The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

I found The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia on the new release shelf in the YA section of my town library. I tend to prefer fiction, but I also love history, especially 19th century history.

The Family Romanov was meticulously researched by Candace Fleming. She presents her findings in an engaging manner, and she includes fascinating tidbits to pique the interest of the young reader. Fleming begins with marriage of Tsarevich Nicholas and Alexandra, who was one of Queen Victoria’s German-born grandchildren. The union was considered unlucky or cursed because they married when Nicholas was supposed to be in mourning following the death of his father. This proves to be rather prophetic, considering the gruesome end that the family met. Read more

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is one of my favorite authors. I first fell in love with her books when I read Fangirl, and I was equally captivated by Landline. I had purchased Attachments during an Audible sale, and I recently got around to listening to it.

Attachments is the turn of the century (1999-2000) story of a young man named Lincoln. He’s shy, and a little socially awkward, and he works in IT for a newspaper. His responsibilities include monitoring the employees’ email for anything inappropriate. The correspondence between Beth and Jennifer, two of his coworkers regularly lands in his filters. Lincoln knows that he shouldn’t continue to read the emails, and he should either report them for personal correspondence during work hours or ignore them because they aren’t actually inappropriate. But he doesn’t do either of those things- he continues to read the emails, and as he does, he realizes that he genuinely cares about what the ladies are talking about, and he begins to fall in love with Beth. Read more

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

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As soon as I heard about The Royal We, I knew I wanted to read it. I submitted a request through the library network, and it arrived quickly. I started to read, and I was enjoying myself so much that I decided to use an Audible credit to purchase the audiobook version.

The Royal We is a collaborative effort from Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, the women behind the fashion blog Go Fug Yourself. This is the story of Rebecca Porter, who is preparing for her wedding to Prince Nicholas at the beginning of the book. There is an official biography, but Bex assures us that it is highly inaccurate. She then proceeds to tell the reader the real story behind the courtship. Seven years ago, Bex was an American college student spending a semester abroad at Oxford University. She ends up living on the same hall as Prince Nicholas, third in line to the British throne. They bond over a weird American soap opera and American junk food, and they fall in love, even though neither of them intended for that to happen. Their relationship is often tumultuous, and involves an ensemble cast of characters including Bex’s twin sister Lacey, Nick’s wild brother Freddie, stuffy aristocrat Lady Bea, and more. Read more

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

I am a big fan of many of Stephen King’s books. I prefer the ones that are not horror stories, like 11/22/63 and novellas like The Body and Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. When Entertainment Weekly published an excerpt from King’s latest novel Finders Keepers, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. I placed a hold through the library network, but so did 186 other people. Luckily, I stopped at the library last Friday and found the book on the special 7 Day Checkout shelf. These books can only be checked out for a week, and they can’t be renewed. I had several books in my reading queue, but I bumped Finders Keepers to the top. Thanks to my children being distracted by the video game Splatoon, and a mini road trip to the Lacrosse Jamboree an hour away, I was able to finish Finders Keepers in a couple of days.

Finders Keepers opens in 1978, with reclusive author John Rothstein’s home being invaded by three masked bandits. They are not only after his money; Morris Bellamy, the ringleader, is convinced that the aged author has a vast collection of unpublished writings. The hunch is correct- they load the Moleskine notebooks into a trunk, and Bellamy shoots Rothstein before leaving.

Thirty-five years later, a teenager named Pete Saubers discovers the trunk with the notebooks and cash. They have gone untouched for all those years because Morris Bellamy has been in prison, but for a different crime than Rothstein’s murder. But then Bellamy is released, and he goes back to his home (that the Saubers family is now living in) and when he realizes that his treasures have been stolen, he is determined to recover what (in his mind) is rightfully his, no matter the cost. Read more

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

I had gotten a copy of The Night Gardener from a neighboring library last year, but I didn’t get a chance to read it before it had to be returned. My town library acquired the audiobook version, so I added it to my pile. It’s often easier for me to listen to audiobooks because I can listen while I’m driving or straightening up the house.

The story begins with young orphans Molly and Kip traveling to their new home. They have been hired by the Windsor family to work as housekeeper and stableboy/gardener. Well, to be specific, they are hired by Mr. Windsor, who fails to inform his wife. When the siblings arrive, they are almost turned away by Constance Windsor, who doesn’t want anyone in their house. This sense of confusion and the pallid appearance of Constance and her children establishes an overwhelming feeling of dread. Read more

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond

Paddington Bear was a big part of my childhood. My mother read several of the books to me, and I used to love watching the television show on The Disney Channel in the 1980s. Phrases like “Darkest Peru” and “Please look after this bear” have become family in-jokes that we cite frequently. Michael Bond began to write the Paddington books in 1958, but they have remained fresh and funny over the years.

I picked up the Audible edition of A Bear Called Paddington last year during a sale on children’s audiobooks, but we didn’t listen to it until last month. The girls have been vaguely interested in Paddington since the movie came out last year. We haven’t had a chance to see it, but when we finished listening to The Little Prince, they picked A Bear Called Paddington as our next audiobook. The Audible edition is read by Stephen Fry, and gives a delightful and whimsical performance. Read more

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

A few years ago, my mother went to France for a vacation. She brought back presents for my girls. Among other trinkets, she gave them bowls with a picture of The Little Prince and the quote “Mais les yeux sont aveugles. Il faut chercher avec le Coeur.” This translates to “But the eyes are blind. You must look with your heart.”

The girls love their bowls, and about a month ago, my oldest girl came out of Kumon with a copy of The Little Prince and was very excited that she had found the book about the boy on the bowl. This reminded me that The Little Prince had been an Audible Daily Deal that I had purchased, and I asked the girls if they wanted to listen to The Little Prince. Everyone said they did, so we listened to The Little Prince as we drove back and forth from our activities. Read more

I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems

I have been a fan of Mo Willems for close to ten years. We are big fans of the public library, but Mo Willems is an author whose books are purchased as soon as they are released. My three girls are big fans of the Elephant and Piggie series, and were eagerly waiting for I Will Take A Nap.

As the title suggests, Gerald the persnickety elephant wants to take a nap- but he is interrupted by Piggie. Gerald explains that he needs a nap because he is cranky, and napping helps him feel better. Gerald snaps at Piggie (who was being a little obtuse), and she snips back that now SHE is cranky. Gerald and Piggie try to take a nap together, but Piggie’s snoring disrupts Gerald. Will the cranky elephant ever get his nap? Read more

Backlash by Sarah Darer Littman

I found Backlash at the library. It was on the new release shelf in the young adult section. I was not familiar with author Sarah Darer Littman, but I certainly plan to pick up her other books after this.

It’s hard to describe Backlash without venturing into spoiler territory. The story is told from multiple perspectives, and this is an absolute necessity when it comes to getting the whole story. As Backlash begins, a girl named Lara tries to kill herself because Christian, the boy she had a crush on, just publicly humiliated her on Facebook and told her the world would be a better place without her. Lara has a history of depression beginning when she was in middle school, but she gained new insight through therapy, lost 30 pounds, and just made the cheerleading squad. Read more

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

I found Extraordinary Means at the library. I had read one of Robyn Schneider’s other Young Adult books (The Beginning of Everything), so I was pleased to find this newly released book.

Extraordinary Means is the story of Lane and Sadie, two teenagers with an incurable strain of tuberculosis. They have been placed at Latham House, which used to be a boarding school, and now serves as a sanatorium. Lane and Sadie met before, several years earlier at a summer camp.

The chapters alternate between Lane’s perspective and Sadie’s. As the book begins, Lane is just arriving at Latham House; Sadie has been there for months. Lane’s biggest concern is keeping up with his AP coursework. Despite the diagnosis, he will not be deterred from his goal of getting into Stanford. The lackadaisical attitude of the teachers, and the busywork that the students are given comes as a shock to Lane. But everyone there is sick, and not everyone has energy to keep up with traditional coursework. Read more