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!

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The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks

I couldn’t wait for this trilogy finale to arrive and when it did it took me weeks to getting around to reading it! And not only that, as usual with a trilogy, I couldn’t remember what had happened in books one and two. Given that each book is a not too long graphic novel I really should have read them first (but now I might go back and read all three at once.) I guess it’s a testament to how good these books are that even not fully remembering the backstory I still felt invested in the outcome and still enjoyed the book.
I guess if I were to leave a quick plot summary to help my future self it would be–the final fight for control of the Nameless City?
I thought this book had some particularly good action sequences. I don’t know if elaborate chases and fights are hard to draw, but it sure seems like they would be. After all, static illustrations need to convey running leaping kicking punching jumping wrestling etc. and these totally did.
I also appreciated an epilogue.

Time and Again by Jack Finney

I read this book many years ago and it was one of the ones I wanted to reread this year. In particular, two scenes from this book had stayed with me, and I thought of them often when I thought of time travel (as one does.) The one scene was in the beginning when Si is on a catwalk in a warehouse looking down on a hot summer day in a recreated small town from another time period and first learning of the time travel project.  Of all the time travel books I’ve read I always thought this was the most bizarre method created-that one would be so immersed in a time they would just slip into it being real not recreated (having separated themselves from things of this time.)
I found this a little slow and that may have been because I just was eager to get to the time travel itself. In fact, once I got to that scene I remembered I thought I might just stop there, having scratched my itch of wanting to read that scene again. But, I found that I was hooked on the story and wanted to see it though. I’d forgotten that there were sketches and historical photographs included in the story. And, it turns out, I’d forgotten the major plot event! So all in all, I really enjoyed this story all over again though I did find the writing a little odd. I’m curious if this style writing would be published today (first published in 1970.)
There is a sequel to this, which I don’t recall if I read, but perhaps I will.

Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

This was absolutely wonderful! First of all, it’s time travel (that came out 2 years ago and I just found out about it now) and it was so good and I happened to have moments in the day and was able to read it in one day. (It’s not too long.)
It starts in 1940 and I immediately liked the main character, Lottie. She’s 10 and loves to read and play make believe games with her best friend, Kitty. She’s the best. I say that because a. she’s like me b. I would have been friends with her and c. she is keenly interested in time travel.  The reason for that is because her father is a scientist who fully believes in it and is researching it. He’s signed the Official Secrets Act so he can’t actually disclose his findings or work. Then a surprising incident occurs and Lottie jumps through a portal not knowing where she will end up but certain-since her father has always said so-that she will never be able to come back. She ends up in current day Wisconsin. Most of the time travel I read involves people traveling to the past. I enjyed this take on someone from the past coming to our time. Here’s what I loved about this book: she behaves as I would if I were a time traveler and acknowledges that because she and Kitty have talked so much about it and accept its existence she isn’t going to waste time in disbelief but instead figure out where she is and what to do. The book takes some interesting turns because now she is stranded in time and needs to just continue on with her life. She’s a child so she ends up with a very nice foster family. But always, always, she is wondering if she can connect with Kitty and find her way back to her.
I loved how this ended up working out even though, as I keep dwelling on it, the crux of the time travel matter somewhat doesn’t make sense to me(even though it simultaneously makes perfect sense.) I also liked the middle grade friendship storyline. And I especially loved the role books played in Lottie’s life and libraries. I’m thinking Ms. Sales must know some librarians because she was spot on with her description of us!!

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

This is not just lovely to read, but it’s also beautiful to look out. A handsome cover with lovely artwork and gilded letters, chapter headings decorated botanically, and both small and full page occasional illustrations. Plus it’s a retelling of a fairy tale (one I can never remember, so I made no comparisons at all while reading it.) It’s so lovely I bought it for Christmas last year for Tabby and me. And then we never read it. And it sat there accusingly. Until I said we must read it before this Christmas! And then Tabby got sick and I said “a-ha! What could be better than lying on the couch under the quilts while I read this aloud?” and indeed, it was a wonderful way to pass some time. We enjoyed this so, so much. If I was 10 or 11 I’d probably reread it many times, especially enjoying the physical quality of the book–exactly as I read my Tasha Tudor illustrated Frances Hodgson Burnett books.

Snow and Rose are beautiful sisters who have to move to a cottage in the woods with their mother after their father disappears. They aren’t afraid of the woods, but there’s definitely something there and it may or may not have to do with what happened to their father. The girls make friends with a boy who, improbably, lives underground! There’s some magical elements, some excitement, some weirdness, and a big bear.

We both loved this.

Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay

I already thought Hilary McKay was a marvelous underappreciated writer, and now I think even more so! (Is she really underappreciated? Maybe not, based on awards, but it seems like no one else I know reads her books. And they should.) This will immediately draw some comparison to The War that Saved My Life. It is some solid hard core historical fiction. I am pretty curious the targeted age reader because  while it has a youngish looking cover and was in the children’s section I’m not sure the 5th graders I know would stick with this. In part because she doesn’t flinch from the realities of WWI trench warfare, and in part because these characters are followed from childhood to adulthood. Reading as an adult, though, I found this very appealing and loved discovering that I would be reading about not just a few summers in childhood, but these characters’ nearly full lives.

Clarry and her brother Peter, their cousin Rupert, their friends Simon and Vanessa. Rupert, Peter, and Simon all go to a boarding school, while Clarry struggles against and upbringing in which she’s flat out told that as a girl she needs to know nothing. Fortunately Clarry finds ways around that and loving support from those outside the family.

As a keen reader of WWI and WWII fiction I assumed from chapter one that surely one of these beloved characters would die-the only question being which one? I almost didn’t want to get too fond of the characters, but of course I ended up loving them all.  Except for Clarry’s horrible hideous cold father.
I loved watching the changing relationships and growing up and just thought this was an all around terrific book. Honestly I felt like it read almost like an adult WWI book.

As always with a WWI book I ended up feeling sad at the end because all I could think was “you lived, but any babies you have will grow up just in time for WWII and you’ll have to live it all over again.”

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Why don’t I have “heartwarming” as a category? Because that would be the #1 category of this book. I knew this was a sequel to Arthur Truluv, but didn’t recall what happened in that book. No matter–it all came back to me as we were easily reminded of that lovely story. Are either of these books groundbreaking, deeply thoughtful, wildly innovative literature? No, they are not. Are they lovely stories, well written, charming, and sweet? Yes, they are. (And perfect for my Thanksgiving holiday reading.)

I thought this was a wonderful sequel-reminding us of the characters in the first book, but this time squarely focused on Lucille and some new characters. I especially liked all the stuff about Lucille’s baking. The young mother with leukemia was very sad and reminded me of earlier Berg books (the one where someone gets hit on the head with ice and ends up in a coma? SO sad.

A wonderful feel good book with young and old characters and plenty of bittersweet beginnings and endings.