Spring has definitely sprung in central Pennsylvania! Thanks to a changing climate, everything is blooming at the same moment: forsythia, tulips, forget-me-nots, lilacs, maple trees, serviceberry, fruit trees -- you name it, it's in flower. While it makes for a lovely yard, my eyes are itching, and I've been sneezing. Ugh.
In better news, We've been getting the deck set up, where we spend the bulk of our time in the summer, although I'm waiting a couple more weeks before buying plants for sprucing up the outdoor space. Nothing better than catching a few minutes of sunshine right out my kitchen door.
- The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan (Orbit Books): As you know by now, I'm a huge Michael J. Sullivan fan and I've been working my way through his novels, which all take place in the same universe. The Crown Tower is the first book in the second series, The Riyria Chronicles, which takes us back in time and fills us in on how our heroes first meet. The books can be read in order of publication (my choice) or in chronological order -- either way, you'll fall in love with Hadrian and Royce, the fighter and the thief who experienced hate at first sight but later became the best of friends. As you can expect in these epic fantasies, the book is full of intrigue, action, fantastic characters, good humor, and multiple plot lines. Stay tuned for more. Audiobook: Thank the gods that Tim Gerard Reynolds returned to narrate this book. He is perfect for Sullivan's novels. (Recorded Books: 12 hr, 49 min)
- Edgar & Lucy by Victor Lodato (St. Martin's Press): An 8-year-old boy, his young widowed mother, and his protective grandmother each fight their own inner demons. I can tell this novel is likely deserving of all the buzz it's been getting, even though I'm not really connecting to any of the characters, who -- by the way -- barely connect with each other. Unfortunately, I started the book on audio, which is read by the author. I'm only a couple of hours in and am at that point where I have to decide to continue to listen to the author's choppy, clipped, annoying narration or ditch the audiobook and pick this up in print. (Macmillan Audio, 19 hr, 52 min)
- On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt): This novel was just what I needed. I loved getting to know Faith Frankel and her family and friends. The dialogue is snappy, the characters are the good kind of quirky, and the plot moves along at a nice pace. So what if Faith's new house may have once been the scene of multiple murders, so what if her fiance turns out to be a jerk, so what if her new boss wrongly accuses her of embezzling, Faith's family and handsome co-worker are there to see her through. I've never read Lipman before, but I'm adding her to my list. Side note: good portrayal of modern Jewish families. Audiobook: Mia Barron picks up on the soul of this novel and does an excellent job bringing the book to life. Solid characterizations and great timing for delivering the humor. (Dreamscape Media; 9 hr, 10 min).
- Looking for a fun college graduation gift? Just want to do some light soul searching? Give Cristina Vanko's ADULT-ish a try (TarcherPerigee). The book is a guided journal for, as the subtitle says, recording "your highs and lows on the road to the real world." some pages ask for lists (music to help you focus on work), some pages are for drawing (sketch of your dream house), and some pages are for self-reflection (describing a success or failure). Although everyone can benefit from journaling, this book would be perfect for twenty-somethings in their early years of independence.
- Shannon Hale's Real Friends (First Second) is an autobiographical comic illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This book totally nails elementary school friendships. Girls can be so hard on each other. Hale's experiences are common to most girls in America, at least in the last century: always a struggle to be popular, kind, true to yourself, and independent all at the same time. Who are your real friends? Is it worth being in the cool group if you're constantly worried about kicking out of it? Lots to think about in this book, and I bet it'd make a great book club pick for young readers. Pham's illustrations are expressive and move the book along both in action and in emotion. Recommended for women and girls of all ages.
Next week is the 98th annual Children's Book Week, and in celebration, I have several middle grade round-ups, features, and reviews planned for later this week and most of next week. Children's book week celebrates all kinds of children's books, from picture and board books to books geared to young adult readers. For more information on the event and how to get involved, visit the Every Child a Reader website. I love this year's poster, designed by Christian Robinson: