was entertaining, plus it was downright heartwarming.

Guest by Mary Downing Hahn

2/17/20

I read this purely because I had been dithering about whether or not to purchase it for school and then a student told me she bought it at the book fair and loved it.*

I think that while I probably didn’t love it as much as she did, I definitely enjoyed this. It reminded me a lot of how much I used to love old fairy tales (The Red Fairy Book, The Yellow Fairy Book, etc.) when I was a kid. There is nothing cozy about this at all. The changeling that the fairies leave behind when they steal Mollie’s adorable brother is offensively homely. The dark wood sounds cold and damp and treacherous and filled with danger. And even when the villagers aren’t in the scary fairy land, I pictured a vaguely bleak existence. I mean, they live in a place where you have to constantly beware and can’t praise a baby for being bonny. So, if you’re prepared to feel gloomy darkness, try this story! Hahn really evokes a vivid picture of this place and the people in it. I found it to be a pretty quick read and just the right amount of spooky suspense and child bravery and trickstering for young readers.

 

*I saw that student today and told her I read the book and liked it and she was stunned that I read it in a day as she has been reading it literally since she bought it at the book fair two months ago and still isn’t done, despite it being a book that she loves. How can you enjoy reading a book so slowly??

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

I wanted to start this post by saying “it’s been well established that Bronson Pinchot is my favorite audiobook reader” but I see it’s not well established at all here. I don’t have any entries for the books we’ve listened to, but I did find this 2014 end of year sentence: “We discovered The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom and The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle. Bronson Pinchot (yes, Cousin Balkie!) is my new favorite audiobook reader. These books are looooong on audio (10 hours!) but so worth it. He is an amazing reader and the book is hilarious.” So, yes. He is an amazing reader and I was delighted that Paul found us another one of his books to listen to on our way home from Maine last week.  This was a wonderful story and I’m so glad we found it. I would never have picked it up off the shelf based on this cover:  Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley - Used (Acceptable) - 0525428437 by Penguin Young Readers Group | Thriftbooks.com or this one  Circus Mirandus; Paperback; Author - Cassie Beasley  I think it just looks like circus hijinks.  I think this drawing is much more evocative of the magical mysterious lovely story within.Image result for circus mirandus

(By the way, that art is by Diana Sudyka, but I can’t identify where that art originally appears.) [Goodreads says fans of Big Fish, Peter Pan, and Roald Dahl will like this story and I agree with that.]
While I think that Cousin Balki could make any book sound great, I do think this was a great story. There is some back and forth in time so that we understand how the old man in present day, was once a little boy who found the magical and life changing Circus Mirandus, and how he extracted the promise of a future miracle from the Light Bender. In the present day that old man’s grandson is desperate to find the circus and have the promised miracle save his grandpa. Obviously everyone thinks that his grandfather’s stories of Circus Mirandus were just fairy tales, but Micah believes them and is determined to find it and meet the Light Bender.
Heartwarming, sweet, magical, this was a terrific story.

 

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This was SO WONDERFUL. A nice heavy (really-I think it was printed on heavy paper) good long graphic novel. This is a super charming tale, that reminded me in many ways of the show Over the Garden Wall.  This was terrific blend of completely realistic and magical. And one of the charming things is how the magical stuff is accepted, even though it seems to be established at the start that the boys live in a regular world like we do.

The two boys, Ben and Nathaniel, really aren’t friends, but once were. And as so often happens one remains quirky and “weird” and the other now has a new group of friends who make fun of the first kid.

Ben and Nathaniel and other boys have made a pact to follow lanterns that their town puts in the river every year and see where they go. As the other boys drop off it ends up being just Ben and Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s persistently cheerful, “wow isn’t this exciting!” “Oh hey, a talking bear!” attitude is absolutely delightful. Ben, of course, finds it quite annoying.

This bike ride turns into a quest with all kinds of adventures and magical moments. I loved their bear friend. I loved the dialogue, too.

A total winner.

*I’m seeing a lot of comparison on Goodreads to Miyazaki films and I’d definitely agree with that. As a fan of those films, it makes sense that I liked this so much. Also thought it was interesting that I saw someone list as a negative the length of the book, but I thought it was a plus. I loved that there was a fair amount of text to read and the story was pretty long. I was immersed in it and sorry to see the journey end.

A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

It was just coincidence that I read two Lisa Graff books within a couple of weeks.  And the two are totally different from each other (and from the previous book I’d read by her –The Thing About Georgie. I have to say I’m admiring the variety of stories she writes. They all have some nice messages and characterization, but packaged up differently each time.)
This one was right up my alley–magical, but real. Kind of like a Sarah Addison Allen novel for kids. The magic is well known and a part of life-most people have a Talent. What’s kind of fun is how bizarre some of them are. Things like “knowing the exact right cake to make for any occasion.” I loved the different Talents and how they weren’t all things like levitation and mind reading. The story takes place at a camp for children with Talents. The director is kind of shady and something is going on with the lake and the Talents. I liked how it was all tied in to a prologue (which, upon checking this on Goodreads I find out refers to a first novel that is a companion to this one.)
Very enjoyable.

The Girl with the Dragon Heart by Stephanie Burgis

I loved The Dragon with the Chocolate Heart and have been recommending it left and right at work. You can imagine my excitement then to just see this sequel on the shelf at the public library.  Unfortunately, while this was good, it didn’t match the first book in greatness. Maybe because it wasn’t about a dragon and thus didn’t have the funny bits about the dragon adjusting to humans and their ways? Also I happen to get very fed up with characters (this seems a pretty common plot in books and movies and tv) who make bad choices out of some kind of love but one of the bad choices is simply not flat out telling the family/loved ones that they are loved. Which makes no sense written out like that but it’s totally a thing in stories. And drives me nuts.  I also thought the ending wrapped up way too neatly.

The Hidden Witch by Molly Ostertag

The Hidden Witch (The Witch Boy #2) Sequel to Witch Boy. This was a good follow up and once again I thought it was so nice how, well nice, the two main characters were. I suppose some people might find it a bit too easy, but I didn’t. I liked it that Sedge–the bad cousin from the first book-opened up about his issues and got a resolution. I loved how kind Charlie (the non witch character) was and nice about making friends with the mysterious new girl.  And I liked how the main story that was left unfinished in Witch Boy was resolved in this sequel. I’d be happy to spend more time in this world Ostertag has created and get to know many more of the characters!