Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich

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Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel was written by Val Emmich. It is, of course, based on the Tony award winning musical by Steven Levenson, Benk Pasek and Justin Paul. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my girls and I have been listening to the DEH soundtrack since the spring.

Evan Hansen is a high school boy with anxiety. He’s supposed to be writing inspirational letters to himself as a therapeutic exercise. One of these letters ends up with Connor Murphy, who commits suicide in an unrelated incident. When the Murphys find the letter, they believe that Connor wrote the letter to Evan. Instead of telling the truth, Evan allows the Murphys to believe that he was Connor’s best friend and fabricates an entire relationship. This desperately lonely boy finally has people paying attention to what he has to say, but it’s all for the wrong reasons. He has everything he could ever want, but it’s all based on lies. How can he tell the truth now? Read more

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Band Sinister by KJ Charles

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Band Sinister is a Regency-era m/m romance novel by KJ Charles. I received an ARC of this book, and before I launch into my review, I want to share how excited and grateful I am for the opportunity. For Charles’ last two books, I stumbled upon the submission form for review copies too late. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was able to submit a request for Band Sinister.

Guy and Amanda Frisby live in bucolic mediocrity, and while they aren’t necessarily happy with their forced seclusion, they endure it because that’s the way things need to be.

As the story begins, Amanda has just written a gothic novel based on their neighbor Sir Philip Rookwood and his friends. Amanda breaks her leg in an accident, and is taken to Rookwood Hall to recover. Guy is obligated to join her in order to maintain a sense of propriety; no decent woman will serve as chaperone because of the rumors surrounding Sir Philip and his friends. They are certainly an eclectic bunch, but they are kind to the Frisbys.

Guy realizes that Rookwood Hall is not the wretched hive of scum and villainy that he was led to believe. There’s clearly a connection between Guy and Philip, but Guy has never allowed himself to even acknowledge such feelings, let alone act upon them. Philip is much more (so much more) experienced, but he’s gentle and patient with Guy, who proves to be equally adept and curious. Guy is so shy that he can’t even say what he wants in English- he reverts to Latin. And if that’s not the sweetest most precious thing in the entire world, I don’t know what is.

In many books, conflict stems from a Big Misunderstanding that could have been resolved with a frank conversation. Conflict in Band Sinister does not fall victim to this pitfall; it’s much more realistic, and it’s heartbreaking to contemplate the weight of obligation versus doing what the heart wants.

I loved everything about Band Sinister. I took two classes about gothic novels in college, so I appreciated the inclusion of a gothic novel as a plot point. I’d like to think that Charles named the Frisbys after the family of mice in the children’s modern classic Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. It would be so delightfully perfect.

Speaking of delightfully perfect, I’m grateful for the lessons in some of the salacious lines from Latin literature.

On a more serious note, despite the frequent doses of levity, this book presents some serious points on family bonds, friendship, love, redemption, consent, and trust.

I would absolutely recommend Band Sinister to fans of m/m historical fiction. This is absolutely my favorite KJ Charles book. I received my copy at the end of August, and I’ve read the book at least 3-4 times since then. I plan to buy my own copy of this book, and if an audiobook is produced, I’ll buy that too. I can’t wait to read Charles’ next book, but in the meantime, I will content myself with another readthrough of Band Sinister.

 

The Most Beautiful Village in the World by Yutaka Kobayashi

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The Most Beautiful Village in the World is a picture book written and illustrated by Yutaka Kobayahi. I was excited about the opportunity to read this book because I wanted to share it with my girls. They always enjoy the books I receive, and their feedback is useful in helping me write my reviews.

This is a slow-paced picture book about an Afghani boy named Yamo who lives in the village of Paghman with his parents. His older brother is off fighting in the war, and because of this, Yamo will get to travel to town to sell the fruit they have picked. Yamo has never been to town before, and is somewhat intimidated when his father asks him to walk around with the fruit. Later, he and his father share tea at a restaurant, and they have enough money to buy a lamb. No one else in the village has a lamb of their own, and Yamo is very proud to be able to return home with their new lamb. Read more

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

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A Girl Like That was written by Tanaz Bhathena. I read this book a while ago, but I have fallen behind with my review writing. I found this book on the new release shelf of the young adult section of my library. The premise interested me, so I added it to my pile.

The book opens with the deaths of the protagonist Zarin and her boyfriend Porus. Armed with this knowledge, the reader must delve into the backstory, which details the events that led up to this untimely demise.

Zarin is a teenage girl living in Saudi Arabia. She’s Indian, and she lives in an expatriate community with her aunt and uncle. She has already acquired a reputation by the time she meets Porus, but she is so much more than “the girl like that”. Her life is heartbreakingly complicated, and her story deserves to be told. Read more

Poco and Moco Are Twins by Jun Ichihara

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Poco and Moco Are Twins is a picture book written and illustrated by Jun Ichihara. My girls have mostly moved beyond picture books, but they still enjoy checking out the digital review copies that I receive.

Poco and Moco are a pair of sheep twins. Poco is a boy, and Moco is a girl. They share similarities, but they also have their differences. Poco likes bread, and Moco likes desserts- but they both like donuts! There’s not much of a plot, but that’s okay, because this book is intended for older toddlers and younger preschoolers. It’s more of a concept book than a narrative.     Read more

The Orphan Band of Springdale by Anne Nesbet

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The Orphan Band of Springdale is a middle grade novel written by Anne Nesbet. I always read the middle grade novels I receive with my oldest daughter, so I was excited about the opportunity to share another book with her.

Gusta Neubronner arrives in Sprindale, Maine to stay with her mother’s family. She wants nothing more than to fit in with her new classmates, but she immediately stands out when she fails an eye exam on the first day of school. Gusta has always known that she needs glasses, but she always used coping mechanisms like memorization to “pass” the test. Glasses are a luxury that she doesn’t think her family can afford.

Gusta also stands out because of her “foreign” name. It’s 1941, and her school is engaged in activities that highlight what it means to be a Real American, and what they as children can do to be patriots. Gusta wants to do her part, but she is also struck by the injustice that she sees around her. Her father is actually on the run from the authorities for his role in labor organization. Read more

I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo by Charles Schulz

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I’m Not Your Sweet Babboo is a collection of Peanuts cartoons by the late Charles Schulz. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book because my oldest daughter is a big fan of Peanuts. Needless to say, she was very excited when I told her that I had a Peanuts book for her to read!

Fans of Peanuts will know that “sweet babboo” was a term of endearment that Sally Brown used with her beloved Linus. Interestingly enough, while there was a storyline involving Sally and Linus going to a farm on a school, most of the collection focuses on other storylines. We are treated to Snoopy’s feud with the cat next door, Peppermint Patty’s school troubles, Charlie Brown running away, and Snoopy playing tennis with Molly Volley.

These storylines are unrelated, but the compilers of this collection did a good job with the segues, so nothing seems out-of-place with the transitions. There’s a nice flow. Read more

The Uncanny Express by Kara LaReau

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The Uncanny Express is a middle grade novel written by Kara LaReau and illustrated by Jen Hill. This is the second book in The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters series. I was very excited about the opportunity to read this book with my girls because we enjoyed reading The Jolly Regina, which is the first book in the series.

After their pirate adventure in the first book, Jaundice and Kale are looking forward to returning to their bland lives sitting at home, darning socks, and eating cheese sandwiches. Their plans are thrown off-kilter when they are directed to go to the train station to meet their aunt, and inadvertently end up on a train speeding off to the Uncanny Valley.

Jaundice and Kale agree to help a glamorous magician and serve as her assistants, but then she disappears- even though the train never made any stops. Luckily, one of the other passengers on the train is the famous detective Hugo Fromage. Can he help solve the mystery of the missing magician? Read more

Tell Me a Mitzi by Lore Segal

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Tell Me a Mitzi is a picture book written by Lore Segal and illustrated by Harriet Pincus. I was very excited about the opportunity to share this book with my girls because this was a book I remembered from my own childhood. We loved this book so much that we even named one of our cats Mitzi, and she was my mother’s favorite cat of all time. I still have my copy of this book on cassette, probably a relic from a Scholastic book flier.

Mitzi is a young girl living in New York City, and this book is made up of three short stories about the titular girl and her family. They are fairly short stories that start out like everyday occurrences, but there is a little twist at the end of each story. Read more

The Dollmaker of Krakow

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The Dollmaker of Krakow is a middle grade novel written by R.M. Romero. My three girls are in the middle grade range, and so I always end up reading the children’s fiction I receive with them because their feedback is invaluable.

Karolina lived quite happily in the Land of the Dolls until the rats invaded. Her peaceful existence was shattered as the rats began a reign of terror. When things are looking their bleakest, Karolina awakens in a toy shop in the city of Krakow. She meets Mr. Brzezick, the Dollmaker who brought her to life. At first, the Dollmaker is shocked that Karolina can speak to him, but he quickly accepts the magic for what it is. Read more