Alethea Kontis

No matter what phase of lockdown you're in, it's that time of year again. College admissions are in the air. Graduation is upon us. And the real-life high school sweetheart team of Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka (affectionately called "Wibbroka") have delivered another fun teen romp that will have former graduates brimming over with nostalgia: What's Not to Love?

Spring is upon us! (At least, it is where I live in Florida.) Flowers are exploding everywhere, afternoons are stormy, and birds are twitterpated. It's the perfect time to launch a story that centers around that colorful celebration of the blossoming of womanhood, the quinceañera. I hereby present to you all Monica Gomez-Hira's fabulous debut: Once Upon a Quinceañera!

What I really needed to read this Valentine's Month was not a sappy love story but something a little more irreverent, bordering on caustic, but eminently humorous. Wibke Bruggemann's debut novel Love is for Losers was absolutely all those things and more!

One of the first things I learned in my Buddism/Hinduism studies this year is that Westerners have a twisted perception of karma. Karma is more like spiritual thermodynamics: Every action, intent and deed a person does has an effect on their future. That future might happen now, or a lifetime from now, so it's really just better all around to stay on the side of good. Karma is not, as many have come to know it, a punishment or reward by an external force.

Unless you happen to be Prudence Barnett.

When I heard that Jillian Cantor's The Code for Love and Heartbreak was a Jane Austen retelling, I was all in. A STEM-nerdy Emma where the heroine likes numbers more than people? Sign me up!

I bought Austenland on DVD last fall. It's one of my happy place movies. Unsurprisingly, I've watched it several times already this year, this tumultuous year in which so much is going on that I was on Chapter Three of Kind of a Big Deal before I thought to myself, "This story feels like Austenland." I flipped to the acknowledgments and spotted screenwriter and director Jerusha Hess's name. Well DUH, Alethea. At which point, I just relaxed and let Shannon Hale take me away to that safe, happy place again.

I was one of those introvert kids with an empathy for inanimate objects that went well beyond stuffed animals. Looking back, it makes sense — I was obsessed with fairy tales and poetry. The worlds of Grimm and Andersen and Carroll were filled with just as many talking sticks, stones, teapots and washtubs as animals and people. Plus, being Greek meant that anyone or anything one encounters might be cursed, arbitrarily, at any time. When it comes right down to it, if it exists in my world, it has an attitude.

Have you ever wanted to go back in time and fix your past? Even just one tiny little thing you regret? It's certainly a tempting proposition. But how might that one tiny thing change everything else in the landscape of your life? In Jennifer Honeybourn's The Do-Over, that's exactly what Emelia O'Malley is about to find out. And fair warning: Make sure you're paying attention on page one, because this story moves FAST!

Before I begin this review in earnest, I would first like to bestow upon Miss Amanda Sellet several Bonus Points for the most puntastic title of 2020 (Get it? "BUY the Book"). And then I shall implore you, Dear Reader, to brew a cup of your favorite tea and settle in while I tell you the tale of this most intriguing and delightful tome about the misadventures of a teen who grew up steeped in classic literature — and little else.

I started reading Jessica Pennington's Meet Me at Midnight on an empty beach in Florida, near where I live on the Space Coast. There are rarely many people at the Canaveral National Seashore, and I thought it would be a fitting place to celebrate a new "summer at the lake" title. That beach is closed now. Looking back, this book and that sand feel like they happened a lifetime ago, in a different world. But that doesn't make Meet Me at Midnight less wonderful in any way!

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