My favorite books from my childhood

As a kid I spent a lot of time reading to escape how boring reality was. For me, every book was a new adventure and as a kid living in a small town that was all I needed.

The very first chapter book that I read was “Because of Winn-Dixie” by Kate DiCamillo. I actually found this book while I was camping with my family at Moonshine park here on the Oregon coast. The book was down by the river, I picked it up and read the back. I was intrigued but afraid to take it because I didn’t want to steal it. So I left it there and when we went back the next day I picked it up and read a little bit. I repeated that process every day until we left. I then decided that the owner probably wasn’t coming back for it, so, I brought it home with me and finished it. To this day I am extremely fond of that book. I’ve always loved dogs and something about Winn-Dixie and his little smile won me over.

As a kid I also loved “The Hobbit” by the great J.R.R. Tolkien. I didn’t so much read this book but had it read to me. My grandmother read this book to my dad, then he read it to my brother and I, and I have every intention of reading it to Finn. It’s a family tradition at this point and it’s such a magical book, I feel like it really opened my mind to the fantasy genre. “The Hobbit” is like a really long and intense fairy-tale that embodies friendship, family, and adventure. I think it is an excellent novel to read to a child or read to yourself. I reread this book about once a year.

This next one is a little bit different, but I absolutely adored the “Young James Bond” series by Charlie Higson. I have always loved James Bond, my dad and I go see all of the Bond movies together. Higson wrote young Bond in a way that doesn’t come off as a cheesy, but very believable for the beloved spy. I honestly read those books so frequently that my copy of Silverfin, book one in the series, is absolutely wrecked. I actually got my copy of Silverfin on a whim while visiting the spy museum in Washington D.C., best souvenir I ever bought.

I couldn’t possibly leave out the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I actually struggled with these books growing up. I had a hard time finishing The Order of The Phoenix because it was so long, it took three tries before I finished it. I read the last two books later in life mostly because I was tired of the bullying I received for reading Harry Potter at school. Luckily, times are a bit different and kids can like stuff like Harry Potter, Pokémon, and Star Wars without being bullied. Harry Potter will forever be my favorite kids series.

These are my all-time faves without a doubt in my mind. What did you read as a kid? Do you reread them often like I do? Let me know in the comments!

Grimworld By Avery Moray

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world where ghosts and ghouls were the norm? Where you could run into a ghast walking home from school? If you are like me and have often wondered what a world filled with creatures of the night might be like then Grimworld is definitely for you!

This book is about a boy named Henry who becomes the victim of a Vytiper, a dark being that steals years off of your life for their own gain through the use of a cursed pocket watch. Henry ends up meeting Lang another victim just like him, with only weeks left to live, and together they must face ghouls and villains that they never dreamed of.

This book handles stress and the “race against time” plot device well. You can feel the dread of the boys’ impending doom on each page. Time is of the essence as Lang’s time dwindles before their eyes. With each tick of the pocket watch, his life approaches its end. You can feel it from the very beginning when Lang tells Henry:

“By the way,” he leaned forward and grabbed Henry’s watch, inspecting it, “looks like you’ll die in 10 years.”

This stress pushes further when you discover how close Lang is to the end and is pushed even further when you are informed that Lang already knows someone who has perished to the Vytiper.

Moray releases info on the Vytiper in small morsels that are easy to chew but keeps you guessing until the end. The boys must pick up all of the information on the Vytiper on their own because it is a recent entity in their world and no one has had the time to further research the beings. Most people don’t even know of the Vytiper’s existence. With that said the boys’ mission doesn’t feel hopeless, they are capable protagonists who take every logical step to save themselves. Not once does it feel like they are making unrealistic decisions for their age, I hate when characters are made over or under mature for their age group. One thing I really need to enjoy a book is likable and believable characters, Grimworld offers just that. While each character has their quirks they also have strengths that make them interesting and lovable, from the very beginning I was rooting for Henry and Lang.

I might add one more piece to my review, and that is the realistic and unrealistic balance of the antagonist. The predicament they are in is reasonable. Being faced with death is a scary idea and I am willing to bet that there is a frightening amount of people in this world who would be willing to sacrifice years of another person’s life for their own gain. So while the antagonist is an unrealistic entity that could only surface in our nightmares, it has a human quality that makes it even scarier. We are faced with not only the fear of the unknown but the known.

Grimworld is a one-sitting book that really captured my attention and has jump-started my excitement for Halloween. If you are looking for a spooky middle-grade novel then I suggest you check out Grimworld you will be impressed. I give this book a whopping 5/5 stars! As always thank you to NetGalley and I’d like to extend a huge thank you to John Hunt Publishing Ltd. for giving me access to this wonderful book.

The Ghost Collector by Allison Mills

The Ghost Collector is less about the collecting of ghosts and more about the grief process. It will make you cry in the best way.

The Ghost Collector is about a girl named Shelly who lives with her mother and her grandmother. Shelly’s family has the unique ability to catch ghosts in their hair. Shelly’s mother tries to protect her from that life while her grandmother nurtures Shelly’s fascination with ghosts. Shelly loves her family very much and they are very tight knit, ghost preferences aside, until one evening Shelly’s mom doesn’t make it home and they learn she has died in a car accident. Shelly has a hard time coping with the fact that her mother is gone and hasn’t reappeared as a ghost, so she takes to collecting ghosts in her room until it is full to the brim.

What I like about this book is that for the most part the ghosts aren’t frightening and Shelly’s grandma has a very humane way of viewing them. In this book they are treated like any other person or animal. It was a nice change of pace to the typical ghost story. You get to see mischievous ghost people and their bones to pick with death and a graveyards supply of mice that met their fate to some very productive cats. It is slightly comical while holding that melancholy tone.

Focusing on Shelly’s grief was such an unexpected aspect of this story. You can feel Shelly’s pain and frustration at losing and being unable to find her mother, it haunts her every step. She is so young and faced with a tremendous loss, the emotion is very genuine in The Ghost Collector. There is one point in the book where Shelly is confronting a ghost bird and says,

“Why?” Shelly demands, “Why you and not her? If a bird can be a ghost, why not her? Where did she go? Where does anyone go?”

That piece of dialogue hit me hard. She is still a grade schooler and she is faced with such intense life questions. Shelly is one of the only people in the world capable of speaking to and caring for the dead, yet, she can’t find her own dead mother anywhere. Why? Honestly the resolution of this story so heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. I won’t spoil it for you.

The other theme that I really liked and found unexpected was the depth of exploration this small book went into about the affects of a loss on a parent. Shelly’s grandma lost her daughter and is now faced with raising her granddaughter alone. Shelly’s grandma, pre-car accident, hardly charged anything to clear ghosts from peoples’ homes but now she is forced to charge people and be more careless about the dead, and breaks her own set-in-stone rules. This has a major affect on Shelly, she thinks if grandma can break rules she can break rules. The cause and effect in this story is very clear and everything grandma does trickles down to Shelly. That’s how Shelly ends up collecting ghosts, she sees that grandma can break her own rules so why can’t Shelly hoard a few ghosts in her bedroom?

My only complaint about this book is that the perspective is difficult to read at first. it feels like the point of view should be different. It’s written in 3rd person but really feels like it should be written in 1st person. This story is all about Shelley and with the 3rd person perspective it feels like it is being narrated by an outsider. The words felt weird in my head when I began reading, and they threw me out of the story a few times. In comparison to the impact of this story this is a relatively small complaint but it something I had to get off of my chest.

The Ghost Collector has easily earned itself 4/5 stars in my book. This story is tragic yet beautiful, and it will make you shed some tears. Thank you to NetGalley and Annick Press Ltd. for giving me the opportunity to review The Ghost Collector.

The Weight Of A Soul by Elizabeth Tammi

How far would you go to save your sister? Would you kill a stranger? A friend? In Tammi’s novel The Weight Of A Soul Fressa is faced with those questions when her sister mysteriously winds up dead in the forest by her village. Set in the times of vikings we are thrown into a plot that is ever more complicated due to the mysterious Norse gods that Fressa meets along her journey.

Fressa is given the near impossible task to find a soul that weighs the same as her sister’s so that Hela can retrieve her from Valhalla. Time is running out as Fressa’s parents, the aloof chief and chieftess of the village pressure Fressa to marry her sister;s betrothed. Fressa struggles with the loss of her sister and the fear of betraying her love,

I struggled deciding how I was going to rate this novel. I will be honest the pacing is very slow and it was not the grand adventure I expected. Almost the entirety of the novel takes place in the small village where Fressa lives. To me it was a little bit boring to stay in the same place for so long, the same setting played over and over. For a fantasy novel to really stick out the setting has to be unique in some way, I didn’t feel a particular draw to the landscape. I kept waiting for this novel to take me to places I had never seen, and the one place it does take you to is seriously lacking in the detail department. So that was a little disappointing.

Something Tammi handles really well is grief. When Fressa finds her sister dead you can feel the Earth shattering pain that Fressa feels and you can see her depression thicken around her like a cloud. This is important because it helps us to understand Fressa’s descent as a human, she becomes a cold-hearted killer. She sinks low and is constantly trying to work out who is worthy to take her sister’s place in Valhalla, strangers become enemies and friends become potential victims. Everywhere Fressa turns a deadline is looming and her desperation grows.

In my head I went back and forth about whether I thought that the Norse mythology was used effectively or not. The gods play an important role in this novel and the symbolism is outstanding, but to me the gods themselves felt a little flat. Most history/mythology buffs know who Hela, Loki, and Odin are so I can understand why Tammi may have lightened their character development, but to me they came off as uninteresting. I was very excited for the mythological angle, but it left me wanting.

As I dug through this novel I was constantly debating with myself over whether this book is a 4 star rating or not, and the ending almost convinced me. The ending really wraps the story together and gives it a warm feeling, but it was also a little bit predictable. I absolutely did not dislike this novel, in fact it was quite good, but it had some boxes that needed filling to satisfy my reading expectations and it didn’t do that.

This book is a solid 3/5 stars. If there was a continuation of some kind I would read it out of curiosity, but I won’t be adding it to the top of my TBR pile.

What Makes Me Read A Book?

1. The number one aspect of a book that draws me in are developed and interesting characters. When I pick up a book and read the first few pages and the characters seem flat I will put it back down. I have a large interest in character arcs, I should be able to see how a character has changed from the beginning to end. I will almost always knock down a rating of a book by a star if it contains cardboard cutout characters. I hate that. It is completely within the realm of possibility to create depth in even minor characters. If characters fall flat it’s because there was a lack of care in their crafting.

2. I am a sucker for descriptive landscapes. That is probably why I like The Lord of The Rings so much. I want to be able to plant myself in the scene. It’s hard to do that if the setting is under developed. I want to feel the grass between my toes and hear the river gurgling in the distance. If I am planted in a field with no description than I am not truly seeing what the author was seeing, I am not where the characters are. When I write I typically go over a descriptive section at least ten times, adding and subtracting detail until you can see where my characters are and why it matters. I feel like setting has a purpose and can really add quality to literary works.

3. A good antagonist. Who doesn’t just love to hate a blood boiling antagonist. One of the bad guys that make you want to jump into the pages and just slap them into next week. A good antagonist matters because they have to be a match for the protagonist(s). If they are so-so and your protagonist is a total badass the balance will be off.

4. Finally, stakes. I have to feel like something is on the line. Whether it is tangible or not, there has to be something for each character to lose. I guess you could wrap this into character development, but for me stakes are one of those pieces that not every author nails and feel like a different entity. Stakes influence behavior and choices, they have to be high but not too high, and if stakes are low than why read it? I dont care if Joey may never get his red balloon back, but I do care whether Joey finds his long lost lover in the cave of doom. See what I mean?

What makes you read a book? Do you share a lot of the same criteria I do? Let me know in the comments.