How to Be a Hipster Reader: Part Two

I’m back with another guide to becoming a part of the Book Hipster Collective. If you’d like to read my original post, so that you can say you read it before there was a part two, you can find it here.

As previously determined, while skinny jeans and Buddy Holly glasses are a plus, the real definition of a “book hipster” is a reader who has read the book before it was a movie/show. So, here I am to help you with that worthy goal! I’ve gathered a list of books that are going to be movies or TV shows before too much longer, so that you can read them now. Due to… *gestures at everything*…release dates are very much up in the air. Still, it’s a good time to get started.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot: Despite not being my usual fare, I loved this book. It’s the gentle sort of wonderful that is always timely. This has become a PBS show which is already on the air, so now is the time to read this book.

For over forty years, generations of readers have thrilled to Herriot’s marvelous tales, deep love of life, and extraordinary storytelling abilities. For decades, Herriot roamed the remote, beautiful Yorkshire Dales, treating every patient that came his way from smallest to largest, and observing animals and humans alike with his keen, loving eye.

In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school. Some visits are heart-wrenchingly difficult, such as one to an old man in the village whose very ill dog is his only friend and companion, some are lighthearted and fun, such as Herriot’s periodic visits to the overfed and pampered Pekinese Tricki Woo who throws parties and has his own stationery, and yet others are inspirational and enlightening, such as Herriot’s recollections of poor farmers who will scrape their meager earnings together to be able to get proper care for their working animals. From seeing to his patients in the depths of winter on the remotest homesteads to dealing with uncooperative owners and critically ill animals, Herriot discovers the wondrous variety and never-ending challenges of veterinary practice as his humor, compassion, and love of the animal world shine forth. (taken from Goodreads)

Dune by Frank Herbert: There’s been a lot of excitement over the upcoming movie adaptation, which has been pushed back a little. Still, it’s on the horizon, and this is one of those books that sci-fi fans really should read anyway.

Set on the desert planet Arrakis, Dune is the story of the boy Paul Atreides, heir to a noble family tasked with ruling an inhospitable world where the only thing of value is the “spice” melange, a drug capable of extending life and enhancing consciousness. Coveted across the known universe, melange is a prize worth killing for…

When House Atreides is betrayed, the destruction of Paul’s family will set the boy on a journey toward a destiny greater than he could ever have imagined. And as he evolves into the mysterious man known as Muad’Dib, he will bring to fruition humankind’s most ancient and unattainable dream. (taken from Goodreads)

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: First of all, it should be noted that, here in the U.S., the title is actually The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. The slight name difference never ceases to amuse me. Whatever name it goes by, this is a fantastic novel!

Aiden Bishop knows the rules. Evelyn Hardcastle will die every day until he can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest at Blackheath Manor. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others. With a locked room mystery that Agatha Christie would envy, Stuart Turton unfurls a breakneck novel of intrigue and suspense.

For fans of Claire North, and Kate Atkinson, The 7½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive mystery that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer, with an astonishing time-turning twist that means nothing and no one are quite what they seem. (taken from Goodreads)

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams: This is not a drill, folks! Douglas Adams’ hilariously bizarre book is once again being adapted, this time into a HULU series. If you didn’t read the book before watching the 2005 movie, you can save your book hipster cred by reading it before checking out the show.

Seconds before the Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together this dynamic pair begin a journey through space aided by quotes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide (“A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have”) and a galaxy-full of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox—the two-headed, three-armed ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian, Zaphod’s girlfriend (formally Tricia McMillan), whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student who is obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he bought over the years. (taken from Goodreads)

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: I’m tentatively excited about this upcoming movie. I say tentatively because I loved the book so much that I’m afraid no adaptation will do it justice. Sigh. Such is the burden of a book hipster.

A gripping novel about the whirlwind rise of an iconic 1970s rock group and their beautiful lead singer, revealing the mystery behind their infamous break up.

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the real reason why they split at the absolute height of their popularity…until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go-Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Another band getting noticed is The Six, led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend. (taken from Goodreads)

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood and Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud: There is going to be a Netflix series based on the Lockwood and Co. series. If it’s anything like the books, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

A sinister Problem has occurred in London: all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and specters are appearing throughout the city, and they aren’t exactly friendly. Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see-and eradicate-these supernatural foes. Many different Psychic Detection Agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co, a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision. After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall’s legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day? (taken from Amazon)

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips: It’s still early days for this one, but it looks like Warner Bros. has picked up the film rights for this delightful book. I devoured this one. Join me, fellow book hipsters, in reading this before it becomes a movie!

Beauty comes at a price. And no one knows that better than Ebenezer Tweezer, who has stayed beautiful for 511 years. How, you may wonder? Ebenezer simply has to feed the beast in the attic of his mansion. In return for meals of performing monkeys, statues of Winston Churchill, and the occasional cactus, Ebenezer gets potions that keep him young and beautiful, as well as other presents.

But the beast grows ever greedier with each meal, and one day he announces that he’d like to eat a nice, juicy child next. Ebenezer has never done anything quite this terrible to hold onto his wonderful life. Still, he finds the absolutely snottiest, naughtiest, and most frankly unpleasant child he can and prepares to feed her to the beast.

The child, Bethany, may just be more than Ebenezer bargained for. She’s certainly a really rather rude houseguest, but Ebenezer still finds himself wishing she didn’t have to be gobbled up after all. Could it be Bethany is less meal-worthy and more…friend-worthy? (taken from Amazon)

What say you, Reader? Are you a book hipster? Do you plan to read any of these books before they get the adaptation treatment?

As always, you can find most of these titles on Bookshop.org, which supports local bookstores (I also get a small kickback, if you use the above link).

Sources:
“All Creatures Great and Small (TV Series 2020– ) – IMDb.” Www.Imdb.com, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt10590066/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.

Kroll, Justin, and Justin Kroll. “Warner Bros. Acquires Rights to ‘Beast and Bethany’ for ‘Harry Potter’ Producer David Heyman (EXCLUSIVE).” Variety, 13 Mar. 2020, variety.com/2020/film/news/beast-and-bethany-movie-warner-bros-david-heyman-1203533521/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.

Ravindran, Manori, and Manori Ravindran. “Netflix Unveils New U.K. Projects With Sam Mendes, Rowan Atkinson, Andy Serkis.” Variety, 13 Dec. 2020, variety.com/2020/tv/global/netflix-uk-original-series-slate-1234852613/. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.

Villeneuve, Denis, et al. “Dune.” IMDb, 29 Sept. 2021, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1160419/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1. Accessed 6 Jan. 2021.

The End of the Year Roundup Tag

Spells and Spaceships has the coolest content! I loved this roundup tag, especially since I’ve read so many amazing books this year. Here’s my take: let me know what you think!

1. The most kick butt character: Look at me, starting out by cheating. I’m naming not one, but three characters. I’m a rebel like that. Juniper, Beatrice, and Agnes from The Once and Future Witches kick all kinds of butt. They’re smart and strong, not just physically, but emotionally as well. I would not want to get on their bad sides.

2. The weirdest or most unique story: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke is one of those books that I love but can’t describe. I’m not even sure I fully understand it, to be honest. It’s beautifully written, though. Susanna Clarke is now on my list of most creative authors.

3. The coolest world building: Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold is at the top of the list. This is the second book in the Fetch Phillips Archives and I am loving the everyday slum-meets-fantasy thing that he’s got going on. It’s gritty and so well described that I could see, hear, and even smell the setting (it doesn’t smell good).

4. The Best Fictional Animal: I really loved Mephi from The Bone Shard Daughter. He was such a nuanced little critter and, thanks to his presence, Jovis was able to grow and develop incredibly well, despite not having a human to interact with for large chunks of the book. There is also more to Mephi than I first assumed there was, which is pretty cool.

5. The Book You Just Couldn’t Put Down: The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton caused me to ignore pretty much everything else. It was excellent! Stuart Turton has rapidly become one of my favorite authors and I’m waiting with bated breath to see what he writes next. Both this book and his first novel, The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, are definitely worth reading.

6. A character you loved to spend time with: I loved the cockiness and odd sense of morality of Ardor in The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides. Oddly enough, he wasn’t my favorite character in the book when I read it, but he’s stuck with me. He was deceptively intelligent and able to roll with the punches, which I liked. I also think his character will do a lot of maturing in the rest of the series.

7. The one that hit you in the feels: The Archive by Dan Fitzgerald had me incredibly emotionally invested. I teared up a couple of times, which is not all that common for me. I loved it.

8. The villain you loved to hate: I was riveted by Crasedes from Shorefall by Robert Jackson Bennett. What a nuanced character! He more than earned the “big bad” moniker. His reasoning almost made sense, which made me appreciate him even more.

9. The 5 star read that you weren’t expecting: I was pretty excited for Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston, but I didn’t think I’d enjoy a middle-grade novel as much as I did. Amari is such a great character, and the storyline and world are just a blast. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am not going to tag anyone, simply because it’s a busy time of year. If you do decide to do it, please link back to me so I can see your answers. Also, please give credit to the fantastic Spells and Spaceships.

Quotables: Words that Stuck with Me this Year

One of the (many) amazing things about books is their ability to reach us. I might read a sentence, absorb the information provided, and move on. Someone else might read that same sentence and be profoundly moved. That sentence becomes something more than just words on a page: it touches a part of that person and sticks with them. While I haven’t read as many books this year as I did last year (I blame 2020), this has been a year full of amazing writing, the sort that I treasure. Here are a few quotes that I have absolutely loved.

“Things won’t seem as bleak in the morning. Morning is wiser than evening.”– Emily Duncan, Ruthless Gods

“Some songs weren’t mere songs. They were memories curled tight and set alight. They made you heartsick.”– Stuart Turton, The Devil and the Dark Water

“Good people don’t bow their heads and bite their tongues while other good people suffer. Good people are not complicit.”-Alexis Henderson, The Year of the Witching

“‘No’, I cleared my throat. “It’s the sort of good that you get sad about because you no longer have it. A very good.”– Andrea Stewart, The Bone Shard Daughter

“Money can’t buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.”– Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

“Sometimes it feels like I’m in a staring contest with failure, and if I blink, I’ll die.”-Sarah Gailey, Magic for Liars

“Perhaps even people you like and admire immensely can make you see the World in ways you would rather not.”-Susanna Clarke, Piranesi

“Maybe trust is neither lost nor found, broken nor mended, but merely given.”-Alix E. Harrow, The Once and Future Witches

“I like books. They’re quiet, dignified, and absolute. A man might falter but his words, once written, will hold.”-Luke Arnold, The Last Smile in Sunder City

What are some quotes from the books you’ve read this year that blew you away? If you’d like to find out more about any of these books, you can find my reviews below. Happy reading!

Ruthless Gods by Emily A. Duncan

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Hendersen

The Bone Shard Daughter by Andrea Stewart

Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow

The Last Smile in Sunder City by Luke Arnold

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Adult Fiction Edition

I have been looking forward to writing this post! This has been a particularly excellent year for adult fiction and there are so many amazing books that would make for great gifts. So, without further ado, here goes!

The Last Smile in Sunder City and Dead Man in a Ditch by Luke Arnold

Holy wow, these books are fantastic! Take a gritty noir and smash it up into a brilliant fantasy world and you’ll get the general feel of these books. Luke Arnold’s author voice is incredibly entertaining and these are books I know I’ll read more than once. These would be great gifts for readers who are already big fantasy fans and want a new twist on the genre. You can find my original reviews for these books here: The Last Smile in Sunder City and Dead Man in a Ditch.

The Ventifact Colossus by Dorian Hart

I loved this book so much! This is fantasy at its finest. There’s a quest, a wonderful cast of characters, and a vast world with its own histories and secrets to be discovered. What really made this book stand out among the many great books I’ve read this year is its hopeful tone. The stakes are high, and no one is immune from loss, heartbreak, or injury, but the characters don’t give up. Add in an engrossing story, and you’ve got a fantasy that everyone will enjoy. You can find my original review here.

The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton

After reading and loving The Seven and a Half Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle a few years ago, I was incredibly excited to read Stuart Turton’s next book. It did not disappoint. Rather, it drew me into a astonishing mystery full of twists and more than a few surprises. After reading this book, I’m ready to pre-buy any book this author writes in the future. This would be an excellent gift for pretty much anyone. You can find my review here.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn by Tyler Whitesides

This book was a blast from start to finish. Ardor Benn is an irrepressible rogue, in the vein of Kvothe (from The Kingkiller Chronicles) or Kaz Brekker (of Six of Crows fame). While there is much more to it, this book is a complicated heist at heart. Plus, there are dragons! This is an excellent addition to the fantasy genre, so of course it belongs on this list. Find my original review here.

The Rome of Fall by Chad Alan Gibbs

This book had me waxing nostalgic. Anyone who grew up during the 90’s will love this funny and heartwarming book. I loved the characters (I’m pretty sure I knew one of them in high school) and the ending was fantastic. Pull out your old mix tapes, pull on your flannel shirt, and grab a copy of this book for yourself while you’re getting one for a friend. My original review can be found here.

So, there you have it. Have you read (or gifted) any of these books? What are some that are on your to-give list?  You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org, which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).

The Tropening: Book Tropes that I love (or hate)

“Colloquially, people use the term trope to mean recognizable elements of storytelling that audiences associate with specific genres. Like clichés, tropes act as storytelling shorthand and can apply to both plot lines and character types.“- SuperSummary.com

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about things I love (or hate) to see in books. There are clichés that I see as overdone and lacking, but there are also some that I’d love to see more of. I’m kind of changeable that way. It’s always just a matter of preference, of course, but here are some that I love and some that I’m sick to death of. That being said, there are exceptions to all of these for me. As long as the trope is well written, I’m flexible.

“I’m immortal!“- Authors spend a ton of time on their characters, so of course it’s hard to say goodbye. However, when a character is being constantly put into situations that they shouldn’t survive, and they survive anyway, it lessens the stakes of a book. If you don’t want to kill your character (completely understandable), maybe don’t chuck them into the depths of hell, light them on fire, and have a squad of rabid Jello Jigglers attack them.

On the flipside- I love when a character is brought back from the death, or the brink of death (once!) and it changes either them or another character irreversibly. Used correctly, that makes for some major character development. An author that knows when to save a character and when to let go is awesome.

Mental illness as a criminal motive- I’ve read a few mysteries/thrillers in the past year where the villain’s sole motive was that they were “psychotic” or had a mental illness of some sort. To me, that smacks of lazy writing, not to mention that it perpetrates a harmful stereotype. People with mental illnesses are not automatically dangerous or violent. Dovetailing off of this: I would love it if authors wouldn’t use suicide as revenge. Just stop.

On the flipside- I love when mental illness is represented accurately and well. So many people struggle with mental illness of some sort (myself included) that it is a breath of fresh air to see it written as something other than an excuse for horrible actions. Some authors that have done this amazingly are Ricardo Victoria, author of The Withered King, and Heidi Heilig, author of For a Muse of Fire.

Love Triangles (octagons, hexagons, or other shapes)– Of course I have to mention this. I can’t stand one person mentally making a pro/con list regarding which of their wanna-be lovers is best. Let me say something: if you’re waiting with bated breath for someone to choose you over ye random rival, just walk away. No one should be compared to someone else like that. And Wishy Washy obviously isn’t mature enough to be in a relationship anyway.

On the flipside- I love seeing a friendship grow into something more. Not as a main plot point; I think it’s pretty well established that I’m crotchety regarding literary romance. But seeing two characters who respect each other and enjoy spending time together become closer is pretty great.

One person against the world- I can’t stand it when a character immediately loses every single person they care about and it becomes the catalyst to take on the world. Alone. That’s boring. Give me a tragic backstory, sure. I’ll even take a whole slew of corpses left behind, but give the character someone to interact with.

On the flipside- If the main character picks up allies/co-workers/found family after losing someone or even on the way to take bloody revenge for losses, I’m totally good with that. I just want to have a chance for that character to grow.

The dreaded info dump- I’m not a “here it all is at once” kinda girl. I’ll either lose interest or miss something incredibly important. My brain just doesn’t work well with a ton of new information all at once.

On the flipside- I absolutely love it when information is shared naturally throughout a book, especially when a world is fully developed. I love reading about different histories and mythologies in fantasy or science fiction books, I just don’t want all the information to be chunked at me at once.

Anyway, there’s really no point to this post, except as a way to generate conversation. What do you think? What are some tropes that you love? What about tropes you hate?

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Young Adult Edition

I read a pretty broad variety of books, both in age range and genre. I’ve already talked about great gifts ideas for both middle-grade and picture book readers. Today I’m moving on to young adult readers. Whether you’re looking for a gift, or shopping for yourself (totally allowed), I think these are some of the best of the best.

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Thanks to the Write Reads on Tour, I was able to read an ebook of this before its release. I loved it so much that my husband surprised me with a physical copy. Full of puzzles to solve, and characters with questionable motives, this mysterious scavenger hunt of a book was a blast to read. You can read my original review of The Inheritance Games here. I’d recommend this book to anyone who likes a good mystery.

The Three Dark Crowns series by Kendare Blake

Oh, how I love this series, the first book of which is Three Dark Crowns. Led by a cast of strong female characters, these books center around a desperate struggle between three sisters to be Queen Crowned-because only one can survive to rule. Each sister has a different power (my favorite is Katharine, the poisoner), and the way they’re used is incredibly creative. The world is large and complex, and the characters are complicated and three dimensional. I especially appreciate the high stakes in the series: no character is untouchable. As a huge bonus, the series is already finished, so there’s no waiting impatiently for the next book to release.

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

This is the first book in the Great Library series. It imagines a world in which the Library of Alexandria did not burn down. Instead, it became a controlling power, banning the ownership of books. The only books allowed to be read have to be okayed by the Library itself and we all know the saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Enter Jess, a smuggler of books who finds himself in an accidental rebellion, together with a fantastic group of characters. This book is fast paced and full of action and intrigue.

Two Like Me and You by Chad Alan Gibbs

I read this book due to a glowing review by another blogger, and it introduced me to a fantastic author. Edwin is reeling from a bad breakup when he is assigned a group project with a new student. Somehow they end up “breaking” a WW2 veteran named Garland out of a nursing home. The three of them go on a madcap race around France, in search of Garland’s long-lost love. On the way, Edwin himself learns a little bit about love and an awful lot about life. Both heartwarming and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is on my “everyone needs to read this” list.

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce

I have actually mentioned this book on another list: books to read after (or instead of Harry Potter). Now, bear with me: this book is only like Harry Potter in the vaguest of ways: there’s a school for magic users, a main character who is always attracting trouble, and two best friends/partners in crime. That is where the similarities end. This is full-on fantasy, in a completely (and fully developed) fantasy world. It is not geared toward children or middle graders, and the characters aren’t kids. The writing is amazing, which is to be expected from author Tamora Pierce. You can’t go wrong with anything she’s written.

So there you have it. Any of these books would make great gifts for the YA reader in your life. What are some YA books that you think would make excellent gifts? You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org , which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Middle-grade Edition

I’m so excited to talk about my Middle-grade gift suggestions today! I’ve read a couple of amazing middle grade books this year, and my oldest is an expert (being a middle grader, and all). If you’re looking for great gifts for upper elementary/ middle grade age, these are my picks!

The Beast and the Bethany by Jack Meggitt-Phillips


I was fortunate enough to join The Write Reads Blog Tour for The Beast and the Bethany back in August. I devoured the ebook and loved it so much that I’m planning to buy a physical copy for myself, as well as a few to give as gifts. This book is absolutely delightful! It resembles nothing as much as a brilliant cross between Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Read my full rave about it here. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library (series) by Chris Grabenstein

My son was gifted these books a while ago and he loved them. He said they’re full of puzzles and riddles and are a ton of fun. He raced through them and could talk of nothing else for quite a while. This would be a great choice for less enthusiastic readers who need to be actively involved. Solving the riddles will suck them right in.

The Oddmire: Changeling by William Ritter

Both my son and I have read and loved the first two books in this series (the third will release next year). William Ritter is the author of the brilliant Jackaby adult series and I am happy but unsurprised that his middle-grade novels are just as wonderful and creative as his adult novels are.

This is about twin brothers, one of whom is a goblin changeling (although no one-not even the changeling himself-knows which is which). They are called to travel into the Wild Wood and save the day. It’s rare to find a book that has so much adventure, and so much heart. I loved all of the characters (especially the protective mom) and my son felt the same. You can read my full review of the book here.

The Kane Chronicles by Rick Riordan

Did you know that the author of the famous Percy Jackson series has also written an Egyptian series. As much as my son loved the Percy Jackson books, he says the Kane Chronicles are even better.

The Magic Misfits by Neil Patrick Harris

My middle-grade reader says this was his favorite book that he’s read this year. It definitely spawned an obsession with magic tricks. This is an incredibly quick read (my middle-grader finished it in a day), so I suggest buying more than one book in the series. That way your reader can jump right into the next installment as soon as they want.

So, there you have it. These are my top suggestions for middle-grade gifts this year. Have you read any of these? What are some middle-grade books you’d recommend? You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org , which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas: 2020 Picture Book Edition

Despite 2020 being the year that just won’t end, we’re coming up on “that time of year.” I like to give my kids at least one book for Christmas each year, so last year I posted a little list of suggestions (you can find that post here ). Here are some of my family’s picture book winners for this year, ones that are sure to make little readers happy.

The 1,2,3’s of D&D and The A,B,C’s of D&D by Ivan Van Norman and Caleb Cleveland

So, if you didn’t already know that I’m a major nerd, this will definitely give it away. These books are so much fun and I – ahem, my kid-loves them. If you look closely, you’ll find an homage to a certain red wizard hidden in one of the pages of The 1,2,3s of D&D. These books are great for little learners with big imaginations.

I’m Afraid Your Teddy is in Trouble Today by Jancee Dunn, Illustrated by Scott Nash

This adorable book is about a naughty stuffed bear and the shenanigans he gets up to with his stuffed buddies. The pictures are bright and engaging and give little ones so much to talk about. There’s no overtly-forced rhyme scheme, which is a huge plus for me. This book is a popular one in our house, and for good reason.

100 Inventions that Made History:Brilliant Breakthroughs that Shaped Our World

My five year old marches to the beat of his own drum. Not only that, he wants to know who invented the drum, when they invented it, and why. He just really enjoys nonfiction and this series of books is great. It gives a lot of really interesting information in a way that is accessible. I actually originally bought this book for my older child to use in school. My youngest has adopted it and looks at it constantly.

You are My Work of Art by Sue DiCicco

I love this book so, so much! This is a great cuddling- before- bed read. Each illustration shows a child with a sweet rhyme, but when you lift a flap, there’s a famous painting, along with information about it. It’s such a wonderful way to introduce kids to art! When my youngest outgrows it, I’ll probably save it in case he has kids some day. (Please ignore my horrible photography skills.)

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, Illustrated by Michael Martchenko

My husband actually bought this one for me because I collect all things dragon-related (I also have quite the collection of fairy tales, and this sort of fits in). Not only does the princess save the prince in this one, she decides she’s better off without him (he’s a shallow jerk). The ending is hilarious and the pictures add to the fun. This has become a family favorite.

So, there you have it: some books that I think would make great gifts. Are you planning on gifting any children’s books this year? What are some you’d recommend? You can find these great books, and more at Bookshop.org , which supports indie bookstores instead of Amazon. That’s pretty nifty. I’ll also get a little kickback at no extra cost to you, if you use my link (above).

National Young Readers Week: Reading is Fun-damental!

Did you know that the second week in November is National Young Readers Week in the U.S.? This is a week to encourage and promote the love of literature in young readers. While mainly celebrated in public schools, I think all of us everywhere should get in on the fun. I’m a homeschool parent (going on seven years of homeschooling!), so my “classroom” looks a little different. Here are some ways that I encourage my young readers:

Book It! Program – This has been around since I was young and it’s as much fun now as it was then. Basically, you sign your kid up and give them a reading goal based on age or skill level. When that goal is reached, Pizza Hut provides the child with a certificate for a one-topping personal pan pizza. Yum!

Lego Magazine– I believe that this is only available in the U.S. and Canada (please correct me if I’m wrong). My kids love getting mail and this magazine, while in essence a long advertisement, still has little comics and such whatnot for young kids to read.

Origami Yoda– My oldest loves the Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger. They’re a blast to read. After reading them, have your kids check out the Origami Yoda website for free origami instructions. They can make their own origami Star Wars characters, and (with parental supervision) even create and submit their own foldable fun on the site. Warning: you will go through a ridiculous amount of paper while your kids fold away.

Lunch Doodle with Mo Willems– If you have a little reader, you’re probably familiar with the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. If not, you definitely need to fix that. They’re a blast! Well, author Mo Willems has a delightful YouTube channel which he started back in March when the U.S went on Quarantine lockdown. It is just a fun, calm way to encourage kids to get creating along with Mo Willems. There is also an email address where kids can send their own doodles.

I think it’s important to encourage reading of any kind. Yes, I mean that comics are just as valid as picture books, or even The Great American Novel. Reading is reading. If it excites your kid, then there’s a bigger chance they’ll keep reading. What are some great free reading resources for kids that I’ve missed? Are you doing anything special with your littles to spark a love of reading?

Happy reading!

For the authors: thank you


I’ll start this post by saying the now overused phrase, it’s been a tough year. I kind of think that’s the unspoken assumption at this point: “I’m doing well” (considering it’s a tough year), or “It’s been a bad day” (in the middle of a tough year). The book community isn’t exempt from the “tough year” unfortunately. I could go into the nitty gritty, but smarter minds than mine have already done that. So, this one is for the authors: you are appreciated.

I know it must be a discouraging time for so many of you, either with news you might have received, or just with life in general. Being an author is not for the faint of heart. You do not have it easy. To take the words in your mind and share them with others requires a massive amount of bravery. It also requires being willing to relinquish a little bit of your vision, knowing that the reader will picture your characters differently in their mind than you do. That takes guts.

This year has been full of changes in schedules, jobs, and lifestyle. There has been worry, and there has been loss. I cannot tell you what a godsend it has been to be able to curl up with a book – either an old friend, or a new discovery – and leave it all behind for a bit. From familiar favorites such as Dragonlance and The Night Circus, to more recent favorites, like The Ventifact Colossus and The Devil and the Dark Water, these books have kept me calm(ish).

Authors, what you do is important. So, so important. You aren’t just writing words on a page. Rather, you are building an escape pod. Your words are reminding us that even though we’re all stuck in our homes bunker-style, we aren’t alone. Good still exists and so does hope, laughter, creativity, new worlds, and mystery.

So, THANK YOU. Thank you for all you do. Keep writing. We’ll keep reading.

With Love,

A Voracious Reader