The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton

reviewed by Natalie

51pV4lY0MtL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgPart fairy tale, part history, and part mystery with a dash of romance, The Forgotten Garden is a story about three abandoned children, an English cottage, and a walled garden.

On her 21st birthday, Nell’s father reveals that she was found abandoned on a dock in Australia with no clue as to her origins other than a white suitcase and fairy tale book. This earth-shattering revelation leads Nell to search for her biological parents. Her search is cut short upon her death, but she leaves her granddaughter, Cassandra, a cryptic message and, in her will, a cottage in England. Continue reading

The Top-Rated Book of 2017: a 1×3 discussion of The Bear and the Nightingale, by Katherine Arden

Usually the most-read or “top-rated” books of the year during the year tend to be the thrillers and romance adventure; rarely are they the really good books that we’re always searching for. But Natalie decided to try out an intriguing title, and since she claimed it was her “favorite book of this decade, maybe century,” the rest of us joined the club. What follows is a slightly condensed 1×3 version (1 book, 3 reviewers) of our online discussion regarding Katherine Arden’s debut novel The Bear and the Nightingale.

Bear_Nightingale_CoverRECAP: Set in medieval times, the story centers around Vasilisa (or “Vasya”) Petrovna and her family in their village in the frozen tundra of Russia. What most of us didn’t know is that this story is a retelling of an old Russian folktale about a girl and the Frost King. So much of the story involves these fairytale-like household spirits; and Vasya spends much of the story discovering and trying to understand the unique gifts and powers she somehow has – and how to best protect the ones she loves with them.

What was your star rating (out of 5) for this book?

Natalie: 5 stars. Arden sets the scene well. I even felt the temperature changes as I read – the brutality of winter and the warmth of the fires.

AB: Also 5 stars. I was engaged the entire time, and I cared about the characters.

Meg: I’m going with 4.5 stars – I loved the writing style, characters, character development (mostly), creativity of storyline, and vivid locale depictions – but didn’t care for the somewhat stereotypical “fundamental religious evil guy” and the “Vasya as strong-woman feminist hero” by the end. Just so Hunger Games/Divergent to me.

[Natalie and AB roll eyes]  Continue reading

**CLOSED** Summer Giveaway – The Good Dream, by Donna Vanliere

the-good-dream**THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED**

In honor of summer a favorite book of the Club’s, we’re going to be giving away a gently used library-bound copy of The Good Dream, by Donna Vanliere.As posted earlier, this is Meg’s favorite Love Story (although it has nothing to do w/ the typical “romance” but delves deeper into the ties of motherhood-by-adoption). And AB has now become a fan too! We recently found a used copy of this book that we want to share with one of our readers – and we’re focusing this giveaway on our “follow-by-email” button. (But hear us out before you run away in fear of more spam email!) Continue reading

To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey

Review by AB

I’d like to think that it’s not a coincidence that as I sat down in my front porch rocking chair to write this review, I was fortunate to spot two especially large birds settling in the tall pines at the edge of our property. If you read To the Bright Edge of the World, you will understand the significance of such a moment. The love of birds and the mystery surrounding their nature plays an important role in the novel, but this story is not just for bird lovers.

Eowyn Ivey’s frame story (a story within a story) is a tale of love and adventure set in the 41qpsissbfL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_late 19th century. It follows Colonel Allen Forrester as he leads a treacherous expedition to find the source of Alaska’s Wolverine River, leaving behind his young wife and budding ornithologist Sophie at a military outpost.

The story is unique in that it is comprised entirely of letters and journal entries that Allen and Sophie (and others) write. The real-time nature of this format, the period photographs and drawings that are taken from real publications, and the unexplainable phenoma surrounding the events of the story keep the reader engaged and sympathetic toward the characters. The distinct voices of Ivey’s characters stir up a desire to see these wild, unkempt places that the author knows so well. If you’ve ever been to Alaska, as I have, you will be reminded of the vastness of its glaciers and forests at the same time that you are reminded of the courage of the people who call it home.

I give the book 4 stars only because of its slow start (this is no beach read), though the more I began to understand the characters, the less that bothered me.

Purchase To the Bright Edge of the World.

NOTABLE QUOTES:

“There is a mythical element to our childhood, it seems, that stays with us always. When we are young, we consume the world in great gulps, and it consumes us, and everything is mysterious and alive and fills us with desire and wonder, fear, and guilt. With the passing of the years, however, those memories become distant and malleable, and we shape them into the stories of who we are. We are brave, or we are cowardly. We are loving, or we are cruel.”

“There is hope in our wanting to be something better, even if we never manage it. Maybe that is what I can hold to. The wanting.”

Summer Reads 2017

Here’s just a list of fun and/or interesting-but-not-tedious reads for long vacation drives and warm summer days. We’ve categorized them (somewhat) for a quick perusal based on reader interest. We hope you’ll find some you enjoy! 

Editor’s Pick*

TMGTruly, Madly Guilty, by Liane Moriarty (Genre: Fiction)
Three couples gather for an afternoon barbecue and find their lives permanently altered. So what in the world happened at the barbecue? I (Natalie) couldn’t put down Truly, Madly Guilty until the author answered this question. Moriarty teases out the details in a somewhat maddening, but incredibly suspenseful way. That’s why this is my summer read choice. You won’t be bored reading it by the pool or on the beach. Continue reading

The Secret of Spellshadow Manor, by Bella Forrest

spellI’d like to say that I’ve never succumbed to the lure of clickbait. Usually I’m a strong person on Facebook. Clickbait? That’s for simpletons. But … well, there was this kind of ad post with a cool-looking book cover for The Secret of Spellshadow Manor that said “If you loved Harry Potter, you will LOVE this new series! Get the kindle deal today only!” And unfortunately, I’m a huge HP fan, and, well, anyway it was a great kindle deal. I mean, yeah, the author is known for a ton of cranked-out vampire mysteries, but this could be her Shining Star … right? Continue reading

Children’s Book Week

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May 1st marked the start of the 98th annual Children’s Book Week. To commemorate this week that encourages children’s literacy, I’ve put together a list of some my family’s favorite books. Libraries and bookstores across America celebrate this special week, and you can check out events in your area with this interactive map.

Ella Bella Ballerina Series. Ella Bella is a young ballet dancer who is transported by music into the story of well-known ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Cinderella, and a few others. The illustrations are beautiful. My daughter, an aspiring ballerina, loves these books, and even my 6-year-old boy enjoys the stories.

 

Dinosaurs Before Dark (Magic Tree House Book 1) by [Osborne, Mary Pope, Sal Murdocca]Magic Tree House Series. You will never run out of books to read with this series. And since the author transports her hero and heroine, Jack and Annie, into books via the tree house, she has an endless supply of writing material. I enjoy this series almost as much as my kids. In the first book, Jack and Annie stumble upon the tree house, and, by accident, end up transported to the age of dinosaurs.

 

A Giraffe and a Half. My kids love reading this tongue twister by Shel Silverstein. It features Silverstein’s always fun and humorous illustrations.

 

 

Tacky the Penguin series. Tacky is an unconventional, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing penguin who gets into trouble and then out of it again by hilarious means. Our favorite is Tacky Goes to Camp, where Tacky and his penguin friends nearly get eaten by a bear but are inadvertently saved by Tacky’s love of s’mores.

 

Henry’s Bright Idea. This story follows a group of sharply dressed, creative animals. Henry the fox is the inventor of the group, but he has lost his latest idea. His friend Eleanor the Bear helps him find his idea. This is a very sweet story, and the book is filled with delightful illustrations.

 

William and the Missing Masterpiece. The quick-witted cat-sleuth William is called to Paris to catch a thief who has stole the Mona Cheesa. The cheese puns alone in this book make it worth reading.

 

 

 

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