Book Review: Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martins Press for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Publisher Summary:

Down a narrow alley in the small coastal town of Mallow Island, South Carolina, lies a stunning cobblestone building comprised of five apartments. It’s called The Dellawisp and it is named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey Hennessey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at The Dellawisp, she meets her quirky, enigmatic neighbors including a girl on the run, a grieving chef whose comfort food does not comfort him, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

When one of her new neighbors dies under odd circumstances the night Zoey arrives, she is thrust into the mystery of The Dellawisp, which involves missing pages from a legendary writer whose work might be hidden there. She soon discovers that many unfinished stories permeate the place, and the people around her are in as much need of healing from wrongs of the past as she is. To find their way they have to learn how to trust each other, confront their deepest fears, and let go of what haunts them.

Delightful and atmospheric, Other Birds is filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go. Sarah Addison Allen shows us that between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

My Thoughts:

Sigh. This book was beautifully fantastic. I loved it so much! Just everything about it, every detail, every character, every surprise revealed, was perfect.

Zoey is filled with youthful enthusiasm, dreams, and gumption. She moves into The Dellawisp hoping to learn more about her deceased mother, but is also looking for community, for a sense of belonging, friendship, and she is determined that the residents of The Dellawisp will become that for her. Her character’s life was not all roses all the time, but she is filled with optimism and fun that is hard to deny.

Her neighbors are a quirky lot. There is Charlotte, a bohemian spirit and henna artist, Mac, a James Beard award winning chef who is known for his use of cornmeal, the Lime sisters who maintain separate apartments and don’t interact, and Frasier, the caretaker. They each have their own stories, the stories that have defined them up until now, full of love and love lost, full of shadows with rays of light.

The Dellawisp itself is a magical place. It has been a sheltering comfort for those that live there, hidden behind the main street that smells of sugar, with its special birds that exist only there, in that one place. Until Zoey arrives, and shakes things up in her own sweet way.

I don’t want to delve too much further into this story here, because I don’t want to give anything away. But this book made me smile and and cry and I was under the spell of its beauty the entire time I read it. When it ended, I wanted more and I sincerely hope that Allen visits this world and these characters again in a future book.

Before I wind this up though, lets talk about the food in this book. I love when food and memory and love are intertwined through the pages of a book. I think so many of us have food based memories – I know that I do. I think of my grandmother and my uncle when I make coconut tarts and Empire biscuits; hot cocoa on snowy days, the chicken and stars soup and Vernors that my mom would make me when I was sick – I could seriously go on and on. And in this book food is wound up here and there and everywhere, but most of all with Mac, whom I adored. I was so inspired by this book that I actually spent five hours the other day cooking and baking, standing in the kitchen barefoot and cooking up Carolina Chicken Bog and Plum Berry Cornmeal Cake. And dang, was everything so delicious! We will be eating the chicken bog for days and I have been eating the cornmeal cake for breakfast and it tastes amazing paired with my cup of coffee.

I absolutely adored and loved this book! I actually can’t wait to read it all over again.

What Wyatt’s Reading: Summer Edition

(This post does contain Amazon Affiliate links.)

We have read so many books together this summer! I set up a tent in Wyatt’s room and it has become a place for reading books together every day, which has been a pretty great addition to our summer. We’ve gone to the library countless times, and for the first time in two years Wyatt was able to go in with me and choose his own books. (I mean, I of course chose some for him as well – picture books are just so pretty!) We’ve filled bags and wagons full of books, happily carting them home with us, where we set them all out on the floor and look at them all, flipping through them before putting them on the library books shelf. With school coming up, we will still be reading a lot of books but we won’t be getting to the library quite as often as we do now, but I still will make it part of our Fridays, when I pick up my mom and the three of us go together, three generations who have grown up using the same library and still do.

I couldn’t list all of the books that we have read together this summer, but I do want to share our favorites!

We will start with Wyatt’s favorites, as is appropriate.

Knight Owl was adorable and Wyatt really got into the whole medieval theme, with the knights and dragons. You know I made a mental note of that! And it was super cute, about a little owl who becomes a knight taking over the night watch; unlike his predecessors who have gone mysteriously missing, he is able to stay up all night – and make some unlikely friends.

Don’t Eat Bees literally had him laughing through the whole book. Chip the dog is full of advice about what is ok to eat, and what not to eat…bees. It was cute and Wyatt loved it.

Cannonball was all about making a splash, learning how to execute the perfect cannonball, and to listen to your own voice even when you feel it is being drowned out by the voices and advice of others. Into the Outdoors was a simple little book, about well, being outdoors. My kiddo I think enjoyed the idea of being outside and the simpleness of the story. A Good Place is about bugs, so of course he loved that one. In it four little bugs are looking for a place to live; each place they try is not quite right. Finally they find the best place, the good place. He loved all the bugs and the colors – I liked the message regarding the importance of nature and gardens.

Acorn Was a Little Wild was another one that had him cracking up. Acorn was having himself a blast on all sorts of adventures when one day he is buried by a squirrel! There he is forced to stay patient because he is pretty well stuck. He still manages to enjoy himself, and never loses his free and wild spirit.

The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl is absolutely wonderful. Wyatt loved the illustrations in the is book, there is just so much to see. He also liked how the dad and son would have music and dance parties together, two things that Wyatt also loves. The overall storyline I don’t think he was too interested in, but he really loved looking the pictures over in this one.

And now for my favorites!

Let’s start with Sunrise Summer! I thought this book was so cool and different. It is about a family who relocates to Alaska every summer, not for vacation but for work. They travel as a family and work for a commercial salmon company, while living as part of a beachside community. They fish and get up in the middle of the night, eat cold spaghetti for breakfast in the rain, and overall just work really hard. But the sense of family and community and the satisfaction of doing a hard job well, while working together is sort of refreshing. This book also included infomation on how the fishing is regulated by the Alaska Game Office to ensure these fish are not overfished. It was sort of a fascinating book – for me at least. I think Wyatt was intrigued by the adventure of it all but wasn’t super interested in the fishing parts. Oh! The last few pages of the book are about Alaska and fishing and the author’s life and experience fishing for salmon in Alaska.

Sonya’s Chicken was another surprising book. Sonya is given three chickens to raise, and she cares for them well and loves them. One morning she discovers that a fox has stolen one of her chickens, and obviously is very upset. Her dad explains that “What might seem unfair to you might make sense to a fox.” He tells her a story about this fox, how he lives in the woods with babies that he needs to feed as well. So while they might be sad about the chicken, they can understand why the fox did what he did. Sonya still feels bad about her chickens but keeps the fox kits in mind. Eventually one of her remaining chickens lays an egg that hatches and Sonya has a brand new chick to raise. I really loved this one honestly. It is sometimes a tough subject, explaining to kids why nature can seem so mean, when other animals eat each other, etc, and I think this book did a spectacular job in explaining that, and how nature is a circle of life.

These next two are very similar. The More You Give and The Garden We Share both deal with grief and nature and lasting memories and honoring what you have been taught, and finally about the everlasting legacy of planting gardens or trees together. Let’s start with The Garden We Share. First, I loved that this book had characters that were friends despite decades between their ages. When I was little, I loved visiting my neighbors who were in their 80s and listening to their stories about Scotland and Canada and sitting with them on their porch in the summer. The little girl and her grandma in this book planted a garden together but by next spring the grandma had passed. I did surprise both Wyatt and I by bursting into tears in the middle of reading this book. It was just so beautiful but so sad and I thought about my uncle and how much I miss him, especially in the spring when planning and planting my garden. Just typing that makes my eyes well up with tears. Anyway, this book is gorgeous and if you have a child struggling with grief I recommend this book.

The More You Give…this is maybe one of my favorite books I have read all year, including books that I read for me. I feel like it is a modern day take on “The Giving Tree” which I loved as a kid but it is so depressing. In this story, a young boy and his grandmother live together and have a great life filled with pancakes and hugs and nature. Together they plant an acorn which becomes a tree, etc. Eventually the boy grows up and teaches his daughter this lesson and so on, until the meadow they lived in becomes a forest. I am not doing this book justice in this review. It is just so beautiful and I want everyone to read it because that will be infinitely better than whatever I have to say.

Book Review: Wild is the Witch

Goodreads Summary:

When eighteen-year-old witch Iris Gray accidentally enacts a curse that could have dire consequences, she must team up with a boy who hates witches to make sure her magic isn’t unleashed on the world.

Iris Gray knows witches aren’t welcome in most towns. When she was forced to leave her last home, she left behind a father who was no longer willing to start over. And while the Witches’ Council was lenient in their punishment, Iris knows they’re keeping tabs on her. Now settled in Washington, Iris never lets anyone see who she really is; instead, she vents her frustrations by writing curses she never intends to cast. Otherwise, she spends her days at the wildlife refuge which would be the perfect job if not for Pike Alder, the witch-hating aspiring ornithologist who interns with them.

Iris concocts the perfect curse for Pike: one that will turn him into a witch. But just as she’s about to dispel it, a bird swoops down and steals the curse before flying away. If the bird dies, the curse will be unleashed―and the bird is a powerful amplifier, and unleashing the curse would turn not just Pike, but everyone in the region, into a witch.

New witches have no idea how to control their magic and the consequences would be dire. And the Witches’ Council does not look kindly on multiple offenses; if they found out, Iris could be stripped of her magic for good. Iris begs Pike to help her track the bird, and they set out on a trek through the Pacific Northwest looking for a single bird that could destroy everything. 

My Thoughts:

I was so excited to read this book, as I absolutely adored The Nature of Witches, also written by Rachel Griffin. Plus, this book promised so many elements that I love: nature, owls, wolves, woods, magic. So when I settled in with this book and a cup of tea the other night, I already knew that I would more than likely love this book. And, I did.

Iris Gray loves her life in Washington. She loves the animal rescue she and her mother run, Foggy Mountain Animal Sanctuary. She loves the wolves, particularly a wolf named Winter, the animals they help, her mom’s “friend”, and most of all helping the animals using her special brand of magic that allows her to communicate with the animals. What she doesn’t like – or rather who – is Pike Alder, the intern at the rescue, who hates witches. After one particularly ugly incident between them, Iris practices a tradition taught to her by her grandmother, one that allows her to give her feelings to the earth, in a ritual that involves writing spells but not actually sending them into the world. However, the one that Iris intended for Pike but not really gets away from her, and could have terrible consequences, for more than just Iris and Pike.

I have to admit it sort of gave me anxiety! The rest of the story is about Iris trying to recapture her curse before it blows up, and to do so, she needs Pike’s help.

This book is a fast read, quick paced, and definitely keeps you on the edge of your seat. I even got a little teary at one part! I would love to read a sequel, as I enjoyed the setting of the animal rescue and the Pacific Northwest. And I feel like Iris and Pike’s story is not over yet!

This was a fun read, and if you are into witchy magic books and animals, this is a definite must.

Thank you to NetGalley for the chance to read this book and provide an honest review!

What Wyatt’s Reading – May

We had a really good reading month, full of books about the outdoors and nature!

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The Hike was one of our absolute favorites this month and it is definitely going to be purchased for our own library. We loved the story of these three little girls heading off on an adventure together, but it was the illustrated pages that we really enjoyed. We loved finding all the hidden and not hidden plants and animals throughout the pages, and reading the labels, discussing whether or not that it is something that we have spotted on our own hikes. We also loved the sketchbook drawn by one of the characters.

I usually love Cynthia Rylant, and Home is Where the Birds Sing is a lovely book but we were both lukewarm on it. I think it was just a little too young and maybe gentle for my now rough and tumble seven year old. It is a great book however, just not quite right for Wyatt right now.

Zonia’s Rain Forest however was one that Wyatt really liked. Zonia is friendly with so many of the animals in the rain forest that she lives in, and Wyatt loved all the different rain forest creatures represented. It does have a deeper message about respecting our planet as well. (I have this one added to our cart as well, since I hope to do a rain forest unit next school year.)

A few years ago I read an article about how there is a lack of diversity represented in children’s picture books particularly when it comes to spending time outdoors. Since then I have kept an eye out for books that do depict this diversity; I know that it is something important to me as well, finding books that show disabled children enjoying the outdoors or frankly, just disabled children doing anything besides educating others about their disability. Anyway, when I saw this on the shelf at the library I made sure to add it to our stack. At the time I had no idea that it was written by the activist and founder of @brownpeoplecamping, Ambreen Tariq, who advocates for “diversity, equity, access, and justice in the outdoors”. (check out her website for more info!) Fatima’s Great Outdoors is a fantastic read, and I particularly loved how Fatima seemed to gain confidence from nature. I also loved the strong family connection. Wyatt loved the camping itself – he is pushing for a camping trip soon.

Rafa Counts On Papa is another wonderful read. Papa and Rafa share a love for knowing how much and measuring, for anything at all. This was another of Wyatt’s favorites – he also likes to know how much as well.

Oona and the Shark – I picked this one up for me. I wanted to read it so I checked it out with our books. And I loved it. I loved how Oona was an inventor and shared her inventions, and I love how she worked so hard to become friends with Stanley the shark. She and Stanley were not making a connection until Oona realized that Stanley liked order and quiet. And the illustrations were very well done. Wyatt wasn’t super interested in this one but I loved it.

However, The Girl Who Wore Snakes was hands down Wyatt’s favorite. Ali is a little girl who falls in love with snakes after a classroom demonstration. She buys up all the snakes in the pet shop and wears them around proudly, believing them to be beautiful. They remind her of the sun and the earth and everything in between. However, not everyone agrees with her – until she finds that one kindred spirit who does. I think we both loved this book because we are apparently also kindred spirits with Ali. This one is hard to find to purchase but we did get it at the library easily.

Book Review: Mystery in Rocky Mountain National Park by Aaron Johnson

Goodreads Summary:

Secret codes, lost landmarks, and hidden clues in real locations.

This first book in the National Parks Mystery Series takes young readers, ages 7 to 12, on a fast-paced adventure set in the heart of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

The Story
Before Jake’s grandfather died, he was on the trail of a centuries-old mystery. And he has entrusted that mystery to Jake, leaving behind a set of hidden codes, riddles, coordinates, and other clues that lead Jake and his friends on a scavenger hunt through ten of America’s most treasured national parks.

In this illustrated and page-turning adventure, young readers will develop a love for reading while learning about natural history, wildlife, ecology and conservation, integrity, character, and friendship.

My Thoughts:

This was such fun middle grade read! I am such a fan of national parks and the outdoors and mysteries that I was excited to receive an ARC. I am very picky about the ARCs I choose to read; I get too nervous since I can be so wishy-washy about finishing books at times. However, I was super excited about this one and it hooked me from the very beginning.

Jake’s family is setting off on a multi-month road trip through the national parks and while that is already exciting for Jake, it gets even better. While they are at his grandmother’s house saying goodbye before the trip, he receives a gift that his deceased grandfather arranged for him. A scrapbook of photos, which Jake soon learns contains a secret code, and the start of a mysterious scavenger hunt.

Jake’s family is sharing their trip with Jake’s cousin Wes and his family, and also long time family friends and their daughter Amber. Jake at first doesn’t want to share this special hunt with Wes and Amber; for him, it is something special that his grandfather designed for Jake and he wants to keep that close. But after the group of parents surprise the three kids with their own summer project, he learns it is easier and more fun to work on the mystery as a group.

Jake, Wes, and Amber surprise them with an opportunity of a lifetime – the space and time to explore and hike on their own in the parks. This works out well for the kids since they have their own secret mission and that would be hard to do under the eye of the parents – especially since one of the first clues Jake receives is rather cryptic and hints at some danger! The kids are required to set up an itinerary, including the projected time they will be back, and present it to the parents the night before the hike for approval. They also are instructed on the three biggest dangers when hiking, how to avoid them, and what the ten essentials are that they should take on any hike. I loved this part of the book, and how practical skills were included within the story.

This book had a fast paced plot, that I imagine will hold the attention of young readers. I know that it held mine and when it ended I was not ready, I wanted more story!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I love the sense of adventure, the mystery, the history and nature, and all the opportunities for taking little “rabbit trails”. I can see readers wanting to learn more about so many different topics – ciphers, morse code, wildlife skills, mountain biking, history, the list goes on and on. I am looking forward to following this adventurous mystery to the end!

You can find the author Aaron Johnson and series information via any of these social channels:

Instagram: @nationalparkmysteryseries

Facebook: @nationalparkmysteryseries

Twitter: @npmysteryseries

GoodReads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20691108

I received this book free from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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!