Cover Image: The Raconteur's Commonplace Book

The Raconteur's Commonplace Book

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Imagine me, about five or six years ago, up waaayyy past my bedtime to finish Greenglass House by Kate Milford. I shut the book and turn off my light, basking in that -just-finished-an-amazing-book feeling–you know the one. But I can’t fall asleep. So as soon as my baby wakes up to nurse, I take the excuse to grab my laptop and do a little research.

I’m a full grown, college-educated adult, and I had to google “Is Nagspeake a real place?” because I have rarely encountered a fictional world so believable and compelling. I mean, I wanted Narnia to be real. I daydreamed about slipping into Middle Earth. But I knew they were made up. With Kate Milford’s Nagspeake…I just had to check to be sure. And, reader, in case your own googling brought you here for some reason–no, Nagspeake is all made up. But seeing as you might not be able to travel in the real world for a while yet, you should definitely travel to Nagspeake via your local library or bookstore as soon as possible.

The thing that brings Nagspeake to life is the layers of world-building that Kate Milford brings to the story. She reminds me a bit of Tolkien in this way, actually–because not only does her town have a physical presence and history and evolving character, it has story and legend and music and song. In Greenglass House, the main character Milo reads a series of stories gathered in “The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book,” stories which are integral to the plot of Milford’s book. Like Tolkien with The Silmarillion, Milford decided to bring those stories to life by actually writing the thing. And it’s SO GOOD.

Instead of “merely” being a collection of stories, The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book is a series of puzzles within puzzles, all framed by stories and characterizations (oh, and gorgeous illustrations) that bring it all as vividly to life as her other works. I was surprised when I realized, “Wait, this is a novel as well as a bunch of stories!” and at that point I couldn’t stop turning pages.

I really don’t feel that I can say much more without major spoilers. I will give the warning that this is probably excellent on its own but would be highly enhanced by having a knowledge of Nagspeake from Milford’s other books, at least Greenglass House and Ghosts of Greenglass House.

Luckily, those books are good enough to keep you up way past your bedtime, so if you haven’t read them…. You know, do yourself a favor.
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As I have noticed while reading this I feel lost and confused. I'm pretty sure a book before this needs to be read before reading this one. Definitely interested in looking into the first one to see how it all plays out.
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The Raconteur's Commonplace Book is my fourth Greenglass House book. And I'm convinced that Kate Milford is one of the best world-builders around. Her ability to create an immersive and believable reading experience is astounding. 

In this installment of life in the Roaming World, Milford offers up the contents of a book readers were introduced to in Greenglass House. Milo was give The Raconteur's Commonplace Book by a guest at his parent's inn and now we get to know all the stories inside. In the style of The Canterbury Tales, guests stranded by bad weather at an inn tell stories to pass the time. The stories are wildly inventive and as more tales are told, readers begin to realize they may all be connected - with the previous stories told and the people who told them.

The only reason this book didn't get al five stars from me was the ending. It felt underdeveloped compared to the rest of the book. Maybe that was intentional, but I was left with a few unresolved questions, which isn't my favorite way to end a book.
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THE RACONTEUR'S COMMONPLACE BOOK by Kate Milford is another addition to her Greenglass House series for middle school (grades 5 – 8) students. I was really excited by the description this book, involving a set of travelers marooned together at an inn due to heavy rains. They share tales amidst a suspenseful setting. Anticipating entertainment akin to that from E.L. Konigsburg or Zilpha Keatley Snyder, I instead found the introduction of numerous characters to be confusing and tedious. If I was struggling to keep so many players straight, what would be the reaction of a typical fifth grader? Sadly, I may not have been patient enough and clearly missed something here - THE RACONTEUR'S COMMONPLACE BOOK received numerous starred reviews and Milford is a National Book Award nominee and Edgar Award-winning author. Give this title a try and decide for yourself.
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With thanks to NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for an early copy in return for an honest review.

I absolutely adore the Greenglass House series, but struggled a bit with this book and think my students would also struggle to follow along with the story. I thought the writing was very solid, I just struggled with feeling a bit lost.
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I absolutely adored Greenglass House and its sequel, Ghosts of Greenglass House. The stories of <i>The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book</i> play a big part in both of these middle-great wonders. So Edgar Award winner Kate Milford’s stand-alone recreation of the much-vaunted book could not help but be a huge hit, right? Right?

Alas, no. I simply could not get into these fractured fairytales set in the world of the early days of the 200-year-old Greenglass House; I could not finish it. I want to think it’s me, not Milford of this book. I hope your mileage varies, as Greenglass House is such a treasure. I wish I didn't have to give it a rating at all, as any rating would be unfair.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group and Clarion Books in exchange for a much-too-honest review.
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I received an e-galley of this title from HMH for Young Readers. I am a huge fan of Kate Milford, and I was excited to see what The Raconteur's Commonplace Book had to offer. This book is setup like The Canterbury Tales, with stories of Nagspeake fables and folklore broken up by short interludes of characters responding to each other's tales, sitting in an inn common room together. I adored this book, and was sad to reach the end of the book. Crossing my fingers for more Greenglass House titles!
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The Raconteur's Commonplace Book is about several strangers who are trapped at an inn during a storm. To pass the time, they begin to tell each other stories, which reveal many things about each other.

The format of the book is pretty similar to The Inquisitor's Tale, and this style of book is really interesting to me, and pretty unique. The stories were fun, and it was amazing how everything clicked into place by the end of the story. And things not only clicked into place in this book's contents; so much was added to other books by Kate Milford as well (so I would definitely urge you to read her other books before this one). I think that the book did drag a little bit at times (and I found some parts confusing), but I liked this book overall. Also, the cover is absolutely amazing, and the illustrations are really good. I would recommend this book for grades three through seven.

Thank you to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for the DRC (Digital Review Copy)
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The Raconteur's Commonplace Book is the newest addition to the world of Greenglass House.  Although this book is an anthology frequently referenced by Milo and others in the other books of the series, TRCB is also a story of its own, with fascinating characters who are all more than they appear.

The guests trapped at the Blue Vein Tavern have resorted to telling stories to pass the time until the rain stops.  While each story appears on the surface to be nothing more than that, narratives and characters begin to connect in strange and extraordinary ways to reveal secrets and truths about the Tavern's occupants--and not everyone wants those secrets revealed.  Milford has a knack for creating a larger-than-life yet realistic setting, and although readers have never been to the Blue Vein Tavern before, the larger world of Nagspeake is a familiar place, and fans of the series will recognize many of the locations and even other characters that come to life in the guests' stories.

That being said, it's not necessary to have read the other books in the Greenglass House series to enjoy TRCB.  This tale works just fine as a standalone, but it does provide a lot of information and clarification for other books in the series as well as Milford's other books, which are all part her larger Roaming world.  In fact, TRCB seems to connect to all of Milford's other books in one way or another, which has me wanting to go back and re-read everything to better understand the connections made by TRCB.

TRCB is an enjoyable and intricate read, and the characters' predicament of being trapped inside and having to find ways to pass the time is very relatable in the current day and age.  Although TRCB is technically classified as a middle grave novel, older readers will enjoy putting together the twisted puzzle that is so characteristic of Milford's books.  I highly recommend this to those who have previously enjoyed Milford's work or to anyone who is looking for a new, quick-to-read series that deftly defies easy classification.
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This was advertised as a stand alone but I do wonder if my enjoyment and understanding of the book would have increased with prior knowledge from the previous books by this author. The writing itself was solid and I was interested in what was happening, but kept finding myself feeling lost or unsure why I was meant to care about certain things.
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I'm a fan of this series. It's always circulated well at my branch.  This is a nice addition to the series, but a stand alone. the book contains a series of stories told by a group stranded at an inn due to  a flood.  Amazing how it fits in with the series! I recommend it to fans of the series. If you haven't read the series, read before reading this book. It will make better sense. Kudos, Kate Milford!
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** “The thing about telling a story is that one has to make choices. No story can contain every detail, so a storyteller has to decide what to put in and what to leave out. They have to pick and choose what to tell about what came before, what comes afterward, and plenty in between. It’s part of the art, making those decisions, but just as it’s very easy to leave too much in — and I am often guilty of that — it’s often tempting to take too much out.” **

Readers can return to the world of Nagspeake and Greenglass House with Kate Milford’s latest novel, “The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book.”

A standalone novel in the Greenglass House series that also refers to events found in other books from that series, this book offers tales told by 15 characters waiting out a terrible rainstorm at the Blue Vein Tavern and Inn. It soon becomes clear these 15 tales intertwine, offering a lesson culminating at the end.

Using imaginative folkloric tales told almost like parables and fairy tales, each story reveals a secret and mystery about its narrator as well as the other guests. Milford does a great job of developing intertwining imagery, like peddling wares, locks and keyholes, boxes, changing shapes and form, paths and tunnels, and crossroads to reveal the story’s arc.

“The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book” also contains several themes, like the art of searching; storytelling; fate and destiny; the strange and uncanny; the extraordinary calls to the extraordinary; and love and sacrifice (“Love can hurt. Love can be one-sided. And sometimes love requires sacrifices, too. But love is not predatory. Wherever you go from here, please be wary of anyone who demands to be given your heart rather than asking to be invited into it.”).

A disclaimer for parents: there are a few instances of mild cursing used, as well as smoking and alcohol use.

“The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book," due out Feb. 23, is a fun book filled with imaginative, intriguing and inspirational stories.

Five stars out of five. 

Clarion Books provided this complimentary copy through NetGalley for my honest, unbiased review.
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I received an electronic ARC from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group through NetGalley.
Milford offers readers the chance to explore the Raconteur's book for themselves. They've seen it referred to in the other Greenglass House books and now learn what is included in it. The magic spins out from the first page when we begin to meet the characters stranded at this inn. Only a few are what they seem. In the style of The Canterbury Tales, guests and hosts share tales from lore that somehow mysteriously connect to those gathered to hear them. Milford slowly reveals what types of beings each is as the stories come to life. 
A delightful book to accompany this series.
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Not what I was expecting. Maybe not having read any of the other books in the series has clouded my judgement but this book was not for me. It's written well but I found it hard to make sense of the characters and felt like I was missing previous knowledge. I enjoyed the tales more so than the interludes and  felt let down by the ending.
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A fantastic floodcammeron (in the spirit of The Canterbury Tales and the Decameron) for Milford’s Nagspeake, and an elegant piece of the puzzle that connects so many of her books, The Racconteur’s Commonplace Book is also a delight on its own, filled with heart... and secrets. I loved it.
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A stand alone mystery in the series involving an inn where mysterious guests interact, form mysteries and solve problems. Having read the first two and being enchanted with Milo and his family, I was hopeful for this book.
Though the characters are different, there is an air of similarity of guests being stranded together and a merging of strangers,
While the riverbank outside the inn threatens to break, the 12 guests and owners of the inn are forced to share endless time together.  A suggestion of sharing stories is put forth and over the course of a few evenings, everyone takes a turn. However these stories are folklore and share much more about the guests than imagined.  In each interlude, reactions and questions are provided by the listeners while the next story is prepared. 
Seemingly linked this sharing of tales brings forth the truth of the river flooding and the merging of strangers together.
Secrets are shared and discovered. Revelations are made and the truth is outed.
An incredible book full of excellent characters, folklore and a coming together of stories. 
Perfect to read on a rainy day when you can  imagine sharing stories and watching the rain. 
Superb storytelling and mystery building.
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Kate Milford’s Nagspeake series has been one of my favorites for the last few years. She has built a vibrant, mysterious, and wholly unique world in which her characters move in seemingly disconnected paths and times. 

The Raconteur’s Commonplace Book is the string that winds it all together.

Readers of the Nagspeake books first encounter the Raconteur’s book in Green Glass House. as a book being read by the protagonist, Milo. Here, we actually get to know the people in the book - their secrets, their talents, their imaginations, their deceptions, and their hearts. 

Essentially a book a short stories, fables even, glued together with an overarching people-stuck-in-a-house-by-impending-disaster trope, Raconteur pulls threads from each of the earlier Nagspeake books, giving the reader pleasant memories of past reading experiences. 

As a fan of Milford’s books, I enjoyed this immensely; however, if this is your first entry into Nagspeake, stop and go right to your library and get Green Glass House, then read all the books. I can’t recommend an order (even Milford can’t do that and she tries here, but read them all, then pick up Raconteur and enjoy the ride.
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