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Dear Sweet Pea by Julie Murphy

Seventh grade is not turning out to be such a great year for Sweet Pea DiMarco (her real name is Patricia, but nobody calls her that except her eccentric advice columnist neighbor, Miss Flora Mae).  Her parents are recently divorced – but decided that the best way to keep things normal for Sweet Pea was for her dad to rent the house on other side of Miss Flora Mae’s and make everything look identical to her mom’s house, which, to be honest, kind of creeps Sweet Pea out.  Her cat, Cheese, must think so too, because he refuses to spend the night at her dad’s new house.  Her ex-best-friend, Kiera, now sits in front of her in class, which is definitely not awesome.  And Miss Flora Mae just cornered Sweet Pea on the sidewalk and announced that she’s going out of town and needs Sweet Pea to collect her column letters and water her plants – and then swore her to secrecy.  The last thing Sweet Pea needs is more secrets.

At least she has her forever best friend, Oscar.  They share a love of America’s Most Haunted, which they’re burning through on Netflix, and Oscar always has Sweet Pea’s back, no matter what.  Even when there is an unfortunate, um, incident, involving too much pizza, cake, and a trampoline at Kiera’s birthday party, which Sweet Pea sorta kinda crashes.  And even if she’s keeping secrets from Oscar – secrets she doesn’t want to keep, but Miss Flora Mae made her promise.  And secrets seem to lead to more secrets.

When Sweet Pea accidentally discovers a Dear Miss Flora Mae letter with very, very familiar handwriting while gathering up Flora’s mail, she makes a decision that will change her family and her friendships even more than they already have – she decides to answer it.  Sometimes, change is good, and sometimes, it’s not-so-good.  It turns out you always have to deal with it, though – and it’s how you decide to deal with it that defines who you are.

Author Julie Murphy has already proved her awesomeness with her young adult knockout novels Dumplin’, Puddin’, and Ramona Blue, and Dear Sweet Pea rocks the middle grade scene just as fabulously as her older sister novels (there’s a even a great nod to the world of Dumplin’ and Puddin’!).  Sweet Pea is funny, full of heart, and a great little human, even when she’s muddling through trying to figure out what the best way is to be a friend, a daughter, and an almost-eighth grader.  Oscar is a staunch and stalwart friend, and who doesn’t love a cat named Cheese?  Brimming with family, friendship, life advice, and a whole lot of love, middle grade readers, no matter how old, won’t want to miss Julie Murphy’s latest.  Check it out at the library!

Resolution: Book Club!

Karen, our library recommendation expert and book club organizer extraordinaire, has all the book club info you need to start your literary year on the right page!

New year, new reading challenge!  For those of us that love to read, and love to read a lot, we look forward to the monthly and yearly reading challenges that the library offers, and yes, there are prizes!

But for others, just getting through a book a month, let alone five a month, well, THAT is a challenge.  Here at the library we have three monthly book clubs that are open to the public, The Friends of the Library (FOL) Book Club, the Overbooked Reading Group, and Pictures and Prose.  But in the town of Red Wing, there are a plethora of other book clubs, and many of them get their books at our library.  We are here to help with book suggestions and with requesting books for groups. We’ll keep you updated on what our book clubs and others in town are reading.  If you’d like to register your book club with the library, just stop by the service desk and we’d be glad to talk to you about it.

Wondering what we’re reading?  Here’s what’s on our list for January!

The FOL Book Club is reading First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler.

The Overbooked Book Club is reading Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.

Pictures & Prose will be taking a look at the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards winning titles, to be announced on Monday, January 27.

Community book clubs are reading these great titles!

The Girl With Seven Names by Hveonseo Lee

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Grace of Silence by Michele Norris

Read one, read three, or read them all!

The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White

Guinevere has spent the last three years in a convent, preparing for her marriage to Britain’s High King.  The daughter of a Southern king, she has never met her husband-to-be.  The young King Arthur, famed throughout the land for his defeat of the Dark Queen and banishment of magic, and the great sorcerer Merlin, from the city of Camelot and the lands surrounding it, is a beacon of hope, his glorious city on the hill only the beginning of the peace and civilization he plans to build.

But peace comes with a price.  And magic always fights back.  Even as Camelot flourishes, dark things in the woods beyond its borders bide their time, waiting, watching, and taking back what they can.  And as magic creeps back over the land, and Merlin exiled, there is no one to protect Arthur from its hidden threat – no one but Guinevere, who is not at all who, or what, she seems.

The Guinevere riding to Camelot to be wed is not the same girl was sent to the convent to become Arthur’s bride.  This Guinevere is something else – something dark, and magic, something that revels in the forest, and the fresh air, and in freedom.  Sent in secret by Merlin to rule at Arthur’s side, even Guinevere is not entirely sure of her true, whole purpose.  What she does know is that Arthur is everything – light, bright, steady hope – and she will do anything to keep him safe, even if it means revealing her true nature.  But as she becomes more entangled in Arthur’s world, she begins to see that she is not the only one hiding.  Secrets, lies, and magic knot together until she cannot even be sure of her own past.  Will Guinevere be able to remain true to herself and her king?  Or will she lose herself along the way?

When I was a kid, I spent many, many hours with Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, and all his knights.  I scoured the library shelves for tales of the noble boy king, imagined elaborate scenarios in which everyone lived (except maybe Mordred, because get out of here, you creep), watched The Sword and the Stone over and over again, actually wore out my cassette tape of the original Broadway recording of Camelot (did you know that Richard Harris, Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter movies, also starred as King Arthur in 1967’s Camelot?), and couldn’t get enough of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series because it meant that it was all really, really real.  It’s also true that as an adult, I definitely have not outgrown my fascination with magical swords and sleeping kings, and absolutely cannot be trusted in a bookstore that has any Arthurian fiction face out.  So, when I saw that Kiersten White was writing a new series centered on Guinevere (who is usually kind of helpless and needs a lot of rescuing, but, to be fair, she’s probably really distracted by the impossible love triangle she’s stuck in) I couldn’t put The Guinevere Deception on hold fast enough.  A King Arthur story where Gwen is magical and a fighter and does a ton of rescuing herself and also, oh yeah, is a changeling?  Yes, please!  All the pieces are here – Merlin, Camelot, Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, Mordred, Lancelot, even Ector and Kay – but Kiersten White pulls all the threads of the tale together into a story that is exciting, fresh, and has more than one twist in store for even the most devoted of King Arthur fans.  If you’re as nuts about Camelot as I am, or just enjoy a great fantasy read, this is a great one to curl up with on one of these long end-of-the-year evenings.  You know, while listening to your new, downloaded original Broadway recording of the Camelot soundtrack that can never, ever wear out (#sorrynotsorry, family).  Perfect!