Dandelion Wine

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I’m ALIVE. Thinking about it, noticing it, is new. You do things and don’t watch. Then all of a sudden you look and see what you’re doing and it’s the first time, really.”*

Douglas Spaulding, a 12-year-old boy living in Green Town, Illinois, is glad to be alive. It’s summer, 1928, after all, and there are forests to explore, ice creams to eat, and all sorts of adventures to be had. There’s a human time machine, a witch trapped in wax, a junkman who can save lives, two soulmates born in the wrong time, a nighttime murderer, and a man determined to create happiness with a machine. There’s a lot to accomplish in a summer in Green Town, and Douglas Spaulding is planning to live life to the fullest.

Some people turn sad awfully young. No special reason, it seems, but they seem almost to be born that way. They bruise easier, tire faster, cry quicker, remember longer, and, as I say, get sadder younger than anyone else in the world. I know, for I’m one of them.”*

I would highly recommend Dandelion Wine written by Ray Bradbury and published by Doubleday in 1957 for ages 15+. It is a beautiful, half-memoir half-fantasy novel with haunting prose, real themes, and beautiful, life-like characters. There are a few more mature worldview themes to watch out for, but otherwise this is a wholesome read. 5 out of 5 stars.

No matter how hard you try to be what you once were, you can only be what you are here and now.”*

*all excerpts taken from Dandelion Wine, written by Ray Bradbury and published in 1957 by Doubleday.

The Scorpio Races

It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die.”*

It happens every November. The Scorpio Races. Riders bring their water horses to the beach and pray that the ocean doesn’t awaken the violent magic of their steeds and cause them to turn on their masters. One such rider, Sean Kendrick, is at 19 years old the returning champion of the races on his beloved water steed Cor. He has high stakes in the race this year and can’t afford to lose, or what he loves most will be lost forever. Pitted against him is Puck Connolly; a girl who never wanted to race but has to be the first female rider in the history of the races and win or else she may lose her brother. The fates of these two riders are thrown together among the gnashing teeth, crashing waves, and stinging sand of the Scorpio Races; and they will never be the same again.

I would highly recommend The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater and published in 2011 by Scholastic Press, for ages 16+. There are a few minor profanities and off-color jokes to be wary of, as well as some high tension and gory deaths. It’s a wild novel with a rich story line and marvelous character voice; 4.5 out of 5 stars.

*excerpt taken from The Scorpio Races, written by Maggie Stiefvater and published in 2011 by the Scholastic Press

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Featuring toothy cows, hidden secrets, crazy sockmen, books, Fangs, ridgerunners, and sea dragons; On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a rip-roaring tale of adventures, intrigues, and three children-Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby. These children, living in a little house in the Glipwood Township have perfectly ordinary lives, or so they think-until a series of strange events occur that lead them to believe that perhaps their lives aren’t quite as ordinary as they thought. The ferocious Fangs of Dang are seeking for the lost jewels of Anniera, which are somehow tangled up in the history of the three Igiby children, their mother, and their ex-pirate grandfather; and the Fangs are determined to find the Igiby’s at any cost.

I would highly recommend On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, written by Andrew Peterson and published in 2008 by Waterbrook Press, for ages 10+. It’s witty, fun, fast-paced, and the plot twists will leave you on the edge of your seat. There is some minor violence to watch out for with younger readers. All in all, a well-written, wholesome book with unique characters and a twisty storyline. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Coral

“A broken shell tore into the skin of her left foot. She winced and withdrew. Blood, red and angry, drip drip dripped onto the sand, dissolving in an instant. As if it never was.

Better a bleeding sole than a tortured soul.

A soul that was nothing now. Because before preluded after.

And after. Was never as it was. Before.”*

Coral, mermaid princess of the sea, is slowly succumbing to a fatal, human-originated disease: emotions. Her sister, the Crown Princess, already has been taken by its cruel waters-and Coral fears the Red Tide is coming for her next.

Brooke, teenage girl on the west coast, is close to giving up. Depression, anxiety, and trauma have pushed her to the breaking point and she’s trying a therapy home as a last resort. But if nothing will be as it was Before, what’s the point of going on?

Merrick, famous and wealthy golden boy of San Francisco, wants to escape both his father and his social status. But when his sister attempts suicide and his mom vanishes, his life is thrown upside down and he doesn’t know what else to do except escape.

When these three lives collide there can either be healing or heartache…and sometimes both exist in the same story.

I would highly recommend Coral, written by Sara Ella and published in 2019 by Thomas Nelson for mature readers 17+. A truly breathtaking and heart wrenching novel about love, loss, and mental health, this re-written fairy tale will grip your soul as you read it. There are several mature themes throughout the book including self harm, unwanted advances, and other traumatic experiences. Coral is written with a theme of hope, memorable characters, and an intriguing storyline. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

“…after will never be the same again.”*

*all excerpts taken from Coral, written by Sara Ella and published in 2019 by Thomas Nelson

The Outsiders

The Outsiders, written by S.E. Hinton, is a coming-of-age story featuring 1960’s greasers, Socs, cars, switchblades, gangs, books, and family. Read about Ponyboy, his brothers, and their friends as they fight against injustice and prejudice both against them and that they have against others; and not everyone may make it out of the fight alive.

I would recommend this novel for ages 14+. It would fall under the historical fiction and young adult genres and is very well written with an excellent ending. The Outsiders is not one of my favorite books, it was predictable and not one of the most memorable stories I’ve read in my lifetime; there was also some content to watch out for younger readers. 3 out of 5 stars.

The Mysterious Affair at Styles

Hercule Poirot, a charming and quirky retired Belgian police chief, is asked by his friend Hastings to assist in the unravelling of a confusing turn of events. An elderly, wealthy lady has been murdered; the suspects: her new husband, spiteful family, or long-time companion. The solution: one that nobody was expecting. Follow the unofficial detective and his friend as they tear apart the details of this murder at the Styles Estate in a race against the unknown murderer and the English court of law.

I would recommend The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie for ages 16+. This book is a classic whodunit complete with bumbling police chiefs, nighttime murders, dapper detectives, and family intrigue. There are a few mature details to watch out for, including some minor profanity; overall, a well-written and attention-grabbing mystery. 4 out of 5 stars.  

Inkheart

Inkheart, written by Cornelia Funke and published in 2003 by Dressler Verlag, is a tale of stories slipping from the pages of books they belong in and entering the real world, bringing their magic, rivalries, and dangers with them. Follow the adventures of 12-year-old Meggie, her father Mo, and the enigmatic Dustfinger as they travel the countryside in an attempt to stop the villain Capricorn from covering the world with a darkness taken from the pages of his origin book. Fairy tales, classics, mythology, and reality collide as the Silvertongues read from their books in an attempt to save their own world.

I would highly recommend this book for ages 14+. It is well written, rich with literary references, and packed with adventure at every turn of the page. There are a few minor inappropriate jokes and some usage of mature language, as well as violence to watch out for. Full of memorable characters, a unique storyline, and bookish quotes, Inkheart is a book that will keep you up until the early hours of the morning. 4 out of 5 stars.

The Lost and Found Journal of a Miner 49er

The Lost and Found Journal of a Miner 49er is a collection of tales regarding river mermaids, journeys, boxing kangaroos, love, bandits, acts of valor, and daring escapades. This novel features the brave Miner 49er, also known as Cody Kirschenbaum, and his darling daughter, Clementine. As you read these 17 wild adventures that take place at the time of the Gold Rush, you’ll learn valuable lessons, laugh at Cody’s dry wit and outlandish stories, and enjoy a good, Western fantasy book.

I would recommend this book, written by Jack Dublin, for ages 10+. Well written, humorous, with unexpected twists and fantastical creatures set in Gold Rush California; this book is great for a bit of lighthearted reading. 3.5 out of 5 stars.     

Professor Diggins’ Dragons

“For everyone, young or old,

who has ever had a crock of butter

to carry around a mountain…

and met a dragon.”*

Professor Diggins from the University is a little cracked, or so the board of Directors believe. Any respectable marine biology professor should keep fantasies out of the classroom, according to the Directors; so when Diggins begins to teach his devoted students about dragons and dragon-hunting and rumors start spreading, there’s only one course of action the University can take. They must retire Professor Diggins. That course of action is not popular with anyone, however; and especially not with the children who walk the Professor to his class every day. When the Directors insist on the Professor having at least a vacation to clear his head of these dragon fantasies; he takes a group of these children with him to the beach for a camping trip, where they will meet the Professor’s dragons for themselves.

I would highly recommend Professor Diggins’ Dragons by Felice Holman for ages 8+. This is a fun, lighthearted children’s book, with excellent themes and eccentric, memorable characters; well written and humorous. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

“ ‘Oh dear!’ said Lydia. ‘Is this the end?’

‘Indeed not!’ said Professor Diggins. ‘Just a stopping place.’ ”*

*Excerpts taken from Professor Diggins’ Dragons, written by Felice Holman and published in 1996 by The Macmillan Company

A Thousand Perfect Notes

“Music is nothing unless it fills your soul with colour and passion and dreams.”*

Beck Keverich is a pianist who hates music. Every day he is forced to practice for hours in order to match his mother’s standards. She was once a famous pianist, popular and talented; but after her hands started to shake, she could no longer play; so she focused all her energy onto making her son the continuation of her legacy. Beck is barely balancing piano, taking care of his younger sister, and appeasing his mother’s rages without losing his own sanity; then to make matters worse, he gets paired up with a girl for a class assignment. August is bubbly, talkative, and determined to make friends with this angry boy who shows up to class with a hand-shaped bruise on his cheek and rusted piano strings barely holding together the broken pieces of his heart. Beck is a broken boy, but there’s hope just around the corner, if only he can make it there.   

“His skin will part like old paper and the world will see how his skeleton is made of dark wishes and macabre dreams.”**

I would highly recommend this book, A Thousand Perfect notes written by C.G. Drews, for mature readers ages 16+. This novel was published in 2018 and would fall under the contemporary romance genre. It is an emotional story about obsession, abuse, music, and love; and could affect sensitive readers. There is some minor mature language and a few violent abuse scenes to watch out for; but overall, A Thousand Perfect Notes is a beautifully written novel that is sure to tug at your emotions and leave you wanting more. 4 out of 5 stars.

“You are worth more than a thousand perfect notes.”***

*All excerpts taken from A Thousand Perfect Notes, written by C.G. Drews and published by Orchard Books