‘Brave Like That’ by Lindsey Stoddard is an ultra-significant read for middle grade kids

brave like that

Sometimes a powerful and emotionally rich book like “Brave Like That” by Lindsey Stoddard comes along that I wish everyone would read. A thoughtful book that could change the world – really. And in this book, the lessons Cyrus, the main character, learns are ones that he recognizes could change the world.

“Brave Like That” is a difficult book to review. There’s so much packed into this treasure of a story that it’s difficult to include all the messages and themes. Cyrus is the son of a firefighter, and his Dad was a star football player in their small town. Since he’s been a little kid, everyone thought he’d follow in his dad’s footsteps. Cyrus was adopted by his dad after being left at the fire station when he was an infant. On the night of his eleventh birthday, celebrated at the fire station, a stray dog shows up, and Cyrus is convinced that fate expects him to keep the dog, just as his father kept him. But Cyrus’s father has other ideas.

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‘Aurora Burning’ is Book 2 in the ‘Aurora Cycle’ series by YA authors Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

aurora burning

No one writes better YA sci-fi than Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Kaufman wrote the thrilling “The Unearthed” duology with Meagan Spooner and Kristoff wrote the very unique and dystopian “The Lifelike Trilogy.”

They wowed fans with the first book in this trilogy, and in “Aurora Burning,” the sequel to “Aurora Rising,” Kaufman and Kristoff take the story to new heights. They also leave readers on a cliffhanger that’s higher and more deadly than most cliffhanger endings. So if you hate cliffhangers, you might want to wait for the third book to come out and read them one right after another. Although maybe it’s better to be like the characters in this futuristic adventure and jump right in.

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“The Vacation” of Doom by T. M. Logan

vacation

Almost all of us have taken long-planned vacations that turned out to be much less enjoyable than we had hoped. But this T.M. Logan novel,”The Vacation,” takes us on a trip so filled with gloom, anger, profound disappointment, paranoia, and near-madness that we might ourselves avoiding future vacations for fear that they might be anything at all like the one Logan describes so vividly in this excellent mystery novel.

There are twelve characters in the story, each of them bearing ugly scars, secrets, and deeply hidden problems primarily due to past misdeeds. Four of the characters are forty-year-old women who have been best friends since college but have rarely communicated for ten years. They love each other. But they have all hurt each other in the past, and those hurts and harms and horrors are slowly and painfully forced back into their memories and revealed to us as the story proceeds. Their husbands and children comprise the rest of the cast, and all of them are similarly troubled. So a lovely vacation at a mansion in a small French town becomes an ugly portrait of suspicion, fear, and, yes, loathing.

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‘The Blues Don’t Care’ but they sure make a good read

blues

Paul D. Marks is a multiple award-winning author whose latest novel, “The Blues Don’t Care,” is a striking illustration of the talent that has brought him those awards. It’s the first entry in what promises to be an entertaining and thoughtful series of “Bobby Saxon Novels” — mysteries with not only the requisite twists, turns, surprises, and reveals, but also a penetrating look into our ubiquitous all-too-human flaws — greed, corruption, fear of the “other,” and, especially, racism.

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‘Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes’ by Kathleen West: a must read; especially now

minor dramas

Reading “Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes” by Kathleen West was a perfect way to escape from staying at home and remembering days gone by when our children actually went to school and adults were able to meet in person. Here we meet several people — each of whom is imperfect in some way — and we grow to, if not like them, at least understand them and sympathize with them.

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‘Cat Among the Pigeons: A riotous assembly of unrespectable African creatures’ by David Muirhead: Amusing and oh-so-clever tales of African wildlife

cat among

Be assured, “Cat Among the Pigeons” by David Muirhead is not a boring compilation of facts and information about the creatures in Africa, but rather an erudite and always entertaining collection of anecdotes, history, and interesting tidbits about those sometimes exotic (wildebeest), sometimes not (wasp), animals.

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‘Devoted’ by Dean Koontz brings back — in spirit — a genius dog from decades ago.

devoted

The Dean Koontz book that got me hooked on him was “The Watchers,” and the dog in that book, a brilliant golden retriever, thoroughly enchanted me. In “Devoted,” Koontz creates a dog, and then a network of dogs who — maybe, he hints — descend from that highly intelligent dog. And Kipp, the loyal golden, is the kind of dog every dog lover dreams of having — a dog who understands us completely and can communicate with us freely. Continue reading

‘The Blackbird Girls’ by Anne Blankman is a touching story of Chernobyl, of the Holocaust, of love, and of friendship

blackbird girls

“The Blackbird Girls” by Anne Blankman is so much more than its description. It is about two young girls who are rivals, Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko who end up escaping from the town of Pripyat, their town near the nuclear power plant Chernobyl where their fathers worked. After the explosion, we learn that the government hid news of the explosion for two days, and the day after it happened, residents of that small town strolled about the streets as if it were a normal day in spite of the clouds of blue smoke and the red skies that lit up over Chernobyl. Continue reading

“Do not miss” nonfiction picture books: three books for children about RBG, an iconic figure, plus the stories of two other important women in history

3 RBG books

There’s a pandemic going on, and now more than ever, children need to read about inspirational figures. Few women have motivated more young girls than Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Three recent releases celebrate her life; each is appropriate for a different age group of children and all three are books that are worthy to be read to children and by children right now. All of them cover the amazing life of Ginsburg, but each is special in a different way. Additionally, two other new picture books feature the lives of two relatively unknown women, Mother Jones and Febb Burn, both of whom changed the lives of women in our country. Continue reading

‘City Spies’ by James Ponti is a fast-paced thriller for middle grade readers that’s a perfect adventure to escape into

city spies“City Spies” by James Ponti is an action story that kids (and adults) will love. A group of underdog kids as young as twelve live in an old manor home in Scotland and work with a British spy nicknamed “Mother” as a team foiling international villains.

First we meet Sara, from whose perspective the story is mostly told. She is in custody after hacking into the New York City computers to expose her cheating, horrible foster parents. But when a debonair man offers to represent her, she quickly chooses him as her lawyer rather than the public defender who was going to agree to her serving time in a juvenile detention home. After she quickly hacks into the State of New York court computers to substitute in the new lawyer, the change of attorneys looks legitimate . By that evening, she’s on a plane to Scotland and a new life. Continue reading