Welcome to the page all about books!
These are all the books I’ve read this year with a little snippet about them to entice you to read them. Feel free to make comments or leave suggestions. I am always searching for new authors to read.
(Sometimes I’m reading more than one book at the same time)
RELAXED & GROOVY BOOK CLUB PIC
RAMONA BLUE by Julie Murphy
Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever. Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family.
Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever. The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected.
With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Julie Murphy here.
Follow Julie on Twitter here.
Follow Julie on Tumblr here.
Follow Julie on Instagram here.
Follow Julie on YouTube here.
KILL THE BOY BAND by Goldy Moldavsky
Just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near them. That’s why we got a room in the hotel where they were staying.
We were not planning to kidnap one of them. Especially not the most useless one. But we had him—his room key, his cell phone, and his secrets.
We were not planning on what happened next.
From thrilling new talent Goldy Moldavsky comes a pitch-black, hilarious take on fandom and the badass girls who have the power to make—or break—the people we call “celebrities.” (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Goldy Moldavsky here.
Follow Goldy on Twitter here.
— Books I’ve Read in 2017 —
FROEHLICH’S LADDER by Jamie Duclos-Yourdon
I received a copy of book from the publisher, who I met through our mutual love of books and blogs. It’s a unique and wonderful, magical romp of a story. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale. I posted a full review here.
Froelich nurses a decades-old family grudge from his permanent perch atop a giant ladder in this nineteenth century madcap adventure novel. When he disappears suddenly, his nephew embarks on a rain-soaked adventure across the Pacific Northwest landscape to find him, accompanied by an ornery girl with a most unfortunate name. In their encounters with Confederate assassins, European expatriates, and a general store magnate, this fairytale twist on the American dream explores the conflicts between loyalty and ambition and our need for human connection, even at the highest rungs. (Plot summary from publisher’s website.)
Learn more about Jamie Duclos-Yourdon here.
Follow Jamie on Twitter here.
CARVE THE MARK by Veronica Roth
I borrowed this book from a friend who read this on the flight home from LA. That quickly. I have to say, I sped through, too. So good! But what do you expect from the author of the Divergent series? I loved the intensity of the characters and their chemistry was solid. Excellent world-building. Can’t wait for more.
Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power — something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.
Akos is the son of a farmer and an oracle from the frozen nation-planet of Thuvhe. Protected by his unusual currentgift, Akos is generous in spirit, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get this brother out alive — no matter what the cost.
The Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, and the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. Will they help each other to survive, or will they destroy one another?
Carve the Mark is Veronica Roth’s stunning portrayal of the power of friendship — and love — in a galaxy filled with unexpected gifts. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Veronica Roth here.
Follow Veronica on Twitter here.
Follow Veronica on Facebook here.
Follow Veronica on Instagram here.
OUTLANDER (OUTLANDER #1) by Diana Gabaldon
So many friends raved about this series. So many friends ordered Starz just to watch the TV adaptation of this series. I had to at least find out what all the fuss was about. I do have to tell you, the first person to tell me about this series was none other than my matronly neurologist. And how did she describe the books? By turning a little red in the face, fanning herself and exclaiming, “Oh, my!”
She wasn’t wrong.
The sex scenes are intense. And while I do see the appeal of the story – I did like Claire and Jamie, don’t get me wrong – I just thought it was a bit drawn out and had, well frankly, too much sex and not enough focus on plot. And the rape scene was just too much for me. It didn’t just make me uncomfortable, which I know is the point, but parts of it felt beyond gratuitous. I was so done with the book by the end, I wanted to throw it across the room. All told, I liked it okay. I’m not sure if I’ll read any more of this series. I may need some time.
Scottish Highlands, 1945. Claire Randall, a former British combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.
Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of a world that threatens her life, and may shatter her heart. Marooned amid danger, passion, and violence, Claire learns her only chance of safety lies in Jamie Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior. What begins in compulsion becomes urgent need, and Claire finds herself torn between two very different men, in two irreconcilable lives. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Diana Gabaldon here.
Follow Diana on Twitter here.
Follow Diana on Facebook here.
MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur
I stole this book from my daughter. (Fair’s fair as I did give her the book for Christmas and she kept telling me I HAD to read it, so maybe “stole” is a little strong.)
This poetry is raw and powerful. Devastating and healing all in one mouthful. Beautiful. I absolutely loved it. Can’t wait for her next volume, coming out soon!
milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Rupi Kaur here.
Follow Rupi on Twitter here.
Follow Rupi on Facebook here.
EAT, SLEEP, POOP written by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Jane Massey
I met Alexandra Penfold several years ago at an SCBWI OK conference when she was still an editor. I even took her out to buy her first pair of cowboy boots. She was so lovely. Now that she’s and agent/author, I just had to pick her first book. I got it as a gift for a friend who’s expecting. Of course, I did have to read it first. 🙂
This is a wonderfully delightful and delightfully human story about baby’s first days. Loved all the clutter and chaos depicted with a bit of whimsy. Great gift for any expectant parents out there.
A hilarious book about the busy life of newborns—an Eat, Pray, Love for the pre-verbal set (and their parents)!
The new baby hasn’t been here very long, but already has a busy schedule:
and, of course, poop!
This tender look at life inside and outside of the crib from a baby’s-eye view is the perfect present for new parents and siblings-to-be. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Alexandra Penfold here.
Follow Alexandra on Twitter here.
Follow Alexandra on Instagram here.
Learn more about Jane Massey here.
Follow Jane on Twitter here.
Follow Jane on Instagram here.
THE YOUNGEST MARCHER: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist written by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
Vanessa Brantley-Newton. What a national treasure this woman is! She brought me to tears during her keynote speech at the SCBWI LA summer conference. And to hear this woman sing? Oh! Is there nothing she can’t do? I’m so happy I was able to meet er and tell her how much I liked her work. She illustrated one of my friend Tammi Sauer’s books, MARY HAD A LITTLE GLAM, and I was so mad at myself for forgetting my copy at home. They were sold out at the conference. Of course.
So I bought this wonderful book instead. And now I have two books by Vanessa. 🙂
This is a fantastic story brought to life by the vivid illustrations that put you right into the emotions, right into the heart of the tale. Loved it!
Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference.
Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else.
So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il!
Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Cynthia Levinson here.
Follow Cynthia on Twitter here.
Follow Cynthia on Instagram here.
Learn more about Vanessa Brantley-Newton here.
Follow Vanessa on Instagram here.
Follow Vanessa on Facebook here.
DRAW! by Raúl Colón
Raúl Colón was another SCBWI La faculty member. I got to hear him speak on the Picture Book panel with my good friend Tammi Sauer. He was so wonderful. I’d already picked up his book for my son before I heard him speak. I knew he’d just love it. I was right.
I didn’t read this wordless picture book so much as I experienced it. The mesmerizing pictures told the story effortlessly and beautifully, without words getting in the way. My son was also a huge fan and now the book lives in his bedroom, in his bed. I will probably never see it again. That says it all right there.
Based on his own childhood, beloved and award-winning artist Raúl Colón’s wordless book is about the limitless nature of creativity and imagination.
A boy alone in his room.
Sketchbook in hand.
What would it be like to on safari?
A boy named Leonardo begins to imagine and then draw a world afar — first a rhinoceros, and then he meets some monkeys, and he always has a friendly elephant at his side. Soon he finds himself in the jungle and carried away by the sheer power of his imagination, seeing the world through his own eyes and making friends along the way. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Raúl Colón here.
THE WALLS AROUND US by Nova Ren Suma
I read this ahead of the SCBWI LA summer conference because Nova Ren Suma was one of the speakers. WOW! This book! So amazing! It was surreal and dark and twisty in the best ways.
And Her breakout session on Unreliable Narrators? Outstanding! I can’t wait to get to my manuscript with a certain unreliable character, now. Huge fan for life!
On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement.
On the inside, within the walls of the Aurora Hills juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom.
Tying their two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries…
What really happened on the night Orianna stepped between Violet and her tormentors? What really happened on two strange nights at Aurora Hills? Will Amber and Violet and Orianna ever get the justice they deserve—in this life or in another one?
In prose that sings from line to line, Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and of innocence, and of what happens when one is mistaken for the other. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Nova Ren Suma here.
Follow Nova on Twitter here.
Follow Nova on Facebook here.
Follow Nova on Tumblr here.
Follow Nova on Instagram here.
BONE GAP by Laura Ruby
My SCBWI OK group read this for their monthly book club. Although I couldn’t attend, I still wanted to read along. Wow. What a fascinating story! I loved the way she used magical realism – so well done. I loved the idea of a town full of gaps where people could just disappear, slip through.
The twist the main character was so interesting, I didn’t see it coming. Loved it.
Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?
Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.
As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Laura Ruby here.
Follow Laura on Twitter here.
Follow Laura on Facebook here.
Follow Laura on Tumblr here.
A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park
I wanted to read some of Park’s books before taking her intensive class this summer at the SCBWI LA conference. I started with this one. Beautiful and classic. So well told. (And by the way, I learned soooo much in her class. She’s a fantastic teacher!)
Tree-ear is an orphan boy in a 12th-century Korean potters’ village. For a long time he is content living with Crane-man under a bridge barely surviving on scraps of food. All that changes when he sees master potter Min making his beautiful pottery. Tree-ear sneaks back to Min’s workplace and dreams of creating his own pots someday. When he accidentally breaks a pot, he must work for the master to pay for the damage. Though the work is long and hard, Tree-ear is eager to learn. Then he is sent to the King’s Court to show the master’s pottery. Little does Tree-ear know that this difficult and dangerous journey will change his life forever. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Linda Sue Park here.
Follow Linda on Twitter here.
Follow Linda on Facebook here.
WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead
This book has been on my “Need to Read” list forever. I’m so glad I finally got the chance to read it. Touching and heart-wrenching, just the way I like my middle grade – and add in that dash of magical realism? Ah! You’ve won me over!
Four mysterious notes change
Miranda’s world forever.
By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, and they know who to avoid. Like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own.
I ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows things no one should know. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Rebecca Stead here.
Follow Rebecca on Twitter here.
PUG MEETS PIG written by Sue Lowell Gallion, illustrated by Joyce Wan
Sue Gallion came to speak at our SCBWI OK Tulsa anniversary dinner and she was just so delightful. I absolutely loved the illustrations. So adorable! For anyone who’s ever had their personal space invaded, and then learned to enjoy sharing it. This book is such a heart-warming read.
Meet Pug. Pug is one happy pup. He has his own yard, his own bowl, and his own cozy bed. That is, until Pig moves in! (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Sue Lowell Gallion here.
Follow Sue on Twitter here.
Follow Sue on Facebook here.
Follow Sue on Pinterest here.
LADY MIDNIGHT and LORD OF SHADOWS by Cassandra Clare
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Cassandra Clare fan. And I think this latest series is one of her best. So much so that right after reading this second book, I immediately started the first book again and read straight through the second book another time. I’ve never done that before. LOVED IT!!! Can’t think of anything I hated except for her putting some of my favorite characters in mortal danger – how dare she! (Just kidding! I just hope they survive in the next book – how will I ever make it to the next one???)
Plot summary of LADY MIDNIGHT:
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago―has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind―and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?
Plot summary of LORD OF SHADOWS:
Sunny Los Angeles can be a dark place indeed in Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the sequel to the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Lady Midnight. Lord of Shadows is a Shadowhunters novel.
Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?
And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.
Plot summaries from author’s website.
Learn more about Cassandra Clare here.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter here.
Follow Cassandra on Tumblr here.
THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough
RELAXED AND GROOVY BOOK CLUB PIC
I met the beguiling Ms. Brockenbrough at last year’s SCBWI LA summer conference where I got her book signed and I’ve been dying to read this ever since. It did not disappoint. I absolutely loved the premise and her characters were just divine. Read full discussion here.
ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA. HELEN OF TROY AND PARIS. ROMEO AND JULIET. AND NOW . . . HENRY AND FLORA.
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.
Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Martha Brockenbrough here.
Follow Martha on Twitter here.
Follow Martha on Facebook here.
Follow Martha on Tumblr here.
THE GRISHA Series by Leigh Bardugo
Still awesome the second go round. After reading her SIX OF CROWS ecology and seeing some familiar faces crop up, I wanted to go back and reread this series. It had been just long enough that I couldn’t remember all the details and I loved rediscovering the stories.
Plot Summary of SHADOW AND BONE:
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.
Plot Summary of SIEGE AND STORM:
Darkness never dies.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Plot Summary of RUIN AND RISING:
The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
All plot summaries from author’s website.
Learn more about Leigh Bardugo here.
Follow Leigh on Twitter here.
Follow Leigh on Tumblr here.
Follow Leigh on Facebook here.
SIX OF CROWS Duology by Leigh Bardugo
I enjoyed Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and I was thrilled to return to her Grishaverse in this new storyline. The characters were exciting and so dynamic. I loved the Kaz/Inej relationship – so different, so touching and painfully strained. Great adventure tale that I ripped through in record time. And did I mention the gorgeous design? Red and black pages. And those covers! I’m a sucker for great design.
It inspired me to reread the original Grisha series. I’m sure I’ll reread these stories again soon.
Plot summary for SIX OF CROWS:
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price–and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Plot Summary for CROOKED KINGDOM:
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
Plot summaries from author’s website.
Learn more about Leigh Bardugo here.
Follow Leigh on Twitter here.
Follow Leigh on Tumblr here.
Follow Leigh on Facebook here.
ON LOVE by Charles Bukowski
I’m really hit or miss with Bukowski and these poems were not different. I absolutely loved some of them, and others I didn’t care for. Still worth reading. He has a very distinct style I find fascinating.
A companion to On Writing and On Cats: A raw and tender poetry collection that captures the Dirty Old Man of American letters at his fiercest and most vulnerable, on a subject that hits home with all of us.
Charles Bukowski was a man of intense emotions, someone an editor once called a “passionate madman.” In On Love, we see Bukowski reckoning with the complications and exaltations of love, lust, and desire. Alternating between tough and gentle, sensitive and gritty, Bukowski lays bare the myriad facets of love—its selfishness and its narcissism, its randomness, its mystery and its misery, and, ultimately, its true joyfulness, endurance, and redemptive power.
Bukowski is brilliant on love—often amusing, sometimes playful, and fleetingly sweet. On Love offers deep insight into Bukowski the man and the artist; whether writing about his daughter, his lover, his friends, or his work, he is piercingly honest and poignantly reflective, using love as a prism to see the world in all its beauty and cruelty, and his own fragile place in it. “My love is a hummingbird sitting that quiet moment on the bough,” he writes, “as the same cat crouches.”
Brutally honest, flecked with humor and pathos, On Love reveals Bukowski at his most candid and affecting. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Charles Bukowski here.
CARING FOR YOUR LION by Tammi Sauer, Illustrated by Troy Cummings
Laugh out loud funny! I can’t decide what made me laugh more, the deadpan instructions or the fantastic illustrations that took them to the next level. Brilliant storytelling!
(P.S. don’t forget to look under the dustcover for an awesome surprise.)
I had the pleasure of hosting the creative team behind this story on #okscbwichat on Twitter. You can view the conversation here.
What happens when you expect an itty-bitty kitty . . . but get a lion instead?
It’s kitten delivery day, but—SURPRISE. Congratulations on your new LION! We know you ordered a kitten, but we ran out of those. Fortunately, the big cat comes with instructions—like, try very hard NOT to look like a zebra. Or a gazelle. And give your lion PLENTY of space to play. But soon the feathers and fur start flying and everything’s in chaos. Is there any way a lion could actually be a child’s purr-fect pet? (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.
Follow Tammi on Twitter here.
Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.
Learn more about Troy Cummings here.
Follow Troy on Twitter here.
Follow Troy on Facebook here.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE Series by Beth Revis
I went about reading this series completely backwards by starting with its companion novel, THE BODY ELECTRIC, which tells the tale of what happens on Earth while Amy and Ender are in space. Naturally, it made me curious about the series, so I had to read it!
In one word? Excellent! I raced through all three books.
Plot summary for ACROSS THE UNIVERSE:
A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. When Amy is frozen aboard the interstellar spaceship Godspeed, she expects to be woken in 300 years on a new planet. Instead, someone wakes her up early…and if Amy doesn’t figure out soon, the next people woken up might not survive–including her parents.
Plot summary for A MILLION SUNS:
Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Now it is ruled by chaos. It’s been three months. In that time, Amy has learned to hide who she is. Elder is trying to be the leader he’s always wanted to be. But as the ship gets more and more out of control, only one thing is certain: They have to get off the ship.
Plot summary for SHADES OF EARTH:
Godspeed was once fueled by lies. Ruled by chaos. Now it’s time to come home. But life on Centauri-Earth is far from perfect. Threats from the planet and from within the colony are tearing them apart, although Elder and Amy do all they can to keep it together. Because if the colony collapses? Then everything they have sacrificed–friends, family, life on Earth–will have been meaningless.
Plot summaries from author’s website.
Learn more about Beth Revis here.
Follow Beth on Twitter here.
Follow Beth on Facebook here.
Follow Beth on Tumblr here.
DUMPLIN’ by Julie Murphy
Loved everything about this book! Willowdean is amazing and I wish I’d had her confidence when I was younger. Face what scares you head on and throw in a dance number! Honestly, what’s not to love? Cue “Jolene” on repeat.
Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Julie Murphy here.
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THE YOUNG ELITES Series by Marie Lu
I’ve been dying to read this series ever since I met Marie Lu last summer and received my signed copy of the first book. I absolutely loved her LEGENDS series and couldn’t wait for more. She didn’t disappoint! Adelina is such a fascinating character. I thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through her for awhile. The complex relationships that don’t all turn out the way you think they will (or dare I say, hope they will?) add so many delicious layers to this wonderful series. I couldn’t read fast enough! And those gorgeous covers, ah! Love them.
Plot summary for THE YOUNG ELITES:
Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.
Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.
Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.
Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.
Plot summary for THE ROSE SOCIETY:
Adelina Amouteru’s heart has suffered at the hands of both family and friends, turning her down the bitter path of revenge. Now known and feared as the White Wolf, she and her sister flee Kenettra to find other Young Elites in the hopes of building her own army of allies. Her goal: to strike down the Inquisition Axis, the white-cloaked soldiers who nearly killed her.
But Adelina is no heroine. Her powers, fed only by fear and hate, have started to grow beyond her control. She does not trust her newfound Elite friends. Teren Santoro, leader of the Inquisition, wants her dead. And her former friends, Raffaele and the Dagger Society, want to stop her thirst for vengeance. Adelina struggles to cling to the good within her. But how can someone be good, when her very existence depends on darkness?
Plot summary for THE MIDNIGHT STAR:
There was once a time when darkness shrouded the world, and the darkness had a queen.
Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but with each conquest her cruelty only grows. The darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy all she’s gained.
When a new danger appears, Adelina’s forced to revisit old wounds, putting not only herself at risk, but every Elite. In order to preserve her empire, Adelina and her Roses must join the Daggers on a perilous quest—though this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger.
#1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu concludes Adelina’s story with this haunting and hypnotizing final installment to the Young Elites series.
Plot summaries from author’s website.
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DARKEST LIE by Pintip Dunn
I was lucky enough to win an ARC of this book. I’d already finished reading the first two books in Dunn’s FORGET TOMORROW series – amazing! Can’t wait for the next one! This book is very different as it is a contemporary realism story instead of sci-fi/fantasy. Still a really good read.
Intense and suspenseful. Although I loved the mystery aspect, I really enjoyed the messy, complicated relationships presented that exist between parent and child, and how loss can magnify this dynamic. Just made the story so much richer. The flawed main characters with trust issues struggling to love each other while all the scary things were happening around them were also a delight. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book!
Clothes, jokes, coded messages…Cecilia Brooks and her mom shared everything. At least, CeCe thought they did. Six months ago, her mom killed herself after accusations of having sex with a student, and CeCe’s been the subject of whispers and taunts ever since. Now, at the start of her high school senior year, between dealing with her grieving, distracted father, and the social nightmare that has become her life, CeCe just wants to fly under the radar. Instead, she’s volunteering at the school’s crisis hotline—the same place her mother worked.
As she counsels troubled strangers, CeCe’s lingering suspicions about her mom’s death surface. With the help of Sam, a new student and newspaper intern, she starts to piece together fragmented clues that point to a twisted secret at the heart of her community. Soon, finding the truth isn’t just a matter of restoring her mother’s reputation, it’s about saving lives—including CeCe’s own…(Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Pintip Dunn here.
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SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys
RELAXED & GROOVY BOOK CLUB PIC
I won an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book on Goodreads. I love Sepetys’s storytelling so much I would have bought it even if I hadn’t. This well-crafted tale creates vivid scenes that immerse you right into the bitter cold of Eastern Prussia in 1945, following the lives of four fascinating and complex characters. We not only get caught up in their struggles, but in the mystery that slowly draws them all together. Read full discussion here.
In 1945, World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, almost all of them with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer toward safety. Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.
A tribute to the people of Lithuania, Poland, and East Prussia, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome war, and proves that humanity can prevail, even in the darkest of hours. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
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I’M NOT YOUR MANIC PIXIE DREAM GIRL by Gretchen McNeil
Another fun pick from Colleen Houck’s Book Club on Goodreads. I’d been intrigued by the title and I really enjoyed the story, although it did kill an idea for story I had in development – well, I’ll just have to restructure the plot/completely gut it from the beginning, so no big deal. I never would have included the mathematics element – totally brilliant. Although some parts of the story may have been a bit predictable, I didn’t care. I enjoyed the characters enough to keep reading.
Beatrice Maria Estrella Giovannini has life all figured out. She’s starting senior year at the top of her class, she’s a shoo-in for a scholarship to M.I.T., and she’s got a new boyfriend she’s crazy about. The only problem: All through high school Bea and her best friends Spencer and Gabe have been the targets of horrific bullying.
So Bea uses her math skills to come up with The Formula, a 100% mathematically-guaranteed path to social happiness in high school. Now Gabe is on his way to becoming Student Body President, and Spencer is finally getting his art noticed. But when her boyfriend dumps her for Toile, the quirky new girl at school, Bea realizes it’s time to use The Formula for herself. She’ll be reinvented as the eccentric and lovable Trixie—a quintessential manic pixie dream girl—in order to win her boyfriend back and beat new-girl Toile at her own game.
Unfortunately, being a manic pixie dream girl isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and “Trixie” is causing unexpected consequences for her friends. As The Formula begins to break down, can Bea find a way to reclaim her true identity, and fix everything she’s messed up? Or will the casualties of her manic pixie experiment go far deeper than she could possibly imagine? (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Gretchen McNeil here.
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GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE by Sherri Dusky Rinker
Who would’ve thought poetry and bulldozers would go together so beautifully? Well-crafted tale that kept my son engaged time and again.
As the sun sets behind the big construction site, all the hardworking trucks get ready to say goodnight. One by one, Crane Truck, Cement Mixer, Dump Truck, Bulldozer, and Excavator finish their work and lie down to rest — so they’ll be ready for another day of rough and tough construction play! With irresistible artwork by best-selling illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and sweet, rhyming text, this book will have truck lovers of all ages begging for more. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
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LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET by Matt de la Peña (illustrated by Christian Robinson)
So many medals couldn’t happen to a nicer book! Beautiful story. I’m so glad my son finally allowed me to purchase it and read it with him. He doesn’t always go along with my recommendations! Loved loved LOVED this book!
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Matt de la Peña here.
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KING’S CAGE by Victoria Aveyard
Truly enjoyable read. Very satisfying conclusion to this series.
In this breathless third installment to Victoria Aveyard’s bestselling Red Queen series, allegiances are tested on every side. And when the Lightning Girl’s spark is gone, who will light the way for the rebellion?
Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.
As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.
When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down. Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Victoria Aveyard here.
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LOVER’S DICTIONARY by David Levithan
Who else would attempt and accomplish this seemingly impossible task?
This was initially a story given out to friends for Valentine’s Day – how apropos? I found it both quite charming and insightful. Both funny and biting in equal measure. So very Levithan.
If you enjoy this, you’ll love following his Twitter account, which is actually made up of entries from this book.
How does one talk about love? Do we even have the right words to describe something that can be both utterly mundane and completely transcendent, pulling us out of our everyday lives and making us feel a part of something greater than ourselves?
Taking a unique approach to this problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary has constructed the story of his relationship as a dictionary. Through these short entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of being within a couple, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about David Levithan here.
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I WILL SAVE YOU by Matt de la Peña
RELAXED & GROOVY BOOK CLUB PIC
Loved this book just as much the second time around.
Kidd is running from his past and his future. No mom, no dad, and there’s nothing for him at the group home but therapy. He doesn’t belong at the beach where he works either, unless he finds a reason to stay.
Olivia is blond hair, blue eyes, rich dad. The prettiest girl in Cardiff. She’s hiding something from Kidd—but could they ever be together anyway?
Devon is mean, mysterious, and driven by a death wish. A best friend and worst enemy. He followed Kidd all the way to the beach and he’s not leaving until he teaches him a few lessons about life. And Olivia. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Matt de la Peña here.
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PARABLE OF THE SOWER (Earthseed #1) PARABLE OF THE TALENTS (Earthseed #2) by Octavia Butler
I can’t remember what led me to Octavia Butler – maybe a list of outstanding science fiction, with a slant on diversity? I don’t know. Whatever brought me to her, I am glad. So amazing! And honestly, reading them now, they seem a little haunting and prophetic.
Plot summary for PARABLE OF THE SOWER:
In 2025, with the world descending into madness and anarchy, one woman begins a fateful journey toward a better future
Lauren Olamina and her family live in one of the only safe neighborhoods remaining on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Behind the walls of their defended enclave, Lauren’s father, a preacher, and a handful of other citizens try to salvage what remains of a culture that has been destroyed by drugs, disease, war, and chronic water shortages. While her father tries to lead people on the righteous path, Lauren struggles with hyperempathy, a condition that makes her extraordinarily sensitive to the pain of others. When fire destroys their compound, Lauren’s family is killed and she is forced out into a world that is fraught with danger. With a handful of other refugees, Lauren must make her way north to safety, along the way conceiving a revolutionary idea that may mean salvation for all mankind. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Plot summary for PARABLE OF THE TALENTS:
As America rebuilds itself, bigotry threatens a peaceful haven
Lauren Olamina was only eighteen when her family was killed, and anarchy encroached on her Southern California home. She fled the war zone for the hope of quiet and safety in the north. There she founded Acorn, a peaceful community based on a religion of her creation, called Earthseed, whose central tenet is that God is change. Five years later, Lauren has married a doctor and given birth to a daughter. Acorn is beginning to thrive. But outside the tranquil group’s walls, America is changing for the worse. Presidential candidate Andrew Steele Jarret wins national fame by preaching a return to the values of the American golden age. To his marauding followers, who are identified by their crosses and black robes, this is a call to arms to end religious tolerance and racial equality—a brutal doctrine they enforce by machine gun. And as this band of violent extremists sets its deadly sights on Earthseed, Acorn is plunged into a harrowing fight for its very survival. This ebook features an illustrated biography of Octavia E. Butler including rare images from the author’s estate. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Octavia Butler here.
THIS IS OUR STORY by Ashley Elston
This book was a selection for Colleen Houck’s Book Club on Goodreads in January. I find more interesting, new authors to follow from this book club. This book in particular was right up my alley. I love mysteries and this one was so great. There are alternating chapters told from the killers point of view without letting you know who it is. So clever! I loved reading this book! The pace was intense. I read it in a couple of days and was still trying to figure out the killer right up till the end.
No one knows what happened that morning at River Point. Five boys went hunting. Four came back. The boys won’t say who fired the shot that killed their friend; the evidence shows it could have been any one of them.
Kate Marino’s senior year internship at the District Attorney’s Office isn’t exactly glamorous—more like an excuse to leave school early that looks good on college applications. Then the DA hands her boss, Mr. Stone, the biggest case her small town of Belle Terre has ever seen. The River Point Boys are all anyone can talk about. Despite their damning toxicology reports the morning of the accident, the DA wants the boys’ case swept under the rug. He owes his political office to their powerful families.
Kate won’t let that happen. Digging up secrets without revealing her own is a dangerous line to walk; Kate has her own reasons for seeking justice for Grant. As she and Stone investigate—the ageing prosecutor relying on Kate to see and hear what he cannot—she realizes that nothing about the case—or the boys—is what it seems. Grant wasn’t who she thought he was, and neither is Stone’s prime suspect. As Kate gets dangerously close to the truth, it becomes clear that the early morning accident might not have been an accident at all—and if Kate doesn’t uncover the true killer, more than one life could be on the line…including her own. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Ashley Elston here.
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BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson
I don’t think any more awards could fit on the cover of this book. Still, I was struck by the title. I was transported by the imagery and moved by the emotions they evoked. Beautiful book.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, I always felt halfway home in each place. In these poems, I share what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and my growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.
It also reflects the joy of finding my voice through writing stories, despite the fact that I struggled with reading as a child. My love of stories inspired and stayed with me, creating the first sparks of the writer I was to become.
WHERE IT TAKES PLACE:
Columbus, Ohio, Greenville, South Carolina and Brooklyn, New York
WHERE I WROTE IT:
In all of those places but mostly in Brooklyn.
WHY I WROTE IT:
I wanted to understand who my mom was before she was my mother and I wanted to understand exactly how I became a writer. So I started researching my life, asking relatives and talking to friends – and mostly, just letting myself remember. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Jacqueline Woodson here.
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EVERYTHING EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon
I had so many writer friends recommending this book to me, I knew I had to read it. As usual, they were right. This book was fantastic. I was so wrapped up in the characters and the story, I didn’t even see the big twist coming, which is pretty unusual for a writer – still didn’t care. Actual made me enjoy it even more.
There’s now a movie version coming out. And I’m looking forward to reading more by this talented author!
Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. She is content enough—until a boy with eyes the color of the Atlantic Ocean moves in next door. Their complicated romance begins over IM and grows through a wunderkammer of vignettes, illustrations, charts, and more.
Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love. (Plot summary from author’s website.)
Learn more about Nicola Yoon here.
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TWO YEARS EIGHT MONTHS AND TWENTY EIGHT NIGHTS by Salman Rushdie
I received this book as part an event Mr. Rushdie participated in for Booksmart Tulsa during Banned Book Week in 2015. I also was able to hear him speak and to meet him (very) briefly as he signed my copy. Fantastic experience. He was a wonderful and inspiring speaker.
I really enjoyed this book – even though it sent me to the dictionary more than a few times. (I now know what words like solipsistic and susurration mean.) He has a great sense of humor and an amazing imagination. I’m always awed by his storytelling.
From one of the greatest writers of our time: the most spellbinding, entertaining, wildly imaginative novel of his great career, which blends history and myth with tremendous philosophical depth. A masterful, mesmerizing modern tale about worlds dangerously colliding, the monsters that are unleashed when reason recedes, and a beautiful testament to the power of love and humanity in chaotic times.
Inspired by 2,000 years of storytelling yet rooted in the concerns of our present moment, this is a spectacular achievement–enchanting, both very funny and terrifying. It is narrated by our descendants 1000 years hence, looking back on “The War of the Worlds” that began with “the time of the strangenesses”: a simple gardener begins to levitate; a baby is born with the unnerving ability to detect corruption in people; the ghosts of two long-dead philosophers begin arguing once more; and storms pummel New York so hard that a crack appears in the universe, letting in the destructive djinns of myth (as well as some graphic superheroes). Nothing less than the survival of our world is at stake. Only one, a djinn princess who centuries before had learned to love humankind, resolves to help us: in the face of dynastic intrigue, she raises an army composed of her semi-magical great-great–etc.–grandchildren–a motley crew of endearing characters who come together to save the world in a battle waged for 1,001 nights–or, to be precise, two years, eight months and twenty-eight nights. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)
Learn more about Salman Rushdie here.
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