Books I’ve Read 2015

 

— Books I’ve Read in 2015 —

 

 

UNDER THE NEVER SKY & THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT (Under the Never Sky #1 & #2) by Veronica ROSSI

under-the-never-sky-veronica-rossi_book1EverNight_final-compI picked up the first book in this series after hearing the author speak at an SCBWI LA Summer conference a few years ago. This first book was part of my 2015 PBR Pile Challenge and I wrote a review of it here.

Spoiler Alert: I loved, loved, loved it! I read through the next two books in the series in less than a week. Two made it into this year’s list. The last book, INTO THE STILL BLUE, will be the first book I finish for 2016.

One of my favorite dystopian series by far. Seriously. That good.

Plot summary for UNDER THE NEVER SKY:

Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland—known as The Death Shop—are slim. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild—a savage—and her only hope of staying alive. A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile—everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption.

In alternating chapters told in Aria’s and Perry’s voices, Under the Never Sky subtly and powerfully captures the evolving relationship between these characters and sweeps readers away to a harsh but often beautiful world.

Plot summary for THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT:

It’s been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don’t take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe’s precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both.

Threatened by false friends and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder, Can their love survive through the ever night? (Plot summaries from author’s website.)

Learn more about Veronica Rossi here.

Follow Veronica on Twitter here.

Follow Veronica on Facebook here.

Follow Veronica on Instagram here.

 

LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray

Lair of Dreams coverI would read a 500 page operator’s manual on how to build a piece of Ikea furniture if the incomparable Ms. Libba Bray wrote it. I love her that much. This highly anticipated sequel to THE DIVINERS was well worth the wait. I devoured this story slowly and with much eerie delight. I just adore these Divine characters and the supernatural setting Bray has placed them in. I will wait as long as necessary for the conclusion of this wonderful tale.

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer? (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Check out the Diviners website here.

Learn more about Libba Bray here.

Follow Libba on Twitter here.

 

 

DEVIANTS & COMPLIANCE (Dust Chronicles #1 and #2) by Maureen McGowan

Mcgowan-Deviants-500-268x400Mcgowan-Compliance-500-265x400I won this book, along with the sequel COMPLIANCE, during the Kidlit Cares for Oklahoma fundraiser a few years ago when that devastating tornado hit the OKC/Moore area and destroyed the elementary school. The first book was part of my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge. I wrote a review of DEVIANTS here.

I enjoyed the series so much, I read through the second book as quickly as the first. (And then I had to order the final book, GLORY, so I could find out how everything ends!)

Plot summary for DEVIANTS:

Glory, a sixteen-year-old orphan whose emotions can kill, lives in a domed city where her ability means Deviant—and dead. For generations, Earth has been buried in asteroid dust that’s mutated the DNA of some humans. To survive, Glory must hide her Deviant ability—and her paraplegic brother—from the authorities. When her boyfriend joins the secret police, she must flee the dome and outrun the sadistic, scab-covered Shredders living outside in the dust. Can Glory trust a mysterious boy with a dangerous Deviance of his own?

Plot summary for COMPLIANCE:

The slogan reads: Haven Equals Safety.

But for Glory, life inside the domed city of Haven is anything but safe. After rescuing her brother, Glory returns to Haven as a double agent to locate and save fellow Deviants. Far from her family, Glory faces danger at every turn as she trains to be a Compliance Officer–to track down and expunge her own kind–while she works undercover to rescue as many Deviants as she can. When people she trusts turn against her, Glory questions everything in which she believes and can no longer tell her allies from her enemies.

(Plot summaries from author’s website.)

Learn more about Maureen McGowan here.

Follow Maureen on Twitter here.

Follow Maureen on Facebook here.

 

 

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate

Ivan coverToo many people recommended this book recently for me NOT to read it. Beautifully touching story.

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about the real Ivan’s story and about the author, Katherine Applegate here.

Follow Katherine on Twitter here.

Follow Katherine on Facebook here.

 

 

THAT SUMMER by Sarah Dessen

that_summer-m8oyypmgrkb32gvgd9kpk04jrpf97hewrs72mnme80I read this as part of my 2015 TBR Challenge and I posted a review of this book here. This is my first Sarah Dessen novel, and coincidentally, it is also her first book. I’m sure I will read more by her in the future.

The more things change…

As far as Haven is concerned, there’s just too much going on.

Everything is changing, and she’s not sure where she fits in.

Then her sister’s old boyfriend shows up, sparking memories of the summer when they were all happy and everything was perfect…

But along the way, Haven realizes that sometimes change is a good thing. (Plot summary from Goodreads website.)

 

Learn more about Sarah Dessen here.

Follow Sarah on Twitter here.

Follow Sarah on Facebook here.

Follow Sarah on Tumblr here.

 

 

CRAZY BRAVE by Joy Harjo

Crazy Brave

I picked this book up after reading about Harjo winning a lifetime achievement award for her poetry and learning that she was from Tulsa. I absolutely loved this book and wrote a review post about it here.

In this transcendent memoir, grounded in tribal myth and ancestry, music and poetry, Joy Harjo, one of our leading Native American voices, details her journey to becoming a poet. Born in Oklahoma, the end place of the Trail of Tears, Harjo grew up learning to dodge an abusive stepfather by finding shelter in her imagination, a deep spiritual life, and connection with the natural world. She attended an Indian arts boarding school, where she nourished an appreciation for painting, music, and poetry; gave birth while still a teenager; and struggled on her own as a single mother, eventually finding her poetic voice. Narrating the complexities of betrayal and love, Crazy Brave is a memoir about family and the breaking apart necessary in finding a voice. Harjo’s tale of a hardscrabble youth, young adulthood, and transformation into an award-winning poet and musician is haunting, unique, and visionary. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Joy Harjo here.

Follow Joy on Facebook here.

Subscribe to Joy’s YouTube Channel here.

 

 

LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

Lets Pretend Cover

CAUTION! Do NOT listen to the audio version of this book while driving! You will crash and die. Seriously almost happened to me when someone was just reading aloud one chapter. Tears from laughing so hard blinded me and I had to pull over. Pretty sure I didn’t kill anyone.

For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris-Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father (a professional taxidermist who created dead-animal hand puppets) and a childhood of wearing winter shoes made out of used bread sacks. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter are the perfect comedic foils to her absurdities, and help her to uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments-the ones we want to pretend never happened-are the very same moments that make us the people we are today.

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir is a poignantly disturbing, yet darkly hysterical tome for every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud. Like laughing at a funeral, this book is both irreverent and impossible to hold back once you get started. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Jenny Lawson here.

Follow Jenny on Twitter here.

Follow Jenny on Facebook here.

 

 

ALL THE RAGE by Courtney Summers

atrbookpagedsI read this book in anticipation of hosting Courtney on our monthly #okscbwichat for October of the this year. I wanted to get a feel for her writing and be able to ask intelligent questions.

Wow!

I was just blown away by her writing. The intensity and rawness of emotion evoked Laurie Halse Anderson’s SPEAK, and yet it was it’s own very distinct creature. I loved this book!

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything–friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her past there. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time–and they certainly won’t now–but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

She splashes the color red not just on her MC’s nails, but drips it on every page. Gut-wrenching all the way through, and yet still loved every minute of it. I look forward to the next book.

Learn more about Courtney Summers here.

Follow Courtney on Twitter here.

Follow Courtney on Facebook here.

Follow Courtney on Instagram here.

Follow Courtney on Tumblr here.

 

 

ROAR! by Tammi Sauer

Roar coverWhat else can I say about this delightful and surprising picture book? I covered it at length in this blog post here.

I love the fresh concept and how the characters work out their problem together. while reading it, I immediately wanted to create my own dragon costume and make my dogs play with me. (I don’t have a cat.) Fantastic storytelling and outstanding illustrations! Loved this book so so much!

Roar Full Spread

With scissors and tape a boy transforms himself into…a dragon! “ROAR!” he says. He is BIG. He is SCARY. Well, not really. When two dragons come over for a play date, what on earth will these three find to do together? The boy doesn’t have big teeth and he can’t breathe fire. He is just a boy. And the dragons can’t eat ice cream or do cartwheels. They are just dragons. Luckily, the dragons care more about what they all can do together, like make silly faces and do the funky monkey dance. What they really care about is being friends. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.

Follow Tammi on Twitter here.

Follow Tammi’s group blog Picture Book Builders here.

Read my review with Tammi here!

 

 

THE REVENANT SERIES by Amy Plum

Die for Me coverUntil I Die coverIf I Should Die cover

 

 

 

 

I won the first book in this series, DIE FOR ME, last year after participating in an online chat with the Colleen Houck Book Club on Goodreads. We talked with Amy Plum about the first book in her latest series, AFTER THE END. (It is also fantastic, and I highly recommend it, too.)

This was such an intense, fast-paced and heart-felt read. I tore through this first book and continued on through the rest of the series in less than a week. Such wonderfully developed characters and rich story lines, it was a wonderful world to get lost in for awhile. I just loved it. The first book was also a selection for my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge and I wrote a review for it here.

Plot summary for DIE FOR ME:

In the City of Lights, two star-crossed lovers battle a fate that is destined to tear them apart again and again for eternity. When Kate Mercier’s parents die in a tragic car accident, she leaves her life behind to live with her grandparents in Paris. For Kate, the only way to survive her pain is escaping into the world of books and Parisian art. Until she meets Vincent.

Mysterious, charming, and devastatingly handsome, Vincent threatens to melt the ice around Kate’s guarded heart with just his smile. As she begins to fall in love with Vincent, Kate discovers that he’s a revenant–an undead being whose fate forces him to sacrifice himself over and over again to save the lives of others. Vincent and those like him are bound in a centuries-old war against a group of evil revenants who exist only to murder and betray. Kate soon realizes that if she follows her heart, she may never be safe again.

Plot summary for UNITL I DIE:

Kate and Vincent have overcome the odds and at last they are together in Paris, the city of lights and love. As their romance deepens there’s one question they can’t ignore: How are they supposed to be together if Vincent can’t resist sacrificing himself to save others? Although Vincent promises that he’ll do whatever it takes to lead a normal life with Kate, will that mean letting innocent people die? When a new and surprising enemy reveals itself, Kate realizes that even more may be at stake—and that Vincent’s immortality is in jeopardy.

 

Plot summary for IF I SHOULD DIE:

I will not lose another person I love. I will not let history repeat itself. Vincent waited lifetimes to find me, but in an instant our future together was shattered. He was betrayed by someone we both called a friend, and I lost him. Now our enemy is determined to rule over France’s immortals, and willing to wage a war to get what they want.

It shouldn’t be possible, none of it should be, but this is my reality. I know Vincent is somewhere out there, I know he’s not completely gone, and I will do anything to save him.

After what we’ve already fought to achieve, a life without Vincent is unimaginable. He once swore to avoid dying—to go against his nature and forsake sacrificing himself for others—so that we could be together. How can I not risk everything to bring my love back to me?

(All plot summaries from author’s website.)

Learn more about Amy Plum here.

Follow Amy on Twitter here.

Follow Amy on Facebook here.

Follow Amy on Instagram here.

 

 

READ BETWEEN THE LINES by Jo Knowles

Read Between the Lines

I first fell in forever reader-love with Jo Knowles after reading SEE YOU AT HARRY’S. OMG. That book! Seriously, if you haven’t read it, you must do so ASAP. Anyway, I had to pick up Knowles’s latest book as soon as I could, which is just another awesome exercise in literary greatness.

 Does anyone ever see us for who we really are? Jo Knowles’s revelatory novel of interlocking stories peers behind the scrim as it follows nine teens and one teacher through a seemingly ordinary day.

Thanks to a bully in gym class, unpopular Nate suffers a broken finger—the middle one, splinted to flip off the world. It won’t be the last time a middle finger is raised on this day. Dreamer Claire envisions herself sitting in an artsy café, filling a journal, but fate has other plans. One cheerleader dates a closeted basketball star; another questions just how, as a “big girl,” she fits in. A group of boys scam drivers for beer money without remorse—or so it seems. Over the course of a single day, these voices and others speak loud and clear about the complex dance that is life in a small town. They resonate in a gritty and unflinching portrayal of a day like any other, with ordinary traumas, heartbreak, and revenge. But on any given day, the line where presentation and perception meet is a tenuous one, so hard to discern. Unless, of course, one looks a little closer—and reads between the lines. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

I love how each story intertwines with all the others, and makes you think about what you’ve already read, and makes you RETHINK about what you’ve already read. Great story, as always.

Learn more about Jo Knowles here.

Follow Jo on Twitter here.

Follow on Facebook here.

Follow on Tumblr here.

 

 

LEONA MITCHELL: Opera Star by Gwendolyn Hooks

Leona Cover 2I received a signed copy of each book in this series from these lovely women for doing the interviews on the blog for them. Although it was my pleasure, I was so happy to receive the books! They are so beautiful and all have a ton of interesting, high-quality photographs. The Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing did an outstanding job on each book. I just love them.

I learned so much about each and every person from Oklahoma in the collection. I was so proud to read about them all. I do hope they continue this series!

Leona Mitchell was a regular little girl growing up in Enid, Oklahoma, except that she sang in the church choir at the age of 4, performed solos at the age of 8, and directed the choir at the age of 14. She always thought she was a good singer, even when her brothers teased her that she could not sing.

When Leona sang for the first time in her high school choir class, she began to realize her voice might be something special. With the help of Mrs. Priebe, the choir director, Leona stepped into the world of opera. She went from a good singer to an opera star, traveling the world, sprinkling her sparkle on audiences everywhere, including the Prince’s Palace in Monaco.

Reader’s will delight in Leona Mitchell’s story as they follow her from Enid to the stars. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

I grew up in Enid and all I knew about Leona Mitchell before reading this book was that there was a street named after her. Thank you for making her come alive as a real person! And such an amazing one at that! I wish I’d known her. What a great story about her life. Brava!

 

Learn more about Gwendolyn Hooks here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

Follow her on Facebook here

Follow the Brown Bookshelf blog here.

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

 

TE ATA: Oklahoma Cultural Treasure by Pati Hailey

TE ATA Cover 2I received a signed copy of each book in this series from these lovely women for doing the interviews on the blog for them. Although it was my pleasure, I was so happy to receive the books! They are so beautiful and all have a ton of interesting, high-quality photographs. The Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing did an outstanding job on each book. I just love them.

I learned so much about each and every person from Oklahoma in the collection. I was so proud to read about them all. I do hope they continue this series!

Born in 1895 in Indian Territory, Te Ata grew up during a time when Chickasaw children were not allowed to speak their native language in their own schools. They could not tell the stories or play the games of their culture. This was true for the children of many tribes throughout North America.

Te Ata worried the traditions of Native Americans would be lost or forgotten forever. For more than seventy years, she used her acting talent to show people around the world the beauty and wisdom of Native American cultures. She helped change attitudes toward Native Americans. Oklahoma honored her dedication in two important ways. She is in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. And she was named the first Oklahoma Cultural Treasure. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Loved learning so much about this fascinating woman. Well written and so much great detail!

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

WILL ROGERS: Oklahoma’s Favorite Son by Darleen Bailey Beard

WILL Cover 2I received a signed copy of each book in this series from these lovely women for doing the interviews on the blog for them. Although it was my pleasure, I was so happy to receive the books! They are so beautiful and all have a ton of interesting, high-quality photographs. The Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing did an outstanding job on each book. I just love them.

I learned so much about each and every person from Oklahoma in the collection. I was so proud to read about them all. I do hope they continue this series!

Will Rogers, Oklahoma’s Favorite Son, was a man like no other. Shy and humble, he grew up on a cattle ranch near Oologah, Oklahoma. At an early age, he learned how to ride a horse and throw a lariat, and eventually he became one of the most famous lariat artists of all times performing on stages all over the world. When he added humor to his performances by joking about world politics, government leaders, and even presidents, his audiences loved it.

Along with being a lariat artist and an American humorist, he became an international star, the highest-paid actor of his time, the highest-paid radio host of his time, an author, and a caring humanitarian who traveled the world helping people in times of need. He truly had a heart of gold and the entire world loved him. So how did this shy, high school dropout attain such worldwide stardom and love? Welcome to the world of Will Rogers…(Plot summary from Goodreads.)

What a delightful story. I learned so much about Will Rogers. Incredible life of a fascinating man.

Learn more about Darleen Bailey Beard here.

Follow her on Facebook here.

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

BILL WALLACE: Author of Adventure and Animal Stories by Jane McKellips

WALLACE Cover 2I received a signed copy of each book in this series from these lovely women for doing the interviews on the blog for them. Although it was my pleasure, I was so happy to receive the books! They are so beautiful and all have a ton of interesting, high-quality photographs. The Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing did an outstanding job on each book. I just love them.

I learned so much about each and every person from Oklahoma in the collection. I was so proud to read about them all. I do hope they continue this series!

Bill Wallace, an award-winning author of children’s books, was known worldwide for his writings. Readers thrilled at the adventurous situations in which he sometimes placed his characters. Some of Bill’s other books were funny with animals as the main characters. He wrote a total of 38 books. Seven of those he wrote with his wife, Carol.

Bill also traveled all over the United States, giving speeches about his books. Schools would often have him speak to various grades where students would learn about his life and his writing. He was an entertaining speaker, as well as a caring person. He tried to answer every letter he received from his fans, which could be from 500 to 1,200 letters a month. (plot summary from Goodreads.)

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

JORDAN TANG: Think…Create…Discover by Cheryl Schuermann

TANG Cover 2I received a signed copy of each book in this series from these lovely women for doing the interviews on the blog for them. Although it was my pleasure, I was so happy to receive the books! They are so beautiful and all have a ton of interesting, high-quality photographs. The Oklahoma Heritage Association Publishing did an outstanding job on each book. I just love them.

I learned so much about each and every person from Oklahoma in the collection. I was so proud to read about them all. I do hope they continue this series!

Dr. Jordan Tang is a world class medical research scientist. His work in the laboratory is the first step to finding cures for disease. He has been at Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City for over fifty years. His biggest thrill as a scientist is to see his work on its way to treating and helping people.

Although Dr. Tang has committed his career to research, he is also a talented artist and musician. In addition, he makes time to speak to students all over the world. Dr. Tang hopes to inspire a new generation of young scientists to think, create, and discover. (plot summary form Goodreads.)

Learn more about Cheryl Schuermann here.

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

HOUND DOG TRUE by Linda Urban

hounddogtrue-thumb

I read this in anticipation of our fall retreat where Linda was our guest speaker. It was the only middle grade of hers I hadn’t read, yet. I truly enjoy her way with character and the time she takes with story development. This is such a great book about the painfulness of being shy and not knowing how to share yourself with another person. Loved it!

And now I have a new Linda Urban book to read that I picked up at the retreat! Woohoo! She is truly amazing. And you should all read every one of her books. Seriously.

Do not let a mop sit overnight in water.

Fix things before they get too big for fixing.

Custodial wisdom: Mattie Breen writes it all down. She has just one week to convince Uncle Potluck to take her on as his custodial apprentice at Mitchell P. Anderson Elementary School. One week until school starts and she has to be the new girl again. But if she can be Uncle Potluck’s apprentice, she’ll have important work to do during lunch and recess. Work that will keep her safely away from the other fifth graders. But when her custodial wisdom goes all wrong, Mattie’s plan comes crashing down. And only then does she begin to see how one small, brave act can lead to a friend who is hound dog true.

Learn more about Linda Urban here.

Follow Linda on Twitter here.

 

 

CLAYTON STONE, AT YOUR SERVICE by Ena Jones

Clayon Stone coverI received a copy of CLAYTON STONE, AT YOUR SERVICE from the publisher, Holiday House. It’s one of the new releases from their Fall catalog. I love a good middle grade mystery. Throw in some fast-paced action, along with a surprisingly large dose of heart, and you have the makings of a pretty good story.

This is more than your average spy guy story. Clayton is such a wonderful character. You really feel his struggle as he tries to work through the discovery of this exciting new world before him, how he can connect with the lives of his parents and this grandparents,  and yet how not to disappoint his friends who don’t understand why he’s suddenly changed and why he’s letting them down.

When the President calls asking him to help catch a kidnapper, 12-year-old Clayton’s life is hijacked into the family business his grandmother has worked hard to keep him out of—the secret agent business.

In an instant, Clayton’s world has changed. As the mystery of finding and catching the kidnapper escalates, it begins to mean even more than risking Clayton’s life. It means lying to his best friend, putting the lacrosse season in jeopardy, liking the girl he hates, and then risking his life again. 

Join Clayton as he races against time to save a senator’s family. (plot summary from author’s website.) 

Learn more about Ena Jones here.

Follow Ena on Twitter here.

 

 

THE SIN EATER’S CONFESSION by Ilsa J. Bick

I won this book in an online contest a few years ago. This book is now the eighth TBR Pile Challenge books I’ve read this year. (Here is the review.) Intense is the one word that comes to mind after finishing this book. Thought-provoking is another. (Is hyphenating two words cheating?)

This is not a book for the faint of heart, or for those who like easy answers, and a cut and dried ending. As the cover suggests, this book is about life in all its messiness, and how deciding what to do can sometimes not be so simple as choosing between right or wrong.

I really enjoyed this book, especially how it shows the way we make subtle choices in our lives that didn’t seem like such a big deal at the time, but we soon wish we could take back or do over.

People in Merit, Wisconsin, always said Jimmy was . . . you know. But people said all sorts of stupid stuff. Nobody really knew anything. Nobody really knew Jimmy.

I guess you could say I knew Jimmy as well as anyone (which was not very well). I knew what scared him. And I knew he had dreams—even if I didn’t understand them. Even if he nearly ruined my life to pursue them.

Jimmy’s dead now, and I definitely know that better than anyone. I know about blood and bone and how bodies decompose. I know about shadows and stones and hatchets. I know what a last cry for help sounds like. I know what blood looks like on my own hands.

What I don’t know is if I can trust my own eyes. I don’t know who threw the stone. Who swung the hatchet? Who are the shadows? What do the living owe the dead? (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Ilsa J. Bick here.

Follow Ilsa on Twitter here.

 

 

THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS (Fire and Thorns #1) by Rae Carson

thegirloffireandthorns_new-200x300I’ve had this book on my TBR list for awhile. So much excited buzz about it and the unusual main character – couldn’t wait to read it.Finally had the opportunity.

Loved the positive body image that Elisa portrayed, but that wasn’t necessarily my favorite part about the book. Solid story and unique blend of styles in creating this world to play in. I look forward to reading more.

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses, the one who has never done anything remarkable. She can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who needs her. Savage enemies seething with dark magic are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’s savior. And he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do. (Plot summary from author website.)

Learn more about Rae Carson here.

Follow Rae on Twitter here.

Follow Rae on Facebook here.

 

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE by Jennifer Matthieu

alice_finalThis is the second author I was asked to interview as a pair – and again, seriously?

I’d heard about this book last year and I’ve wanted to read it ever since. So glad I did.

Loved the format! Four different POVs and none from the character the book is actually about. This added another layer to the examination of the rumor/gossip culture and why we participate, even when we know something isn’t true. Fabulous book!

Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Jennifer Matthieu here.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter here.

Follow Jennifer on Tumblr here.

Follow Jennifer on Facebook here.

Follow Jennifer on Instagram here.

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY by Julie Murphy

Side Effect CoverI heard all the buzz about Julie’s second novel DUMPLIN just about the same time I was asked to do an interview with her and another author. (Seriously? I couldn’t say ‘yes’ fast enough.) Just before the release date, I thought I should read her first novel.

Wow! This is such a powerful book. I loved the idea of a character deciding to take the vengeance route before dying and then getting a reprieve from that death sentence. Oops! And yet, this was not written in a campy or light-hearted way. She had good reasons for lashing out. Great character development and the perfectly awkward realness of the relationship between her and Harvey was just so, ah! I just loved it.

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

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.

Read her interview on my blog here.

 

GHOSTLIGHT by Sonia Gensler

Ghostlight coverSo much to adore about this book! This is the third novel (and first middle grade book) by my lovely friend, Sonia. First one she has set in contemporary times, and yet, it still has that delightful tingle-up-your-spine proper ghost tale feel of her previous novels that will have you sleeping with the lights on.

Bravo, Sonia! The perfect amount of spooky.

And great character dynamics, especially between Avery and Julian. Just loved this book! And so will you.

Things that go bump in the night are just the beginning when a summer film project becomes a real-life ghost story!

Nothing ever happens on Avery’s grandmother’s sprawling farm, where she and her brother spend the summers. That is, until Avery meets Julian, a city boy with a famous dad, whose family is renting a nearby cottage. When Julian announces his plan to film a ghost story, Avery jumps at the chance to join him.

Unfortunately, Julian wants to film at Hilliard House, a looming, empty mansion that Grandma has absolutely forbidden her to enter. As terrified as Avery is of Grandma’s wrath, she finds the allure of filmmaking impossible to resist.

When the kids explore the secrets of Hilliard House, eerie things being to happen, and the “imaginary” dangers in their movie threaten to become very real. Have Avery and Julian awakened a menacing presence? Can they turn back before they go too far? (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Sonia Gensler here.

Follow Sonia on Twitter here.

Follow Sonia on Facebook here.

Follow Sonia on Tumblr here.

 

 

THE BODY ELECTRIC by Beth Revis

The Body ElectricThis was a pick for Colleen Houck’s book club and I was intrigued by the title, alone. What a fantastic book! I loved the entire concept of delving into the brain and memories and what makes us real. Ella as the main character, struggling to come to grips with her world falling apart and figuring out who to trust and how to trust her own mind – ah! Just wonderful.

This seems to be a companion book to her Across the Universe series, which I now must read. Although I have to say, this book reads perfectly fine as a stand-alone.

Ella Shepherd can slip into other people’s minds. Using technology invented by her parents, Ella has the ability to experience–and influence–the memories of others. She’s used this ability to help ensure the safety of the world from a dangerous terrorist group, but not all is as it seems…because someone’s been inside Ella’s head, too.

Find out what happened on Earth while Amy and Elder were in space!

Learn more about Beth Revis here.

Follow Beth on Twitter here.

Follow Beth on Facebook here.

Follow Beth on Tumblr here.

 

 

FAIREST & WINTER (The Lunar Chronicles Books 3.5 and 4) by Marissa Meyer

Fairest CoverWinter cover

 

 

 

I absolutely love a good villain. And give me a story where I actually end up sympathizing with them? Oh, yes! FAIREST had me thinking way back to when I read Piers Anthony’s Incarnations of Immortality series where he wrote one book from the POV of Satan – incredible!

Meyer has us all in the palm of her hand, salivating for the final installment of the series, WINTER. This was such a nice distraction, and yet also glorious torture. I blazed through it way too fast.

Plot summary for FAIREST:

In this stunning bridge book between Cress and Winter in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles, Queen Levana’s story is finally told.

Mirror, mirror, on the wall,
Who is the fairest of them all?

Fans of the Lunar Chronicles know Queen Levana as a ruler who uses her “glamour” to gain power. But long before she crossed paths with Cinder, Scarlet, and Cress, Levana lived a very different story—a story that has never been told … until now. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

WINTER came along just in time to ease our suffering. This conclusion was just as well-written and fast-paced as the rest of the series and Meyer tied up everything very nicely. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire Lunar Chronicles.

Plot summary for WINTER:

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won’t approve of her feelings for her childhood friend–the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn’t as weak as Levana believes her to be and she’s been undermining her stepmother’s wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that’s been raging for far too long.

Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Marissa Meyer here.

Follow Marissa on Twitter here.

Follow Marissa on Facebook here.

 

 

IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT by Judy Blume

In the Unlikely EventThis is the first adult book I’ve read by Ms. Blume and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I loved how she showed the ways a tragedy – and even a bizarre series of tragic events – could affect people so differently. Well crafted, so thoughtful. I just loved it.

When a series of passenger airplanes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within a three-month period in 1951–1952, Judy Blume was a teenager. “These events have lingered in my mind ever since,” says Blume. “It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.”

Against this background, Blume uses her imagination to bring us the lives of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, who will be profoundly affected by these events, either directly or indirectly. But life goes on and Blume digs deep into her characters—we see them coping not only with grief but with first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between. . . . Most important, In the Unlikely Event is filled with the same warmth and authenticity that have won Blume the hearts and minds of readers of all generations. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Judy Blume here.

Follow Judy on Twitter here.

Follow Judy on Facebook here.

 

 

MOON OVER MANIFEST by Clare Vanderpool

PDF Creation in Quark 7Fantastic voice. Fantastic characters. Fantastic story.

Freakin Newbery.

Enough said.

This book was one of my 2015 TBR Challenge books. Read my longer review here.

The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Clare Vanderpool here.

 

 

I WILL SAVE YOU by Matt de la Peña

saveyou_bgThis is Matt’s self-proclaimed “sad” book and it did wreck me at the end. I loved the characters. I could relate to the heartache and suffering they were struggling with. And in the end, I didn’t even mind having my heart broken a little bit. That ending, though. Damn. This book was one of my 2015 TBR Challenge selections. Read my longer review here.

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.

Follow Matt on Twitter here.

Follow Matt on Facebook here.

 

 

SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King

Self EditingThis was the first selection for our OK SCBWI monthly book club. I actually read this years ago for a novel revision retreat. Great book. Fantastic resource. I’ve especially enjoyed meeting every month and discussing a few chapters with our group. It’s a wonderful refresher for those more experienced writers and essential information for beginners.

You can give your manuscript a real edge if you handle interior monologue, point of view, exposition (backstory), narrative voice, dialogue, etc. like a pro—we love it when a mainstream editor says of a client’s manuscript: “You’d never know this was a first novel.” By the same token, you may be a superb writer, but literary agents and publishing editors are unlikely to find out if your literary mechanics aren’t smooth.

Listed in the Los Angeles Times as one of six indispensable books for writers, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King, has been a bestseller for writers of fiction–as well as nonfiction such as memoir and journalism that employ fiction technique–since its initial publication in 1993. (It has since gone through many printings and a revised second edition, released in 2004.) (Description from book website.)

Visit the book website here.

 

 

THE SILKWORM (Cormoran Strike #2) by Robert Galbraith (pseudonym of J.K. Rowling)

SilkwormI really enjoy the characters and the crime mystery series Rowling has begun here. I especially like the development of Strike’s assistant, Robin. I love that she’s making their relationship messy and real. Fair warning: this mystery was a bit more grisly than the last one, so reader beware. Nothing most crime readers can’t handle, I would think. Maybe don’t read too close to dinner. Just a suggestion.

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…(Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Robert Galbraith here.

Follow Robert on Twitter here.

Follow Robert on Facebook here.

(I’m sure you know how to find J.K. Rowling, but here’s her other main site, just in case, here.)

 

 

SCARLETT UNDERCOVER by Jennifer Latham

Scarlett UndercoverThis debut novel from my fellow Oklahoma writer is seriously kickass.

I love a good mystery. Add in a feisty girl detective with the ability to defend herself and I’m over the moon. I raced through this book in record time. I do hope we haven’t seen the last of Scarlett. I have a feeling she has many more mysteries to solve. I’d love to be there when she’s back on the case.

When 15-year-old Muslim-American detective Scarlett agrees to investigate a local teen’s suicide, she figures she’s in for an easy case and a quick buck. But it doesn’t take long for that suicide to start looking a lot like murder, and for cults, ancient artifacts, and a very private billionaire to figure into things. To save the scared little girl who hires her, Scarlett has to face her family’s brave past, her own future, and maybe even a jinni or two. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Jennifer Latham here.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter here.

Follow Jennifer on Facebook here.

 

 

YOUR ALIEN by Tammi Sauer, Illustrations by Goro Fujita

Your AlienBook two of three releases this year for my dear friend Tammi. Had a brief peek at this one during her book launch for book one, GINNY LOUISE, earlier this month.

So cute!

I will now be looking out my window for something wonderful to come my way…more amazing stories like this! And those illustrations, are you kidding me? Love!Your Alien Spread

This is Goro Fujita’s first picture book, although he is no stranger to illustrations, as he is currently working for DreamWorks Animation. See his website below to view more of his work. Or you can wait for the sequel of this picture book! Yes, a second YOUR ALIEN is in the works already!

When a little boy meets a stranded alien child, the two instantly strike up a fabulous friendship. They go to school, explore the neighborhood, and have lots of fun. But at bedtime, the alien suddenly grows very, very sad. Can the boy figure out what his new buddy needs most of all? This funny, heartwarming story proves that friends and family are the most important things in the universe . . . no matter who or where you are. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.

Follow Tammi on Twitter here.

Learn more about Goro Fujita here.

Follow Goro on Facebook here.

 

 

MISSOURI’S HAUNTED ROUTE 66: Ghosts Along the Mother Road by Janice Tremeear

Missouri Haunted RouteMy dad picked this book up for me to help with research for a WIP I’m working on.I was really touched and super-impressed that he found something so specific to my story. I only wish the author had been more detailed in her recountings of the actual ghost stories and less interested in describing the architecture of the places sightings occurred.

Sigh.

Still, some of the more detailed stories may be useful and a few of the tales did give me actual goosebumps.

Alongside the nostalgic appeal of Route 66 lurk ghostly roadside hitchhikers, the Goatman of Rolla, amusement park spirits, Civil War dead and the shadows thrown by the mighty Thunderbird. Spanning three hundred dangerously curving miles, the stretch of the Mother Road in Missouri earned the title of “Bloody 66,” and some of its stopping places are marked by equally grim history. The Lemp Mansion saw family members commit suicide one by one. Springfield’s Pythian Castle was an orphanage before becoming a military hospital and housing World War II prisoners of war. Follow Janice Tremeear as she takes a detour down Zombie Road, peers into the matter of the Joplin Spook Light and even stays overnight in Missouri’s most haunted locations to discover what makes the Show Me State such a lively place for the dead. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Follow Janice on Twitter here.

 

 

GREY (Fifty Shades #4) by E.L. James

Grey CoverOkay, so I was curious.

I’d read the other three books and I wanted to see how James would approach the series from the male POV. My opinion?

Meh.

I had hoped for a lot more insight into Christian’s character and a lot less rehashing of the same exact sex scenes (blow-by-blow, pardon the pun) from the first book. It got repetitive and boring pretty quick. For me, not enough of what I was interested in. For most readers, probably exactly what they wanted.

See the world of Fifty Shades of Grey anew through the eyes of Christian Grey.

In Christian’s own words, and through his thoughts, reflections, and dreams, E L James offers a fresh perspective on the love story that has enthralled millions of readers around the world.

Christian Grey exercises control in all things; his world is neat, disciplined, and utterly empty—until the day that Anastasia Steele falls into his office, in a tangle of shapely limbs and tumbling brown hair. He tries to forget her, but instead is swept up in a storm of emotion he cannot comprehend and cannot resist. Unlike any woman he has known before, shy, unworldly Ana seems to see right through him—past the business prodigy and the penthouse lifestyle to Christian’s cold, wounded heart.

Will being with Ana dispel the horrors of his childhood that haunt Christian every night? Or will his dark sexual desires, his compulsion to control, and the self-loathing that fills his soul drive this girl away and destroy the fragile hope she offers him? (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about E.L. James on her website here.

 

 

SUMMER NIGHTS edited by Sarah Kettles

Summer Nights CoverIt feels very weird to have read something that I contributed to, but read it I did. I really enjoyed the other 12 authors’ stories – some I was reading for the very first time.

SUMMER NIGHTS is the first flash fiction anthology compiled by The Great Noveling Adventure. The collected stories run the gamut from first love to heartbreak, revenge to forgiveness, redemption to murder. They, like the thirteen authors who contributed them, are widely varied, but they each demonstrate the same truth:

A lot can happen in a single night.

With stories from:
Jenny Adams Perinovic, Gabriella Crivilare,
Cristina R. Guarino, Antonius M. Hogebrandt,
Neil Kettles, Sarah Kettles, Valerie Lawson,
Adriana Marachlian, Kyrie McCauley, L.S. Mooney,
Susan Nystoriak, Kate Sheeran Swed, and R.B. Stewart (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

To learn more about our anthology, and to download a free copy, visit our website here.

 

 

GINNY LOUISE AND THE SCHOOL SHOWDOWN by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Ginny LouiseI had the pleasure of reading this book early at our spring conference. I got to hold this lovely book in my hands and admire shiny details of spot gloss while reading the tale of Ginny Louise, a hedgehog after my own heart. Her approach to dealing with outlaws of the bully variety is delightful and refreshing. (No spoilers here!)

The Truman Elementary Troublemakers are a bad bunch. Especially these three: Cap’n Catastrophe, Destructo Dude, and Make-My-Day May. But they are no match for Ginny Louise, the new hedgehog in school. Her unwavering cheerfulness in the face of their bullying will make young readers holler with glee. Full of rhymes, wordplay, and comic misunderstanding, this book will lend itself well to reading aloud as well as discussions about peer dynamics. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Tammi Sauer here.

Follow Tammi on Twitter here.

 

 

 

HOLD ME CLOSER: THE TINY COOPER STORY by David Levithan

9780525428848_HoldMeCloser_BOM_CV.inddI absolutely loved WILL GRAYSON, WILL GRAYSON. And one of the best things about that novel was Tiny Cooper. I was so excited that he finally got his own book! And this book is 100% Tiny. So funny and fabulous, I never wanted it to end. I do hope someone really does make this into a musical. I’d love to see it!

A novel in musical form – or a musical in novel form. Either way, Hold Me Closer is the story of Tiny Cooper, first seen in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, from fabulous birth to epic boyfriend problems… and beyond.

About the book:

Especially for those of us who ordinarily feel ignored, a spotlight is a circle of magic, with the strength to draw us from the darkness of our everyday lives. 

Watch out, ex-boyfriends, and get out of the way, homophobic coaches. Tiny Cooper has something to say—and he’s going to say it in song.

Filled with honesty, humor, and “big, lively, belty” musical numbers, Hold Me Closer is the no-holds-barred (and many-bars-held) entirety of the beloved musical first introduced in Will Grayson, Will Grayson, the award-winning bestseller by John Green and David Levithan.

Tiny Cooper is finally taking center stage . . . and the world will never be the same again. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about David Levithan here.

Follow David on Twitter here.

Follow David on Facebook here.

 

 

 

LIFE AFTER LIFE & A GOD IN RUINS by Kate Atkinson

Life After LifeA God in RuinsA GOD IN RUINS was selected by Gillian Flynn (author of GONE GIRL and SHARP OBJECTS) as the most recent NPR Morning Edition Reads book club selection. As the description mentioned it was a companion novel, so of course I felt compelled to read the first book, LIFE AFTER LIFE. I am so glad I did. I truly enjoyed the first book infinitely more than the second, in all honesty.

Ursula’s story was so fascinating and compelling. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of reincarnation, but Atkinson turns that idea on its head by having her character restart the same life from the beginning, having her sidestep past mistakes that caused her earlier demise(s). The way she tells the story can be jarring at times with its out of sequence style, and yet, somehow, for the most part, it works. The characters and settings are gorgeously vivid and full of life.

Although I did enjoy the second novel, it took me more time to get in to, and I missed the mystical/magical element from the first one. I also missed Ursula. After I was finished reading the second book and understood the purpose the author had for the story, I did appreciate it much more. Really unique, fascinating reads. I look forward to reading more from this author.

 

Plot summary for LIFE AFTER LIFE:

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life’s bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

Don’t you wonder sometimes,’ Ursula said.  ‘If just one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean.  If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in – I don’t know, say, a Quaker household – surely things would be different.
But nobody knows what’s going to happen. And anyway he might have turned out just the same, Quakers or no Quakers. You might have to kill him instead of kidnapping him.  Could you do that?  Could you kill a baby?  With a gun?  Or what if you had no gun, how about with your bare hands? In cold blood.

If I thought it would save Teddy, Ursula thought. 
Not  just Teddy, of course, the rest of the world, too. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Plot summary for A GOD IN RUINS:

He had been reconciled to death during the war and then suddenly the war was over and there was a next day and a next day and a next day.  Part of him never adjusted to having a future.

Kate Atkinson’s dazzling Life After Life explored the possibility of infinite chances, as Ursula Todd lived through the turbulent events of the last century again and again.  In A God in Ruins, Atkinson turns her focus on Ursula’s beloved younger brother Teddy – would-be poet, heroic pilot, husband, father, and grandfather – as he navigates the perils and progress of the 20th century.  For all Teddy endures in battle, his greatest challenge will be to face living in a future he never expected to have.

A God in Ruins is a masterful novel. It looks not only at war – that great fall of man from grace – but also at the endless opportunities offered by fiction. Few will dispute that it proves once again that Kate Atkinson is one of the finest novelists of our age. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Kate Atkinson here

Follow Kate on Facebook here.

If you are interested in reading about the NPR book club and the author’s appearance on the show, click here.

 

 

REMY AND LULU by Kevin Hawkes (additional illustrations by Hannah E. Harrison)

Remy and LuluHannah Harrison did the artwork miniatures for this book, so I bought a copy at our last spring conference. Hannah first started working in the miniature art medium many years ago when she joined the Cider Painters of America. She’s even won many awards for her tiny paintings. (To view some of them, see her website below. They are truly amazing!)

Hannah did some apprenticing under Kevin Hawkes and he later asked her to work on this project. How exciting!

This story is so cute – really just delightful. Through his subtle storytelling and their combined artwork, Hawkes and Harrison convey the idea that it’s never too early to learn that there’s more than one way to express the creative spark inside.

Lulu and her master, Remy, a passionate but struggling portrait painter, wander the French countryside looking for customers. They don’t need much business —just enough for some figs and cheese to keep their bellies full—but not many people seem to appreciate Remy’s abstract style.

Before long, Lulu secretly lends a paw to Remy’s work and—voilà!—the pair are the most celebrated artists on the salon circuit. If only Remy knew why . . .

With art from both beloved children’s book illustrator Kevin Hawkes and award-winning miniatures artist Hannah Harrison, this funny and heartwarming story about friendship and creativity shows that there are many ways to be good at the same thing . . . and that a true friend is always there for you. (Plot summary from Harrison’s website.)

Learn more about Kevin Hawkes here.

Learn more about Hannah E. Harrison here.

Follow Hannah on Facebook here.

 

 

BERNICE GETS CARRIED AWAY by Hannah E. Harrison

BerniceI so was excited when I greeted Hannah at our last spring conference and she said, “I have something for you!” I couldn’t wait to see what it was. Then she gave me an early folded and gathered copy of her new book! I was so thrilled! (I did ask her to sign it for me and she did, of course. She’s such a doll!) I had of course already pre-ordered a hardback copy months earlier. I’ll have her sign THAT one later to my son. (He’ll probably carry it around all the time like he does her first book, EXTRAORDINARY JANE.)

The artwork is delightfully expressive! How Harrison plays with color and perspective enhances the emotion of the story so well. Just looking at those eyes when Bernice receives that “plain white square from the middle” of the birthday cake, it makes you feel sad all over. One can understand how she gets carried away…

Bernice is having a truly rotten time at her friend’s birthday party. First, everyone else gets a piece of cake with a frosting rose. But not Bernice. Then, everyone else gets strawberry-melon soda. Bernice gets the prune-grapefruit juice. And it’s warm. The last straw is the one lousy (squished) candy she gets from the piñata. So when the balloons arrive, Bernice knows just what she has to do: grab them all. And then, poor cross Bernice gets carried up, up, and away. Luckily, she figures out just how to make her way back down to the party…and she brightens lots of other animals’ days on her way.

Hannah Harrison’s gorgeous animal paintings come alive in her second picture book. Her “exceptionally polished” debut, Extraordinary Jane, received starred reviews from KirkusPublisher’s Weekly, and  School Library Journal. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Hannah E. Harrison here.

Follow Hannah on Facebook here.

 

 

GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE by A.S. King

gloryI have been an avid fan of Ms. King’s since her debut novel, PLEASE IGNORE VERA DIETZ, which won her the Printz Honor award. I haven’t missed a book since. For those who do not know the awe and inspiring power of this mind-blowing writer, I beseech you to rectify the situation immediately. Each novel she writes is a unique experience, always with King’s own special touch of magical realism that enhances the emotional depth of the story.

As John Green says on the cover of this book, “A.S. King is one of the best Y.A. writers working today.” I can’t argue with that.

WOULD YOU TRY TO CHANGE THE WORLD IF YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD NO FUTURE?

Graduating from high school is a time of limitless possibilities—but not for Glory, who has no plan for what’s next. Her mother committed suicide when Glory was only four years old, and she’s never stopped wondering if she will eventually go the same way…until a transformative night when she begins to experience an astonishing new power to see a person’s infinite past and future. From ancient ancestors to many generations forward, Glory is bombarded with visions—and what she sees ahead of her is terrifying.

A tyrannical new leader raises an army. Women’s rights disappear. A violent second civil war breaks out. And young girls vanish daily, sold off or interned in camps. Glory makes it her mission to record everything she sees, hoping her notes will somehow make a difference. She may not see a future for herself, but she’ll do everything in her power to make sure this one doesn’t come to pass.

In this masterpiece about freedom, feminism, and destiny, Printz Honor author A.S. King tells the epic story of a girl coping with devastating loss at long last—a girl who has no idea that the future needs her, and that the present needs her even more. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

From the opening pages, I thought King had ripped off scenes from my teen years. Seriously. I thought maybe she’d stolen pages from my hidden diary.

Just like Glory, I was raised by my single father, a feminist, who taught me to be a strong, feminist in my own right. My mother was also missing from the picture, although the reason was far less dramatic than in Glory’s case – divorce/lack of interest. Just like Glory, I felt that hole in my life and had unanswered questions about the missing person that left terrible, damaging scars. This book is so important for showing kids how they can navigate and survive this kind of loss.

It’s also one hell of a kickass story.

Learn more about A.S. King here.

Follow A.S. King on Twitter here.

 

 

THE SCORPIO RACES by Maggie Stiefvater

Scorpio-paperback-websiteI received this book for Christmas a few years ago and I just now got around to reading it as part of my TBR Challenge. Such a fascinating read. Read my blog post with a longer review here.

It happens at the start of every November: The Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.

Some riders live. Others die.

Based on the legends of the eich uisce — the Celtic water horse — The Scorpio Races take place on the tiny, fictional island of Thisby. Each November, water horses emerge from the black ocean and gallop the beach beneath the cliffs of Thisby. And each November, men capture these horses for a thrilling and deadly race.

Both Sean Kendrick, four time champion, and Kate “Puck” Connolly, newcomer to the races, will ride this year, and both of them have more to gain — or lose — than in any previous year. But only one can win. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

I so wanted both characters to win the race, which I think says a lot about Stiefvater’s ability to make us care deeply about these imaginary people in a very real way. Of course, I’m not going to tell you how the race ends, that would be cheating. It is a very intense story that doesn’t disappoint.

Learn more about Maggie Stiefvater here.

Follow Maggie on Twitter here.

Follow Maggie on Tumblr here.

 

 

STRONG POISON by Dorothy L. Sayers

Strong PoisonA lovely writer I know forced this book on me – I jest. She made a reference to the characters in this book while we were chatting on Twitter. I found them quite appealing, so I said I must read one of their books immediately. That made her very happy and she agreed enthusiatically.

I found this book in a similar vein, yet distinctly different from Agatha Christie. It reminded me of the days of my youth when I used to tear through her books in a weekend and wonder at the fascinating, yet other-worldy lives of the people that existed in her novels.

Mystery novelist Harriet Vane knew all about poisons, and when her fiancé died in the manner prescribed in one of her books, a jury of her peers had a hangman’s noose in mind. But Lord Peter Wimsey was determined to find her innocent as determined as he was to make her his wife. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

I loved the mystery and Lord Wimsey – and, indeed, the chemistry between him and Harriet. The use of language was just fun. And although I only once ever figured out whodunit in a Christie novel, I was fairly sure what happened in this one, if not exactly how. Still, the book was great fun to read. I do look forward to reading more from Sayers with Peter and Harriet. (Thank you, Sonia!)

Learn more about Dorothy L. Sayers here.

 

 

 

THE HEARTBREAK MESSENGER  by Alexander Vance

Hearbreak MessengerThis book was recommended during our SCBWI OK conference by Laura Biagi. Her agency represents this author. I found the premise interesting and I’ve been wanting to read more Middle Grade, so I dove right in. Quentin was a kid after my own heart. My best friend and I used to be just as enterprising when we were that age. Once on a fabulous snow day, my bff and I hit up all the neighbors with our spontaneous snow-shoveling business. We raked in the dough and didn’t regret a minute of it. There was far less drama than in this story, although we did compose a song about hating shoveling snow by day’s end. The money we loved.

This story is well-written with a cast of characters that keeps you reading till the end, hoping all turns out well. Although you can kind of see the ending coming, it still is fun to read. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Quentin never asked to be the Heartbreak Messenger, it just kind of happened. The valuable communication service he offers is simple: he delivers break-up messages. For a small fee, he will deliver that message to your soon-to-be ex-girlfriend. If you order the deluxe package, he’ll even throw in some flowers and a box of chocolates. You know, to soften the blow…

At first, Quentin’s entrepreneurial brainchild is surprisingly successful. But as he interacts with clients, message recipients, and his long-time best friend, Abigail, it doesn’t take long for him to wonder if his own heart will remain intact. Quentin discovers that the game of love and the emotions that go with it are as complicated as they come–even for an almost innocent bystander. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Alexander Vance here.

Follow Alexander on Twitter here.

Follow Alexander on Facebook here.

 

 

SAILING ALONE AROUND THE ROOM; New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins

Sailing AloneThis poet was suggested reading by our previous Oklahoma Poet Laureate and he hasn’t steered me wrong, yet. This book as the title indicates is broken up into sections from other works and then concludes with new poems from the author. Collins starts off with a bang by opening with the poem Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House, which doesn’t discuss gun ownership as much as it gives delightful description of the never-ending barking of the dog next door. I loved Introduction to Poetry because it’s basically how I approach poetry versus how I feel I’m supposed to:

 

I ask them to take a poem

and hold it up to the light

like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem

and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem’s room

and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water-ski

across the surface of a poem

waving at the author’s name on the shore.

But all they want to do

is tie the poem to a chair with rope

and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose

to find out what it really means.

Some other poems are a little more somber and pensive in tone, like Picnic, Lightning which discusses the possibility and randomness of death while living moment to moment and still others border on the surreal like Purity, which has the poet discussing his favorite time to write and how he goes about it, going as far as removing his flesh and organs “so that what I write will be pure, completely reined of the carnal, uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.” It goes farther out there, but I’ll let you read it for yourself. Then there is Japan which is just so beautiful that it defies description (by me, at least) and must just be experienced. Really a wonderful collection to introduce you to this poet.

Sailing Alone Around the Room, by America’s Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, contains both new poems and a generous gathering from his earlier collections The Apple That Astonished ParisQuestions About AngelsThe Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. These poems show Collins at his best, performing the kinds of distinctive poetic maneuvers that have delighted and fascinated so many readers. They may begin in curiosity and end in grief; they may start with irony and end with lyric transformation; they may, and often do, begin with the everyday and end in the infinite. Possessed of a unique voice that is at once plain and melodic, Billy Collins has managed to enrich American poetry while greatly widening the circle of its audience. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Billy Collins here.

Follow Billy on Facebook here.

 

 

THIRST by Mary Oliver

ThirstI wanted to read more poetry by women for April and this is the best book of poetry I could find at my local bookstore. The one that called to me. I loved the title and I’ve already read two other books of poetry by Oliver, so I knew I’d enjoy it, but nothing quite prepared me for this one.

WOW.

Talk about reaching a powerful transcendental spiritual connection. Words cannot describe how deeply I was moved by these words.

Here is the shortest, yet not the least of poems, that stopped me in my tracks:

The Uses of Sorrow

(In my sleep I dreamed this poem)

Someone I loved once gave me

a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand

that this, too, was a gift.

There were many others that had me reeling in wonderment. I just adored this collection. It lightened my heart in a time when my heart needed lightening. when I read the last poem, I closed the book and hugged it to me. I will cherish this collection of poems always.

Thirst, a collection of forty-three new poems from the Pulitzer Prize-winner Mary Oliver, introduces two new directions in the poet’s work. Grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over forty years, she strives to experience sorrow as a path to spiritual progress, grief as part of loving and not its end. And within these pages she chronicles for the first time her discovery of faith, without abandoning the love of the physical world that has been a hallmark of her work for four decades. In three stunning long poems, Oliver explores the dimensions and tests the parameters of religious doctrine, asking of being good, for example, “To what purpose? / Hope of Heaven? Not that. But to enter / the other kingdom: grace, and imagination, / and the multiple sympathies: to be as a leaf, a rose,/ a dolphin.” (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Mary Oliver here.

 

 

THE DARK DIVINE SERIES by Bree Despain
Dark Divine CoverLost SaintSavage Grace

The first book I read by Bree Despain was last year when I read the first book in her second series, Into the Dark called THE SHADOW PRINCE. After participating in an online book club chat with Ms Despain, I actually won a copy of the first book in this series, THE DARK DIVINE. I’d been dying to read it ever since I’d heard Greg Ferguson – her editor – talk about it at a conference a few years ago. He even discussed in detail how they’d agonized over that stunning cover. So fascinating.The first book was one of my 2015 TBR Challenge selections. Read the full review here.

I must admit, after viewing the cover, I was surprised when this series turned out to be about werewolves. Clueless. Once I read the first book, though, I was hooked on the characters. I found the dynamic between Daniel, Grace, and Jude to be very compelling. I quickly read on to the next book. I enjoyed the entire series. 

Plot summary for THE DARK DIVINE:

I stood back and watched his movements. Daniel had that way about him that could shut me down in an instant. . . . I kicked the gravel a couple of times and worked up my courage again. “Tell me . . . I mean . . . why did you come back? Why now, after all this time?”

Grace Divine, daughter of the local pastor, always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared—the night she found her brother Jude collapsed on the porch, covered in blood. But she has no idea what a truly monstrous secret that night really held. And when Daniel returns three years later, Grace can no longer deny her attraction to him, despite promising Jude she’ll stay away.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, her actions stir the ancient evil Daniel unleashed that horrific night. Grace must discover the truth behind Jude and Daniel’s dark secret . . . and the cure that can save the ones she loves. But she may have to lay down the ultimate sacrifice to do it—her soul.

Plot summary for THE LOST SAINT:

Grace Divine made the ultimate sacrifice to cure Daniel Kalbi. She was infected with the werewolf curse while trying to save him, and lost her beloved brother in the process. When Grace receives a haunting phone call from Jude, she knows what she must do. She must become a Hound of Heaven.

Desperate to find Jude, Grace befriends Talbot—a newcomer to town who promises her that he can help her be a hero. But as the two grow closer, the wolf grows in Grace, and her relationship with Daniel is put in danger—in more ways than one.

Unaware of the dark path she is walking, Grace begins to give into the wolf inside of her—not realizing that an enemy has returned and a deadly trap is about to be sprung

Plot summary for THE SAVAGE GRACE:

 Wrestling with the werewolf curse puling deep inside of her, Grace Divine was finally able to find her brother, but it nearly cost her everything.

With her boyfriend, Daniel, stuck in wolf form and Sirhan’s death approaching, time is running out for Grace to stop Caleb Kalbi and his gang of demons. If she fails, her family and hometown will perish. Everything rests on Grace’s shoulders.

(All plot summaries from author’s website.)

Learn more about Bree Despain here.

Follow Bree on Twitter here.

Follow Bree on Facebook here.

Follow Bree on Tumblr here.

 

 

THREE TIMES LUCKY by Sheila Turnage

Three Times LuckyThis book was suggested pre-conference reading by one of our speakers. I have to say, absolutely loved it. Great voice, great characters, and man, what a sense of place! I just fell in love with this little orphan child who loved solving mysteries. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Miss Moses LoBeau, rising sixth grader, has plans for the summer.

To hang out with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III and his dog, Queen Elizabeth II. To help out in the eccentric café run by the Colonel and Miss Lana, who took her in 11 years ago when a hurricane washed Mo into town. To continue her lifelong search for her Upstream Mother. And to research her own life story – which so far is one big fat mystery.

Mo’s summer looks sweet. Until Detective Joe Starr shows up asking too many questions. And cranky old Mr. Jesse turns up dead. And Dale becomes the chief suspect in tiny Tupelo Landing’s first murder.

Can Mo’s life get any worse?

Yes. And it does. A kidnapping, a car crash, a bank robbery, a hurricane…

Mo and Dale set out to clear Dale’s name, solving the mysteries of their own lives in the process.

Fortunately, Mo’s always been lucky. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Sheila Turnage here.

Follow Sheila on Facebook here.

 

 

FORTUNATELY THE MILK by Neil Gaiman, Illustrated by Skottie Young

Fortunately CoverAfter hearing Mr. Gaiman speak recently, I came across this book in a local store. I hadn’t read this particular selection by him yet, so I picked it up and began reading it in the store. Twenty pages later, I decided I should probably buy the book and finish it at home.Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 11.34.02 AM

This delightfully irreverent tale reminded me of something my best friend and I would do whenever we were bored. Make up incredibly impossible stories that started with a seemingly innocuous incident, like going to the store to buy milk for breakfast cereal, and then turning into a completely ridiculous and out-of-control tale. Loved this story so much! The artwork is fantastic. And of course, Gaiman’s humor is just spot on.

This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure ever to be written about milk since Tolstoy’s epic novel War and Milk. Also it has aliens, pirates, dinosaurs and wumpires in it (but not the handsome, misunderstood kind), also a never-adequately-explained-bowl-of-piranhas, not to mention a Volcano God. (Plot description from author’s website.)

Learn more about Neil Gaiman here.

Follow Neil on Twitter here.

Learn more about Skottie Young here.

Follow Skottie on Twitter here.

 

 

LEGEND Series by Marie Lu

Legend coverProdigy CoverChampion CoverI received this series as a Christmas present. I had not heard of it prior to diving in, but apparently it was sweeping through the night shift at the hospital where my husband worked. That was enough for me to take a chance. Such an exciting series! Lu has created a wonderful dystopian landscape to play in and such strong character relationships to fall in love with. I read through this series pretty fast. So exciting to learn there are movie talks in the works. I’d love to see this developed for the big screen.

Plot Summary for LEGEND:

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Plot Summary for PRODIGY:

Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots – a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

Plot summary for CHAMPION:

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

Learn more about Marie Lu here.

Follow Marie on Twitter here.

Follow Marie on Facebook here.

 

 

SOLD by Patricia McCormick

SoldMy daughter started reading this to me on a road trip. She was so excited about this book that she had to share many of the passages. When I got around to reading it from start to finish myself, I felt the same way. It actually read more like free verse poetry to me. The short chapters paint such vivid imagery of the scenery and the day-to-day life, both the joyful and horrifying, that you feel you are living in the story. I felt for these girls and for Lakshmi. I wanted to her escape and feared that she never would. Fantastic read.

Lakshmi is a thirteen-year-old girl who lives with her family in a small hut on a mountain in Nepal. Though she is desperately poor, her life is full of simple pleasures, like playing hopscotch with her best friend from school, and having her mother brush her hair by the light of an oil lamp. But when the harsh Himalayan monsoons wash away all that remains of the family’s crops, Lakshmi’s stepfather says she must leave home and take a job to support her family.

He introduces her to a glamorous stranger who tells her she will find her a job as a maid in the city. Glad to be able to help, Lakshmi journeys to India and arrives at “Happiness House” full of hope. But she soon learns the unthinkable truth: she has been sold into prostitution.

An old woman named Mumtaz rules the brothel with cruelty and cunning. She tells Lakshmi that she is trapped there until she can pay off her family’s debt—then cheats Lakshmi of her meager earnings so that she can never leave.

Lakshmi’s life becomes a nightmare from which she cannot escape. Still, she lives by her mother’s words— Simply to endure is to triumph—and gradually, she forms friendships with the other girls that enable her to survive in this terrifying new world. Then the day comes when she must make a decision—will she risk everything for a chance to reclaim her life?

Written in spare and evocative vignettes, this powerful novel renders a world that is as unimaginable as it is real, and a girl who not only survives but triumphs. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Patricia McCormick here.

Follow Patricia on Twitter here.

Follow Patricia on Facebook here.

 

 

SINNER by Maggie Stiefvater

Sinner-coverSinner Cover 3This was my latest Stiefvater acquisition. And I received it straight from the hands of the writing goddess herself at the SCBWI LA conference and even got the bonus book wrap with her fab artwork to adorn it.

This is a stand-alone companion book in the Shiver universe that just so happens to include two of my favorite characters. Although there wasn’t as much involving the wolfish side of Cole’s character to suit me – I think Stiefvater almost made it an afterthought to some extent – the story is pretty good. A nice little bonus for those of us who hadn’t had quite enough of these two. In the end, this story left me satisfied.

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved? (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Maggie Stiefvater here.

Follow Maggie on Twitter here.

Follow Maggie on Tumblr here.

 

 

BRAVE ON THE PAGE: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life edited by Laura Stanfill

Brave on the PageI met Laura through a mutual blog admiration when I first began this blog and I have enjoyed her insights on many topics. When she took the giant leap of faith to start up her own small press, I was amazed by her tenacity and energy. I was also completely supportive of her efforts. This book is the first project her press, Forest Avenue Press, released, and thankfully not the last. This collection was a great start for her press. Laura even used interviews from her blog in the book. I found many of the essays very inspirational. Reading this book also made me long to return to the Pacific Northwest in a big way. This book was one of my 2015 TBR Pile Challenge selections. Read the full review here.

Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life is a homegrown writers’ resource featuring interviews and essays by forty-two authors, including Scott Sparling, Yuvi Zalkow, Bart King, Gina Ochsner, Kristy Athens, Joanna Rose and Jon Bell.

“If one was not aware of the vibrant literary community that exists within the state of Oregon, then Brave on the Page would be the perfect introduction to the varied literary voices from the state’s working writers,” said the Los Angeles Review’s Renee K. Nicholson. “Separated into three sections, the first and third consisting of interviews and the second made up of flash essays, this book offers interesting advice and inspiration from journalists, novelists, middle-grade authors, poets, nonfiction writers, writer-activists, short story writers, and all kind of writers in-between.”

“For any aspiring writer who feels lonely at the keyboard, Brave on the Page is a treasure trove of inspiration and advice on the writing life that will without a doubt encourage,” said Portland Book Review reviewer Kristen Leigh. “In an artfully curated collection of interviews and flash essays written by Oregon writers and edited by Laura Stanfill, authors speak candidly with equal parts depth and grace about their craft.” (Book description from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Forest Avenue Press here.

Follow Laura Stanfill on Twitter here.

 

 

THE JUMBIES by Tracey Baptiste

The JumbiesA dear writer friend of mine, Gwendolyn Hooks, asked if I would like to read this ARC as her own work load had recently increased dramatically. I would do just about anything for Gwen, so I didn’t even hesitate to say ‘yes’. I fell in love with Tracey’s story. Her take on a classic Haitian folktale called “The Magic Orange Tree” is beautifully written. Her fantastic cast of characters and lush, vibrant setting make you feel immersed in her Caribbean island. Be forewarned! This tale isn’t some cozy, tropical vacation and it’s not for the weak at heart, oh, no! If you like spooky tales, this is the book for you. (Longer book review given on the blog.)

A spine-tingling tale rooted in Caribbean folklore that will have readers holding their breath as they fly through its pages.

Corinne La Mer isn’t afraid of anything. Not scorpions, not the boys who tease her, and certainly not jumbies. They’re just tricksters parents make up to frighten their children. Then one night Corinne chases an agouti all the way into the forbidden forest. Those shining yellow eyes that followed her to the edge of the trees, they couldn’t belong to a jumbie. Or could they?

When Corinne spots a beautiful stranger speaking to the town witch at the market the next day, she knows something unexpected is about to happen. And when this same beauty, called Severine, turns up at Corinne’s house, cooking dinner for Corinne’s father, Corinne is sure that danger is in the air. She soon finds out that bewitching her father, Pierre, is only the first step in Severine’s plan to claim the entire island for the jumbies. Corinne must call on her courage and her friends and learn to use ancient magic she didn’t know she possessed to stop Severine and save her island home.

With its able and gutsy heroine, lyrical narration, and inventive twist on the classic Haitian folktale “The Magic Orange Tree,” The Jumbies will be a favorite of fans of Breadcrumbs, A Tale Dark and Grimm, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn mores about Tracey Baptiste here.

Follow Tracey on Twitter here.

Follow Tracey on Facebook here.

 

 

A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms

If this was the “best American novel to emerge from World War I”, as the blurb below gushes, there must have been a short supply of good writing back then. I actually had to restrain myself from throwing this book across the room when I finished reading the last page. I found the writing so uneven and unfocused in parts that I wasn’t sure what the writer wanted us to focus on except the war-torn countryside. That was during the 20+ pages detailing monotonous troop movement through the rain across the Italian countryside. There were a few vignettes where he pauses to have the soldiers ponder big life questions and the meaninglessness of war. Maybe that is all the merit this book needed to show for audiences back in the early twentieth century.

As for Hemingway’s “frank portrayal of love” between the main characters, I’m still waiting for any sign that these characters loved each other at all. If this is his idea of a love story, count me out. The dialogue between these two “lovers” was so mechanical and surreal that I would maybe buy it as a love story between two neurotic robots.

This book did have one redeeming quality – it finally put to rest the need for me to read any more Hemingway books. Ever.

The best American novel to emerge from World War I, A Farewell to Arms is the unforgettable story of an American ambulance driver on the Italian front and his passion for a beautiful English nurse. Hemingway’s frank portrayal of the love between Lieutenant Henry and Catherine Barkley, caught in the inexorable sweep of war, glows with an intensity unrivaled in modern literature, while his description of the German attack on Caporetto – of lines of tired men marching in the rain, hungry, weary, and demoralized – is one of the greatest moments in literary history. A story of love and pain, of loyalty and desertion, A Farewell to Arms, written when he was thirty years old, represents a new romanticism for Hemingway. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Ernest Hemingway here.

 

 

THE FUTURE OF US by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler

The Future of UsAnother one of my TBR Pile challenge books – I may just complete this challenge, yet! (Here’s the full review.) I picked this book up at an SCBWI LA conference a few years ago where I sat in on a breakout session with both authors. They spoke about the process of writing with a co-author and it was really great. I later got this book signed by both of them – both so nice.

The story itself was seamless. I couldn’t tell where one author began and another one ended. Great voice for both main characters. They talked about how they made that one of their goals when working together – they both wanted to be able to write from each character’s voice, even though Jay mostly wrote the male character chapters and Carolyn wrote most of the female character chapters. The pacing and tension were great – I couldn’t stop reading it. I actually finished this book in just over a day. I will say the ending fell a little flat and left me feeling somewhat disappointed, but the overall story was very interesting.

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long—up until last November when everything changed. Things have been awkward ever since, but when Josh’s family gets an America Online CD-ROM in the mail, his mom makes him bring it over so Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto Facebook…

But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet.

Josh and Emma are looking at their profiles fifteen years in the future. Their spouses, careers, homes, and status updates—it’s all there. But it’s not what they expected. And every time they refresh their pages, their futures change. As they grapple with the ups and downs of what their lives hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right—and wrong—in the present. (Plot summary from author website.)

Learn more about Jay Asher here.

Learn more about Carolyn Mackler here.

Follow Jay on Twitter here.

Follow Carolyn on Twitter here.

 

 

THE DARK BETWEEN by Sonia Gensler

Dark BetweenThis is my first TBR Pile Challenge book and it;s also one written by a dear writer friend. I’ve been dying to get to this one, so that’s probably why I moved it to the top of the stack. View the full review post here.

This is only Sonia’s second book, but it read like a dream. I became totally immersed in her Cambridge world of the paranormal and her trio of main characters were all so wonderfully well-rounded and distinct. Loved them! Such a delightfully spooky book with a great story.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Spiritualism and séances are all the rage—even in the scholarly town of Cambridge, England. While mediums dupe the grief-stricken, a group of local fringe scientists seeks to bridge the gap to the spirit world by investigating the dark corners of the human mind.

Each running from a shadowed past, Kate, Asher, and Elsie take refuge within the walls of Summerfield College. But their peace is soon shattered by the discovery of a dead body nearby. Is this the work of a flesh-and-blood villain, or is something otherworldly at play? This unlikely trio must illuminate what the scientists have not, and open a window to secrets taken to the grave—or risk joining the spirit world themselves. (Plot summary from author website.)

Learn more about Sonia Gensler here.

Follow Sonia on Twitter here.

Follow Sonia on Facebook here.

Follow Sonia on Tumblr here.

 

 

DEEP DOWN DARK: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle That Set Them Free by Héctor Tobar

Deep Down DarkI don’t read a lot of non-fiction, but after I heard author Ann Patchett talking about this book and why she chose it for the first selection for the NPR Morning Edition Book Club, I was actually eager to read it, myself. Tobar weaves all the difference strands together effortlessly and creates an engaging narrative that you can’t help leaning forward to get closer to. I was utterly mesmerized by the story of these men and their dire situation and how they survived – before and after they left the mine. I’m really looking forward to the discussion on NPR next week. And that’s another reason I like book clubs, I always discover books I never would have otherwise.

When the San José mine collapsed outside of Copiapó, Chile, in August 2010, it trapped thirty-three miners beneath thousands of feet of rock for a record-breaking sixty-nine days. Across the globe, we sat riveted to television and computer screens as journalists flocked to the Atacama desert. While we saw what transpired above ground during the grueling and protracted rescue, the story of the miners’ experiences below the earth’s surface—and the lives that led them there—hasn’t been heard until now.
In Deep Down Dark, a master work by a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, Héctor Tobar gains exclusive access to the miners and their stories. The result is a miraculous and emotionally textured account of the thirty-three men who came to think of the San José mine as a kind of coffin, as a “cave” inflicting constant and thundering aural torment, and as a church where they sought redemption through prayer while the world watched from above. It offers an understanding of the families and personal histories that brought “los 33” to the mine, and the mystical and spiritual elements that surrounded working in such a dangerous place. (Plot summary from Goodreads.)

Learn more about Héctor Tobar here.

Read about NPR Morning Edition Book Club Discussion here.

 

 

COCAINE BLUES by Kerry Greenwood

Cocaine BluesThe second season of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries were recently added onto Netflix and I have enjoyed watching this season as much as the first. Since it’s also time again for Jazz Age January, I thought it was a great time to start reading the books the series is based on.

I’ve always loved the roaring twenties. If I had lived then, I hope I would’ve been an adventurous type like Phryne. This was an effortless read. The voice was so similar to the show, I was just delighted with it. It was really fun to read how all the main characters end up working together in this first mystery. It is different from the TV series – still all of the great character traits really come through. Dot, Phryne’s new maid, who takes everything Phryne throws at her in stride, is just as lovable as ever. Bert and Cec, the hired muscle, are still such colorful mongrels. And Dr. Mac is one of my favorite minor characters. It was nice to see her so prominently displayed in this story.

The mystery was intriguing, with just the right amount of Jazz Age details I love. I did have it fairly figured out before the big reveal – the whodunit, if not all gory the details. It was a great romp of read. And there are fifteen more books in the series to read. Yay!

The first of Phryne’s adventures from Australia’s most elegant and irrepressible sleuth.

The London season is in full fling at the end of the 1920s, but the Honourable Phryne Fisher – she of the green-grey eyes, diamant garters and outfits that should not be sprung suddenly on those of nervous dispositions – is rapidly tiring of the tedium of arranging flowers, making polite conversations with retired colonels, and dancing with weak-chinned men. Instead, Phryne decides it might be rather amusing to try her hand at being a lady detective in Melbourne, Australia.

Almost immediately from the time she books into the Windsor Hotel, Phryne is embroiled in mystery: poisoned wives, cocaine smuggling rings, corrupt cops and communism – not to mention erotic encounters with the beautiful Russian dancer, Sasha de Lisse – until her adventure reaches its steamy end in the Turkish baths of Little Lonsdale Street. (Plot summary from publisher’s website.)

Learn more about Kerry Greenwood here.

Follow Kerry on Facebook here.

 

 

BEWARE THE WILD by Natalie C. Parker

Beware the WildFirst book of the year and it was stellar!

I met Natalie while going through her Critique Camp a few years ago. She really helped me learn how to dig deeper with my critiquing skills and I got so much out of that camp. When her debut novel came out this year, I was too excited to get my hands on it. I knew it would be fantastic.

Natalie’s use of imagery and local mythology are outstanding and her setting is a delightfully eerie character all on its own. It took me no time at all to care for her main character Sterling as she finds herself surrounded by people who have forgotten her favorite person in the world – the one who’s always protected her now needs saving and she has no idea what to do. She has to find the strength in herself and be the rescuer. Such a fantastic read from beginning to end.

It’s an oppressively hot and sticky morning in May when Sterling and her brother, Phin, have an argument that compels him to run into the town swamp — the one that strikes fear in all the residents of Sticks, Louisiana. Phin doesn’t return. Instead, a girl named Lenora May climbs out, and now Sterling is the only person in Sticks who remembers her brother ever existed.

Sterling needs to figure out what the swamp’s done with her beloved brother and how Lenora May is connected to his disappearance — and loner boy Heath Durham might be the only one who can help her. (Plot summary from author’s website.)

Learn more about Natalie C. Parker here.

Follow Natalie on Twitter here.

Follow Natalie on Tumblr here.

Advertisements

One thought on “Books I’ve Read 2015

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s