‘A Million Junes’ by Emily Henry is a Magical Young Adult Novel

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“A Million Junes” by Emily Henry is a tender young adult story about a girl and a boy who fall in love. But their romance is marred by family friction. This “Romeo and Juliet” family feud goes back generations, and no one knows exactly what started it.

The magic, though, begins on the first page in the very first sentence when the main character, June, says, “From my bedroom window, I watch the ghost flutter.” And this ghost is not the only ghost who lives within the pages of the story. Feather, as this pink, benign ghost is called, has a more sinister counterpart. Nameless is the dark ghost with no name who haunts both June’s family and their neighboring enemy – Saul Angert’s family.

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‘Raised by Animals: The Surprising New Science of Animal Family Dynamics’ Is a Stunningly Informative Guide to Child Rearing

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Those who adopt a dog often think of how much they have to teach their new family member, but few consider how much the animal kingdom has to teach us, even about childbirth and childrearing. As Jennifer Verdolin, author of “Raised by Animals” would tell you, they have lots and lots of good advice for humans. But since animals can’t talk, Verdolin has researched that information and consolidated it into an easy-to-read, fascinating book.

Animal lovers know that animals aren’t really that different from us. They can express affection, experience joy, get lonely, copy our actions and have families. But Verdolin explains that animals do much more than merely reflect human values; often, animals teach their offspring those very values. In fact, do our values spring from the combined knowledge of what we’ve learned from the animals around us? Verdolin might very well argue for that theory.

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‘Restart’ by Gordon Korman is fine middle grade fiction

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“Restart” by Gordon Korman is typical fabulous Korman middle grade fiction wherein a boy — usually in middle school — goes through an experience that changes him. In “Restart” Korman’s protagonist, Chase Ambrose, is a fairly dark character.

The reader learns that this middle school sports prodigy, a football player who has won awards, is also a terrible human being. He delights in bullying others. In fact, one fellow student has been so tormented by Chase and his two best friends that he’s left school and gone to a private school. Chase and his friends had set firecrackers to go off in the piano he was playing on during a concert.

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‘Scar Island’ is Action-Filled Middle Grade Fiction

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“Scar Island” is the third book by Dan Gemeinhart, but it follows his formula of a boy facing what appear to be insurmountable challenges. In this story, Jonathan Grisby is sent to Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys, a correctional facility built, similarly to Alcatraz, on an island in the middle of the ocean . Scar Island consists of the crumbling, depressing old building that looks like a fortress and features a veritable maze of passageways, cells, and abandoned rooms.

Although there aren’t many other boys there, some are truly terrible, while others are not. It seems apparent almost from the beginning that Jonathan is one of the smartest boys on the island, while another boy, Sebastian, is the bully who wants to be in charge. There is also Benny, who is the head warden’s pet and delights in small cruelties.

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Fabulous Picture Books by Steve Antony Kids Love that Teach Life Lessons

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Steve Antony‘s picture books are brilliant. Each one is like a treasure filled with amazing animals, and each one teaches manners, patience and cooperation.

pleasemrpandaIt started with “Please, Mr. Panda,” in which Mr. Panda has a box of doughnuts he is willing to give away. He asks the animals one by one if they want doughnuts. When some say they want one or all of the doughnuts, Mr. Panda replies that he has changed his mind and they cannot have any doughnuts. This continues until one animal finally responds correctly, with the magic word “please.” That animal gets all the doughnuts. It turns out that Mr. Panda does not like doughnuts! Make sure that the endpapers are examined as part of the book reading. Each of them is different from the other, and both definitely add to the story! Continue reading

‘Saturdays at Sea’ by Jessica Day George is a Beautiful Ending to a Lovely Middle Grade Fantasy Series

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“Saturdays at Sea” by Jessica Day George is the last book in the five-book series that began with “Tuesdays at the Castle.” It’s a lovely fantasy series for middle grade readers who aren’t really interested in romance, but do love adventure and magical creatures.

“Saturdays at Sea” is the last episode, as Celie and her family leave their beloved Castle to meet the family of her sister Lilah’s bethrothed, Lulath, in their seaside country. In the last book, Celie found a ship’s figurehead, and they decided that a ship would be built as a wedding gift for the couple using wood from all parts of the different countries that have figured in the series — to unify them all — and the figurehead.

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‘City of Saints & Thieves’ by Natalie C. Anderson is impossible to put down

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With “City of Saints & Thieves,” author Natalie C. Anderson managed to write a story that had me so enthralled, so committed to the main character, so intrigued by the plot and the setting, that I stayed up much later than I should have two nights in a row to complete the novel, enjoying every minute.

The story is compelling, and the setting is fascinating. The story takes place in several parts of Africa, mainly Kenya. Tina, the sixteen-year-old main character, is an orphan after her mother is killed while working for an extremely wealthy businessman, Roland Greyhill. She thinks he killed her mother because she had seen them argue the night before the murder, and she had heard  him threaten her mother. Her mother was shot in his office, and the local police did not bother to really investigate the crime.

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‘Be Quiet!’ by Ryan T. Higgins is Pure Laughter (and 3 Adorable Mice)

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Ryan T. Higgins is the author and illustrator of “Be Quiet!” a picture book that features the three mice from his previous clever picture book, “Hotel Bruce.” One of the mice, Rupert, envisions the creation of a beautiful, wordless book filled with lovely images.

His buddies, Thistle and Nibbs, two other mice, don’t quite understand the concept. In fact, there is a lot they don’t understand. And as the book fills up with their humorous chatter, Rupert gets more and more angry and frustrated.

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‘The Return’ by Joseph Helmreich is a brilliant science fiction thriller

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“The Return,” Joseph Helmreich’s science-fictionesque novel, is a spellbinding exercise in the mystical and the mysterious, the prosaic and the poetic, the scientific and the fantastic. The plot is just convoluted enough that the reader might think at first that he or she is reading a group of almost unrelated short stories. But it all comes together at the end in a veritable burst of colors, fire, ashes, and finally hope and love. And this is a love story, a surprising, touching, sad, and hopeful tale.

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‘Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes’

 

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In her recent book, “Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes,” author Amy Sutherland shares not only her personal experiences as a shelter volunteer, but also her investigations of other shelters, the practice of sending shelter dogs across the country to other shelters, and how to help shelters find  homes for dog.

Penny Jane, the titular dog whom Sutherland ended up adopting, came from a farm in rural Maine where she was probably born outside and may have had little or no human contact during her puppy months. Sutherland writes:

“Puppies can easily adjust to life with another species, even a towering one with long, insect-like appendages such as ours, if they are handled and cuddled. If they have not been, humans become as scary as Martians. (The two puppies) fear of humans was a sure sign of their being feral, or what is also called unsocialized.”

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Shelter workers’ mistake to cost dog her life

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Update: Penelope was pulled by rescue thanks to all those who shared her story! Thank you all!

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Shelter workers neglect to change the status on a dog’s kennel card and a young dog may die because of it.

pkennelcardPenelope was pre-adopted, and her kennel card was changed to show that. But when the adopter didn’t show, the card was never changed back. So no one looking to adopt a dog paid any attention to Penelope because she had the words “adopted” written on her kennel card. Not once but five times. Those words covered the kennel card. It was obvious to all who visited the shelter that Penelope was safe.

Now the shelter is giving Penelope less than 24 hours to get adopted or rescued or she will be killed. Unless the shelter received an email by 9:00 am tomorrow, Friday March 3rd, Penelope will be euthanized.

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‘Daisy in Chains’ by Sharon Bolton is a marvelous thriller

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“Daisy in Chains” by Sharon Bolton is a psychological thriller, murder mystery and romance. Hamish Wolfe, a doctor convicted of killing three women, is helped by Maggie Rose, a well-respected author/attorney who has gotten several convicted killers out of jail on appeal.

The reader is very aware that there is much that is off-kilter about the two main characters. Maggie Rose is mysterious, and the third-person omniscient narrator shares her thoughts, her doubts, and her obsessions. The author says:

“Every copper in the land has heard of Maggie Rose: defense barrister, true-crime author, pain-in-the-police-force’s-collective-arse, but few have met her. She doesn’t do interviews, has never released a photograph.”

For a good part of the book, Wolfe, his mother, and a group of supporters beg Rose to take his case. They truly believe he is innocent of killing the three women, but the evidence was extremely convincing that he did, indeed, do the deed.

In college, Wolfe’s girlfriend was Daisy, a very overweight girl whom he loved in spite of her girth. One night she disappeared after finding out that Wolfe’s friends targeted heavy girls in order to ridicule and film them. The three murdered women, like Daisy, were very overweight.

When Rose finally does take the case, it’s obvious that she feels a personal attraction to Wolfe. It’s understandable because he is an extremely handsome man. But the reader will sense that there is more going on. There is the mysterious person Rose talks to. There are mysterious letters to Wolfe. Rose’s house is broken into.

By the end, the reader is very aware of what the mystery is and who Rose really is. But that’s not the final twist in the story. While making the reader think that the big reveal will be who Rose really is, at the end the author pulls a fiendishly clever double switch.

The story is intriguing and well written. It’s also a difficult book to put down once begun — the author includes Rose’s draft chapters for the book she is writing about Wolfe, letters from and to Wolfe, and the story itself. It’s a wonderful choice for mystery lovers and would be a great book to discuss with a book club.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books for review purposes.