Book Reviews: The Trespass Collection

I recently read my way through a collection of short stories by various authors, called the Trespass Collection. They were free to download on my Kindle, the covers were so pretty and splashy and colorful, and all had one central theme – nature, up close and personal, and not in a pretty “look at this flower” kind of way. These stories are quick reads, I think they took me about fifteen minutes each, except for one or two that sort of bored me, and those two took me a bit longer. Because these stories are so short, only like 40 pages or so each, my reviews are going to be mostly my impressions of the story more than a recap.

The Tiger Came to the Mountains by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This was one of my favorites! It is the first in the collection and I figured I would love it, as I love Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic. And this little short story was amazing. Moreno-Garcia can really put the reader in a moment and make that moment feel so real. I felt the fear and anxiety, the protectiveness the young girl felt over her brother. If you only read one from this collection, I suggest that you make it this one.

Wildlife by Jeff VanderMeer: I had high hopes for this one, as this is my favorite cover! And it started off pretty good…however the end completely ruined things. I was totally lost when I finished it and felt like I had missed something. So I looked online at other reviews and yep, that seemed to be the consensus all around. So, this had a good start, but the ending was a bummer.

The Backbone of the World by Stephen Graham Jones: OOo, this one was crazy bonkers and I loved it!! I didn’t see this one coming and it was awesome. I was a little nervous to read this one, as I had DNF’d a book by Jones last year because it scared me too much but this one was just the right amount of weird. It reminded me of when I was a kid and discovered Stephen King for the first time. (this is high praise from me)

Stag by Karen Russell: This story was my least favorite. I was just so bored! And it kind of depressed me as well.

A Righteous Man by Tochi Onyebuchi: I enjoyed this one, although I must confess to being slightly confused by it. It was well-written, and engaging though. I think part of the issue with this particular story is that it just was too short! It needed more, it needed to be a full length novel maybe.

Bloody Summer by Carmen Maria Machado: The final book in the collection, and I loved it just as much as the first! And both involved tigers! This story kept me captivated all the way through – it was so good and a a fantastic story to end the collection with.

Overall, the stories were a mixed bag for me. Some I loved, some I disliked, and some I thought were just ok, which seems pretty par for the course when reading a short story collection, at least for me. I did like these brief introductions to new to me authors and their work, which was all of them except for Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Stephen Graham Jones. I will more than likely be picking up more by Carmen Maria Machado since I enjoyed her story so much, and I will probably give Tochi Onyebuchi another go as well.

Have you read this collection, or anything else by these authors?

What Wyatt’s Reading – March Edition

It was another fun month of reading here! I am trying to remember to post our favorites at the end of the month – I like being able to look back and see what we read together!

(This post contains Amazon Affiliate links)

We read a fun mix of books this month!

What Can You Do with a Rock and The Big Book of Bugs are both amazing nature reads. The Big Book of Bugs contains engaging, colorful illustrations alongside informational text about, well, bugs. Praying mantis, crickets, grasshoppers, and a favorite around here, snails!

What Can You Do with a Rock was equally charming and so full of imagination! A rock is not as boring as you may think, and you might look at them a bit differently after reading this book. We loved both of these so much that I am definitely buying them for our home library. (all of the books listed here were checked out from our local library)

I also LOVED Dancing with Daddy, and so did Wyatt! It was so refreshing to read a book with a disabled main character that was not just explaining the disability to the reader or about someone “overcoming” their disability. Wyatt loved seeing a character in a wheelchair just living life and having fun, as did I.

Looking for a Jumbie is a fantastic read as well! It has a Going on a Bear Hunt vibe, but with the magic of supernatural creatures and the darkness and the moon.. everything about it was super fun. I think we might go “looking for a Jumbie” one night this summer, despite not living in the Carribean. I mean, you never know right?

Wyatt automatically picks up every book that has a moon on it. Nigel and the Moon was so much more though….it is about a little boy who tells his dreams to the moon because he is too shy to share them with others. Throughout the story he gains confidence in himself and where he comes from as well. I loved this one a bit more than Wyatt.

Crowbar was a great story, but phew, it is long! It is based on a true story which made Wyatt and I wish we had a crow too, that we could go on picnics with. However, the book ends with an explanation on how to be respectful of nature and that the main character was able to have a crow because his mom had a wildlife rehab license. I thought it was a really good way to end the book, since I am sure most people read it and would like a crow too!

If You Were Night was a simple story, taking us on a ride through the night, posing questions that we had fun answering together. Wyatt liked the raccoons and thought sifting through garbage sounded fun. I did not agree. Lol. I was more about swimming with the otters at night – that was much more my speed. The illustrations were also very cool too, little paper dioramas that made me start thinking about a future art project…

Finally, It Fell From the Sky and Snail Brings the Mail. It Fell From the Sky was actually a request of my husband’s! He saw it somewhere and it caught his eye. I am so glad that it did because it was beautiful and reminded me a little of James and the Giant Peach. It is really a story about art and community and it was really a good book.

And..Snail Brings the Mail. How did I not guess that this would be a favorite of Wyatt’s – mail and snails? Does the world get much better than that?

Have you read any of these? Any new picture book favorites out there?

What Wyatt’s Reading Lately

Post contains a few Amazon Affiliate links.

I haven’t done one of these posts in ages!! I can’t possibly share all the books we have been reading for the past few months, but I do want to share as many as I can! So..here we go!

Let’s start with the big one.

Pete the Cat. All the Pete the Cat books. And there are many. However, we do seem to be reading the heck out of a few.

He love anything Pete, but I was really excited that he liked the little phonics box set! He will go and grab them and settle in. We read so so many Pete the Cat books – good thing there a huge catalog of them! And I have to say I love Pete’s attitude on life as well. It’s all good.

He has another series that he is really getting into as well – The Nocturnals. They are a series about anthropomorphic animals (his fave) and they are available in easy readers as well as chapter books. My mom got him the activity box for Christmas and we have been adding in more easy readers from the collection here and there.

And of course we are reading books not in a series as well.

I am pretty sure I am in love with Yuyi Morales’ work. I have every single book written down for us to read on Wyatt’s TBR. (lol) They are seriously beautiful. And you can’t go wrong with Laura Numeroff. They are just so fun, although they make us hungry. These two are Wyatt’s favorites. We started reading them after he discovered the cartoon, although I have had copies of them for ages, probably since before he was even born. A Beginner’s Guide to Bear Spotting was a super cute read – it’s written like a field guide, but is hilarious and a story as well.

We like books about embracing our differences and what makes us special, and Spoon is one of those stories. I also liked the inclusion of Chopsticks as a character. It was a great read. And we loved The Tobermory Cat! This was about a cat who wants to be special – but doesn’t realize that he already is. Well, until the end that is.

Animals at Night is really cool. It’s a nonfiction book about, you guessed it, animals at night. Wyatt is all about tigers these days so we spend a lot of time on that page. Plus, it has a glow in the dark poster so bonus. The illustrations are gorgeous so I can look at it all day as well honestly.

And finally, The Boy Who Loved the Moon. I bought this for Wyatt for Christmas, because he is our boy who loves the moon, and I thought it was just a beautiful story with stunning illustrations. I thought he would like it but I was surprised by how much he does. He requests it all the time – which makes my heart happy. I guess it is a movie short too, but I haven’t looked it up yet. I need to do that.

If you read my Sunday-Monday post, then you might know we are reading Appleblossom the Possum together. Wyatt loves this book. And I do too! It is so cute, but also teaches about possums at the same time. Very adorable, very fun, and informative to boot!

And these are just a few of the books we have been enjoying! What are some of your favorite children’s books?

My Thoughts on How to be a Good Creature by Sy Montgomery

As a fellow animal lover, this book touched my heart. It made me laugh, it made we wonder (would I pet an octopus if I had the chance?) – and of course, I cried. As anyone who has loved and lost animals knows, the pain of losing a little friend is heartbreaking; we don’t consider them “just animals”. They are companions, at times know our very thoughts and are so tuned in to our joy and pain. I love Montgomery’s memoir in thirteen animals because here is a woman who has traveled the world and met so many different animals in her life, she had so many to choose from when thinking of ones that may have taught her how to be a good human, and the thirteen that she chose were so varied. Of course, her dogs, all special in their own way. But also a few surprising animals as well. A tarantula named Clarabella. An octopus or two. A pig named Christopher. Each one representing her life and where that moment in her life placed her, and how that animal touched her soul. And in essence, in her words, taught her to be a good creature too.

It made me think – what animals have come into my life, and changed me? Most recently, Harry, the leopard gecko who has made me realize that I am a huge fan of reptiles, something I would never have guessed. My own dogs, all three of them, Molly, Chevis, and Penny who have all moved on from this world. The very first dog I ever loved, Lady, a beautiful Collie who belonged to friends of my parents when I was about five or six. I always loved visiting them because I would say hi and then I was happily excused to go play with Lady outside the whole time we were there. My cats, all rescued from the shelter I volunteered at for years. Of course, I had favorites from that time that caught my heart, that I fought for and advocated for, if I didn’t outright adopt them. Like Liberty, the lab-pit bull mix that was surrendered to the shelter while in the process of giving birth to her puppies. The puppies were of course surrendered as well. And on the fourth of July. We raised her babies and found them all good homes, and I never forgot that patriotic crew named after Presidents and First Ladies. (Martha was my favorite) Nothing too exotic for me, obviously, as I am not a journalist or naturalist and I do not have access to the world that Montgomery does. I can visit that world though, through her words and writing and stories, the absolute best part about being a reader.

Montgomery has been described as a poet and scientist, a little bit Indiana Jones and a little bit Emily Dickinson. What a blessed life she has led, getting to know all these different animals and their people, and how blessed are we that she is a talented and gifted writer, one who is able to share these experiences with those of us at home. I hope to read more of her work soon! If you are a nature lover, an animal lover, and you haven’t read Montgomery yet, I suggest starting with How to be a Good Creature. You won’t be disappointed.

Book Review: Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

Goodreads Summary:

The suburbs, right now . . .
Seventeen-year-old Ivy’s summer break kicks off with an accident, a punishment, and a mystery: a stranger whose appearance in the middle of the road, in the middle of the night, heralds a string of increasingly unsettling events. As the days pass, Ivy grapples with eerie offerings, corroded memories, and a secret she’s always known—that there’s more to her mother than meets the eye.

The city, back then . . .
Dana has always been perceptive. And the summer she turns sixteen, with the help of her best friend and an ambitious older girl, her gifts bloom into a heady fling with the supernatural. As the trio’s aspirations darken, they find themselves speeding toward a violent breaking point.

Years after it began, Ivy and Dana’s shared story will come down to a reckoning among a daughter, a mother, and the dark forces they never should’ve messed with.

My Thoughts:

Oh my word. This book was so creepy and spooky, with a prevailing sense of dread throughout the entire book, right from the get go. This summer, Ivy’s life is about to get weird. She begins to doubt things that she thinks she knows, learn things that just create more questions, and the one person who can answer these questions is being mysterious, as always.

The reader is slowly invited into the story between the two shifting perspectives of Ivy and her mother Dana, where by creepy little bit by creepy little bit we are introduced to a world of magic. A dark and scary magic, not magic like the sisters in Practical Magic or Sarah Addison Allen’s Waverly series, but a magic that cuts like a knife.

I could not put this book down once I started. I love a good witch book and this one freaked me out, while also crooking a finger that I couldn’t help but keep following through the darkness until I got to the end.

Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron books for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review!

Two Mini-Reviews: The Girl Who Speaks Bear and A Blizzard of Polar Bears

It’s a snowy day here, and going to get snowier. The perfect day to review the two bear books I read in January!

Goodreads Summary:

Found abandoned in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka has always felt out of place in her small village. When she wakes up to find that her legs have become bear legs, she sets off into the forest to discover who she is, on a journey that takes her from icy rivers to smouldering mountains, with an ever-growing group of misfits alongside her… Interwoven with traditional stories of bears, princesses and dragons, Yanka’s journey is a gorgeously lyrical adventure from the best-selling author of The House With Chicken Legs.

My Thoughts:

I absolutely adored this middle grade book! I loved Yanka’s journey to find herself and her history, and the lengths she went to in order to make this discovery. Her journey took her on quite an adventure, with wolves and dragons and near death experiences – all while sorting through her own emotions and feelings about who she is and who she wants to be.

I also loved the “herd” she made along the way. They say friends are the family we make for ourselves, and Yanka, whose family had been very small, added a whole menagerie creatures and people to her family. Mousetrap, Yanka’s house weasel, is such a fun character and I know that when Wyatt and I read this book one day in the future, he is going to get a kick out of him.

I am so happy that I bought this book for our home library – and I plan on adding The House with Chicken Legs very soon!

Goodreads Summary:

Fresh off her wolverine study in Montana, wildlife biologist Alex Carter lands a job studying a threatened population of polar bears in the Canadian Arctic. Embedded with a small team of Arctic researchers, she tracks the majestic bears by air, following them over vast, snowy terrain, spending days leaning precariously out of a helicopter with a tranquilizer gun, until she can get down on the ice to examine them up close.

But as her study progresses, and she gathers data on the health of individual bears, things start to go awry. Her helicopter pilot quits unexpectedly, equipment goes missing, and a late-night intruder breaks into her lab and steals the samples she’s collected. She realizes that someone doesn’t want her to complete her study, but Alex is not easily deterred.

Managing to find a replacement pilot, she returns to the icy expanses of Hudson Bay. But the helicopter catches fire in midflight, forcing the team to land on a vast sheet of white far from civilization. Surviving on the frozen landscape is difficult enough, but as armed assailants close in on snowmobiles, Alex must rely on her skills and tenacity to survive this onslaught and carry out her mission.

My Thoughts:

I was so super excited to read this book – I had loved A Solitude of Wolverines and was anxiously awaiting the next in the series. However, I had mixed feelings about this book. I loved parts of it – there is so much information about polar bears and the town of Churchill that I found interesting. Like did you know that polar bears all have unique whisker points on their face? And that there is a Whiskerpoint Project to collect these IDs? I didn’t either, and how fascinating! Although I would not want to be the one to collect that data. Yikes. And the book didn’t shy away from what climate change is doing to polar bears and their habitat, and also what all the plastics in the world are doing to them either. It was depressing. I always have to skim by anything that talks about how polar bears are suffering, it just really bothers me. I know there would be information on it obviously going into this book, so I was prepared for it but it is still upsetting. That bothered me but didn’t detract from the read in any way. As I said, it was expected and would have been very out of place to omit. All of the book that centered around wildlife biologist Alex were fantastic.

Which brings me to the other half – the action hero Alex. I totally get her background and that she is a total BA, and in the first book, it is only a minor part of the story, compared to this one. It was just. too. much. It actually made it really hard for me to finish reading. It was just over the top I guess, in my opinion. I can of course suspend reality when reading, that is part of the point, and I don’t need books to be totally realistic because that is not why I read fiction. I read nonfiction for that. But this one was just a bit too heavy on the action part for me. I was hoping and expecting some, as it was an exciting part of Wolverines. But it was too much. Will this stop me from reading a third book in the series? Probably not. I will give it another go, this is only the second in the series so perhaps Henderson is finding her way with Alex still. We will see.

Book Review: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw

I was so excited to read this book! When I saw that the Book of the Month Club was advertising this book for $5 as a special for the month of December, I jumped on it. I had been thinking about joining anyway and this was just the perfect enticement to pull the trigger.

Goodreads Summary:

Travis Wren has an unusual talent for locating missing people. Hired by families as a last resort, he requires only a single object to find the person who has vanished. When he takes on the case of Maggie St. James—a well-known author of dark, macabre children’s books—he’s led to a place many believed to be only a legend.

Called “Pastoral,” this reclusive community was founded in the 1970s by like-minded people searching for a simpler way of life. By all accounts, the commune shouldn’t exist anymore and soon after Travis stumbles upon it… he disappears. Just like Maggie St. James.

Years later, Theo, a lifelong member of Pastoral, discovers Travis’s abandoned truck beyond the border of the community. No one is allowed in or out, not when there’s a risk of bringing a disease—rot—into Pastoral. Unraveling the mystery of what happened reveals secrets that Theo, his wife, Calla, and her sister, Bee, keep from one another. Secrets that prove their perfect, isolated world isn’t as safe as they believed—and that darkness takes many forms.

Hauntingly beautiful, hypnotic, and bewitching, A History of Wild Places is a story about fairy tales, our fear of the dark, and losing yourself within the wilderness of your mind.

My Thoughts:

This book took me down so many roads. I never knew what was going to happen, I wanted to know the secrets, what is going on, what is happening..I had to just keep reading and reading until I finished and then I was so upset that it was over!

I love a commune story, and this was a spectacular one. Bee, Calla, the others in the community all have their purposes and roles. Theo stands guard at the gate, watching an empty road day after day, staring into the woods beyond, the woods that no one is allowed to enter. Another theme that I love..a do not go into the woods theme. I feel like these two ideas, communal living, the woods being a place of danger, speak to such instinctual feelings we carry around in our DNA for survival – gather together, work together, stay out of the woods and dark places. Theo however, dared to be curious and it sets off a chain of questions and has them all wondering if they really know anything about Pastoral and each other at all.

This book is beautifully told, full of layers. I absolutely recommend it!

As you can tell, I had fun taking photos of this book for Instagram. It was a cold weekend, we didn’t want to hike but wanted out of the house so we drove around and occasionally stopped so the book could have its picture taken. I froze my fingers off for the one above on the fence! And walked across a huge sheet of ice for the photo below!

Have you read this? What did you think? Also, tell me which photo you like the best! I would love to hear!

My Favorite Books of 2021

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season if you celebrate! Things were good around here, and my kiddo was very into the magic of Christmas this year (more about that tomorrow).

I had a very dark reading year this year! Not all of my favorites are on the spookier, scarier side, but..it appears many are. I also had a really rough reading year. I had so many books I didn’t finish, times I just couldn’t get into reading, it was very weird for me. I was just a little off my reading game. However, there are some books that I just loved.

Fire Keeper’s Daughter was my absolute favorite read this year. I learned from it, was entertained by it, and completely devoured it. I also love that it was written by a Michigan author!

Hmmmm…maybe I spoke too soon. Maybe World of Wonders is my favorite book this year. Ok. This is my favorite nonfiction read of the year. I ran around telling everyone to read it. I loved the connection to nature, the throwbacks to her childhood, which while on some level were relatable to me, also were very far from my own experience.

Small Favors – just so good. I never quite knew where this story would go and I had a few surprises. I read this obsessively and I love everything Erin A. Craig writes so far. Also, another Michigan author!

The Final Girl Support Group and Bunny – both such good books, such crazy. Bunny was a trip and a half. And The Final Girl Support Group spoke to the part of me that grew up watching horror movies, Freddy and Jason and Michael Myers.

The Family Plot – Another dark, crazy read. But I completely loved it and my mom and I could not stop talking about it. I mean, a book that involves true crime? I am there.

The Box in the Woods is another one that I really enjoyed. I really love the Truly Devious series and I thought it was a bit cheeky of Johnson to have a murder mystery set at a summer camp. Perfect, right?

And finally, A Solitude of Wolverines. A mystery about a wildlife biologist who gets mixed up in a bit of a situation, one that could prove to be deadly. I have been waiting so long to read the next book in this series – next month! I decided January would be a good month to read a book about polar bears…

I wonder what roads my reading will take me down next year? I can’t wait to find out!

Book Review: Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids

Goodreads Summary:

A collection of intersecting stories set at a powwow that bursts with hope, joy, resilience, the strength of community, and Native pride.

In a high school gym full of color and song, Native families from Nations within the borders of the U.S. and Canada dance, sell beadwork and books, and celebrate friendship and heritage. They are the heroes of their own stories.

Featured contributors: Joseph Bruchac, Art Coulson, Christine Day, Eric Gansworth, Dawn Quigley, Carole Lindstrom, Rebecca Roanhorse, David A. Robertson, Andrea L. Rogers, Kim Rogers, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Monique Gray Smith, Traci Sorell, Tim Tingle, Erika T. Wurth, and Brian Young.

My Thoughts:

I 100% loved this book. So many different stories, different traditions and view points that all come together in this one gymnasium in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the intertribal powwow, Dance for Mother Earth. Every story was connected in some way, and it was fun to pick up on those intersections. This book offers so much traditional and cultural information from so many different tribes and walks of life, where one can learn about food and dress and stories; about prejudices and trauma, connection and family. I also enjoyed the glossary at the end.

Although I enjoyed every story, I did have a few favorites. In Fancy Dancer by Monique Gray Smith, Rory finds connection to family, old and new, through dance, while dealing with the trauma of an abusive father, who is no longer in his life physically but still is very present in Rory’s mind. Bad Dog by Joseph Bruchach was also a favorite of mine, as was What We Know About Glaciers by Christine Day. But my very favorite was Indian Price by Eric Gansworth. I thought that story just had so many layers to unwrap and examine and learn from.

One reason I wanted to read this book is because I have actually attended this powwow, as a college student way back when. Billy and I went for one one of my classes, we tried Fry Bread, sat in the stands as the dancers made their way in to the sound of the drumbeats, felt the excitement that was charging the air around us. At the time, I admit, I had no real idea of what I was actually witnessing and participating in by attending. So much went over my head, and now, as an adult who has read more and experienced more, I can look back and see what I didn’t see then. I am hoping to take Wyatt to this powwow in a year or two, as it is open door to anyone who wants to go. To quote Fancy Dancer, “Native people travel from all over to go to powwows, but non-Natives are welcome too. That’s part of the beauty of the powwow, the sharing of cultures.” I look forward to the next time we go, this time taking with us more knowledge.

This book is a wonderful collection of stories for middle grades, and I highly recommend it for any classroom or home library!

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins Children’s Books for the chance to read and review this book!

What Wyatt’s Reading – Halloween Edition

It’s been too long since I have written a post about the books Wyatt and I have been reading, that are not school related! I always have piles of books checked out from the library, and when I go in to pick up just one or two instead of twenty the librarians are always in disbelief. That only happens though when I have just been in and picked up a big ol’ stack.

We have been reading so many Halloween picture books this month that are amazing. All of them. The illustrations, the story, are all just wonderful. I am adding a few to my have to purchase list, which I try to keep tight but when it comes to Wyatt I sort of go crazy. This kid really loves books, just like his mom.

Wyatt has decided he really likes ghosts these days – the cute ones that is of course. These were all super fantastic awesome. How to Make Friends with a Ghost was written like a guide book, and Wyatt and I enjoyed the “Ghost Anatomy” page as Wyatt is very familiar with that from our nature studies and animals. Just never for a ghost!

The Little Ghost Who was a Quilt – well, this one tugged at my mama heartstrings a little. This little ghost is a quilt, not made from sheets like everyone else he knows. Which makes him slower and not really able to keep up with his friends and family who zoom around everywhere. The end is happy though and shows how being different is ok, which I absolutely loved as a message.

Gustavo the Shy Ghost is another one we both loved. We read this actually the same day that we watched Coco, and they went really well together. Gustavo loves to play the violin, and is so shy it is hard for him to make friends. The illustrations are gorgeous and the ending made us both smile.

Mr. Pumpkin’s Tea Party is adorable and suitable for younger kids as well – it is a counting book with not so scary illustrations. Plus, a tea party!

Alfred’s Book of Monsters was a fun one, and also involves a tea party! I loved the Victorian feel to this book, and the illustrations were amazing. However, I did like this one more than Wyatt. I think maybe because when I was a kid, my cousin and I used to write and illustrate our own monster books. I did the writing, and he did the drawings. So the idea of a Book of Monsters was sort of nostalgic to me. We watched a lot of Scooby Doo…

Hardly Haunted is another book about embracing who you are, even if you are a house that is haunted. Don’t try to change for anyone, people will like you for who you are, is such a great message, and I love that it is wrapped up in this cute little haunted house story.

The Little Kitten had Wyatt saying oh no mom! He was feeling a little anxiety about the cats in the book, but no worries, all is well that ends well. This was a sweet little story – be sure to look at the last illustration, through the window.

Of all the books that we read though, this was hands down Wyatt’s favorite. Because underwear are hilarious. Especially glowing ones. I should have known that he would love this one the best, as Creepy Carrots is another favorite of his. Creepy Pair of Underwear is one we are definitely adding to our home collection!

What Halloween picture books have you enjoyed?