BEST BOOKS OF 2021 – PART 1
My five favorite books from the past month include a fabulous historical nonfiction (perfect to expand your knowledge during Black History Month), a heart-pounding young adult novel, a sweetly funny romance, a beautifully written (& illustrated) picture book, and a poignant, gorgeous collection of short stories.
What makes all of these extra special to me is that I know all of these authors and am so happy to share their beautiful work with you in this space.
The Clothesline Code: The Story of Civil War Spies Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker by Janet Halfmann
This is a delightful story of daring, unsung heroes from the civil war. I’m so grateful for writers like Halfmann who diligently tell the stories of little-known people who played important roles in our nation’s history. Kids (and adults) will love reading about the Walkers and the code they devised to help them secretly relay information to the Union Army that they gathered while spying across enemy lines. As slaves who had escaped to the north, their willingness to cross back into Confederate Army territory was unbelievably brave. Young readers will also be intrigued by the code the Walkers used and might even be inspired to try creating their own secret message code. This is an important piece of history, skillfully told in an engaging style and highlighted with vivid illustrations
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Lucy Ann and Dabney Walker didn't have to risk their lives to spy for the Union army. The couple had already risked everything to escape slavery themselves.
But in early 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, the couple was determined to help defeat slavery for everyone-no matter the risk.
Together, they created a secret code disguised as laundry on a clothesline. Their plan was incredibly dangerous: it required Lucy Ann to sneak into Confederate territory to steal military secrets, while Dabney took the vital information she gathered to the Union army.
This true story of sacrifice and bravery shows us that when we have courage and compassion for the world around us, even the simplest items can become powerful tools for change.
Don't Call Me Greta by Angie Stanton
Glad to have another fantastic story from one of my fav YA authors! From page one the reader is part of this heart-pounding journey with Piper as revelation after revelation turn her entire life upside down. Stanton's ability to dig into her characters' emotions and motivations have us rooting for Piper/Greta from the beginning through a number of surprising plot twists which Stanton skillfully weaves into this story. A suspenseful, original, and beautifully written book you'll stay up late to finish!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Don’t Call Me Greta is a poignant story filled with intrigue, adventure and the struggle of family loyalties.
When the police arrest Piper Winslow’s mother, claiming she stole a newborn infant seventeen years ago, Piper is shocked. When she learns she was the baby, her life is destroyed.
Piper’s birth family is about to reclaim her to a life as foreign as the birth name they gave her--Greta. What can Piper do while her world crashes around her?
Run, of course. And run she does. Piper’s plans are nearly foiled when her brother’s annoying best friend joins her. Despite close calls, they elude authorities. All she wants is time to digest her new fate. Unfortunately, her birth family has unlimited resources and Piper is discovered. She is delivered to a family with a glowing image, but it turns out not all of them are happy to see her.
As Piper tries to cope in her new world, she hits obstacle after obstacle. This family that appears so perfect on the outside, harbors secrets, and nothing is as it seems… Will she ever be fully accepted? Will she ever fit in? Will they ever call her Piper?
Labeled by Jenni Linn
What a fun story of big brothers who think they need to take care of their little sister and run off every single guy who even dares to look at her. That is until one of their buddies comes back from his deployment and can’t fight his attraction to Veronica—who has grown up while he’s been gone. From incredibly funny and believable family dynamics to super sweet, romantic, and sexy scenes between the two main characters as they dodge detection, this book was great entertainment. Can’t wait for more from this author as she continues this series.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
When you grow up in a small town like Great Meadows, you learn to create your own entertainment. You can either spend your time getting high, partying at The Field, or working on cars.
For Veronica Russo, there’s a certain solace found underneath the hood. As the youngest sibling of the Russo Family, Veronica is under the watchful eyes of her four older brothers. Four very protective, very overbearing, and very outspoken brothers. Every guy in town knows Veronicas label—Strictly Off-Limits. They have succeeded in enforcing it; running off every guy that so much as looks in her direction. That is, until Chase arrives back in town.
Close family friend and motor head, Chase Daniels, returns from his deployment and his world is turned upside down when he comes face to face with Veronica again; shocked to find that she is all grown up. The more he surrounds himself in her company, the more he feels an intense pull towards her. There’s just one problem—his best friends won’t allow it.
Is the fallout of a life-long friendships worth the possibility of something more?
Monica the Muskie by Bob Allen
A delightful book! The rhyme and rhythm are melodic, making this a fun read-aloud story. The beautiful illustrations of the muskie, its lake habitat, and the fishermen in search of that elusive muskie are done with gorgeous colors and detailed textures. Anyone familiar with fishing will appreciate the fishing terminology or if you aren't familiar with fishing, you'll learn some new things along the way.
ABOUT THE BOOK:
Monica the Muskie shares the fun and excitement of fishing with family and friends. The muskie's reputation as a large, mean, and difficult-to-catch fish is legendary. Monica the Muskie shares suggestions for getting the elusive ''fish of ten thousand casts'' into the boat and captures the rewarding feeling dedicated muskie fishermen know well. Fishing with family and friends creates lasting memories and teaches us to explore and enjoy the outdoors—and to maintain the heritage of fishing.
And Ampersand: Short Stories on Endings and Beginnings (of a Sort) by Ryan R. Campbell
Wow—I’ve enjoyed this author’s other books, but these short stories pack a big emotional punch. Lyrical, thought-provoking, poignant, and memorable, you’ll appreciate the beautiful writing. Impressive!
ABOUT THE BOOK
Your death comes on slowly, while elsewhere, a nameless man fakes his own. Encased in glass, a young man navigates a world meant for those beyond. A mudslide washes away a once romantic weekend, and a childhood swim drowns all illusion of innocence. These are but some of the tales in And Ampersand: Short Stories on Endings and Beginnings (of a Sort).
In this collection of flash fiction, short stories, and freeform prose, International Book Awards finalist R.R. Campbell returns as Ryan R. Campbell to juxtapose genesis and resolution, to bask in the beauty of rebirth in the most unexpected of places and at the most unexpected of times. Born of the author’s own reinvention and oft-inspired by true events, And Ampersand is the perfect pocket companion for any reader who’s ever tussled with the tie between inception and end.
or add it to your "Want to Read" Shelf on Goodreads.
What have you been reading so far in 2021? I'd love to hear all about your favorites. - Valerie