Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top 5 Books of 2016


The end of 2016 is upon us! Therefore, I thought it appropriate to do a top 5 post, even if I might not quite be done reading for the month. I doubt this will change much, to be honest.

This year ,so far, I've read 200 books.

Out of those 200 books, I only rated 39 with 5-star ratings.

Out of those 39, only 13 were books 
(not graphic novels or comics, those are coming in a different post).

Needless to say, it's a lot easier this year to pin down some great 5-star reads. So be prepared for me to do some flailing and raving, while I explain to you why these books are a necessary addition to your TBR.



#1 - Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know what's coming. Ilona Andrews is the MASTER of amazing characters. Kate Daniels is my favorite female character ever. Ever. I haven't disliked a single book in this series, as is obviously evidenced by my high ratings across the board. Magic Binds is an amazing addition to this series. It's full of growth from Kate, so much real life love that it makes you want to cry, and the kind of action that leaves you breathless. If you haven't jumped on the Kate Daniels train  yet, I don't know what else I can do to convince you. This series is worth your time. Get on that.



#2 - Low Town (Low Town #1) by Daniel Polansky

Looking for noir fiction, mixed with gritty Fantasy? Well, look no further. Daniel Polansky's Low Town is your jam. This book absolutely stole my heart, right from the first page. Warden is that type of character who lives in the gray area. He's not a "good guy" persay, but not a "bad guy" either. He lives in that ambiguous area that leaves you rooting for him, and also shaking your head at the same time. Everything from the writing, to the setting, to the characters, is absolutely perfect. You'll fly through this book, and then cry a little because (like me) you weren't aware of how much you were going to love it and didn't get the second book yet. Trust me. It'll happen.



#3 - Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Every now and then I find a book that I fell so hard for, and was so invested in, that I'll likely never be able to read it again. That first experience, and all the raw feelings that came along with it, can never be duplicated. Some Kind of Happiness is one of those books. I have a soft spot in my heart for Middle Grade fiction. It's so important for kids in that age group to find books that understand them, and embrace them. This book did just that, in the most amazing way possible. See, Finley has depression and anxiety. At 10 years old. She battles the "blue days" and the demons, always feeling like she's slightly broken. My heart shattered into a million pieces as I read her story. I saw myself. I saw my mom. I saw all the people out there struggling and afraid to ask for help. This book undid me, and I didn't even mind. It's beautiful, poignant, and perfect.



#4 - Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

What to say about Bone Gap? First off, it's the first magical realism YA that I've experienced that really drew me in. I met Finn, he met Petey, and suddenly nothing else mattered. My whole world was this book for the 2 days that it took me to finish it. I read way too late into the night, and woke up too early to get through chapters. I shuddered at Roza's captivity, and cheered when she was too strong to be broken. Laura Ruby wove a story that I couldn't stop reading, and ended it in a way that made me really think about it. I'm honestly still thinking about it as I write this, because that's what this cover has the power to do to me.



#5 - Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

Ah, this book. Right when I was looking for an escape, Roses and Rot came flitting into my life. I'm a sucker for a good fairy tale. I love stories where the darkness tries to take over, and the light fights back just as hard. Imogen's story caught me up in its clutches, and wouldn't let me go. I followed her through her own doubts, through her deep love for her sister, and even into the very depths of the passion that she poured into her art. If you love fairy tales, of the actual fairy type, this is definitely one to add to your reading list. It's that perfect mix between tragic, and uplifting. It's, once again, completely addictive.








So there you have it. My top 5 books of 2016! I loved many more, but these were the ones that honestly stood out, and took their rightful place on my "favorites" shelf. It's not easy to do, which should make it all the more obvious that this books are well worth your time! Potential 2017 reads? I think, yes.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Looking Forward & 2017 Reading Plans


You know what they say about the best laid plans...


It's officially the latter half of December, which means there are only a two more weeks standing between us, and 2017. I always take this time to reflect, to reassess and, my most favorite thing of all, think about what my reading is going to look like in the new year. I've been known to cackle delightedly over plots and plans regarding books.

2017 is going to be a lot different than 2016 was though, mostly because of what I've learned about myself this year. Which, to be completely honest, is a lot. I've had a year filled with introspection, not entirely by choice. More on that below.

See, I have anxiety. High functioning anxiety to be exact. I can look completely normal on the outside, going about my business, and be a raging mess on the inside. Books, and (now more than ever) music, have always been my escape from that. A way to get out of my own head, and be lost somewhere else. Unfortunately this also means that I plan obsessively, and then beat myself up when I don't stick to that plan. Reading plans included. This last year was a battle with my inner self to remember that reading is an escape, something fun, and not something to wring my hands over. This blog suffered a lot as I grappled with those facts.

Then, I just kind of let it all go a few months ago. I'm learning to sit quietly with my anxiety. To face up to it, and show it that I'm the one in charge. I've learned how to make short term goals, and stick to them. To break daunting tasks down into tinier ones, to sate my need for accomplishment. I've learned that it's okay to admit that things are overwhelming sometimes, and step away. I've learned that it's okay to share how I'm feeling, and ask for someone else's help.

How has that affected my reading? I'm not as obsessive about tracking it anymore. If I don't hit my "yearly reading goal" I'll be fine. If I don't read that newest release when it first comes out, that's okay. I've even stopped signing up for as many tours because I needed to reassess what I was reading and whether I was doing it for pleasure or because I wanted to push out content. I love blogging, but I love reading more and I don't want to lose that.

So what are 2017's reading goals? Just read. Just read, and enjoy it. Go back to writing more posts here that are fun, and impulsive. I'll still write reviews. I'll still participate in tours. They'll just take a backseat to what I feel like doing in any given month. I'm going back to the way this blog was when I first started it, almost 7 years ago. My haven. My safe space. My passion.

Thanks for sticking with me through all the madness, friends! Much love to my co-blogger Tina too who, despite being a very busy mom, has definitely kicked some blogging behind this year.

Here's to 2017! May it be everything you want it to be. 


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Book Blitz + Giveaway: The Pawn by Skye Warren


Good morning, fabulous bookish people! It's time for another spotlight, and this time it's a story of revenge and seduction in the game of love. Are you intrigued yet? 


The Pawn Skye Warren 
Publication date: December 6th 2016
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

The price of survival…Gabriel Miller swept into my life like a storm. He tore down my father with cold retribution, leaving him penniless in a hospital bed. I quit my private all-girl’s college to take care of the only family I have left.
There’s one way to save our house, one thing I have left of value.
My virginity.
A forbidden auction…Gabriel appears at every turn. He seems to take pleasure in watching me fall. Other times he’s the only kindness in a brutal underworld.
Except he’s playing a deeper game than I know. Every move brings us together, every secret rips us apart. And when the final piece is played, only one of us can be left standing.


A sense of familiarity fills the space between us even though I know we haven’t met. This man is a stranger, but he looks at me as if he wants to know me. He looks at me as if he already does. There’s an intensity to his eyes when they sweep over my face, as firm and as telling as a touch.

“I need…” A thud against my ribs as I think about all the things I need—a rewind button. One person in the city who doesn’t hate me by name alone. “I need a loan.”

He gives me a slow perusal, from the nervous slide of my tongue along my lips to the high neckline of my dress. I tried to dress professionally—a black cowl-necked sweater and pencil skirt. His strange amber gaze unbuttons my coat, pulls away the expensive cotton, tears off the cotton fabric of my bra and panties. He sees right through me, and I shiver as a ripple of awareness runs over my skin.

I’ve met a million men in my life. Shaken hands. Smiled. I’ve never felt as seen through as I do right now. Never felt like someone has turned me inside out, every dark secret exposed to the harsh light. He sees my weaknesses, and from the cruel set of his mouth, he likes them.

His lids lower. “And what do you have for collateral?”

Nothing except my word. That wouldn’t be worth anything if he knew my name. I swallow past the lump in my throat. “I don’t know.”

Nothing.

He takes a step forward, and suddenly I’m crowded against the brick wall beside the door, his large body blocking out the warm light from inside. He feels like a furnace in front me, the heat of him in sharp contrast to the cold brick at my back. “What’s your name, girl?”

The word girl is a slap in the face. I force myself not to flinch, but it’s hard. Everything about him overwhelms me—his size, his low voice. “I’ll tell Mr. Scott my name.”

In the shadowed space between us, his smile spreads, white and taunting. The pleasure that lights his strange yellow eyes is almost sensual, as if I caressed him. “You’ll have to get past me.”

My heart thuds. He likes that I’m challenging him, and God, that’s even worse. What if I’ve already failed? I’m free-falling, tumbling, turning over without a single hope to anchor me. Where will I go if he turns me away? What will happen to my father?

“Let me go,” I whisper, but my hope fades fast.

His eyes flash with warning. “Little Avery James, all grown up.”



A small gasp resounds in the space between us. He already knows my name. That means he knows who my father is. He knows what he’s done. Denials rush to my throat, pleas for understanding. The hard set of his eyes, the broad strength of his shoulders tells me I won’t find any



Skye Warren is the New York Times bestselling author of contemporary romance such as the Chicago Underground series. Her books have been featured in Jezebel, Buzzfeed, USA Today Happily Ever After, Glamour, and Elle Magazine. She makes her home in Texas with her loving family, two sweet dogs, and one evil cat.
Website / Facebook / Twitter





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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy December!


Is anyone else reeling over the fact that this is the last month of 2016?

No, just me?

It happens every year. December hits, and suddenly I'm remembering all the things I meant to do, but too caught up in the holiday season to really care whether or not I've accomplished them yet. Blogging slows down too, as you've probably noticed. It's a mad rush to finish projects at work, spend time with visiting friends and family, and catch up on all those last minute books you meant to read before the whole new Spring 2017 catalog hits.

Anyway I wanted to say a big HAPPY DECEMBER to all of you! Thanks for sticking with us through this whole year, and we can't wait to bring you more bookish goodness in 2017! I'm trying out a new organization/planner system for the new year, so we'll see how that affects this blog. I'm hoping it will keep us more on track but... you know how it goes. Best laid plans.

Enjoy your last month of 2016, and do some amazing reading! 
2017 will be upon us before you know it.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review & Giveaway: My Friends are All Strange by M.C Lesh


Media Type: Ebook
Title: My Friends are All Strange
Author: M.C Lesh
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: Paperback; 230
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Source: Author/Xpresso Book Tours
--------------------------------------------

HDB Rating: 4 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy a good story about not so normal people. 

Add it on: GoodreadsAmazon | Booklikes


 My friends are all strange.
Right now I’m living at Brookside, a place for people like me. I’ve met a kitty girl, a brooding beautiful boy, one who can’t be touched, and others. My new friends. Strange people. People like me.

I’ve always been different, but lately, more so. My hands sometimes don’t seem to be attached to the rest of me. I cut up all of my clothes. I’m hot, so hot, all of the time. If I sleep, a wizard haunts every dream. I don’t sleep. Sometimes I want to run, but where do you run to when you’re trying to escape your own mind? I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same. I’m smart. I’m nice, sometimes. I just want to be normal(ish). But, right now, my friends are all strange… Like me.

Dark, funny, snarky, seventeen-year-old Becca struggles to cope with mental illness in My Friends Are All Strange, the gripping contemporary young adult companion novel to Normalish.

Much like the main character, this book is quirky and interesting. I haven't read Normalish but I did enjoy this companion novel fully. Becca is struggling to keep up with the demands of senior year and coping with the loss of her father. Add in some anxiety and a wizard and you end up at Brookside.

I didn't know quite what to expect upon reading the first few chapters, but I found myself turning page after page until it was complete. Becca's perspective on her time in an institution is both intriguing and endearing. Her empathy for the other patients and her resolve to move forward with her own life are both a vital part of her story.

If you've ever struggled with any kind of mental illness, I would recommend this book. It tackles some hard to discuss topics while remaining lighthearted. Not everyone gets a happy ending, but that's a part of life.



California native Margaret Lesh lives in a narrow canyon populated by herds of wild burro and packs of coyote. The canyon is also populated with her creative, handsome husband, her feisty mother-in-law, her not-brave-at-all Border Collie, Echo, and sometimes her son (who is away at college. And she is not quite sure how that all happened so fast).
She writes books to entertain young and not-so-young readers as well as herself. She believes tacos are magic.
Author Info: Website | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter




















FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Monday, November 21, 2016

THESE SHALLOW GRAVES and UNFORGIVEN Now in Paperback Blog Tour

It's time for an epic spotlight, on two stellar books that are finally out in paperback!

Are you the type who waits for paperbacks, so you can hoard all the more books? I'm right there with you, friends. Which means you'll be as happy as I was to know that These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly and Unforgiven (A Fallen Novel) by Lauren Kate are out in paperback now!

Scope these synopses, and then make sure to add each one to your reading list if you haven't already!

Jo Montfort is beautiful and rich, and soon—like all the girls in her class—she’ll graduate from finishing school and be married off to a wealthy bachelor. Which is the last thing she wants. Jo secretly dreams of becoming a writer—a newspaper reporter like the trailblazing Nellie Bly.

Wild aspirations aside, Jo’s life seems perfect until tragedy strikes: her father is found dead. Charles Montfort accidentally shot himself while cleaning his revolver. One of New York City’s wealthiest men, he owned a newspaper and was partner in a massive shipping firm, and Jo knows he was far too smart to clean a loaded gun.

The more Jo uncovers about her father’s death, the more her suspicions grow. There are too many secrets. And they all seem to be buried in plain sight. Then she meets Eddie—a young, brash, infuriatingly handsome reporter at her father’s newspaper—and it becomes all too clear how much she stands to lose if she keeps searching for the truth. Only now it might be too late to stop.

The past never stays buried forever. Life is dirtier than Jo Montfort could ever have imagined, and the truth is the dirtiest part of all.



It’s the book FALLEN fans have been waiting for: Cam’s story, the brooding, bad-boy dark angel readers love.

High school can be hell.

Cam knows what it’s like to be haunted. He’s spent more time in Hell than any angel ever should. And his freshest Hell is high school, where Lilith, the girl he can’t stop loving, is serving out a punishment for his crimes.

Cam made a bet with Lucifer: he has fifteen days to convince the only girl who really matters to him to love him again. If he succeeds, Lilith will be allowed back into the world, and they can live their lives together. But if he fails…there’s a special place in Hell just for him.

Tick-tock.

Spread your wings and cry as bad boy dark angel Cam finally reveals his anguished heart in the epic new FALLEN novel, UNFORGIVEN.


Or (in this case) authors!

From Jennifer Donnelly, the critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of A Northern Light and Revolution, comes THESE SHALLOW GRAVES, a thriller mystery about dark secrets, dirty truths, and the lengths to which people will go for love and revenge. From women’s rights to socioeconomic disparity, THESE SHALLOW GRAVES explores topics relevant to adults and teens of today. The paperback of THESE SHALLOW GRAVES goes on sale October 25, 2016.

Jennifer Donnelly is the author of three adult novels—The Tea Rose, The Winter Rose, and The Wild Rose—as well as the young adult novels Revolution and A Northern Light, winner of Britain’s prestigious Carnegie Medal, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Literature, and a Michael L. Printz Honor Book Award.

Fans clamored for the story of brooding bad boy Cam, and now the diabolical, desirable foe takes center stage in UNFORGIVEN. Cam made a bet with Lucifer: he has fifteen days to convince the only girl who really matters to him to love him again. If he succeeds, Lilith will be allowed back into the world, and they can live their lives together. But if he fails . . . Hell is waiting. The paperback of UNFORGIVEN goes on sale November 8, 2016. Lauren Kate’s series of star-crossed lovers has sold over 3.2 million copies in North America alone and has capturing the hearts and imaginations of readers all over the world, with rights sold in 33 countries. The major motion picture Fallen is currently in development, starring Jeremy Irvine and Addison Timlin.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: Scenes From the Epic Life of a Total Genius by Stacey Matson

As you can see, we're back in what I'd mostly consider full swing over here at HDB headquarters. Make no mistake, we love blogging! So even when things get hectic, we always pick it back up. So many books to promote, so little time.

Today's spotlight shines down on Scenes From the Epic Life of a Total Genius by Stacey Matson. This is the second book in the Arthur Bean series which, although I haven't read it just yet, has been consistently praised for its honest and witty portrayal of teenage life. What's not love? 

Lights. Camera. Action! Arthur Bean is back and headed for the big screen.

Arthur and Robbie have called a truce now that the writing contest and school play are over, but plans go astray when Arthur’s new girlfriend, Anila, gets jealous of his friendship with cool-girl Kennedy. And then there’s that little problem of the movie camera Arthur and Robbie borrowed to film their upcoming blockbuster movie…

As Arthur’s life goes off the rails all over again, laughs for the reader are right on track. Emails, doodles, texts, newspaper articles, and AV Club rules (which Arthur and Robbie usually break) give the story the same engaging look as A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius.


Find it at:

     September 3rd

     Dear RJ,

          Did you miss me? I missed having you around.
     Camp was crazy, but now I have the skills to make
     an award-winning documentary that tells all about
     a boy genius! Ha-ha-ha. Oh, RJ, I bet you missed my
     sense of humor!

          I have so much to tell you, and it’s not all that
     boring stuff like last year. I guess I could call you
     something else now. I kind of like RJ though. Instead
     of standing for “Reading Journal,” maybe now RJ
     means “Really Juicy”—as in the gossip I have for you.

          This summer was epic! For one thing, I really
     thought arts camp would suck, but it was pretty cool.
     I wish I had time to tell you all about it right now, but
     I’m leaving to go and hang out with my girlfriend.

        That’s right. I said MY GIRLFRIEND. I told you I
     have a lot to tell you, but you’ll have to wait!

     Yours truly,
     Arthur Bean

Stacey Matson has worked in a theater program on Parliament Hill and written theater pieces for the Glenbow Museum and for the All-Nations Theatre in Calgary. She earned her master of arts in children’s literature at the University of British Columbia. Stacey lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Visit Stacey at staceymatson.com.
Website | Twitter





Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: The Boy Is Back by Meg Cabot


Media Type: Ebook
Title: The Boy Is Back
   *Series: Boy #4
Author: Meg Cabot
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: Hardcover; 357
Release Date: October 18, 2016
Source: TLC Book Tours / Harper Collins Publishers
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Genre: Women's Fiction / Chick Lit

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy this series, or like quirky women's fiction.

In this brand new novel in Meg’s fan-favorite “Boy” series, a scandal brings celebrity golfer Reed back home to the small town, the crazy family, and first love he once left behind.

Reed Stewart thought he’d left all his small-town troubles—including a broken heart—behind when he ditched tiny Bloomville, Indiana, a decade ago to get rich on the pro golf circuit. Then one tiny post on the Internet causes all of those troubles to return…with a vengeance.

Becky Flowers loves her small-town life, her small-town business, and especially the small-town wedding she’s planning. She hasn’t thought about her no good high school ex, Reed Stewart, in years. Until suddenly—thanks to a news story that goes viral on every gossip site on the Internet—Reed comes bursting back into her life like an Indiana summer twister.

Now everything Becky and Reed thought they knew about themselves (and one another) has been turned upside down, and they—and possibly the entire town of Bloomville—will never be the same, all because: The Boy is Back.

I'm a newbie to the "The Boy" series, which I honestly feel may have contributed to why this book and I didn't click as much as I wanted it to. I fully admit that I didn't do my research to find out that this book was the fourth in a series so, although Meg Cabot does do a valiant job of trying to bring new readers in, I spent the first few chapters feeling a little bit lost. Becky and Reed's story took off right from the beginning, which I'm certain is going to make fans of this series extremely happy. There isn't a moment to waste, as Meg Cabot dives into these characters and their own particular brands of quirkiness.

Now let me say that Meg Cabot's writing always shines, no matter what book she is writing. She has this uncanny ability to write stories that are equal parts melodramatic and heartbreaking. This book was no exception. Although a majority of this story is written through text messages, email threads, online reviews and journal entries, I could still feel the personalities of the characters shining through. They were funny, a bit cliche at times, but always felt like real, genuinely flawed people. I admit, it made me want to go back and read the first books in this series. My need to know their backstory is strong.

On the flip side, my gripe with this method of story telling is that the scenes themselves didn't get as much love. While Cabot was able to show the personalities of the characters through their digital banter, the important scenes in this story didn't get the same benefit. These exchanges were short, and flew by, making it so that there wasn't as much depth as I would have liked. The idea here was wonderful. Two old flames, rediscovering one another. I'm a sucker for that type of story. Unfortunately, although I loved their exchanges, I didn't feel the same kind of love for their actual physical relationship. I wanted that sappy, descriptive kind of writing that makes you want to swoon. I missed that here.

So, The Boy Is Back fell right on that middle line for me. I enjoyed the characters, despite feeling lost at first, but I really wanted more from the overall story. I've heard that the first books in this series were more focused on emails, versus today's use of social media, and that makes me want to go back and compare. I feel like the difference is in the amount of emotion that can be poured into a more lengthy exchange, like an email, versus a short text. So I'm definitely wanting to go out and see if I'm right.

If you're a fan of this series though, I'm sure you'll love this installment! Like I said above, it takes off instantly, so you won't have to wait long to see what your favorite characters are up to now.



FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book Spotlight and Giveaway: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Now I'm sure many of you have heard of this book before, probably even read it. However, the wonderfully talented Neil Gaiman just released a new version and it looks great. Don't forget to check out the giveaway at the end for a chance to win a copy!



Newly updated and expanded with the author’s preferred text. A modern masterpiece from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman.

First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic, lauded for its brilliant synthesis of “mystery, satire, sex, horror, and poetic prose” (Washington Post) and as a modern phantasmagoria that “distills the essence of America” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer). It is the story of Shadow—released from prison just days after his wife and best friend are killed in an accident—who gets recruited to be bodyguard, driver, and errand boy for the enigmatic trickster, Mr. Wednesday. So begins Shadow’s dark and strange road trip, one that introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own. For, beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and Shadow is standing squarely in its path.
Goodreads | Amazon | B&N 

     Critic Praise:

“Pointed, occasionally comic, often scary, consistently moving and provocative….American Gods is strewn with secrets and magical visions.”—USA Today

“Original, engrossing, and endlessly inventive.”—George R. R. Martin

Neil Gaiman is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels Neverwhere, Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, Anansi Boys, The Graveyard Book, Good Omens (with Terry Pratchett), The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains; the Sandman series of graphic novels; and the story collections Smoke and MirrorsFragile Things, and Trigger Warning. He is the winner of numerous literary honors, including the Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, and the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. Originally from England, he now lives in the United States. He is Professor in the Arts at Bard College.
Find him at: Website | Facebook | Twitter




Monday, November 14, 2016

Book Spotlight + Giveaway: Return to the Secret Garden by Holly Webb

Apologies for the radio silence, all. It's been a rocky couple of weeks here at HDB headquarters, and unfortunately that means blogging takes a back seat. Rest assured that we haven't gone anywhere for good though! You're stuck with us, and our bookish ramblings.

Now then, on to the spotlight book of the day! Before you run screaming from my incessant gushing, let me very simply say that this is a book that I was really excited for. I'm sure many of us grew up walking the halls of Misselthwaite Manor with Mary, and have a soft spot in our heart for Dickon. So imagine my happiness when I found out that Holly Webb, an author who I greatly admire, was writing a follow up to that classic tale! Enter Return to the Secret Garden, in all its nostalgic glory.

Return to the magic of Burnett’s classic tale with a brand-new character as she discovers a very secret garden.

It’s 1939, and the occupants of the Craven Home for Orphaned Children have been evacuated to Misselthwaite Hall, a fancy manor in the English countryside, to escape the Blitz. Emmie would hardly call the orphanage “home,” but her heart breaks knowing that leaving Craven means leaving her beloved cat, Lucy. Away from everything she’s ever known and trapped in imposing Misselthwaite, Emmie finds herself more miserable than ever.

But soon she starts discovering the secrets of the house—a boy who cries in the night, a diary written by a girl named Mary, and a garden. A very secret garden…

Now, as a die hard fan of this book, I understand if you're a bit worried about a follow up to this childhood classic. Rest assured, I've been reading through this and am getting ready to write a review just for all of you! So far this book has been utterly charming, and definitely lives up to its predecessor.


     The children marched down the street in a long line of twos, and only one of them looked back. The others didn’t turn because they didn’t need to. There was nothing to look back for. Everything they owned was with them—-a few clothes, a battered, shapeless stuffed toy here and there. Each of them carried a paper bag and a gas mask, and that was all they had.

     Emmie trailed, peering over her shoulder, so that Arthur, behind her, gave her a shove to tell her to keep up. She kicked him swiftly and walked backward instead, still trying to see.

     But Lucy wasn’t there. It was stupid to expect that she would be anyway, Emmie thought. Lucy hardly ever came out onto the street. She was shy, and she hated loud noises. Emmie still stared though, hoping to see the small, black cat peering after her around the corner of the tall house. Lucy had probably fled out into the backyard, Emmie decided miserably. She kicked Arthur again because he was smirking at her—-and because she felt like it.

     “Emmeline Hatton!”

     Emmie whipped around with a sigh. Of course Miss Dearlove hadn’t seen Arthur giving her a push. She never did see. “Me, miss?” she asked innocently, trying to look as though she didn’t know what was the matter.

The matron glared at her. “No, the other Emmeline Hatton. Of course you! You bad--tempered little girl, how dare you kick Arthur like that?”

      “He pushed me…” Emmie started to say, but Miss Dearlove didn’t bother to listen. She grabbed Emmie by the arm and hauled her up to the front of the line. She was a tiny lady, not actually much bigger than Emmie, but Emmie didn’t dare pull away. She had known Miss Dearlove forever. The matron was like a busy little clockwork train, wound up into a clicking fuss of pure crossness. It was best not to get in her way—-but somehow Emmie always did.

      “You can walk here with Miss Rose and the babies since you can’t be trusted to behave like a ten--year--old. Why is it always you? And after your ridiculous behavior this morning as well. As if we haven’t got enough to worry about.” She glanced down at her watch. “Miss Rose, we need to hurry. The station’s bound to be busy, and there isn’t that much time to spare.” She scuttled down to the end of the line again with one last growled “Behave!” to Emmie.

      Miss Rose was usually less bad--tempered than the matron, but even she eyed Emmie and sighed. “Today of all days, Emmie? I would have thought you’d have more sense.”

     “He shoved me,” Emmie muttered. She knew that wasn’t quite true, but she wasn’t letting them have the last word. “It isn’t fair. Why do I always get into trouble?” She walked down the street next to Miss Rose, seething and muttering to herself. If she huffed and growled, she wouldn’t cry, and she wasn’t going to give Arthur Banks the satisfaction of that, however much Miss Rose frowned.

     They had been told the day before that they were leaving. Miss Dearlove had stood up at the end of breakfast and explained that since war was expected to be declared within a few days, the Craven Home for Orphaned Children would be evacuated “somewhere safe.”

     No one knew what evacuation meant, except that it was vaguely connected with the rows of brown boxes on the shelves in the schoolroom, which contained the gas masks. Once a week for the last few months, they had pulled the masks on and sat staring at each other, snout--nosed and goggle--eyed. After the first few tries, Arthur had figured out how to make a rude noise, a sort of farting snort around the rubber facepiece. He did it every time now, and they all laughed. Even Miss Dearlove didn’t sound that cross when she told him off.

     But Emmie had dreamed of those huge, round eyes almost every night since. The glass lenses of the masks leaned over her, stooping down close and staring. The gas masks were supposed to help them breathe, Miss Dearlove said, but when Emmie thought of her mask, sealed away in its flimsy cardboard box, she found her breath catching in her throat. Where was this gas going to come from anyway? No one had said. Arthur and his friend Joey said it would be dropped by planes, but all the gas that Emmie knew about came in pipes to the kitchen for the stoves. She didn’t see how it could be carried in a plane. If only someone would explain, she thought bitterly, kicking at a crack in the pavement as they marched on. Where were they going—-and why? What was happening? No one told them anything. They didn’t need to know. They just got packed up like their clothes and sent away…

     “Look.” The little girl Emmie had been shoved next to tugged at her sleeve.

     “What?” Emmie muttered, not looking.

     “Over there.” Ruby pointed across the road. “See, Emmie, there! Do you think they’re being evacuated too?”

     Emmie turned and saw that they were passing a school, where a long column of children was lining up on the playground. They were carrying an assortment of battered cases and brown paper bags, and there were labels tied onto their coats.

     “I suppose so.”

     “Just like us…” Ruby said thoughtfully. “I didn’t know everybody was.”

     “We have to get out of the cities—-in case of planes flying over,” Emmie said vaguely. “All the children do.” That was what the boys had thought anyway. They had been lurking around the matron’s sitting room, listening to the news broadcasts, so Emmie supposed it was possible they were right. The children on the playground did look a lot like them, except that there were mothers huddling around them and even a few fathers. They were pushing packets of sandwiches into children’s pockets, hugging them, and running along beside them as the line of children started to snake out onto the street. The children marched away, following two older boys who had a banner with the school’s name stitched onto it. Almost like a procession, Emmie thought.

     Some of the schoolchildren were crying, Emmie noticed. A lot of the smaller ones were clinging to their mothers, pale faced and bewildered. They didn’t seem to know what was happening either. But some of the others looked happy, swinging their cases as if they were off on holiday. Perhaps they were—-they might end up at the seaside.

     Emmie blinked thoughtfully. She was almost sure she’d never been out of London. Until now, she hadn’t really thought about where they were going. She’d been too worried about what they were leaving behind. Maybe those two boys in the line with grins all over their faces were right. It was an adventure…

     But almost all the mothers were brushing tears away quickly with the sides of their hands so as not to be seen. Emmie shivered. She supposed the children from the Home were lucky—-all the adults they knew were coming with them. It didn’t make her feel lucky though. She tried to remember the softness of Lucy’s head bumping against her fingers, the warmth of her breath as the little cat nuzzled against her. But all she could hear was Ruby, grumbling because she was tired and her shoes were too tight.

     They hadn’t gone all that far, but the streets were so much busier than the quiet area around the Craven Home. Even Emmie felt tired, with so many people pressing around her and the constant roar of cars and carts and buses along the bustling street. On any other day, it would have been fun to stand on one of those islands in the road and watch and wonder where all these people were streaming off to. Today, Emmie wished she was back sitting in the window of her dormitory, peering out at the street to see the grocer’s van and a car every so often. She’d wished for something to happen, something exciting, and now it had.

Holly Webb worked as an editor at Scholastic Books in the UK before she became a full-time writer. She is the author of the popular Rose series. Holly lives in Reading, England, with her family. Visit Holly at www.hollywebb.com.
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