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Book Spotlight: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Once, there were twelve sisters at Highmoor Manor.  Now, there are only eight.  With each death worse than the one that came before, Annaleigh and her remaining sisters cannot help but wonder if the rumors in the village of a curse on their family could possibly be true.  Exhausted by grief, and afraid another of them may be next, they are all desperate for hope, life, color, and company that is not in mourning.

Although Ava, Octavia, and Elizabeth’s deaths were all tragic, Annaleigh cannot help but feel that Eulalie’s plunge over the cliffs near their home was more sinister than her three older sisters’ deaths through illness and accident.  As she begins to ask questions, it becomes clear that her sister was not alone on the cliffs that night – and that she was hiding something.  When the youngest of the sisters, Verity, tells Annaleigh the ghosts of all four dead sisters still inhabit their manor, and she can see them, it becomes clear that something is very, very wrong.

Still, the sisters are desperate for light and fun and dancing and so, as triplets Rosalie, Ligea, and Lenore’s 16th birthdays approach, plans go forward to celebrate with a glorious ball, in spite of the spirits and shadows haunting Highmoor.  No expense is spared – especially not on stunning new gowns and the most exquisite, delicate new dancing slippers, a pair for each girl.  Slippers so lovely the sisters decide they are fairy shoes.

But when the ball does not succeed in pulling them from their grief and fear, Annaleigh tries to distract her younger sisters with a hunt for a hidden, magical door on their island home – a door said to lead anywhere in the world, a door used by the gods.  She does not quite believe in the door’s existence – until they discover it.  Night after night, the sisters sneak out and pass through the door to find ever more enchanting balls in wondrous palaces, until their shoes are quite danced through.  It is a glorious, decadent escape from grief – but, if they can go through with the merest whisper of desire for dancing, what other manner of person – or creature – might be using the door to hunt for them?

Eerie and deeply atmospheric, this decadent twist on The Twelve Dancing Princesses has it all – phenomenal world-building, layers of tangled mystery, old magic, ghosts, glittering midnight balls, more than a twist of horror, and sweet starlit kisses.  If you love your fairy tails with plenty of glitter and a razor sharp edge, make sure you add House of Salt and Sorrows to your list!

Book Spotlight: Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

Being a sixth grader isn’t generally the easiest thing in the world, but, for Carter Jones, this year is really shaping up to be a pain in the glutes.  And it’s only the first day of school.  His dad is deployed in Germany, his mom is super sad but trying really hard to keep it together, and his three little sisters, are, well, three little sisters.  Ned the dachshund won’t stop throwing up, the Jeep is on its last legs, it’s raining really hard, and the milk has turned.  Which is when the Butler shows up.

If you’re a kid living in Marysville, New York, you certainly don’t expect to inherit a butler.  Certainly not a Bentley-driving, tea-drinking, cricket-loving, real live British butler in a bowler hat and carrying an umbrella the size of a satellite disk.  But sometimes, that’s what you get.  Even if you’d rather have your dad back instead.

Mr. Bowles-Fitzpatrick, it seems, has come to stay for the duration.  And despite Carter’s initial vow to resist the British invasion, he finds that, even though he now finds it his responsibility to walk Ned more times a day than seems strictly necessary, even in the rain, and having to attend the ballet and weird art exhibits with his sisters, the Butler just might have the right idea about a few things.  Like how to write school essays.  And figuring complicated family stuff out.  And cricket.  The glorious, marvelous, sportsmanly game of civilized countries.  Which, it turns out, might just be the thing to pull him back together again.

Laugh-out-loud funny and so, so full of heart, this story of how Carter figures out how to put himself back together after life throws him a googly (or twelve), keep the bails on, and introduce the Butler to pizza is another winner from one of my favorite authors, Newbery honor winning Gary D. Schmidt.  If you love a good story of family, friendship, sports, and don’t mind getting odd looks from your friends because you’re cracking up on your lunch break, Pay Attention, Carter Jones is a must-read!

She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey

Picture of book cover for She SaidSome of the books I blog about are ones I’ve read and enjoyed. Some are ones I want to read. Some are ones that have gotten fabulous reviews. And some are ones that I think are really important. And then there’s She Said, which ticks boxes 2, 3 & 4 (and I hope to add box #1 soon!). I have read excerpts but not enough to write a full review so I’m turning to the professionals:

“An instant classic of investigative journalism. The book is packed with reluctant sources, emotional interviews, clandestine meetings, impatient editors, secret documents, late-night door knocks, toady lawyers and showdowns with Weinstein himself. The cumulative effect is almost cinematic, a sort of “All the President’s Men” for the Me Too era, except the men are women, and they don’t protect the boss, they take him down.”— Carlos Lozada, The Washington Post

“She Said is first and foremost an account of incredible reporting, the kind that takes time, diligence and the kind of institutional support many newspapers can no longer afford. For journalist readers, it is a chance to watch experts at work. And this book is a rare view for nonjournalists into the exacting and rigorous process of quality reporting, and it acts as an implicit counterargument to rising, ambient skepticism of the press. Kantor and Twohey show the background research they ran on sources, to protect both them and the paper, the careful way they documented and substantiated information, and their extraordinary precision in acquiring proof.”— NPR

“*Starred Review* The dogged investigative journalism that brought down Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein is spotlighted in this gripping memoir. New York Times reporters Kantor and Twohey recount their months-long probe, which uncovered claims that Weinstein sexually assaulted or harassed many women, from actors Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow to employees at his company; the Times exposé led to formal rape charges and sparked the #MeToo movement… The authors deliver the sordid details—the seemingly innocent hotel-room meetings, the sudden demands for naked massages, and worse—but focus on the reporting: stakeouts of sources, document searches, assignations with an informant, fencing matches as they wormed information out of Weinstein’s flunkies, and the bullying they received from Weinstein himself, a larger-than-life figure of bluster, menace, and self-pity. Along the way, they grapple with the apparatus of secrecy protecting Weinstein—the colleagues and lawyers who covered up abuses, the confidential settlements that legally silenced some accusers, and the fear of industry retaliation that kept others from speaking out. The result is a crackerjack journalistic thriller that becomes a revealing study of the culture that enables sexual misconduct.”— Publishers Weekly