Harrow County, Vol. 1: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn

4 stars Graphic Novel

If you’re looking for an interesting, eerie story, I might have found the right one for you.  I picked up this graphic novel based on the illustrations, which as a horror fan, I thought they were fabulous.  I can see how some readers though, might find some of them disturbing.  When you’re discussing ghosts, torturing a witch, a skinned boy, and a corpse, there’s bound to be some interesting illustrations.  I felt that the storyline jumped a round a bit but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this story. 

They didn’t just hang Hester in the tree, but they beat, shot, and stabbed the witch before finally setting her body on fire, to make sure that she would finally leave this world once and for all.  As Hester’s body scorched the tree from which she hung, she told those in attendance that she would return and they should be ready, a vow that would hang over them.  

Emmy lives with her Pa and in a few days, she’ll be turning 18.  Is it a coincidence that Emmy has dreams of a tree and she sometimes feels that there’s something beside her?  There’s something special about Emmy, she has a gift and I wasn’t quite sure what this was until I read further but I knew that she was using it for good.   Emmy begins to wonder if she should find herself a man, now that she’s turning 18, which makes sense. Her Pa knew something and was suggesting that she stay with him on the farm as he needed help.   Wait, wait, wait……what the heck is Emmy doing now?  This is some twisted stuff and why is that all happening.

https://harrowcounty.bandcamp.com/album/harrow-county-vol-1

Sweet Emmy was such a nice person and now all this!?!  Leaving me with a cliffhanger was not good either.  I absolutely loved the illustrations in this graphic novel and then, just when I finally got the storyline all in sync, I now, have to find the second volume in this series.  4 stars

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

4 stars Historical Fiction

So, how does one really become a ghost? I can’t imagine that everyone that leaves this earth, is sent in this direction.  Does Isaac come back as a helpful ghost or a ghost that has unfinished business to attend to?  A casualty of the Trail of Tears, Isaac narrates for us, how he became a ghost in 1830, while living in the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi, which I found entertaining and interesting.

Isaac begins his story as a 10-year-old child living with his family. His best friend is his dog which he does everything with.  Treaty Talk. When Isaac overhears his parents talking about the subject, he remembers that Treaty Talk and Nahullos go hand-in-hand, a serious situation for the Choctaw Nation.  Mother leads Isaac on a series of walks that day as he witnesses important events that are being held by his community.  Gracious!   What Isaac witnesses with his very own eyes is totally different from what his own mother sees, who is standing right beside him. Good heavens, Isaac is a young child and he sees this!?!  I’m with Isaac when he questions his mother about what he’s seeing, yet her response is not what I’d expect from his very own mother.  This Treaty Talk has a shattering effect on their town and the individuals inside it. 

I had a few questions as I read this book, perhaps it was because I analyzed what was happening too much instead of just going with the flow.  Why were some individuals shape shifters, some ghosts, some……?  Did that have to do with lineage?  Didn’t Isaac think it was strange as a child to hear a dog talk? Didn’t he once read in a book that dog’s go, bark, bark? Did he realize when he was little, that he was unique?  I liked learning about the Choctaw traditions and practices.  I enjoyed the relationships that Isaac built in the book and how he accepted his fate and assisted others.  There’s an engaging story inside this short book. 

“Choctaws never say “good-bye.” There is no word for it. We say “chi pisa la chike, which means, “I will see you again, in the future.””

Switch by A.S. King

4 stars YA

I am a huge A.S. King fan and I was super excited to get this new release.  The synopsis sounded strange but if you’ve read anything by her, you’d know that’s just her style.  As an amazing author, she takes me on these incredible journeys in which, I see the world in a different light. Imagine living in a world in which time has stopped, you live in a house in which a switch takes center stage yet no one knows exactly what that switch controls and you have just discovered, that you possess a new talent.  Picking up a javelin, you hurl that javelin like a trained athlete yet you haven’t had any prior experience. You’re breaking records as you throw, how can you do this?  What is happening and why?   Enter the world of Switch.

Tru, 16, is dealing with some deep issues at home and at school.  There is the time issue that the school is exploring. Working in the groups, they hope to find a solution.  At home, Tru would like her family to be back together again. I was surprised how easy the door opened up at their house and people walked in and out.  Tru also has to deal with her house shifting and her new responsibility of being on the track team.

This was one book that took me a while to read. There were times as I read that I felt that what was written in the text was not the intended message but there was something deeper behind those words.  I had to read this book over many days so I could really appreciate what was being said.  The writing was unique with the use of a backslash to break-up the text along with the usual punctuation marks. It felt poetic at times as I read, the way the text came together.  Time is the major player in the book and as I stopped, I thought how the author was addressing this issue.  It made me think about my own time and how it applies to me.  Make sure you read the Acknowledgments in the back of the book.  

This is not my favorite A.S. novel but this is definitely one of hers. I enjoy reading her novels as I’m really not sure where I will be going or where my feet will land but I know that while I’m away, my eyes will be wider and I will emerge with a different view and I will have enjoyed my journey.     

“The minute they put us in this building we’re expected to be something we aren’t. Interested / engaged / athletic / baby grown-ups with the will to be social and succeed in life.  The building acts factory / as if it can turn out capable adults, and it will. Adults like Richard/ our rifle/ normal on the outside/interiorly, needs an exterminator.  Adults like our sister / an assortment of bombs/ an anomaly to the truth. Adults like Mama and Daddy / broken and shamed for nothing but being human / having never been given human skills/….”

The Only (Endling #3) by Katherine Applegate

5 stars Middle School

Is this really the end? This is the third book in this series, supposedly the last book, yet I feel that the journey is far from over for some of the species in this book.  It has been quite an adventure and as I read this book, the struggle became more intense and determined than it had ever been.  Assigned to a mission, they knew that success was the only answer, and drawing from all sources, they gave it all they had.

I feel Byx and Tobble have come a long way from when I first met them in The Last and now, they’re responsible for gathering recruitments for the Army of Peace. The Army hopes that a peaceful agreement can be obtained amongst all the world’s species before the two most powerful groups come head-to-head and engage in war.  I thought this was a lot of responsibility for these two friends to take on, considering their lack of experience and all the risk that was assigned to this task.  They each had a skill but would that keep them alive?

I enjoyed this series and I would like to reread it now, that all the books have been written. I did cry reading this last book (it wasn’t when I closed the last page), it was when the two friends were with one another and their friends were close by, and that is all I am saying about that moment.  This was a wonderful journey, created with great imagination and unique characters.  I enjoyed the friendships that were created and how they developed.  The characters encouraged one another and they believed in teamwork.  I was surprised though, in this final book, at the difficult vocabulary used and the way that the author described the last scene.  I thought the author used some challenging words in this book which, if you’re able to decipher words, is fine. Sometimes though, it was hard to decipher a few of those words and I had to use the dictionary.  This is not a bad thing, it’s just something that caught me off guard.  The final scene though, I thought it might contain too many details for some students.  The confrontation that occurs gives some descripted details which to some students might be okay while to others, they would be fine with, “his xxxxx would never be the same.”  A great series that I highly recommend.

“I think being brave means being afraid and still doing what you must do.”

Links to trailers for Book 1 and Book 2

BOOK 1
BOOK 2

The Electric Kingdom by David Arnold

5 stars Science Fiction YA

Dang! I picked this book originally based on cover love and I’m so glad that it caught my eye.  I absolutely loved it!  I’m not normally a sci-fi reader and seeing the size of this book, I almost walked away but this book was amazing!  This was one of those books that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I tried to close the book and walk away.  I loved how the author weaved the story together and the second half of the book, was incredible,

I felt connected to Nico in this book and I enjoyed being a part of her journey.  I can’t describe Nico and her father’s bond, as I feel that the word love doesn’t define it properly. It felt greater than love. As she sat with her father reminiscing and discussing their future, they didn’t have to see eye-to-eye but they did have to respect one another.  You could tell that they appreciated each other and felt fortunate to have each other.  From Nico watching The Deliverer, to walking with Harry, to her meeting the other survivors, and following the plan, I traveled with her as she made her way. 

I did take a few side trips away from Nico where I met the other characters in the book on a more personal level.  From when Nico first described him, I pictured The Deliverer as something from The Twilight Zone. This character was brilliant. Where do you come up with this stuff?  This character was primo! I can’t go into too much detail The Deliverer but this character generated more, “What?!”  “No way!”  out of me then, anyone else.

Nico meets other survivors on her journey which amount to about a handful of individuals to remember.  Remembering how Nico lived, I had to wonder what was going through her head when she first saw them.  These individuals don’t realize how important they are to Nico and vice versa.  Everyone knows what they need to do to keep the swarm away as they’re out in the open traveling.  Letting their guard down, they would be able to hear the hum before they’re under attack, they just won’t have much time to do so. Each of them has seen what the swarm can do and they don’t want it to happen to them.  There is a bit of romance in this book with the characters but nothing dramatic or heavy. 

I was surprised how fast I read this book.  There was this momentum throughout the book, yet as I got to the second half of this book, the momentum increased as little details began to appear and everything started to come together. It was entertaining as the author began slipping these subtle details into the story, it was like I had discovered a clue.  I really hoped that I had caught all of these little details as I read the story.  It would have been nice to reread the book now that I have the whole picture in front of me but I needed to return the book to the library as someone else had a hold on the book.  I’m going to put this book on my birthday list and I hope to get my own copy because I definitely need to read this one again.  I highly recommend it, even if you don’t read sci-fi, if you like apocalyptic, fantasy, or dystopia books, this is one you should read.  5 stars  

Frankenstein Doesn’t Wear Earmuffs! by John Loren

5 stars Children’s Halloween

Ah, mom!  This book is cute, funny, and definitely a keeper! I think everyone will be able to relate to something that happens to the little boy inside this book and it’ll make you smile.  This rhyming book is geared towards Halloween, but it should be read throughout the year because it’s so entertaining.

On the inside book cover, there’s a play-by-play of a young boy getting himself all dressed up for trick-or-treating as Frankenstein.  Ready to go, the narration begins with a dark, spooky night which I imagined, was what the young boy was imagining inside his head.  As he emerges out of the bathroom, to head out into the dark and stormy night, he hears, “HOLD IT!”

It’s his father and he’s holding a pair of his old, red galoshes.  Afraid of rain, dad wants him to wear them.  O.K.! Wearing the giant, floppy boots he tries again to leave, when, “HANG ON!” Only this time, it’s his mom. She’s holding not 1, but 3 items that she wants him to wear before he heads out the door because she’s concerned about the weather. O.K.! Frankenstein is starting to look really silly now in all this gear.  This exchange between the young boy and his parents continues, the young boy just wants to have a fun Halloween.

This is a super book. The illustrations are fantastic and I liked how they flash between the boy dressed-up as Frankenstein and Frankenstein, himself.  The rhyming works throughout the book and ending was great. 5 stars!!

Just Beyond the Very, Very Far North by Dan Bar-el

5 stars Chilren’s Fiction

I was thrilled to see this sequel because after I had read the first book in this series, I needed more of Duane and his friends.  I love the way that the author narrates the books and I really enjoy the characters.  It’s how the characters relate to one another, how they view themselves in their world and their own unique personalities that make these characters stand out.  You don’t need to have previously read the first book to enjoy this book in the series but I highly recommend that you read it because you’ll love it.

His winter slumber is over, as Duane walks out to find his friends and they bring him up-to-date on what he has missed.  Starving, the friends head down to the beach for a picnic.  They were a great, cheerful group of friends but now, a new face has arrived and he’s causing waves among the small group.   It seems that this weasel has a comment about everything and everyone.  They’re such a tight group of friends that, when one of them is affected by the weasel, the whole group is impacted.  That darn weasel!

There were some great moments in the book, moments that made me smile and laugh.  I loved how Duane removed the snow without using a shovel.  If only that would work in real life, I would love to be able to do that.  As I sit here now, in Iowa with over 14 inches of snow on the ground, I’m thinking I could roll myself a nice-sized fort.   The concern and the effort that the characters put forth for Duane and Boo was so sweet.   That’s what friends do for each other and they each did what they wanted and what they were capable of doing also.   I can’t wait to see how much Musk Ox changed, if any, when he returns back to the Very, Very Far North.   I was afraid that he was going to be gone for a while but I’m glad to see that he’s coming back shortly.  I enjoyed the letter he wrote.

This was a great sequel and I can’t wait to share it with my grandchildren when they get older.  It’d make a great read aloud or it’s a great chapter book. 

They Threw Us Away by Daniel Kraus

4 stars Middle School

Why? Just why, would anyone throw a teddy bear away?  The whole cover of this book grabbed my attention from the fun text fonts used, to the unique teddies on the front who seemed to be in a wasteland, to how the author made this topic into a series, I had to know more.  Enter the world of Furringon Teddies.  Where a group of five teddies finally make it free out into the world and realize, perhaps they being inside the store was better.    

When Buddy wakes up, he finds that he’s no longer trapped.  It hot, bright and he’s sitting. As he moves his paws to shield his eyes, he makes a huge discover, he can actually move his paws!  He’s always been upright, bounded by white plastic cords but now, he could physically move every part of his body! He’s made it outside the store! The teddies in the store have always wondered about this place.  

Hearing something, Buddy spies a box that looks familiar.  Disappointed that it’s not his own box, Buddy realizes that it’s an identical box and there’s 3 more of them close by.  Buddy has found 4 other Teddies like himself.  They can’t stand around after Buddy releases them as there’s a group of gulls moving towards them.  How did this group of five end up in the trashlands? They read their boxes later, hoping to find clues, and they realize a few things about themselves. They’re supposed to “snuggle, cuddle, nap, sleep” and not talk, walk, get in trouble, and be mean. The group decides that they need to get out of the trashlands but as teddies, is any place safe?   

This book was different than how I thought it would be.  I liked how detailed the author was with setting the book up and how he shares that information.  There’s Reginald, he’s a gray teddy.  He has a lot of knowledge, he’s been on the shelf the longest, and he’s also the cautious one.  Then, there’s Sugar. Her box had a “sticker reading damaged merchandise” which had affected the box that she was found in and her face. Her actions and the way that others reacted to her were different than the other characters. Her actions at the end of this book surprised me. These are just some of the subtle ways that the author “tells” the reader about the world that they’re painting for them.

It’s quite a journey for the group as they make their way out, the store shelves are long gone.  They’re no longer the Furrington Teddies they once were. I was surprised at how dark this book became as they were met with outside influences. 

I liked how this story flowed and the variety of characters but I think my main issue was the use of the teddy bear characters.  For it being a children’s book, I became concerned for those who would be upset when they were reading it and suddenly, they came upon a section that they weren’t prepared for.  If I think along the lines of Toy Story, where dangerous situations happen to those characters, to me, those characters are toys.  Toys fall apart, you put them back together. Toys get their voices and attitudes from the children who play with them, typically.  These are teddy bears, most individuals think of teddy bears as sweet, loveable, huggable animals. 

I did think the ending was sweet and I look forward to the next book. Make sure you know your reader before handing this book to them.

Rain Before Rainbows by Smriti Prasadam-Halls

4 stars Children’s Picture Books

I guess I don’t follow the excitement about this book.  The illustrations are wonderful but I thought they were the best aspect about the book.  With a fantasy theme to them, the girl moves through the different scenes, trying to escape her dark past.  Some scenes she has forest animals with her and in one she has dragons but throughout her adventures, she is with her companion, the fox. 

Trying to put her dark and gloomy life behind her, she’s trying to move onto a brighter future.  As she flees with the fox, she realizes that they could run into problems in their journey but she knows the action they can take to beat it. 

It’s a beautiful book but I think the text might be a bit deep for some readers. It’s a book about hope, letting readers know that, although they may feel overwhelmed or defeated, victory and success awaits them.  I think for a picture book, there are many children who will not be able to comprehend the true meaning of what the author is trying to convey without someone explaining it to them first.  Once you get over that small hump with young readers, it’s a great book and for older readers, they should be able to grasp it. 

Lift by Minh Le

4.75 stars Children’s Picture Book

Ha! This picture book is definitely a fun one and one you could have a good time with.  Iris got mad when things changed in her normal routine but then, she found a solution.  Little did she know that solution would lead her on magical journeys that began in her own bedroom. 

Iris loved to push the elevator buttons in the apartment building that she lived in with her family.  It always made her happy and she could count on it to cheer her up.  Whenever they needed to push one of the elevator buttons, Iris would step right up and DING, she’d push the correct button.     

She doesn’t know what happened that Thursday but once her family got inside the elevator to go up to their apartment, her little brother reached right over and pushed the elevator button before Iris had a chance.  WHAT!! Her brother was so proud and excited and her parents, well…. they had the same reaction.  Iris, she was mad! Then, on Friday when they left their apartment and again, got inside the elevator, her brother reached over and pushed the button AGAIN!  Oh, the look on Iris’ face!  I loved this part!!  She doesn’t hold back her anger, nope! What does she do? Yell? Scream? Iris reaches over and she pushes all the buttons and her family stops on all the floors.  This, my friend, I can see happening.  How does everyone on the elevator feel now?  I liked this part of the book as it shows through the text and the illustrations a lot about the characters.

When they finally reach the lobby, there’s a repair man fixing the other elevator. He’s currently replacing the elevator’s wall button and Iris notices when he throws the broken button in the trash can.  Ah!  Yep, Iris quickly grabs the broken elevator button and she shoves it into her coat pocket.  I liked how most of this activity is told without words. Following the text boxes, the illustrations tell the story.  Once home and safety behind her bedroom door, Iris takes the broken elevator button out of her pocket.  After grabbing some tape, she tapes it up on her wall.  She pushes the button (just for good measure)and starts to walks away when “DING!”

Don’t you love it?  I would love to read this to a child or to a classroom and see what they think is going to happen next because it’s time to turn the page and then, Iris has an amazing adventure.  Iris does return to her family’s apartment for just a bit and then, Iris is ready and we hear a DING!

I really loved this book and I have to get a copy of this.  I love how it opens up the avenue for discussions and possibilities.  I liked how Iris got angry and how she dealt with it, it was honest and representative of how some children might handle that situation, I think.  I wished her parents would have said something to her about her behavior, not a lecture but something to address it.  I thought her adventures were fun and entertaining and I think, children will like them too.  The illustrations in this book are fantastic. The detail and the colors really bring out the story.  It’s a mixture of a story book and wordless book as there were pages that didn’t have any words and you just had to follow the pictures to understand the storyline.  Iris’ feelings towards her brother were fitting and her actions at the end of the book were really sweet.  This is definitely a good book to read to the children in your life.  4.75 stars