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Book Review: Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott

Hana lives in a remote village surrounded by impassable forest and haunted by a terrible beast. Once a month, the beast claims another victim, from children to the elderly, including Hana’s brother. Since then, Hana has done whatever it takes to keep her parents alive as food dwindles and despite her father’s neglect.

Then the beast chooses her father. He wanders into the forest just like all the others, but this time Hana goes after him and manages to bring him back. Alive, but unconscious, and he won’t wake up. Hana begs for anyone in her village to accompany her into the forest and fight the beast to break the spell on him. No one volunteers, so she goes alone.

There, she fights the beast and while she survives, she is badly wounded. A strange, cloaked man finds her and takes her to his home in the middle of an enchanted garden, tending to her wounds for several days. Hana is intrigued by his kindness and mysteriousness, down to the fact he doesn’t remember his own name.

But he does know about the curse on her village, its origins, and the true monster of the forest. Only by working together and finding the truth of the curse can he and Hana free her father, the village, and themselves.

This is an AMAZING retelling of Beauty and the Beast set in Japan. I love Zoe Marriott’s books and this one is one of my favorites. Hana is a tough, determined heroine and the story itself is both beautiful and heartbreaking. Zoe Marriott doesn’t pull punches when it comes to the curse’s backstory. Great book!

Recommended Tea: Jasmine Green Tea

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling

Book Review: The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

Four years ago, Nico’s older sister, Sarah, disappeared without a trace. She was supposed to be meeting her boyfriend in the park but never made it, making Nico the last person to see her sister. After a long investigation and countless false leads, Nico thinks her sister is dead and has given up hope she is every coming back. And a part of Nico is glad to be free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then they get a call. A girl in a children’s shelter claims her name is Sarah Morris. Nico and her parents fly to see her and make a visual identification. Sarah has finally been found. But amnesia coupled with malnutrition and abuse has changed her from the bright, good at everything, casually cruel girl Nico remembers to a kind, gentle girl.

Is this really Sarah? And if she is, what happened to her to change her so much?

This book was very good, a quick fast read. The relationships between all the characters was realistic and intriguing, especially between Nico and Sarah. The author keeps you guessing until the end, but the end was very satisfying!

Genre: Young Adult

Recommended Tea: Chocolate Chai

 

Book Review: The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron

In Nadia’s world, there is the Forgetting every twelve years. Everyone’s memory in the entire city is wiped out. The only way anyone knows who they are, who they love, and what’s going on is from reading the books tied to their wrists and waists. Everyone has one and it is their lifeline.

Only Nadia is the exception. She remembers her life before the last forgetting and she remembers the horror of the weeks leading up to it. The next Forgetting is approaching and already the city is breaking down. Because if everyone is going to forget, there are no consequences. And if you don’t like who you are, you just have to write a new book.

Nadia is also the only one who slips over the city walls and explore the forest surrounding it.  The city has secrets, and no one notices quiet Nadia. Or do they? One day, as she climbs back over the wall, she is seen by Gray, the glassblower’s son. Now she reluctantly has a partner in crime, just as she begins to discover the secret to the Forgetting and the true evil of the city.

This book was AMAZING! I loved Nadia. She was curious, rebellious without being obvious about it, smart, and had to be reminded to talk. And Gray was a great counterpart and romantic partner for her. He was charismatic, charming, and head over heels for her. Which utterly confused her. So great romance without it being the main point of the book. The rest of the characters were also very realistic and interesting, from her family to Gray’s family to the leaders of the city.

The plot was also engaging and had plenty of twists and turns to keep me guessing. I think the author, Sharon Cameron, really thought through all the ramifications of a whole city that forgets. About what happens to people with no books, about how the truth can be manipulated, and about what a terrible power remembering when everyone else forgets can be. It’s fascinating how people have adapted to what is to them a natural part of life. And everything gets explained with very good explanations.

Basically, read this book if you like awesome characters, a fascinating story, and a good romance. Seriously, read it.

Recommended Tea: Chocolate Pu-erh

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance

 

 

Book Review: Dreamwood by Heather Mackey

Lucy Darrington loves helping her father in his work as a ghost clearer, traveling across America investigating supernatural phenomenon—and then he suddenly leaves her alone at Miss Bentley’s School for Young Ladies. There she is forced to stay while he travels to Saarthe, a logging town where the trees are dying from a mysterious blight. Stifled by the strict rules of the school and feeling a bit betrayed by her beloved father, Lucy takes matters into her own hands and runs away, determined to meet her father in Saarthe But when she arrives, she learns her father is missing after traveling to the Devil’s Thumb in search of Dreamwood, a potential cure for the blight. And no one comes back from the Devil’s Thumb.

Confident her father is alive and she can reach him, Lucy sets out for the Devil’s Thumb with the frustrating Pete Knightley, whose family stands to lose everything because of the blight. And all that stands in their way are sea serpents, the Lupine people, starvation, and a forest that causes horrific nightmares. As they travel, Lucy’s confidence begins to fade. Even if she survives the Devils Thumb and finds the Dreamwood, will she find her father?

Despite my less than stellar review (this book is incredibly full of plot, hard to pick what needs to be in the summary), this book was pretty good. It took me a while to get into it, simply because Lucy annoyed me with her overconfidence, bordering on snobbery at some points. She acts uppity even while she is (and I am) disgusted with herself for acting that way. Fortunately, this is actually a main point of the book, Lucy learning she doesn’t know everything. It just takes her a very long time to learn it, and it frustrated me. A lot.

The plot is fast paced and full of fantastical creatures and magic. While it starts out light-hearted, the book turns very dark by the end (think the beginning of the Harry Potter series compared to the end of the series). However, I think the second half is much better than the first. Overall, a good book if you can get past Lucy’s annoying personality. This is one of the very few times I have found the plot of a book to make up for an annoying character.

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy

Tea: Soothing Caramel Bedtime Tea

Dear Brewhaha Book Cafe Subscribers,

Mez here, after a long, silent summer. I do hope the summer months have been filled with all manner of Story reading & writing delights… not to mention tea (because it’s never too hot for a cuppa, I say!).

A little summer update from us: I made the voyage from England to sunny Georgia for a five week visit, which meant that Bri & I actually had the chance to catch up face to face, drink lots of tea together, review each others’ latest manuscripts (in HARD COPY!), and talk about the future of this blog.

And while we’re on that subject, we do apologise for leaving you in a lurch for so many weeks without hide nor hair of us. BUT, cross our hearts, we didn’t forget you. In fact, we have some exciting news to share about some changes on the horizon…

As lots you know, Bri & I are both working independently on our professional writing careers, & things have been coming along to the point that we feel it’s time we both host our own author pages (as Bri’s audience is mostly YA enthusiasts while mine is more Middle Grade).

What does that mean for Brewhaha? The good news: the cafe is not going anywhere! We will still be bringing you the best of our YA & Middle Grade book adventures, + news updates on our own work, + links to my new writing course (coming soon!) & our new author pages!

So thanks for sticking it out with us over the summer months. We’ve missed you, & we’re excited about getting back to sharing the wonderful world of Story with YOU!

We’d love to hear about your summer — any  book recommendations for us? Bring them on!

Yours truly,

Mez

My Favorite Author

 

So my favorite, all time, hands down favorite book is Pride and Prejudice. Classic, romance, literary. But my favorite author?

Dean Koontz.

In case you haven’t heard of him (I pity you) Dean Koontz writes science fiction thrillers (or just thrillers). When I read his books, I usually start at my own house and end up at my parents because I’m so scared! His books are incredible. I’ve read almost everything he’s written (over 60 books) and I love every one of them. I know when I get his newly published books, which I buy the day they come out of course, I know it’s going to be a great book.

Being a writer, I can’t just say I love his books, I have to figure out why I like them. So here’s why!

The Characters

His characters, from the protagonist, to the antagonist, to the most minor of characters, are all fascinating and distinct. His bad guys range from a sentient computer imprisoning a woman in her own home to power hungry men and women to a man’s own mind turned against him. Not to mention killer clowns, killer Nazis, and killer monsters. They are terrifying but written so well, also incredibly realistic. I never want to meet any of them.

But even better than the bad guys are the good ones. There’s the woman determined to save a girl based only on seeing her picture, the genius dog (literally), and the man who sees dead people. What I love about them all as a whole is their determination to do the right thing, usually for no other reason than that it is the right thing. You can’t help but root for them!

The Endings

I love happy endings and I want my favorite characters to survive the book, and, as a rule, Dean Koontz delivers. Not all of them, but the vast majority. Though his books are scary and violent, I know they are going to make it. It may not be a perfect ending, but it will be a satisfying one with all characters happy, or at least in a better place than they were. Except for The Bad Place. Didn’t see that coming.

The Scares

As long as I’m in a lit room with people, I like being scared. I watch scary movies when I fly because I’m surrounded my people! And Dean Koontz’s books can be terrifying. Is there anything scarier than people being evil for the sake of being evil? Probably a thing of relentless hunger and no empathy. Not only his characters are scary, but the way he writes makes it even more terrifying. So much fun!

The Laughs

Pretty self-explanatory, but it has to be a gift to write books that are both terrifying and hilarious!

The Dogs

Dean Koontz obviously loves dogs and they often show up as wonderful supporting characters in his books. Need I say more?

Now I want to reread some of them. Here are my favorites!

Relentless – A man, his wife, their genius son, and rather strange dog are on the run from a powerful organization. This is one of the funniest books he’s written!

Watchers – Einstein is a dog as smart as a person being hunted by a sadistic monster. This one is so heartwarming and Einstein is perfect.

Life Expectancy – The day he was born, Jimmy’s grandfather predicted five horrible days to occur in his life. And that’s also the day his troubles with a killer clown started. This book has one of the best first sentences ever written!

77 Shadow Street – The Pendleton is a large house converted into apartments with a strange, terrifying history and something strange is happening there again, something evil. This book terrified me!

 Of course there is also Lightning, Phantoms, The Good Guy, Cold Fire, By the Light of the Moon, and Tick Tock. I think I might reread Tick Tock tomorrow…or By the Light of the Moon.

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Who is your favorite author? Did they write your favorite book? Why do you like them and what book what would you recommend as a first time read trying out that author? Let us know in the comments!

 

Book Haul: WW2 books for kids

I don’t normally do book hauls. In fact, this would be my first. But this year, I’ve read quite a lot on one particular subject, and that is WW2. The reason for my thematic reading? My current writing project is a middle grade adventure story based around the time of the Battle of Britain. Hence I’ve been reading as much as I can in the genre, both to educate myself and simply to get immersed in the setting of 1940s Great Britain.

And it’s been GREAT! As a fantasy lover, I never expected to find so many fantastic WW2-themed books for young readers, but there are loads of what I would definitely call Must-Reads. So whether you’ve any interest in learning about war time Britain, or just have a fascination with that bygone era, here is a list of books I deem not-to-be-missed!

1. When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, by Judith Kerr

I can’t tell you how many times this book has been recommended to me, not by WW2 buffs, but by young children who declare it to be their favourite book. At last I know why! In “Pink Rabbit”, Judith Kerr, the author of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, tells the story of her own childhood as a German Jewish refugee in Switzerland, Paris, and at last England. Told from a child’s perspective, the experience of fleeing Nazi persecution is coloured with humour, adventure and family love. It’s irresistible!

2. Bombs on Aunt Dainty, also by Judith Kerr

This is the sequel to “Pink Rabbit,” & I would definitely place it in the YA bracket. This book cover Anna’s (Judith’s character) teen years in London during the Blitz. There’s certainly a lot more war action & apparent hardship in this one, but still the story features mostly on Anna’s relationships, dreams to become an artist, and first love. It was brilliant to follow the characters I’d grown to love in the first book right on into the next chapters of their lives. I’m often cautious about reading a sequel of a book I’ve really love less it fails to deliver & leaves me disappointed. Well this was one sequel which did not disappoint!

3. Goodnight Mr. Tom, by Michelle Magorian  Goodnight

I can’t believe I’d never read this book before. It’s considered a classic of our age, & now I see why. It’s the story of Willie Beech, an abused, neglected evacuee from London who comes to live with a grumpy old widow (Mr. Tom) in the country. Slowly but surely, the two get beneath one another’s skin and change each other. There is so much that is heartbreaking in this book, but also so much triumphant goodness that it’s worth the heartbreak! Read it, & I defy you not to cry!

4. Carrie’s War, by Nina Bawden

carries-warAnother one about evacuees (naturally a popular topic for kid’s lit since being shipped off from home to a strange new place is a ready-made adventure!). Carrie & her younger brother are sent to Wales to live with the domineering, grumpy Mr. Evans and his meek sister Aunty Lou. There is little war action in the far-removed Welsh village, but the story is filled with interesting characters, mystery & unexpected twists. It’s quite an quick & easy read as well!

5. Friend or Foe, by Michael Morpurgo

Morpurgo is a master of writing war for children. Whilst most everyone knows about hisforf title War Horse thanks to the hollywood production, he has in fact produced volumes of WW1 & 2-set stories for middle grade readers. This particular story follows, once again, two evacuees boys, but thankfully they get landed with a big-hearted dairy farmer & his wife. The action takes off when the boys witness a German plane crash & discover two of its crew alive & hiding in a nearby field. The boys have to struggle with their own pasts and consciences to decide whether to help the men– enemies though they are– or turn them in. This too is a quick & easy read, but rather thought provoking for young readers & old alike!

6. From Anna, by Jean Little

From_Anna_(Jean_Little)I’m still in the middle of this one, but it’s captured my heart already! Similar to When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit, this story follows a little girl, also Anna, whose family flees Germany at the advent of the Nazi regime. Only there’s a twist to this one — Anna has always been the odd one out in her family & at school, & only when the family make their move to Canada does she discover the reason! Then everything changes for her. Though I don’t yet know how this one ends, it’s already taken me on an emotional rollercoaster, but I’ve loved every minute of it!

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So there you have it! I hope if you’ve never read on this subject (as I had not till quite recently), you’ll give it a go! I’d also love to hear your recommendations of books for kids set around war.

And watch this space! I’ll be sharing some snippets of my own WW2 novel for you to review veeeeery soon!

 

Top 10 Best Buddies in Books

This month all our posts have featured the common theme ofLove. ‘Tis the season after all, so we’re making the most it!

But of course gooey mushy gushy love isn’t the only type there is on the market. In fact, most of our favourite books feature another type (one particularly near & dear to our hearts as Bri & I are long-time BFFs): Friendship! Whether it’s leader + follower, hero + sidekick, or partners in crime, the world of Story is populated by pairs of BFFs. These dedicated duos make us laugh with their antics, tear-up with their sacrifices & remind us that an adventure is always twice as nice when shared with a friend.

There are SO many to choose from, but here are just a few of our top Best-Buddy Duos:

Mez’s Favourite Besties

Some of the ultimate Best-Buddy duos belong to classic picture books. Who could forget the likes of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, looking out for each other in the face of potential Heffulumps and Woozles, encouraging one another when balloons burst or houses flood, and simply enjoying the sunset side-by-side?

windwillows_sampleThen there’s Ratty and Moley from Wind in the Willows. I just love this unlikely friendship between the adventurous, river-wise Rat and the hitherto reclusive, homebody Mole. Yet their differences are what make their friendship so special, each helping the other to see the world threw new lenses, Ratty growing more sensitive and Moley more daring with each new venture.

Similarly, Frog and Toad (the Frog and Toad series) are another example of friends whose differences compliment one another. I love the way the even-keeled Frog looks after the rather tempermental Toad, helping him find lost buttons, grow stubborn seeds and wake-up to enjoy the Spring together. frog-toad

Moving on to books for older readers, I could hardly leave out Toothless and Hiccup from the How to Train Your Dragon series. Though the misfit boy and the grouchy little dragon get off  to a bumpy start, they can’t resist the bond between them. The film version of these characters is delightful in ittumblr_static_hiccup-and-toothlesss own way, but reading the friendship grow in the books makes you want to laugh and cry at the same time!

One of my all time favourites has to be Anne Shirley and Diana Barry from Anne of Green Gables. While Anne is definitely the leader of the duo, Diana becomes her bosom friends anne-diana-anne-of-green-gables-31177618-800-608because she accepts Anne as she is, with all her quirks and “odd little ways.” And do they ever get into some delightful scrapes together! This is another friendship portrayed beautifully in film version – it’s so fun to watch them grow up together!

And one of the all-time BBF duos, Frodo and Sam from the Lord of the Rings. While this friendship falls into the hero + sidekick category, it’s special because Frodo really couldn’t make it to Mordor without Sam. Sam’s canine-like loyalty without question, humble courage and perseverance through tough times make him the epitome of a True Friend. Frodo & Sam in Field.png

Bri’s Favorite Besties

Sophie and Monster from The Girl Who Couldn’t Dream Sophie dreamt Monster to life as a young girl and they’ve been inseparable since. bookMonster lives to protect Sophie and he is
her only friend. When disaster strikes Sophie’s family, she and Monster work together to set things right.

Elizabeth and Jane from Pride and Prejudice These girls aren’t only friends, but sisters. United against the silliness of jane-and-elizabeththeir mother and three younger sisters, they navigate the ups and downs of their respective romances, trying to find their happiness in life.

Tip and J. Lo from The True Meaning Smekday Tip, and eleven-year-old girl, and J. Lo, an alien from an invading race, start out as bitter enemies, only together because they need each other. Eventually they become friends, even calling each other siblings. Together, the two of them set out to save the world.

HOME_Smekday_Reading.jpg


Ali and Kat from Alice in Zombieland 
When Kat and Ali meet, Ali had just lost her family and been transferred to a new school. Their friendship strikes up quickly and when things get rough, Kat’s loyalty and support help Ali come to terms with the truth of her family’s death: zombies.

Who are your favourite BFFs in Fiction?

Guest Review: House of Dark Shadows

House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo (Dreamhouse Kings #1)

Review by: literary horse whisperer/ artist, Alexandra Thaxton

Book Review: Xander King and his family move to a dilapidated old house in the woods, in a boring little town. But if you think you’ve heard this story before, you would be sorely mistaken. House of Dark Shadows is the first of six books in the “Dreamhouse Kings” series by Robert Liparulo. As much as Xander originally hates the house they move into, he learns that it has its own opinions about him as well. Down a long hallway upstairs, there are several doors on each side. What lies behind these doors is a mystery, and is only revealed each time the door is opened. The rooms shift, the lights flicker…and there are monsters!

I was given this series by the librarian at the high school that I attended, because she decided these books were “too dark and scary” to live in the school library. While they are technically written for young adults, there were certainly some suspenseful (and yes, sometimes scary) moments, which only made me love them even more. The most intriguing thing to me about this series, though, is the concept of being able to walk through any door and appear in another place altogether—the very same reason that I was drawn into The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe many, many years ago…and several times since—ADVENTURE AWAITS.

Genre: YA thriller

About Alex: While it unfortunately takes me FOREVER and a day to read a book (unless I’m on vacation), I never outgrew my love for books! I grew up and went to school with the Sippit Sisters, and graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in Art Education…and now I teach beginner horseback riding lessons. Traveling is my favorite thing to do, which is probably why I’ve always loved to read–books are the cheapest way to travel!

 

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