Between Worlds by Kevin Crossley-Holland


cover157690-mediumAncient, rich, and strange, these magical and eerie tales from across Britain and Ireland have been passed down from generation to generation.

A handsome, cocky young man is swept up by a dark horseman and cast into a life-or-death adventure. A pair of green children emerge from a remote hollow and struggle to adapt to a strange new land. A dauntless farm girl finds that her fearlessness earns her a surprising reward.

Dark but often funny, lyrical yet earthy, the folktales presented here have influenced our landscape and culture. This definitive collection of forty-eight stories, retold by master storyteller and poet Kevin Crossley-Holland, opens a doorway to a lost world and shows the enduring power of language and imagination.

No one tells folk and fairy tales as well as Kevin Crossley Holland. His knowledge of the folklore, fairytales, and general lore of the U.K. region would probably only be surpassed by Katherine Briggs and she’s been gone for almost 30 years.

Crossley Holland tells some new stories, and puts a shine on old ones, all wrapped up in his trademark lyrical and saucy text. Storytellers will especially love this.

Publication Date: October 8, 2019
Published By: Candlewick Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Cursed by Thomas Wheeler


cover159074-mediumWhosoever wields the Sword of Power shall be the one true King.

But what if the Sword has chosen a Queen?

Nimue grew up an outcast. Her connection to dark magic made her something to be feared in her Druid village, and that made her desperate to leave. That is, until her entire village is slaughtered by Red Paladins, and Nimue’s fate is forever altered. Charged by her dying mother to reunite an ancient sword with a legendary sorcerer, Nimue is now her people’s only hope. Her mission leaves little room for revenge, but the growing power within her can think of little else.

Nimue teams up with a charming mercenary named Arthur and refugee Fey Folk from across England. She wields a sword meant for the one true king, battling paladins and the armies of a corrupt king. She struggles to unite her people, avenge her family, and discover the truth about her destiny.

But perhaps the one thing that can change Destiny itself is found at the edge of a blade.

The Lady of the Lake is the true hero in this cinematic twist on the tale of King Arthur created by Thomas Wheeler and legendary artist, producer, and director Frank Miller (300, Batman: The Dark Night Returns, Sin City).

Look out for the original Netflix series starring Katherine Langford streaming everywhere Spring 2020!

I don’t think I’ve been as excited about an Arthurian book since Mists of Avalon!

Cursed gives a whole new take on the old legends of King Arthur and focuses on Nimue, the Lady of the Lake or, in some versions, Merlin’s lover. We first see Nimue as a child, living in a nurturing environment still following the old ways of the Druid. The first chapter is a violent introduction to the unconscionable acts of cleansing and conversion carried out by Christian priests and monks in the Dark Ages. The violence is startling, made especially so by the immediate change in tone in the second chapter as the storyline fills itself in, then pushes forward with Nimue as warrior and defender of the old ways.

All the expected characters appear, but in clever and fascinating new ways. The narrative itself moves fast and holds you tightly as you read page after page, oblivious to time because you just have to know what happens next. Complemented by magnificent illustrations, the story wraps around you until you can’t think of anything else. Arthur fans will devour this, but so will Game of Thrones fans missing that world. Highly recommended.

Publication Date: October 1, 2019
Published by: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Bridge of Little Jeremy by Indrajit Garai


img_0936Every once in awhile, a story comes along that is impossible to categorize. The Bridge of Little Jeremy is such a story. We learn right away that Jeremy suffers from a heart condition, but that he is well-cared for by his mother and his faithful canine companion Leon. We also learn that Jeremy is an artist who sells his paintings to help pay the bills. The story begins as a simple account of Jeremy’s life inside the Paris apartment he shares with his mother, and his adventures when she’s at work. We follow Jeremy as he explores parts of the apartment, leading to an amazing discovery in an underground vault, which becomes the catalyst that drives the story forward.

This treasure might save Jeremy’s mother from going to jail for non-payment of inheritance taxes, but first he has to find out more about it and the man responsible for it. This journey takes Jeremy all over Paris, where he uses his artist eye to uncover beauty everywhere he looks. Perhaps the most entertaining relationship in the book is that between Jeremy and Leon, his constant canine companion. Leon takes on human characteristics here, which are both comical and unbelievable. It is easy to get caught up in Jeremy’s journey, which makes the ending heart-wrenching.

This is Indrajit Garai’s third novel, and features lovely descriptions but sometimes awkward dialog (quite possibly due to translation issues from French to English). This did not affect my enjoyment of the story. Garai paints a picture of Paris with words that dramatically illustrates how Jeremy sees his world. Being an artist, he sees detail and he sees beauty where others might not. Garai develops an interesting relationship between Jeremy and his artist mentor Paulo that is touching, lending a new depth to the story as Jeremy works to help his mother pay her taxes.

If you are looking for a book that will make you think about how you see things and how you react to everything around you, give this one a try.

Old Bones by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles


cover169220-mediumDCI Bill Slider’s out of favor in the force—for accusing a senior Met officer of covering up an underage sex ring. As punishment, he’s given a cold case to keep him busy: some old bones to rake through, found buried in a back garden, from a murder that happened two decades ago, and with most of the principal players already dead.

“You can’t upset anyone looking into old bones.”

Surely Bill Slider can’t unearth anything new or shocking with these tired old bones?

As an avid reader of mystery and suspense novels, it’s rare for me to be completely surprised by a twist at the end. Let me just say, the twist at the end of this book is superb! Unexpected, Did-Not-See-That-Coming ending.

This is a very British police procedural, full of slang and language relatively unfamiliar to this American reader, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning new vernacular speech because it was paired with engaging characters and a clever, twisty plot. In addition to all that, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles writes extremely well, equally skilled at description, dialog, and plot. Overall, this is one of the better British police procedural books I’ve read in a good long time. Recommended.

Advance Praise

‘For detection fans demanding quality and heart as well as ingenious plots. – Daily Mail

‘Harrod-Eagles writes terrific crime novels, meshing fully realized characters with multilevel plot lines. – Library Journal

‘A truly outstanding series. – Booklist

‘Harrod-Eagles is never less than expert in presenting suspects. – Kirkus Reviews

Publication Date: August 16, 2019
Published By: Black Thorn
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo


cover157556-mediumBeverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her — and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes. In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.

Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away

DiCamillo has delivered another poignant story of a young woman searching for her place in the world. Here she focuses on Beverly Tapinski, one of the three friends from Raymie Nightingale. We pick up with Beverly shortly after she has buried her beloved dog and right after Louisiana has left. Beverly decides to leave, too. She has nothing keeping her at home now that Buddy is dead, so she bums a ride with a distant cousin to a new town where she gets a job and moves in with an old lady who needs some help. Even though she doesn’t want to like, or even love people, she finds they grow on her.

The whole trio of books about this group of friends should be read together and by every 12-13 year old. DiCamillo handles friendship, heartbreak, disappointment, and all the emotions that come tumbling down at that age and does it in a gentle, reassuring way. Well done.

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Published By: Candlewick Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister


cover154444-medium Emmeline lives an enchanted childhood on a remote island with her father, who teaches her about the natural world through her senses. What he won’t explain are the mysterious scents stored in the drawers that line the walls of their cabin, or the origin of the machine that creates them. As Emmeline grows, however, so too does her curiosity, until one day the unforeseen happens, and Emmeline is vaulted out into the real world–a place of love, betrayal, ambition, and revenge. To understand her past, Emmeline must unlock the clues to her identity, a quest that challenges the limits of her heart and imagination.

Lyrical and immersive, The Scent Keeper explores the provocative beauty of scent, the way it can reveal hidden truths, lead us to the person we seek, and even help us find our way back home.

Erica Bauermeister, the national bestselling author of The School of Essential Ingredients, presents a moving and evocative coming-of-age novel about childhood stories, families lost and found, and how a fragrance conjures memories capable of shaping the course of our lives.

This book is a gift that I did not expect. The story is by far one of the most unusual and imaginative I’ve read in a long time, and the characters by turns fascinating and exasperating. I first became interested in the properties of scent, particularly of how scent can trigger memories, when working with an elderly woman. Scent was a trigger for her and she shared the loveliest memories of her childhood and early adult years living on a farm and serving in the WAVES in World War II.

Emmeline’s experience with scent and the scent-machine is fascinating, and I particularly appreciated how scent continued to play a role in her life even after she left the island. I was pleased that she found a new family, and even more pleased that she eventually reconnected with her mother. However, the first meeting between Victoria and Emmeline was a little hard to swallow. Victoria’s acceptance of Emmeline as her daughter was a little too quick from someone being portrayed as hard-as-nails. Even so, their relationship building was interesting, and I totally loved the end, bringing both of them full circle back to John. Fans of M.J. Rose will enjoy this. Recommended.

Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Published By: St. Martin’s Press
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern


cover165880-mediumFrom the Publisher: Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also of those who are intent on its destruction. Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life.

This is a tough one for me. I confess, I did not love this book. I *liked* it well enough, but found the structure disconcerting. I sometimes struggle with focusing on books that alternate stories with each chapter, which is why this did not fully resonate with me. I kept wanting to read the Zachary Ezra Rawlins narrative and got annoyed that it kept being interrupted by the alternating fairytale chapters. Yes, it all comes together in the end, but the format kept me disconnected and made the narrative drag. It didn’t help that I was reading this in e-format. If I’d hard a print copy, I would have totally skipped around the chapters to satisfy my curiosity.

At the same time, this is a book filled with gorgeous language and description, the fairyland of my childhood dreams where one can get lost for centuries among all the stories in the world. Could there be a better place? I think not. I did enjoy the DungeonMaster/RPG approach to telling Zachary’s story, which at times made me feel as those I was inside the story, and I really enjoyed the characters.

I am 100% certain that fans of The Night Circus will eat this up. Morgenstern’s writing gets ALL the adjectives – lovely, luminous, lyrical, etc. and I predict this will appear on all the “Best of 2019” lists.

Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Published By: Doubleday
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman


cover161184-mediumFrom the Publisher: In 1941, during humanity’s darkest hour, three unforgettable young women must act with courage and love to survive. In Berlin, at the time when the world changed, Hanni Kohn knows she must send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. She finds her way to a renowned rabbi, but it’s his daughter, Ettie, who offers hope of salvation when she creates a mystical Jewish creature, a rare and unusual golem, who is sworn to protect Lea. Once Ava is brought to life, she and Lea and Ettie become eternally entwined, their paths fated to cross, their fortunes linked.

Lea and Ava travel to Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, then to a convent in western France known for its silver roses, then to a school in a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved. Meanwhile, Ettie is in hiding, waiting to become the fighter she’s destined to be, waiting to avenge her little sister.

What does it mean to lose your mother? How much can one person sacrifice for love? In a world where evil can be found at every turn, we meet remarkable characters that take us on a stunning journey of loss and resistance, the fantastical and the mortal, in a place where all roads lead past the Angel of Death and love is never ending.

I have started to write this review about 10 times and simply cannot express the blend of tragedy and joy you will find in this book. Hoffman has taken the horrifying historical context of the Holocaust and distilled it into the stories of four women: Lea, Ettie, Marianne, and the golem-woman Ava. It’s about survival when everything you know is ripped away; disbelief that your neighbors, friends, and country can suddenly turn on you because of your beliefs; love when the world seems consumed by hate; courage when faced with unimaginable loss, and humanity when it’s needed most. It takes a writer as skilled as Hoffman to take these heart-wrenching stories and tell them with such grace and beauty.

The story begins and ends with love – the undying, monumental love of a mother for her child, and of the child for her mother. Hoffman’s trademark magical realism is here in the form of Ava, the golem created to keep Lea safe who performs her job to perfection. In the face of unimaginable horror, ordinary people find strength, courage, and yes, love.

The best of the year for me.

“Oh, what a book this is! Hoffman’s exploration of the world of good and evil, and the constant contest between them, is unflinching; and the humanity she brings to us—it is a glorious experience. The book builds and builds, as she weaves together, seamlessly, the stories of people in the most desperate of circumstances—and then it delivers with a tremendous punch. It opens up the world, the universe, in a way that it absolutely unique. By the end you may be weeping.” —Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Olive Kitteridge

“Alice Hoffman’s new novel will break your heart, and then stitch it back together piece by piece. It’s about love and loss, about history and the world today, about what happens when man goes against the laws of nature for good and for evil. It’s my new favorite Hoffman book—and if you know how much I adore her writing, that’s truly saying something.” —Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Small Great Things and A Spark of Light

“An exceptionally voiced tale of deepest love and loss…one of [Hoffman’s] finest. WWII fiction has glutted the market, but Hoffman’s unique brand of magical realism and the beautiful, tender yet devastating way she explores her subject make this a standout.” —Booklist (starred review)

Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

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cover163601-mediumFrom the Publisher: From Ann Cleeves, bestselling author of Vera and Shetland, beloved by readers and TV viewers alike, comes a spectacular new series, told with deep compassion and searing insight.

In North Devon, where two rivers converge and run into the sea, Detective Matthew Venn stands outside the church as his estranged father’s funeral takes place. On the day Matthew left the strict evangelical community he grew up in, he lost his family too.

Now, as he turns and walks away again, he receives a call from one of his team. A body has been found on the beach nearby: a man with a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, stabbed to death.

The case calls Matthew back to the people and places of his past, as deadly secrets hidden at their hearts are revealed, and his new life is forced into a collision course with the world he thought he’d left behind.

I discovered Ann Cleeves a few years ago and binged her Vera Stanhope and Jimmy Perez books. Now she has introduced a new detective, Matthew Venn, who struggles with his past while working on a future with his husband Jonathan. Cleeves does some of her best storytelling here, creating likable and intriguing characters working their way through a clever plot. She sets the stage for further development of Venn, Jen Rafferty, Ross, and Jonathan, which makes me eager for the next one in this series.

Here, I particularly appreciated Cleeves’ sensitive and accurate portrayal of adult women who have Downs Syndrome. Lucy Braddick is especially sassy, intelligent, and clever, with a smile that lights up the room.

I’ll be recommending this new series and looking forward to the next TV adaptation of Cleeves’ work!

Publication Date: September 3, 2019
Published By: St. Martin’s Press Minotaur Books
Thanks to Netgalley for the review copy

Reader Profile – Alex Yudelson


AlexAlex Yudelson serves as Chief of Staff for the City of Rochester. He oversees the Mayor’s office and serves as the Mayor’s senior advisor, assisting her with the day-to-day operations of City Hall. He also manages intergovernmental affairs with local, state, and federal elected officials. Alex returned home to the City of Rochester from the White House, where he served as a Policy Advisor in the office of the President’s senior advisor, Valerie Jarrett. He served as President Obama’s primary liaison to sports teams, leagues, and athletes, and helped coordinate the President’s relationship with local and state elected officials and other constituencies. During college, Alex studied abroad at the University at Oxford and was chosen to be a delegate for President Obama at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. Alex graduated Phi Beta Kappa from George Washington University in 2014 with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy.

What are you reading right now?

Master of the Senate, by Robert Caro.

The desert island question – What 5 books would you have to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not? Never – I didn’t even know that was a thing!

What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?

Ulysses, by James Joyce

Is there a genre or type that you are over and wish would just go away?

I hate to say it, but the old Victorian literature is just… not good. Sure, they might paint a beautiful picture of a scene in your imagination, but the characters and plot are almost never compelling.

Describe your favorite place to read.

As I get older (I’m 26 going on 70) I find myself falling asleep while reading, so I need to be sitting upright at a coffee shop or in the living room.

Book or movie? Is there a movie that you think was better than the book?

Most books are better than the movies, because they can include more substance. The only exception I’d say would be the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The books are good; the movies are better.

What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?

I have some sort of mental block with audio books – I can’t focus. Has to be either hardcover or paperback, but no preference between the two.

Share a favorite quote from a book you’ve read. Why is it meaningful to you?

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past” from The Great Gatsby. To me, it perfectly sums up the human condition of being unable to move beyond (and learn from) the past.

What book would you love to see made into a movie? Who would play the lead role?

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, with Mahershala Ali and Daniel Kaluuya.

What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?

Shortest Way Home, by Pete Buttigieg

Is there a book you feel is highly overrated?

Catcher in the Rye and any book by Ayn Rand.

Why do you read?

Reading helps my critical thinking and decision-making processes. It’s important to keep your reading skills sharp for any job – and it’s a healthy alternative to so many of the other leisure options in our life.