‘Every Dog in the Neighborhood’ by Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell: A story of activism…and dogs

Every Dog in the Neighborhood
by Philip C. Stead and Matthew Cordell

“Every Dog in the Neighborhood,” acclaimed author Philip C. Stead and award-winning illustrator Matthew Cordell’s new collaboration, is much more than it would appear to be by looking at the cover. Yes, it’s about the many and varied types of dogs in a neighborhood, but thinking that it’s “just” a cute book about dogs is doing this magnificent creation a disservice. This is a book that will make children think. In the right hands, it will raise questions that will stretch the brain cells of children from four to fourteen.

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‘Meant to Be Mine’ by Hannah Orenstein is a touching romance about fate and love

Meant to Be Mine by Hannah Orenstein

Does fate determine whom we are destined to spend our lives with, or is it simply chance? In “Meant to Be Mine,” Hannah Orenstein’s delightful romance forces main character Edie Meyer to consider that very question. Edie’s grandmother Gloria has correctly predicted the date on which all her family members will meet their bashert, which is Yiddish for the true love that is meant to happen. She predicted her own meeting with Edie’s Grandfather Ray, and the couple was blissful for many decades of marriage.

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‘The Diamond Eye’ by Kate Quinn is a thrilling historical fiction based on a truly heroic Russian female sniper during WWII

The Diamond Eye by Kate Quinn

Kate Quinn’s latest historical fiction novel, “The Diamond Eye,” is a fictionalized story of a Russian woman who became one of the most acclaimed snipers in WWII. In fact, in the author notes at the end of the book, Quinn states that while she usually explains how the fictional characters in the story relate to the real historical people, in this book “nearly every person named comes straight from the historical record.” Of course, it’s fiction. Quinn doesn’t know, and we don’t learn, exactly what transpired during those turbulent times when Germany invaded Russia. But Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a real woman, and she wrote a memoir that Quinn used to relate many of the events documented in the novel.

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‘Flirting with Fate’ by J. C. Cervantes is a lovely story of destiny, love, and family

Flirting with Fate by J. C. Cervantes

While “Flirting with Fate” by J. C. Cervantes is a young adult fantasy about love and fate, it’s not quite as light and frothy as that might indicate. It’s a touching story, and I actually needed a tissue as I finished reading it because of the evocation of strong emotions at the ending. As might be surmised from the title, the story is about the fickle nature of fate, and whether there is something like destiny and “meant to be.”

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‘The Treehouse on Dog River Road’ by Catherine Drake is a sweet story of family and love

The Treehouse on Dog River Road by Catherine Drake

A novel with the word “treehouse” in the title doesn’t seem as if it would be about life changes and making important decisions. On the other hand, that word does imply family and fun. Catherine Drake’s debut novel, “The Treehouse on Dog River Road,” brings us an intrepid main character who spent two years in Kenya building houses. Then she got a job in finance. Now she’s wondering what she wants to do in life. And when you are in your late twenties, and you don’t know what you want to do in life, sometimes spending a summer taking care of family is just what is needed to clear your head. At least, that’s what Hannah Spencer is hoping when she agrees to take care of her young niece and nephew for several months when her sister Molly and Molly’s husband, both college professors, have an opportunity to travel to South America to do research. Hannah had managed to get laid off from her very unsatisfying job with enough of a severance package that she can figure out what she wants to do next and where she wants to do it, and she has all summer to figure it all out.

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‘The Golden Couple’ by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen is an engaging thriller starting with the very first page

The Golden Couple

Some novels take a while to hook readers while others are fascinating from the beginning. “The Golden Couple” by bestselling authors Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen grips us immediately through the clever narrative of the two women who are the main characters. But, you might respond, the title is about a couple, a seemingly perfect “golden” couple. While ostensibly the story is about a perfect couple whose marriage is in crisis, the true main characters are the wife and their therapist. For help, they seek the counseling of Avery, who is no longer a licensed therapist due to her quite unconventional methods. Avery is definitely an important part of this story, and it’s her first person narrative that provides much of the information we need in order to figure out what is going on.

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‘The Sign for Home’ by Blair Fell is a touching, compelling story of love, independence, and helping others in the face of incredible cruelty

The Sign for Home

Novels like “The Sign for Home” are powerfully important reading experiences for many reasons. It’s often through reading that we are exposed to people whose lifestyles, culture, or religion are vastly different from ours. Author Blair Fell accomplishes that sometimes difficult task of introducing us to a community of DeafBlind in a seemingly effortless manner by relating the story of Arlo Dilly, a DeafBlind young man who lives with his guardian, an elder in Jehovah’s Witness. The story is told from a dual perspective: from Arlo’s point of view, and the point of view of Cyril, who is an ASL interpreter, and who ends up working with Arlo. It’s that experience that changes both their lives.

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‘The Echoes’ by Jess Montgomery is the 4th novel in the wonderful historical fiction ‘Kinship’ series

The Echoes by Jess Montgomery

Somehow, “The Echoes” seems a softer story than the first three novels in this fabulous historical fiction series about a woman sheriff and the problems she encounters in the rural Ohio county she protects at the start of the last century. While there are crimes in this story, the focus is on the people who live in this part of Bronwyn County, Ohio. It’s July, 1928, and both the weather and emotions are running hot. The narration is in third person, and author Jess Montgomery shares both Sheriff Lily Ross and her mother, Beulah’s points of view. Each is clearly labeled. Both women are widows, and Lily’s mother had a late-in-life child who is the same age as one of Lily’s children. What Lily does not know at the start of this story is that her mother has arranged for Lily’s brother’s child, Esmé, who was born in France during WWI, to come to live with them.

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‘City on Fire’ by Don Winslow is the first installment in a trilogy about mobsters, Italian and Irish, in an epic takeoff of Homer’s classic tale

City on Fire by Don Winslow

Homer wrote about it first in The Iliad, and Don Winslow openly borrows the theme of a stunningly gorgeous woman causing a war. In “City on Fire,” the war is between two sets of mobsters; the Irish mob and the Italian mob, who heretofore had enjoyed a tenuous peace. That peace ends when the lovely Pam is introduced as she emerges from the ocean like Aphrodite, beautiful beyond description. Everyone notices her beauty, and the beginning sentences in the novel say it all, “(S)he’s real and she’s going to be trouble. Women that beautiful usually are.”

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‘The Homewreckers’ by Mary Kay Andrews is a sweet Savannah mystery

The Homewreckers

Mary Kay Andrews (MKA) is known for her sweet Southern summertime stories that are filled with slow-moving tides, warm beaches, a mystery, and plenty of romantic drama. “The Homewreckers” brings us to Savannah, with its beautiful avenues and lovely historic homes. We meet Hattie, who works in her late husband’s family construction business with her father-in-law, her best friend Cass, and Cass’s mother, who runs the office. As the story begins, Hattie has poured her life savings into a beautiful old home, hoping to restore it and make a profit. But the historic home needs a much larger than expected infusion of cash to bring it to the point where it will make money, and Hattie is forced to sell at a loss.

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‘The Wrong Woman’ by Leanne Kale Sparks is a gripping murder mystery

The Wrong Woman by Leanne Kale Sparks

It’s an unusual mystery that leaves you with perhaps more questions than you had at the start. “The Wrong Woman” is a gripping murder mystery featuring Kendall Beck, an FBI agent whose best friend and roommate Gwen is brutally murdered, and Adam Taylor, a police detective investigating that murder. He is also investigating a recent murder that appears to be linked to a serial killer. Beck is investigating the disappearance of a five-year-old child when Gwen goes missing, and in her desire to find Gwen, Beck’s own investigation into why the child disappeared is paused. We think of the title when we wonder if Gwen was mistakenly killed because she was driving someone else’s car. Was she, indeed, the wrong woman?

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Nonfiction picture books to inform and entertain

Picture books aren’t just for little kids. Savvy educators and parents use picture books as a way to share information with kids as old as middle schoolers. Because picture books are fun, quick, and colorful. And like the picture books listed below, they can be filled with information. Reading a picture book about something like, say, mushrooms, just might lead to a curious child’s exploration into the world of fungi. Here are some great choices that might just pique inquisitive minds.

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