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review 2019-03-21 18:32
‘Scary Stories for Young Foxes’ deserves to be an instant children’s animal book classic; a middle-grade novel draws inspiration from Poe and Lovecraft, and has a lot of heart
Scary Stories for Young Foxes - Christian McKay Heidicker,Junyi Wu

Life as a young fox is scary, with so much to learn about the dangers out there in the woods. Little foxes learn about these dangers from their mama, a masterful storyteller, or the hard way, by facing the world.

This beautifully-written and illustrated middle-grade book invites the reader to step inside the minds of little foxes, and embark on an adventure, full of the real-life challenges that they often face:

Nasty humans, vicious woodland creatures like the Golgathursh and badgers, and dangerous territorial foxes. And especially the harsh Winter.

This is a tale within a tale, and just like scary stories told around a campfire, it has elements of horror and delight. Not only is it precautionary for fox kits, like foxes Mia and Uly, readers will recognize the themes of friendship, family, bravery, and the drive to push ahead when life is difficult.

 

Author Christian McKay Heidicker has a way with words too, and through his writing he has conveyed a very vivid picture of woodland life, describing objects as a fox would see them, and creating new words for things that wouldn’t make sense to them. He also doesn’t shy away from the brutality of nature, from the cycle of life and death, and the struggle for survival against the most difficult of odds. The young foxes in his story face hunters, painful separation from family members, and gruesome injuries and death. Heidicker draws inspiration from classic authors Bram Stoker, Edgar Allen Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft, and weaves in a very well-known children’s book author into this very book; young readers who love a scary story will enjoy this, but it’s not for those who are easily upset by animals getting hurt or struggle with the harshness of nature.

 

The most wonderful part in my reading this (aside from enjoying the adventure and the amazing artwork by Junyi Wu) was how it reminded me of discovering books about animals in my childhood, such as ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ ‘The Wind in The Willows,’ and ‘Watership Down.’ I enjoyed these with my dad, and they fueled my love and compassion for animals. I expect many readers who will enjoy this book will be or are animal-lovers too, as Heidicker has embodied the curious and mischievous nature of foxes so well in this book, and it’s really hard not to love them because of it. This deserves to be a children’s animal classic!

 

**Thank so much to the editor, Christian Trimmer of Henry Holt Books, for my early copy and the chance to read and review this book.

 

Release date: 8.20.19

 

 

 

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review 2019-03-18 23:14
Prank Craigslist ads, and this subsequent book of responding emails, reveal there are a lot of people out there willing to do just about anything
Race Me in a Lobster Suit - Kelly Mahon

This is a crazy book, just no other way to put it.
If you saw ‘Pranked’ which was on TV or ‘Crank Yankers’ which was a puppet TV show based on prank-calling, you will get the idea of this, which is based on the author posting prank ads on Craigslist. The resulting email ‘conversations’ from those ads are contained within this book, and if you hate the idea of unsuspecting people being strung along on fall pretenses, this isn’t for you.
If you can put all seriousness aside and maybe have a few minutes at a time to read it (in the guest room? the loo?), you will probably read this with eyes widened and emit a chuckle or two.

If you look at this too seriously you will see that lots of people wasted their time engaging in the banter necessary for this book:
People actually entertaining the idea of dressing up snakes for a fashion show. Seriously considering crocheting someone into a cocoon for the winter. Pretending to be someone’s made-up partner to be taken along to a work party. Sitting for a tea party dressed like a doll.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the fact that these people were strung along for the sake of author Kelly Mahon’s crazy idea for a book. BUT just like you can’t look away from a car crash on the highway, it’s hard not to read this and marvel WHY people are even considering doing these things. Some of them are so outlandish and ridiculous that I can’t even believe they would do them for money, let alone free. But it takes all sorts to make this world interesting, right?

I don’t think Mahon put this together with any malicious intent, but a laugh at others’ expense is hard to absorb. That said, if you answer an ad for racing in a lobster suit, you sound like you’re up for anything (or at least maybe a laugh)

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/38116996-the-past-and-other-things-that-should-stay-buried
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review 2019-03-11 17:51
Beautiful graphic novel captures the drama of middle school and explores the trials of bullying, friendship, and first crushes through music
Operatic - Kyo Maclear,Byron Eggenschwiler

‘Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you.’

 

This stunningly beautiful graphic novel is a treasure to hold in your hands. It’s a story with so many subtle layers, everything from bullying, to individuality, first crushes, and music history, all reflected within finely illustrated pages.

Charlie is nearing the end of middle school and while discovering the ‘soundtrack’ for her life for a school music assignment, she discovers opera and new friendships. While exploring the way we all identify differently with the music we hear, author Maclear tells Charlie’s tale of discovering the opera singer and diva Maria Callas, and those of her new friends Emile and Luka, boys who are alienated for liking bugs (weird) and singing (girly). Charlie recognizes how her classmates feel, their struggle to fit in and find their place along the cliques at school. The push of their class assignment encourages her to reach out to others as well as reach within and let her true self out.

 

The illustrations in this hardbound graphic novel (complete with a purple cloth spine and ribbon) tell so much of the story; they should be pored over and digested slowly. While the themes held within aren’t overt and initially obvious, ‘Operatic’ presents itself as a coming-of-age story that should be discussed and pondered to be absorbed, and it’s truly special.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/40646241-operatic
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review 2019-03-11 16:47
Unique novel about the trappings of fame and the 70’s music scene will captivate you; Daisy Jones & The Six is like nothing you’ve ever read before
Daisy Jones & The Six - Taylor Jenkins Reid

The true story behind the meteoric rise of the infamous 70’s band Daisy Jones & The Six is chronicled in this captivating book. As quickly as they shot to fame they fell back down to earth; how this happened is revealed by the band members’ tell-all, with details never heard before. The inner workings of a popular band such as Daisy Jones and The Six often come as an eye-opener once you see past the glitz and the glam and begin to see the trappings of fame. This is their story.

 

At least this is all what we think we see when we first take a glimpse at this new book from Taylor Jenkins Reid. The fact that this interview-based novel about a fictitious band comes from the genius of Reid, and is not based in reality, is one of its greatest appeals. Telling the story of all the characters by way of their own conversation with the interviewer (who we only find the identify of at the end) is complex and unique; no additional descriptions of what is happening are really given, so the storytelling is driven by each individual’s perception of their experience.

 

Daisy is the outsider to the group and the story really ramps up when she joins The Six. The numerous relationships between the members of the band are central to the book, as are their many problems. We learn about struggles with addiction, fidelity, loyalty and the challenge of maintaining any semblance of normalcy once they reach the realm of stardom. All of the characters are expertly defined by Reid, and although it takes a little while to keep all the individuals’ names straight, their experiences all become clear the further you go into the book. None of them are entirely redeemable and it’s hard to feel sympathetic to any of them once they get caught up in it all, but I don’t think that’s the goal of the novel.

 

There are some topics contained within that may be hard for some readers to read about: drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, infidelity, parental neglect, abortion, and promiscuity. Nothing is glamorous or trivialized about with any of these issues when you see them in the way they’re presented in this story; there isn’t any ‘fluff’ to make excuses for the characters since it’s all presented in the rawest of forms. Reid writes about these issues in a way that vividly conjures up the music scene of the 70’s and convinces the reader that she was actually there herself witnessing it all. The anecdotes come across as though they’re based on documented events but translate into a realistic presentation of a band and their story being told to an interviewer. It’s just all presented as fact and you can make of it what you will.

 

Although it’s a little hard to get used to a story being told through individuals being interviewed, this is an amazing book, just so unique and memorable. Any early considerations that it may not be the story for you because of the way it’s told should be dumped at the wayside because the payoff for reading it all is immeasurable. This is the sort of book that sticks with you and transports you to another time and place.

 

Complete with all the lyrics to the songs contained in the story, the experience is further added to with a playlist on Spotify, including tracks from Fleetwood Mac and Linda Ronstadt. It’s easy to imagine this being adapted for film, and if you love music, song-writing, or are even fascinated with the seventies and eras past, this book will be a fast favorite.

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review 2019-03-07 18:45
THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN by Niklas Natt och Dag
The Wolf and the Watchman - Niklas Natt och Dag

 

A gruesomely mutilated body is fished out of a local lake by a night watchman. So begins this dark mystery set in Stockholm in the late 1700's.

 

The main characters, the aforementioned night watchman, (Cardell), and a lawyer dying from consumption, (Winge), were fascinating and multi-layered. Winge hasn't much time left in this world, and he makes the investigation of this case his only reason for living. Cardell, an injured war veteran looking for self worth and coming up short, is turning to the bottle instead. This mystery provides a reason for him to stay sober. Mostly. Together, they wander the disgusting streets of Stockholm, hunting their murderer. Will they find him/her? Will Winge live long enough to see the perpetrator tried for the crime? Will Cardell be able to keep himself out of the bottle long enough to aid Winge in his only goal? You'll have to read this to find out!

 

I enjoyed reading about this time in Stockholm's history. Admittedly, I do not know much about the city or the country, but I learned a little bit reading this book. I learned that the city, much like others of its size around the world at that time, was a seething pit of disease. Piles of excrement lying around, chamber pots emptied out the window-I think you get the drift. Whenever I read about living in a city during this time period I wonder how humanity survived at all.

 

On top of the filth of the city, its inhabitants were often entertained by the worst society has to offer. Gambling, prostitution, and ruining the reputations of others just for fun-these were the popular habits of the day. A woman, left widowed, or worse yet? Impregnated before marriage? They were left in circumstances beyond dire. Combat veterans-especially those who lost limbs or those who were mentally impaired due to the harsh circumstances of war? They fared no better. Most people were so involved in their own survival, (no small feat!) there was no time or thought put into charity for others.

 

Regarding the solving of the gruesome murder, this book reminded me quite a lot of THE ALIENIST. Winge was especially interested in hearing the motives from the killers themselves in his past cases, and he wants to know what made this perpetrator tick as well. While THE ALIENIST was heavily involved with crime investigation techniques, Winge was much more interested in the psychological aspects of criminals. So am I, so this viewpoint worked perfectly for me.

 

The way this tale unfolded was intriguing-the first section involving Winge and Cardell, the others involving other people with whom we were not familiar. It kept me reading because I needed to see how all of this was going to tie together. I think the telling was my favorite aspect of this story-well, this and the main characters.

 

I finished up the book having developed a serious liking and respect for Cardell. Both he and Winge were men of honor, something which seemed to be in short supply during this time period. I wanted to know more about the Eumenides and a few other characters as well. I am really hoping for a sequel here, people!

 

I devoured this book as quickly as I could. As I said above, I was fascinated by how the author told the story, the pacing was excellent, and the mystery a good one. I especially liked the darkness of the tale and how the author did not shy away from the brutality of life at the time. I suspect that the gruesome nature of this story, and the author's unflinching telling of it, may turn some readers off. But for this reader, lover of dark fiction that I am, it was nearly perfect and left me wanting more. Please, bring on a sequel, sir!

 

Highly recommended!  Get your copy here: THE WOLF AND THE WATCHMAN

 

*Thank you to Atria and to NetGalley for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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