The Twyning by Terene Blacker. Published by Candlewick

Efren is a rat and Dogboy is a boy and these two together will fulfill a powerful destiny. After the king is murdered by an evil human, Dr. Henry Ross-Gibbon, the Kingdom is in an uproar. Determined to keep rats from rising to power ever again, the doctor enlists young Dogboy, a 13-year-old abandoned by his family and living on his own in the streets, to round-up rats for him. The doctor’s ultimate plan is to see that rats cease to exist in the Kingdom. Meanwhile, Efren’s world is collapsing around him and he journeys to the surface where he encounters Dogboy and 11-year-old runaway Caz. They are initially suspicious of each other until they discover an extraordinary thing – they can talk to and understand each other. Now everything will change.

A profound and beautiful story.

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The Curse of the Buttons by Anne Ylvisaker. Published by Candlewick

The tiny town of Keokuk, Iowa has been on tenterhooks for months. Will there be a war? When news arrives that The United States is at was with the Confederacy, Ike is thrilled. Finally there will be some excitement to look forward to. But when the Button men march off, Ike is left behind with the women, children and old men. But he doesn’t plan to miss out on his share of the glory, and with the help from an unusual relative, plans to sneak away disguised as a drummer boy and join up with the Iowa 1st Regiment. His plans end up going awry, and Ike is disappointed, but no for long.

An amazing novel! The author plants her young readers firmly in the middle of 19th century America, and then makes them care about Ike and his friends and family. She makes history come alive for her readers and plants some seeds about war, family and the true meaning of bravery. Newbery committee – take note of this book!

Neverhome by Laird Hunt. Published by Little, Brown

Why would a woman dress as a man simply so she could go to war? Ash leaves her farm and her husband to join ranks with Union soldiers during the Civil War. She fights alongside the, concealing her true identity, as she witnesses the very worst that humanity is capable of. She becomes something of a legend and a hero to some, but a traitor and maniac to others. Why would any woman subject herself to such horrors and why didn’t her husband fight in the war? An amazing story of war, independence, women’s rights and one woman’s determination to stand up for her convictions. This is not a romantic view of the Civil War, but a clear and provocative look at American history.

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein. Published by Simon & Schuster

The Riddle House was built and paid for by the spoils of the lumber industry of the Pacific Northwest. The house’s original owner and builder, Elijah Riddell made it clear that he never wanted the house of land sold. If his family did not want to live there, the house and grounds were to be left alone to return to forest land. In 1990, 14 year old Trevor Riddell gets his first glimpse of the house. His parents are in the middle of a divorce and the money is gone. With the help of his sister, Serena, Trevor’s father, Jones, plans to get grandfather Samuel locked up in a nursing home, and then sell off all the land for development purposes. But Trevor discovers that all that will be easier said than done. The house, or something in it, does not want the property sold, and it will do whatever it takes to see that the property is protected.

As much a coming of age story as a ghost story, this is reminiscent of early Stephen King (Stand By Me) and Peter Straub. Stein has proved once again, that he is an incredible story teller, with the power to hold readers spellbound. Highest recommendations.

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde. Published by Lake Union

Teacher August Schroeder spends his summer breaks traveling, teaching has left him exhausted and dejected. This year, however, his travels will be slightly different. After never making an oft talked about trip to Yellowstone with his son, this year he’s going. He will be making the trip, not with this 19-year-old son, but with his ashes. His grief and guilt are almost unbearable. Why didn’t they make the time to take this trip years ago when they still had time? Along the way, August with a couple of stowaways, two young boys with nowhere to go and no one to be with. Their travels bring the three into a strange type of friendship and August learns to once again see the beauty in the world and all the reasons he has to keep going.

A novel that left me in tears for so many reasons. Having recently lost my father, I could identify too well with August’s grief and guilt. There never seems to be enough time to say and do all the things that we would like. Hyde sends a powerful message in her book, that, even though we may not have all the time we would like, we do have the ability to make the most of what we have while we have it. No one will walk away from this story untouched.

Travels with Casey by Benoit Denziet-Lewis. Pubished by Simon & Schuster

Denziet-Lewis, a writer for New York Times Magazine. sets out with his dog, a nine-year old lab mix named Casey in a motor home to tour the United States. Denziet-Lewis is afraid his dog doesn’t like him very much, but he’ll have plenty of time to find out as the duo travels 1,300 miles in 4 months, visiting 32 states. Along the way the two meet many dogs and their human companions, among them wolf hybrids, a dog rescuer and a pet psychic. They pick up people hitchhiking with their dogs and get pulled over by a police officer and his K-9 companion. Through the miles one thing becomes obvious, we humans love our dogs and would do almost anything from them. As for the dogs? Sure, they’ll take – us as long as we feed them, play with them, and love them unconditionally. It becomes clear that we humans need our dogs much more than they need us. Part travelogue, part pet lover’s saga, this is a book that will delight readers of both genres – heck, it may even convert some cat people.

Love, Lies and Lemon Cake by Sue Watson. Published by Bookouture

Faye Dobson worries that life is passing her by. She dreams of traveling, of the romance of Paris and the history and intrigue of Rome. All her husband wants to do is concentrate on his plumbing business. He has no interest in going anywhere, and as far as romance – well, you can forget that. Then Faye meets Dan, a gorgeous Australian surfer who works at a local shop. He’s so beautiful, she can’t take her eyes off him. He’s also 10 years her junior, and why would someone like that be interested in her? That’s just the stuff of romance novels, couldn’t happen in real life….could it?

A wonderful story for women of a certain age who still have plenty of fire in the furnace who are married to men who tend to take them for granted. A fantasy that every woman can buy into!