Garlic & the Vampire and Garlic & the Witch

by Bree Paulsen
Support your local independent bookstore: by them there!
Content: There really isn’t anything, unless you don’t like vampires or witches. They are in the Middle Grade Graphic Noel section of the bookstore.

This is an absolutely adorable pair of graphic novels. They center around Grlic, the “child” of Wicth Agnes, who along with other veggies and fruits, help the witch in her garden. In the first book the veggies notice smoke coming from a nearby, old, abanodned castle, and Garlic is nominated to go see if a vampire lives there. One does, but he turns out to be “retired”, ad joins the veggies in their gardening.

In the second, GArlic needs to go on an adventure to fetch an ingredient for Count(he’s the vampire) blood substitute, which is very scary but also very exciting. Additionally ti seems Garlic and the other frit/veggie people are turning human, which is pretty stressful.

In both, Garlic is an anxious bean (well, she’s a root? I don’t know: what is garlic?), who is afraid of change but is determined to not let that get in her way. They are adorable books, cute and homey and safe, and absolutely good for any kid who deals with anxiety. Also for people who like cute, cozy stories

I like Paulen’s stories and her art, so I’m cureious to see what she does next!

Heat Wave

by TJ Klune
First sentence: “Near dusk, shadows stretch like reaching darkness, the heat from the summer day like molten claws to the chest, digging into the beating heart of a city under siege.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Extraordinaries, Flash Fire
Content: There is an extended discussion of gay porn, how to have anal sex, and a very awkward sex scene. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore, but really needs to be moved.

We pick up with our illustrious heroes soon after the events of Flash Fire. Except Nick’s mom isn’t dead. Right? It’s all weird. Owen is back as a villain, and Simon Burke is the Big Bad – not only is he running for myor of Nova City, he wants to do away with Extraordinaries.

Underneath all of that Nick is trying to enjoy his relationship with Seth, and figure out how to be an Extraordinary. Plus apply for college. It’s a lot for a kid.

Honestly, while this was fun, and an okay ending to a series, it wasn’t my favorite. I don’t know if it’s because I wanted and lost the momentum I had between the other two, but even though I adored Nick, Seth, Gibby, and Jazz and their very healthy relationships with their parents, I didn’t really like the book. Maybe because I felt like it took too long to get going. Maybe it was because I ahdn’t read the others in ages Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood.

Not Klune’s best book, but I am still glad for the LGBT representation. Not a bad book, just not for me.

Audiobook: Dinners with Ruth

by Nina Totenbrg
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some mild swearing including one f-bomb. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

The book’s subtitle is “A Memoir on the Power of Friendships, ” which really sums up the book. Nina (I can call her Nina from having listened to her on NPR for decades, yes?) reflects not only on the close friendship she had with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg but on the friendships that have gotten her through her life. She spends a lot of time not just reflecting on having friends, and how it’s possible to be friends with people you disagree with (which is something we’re losing I think, as a society), but also on how those friendships have enriched her life. It ranges from supreme court justices to her colleagues at NPR to her family and the friends that introduced her to both of her husbands.

I really recommend getting this one on audio. Totenberg is a radio journalist, which means she knows how to tell a story. And she is delightful here. From her small chuckles when she reads something funny to the emotion in her voice when she talks about RBG’s death. It’s truly delightful to listen to.

Very highly recommended.

Audiobook: Azar on Fire

by Olivia Abtahi
Read by: Alex McKenna
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some talk of teen pregnancy (Azar’s mother got pregnant at 19) and birth control, as well as a couple of mild swear words. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

When Azar Rossi was a child, she had an illness that injured her vocal cords pretty severely. Which means, that as a 14 year old, it hurts to talk. So she doesn’t, usually. When she accidentally – by trying to hide from a buly – destroys some schoo proerty and is coerced into joining the scchool battle of the bands, she panics: how can a girl with no voice form a band and perform?

I really enjoyed this one a lot. I liked Azar’s Iranian/Latinx/Italian heritage and the way Abtahi incorporated the ddferent parts of her heritage. I liked that the book was more focued on Azar’s personal growth and her journey to find friends and a place, rather than on some romance (though there was one, in the end it was very sweet though I thought it wouldhave been fine without it). I thought the narrator did a fantastic job, reading and nailing the characters, inclluding Azar’s damaged voice. It was really a fun, sweet younger YA book, of which there are not enough.

Recommended, espeially on audio.

Audiobook: The Thursday Murder Club

by Richard Osman
Read by Lesley Manville
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is murder, obviously, and also suicide. It’s in the Mystery section of the bookstore.

The Thursday Murder Club at a quiet retirement community just wants to meet in the Jigsaw Room on Thursdays and look at – and maybe try to solve – old cold cases. Things get heated though, when the four of them – Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim – encounter an actual, live murder: a developer (two, actually) connected to their community turns up dead. The four of them follow the story through its twists and turns, all the while working with (and outsmarting, of course) the police. The real lesson: order people – ones in retirement communities, who are thought past their prime, still have things to contribute.

This book was a delightful romp. I adored the narrator and her voices for everyone. There was a good bit of humor, and a good bit of “you go!” when the older ones were on quicker than the police. Elizabeth is definitely the leader and the “smartest” but the others have their place, too. We got some backstory and some character development along with the twists and turns of the murders. And yes, there was a big cast, but they were really all delightful to spend time with.

Recommended for those who like their murder mysteries on the lighter side.

Monthly Round-Up: August 2022

It’s been a month. That’s really the best I can say. I did have a favorite this month, out of the few that I read:

Tamsyn Muir is brilliant. Period.

Middle Grade:

The Marvelous Land of Snergs

Graphic Novels:

Isla to Island

Adult Fiction

Bookish People (audiobook)

YA:

The Agathas
A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking

Maybe someday I’ll stop lamenting my “lack of reading” and just accept that this is how much i read now. Someday.

What was your favorite this month?

The Marvelous Land of Snergs

by Veronica Cossanteli
First sentence: “‘Children need rules,’ stated Miss Watkyns.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: September 20, 2022
Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at the bookstore.
Content: There is some violence, but not really. I was telling someone at the bookstore that this will make a great read aloud but I have no idea if an 8-10 year old will want to pick it up Maybe the right 8-10 year old. It’s in the Middle Grae section of the bookstore.

Pip and Flora are orphans, who have found themselves at the Sunny By Hoe for Superfluous and Accidentally Parentless Children. They are not entirely happy there; the director, Miss Watkyns, is very strict and always going on about rules, and Pip and Flora are not terribly good at following them. until one day, when they are punished and then end up in the woods, and through a gate that was accidenally left over, and they find themseleves in teh land of the Snergs. Their guide, Gorbo, isn’t not terribly bright or put-together, but together they manage to get in a bit of trouble, meet the Snerg Queen and go up against a wicked witch.

No, it’s not a plot-heavy book though Things do Happen It really would make a delightful read-aloud to a 4-6-year-old, someone who doesn’t mind the low stakes and would be entertained by the silliness. Because it is sill. Not ad, just silly. The marketing material says it’s based on the original story by E. A. Wyke-Smith, which inspired Tolkien to write The Hobbit, so there is that. IT does feel like something from the 1920s, with its Capital Letters and morals (but not terribly heavy-handed morals). Even so, I found it delightful. Not deep, but entertaining.

Which is probably all I really needed.

Isla to Island

by Alexis Castellanos
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some depiction of violence. It’s in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

IN this wordless graphic novel, we follow the story of Mari, who was born in Cuba in the early 1950s and had a happy life with her parents. That is until Castro took over and Mari’s parents began to fear they weren’t safe. So, they sent Mari to New York to live with a nice older couple – stangers, as part of the Peter Pan program, though you don’t find that our until the afterword until they could find a way to leave as well. Mari was thrown into situations that she couldn’t understand; school in New York was nothing like school in ba. It wasn’t until she find the library, and books about plants, that she begins to feel at home.

This is a gorgeously drawn graphic novel; it has to be since there are no words (to very few). Castellanos knows how to portray emotion through facial expressions and body language so I felt I got the story without needing to have words. Perhaps the best thing was that when Mari traveled to Cuba, the world changed from full color to black and white. It was a very effective tool for portraying how isolated and out of place she felt.

Very highly recommended.

Nona the Ninth

by Tasmyn Muir
First sentence: “In the dream, he told her the words about where he took his degrees his postdoc, his research fellowship.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: September 13, 2022
Review copy snagged from the publisher when it came in.
Others in the series: Gideon the Ninth Harrow the Ninth
Content: It’s violent and sweary. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

Things you should know:

  1. It’s MUCH better if you read Gideon and Harrow right before reading this one. Seriously. I spent so much time trying to remember things, I finally gave up, found a Wiki, and spent time looking up things to remind myself. If you remember stuff from the previous two books, you will better understand and grasp what is going on in this one.
  2. It’s the …. cheeriest? possibly.. of the three so far. Nona is an endearing character and I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with her, Pyrrha, Cam, Palamedes, and all the new characters we met.
  3. I have no idea what the heck happened in the last 1/4 of the book, and I’m not sure I care that I didn’t know. Truthfully: upon reflection, all the pieces were there, I just didn’t catch them. (See, #1.)
  4. Muir blew my mind in the best. way, and I am utterly impressed with her world-building, with her character development, and just the way this story is unfolding.
  5. Bring on Alecto. I can’t wait to see how this ends.

Audiobook: Bookish People

by Susan Coll
Read by Alexa Morden
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some mild swearing and a couple of f-bombs. There is also mention of suicide. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

A co-worker – the current Children’s Coordinator at the bookstore – turned me on to this one, saying: It’s super accurate, including down to the vacuum cleaner that won’t work. That was enough for me.

The basic plot: it’s one week at an independent bookstore in Washington, DC (not Politics and Prose, though) where everything seems to go wrong. The owner, Sophie, is having second and third thoughts about running a bookstore and just wants to hide away in the hidden room behind the sports section (I think?). Clemi, the event coordinator, has booked Raymond Chaucer, a notorious poet who is basically known because his wife killed herself. Clemi, however, thinks Chaucer is her real father. In between all that is a lot of rain, some pretty weird and funny customers, and a vacuum cleaner that just won’t work.

it’s particularly silly and fluffy; there’s really not much depth or growth here But the author must have some experience with working at a bookstore; there was a lot of insider baseball from Shelf Awareness (which is more like an industry newsletter, not a blog) to receiving and stocking books (though they order a LOT of books) to those weird customers who show up at author events. In fact, it was the author event, where one attendee just started rambling about spotted owls, that had me howling in laughter. I know those people; I have had those people at events I have run.

The narrator was particularly delightful and engaging, doing voices (I particularly liked her voice for Summer), and basically keeping me engrossed in an increasingly silly plot.

So, not a deep or moving book, but it was good for a few laughs, which I enjoyed.