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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 13 CDs
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The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, was our January book club selection, which I read in December.  Carrie McClelland has been writing for some time and she has lived a life with her characters as most authors do, but in this case, her ancestors begin to speak through her.  A novel about the failed attempt to return the exiled James Stewart to the crown in the spring of 1708 in Scotland, McClelland is pulled in another direction when she realizes that her novel needs a new point of view.  In so choosing Sophia Patterson, her late-night writing takes a very different turn, as she uncovers her own family’s past.  In alternating points of view between Carrie as she meets the owner of a cottage she rents for writing and his sons and Sophia’s point of view, the story of her family comes alive.

The dramatic landscape and winter sea call to Carrie, like it called to her ancestors.  In many ways, Kearsley’s narrative asks whether memories can be inherited through DNA?  It also seeks to touch upon how much of our personalities and inclinations come from the people in our families who have gone before us.  The courage and power of love is palpable in Kearsley’s prose, and her characters face a number of obstacles beyond their control, at least in Carrie’s novel.  The life of an author can be lonely, and Carrie falls a bit quickly in love.  However, the author focuses not only on the romance of these characters in the present and past, the Jacobite Movement is well fleshed out, with intrigue and danger.  Landor is a passionate narrator, and she makes all of the twists and turns believable.

The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley, narrated by Rosalyn Landor, is wonderfully crafted, combining history with romance in a fantastic way.  Landor does an excellent job with the Scottish accents and dialects.

About the Author:

Susanna Kearsley studied politics and international development at university, and has worked as a museum curator.  Her first novel Mariana won the prestigious Catherine Cookson Literary Prize and launched her writing career. Susanna continued her mix of the historical and paranormal in novels The Splendour Falls, Named of the Dragon, Shadowy Horses and Season of Storms. Susanna Kearsley also writes classic-style thrillers under the name of Emma Cole.

What the book club thought:

Everyone seemed to enjoy this book for the most part.  A couple members wanted a bit more of a supernatural element to tie together the past and present storylines.  It seemed like things happened to connect Carrie McClelland with her ancestors’ past, but it is unclear why.  The Past narrative worked better for me, but others didn’t seem bothered by the past or modern story’s disconnect.  It was definitely an engaging story with an expected happy ending, at least expected by most of us.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 CDs
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The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is the second book in the Department Q series — though you don’t have to read the previous one to follow along with this one — and Detective Carl Mørck is leading the new department with his assistant Assad in Copenhagen, Denmark.  This department’s focus is cold cases, reopening them to find new clues with fresh eyes, and what Mørck finds is a little more is disturbing.  Reviewing a case of murders from 1987 that involved a gang of young men and women, the detective, Assad, and his new assistant Rose Knudsen are forced to reassess their world view and the motivations of killers.

Adler-Olsen creates a set of murders that are not only over-the-top, but the perpetrators are as well.  Their hyped-up sense of pleasure from beatings, killings, and torture is reminiscent of the television show American Horror Story.  Some of these killers come from the upper echelons of society, and like those before them, they believe they are untouchable because of their place in society and what they have accomplished.  It’s clear that these accomplishments are not enough to sustain their attention or satisfaction; these are men and women who are dissatisfied with their success and are seduced by the dark side (pun intended).  Despite these absurdly crazy characters, and the absent one from the murderous gang who seems to stay enough on the radar to attract the attention of Detective Mørck but not her cohorts, the story has great tension and a layered revealing of events that keep readers hooked.

The Absent One by Jussi Adler-Olsen, narrated by Steven Pacey and translated by K.E. Semmel, is a well paced thriller with bits of comedic banker between Mørck, Assad, and Rose that will leave readers wondering about what they missed in book one if they start here.  This seems like a series readers will get sucked into without really knowing how.  The unusual characters, the foreign setting for U.S. readers, and the noir quality of the situations will entice readers to enter Adler-Olsen’s world cautiously.

About the Author:

Author Jussi Adler-Olsen began in the 1990s to write novels after having followed a comprehensive career as publisher, editor, film composer for the Valhalla-cartoon and as bookseller.

He made his debut with the thriller “Alfabethuset” (1997), which reached bestseller status both in Denmark and internationally just like his subsequent novels “And She Thanked the Gods” (prev. “The Company Basher”) (2003) and “The Washington Decree” (2006). The first book on Department Q is “Kvinden I buret” (2007) and the second “Fasandræberne” (2008). The main detective is Deputy Superintendent Carl Morck from the Department Q and he is also the star of the third volume, “Flaskepost fra P” which was released in the fall of 2009 and secured Adler-Olsen ”Readers’ Book Award” from Berlingske Tidende-readers, the Harald Mogensen Prize as well as the Scandinavian Crime Society’s most prestigious price ”Glass Key”. The fourth volume in the Department Q series, “Journal 64” was published in 2010 and he was awarded the once-in-a-lifetime-prize of “The Golden Laurels” for this in 2011”. In December 2012 the fifth novel was published, “Marco Effekten”.

Photo Credit: Eric Druxman

About the Translator:

K. E. Semmel is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in Ontario Review, Washington Post, World Literature Today, Southern Review, Subtropics, and elsewhere. His translations include books by Naja Marie Aidt, Karin Fossum, Erik Valeur, Jussi Adler Olsen, Simon Fruelund and, forthcoming in winter 2016, Jesper Bugge Kold. He is a recipient of numerous grants from the Danish Arts Foundation and is a 2016 NEA Literary Translation Fellow.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 72 pgs.
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The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, intertwines the fairy tales of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, and in this beautifully illustrated book, these fairy tales come to life.  In beauty and with courage, these young royals must beat back the darkness with cunning strategy.

Gaiman’s prose mimics the fairy tale language of these tales and he drops hints as to the identities of the queen and the princess.  Younger readers and their parents will enjoy these stronger role models, who do not wait around to be rescued but rescue themselves.  Rather than simply marry as expected, can a queen choose another path for herself, something unknown but more satisfying?  Should a princess wait for another queen to rescue her, or use her own mind to puzzle out a solution that can save her life and defeat the darkness?

While there are not seven dwarfs, but three, and they tend the queen with beautiful textiles, rather than jewels, these dwarfs are inquisitive and adventurous.  The detailed descriptions of the townspeople and their sleeping postures, alongside the illustrations, provider readers with a well-rounded picture.  The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell, is gorgeous both in visual beauty and in substance, mirroring the strong royals in Gaiman’s tale.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Neil Gaiman is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty books, and is the recipient of numerous literary honors. Originally from England, he now lives in America.

Find out more about Neil at his website, find all his books at his online bookstore, and follow him on Facebooktumblr, and his blog.

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! by J. Patrick Lewis


Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 192 pgs.
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National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! by J. Patrick Lewis is a wonderful collection of poems and corresponding photographs that will engage younger readers.  The collection includes poems from the greats like Langston Hughes, Billy Collins, Emily Dickinson, and many others, but there also are less known poets included.  Paired with photos of scenes, geological formations, close-ups of insects and animals, and the moon, these poems take on a new life.  The collection also includes some fantastic Haiku, which are short poems that younger readers can follow along with easily.

The collection also includes some visual poems, like “Two Falling Flakes” by Douglas Florian, and prose poems that read more like stories.  Youngest readers will enjoy listening to their parents read the poems as they look at the full-color, glorious pictures of nature.  Parents can use this book as a jumping off point to explore nature with their children, to take photos together and compare perspectives, and to take up the pen and paint word pictures.

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry: More than 200 Poems With Photographs That Float, Zoom, and Bloom! by J. Patrick Lewis will delight readers of all ages with the stunning photographs and poems, encouraging readers to investigate the natural world around them, to take trips outside their urban areas, and to learn more about the natural world.  Poems often provide unique perspectives on emotion and human interaction, but like Haiku poems, words can offer surprising realizations about the connections we don’t immediately see between ourselves and nature.

About the Editor:

J. Patrick Lewis is an American poet and prose writer noted for his children’s poems and other light verse. He worked as professor of economics before devoting himself full-time to writing in 1998.  Visit his website.

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 357 pgs.
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Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is the culmination of everything readers will love about the Shiver series; these characters, flawed as they are, have come a long geographic distance to outrun their problems but instead are faced with the reality that they cannot be run from.  Cole St. Clair, a former famous rocker, has come to Los Angeles to get away from the empty quiet of Minnesota, and as the new star on a reality TV series, he hopes that he’ll find a way to win Isabel Culpeper’s heart and keep her forever by his side.  However, he has forgotten one thing, Isabel is not interested in being an accessory for anyone’s life; she’s a star of her own show, even if it is inside a cold winter not-so-wonderland.

Baby, the producer of the reality TV series, is well aware that Cole is a reformed addict — though she doesn’t know about his baser nature — and she’s ready to make some great TV, even if she has to throw naked women at the fallen rock star. Isabel, however, is made of tougher stuff, or so she thinks. She’s an ice queen, but like ice under pressure, she’s bound to crack.

Stiefvater’s characters may have supernatural problems, but those only really magnify what’s broken inside them emotionally. Feeling abandoned, out of place, unloved — all are deep problems that cannot be ignored, lest they destroy the victim.  Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater is a wonderful addition to the Shiver trilogy, and it will have readers cheering for that reality TV happy ending. But will they get it?

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Susan Lyons, updates Jane Austen’s tale of a young woman in high society who starts meddling in the lives of those around her.  Smith’s Emma Woodhouse is far more brazen in her comments of others, and its clear that when she returns from university that she wants to make her mark by making people happier.  Unfortunately, taking her interior design education and applying it to the relationships of her friends and neighbors is not a good fit.  Lyons does an excellent job with the narration, and she really knew which parts to emphasize.

Unlike her sister, who is happy to meet a man and start a family, Emma doesn’t have a conventional future in mind.  She wants to start her own business in the suburbs, rather than in London, which suits her hypochondriac father well.  He thinks London is a place that will make people ill, but his eldest daughter takes off with her new husband to begin their family there.  Meanwhile, Emma is content to stay in the village and take the summer to assess her options.  Smith follows the original plot pretty well with his rendition, with many of his modern elements woven in well, but some of the main conflicts appear glossed over — beginning and ending swiftly.

One area that is tough to take is Emma’s harsher characterization, which can be attributed to the much harsher and self-absorbed nature of today’s society.  However, how Emma is still given a pass in a modern society where class does not hold as much respect or weight as it once did in Austen’s time is left unexplained.  Smith creates a different backstory for Emma and Mr. Knightly, which works in this modern retelling, but may not win points with Austen’s fan base.  Mr. Woodhouse, however, is treated with a bit more respect than he was in Austen — he’s a little less ludicrous, which was a refreshing change.  The governess, however, seems to be a mouthpiece for the author, steering Emma in the right direction and the relationship between the two seems flat.

Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith, narrated by Susan Lyons, was a mixed bag with modern updates, like including cars and women going to college, but lacking in the obsession with selfies, cellphones, and other technology.  It also was mixed in terms of Smith’s treatment of the characters and the original story.  While Knightly was a guiding force for Emma, here he is relegated to the sidelines and a new character emerges, the governess.

About the Author:

Alexander McCall Smith is the author of the international phenomenon The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie Series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, and the 44 Scotland Street series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served on many national and international bodies concerned with bioethics. He was born in what is now known as Zimbabwe and he was a law professor at the University of Botswana. He lives in Scotland. Visit him online at www.alexandermccallsmith.com, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

Piglet Bo Is Not Scared! by Geert De Kockere, illustrated by Tineke Van Hemeldonck

Source: Sky Pony Press
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
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Piglet Bo Is Not Scared! by Geert De Kockere, illustrated by Tineke Van Hemeldonck, is a cute story about the things we tell ourselves when we feel fear creeping over our shoulders.  In this story, Piglet Bo claims not to be scared of anything or anyone, but as Bo pumps himself up and tries to project fear onto a tiny mouse, readers come to realize that Bo is afraid.  Kockere’s story is a little more wordy than other picture books, but this story is one that demonstrate to young readers that emotion can be not only portraying in illustrations but also through words.

Piglet Bo is the typical child looking for greater independence and refusing to admit the need for help or reassurance, especially when fear is involved.  Bo puffs up at the sign of shadows, making excuses for not going into the dark room or riding the roller coaster, but when Bo wakes up in the forest at night, there is little room for an excuse.  A realization strikes that fear is real and can be overwhelming.

Piglet Bo Is Not Scared! by Geert De Kockere, illustrated by Tineke Van Hemeldonck, is a great book introducing children to fear and how it can be rationalized into other emotions and how excuses do not let them escape the fear but trick their minds.  Younger readers may wonder why Bo is so afraid of a mouse or a roller coaster, but adventures will require courage and fears can come in all sizes and forms.  Kockere’s book enables young readers to see that it is okay to be afraid, and that in some cases, it can be useful.  The illustrations are a little abstract at times, which will require a little explanation for younger readers.

Other Reviews:

Piglet Bo Can Do Anything!

About the Author:

Geert De Kockere studied to become a teacher but instead became a professional journalist. Currently he is the editor of Buitenbeen, a nature magazine for Flanders and the Netherlands. He has written many children’s books, including several collections of poems, and has won a variety of book prizes for his work. He resides in Kempen, Belgium.

About the Illustrator:

Tineke Van Hemeldonck studied graphic design, specializing in illustration, at Provinciale Hogeschool Limburg in Hasselt. She has done all kinds of graphic design work, and this is her first children’s book. She currently resides in Bunsbeek, Belgium.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond

Source: Public Library
Hardcover, 293 pgs.
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The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond, which was a February book club pick, is a fantastic cookbook for novice cooks and those with a little more experience.  This cookbook not only provides step-by-step instructions that are easy to follow, uses items that are pre-prepared (such as Pillsbury Crescent Rolls), and offers alternative ingredients, but it also tells a story of frontier life and gives step-by-step photos to show what recipes look like throughout the process to ensure that those following along are doing things as close to her instructions as possible.  I found the instructions and pictures of each step very helpful; they kept me on track, which I need with a 4-year-old helping in the kitchen who tends to get me easily distracted and missing steps.

For Thanksgiving week, I made the Peach-Whiskey Chicken using chicken legs, but you can use breasts and other types of pairings and types of chicken.  The directions were easy to follow with the measurements laid out, though the times for cooking in each step were approximate depending on your stove type and some steps could take longer.  We thoroughly enjoyed these messy chicken legs, and while I had a hard time finding peaches — I ended up using frozen peaches — it was good to make something so tasty from scratch.  This was the recipe that took me the longest time to prepare.

For the actual Thanksgiving dinner, I made the Whiskey-Glazed Carrots — are you sensing a theme here? — which was a relatively simple recipe to follow, though it took me a bit to find the skillet I have that has a lid — many of my pans do not have lids.  There’s something I do each Thanksgiving — I make different types of carrots with the hope that I can get Anna‘s daughter to eat them.  She doesn’t like carrots very much.  So far, I’ve gotten 2 okays in the last couple of years.  I’ll take it.  Next year, I’ll find another recipe for carrots.

After the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a day off to do some editing and decided to take a break and make Apple Dumplings using Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.  Cutting the apples was the hardest part because I don’t own an apple corer for some reason, so I had to cut the apples into 8 pieces — no they were not the same size — and core them once I cut the apple.  The rest of the recipe was a breeze, though I didn’t use Mt. Dew as the recipe indicated.  I used the variation of ginger ale, and I think they came out really well.  I don’t often eat ice cream, but I bet these would taste delicious with some vanilla bean ice cream.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Food from My Frontier by Ree Drummond is delightful cookbook, filled with great recipes, anecdotes about frontier life, and advice on alternative recipes and pairings.  This is a cookbook I would recommend to anyone who wants to try something new but wants it kept simple.  I love that there are a variety of meals from spicy to mild, and the desserts in this book look so good just from the pictures.

About the Author:

Ree Drummond began blogging in 2006 and has built an award-winning website, where she shares recipes, showcases her photography, and documents her hilarious transition from city life to ranch wife. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling cookbook The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Ree lives on a working cattle ranch near Pawhuska, Oklahoma, with her husband, Ladd; their four kids; their beloved basset hound; and lots of other animals.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Digital Library
Digital audio, 9+ hrs
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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is the third book in this series, and it is such a strong series of books.  Listening to these back to back on audio with the fabulous Will Patton as the narrator has been an immersive experience.  Where a hot room can feel like a jacket closing you in, readers will fall into the world Steifvater has created, wanting to uncover the magic and secrets within the pages quickly, but at the same time struggle not to linger over her images and poetic prose.  Adam and Blue are sent on a journey into the caves with the other Raven Boys, but as they are less sure of their own abilities, they are edging closer to a precipice they may not come back from.

What do you so when your psychic mother disappears, the Greenmantle comes to down to unearth darkness, and the Raven Boys are ever closer to discovering the resting place of a former Welsh king, Glendower?  While things have seen more certain, they are less certain than ever because the ley lines are in disorder, dream thieves are rifling with things they do not fully understand, and others are scrying in the search for guidance.  Time is fluid in this book, and so is what is real and what is not.  Stiefvater has woven a believable world in which readers will be trapped with Blue and the Raven Boys, searching for the unknown and hoping for answers.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, reveals answers and poses more questions, but readers will never tire of this world and its fantastical elements.  Her characters are nuanced, engaging, twisted and damaged, but they all cling to some form of hope, a hope that things will improve, things will go their way, and that all will be re-aligned as it should be.  However, what they believe it to be, might not be how it ends up when all is said and done.  Stiefvater is a rare talent in the young adult fiction genre.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen

Source: Media Buck Book Publicity
Paperback, 384 pgs.
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The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen is an ambitious novel that weaves in elements of Sylvia Plath’s life subtly, and the Lavender family is on the edge of crisis.  Katie is a mother of three whose wild ways secure her in a nuclear family, one that she is ill-equipped to navigate without stumbling.  Wilson is a former addict attempting to finish his PhD, while engaging young students in women’s studies courses.  Much of the novel is a series of flashbacks to Katie’s tormented past and an event that changed her forever, before Katie’s sister arrives on her doorstep to stir up even more trouble.

“Victimized by sex is the human race. Animals, the fortunate lower beasts, go into heat. Then they are through with the thing, while we poor lustful humans, caged by mores, chained by circumstance, writhe and agonize with the appalling and demanding fire licking always at our loins.” – Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Knutsen’s novel seems to explore Plath’s comments about sex and married life as personified in Katie.  She has a husband who is her best friend, but she cannot confide in him about her lustful need to conquer their younger neighbor, Steven.  Meanwhile, Wilson has felt trapped from day one after Katie announced her pregnancy, but like an addict, he dives in head first into the marriage pool.  He wants to give it his all, but even as he does, these strong personalities cannot live in the same space without arguments and other adverse effects.

“There were two worlds when I was a kid.  The Cinderella world, with its fancy light, is the one I miss.  It lasted until I was eight.  Then it disappeared.” (pg. IX)

“There was a second world.  It was the texture of pumice.  It was the taste of metal in my mouth.  It was the stopped heart, the brain that could never catch its breath.  This world eclipsed the Cinderella world, and it visits me still in the night, sliding along the edges of the room, slipping into my mouth to sit in my throat, acrid and black, its tendrils snaking down to hook, but good, my heart.” (pg. X)

Although Wilson is meant to be rewriting Plath’s lost journals — those that went missing or were destroyed as his doctoral dissertation — he finds his hours spent in the office not writing.  Perhaps he has lost faith in his knowledge of women since his marriage to Katie has begun to crack, or perhaps he has come to the conclusion that he is a farce of the genius image he has created throughout his academic career.  Knutsen examines the illusion of a happy marriage, especially between traumatized people.

The people in this world are highly damaged and have lost their moral ground, but rather than fight against the nature they are familiar with to create a new life, a changed life, they step into their old shoes.  The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath by Kimberly Knutsen is about lost souls whose lives are documented only by their relations and themselves.  Some readers may have a tough time reading some of these situations and the language, but overall, Knutsen has captured the darker side of trauma and its long-term effects.

Check out my interview with Knutsen, here.

2015-08-17 05.00.08-3 (1)About the Author:

A native Portlander, Kimberly Knutsen is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She has an MA in English from New Mexico State University and a PhD in English from Western Michigan University. She has won many fellowships and awards for her writing and has published short stories in The Hawaii Review and the Cimarron Review. She has written a novel, The Lost Journals of Sylvia Plath, and is currently finishing a second novel, Violet.

Kim comes to Portland from Kalamazoo, Michigan where she taught writing and women’s studies at Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. She loves working with her students at CU and is continually amazed by their intelligence, creativity, kindness and wisdom.

The Runaway Santa: A Christmas Adventure Story by Anne Margaret Lewis, illustrated by Aaron Zenz

Source: Sky Pony Press
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
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The Runaway Santa: A Christmas Adventure Story by Anne Margaret Lewis, illustrated by Aaron Zenz, is an adorable book about Santa Claus and his desire for a vacation away from the North Pole.  The author teams up with the same illustrator of The Runaway Pumpkin, and the results are very similar, only this time the wife is carefully watching her husband on his adventures instead of the mother watching her pumpkin son.  We’ve read this one a couple of times, and she loves picking out where Mrs. Claus is hiding in the background as Santa talks about his adventures in the mountains and the jungle, among other places.

The drawings are simple line drawn characters that are easily recognized by young readers, and the adventures give young readers an idea of what different locations look like and what equipment or items you might need to pack.  This one also had a lot of my daughter’s sight words that she’s learning in preschool, which was good for her to practice recognizing them outside of her flashcards.  Out favorite parts were when Mrs. Claus rode a Kangaroo and Santa swung through the jungle with the monkeys and rode an elephant.

The Runaway Santa: A Christmas Adventure Story by Anne Margaret Lewis, illustrated by Aaron Zenz, offers advice on how to be prepared for adventures, even though they are supposed to be fun.  It also expresses love and care for loved ones, teaching kids empathy for others and concern about their well-being — allowing them to look outside their selves and their own concerns.  Finally, the story also offers a moment of inclusion, as Santa realizes that his wife thinks the vacation adventure may be a good idea and that he would love for her to come along.

Other Reviews:

The Runaway Pumpkin: A Halloween Adventure Story

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 11 CDs
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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, continues the series with the Raven Boys and Blue fighting the dark forces of dreamland.  The ley line has been awakened but the Raven Boys and Gansey continue their search for the dead ancient king Glendower.  As they continue their search, the Gray Man is searching for a mechanism, but even with the help of Blue’s psychic family, he has no idea what he is searching for. The romantic tension is present here, but the book is less about teen romance than about the battle between good and evil and the known versus the unknown.

Meanwhile, the magic of Cabes Water has disappeared or fizzled out, as if a power surge has disrupted its power.  Ronan, who has been the black sheep, has finally found a purpose, and in this volume, he has come into his own, while Adam still seems lost.  Despite the fluid relationships between the Raven Boys and Blue and her family, they have little choice but to push aside their emotions to save the magic of Cabes Water, jumpstart the power of the fading lay line, and keep the evil forces at bay.  Stiefvater’s prose is thrilling, visually arresting, and unforgettable.

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, narrated by Will Patton, is a whirlwind of magic that will leave readers wanting more.  Will these boys survive the magic? Can they wield the magic with aplomb and responsibility? Or will they be devoured by the fire that threatens to burn the town and take the magic with it?  This is a series that will have readers begging for more, and they’ll be unable to get these living nightmares out of their head long after the book is closed.

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.