‘The Thread Collectors’ by Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman is Civil War historical fiction through the eyes of two women

The Thread Collectors
by Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman

In “The Thread Collectors,” authors Shaunna J. Edwards and Alyson Richman combine their familial histories to create a fictional Civil War narrative that is about two women. Stella is a light-skinned woman who was bought to be the mistress of a plantation owner. She falls in love with one of the man’s slaves, William. William, an extremely talented musician, performs for his owner, Frye, and is desperate to escape his bondage to build a better life for himself and Stella. Lily, a Jewish woman in New York City, is married to musician Jacob. They both love music, and her father is a very successful music publisher. Lily is an ardent abolitionist, as well, and completely supports her husband when he enlists to fight for the Union.

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‘Sugar and Salt’ by Susan Wiggs a story of strength and sacrifice and love

Sugar and Salt by Susan Wiggs

“Sugar and Salt” by Susan Wiggs is a touching and important read. The novel is rather provocative and significant as it deals effectively with many vital women’s issues. What is a tad perplexing is that the book is billed as a romance, but actually the romance plays second fiddle to the more important issues regarding misogyny and race that Wiggs quite effectively raises. The cover image also seems to not reflect the actual novel; in the story, Wiggs cleverly reverses the stereotype of male barbecue cook and female baker. The person who would be making the pink-iced, flowered, decorative cake on the cover is not main character Margot Salton; she’s actually the pitmaster who learned barbecue in Texas and opened her restaurant in San Francisco next to a bakery. The baker is her romantic foil, Jerome Sugar, which seems an entirely appropriate name for someone who makes sweet bakery goods all day.

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Dogs, dogs, dogs — especially in the classroom

What’s the next best thing to having a real, live, sweet dog in the classroom? Having lots of books about dogs in the classroom! And even if you are lucky enough to attend a school where a dog is available in the classroom, lots of dog-themed books are the perfect complement to the pup. Here are some great book choices for elementary age readers — all of which promote the notion that every child should have a dog (and every dog should have a child) and the idea of rescuing a dog. I highly recommend all of these.

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‘The Fort” by Gordon Korman is a thoughtful middle grade novel about secrets and what we hide from even our best friends

The Fort by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman has been writing books for a long time—since he was twelve years old, in fact. As he explains in the Author’s Note, he wrote his first book in 7th grade as a fluke of an assignment. Scholastic published it two years later, and—luckily for middle grade readers and teachers— he’s been writing ever since. His books are always thoughtful, engaging and realistic. When kids read Korman’s books they see kids a lot like them: imperfect kids, kids with insecurity, kids who don’t fit in, and kids who are different.

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‘For Butter or Worse’ by Erin La Rosa is a tasty romantic treat

For Butter or Worse

Cooking shows are hugely popular, and many a Kitchen Aid stand mixer was purchased during the pandemic (guilty, me). For those who are perfecting their proofing skills and practicing delicious pasta dishes, “For Butter or Worse” by Erin La Rosa is a deliciously delightful romance. Nina and Leo, the two stars of a reality cooking show, “The Next Cooking Champ,” are often at each other’s throats. They don’t like each other, and when Nina quits after Leo inadvertently calls her a name on live TV, her restaurant’s popularity tanks. Likewise, Leo’s family chain of restaurants loses business.

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‘A Rip Through Time’ by Kelley Armstrong is a time travel mystery in Victorian Scotland

A Rip Through Time by Kelley Armstrong

After ending her fabulous “Rockton” series, prolific author Kelley Armstrong presents us with “A Rip Through Time,” a mystery boasting a different twist. Instead of exploring a unique location, we follow a modern police detective who is flung back in time to the Victorian Era, into the body of a housemaid in Edinburgh, Scotland. When Vancouver detective Mallory Atkinson is out jogging in Edinburgh while taking a break from visiting her dying grandmother, she is brutally attacked. She wakes up days later; but in what seems like a never-ending nightmare, she realizes that she is in the body of a maid and that she has been somehow transported back 150 years in time.

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‘Dark Objects’ by Simon Toyne

Dark Objects by Simon Toyne

Veteran bestselling author Simon Toyne brings us several twists in his new murder mystery, “Dark Objects.” Pay attention because there’s a lot going on in this clever story that includes gruesome murders, mysterious clues, dead people with no background, and an expert on crime who herself was a victim of horrible violence. While the crimes and the mysteries around them are fascinating, equally riveting are the two main characters.

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‘Our Last Days in Barcelona’ by Chanel Cleeton is a great summer read/book club choice

Our Last Days in Barcelona by Chanel Cleeton

Fans of Chanel Cleeton’s historical fiction have gotten to know the families in her novels, and with “Our Last Days in Barcelona,” we revisit some of her characters while we meet new ones in a dual narrative that is set in mid-1930s and the early 1960s. In the earlier timeline, Alicia, the mother of the Perez sisters, has fled to Barcelona from Cuba with her young daughter to stay with her parents after finding out about her husband’s infidelity. Yet when that daughter, Isabel, travels to Barcelona in search of her sister Beatriz in 1964, she sees a photo of her mother, herself, and an unknown man at a cafe in Barcelona. Strangely, her mother, when questioned, adamantly insists that they have never been to Barcelona. We also meet Rosa, a Perez cousin, whose own situation mirrors the personal quandaries that both Alicia and Isabel face.

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‘The Summer Place’ by Jennifer Weiner is a return to Cape Cod, where a family must reconcile secrets of the past

That Summer by Jennifer Weiner

Reading Jennifer Weiner’s books about idyllic summers spent on Cape Cod makes one yearn to pack up and head for the nearest beach. The sky is almost always blue, the water is clear, and the salty aroma in the air only serves to make readers hungry for a lobster roll or an ice cream cone, just like the ones in which the characters in the book indulge. In her latest novel, “The Summer Place,” we meet the Danhauser family and assorted relatives. The heart of the book is the story about three generations of women, grandmother/mother Veronica Levy (Ronnie); Sarah Weinberg Danhauser, her daughter; and Ruby, Sarah’s husband’s daughter from a previous marriage. Ruby and her boyfriend Gabe have decided to get married, and they are having the wedding at Ronnie’s beautiful beach-side home on the Cape.

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‘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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‘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 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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