WORLD BOOK DAY 2018 – 3 multi-cultural novels that are “out of this world”


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You Bring the Distant Near, by Mitali Perkins – (4/5 stars) I think I found this on a list of “New YA novels worth reading” and was intrigued by the multi-generational plotline involving a mother and daughters from India (Think classic traditional Indian mother with daughters trying to become more “American” –  one wants to be a feminist writer, the other an actress).  I’m assuming Perkins has a similar background/ancestry – she provided enough details to make this culturally enlightening for me while also expressing appreciation for other cultures (including English and American). Overall, it was an enjoyable story of love and family that I think would be perfect for both the adult and teen ages. A great one to check out at your local library. ~ Meg 

“There’s something about putting words on a page in private that makes me feel powerful in public.” — from You Bring the Distant Near


scotland44 Scotland Street Series, by Alexander McCall Smith – We’ve featured a few of McCall Smith’s novels before (including 44 Scotland Street), but since I’ve read 3 more in this series since January, I just wanted to put out another plug for what has become one of my favorite authors and series to read. AMS has such a unique way of blending philosophy and humor into his stories about everyday Scottish folk while easily working in all of the little places and traditions that make Scotland what it is. His human themes will resonate with most readers while still providing them a fun snapshot at this fascinating country. ~Natalie 

“The Scots’ language can do that—can effortlessly transform the mundane into the poetic, giving the dignity of profound truth to the most banal of observations, making even a weather report sound dramatic.” — from Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers by A.M.S.



The Winternight Trilogy, by Katherine Arden – We reviewed the first novel in this (soon-to-be) trilogy last year after all reading The Bear and the Nightingale. I was intrigued about Russian culture, particularly the people’s value system and their fairy/folk tales. This is an era and setting I know practically nothing about – a stark but enthralling portrait of 14th century Russia. But Arden’s ability to take a very old folk story and put it to paper in this way was inspiring. I know Meg had some drawbacks about the way the second novel (The Girl in the Tower) developed, so it’ll be interesting to see how Arden concludes this series. ~ AB

“Solovey will take me to the ends of the earth if I ask it. I am going into the world, Alyosha. I will be no one’s bride, neither of man nor of God. I am going to Kiev and Sarai and Tsargrad, and I will look upon the sun on the sea.” — from The Bear and the Nightingale


End-of-Year Reading Challenge Update

By Megan

2017’s Reading Challenge is in the books (ha – ok, maybe pun intended) – so I wanted to share the last few books I read to finish it up along with a few tips I learned about doing a “reading challenge” as well as share my goal for this new year (actual books on my list coming later).

Tips about Reading Challenges:

  1. DO try utilizing Goodreads – this website/app makes it really easy to keep track of books you’ve read/are reading/want to read. I almost always have my phone with me, so if I hear about a book or read something online, I can quickly add it to my “want to read” list – no more forgetting all those “friend recommendations.” They also set up a Reading Challenge that you can customize to any amount you want. And any book you mark as “Read” will go towards your reading goal for the year.
  2. DON’T try to assign titles to all of your reading goals – for instance, I want to read 40 books this year. But this time, I’m not going to write down 40 titles – only 25-30. I get so many recommendations throughout the year, I want to have room to fill in with new ideas.
  3. DO try to read a wide variety of genres – this is always stretching for me, but I loved the variety I got from last year’s challenge.
  4. DON’T shop for books on Amazon or if you have no money. Enough said.

2017 Books reviewed:

Here are 10 books that I read this year that I haven’t reviewed yet – some might be good ideas for your own reading challenge lists (or your kids’ lists!). A good number were juvenile/Young Adult books because I am now a volunteer school librarian, so … it just kind of happens. 🙂 Continue reading

Serafina and the Splintered Heart, by Robert Beatty

3 reviewers reflecting on the 3 Serafina books – and how book #3 compared to the others. 


(Serafina and the Black Cloak [1] & Serafina and the Twisted Staff [2]): 

Serafina 3AB: I thought Beatty continued to do an excellent job of hooking the reader. Within the first few pages, I found myself asking, “What in the world is going on here?” In that respect, Beatty does not disappoint.”

Natalie: This one didn’t land for me quite like the other two. But I have been reading a lot of fantasy lit lately, and I think maybe I overdid it in the supernatural. It was fun to read it so close to Halloween.

Meg: Once again, I read this in a sitting. It’s gripping and a little darker than the other two, but in a similar fashion still gives you something good to fight for. I did think this one was a little more “mystical”/New-Age-y than the previous two.


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Outlaws of Time: The Legend of Sam Miracle, by N.D. Wilson

outlaws of timeUpon first glance, Sam Miracle’s name appears to be a misnomer. After all, he is stuck in an orphanage in the middle of the desert, and his arms don’t work. Miracles aren’t exactly likely for this teenager. All he has going for him are his incredibly vivid dreams in which he time-travels to fight the evil El Buitre . . . and in which his arms function properly. 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

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Wingfeather Saga, vol. 1 – by Andrew Peterson

by AB

As a middle school English teacher, I am always looking for quality fantasy fiction for young readers. Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga first came to my attention when it was recommended to me by my 13-year-old nephew. Here’s a tip: if a teenage boy sings the praises of a fiction book, that’s a big deal and worth your attention.ap Continue reading

Interview with Robert Beatty, author of the Serafina books

We were thrilled to meet up with best-selling author Robert Beatty at a book signing; and we appreciate his time in allowing our interview. We hope you’ll enjoy it as well!  

Interview by AB


RB1What inspired you to write a book set at the Biltmore Estate?
My family and I live very close to Biltmore, and we visit there often. It’s a place filled with history, beauty and a sense of mystery. We thought it was the perfect setting for a mysterious, spooky story from a child’s point of view.

The character of Serafina was inspired by my middle school-aged daughter, Genevieve, who used to prowl around our house and try to sneak up on me in my office when I was writing.

How has being a father played a role in your Serafina stories?
I’ve always been interested in strong, young female characters. I’ve always felt that girls can do anything they want to do, and be anything they want to be. One of my main goals in writing Serafina was to give my three daughters a story about a heroic girl they can relate to.

Do you have plans to write a third Serafina book? (Please say “yes.”)
Yes, a third book in the Serafina Series is in progress now.  Look for it in summer 2017. Continue reading