Gregory and the Grimbockle

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Gregory and the Grimbockle

by Melanie Schubert

illustrations by Abigail Kraft

book soundtrack by Jared Kraft

I read this book at the request of the author, Melanie Schubert, in exchange for my review. I was so excited to accept as I love middle grade books. I’m also always honored when an author asks me to read their book. Well, this book was delightful! It was whimsical, sweet and endearing. It was also a quick read which will be lovely for young readers (and was fun for me). I really enjoyed Schubert’s writing style, which was descriptive and fun. Her characters were endearing and I found myself immediately caring about the main character, Gregory. One of the things that made me especially happy was the that fact that kindness and friendship were encouraged in the story.

Gregory is a young boy with a huge mole on his face. He is made fun of because of it and consequently is a bit of a loner, even in his own family. One of his neighbors, Old Ethel, grabs at his mole one day and pulls it off a bit. That night a little creature jumps out of Gregory’s mole and knocks over his dominos, waking up Gregory. Soon thereafter, Gregory learns that the little creature is a Grimbockle. He also learns that there are exoodles (invisible strings) coming from humans and connecting them to other humans. When there are friendships and love, the exoodles are bright and strong, but when there is a lack of love, the exoodles are droopy and broken. The Grimbockle and other bockles are working on fixing weak exoodles, but it is difficult. Gregory gets enlisted to help the Grimbockle in his work and goes on a magical tour, which is made all the better when the Grimbockle enables Gregory to see all the invisible things around him, including the world of the bockles. Spoilers: Gregory is able to help the bockles when he shows them that rekindling love and kindness between people is what will strengthen the exoodles. He sets about doing this in his own family and even makes some friends at school. Knowing about the exoodles is what drives him to make connections. He even reaches out to Old Ethel after she plucks his mole off his face and they end up bonding over dominos and sweets. The ending is just the best though. You see Gregory grow up and learn about how he travels and spreads kindness and love all around. It is the best message.

In addition to the book, I should mention that there is a book soundtrack. It is incredible. The music made the book come to life and I thoroughly enjoyed listening. I also thought the illustrations added to the book and were really lovely.

Summing it up: All in all, I truly loved this book and am so happy to have been able to read it. I recommend it and I will definitely be reading this one to my boys when they get a little older!

Best, Abbey

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Small Great Things

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Small Great Things

by Jodi Picoult

Summer 2017

I will preface this post with a disclaimer: it’s been a few months since I read Small Great Things, so the plot is a little fuzzy. That being said, I have mixed feelings about this book. I really liked it for a lot of reasons, but I really struggled reading it as well. It discusses a very challenging and difficult subject: racism. I remember reading it and struggling reading the hate from one character in particular. It was so hard to read. The book is told from three different perspectives: Ruth, a black labor and deliver nurse, Kennedy, a white defense lawyer, and Turk, a white supremest who accuses Ruth of killing his son because she is black. The book follows the three of them from the tragedy of Turk’s son dying to the accusal and arrest of Ruth, to the entire trial. I really liked this book because of how it portrayed racism, how emotionally intense it was, and because it was a legal story. The emotions were raw and at times challenging, but honestly, it was an excellent book. Spoilers: after all the turmoil, Ruth is acquitted because Turk and his wife show their true colors. Kennedy is thrilled because justice is served. Turk and his wife cannot repair their relationship after the death of their son and separate. Turk is able to recognize how destructive and wrong his racism is and slowly changes his perspective completely.

Summing it up: this book was challenging, but worth it and I recommend it!

Best, Abbey

The Boys in the Boat

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The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Olympics

by Daniel James Brown

October 2017

I was recommended this non-fiction by a friend and then my book club decided to read it as well. So, I was doubly interested in reading it. I’ve been slowly becoming more interested in non-fiction, and this one sounded particularly fascinating. It combined biography, history, sports and art. Brown fleshes out the stories of the boys (and some of their families), their coach and the shell builder. This made the story personable and I felt like I really knew about the “players” in the story. Then there was all the history. Brown details American history about the depression, American sports and college rivalries. He also expounds and talks about the history of crew as a sport as well as includes history about the Olympics and Germany, specifically about Hitler. Brown giftedly describes the sport of crew. My favorite parts of the book were the races. I felt like I was right there watching the race, holding my breath, anxious for the outcome. Brown expertly recounts multiple races, making them come to life again! One of the things I didn’t realize was how much of crew is an art. There’s the actual rowing and blending as a team, but there is also the shell they race in and the building of it that is a real art. I really enjoyed how this book encompassed both the specific story about the crew boys who went to the Olympics and the broad history of America and Germany and the background of the boys. It made the whole book vivid and engaging. I came away having learned so much. One of the most powerful takeaways was the trust that the boys needed to build with each other in order to be successful. They needed to completely rely on each other and work as a team, versus individuals. The boys were able to this, which is what lead to their success and their ability to achieve “swing” (that evasive perfection that only few crews can find where they are all in perfect synchronicity). It was amazing to learn about these boys, who came from humble backgrounds (often poor and having lived very difficult lives), were able to overcome the odds and not only make it to the 1936 Olympics, but also win gold (again, against odds such as the worst lane and a sick stroke).

Summing it up: Brown is an engaging writer, and made this story come to life. I highly recommend it!

Best, Abbey

Zenn Diagram

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Zenn Diagram

by Wendy Brant

November 2017

This book was adorable . . . I could not put it down. It was one of those books that sweeps you up and completely draws you in. I loved the writing. It was easy and natural; truly enjoyable to read. The characters were original and relatable, which made me love the story that much more. And of course, the plot was sweet and satisfying. I closed the book with a sigh because it was so enjoyable and ended in the best way possible (so satisfying). Brant is very gifted and I’m so happy I read her book!

Eva is a senior in high school who is brilliant at math. She has a special gift of seeing what she calls fractals (colorful swirls that come off people or objects she touches). They tell her a little bit about the person and what they’re holding inside, like anger, jealousy or fear. It’s turned Eva into a bit of recluse, but even so, she has friends and tutors in math. One day Eva gets a new student to tutor, Zenn. He is new to town, gorgeous and a bit mysterious. They hit it off, but Eva is hesitant because of her atypical life. When she was a baby, her parents were killed in a car crash and her aunt and uncle adopted her. They had quadruplets 14 years later, so Eva helps a lot with her toddler siblings. He dad is a paster and her biggest struggle is trying to get in and pay for college. Zenn has his own painful past; his dad is not in the picture and his mom regularly drinks too much. He has to work multiple jobs in order to stay solvent. As Zenn and Eva’s relationship heats up they have to confront their past to make sense of the future. Spoilers: Zenn’s dad was drunk driving years ago and killed Eva’s parents. Zenn’s mom was there and pregnant with Zenn with it all happened. Zenn and Eva realize this and it almost tears them a part, especially when Eva’ mom finds out and doesn’t want Eva to have anything to do with Zenn. On top of everything, Eva (who up to this point hasn’t touched anyone) realizes that she can touch Zenn and there are no fractals, which allows them to get closer. They both are trying to get a scholarship and when they realize they are both going for it, they each withdrawal unbeknownst to the other one, but when they find out it threatens to pull them a part. They finally talk about everything, sort it out, and realize that they are good together and that they can move past all these things getting in their way and they happily get together! As a bonus, a newspaper learns about their whole story, and it goes viral, resulting in a gofundme account that helps to put Eva and Zenn through school.

Summing it up: this book was was so sweet and satisfying . . . I highly recommend it!

Best, Abbey

The Nine Lives of Aristotle

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The Nine Lives of Aristotle

by Dick King-Smith

illustrated by Bob Graham

October 2017

This little book caught my eye when I was at the library with my boys. I love children’s books and thought this would be cute. It certainly was. Aristotle is a kitten who gets adopted by a witch named Bella Donna and gets into all sorts of mischief! Slowly, he loses eight of his nine lives because of his curiosity, from falling down a chimney to tumbling into the river.

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Eventually, Aristotle learns his lesson and grows up to be a responsible, respectable witches cat. He helps Bella Donna make potions to heal sick children and is a wonderful companion for her. It is a very sweet book!

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Summing it up: I recommend this adorable little book!

Best, Abbey

How to Find Love in a Bookshop

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How to Find Love in a Bookshop

by Veronica Henry

November 2017

Many of you know by now how drawn I am to certain titles and premises (Paris, anyone?). Well, bookshops are another, so it’s no surprise I checked out this book. I picked it up just the other night and read it in one sitting. It was adorable, endearing and engrossing. There were lots of characters and I got completely swept up into all of their stories and wanted to know what was going to happen to each one of them. I was hooked by the first page, which I think is a mark of a well-written book. I think I especially enjoyed this story because it was so sweet and endearing. The characters were relatable and most of the book took place around a bookshop . . . how much better can it be?

The story follows Emilia, the bookshop owner’s daughter. She loves books and her father, and comes rushing home from overseas when her father’s health fails. He passes away and she decides to keep the bookshop running even though it is a huge endeavor. She has multiple speed bumps that come her way, including massive debt and a flood, but she is determined to persevere. There are quite a few other story lines as well from new mom, Bea, who misses her former designer job; to Jackson who has recently separated from his girlfriend, but wants to reconnect and build a family with their son; to Thomasina, a shy cook and baker trying to build her life and may just be falling in love; to Sarah, who had a special connection with Julius and wants Emilia to know; to several other characters as well. Spoilers: Emilia is able to rebuild and brand her father’s shop and is successful. She also falls in love with Marlowe, who also knew and loved her father. Sarah becomes a mother of sorts to Emilia (who lost her own mother in childbirth), and all the couples that come in and out of the story end up with happy endings!

Summing it up: I loved this simple, heartfelt story and highly recommend it!

Best, Abbey

Some memorable quotes:

“After all, a town without a bookshop was a town without a heart.” – Julius

“And she knew, from all the books she had ever read, that life was complicated, that love sprang from nowhere sometimes, and that forbidden love wan’t always something to be ashamed of.” – Emilia

“It was an unusual situation, thought Emilia, but then — what was usual? The whole point of life was you couldn’t ever be sure what would happen next. Sometimes what happened was good, sometimes not, but there were always surprises.” – Emilia

The Rules Do Not Apply

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The Rules Do Not Apply

by Ariel Levy

October 2017

I recently discovered the Belletrist Book Club and one of their recent books was The Rules Do Not Apply. It sounded really interesting so when I saw it at the library, I decided to go ahead and get it. Well, I was instantly swept away by this memoir. It was heartbreaking, moving, and inspiring. I read it in one sitting because I could not leave her story. Levy is one courageous woman with a compelling story of tragedy turned into hope. I think this is a great book for anyone who has gone through challenging times. It’s a reminder that we can go through heartbreak and still carry on. Levy’s message of resilience truly touched me. I also really enjoyed Levy’s style of writing. It was fluid and almost other worldly. It was very poetic and it just worked so well with her story. I’m so happy I read this book.

Summing it up: I highly recommend this beautiful book.

Best, Abbey