I am a fiction and fantasy lover. Margaret Atwood, John Irving, and George R.R. Martin hold a place in my heart that no one can touch, but a well written young adult novel thrills me as well and I will spend a few happy hours with picture books on any given day. I have two young children and reading with them is an important part of my life. I love helping young readers find a story that really speaks to them. I’m responsible for buying our children’s books and toys.
Heather's June 2020 pick
Bowman’s entrance into the middle grade genre is spot on. This has all the right elements for a great read; Magic, Mystery, and Love plus a nice dose of friendship struggles, self-discovery, and growth. Middle grade readers looking for magic and depth will eat this up.
When Piper’s dad becomes frighteningly ill, she has to move to Mallory Estate and spend time with her disapproving and distant mother. While there she discovers a mystery and several unusual foster children. Piper has to unlock the secret of the witch’s garden, and in so doing, find a way to help her dad and discover some magical things about herself.
Bowman takes her talent for plot driven Young Adult novels and adds even more heart and soul to the storyline for the younger readers. Kids just trying to understand and explore our world through books will find big topics to wrestle with and the wonder they are hoping to find. I am very happy to recommend this to young readers.
Heather's May 2020 pick
Here in New Hampshire we have a strong connection to the Challenger expedition through the local connection to Christa McAuliffe, the first teacher to be sent into space. Some of us are also old enough to be one of the students watching that fateful mission. That event changed many of our lives and stayed with us. This is a beautiful book representation of that experience. As a reader, it will also stay with you, hopefully change you, and challenge you to keep your sights set on something bigger and higher.
Heather's March 2020 pick
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte delves into an amazing piece of history involving Martha’s Vineyard. Did you know, at one point there was such a large population of Deaf folk that they created their own language? It’s true! This is a great addition for middle grade historical fiction fans. If you loved The War That Saved My Life, or Beyond the Bright Sea this will be a great choice.
Heather's January 2020 pick, 1 of 2
Lalani believes in stories. She believes in her best friend’s intelligence and loyalty and she believes in the safe, surety of her mother. When drought threatens to wipe out her village, Lalani is desperate to save her home and those she loves most. Lalani knows it is her calling when her own story sets her on an adventure that has claimed the strongest men for generations.
Lalani of the Distant Sea shows us that we craft our own story each day, with each choice we make, and proves that kindness triumphs over fear time and again. As her friend Hetsbi learns, bravery is built one choice at a time and each time it becomes easier to choose the brave path. This musical and mystical style will be great for fans of Orphan Island, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon.
January 2020 pick, 2 of 2
I enjoyed this end to the trilogy. It was just as fast paced as the others and had all the twists we hope for from Holly Black. Her lush language makes it alluring and immersive. I will say it felt a little lighter than some of her others but that’s not much of a criticism unless you only like brooding heroes. I like the balance this brings and the book has kept me a fan. I look forward to the next journey to Elfheim.
Heather's September 2019 pick
Ember and the Ice Dragons is a fun story, full of magic and adventure and great for any fan looking for a little more dragon mythology. Ember takes us from a magical England where Fire Dragons have been hunted to extinction, to the remote and Icy wilderness of Antarctica, where there are rumors of Ice Dragons still roaming free. Fearing her inability to hide what she is, Ember chooses to leave all she holds dear to find freedom in the wilds of the north. Along the way she meets several adversaries intent on hunting dragons for their prized heartscale, and unexpectedly she meets several friends that share her ideals. Ember shows us there is magic in learning to trust your friends and in learning to trust yourself to be who you are.
Heather's May 2019 pick
John David Anderson writes another pitch perfect middle grade novel. When a clown reluctantly bears the news of their grandfather’s death, Rion’s family is forced to go on a town wide scavenger hunt for Papa Kwirk’s final resting place. What sounds like a macabre mockery of the family’s sadness, actually turns into a discovery of the man their grandfather had been. Finding Orion takes a family tragedy and turns it into a celebration of life. It’s about finding home, finding how you fit, and embracing your quirks, or for Rion Kwirk, embracing his Kwirk.
Heather's October 2017 pick
The Assassin’s Curse, by Kevin Sands
Christopher, Tom and Sally are thrust into the unfamiliar French court working together to break the ancient curse on the Throne. If they fail, or are discovered, it means not only the life of the king, but their own lives as well.
These books are a solid choice for fans of adventure and intrigue. I appreciate the level of historical detail and the ways Christopher’s logic is explained with just enough detail to keep young readers interested and informed yet the pace stays brisk and compelling. You can’t help but cheer for these characters and race along discovering plots and breaking codes with them.
The third book in the Blackthorn Key series is in every way just as great as the first and second. Usually there is a drop off of interest or creativity in a series with most authors, but not with Kevin Sands’. I’m desperately hoping for more novels and happily, the book sets up another potential novel with yet another imaginative and intriguing premise. You’ll have to read the book to discover this next plot because all I’ll reveal is that there seems to be a little flair of Sherlock and Dr. Moriarity to the next one. I'm game.
Heather's June 2017 pick
Albie is reeling from the loss of his genius scientist mother and he feels he has lost his father into his work. Left mostly on his own Albie sets out to discover a parallel universe where his mother is still alive. With the help of a box, a banana, and a very uncooperative cat, Albie uses his mother’s super computer to recreate Schrodinger’s experiment and it works. He discovers many worlds with various versions of himself, learns a lot about himself and about life’s biggest questions in the process.
I love that there is a book that explains quantum physics on a level that children can understand and deals with the stages of grief, consequences of choices in life, and mindfulness for what we have all in a very accessible, gentle, and entertaining little book
Heather's May 2017 pick, 1 of 2
Posted, by John David Anderson
This middle grade novel tackles the issue of bullying in a very accessible way. First the kids at Branton Middle School have their cell phones banned for inappropriate use, but when the kids turn to anonymous post-it notes to communicate, things get really ugly. Middle school can be rough if you’re the new kid or if you don’t have your own group and even when you do you still have to learn to be true to yourself and be a true friend. Words can hurt, they can haunt you, they stick. If you’re lucky you have friends that stick too.
Heather's May 2017 pick, 2 of 2
The Sun is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
This is a great realistic teen fiction touching on hot issues of racism, discrimination, immigration and the validity of love. This novel is full of the charm of falling in love and great banter between characters that is very compelling and wonderfully romantic. The high stakes of teen romance is made more believable due to the confines of the story having to take place in one day. Good for fans of John Green or anyone looking for feasible teen romance.
Heather's September 2016 pick, 1 of 2
Last True Love Story, by Brendan Kiely
Mild mannered Hendrix is done with following the rules. He's tired of being alone, writing poetry no one understands, and he's tired of not getting any straight answers about his dead dad from anyone. But mostly he's angry that the man who raised him, his Gpa, is losing his memory due to Alzheimer's and therefore losing his memories of his life with Gma. So when the troubled girl of Hendrix’s dreams, Corrina, needs a quick escape from her rock-star lifestyle he takes the biggest chance of his life. With a little help from Corrina, Hendrix breaks Gpa out of “old folks prison” in California and steals his mom’s car to go on an epic road trip across the country to get Gpa back to his home town and back to his memories of Gma, while he still has them. “Everyone respects the "road trip" except the police, his mother, and Corrina’s parents, apparently.
Last True Love Story is a sweet and engaging look at love in all its forms and at its many stages in life. I enjoyed that the budding romance between Hendrix and Corrina didn’t take the focus off the story entirely but added to the overall tone. Love is the deep and driving force for much of the action but also the cause for many of the secrets. Hendrix is trying to write the family history to hold on to the beauty and importance of the tender moments between loved ones that can only live in memory while realizing you have to fully live your life to have memories worth keeping..
Heather's September 2016 pick, 2 of 2
The Blackthorn Key, by Kevin Sands
Christopher is a quick and clever boy, raised from the torture of the orphanage into the apothecaries guild to become a young, trusted apprentice. He enjoys the tutelage of his kind Master, Benjamin Blackthorn and the trust instilled in him until it seems a cult starts targeting London’s Apothecaries loyal to the King. Tragedy strikes and Christopher is blamed. He must solve the riddle of his Master’s murder and find the killers before they find him and the dangerous secret that was entrusted to him.
This is a very well written middle grade novel. The action is fast paced and supported by swift, smart lessons in alchemy. The story evolves through a series of clues and puzzles that must be solved and each time the solutions never feel contrived or overly simplified for the young audience. Each plot twist helps drive the action forward to unlock the mystery, setting off a chain reaction that is clear and easy to follow. One of the most engaging aspects of the story is the rich details of the time period creating a great sense of atmosphere. It is so complete and full of historical facts that it will be a great introduction for young readers to historical fiction. I’m sure that Sherlock would be a great next step for the readers that want even more clever puzzle solving. Personally, my next step is grabbing book two and continuing the adventure.
Heather's August 2015 pick
All the Bright Places, by Jennifer Niven
So much beauty depends on how you look at something. Your outlook and your perspective defines your world. Your view can create boundaries, tear them down, provide safety or grant you freedom.
What if you climbed a tower to gain perspective, to regain control or to get away. What if you stepped out on the very edge of that tower to see how easy it would be to step off, or to test if you could not step off... and then you...met someone?
This is such a beautiful and heart breaking book. It deserves all the praise. Finch and Violet are characters that will stay with you for a long time. It's an honest and uplifting look at suicide, depression and bipolar disorder. Yes that is possible. But be prepared to cry a bit too.
Heather's May 2015 pick
A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas
Beautiful, dark, and seductive. These are truly otherworldly fairies, not the pretty, lovely, fluffy, tiny pixie things either but the bold and varied, cruel and dangerous sort. The type that whisk the unwary off to fairyland and make you dance until you die. The type of fairies that alternately love humans passionately with everything they have, or kill them on a whim for a moment of fun. Feyre meets both sorts on her quest to protect her family and is a tough and wise huntress as well. The land Maas creates is enticing. I read this and wanted to spend eternity there. Don’t let the Young Adult category fool you, this is a very sexy book.
Heather's May 2014 pick
Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan
This novel is a solid second novel from Horan. Fans of Loving Frank will be happy to find another strong female character in Fanny Van de Grift. As a former frontierswoman, Fanny has the courage to leave her womanizing husband behind and take her three children to live in Europe. Struggling as a female artist and writer traveling alone in 1857, this it no small undertaking. It requires heart, charm and quite a bit of resourcefulness. When in France Fanny meets the future famous author Robert Louis Stevenson and falls in love despite their differences in age and class. This novel is not a sweeping, grand story of romance, however. It is a story of overcoming loss and circumstance to be with the person you love and what it means to truly stand by that person in difficult times.
Heather's April 2014 pick
Not Your Typical Dragon, by Dan Bar-el
I love children's stories that are creative, funny and sweet, but I also prefer children's stories that can deliver a good moral lesson with out being heavy handed. This is such a charming tale of growth and acceptance. Not Your Typical Dragon is one of those lovely books you can feel good about reading over and over again.
Crispin is a little dragon happily getting ready for his seventh birthday with all his fire breathing family. On his Birthday, his dad assures him, he will gain his fire breathing abilities. But it turns out Crispin is Not Your Typical Dragon. He doesn't breath fire at all. Instead, he breathes everything from whipped cream and marshmallows to teddy bears and even Band-Aids. Embarrassed, Crispin runs away to hide in a cave. Until, Sir George is sent to Crispin's cave to fight a dragon. George and Crispin both have no idea how to do what is expected of them. Instead the two become friends and together they learn that being different is good, in fact, it is the things that make us different that also make us special.
Heather's January 2014 pick
The Last Runaway, by Tracy Chevalier
The year is 1850, and America is still a young nation. It is a growing country, full of restless settlers and as a people they are not always on the right path. A young woman named Honor Bright, comes to America to try to find her place in life. After a series of tragedies she finds herself alone in a world foreign in every way. As a strong minded woman, with equally strong Quaker moral beliefs that all people are equal, she cannot standby while the Fugitive Slave Law forces her peaceful Quaker community to help recapture runaway slaves or lose everything they have to the law. Instead, Honor finds her way to become part of the underground railroad, putting everyone at risk.
This is an interesting and well written story giving a voice to a seldom heard from community during a turbulent time in our nation's history. Chevalier brings to light the precarious situation the nonviolent Quakers were in during the revolutionary war and she creates an honest portrayal of the struggle their community faced when confronted with slavery between their beliefs and the American laws.
Heather's November 2013 pickS. by J.J. Abrams and Doug DorstIt is difficult to describe a book that is more than just a story. This novel itself is the experience. A visual, tactile interaction that you can't have with ebooks or audio. Honestly, you really need to see this book. Come in to the store just to open it up and marvel at the innovative way this novel has been designed to draw the reader into the story. It is formatted in an inventive multi-layered medium that demonstrates what draws "book people" to books. It is designed to bring people back to physical books.I purchased it right away and have fallen deeply and happily in love. I'm still reading it but I'm willing to recommend it as my November Staff Pick without knowing the outcome. It is that intriguing.The premiss of the novel:Two strangers, a grad student and an undergrad, are writing notes in the margins of one of the novels by an author called V.M. Straka. Using the text and footnotes they are trying to unravel the many mysteries surrounding the elusive author.Their story is nonlinear, flirtatious and argumentative at once, thus adding depth and layers of a modern romance to Straka's mythic tale. The tale, or really the book within a book, is of self discovery in an unreliable world hinting at the authors own troubles. The clues to the mystery of Straka's life lay hidden in the text.Abrams and Dorst have made those facts very tangible for readers.The pages of S. are literally stuffed with research. Each page turned can reveal letters, articles, or photos that may come fluttering out. The mysterious plot is engrossing and the story is well crafted. Overall S. is a novel any book lover would enjoy.
Heather's February 2013 review
Hokey Pokey - Jerry Spinelli
The Hokey Pokey is everything. It's a child's world, a dream, an icy in any flavor you can imagine, a dance. It's Cartoons all day and night. It's Tantrums when you need to throw one. It's the Snuggler when you need a hug. It's an old western world of cap gun battles, where herds of wild bicycles roam. It's kids and all they encompass until simply, "it's...time". Suddenly, things are different and you realize you have to go. Spinelli creates a great coming of age story full of innocence and vitality. The Hokey Pokey invokes a surreal Neverland where no one can stay but no one can conceive of leaving.
Heather's January 2013 pick
This month I am choosing a children's book. And why not? It deserves my attention and and reader's notice that has a sense of humor. Mo Willems's Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is hilarious. It gives the grownups reading to their little one (for the seventh time that day) a much needed giggle. I can't wait until my son is old enough to appreciate the comic genius behind Willems's work. Any child familiar with the Three Bears story will find plenty of visual jokes and cheeky bits of narration to get them laughing. Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur and some other dinosaur visiting from Norway just happen to go somewhere else and leave out giant bowels of chocolate pudding. They "are NOT setting a trap for some succulent, unsupervised little girl."
Heather's November 2012 pick
Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore
Now in paperback:
Where does the inspiration for art come from? Divinity? Madness? A gorgeous blue muse and a creepy little imp? Christopher Moore's Sacre Bleu has all these elements and more. This is another fabulous and fun book from Moore. It has his clasic irreverent style and off kilter (and yes, off-color) humor. In this new novel Moore takes art history and turns it on its head, blending fact and fiction in a dizzying and delightful way. It gave me the feeling of visiting the Louvre with a rubber chicken in hand. If you have a love of art and a hearty sense of humor, I suggest reading this romp. You won't look at art or the color blue without a smile.
Heather's April 2012 pick
Arcadia is a moving novel that is at once both sentimental and amazingly honest. This is a beautifully written novel with lines that read almost like poetry.
The story follows the birth of Bit Stone as the first full member of the Arcadia Commune through his coming of age and his fall from Eden into his adult years. During the idealistic beginnings of the Commune, Bit's innocence falls away as he learns to see the darker side of human nature through his struggles to comprehend his mother's depression and his father's power battle with the guru in charge. Eventually due to the corruption of the girl he loves along with the destruction of the only place he has ever called home, we see Bit continue to find the duality of beauty and innocence coexisting with depravity and decay in the larger world.
It is an utterly poignant novel and relevant to the current state of the world.
Heather's January 2012 pick
Set in Le Cirqu Des Reves, a circus where anything is possible and held only at night , a competition blooms between magicians turned star-crossed lovers. The novel is an excellent example of true magic, transporting the reader into a candle lit world of paper and illusion with the scent of caramel popcorn in the air. Morgenstern seduces her readers with lush prose, constructing a beautiful and shimmering world delicately balanced between the light and dark of ambition and dreams. I would agree with Morgenstern when she writes, "put that way, it sounds rather like magic, doesn't it?" Reading the novel, you can't help but become one of the Reveurs, the dreamers and biggest fans of the Night Circus.
This book is totally worth all the hype built up around it. This is the fifth in the Song of Ice and Fire series and even this far along George R.R. Martin is still proving he can come up with some great surprises. HBO picked up the series and is doing a really stellar job with the project. I suggest starting to read them now so you can compare the books to the screen version, always a fun pastime. The reason these books are so worth while? The characters. True to life, no one is pure evil or wholly good. I love that I've found myself cheering for the "bad guy" on more than one occasion. They are vivid and complex stories about family, honor and survival. And sometimes about surviving the politics of a family with or without honor.