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A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall

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Juliette Gordon Low: The Remarkable Founder of the Girl Scouts
Stacy A. Cordery
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Haruki Murakami, Philip Gabriel
Bliss (The Bliss Bakery, #1) - Kathryn Littlewood Bliss by Kathryn Littlewood was last week's Free Fridays Nook selection from Barnes & Noble. It's geared for ages 8 and up, but I'd heard it's a fun read for all ages. I love magical realism - Haruki Murakami and Aimee Bender are two of my favorite authors - so I thought I'd give it a try.

From the publisher's description (HarperCollins):
Rosemary Bliss’s family has a secret. It’s the Bliss Cookery Booke—an ancient, leather-bound volume of enchanted recipes like Stone Sleep Snickerdoodles and Singing Gingersnaps. Rose and her siblings are supposed to keep the Cookery Booke under lock and whisk-shaped key while their parents are out of town, but then a mysterious stranger shows up.

Overall, this was a fun read. Many times I laughed out loud. Littlewood has a way of portraying each character, no matter how minor, in a colorful and lively way. Plus, there were secret rooms, magical recipes, strange ingredients that come to life... did I mention secret rooms?! I recognized the villain as such from the moment she entered the story, and knew exactly what she would attempt to do. However, the character had enough complexity that I didn't lose interest, and enjoyed reading what would happen next.

When the first recipe was attempted, I thought for sure there was going to be a cliché tie-in with a tween crush that had been mentioned early in Chapter 1. That probably would have made me lose interest in the book entirely. I was so thankful Littlewood didn't do the obvious there! The behavior of the older brother regularly made me groan in an "I'm-embarrassed-for-you" kind of way, such as this moment in Chapter 15: Ty rolled up one of the sleeves of his T-shirt and flexed his bicep. Then he kissed it. "I might do some serious damage to this baby." I don't know. Maybe 14-year-old boys really do act like this. I know the humor is geared toward kids, though.

I do have to say, Rose's whining about not feeling appreciated, not feeling trusted, started to annoy me more and more throughout the story. Her parents trusted her with the key to the cookbook. They left her in charge of protecting it - not her older brother. That point seemed completely lost on Rose.

Littlewood does keep the literary bar high in Bliss. She seamlessly weaving words such as copacetic, din, putrid, natty, and elucidate into her sentences. She challenges her young readers' vocabularies without overwhelming them, providing plenty of context clues so they are able to grasp the meaning of new words without reaching for a dictionary. Chapter 13 contains some silly word play (I won't spoil it!) which should amuse young readers, especially. There were also some nice "lessons" in the book: trusting one's own intuition, the importance of expressing your feelings to your loved ones, and a touching moment when Rose saw a particularly annoying customer in a different light.

Bliss is the first in a series; the second book, A Dash of Magic, is due out February 12, 2013.