☕ Book Break ☕ |~Protected by Claire Zorn~

~Protected by Claire Zorn~

“Books are especially useful if you have no one to talk to; they give the illusion that you choose not to talk to anyone, as opposed to the fact you simply have no friends.”

Protected is a novel about grief, bullying, and coming to terms with tragedy. Hannah has lost her older sister Katie in a car crash. The same crash has left her father with injuries that cause him daily pain and make it difficult for him to walk.

The story is told in scenes out of sequence, hopping back-and-forth in time. I honestly don’t know how she managed to write the story this way and keep the clarity of the storyline. I never got confused. I listened to this on my Kindle with no line breaks or anything to tell when the time shifted and had no problem keeping oriented.

There’s a mystery surrounding what exactly happened. Hannah knows, but she’s not telling. Her dad doesn’t remember. Listening to this book made me anxious to find out.

The death of Hannah’s sister has caused a complete reversal in many areas of Hannah’s life. Previously, she was bullied horribly at school.

Much in this book is disturbing. The bullying was extreme. The complicated family dynamic made my heart ache for Hannah. Her sister, Katie, isn’t a very likable character and I wanted to quit this book more than once because of it, and yet I kept reading.There’s quite a bit of language and it does deal with serious topics. It does end with a satisfying resolution.

If my teen read this book I would want to read it along with them and talk about the issues that come up.

 

2015

Children’s Book Council of Australia Award Nominee for Older Readers

Prime Minister’s Literary Awards for Young Adult Fiction

Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction

The Inky Awards Nominee for Gold Inky

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

~Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine~

 

“I don’t like the word soon because you don’t know when it’s going to sneak up on you and turn into NOW. Or maybe it’ll be the kind of soon that never happens.”

 

Caitlin depended on her older brother, Devon, to help her navigate the world. But when he is one of the victims of a school shooting she has lost her guide. Her father, overcome by grief, is of little help. Functioning in an environment that is not friendly to her was difficult already, and now she must deal with the fallout of her brother’s death.

 

The story is told from the point of view of an 11-year-old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Even so, the descriptions of Caitlin’s world and attitudes of those around her came through clearly. I could tell what her counselor was thinking at times, the surprise you feel when a kid on the spectrum makes a pronouncement, in all innocence, that smacks you in the head and makes you do a double take.

 

This novel stirred up so many emotions in me. My heart cracked open every time Caitlin tried to figure out “closure” and how to get it. A beautifully written, emotional read with an important message and a satisfying ending. This book touched me.

 

This novel was written with a tremendous amount of sensitivity. It’s on the short side but is not light weight. It covers heavy topics. There are no graphic descriptions or extreme bullying, but the characters do struggle with the issues stemming from school violence.

 

Very relevant to the situation in our schools and culture today. I was of two minds about a book that dealt with both the issues of special needs with school violence. Too many people have wedded these. It’s a complicated issue. I felt like this novel did a beautiful job with the topic while honoring storytelling.

 

One thing I hope everyone can agree on is that empathy and understanding can go a long way in helping all humans deal with the tragedies life throws our way.

 

If you’re looking for a book about the power of friendship, relationship, and the struggles of grief, this one might fit the bill.

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All the Feels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Character Interaction

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Relevant

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storytelling

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Favorite Reads and New Authors of 2018

My absolute favorite book I read in 2018 was Wonder. I have a goal to finally review it this year! I can’t believe I missed this one.

Of the books I actually did manage to review, here is a short list of favorites in no particular order. Click on the title to read my review.

 

Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Across the Universe

The Ocean at the End of the Lane

How to Stop Time

Dystopian

When the English Fall

Contemporary YA

Turtles All the Way Down

All the Bright Places

The Hate U Give

Contemporary MG

So. B. It.

Stargirl

Contemporary Adult

Elenaor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Beartown

When We Were Worthy

Historical

As Bright as Heaven

The Pecan Man

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

Inspirational

Stones for Bread

Contemporary Romance

I’ll Be Your Blue Sky

Fairytale Retellings

Entwined

Nonfiction

In A Different Key

Educated

Favorite New (to me) Authors

Donna Everhart

Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

I read a ton more, but these are the ones that come to mind. So many wonderful books? Have you read any of these? Did you discover any new authors? What were your favorite reads of 2018?

 

 

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere~

~The Christmas Shoes by Donna VanLiere~

Can you guys believe I had not read this book before? This story was based on the song of the same name and I think that’s why wasn’t on my radar.

If you’re looking for a short, sweet, Christmas read that reminds us of what is truly important, then this book fits the bill. This is a story with strongly Christian themes. It moves quickly through time, but I don’t mind that. All of the story problems were resolved, no holes left. I actually prefer a short Christmas book during this busy holiday season.

The story felt like a gentle reminder to value the most important treasures in life.

Heartwarming. Sweet. Easy to read.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

 ~A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy~

“She was still vaguely hopeful that there was love out there somewhere—just a little less sure that she might actually find it.”

“Her life was like her house—a colorful fantasy where anything was possible if you wanted it badly enough.”

Chicky Starr revamps an old mansion, turning it into a holiday resort for those wanting to spend time in an out-of-the-way place. Stone House is in a remote area on the cliffs of Ireland, part of a small village. The novel follows a varied cast of characters. A warm read. Humorous. Relatable.

Maeve Binchy was one of a kind. I’m not sure how she did it. The stories she wrote are rich with characters in situations that we often find ourselves. I find myself becoming attached to her characters, and remembering them long after the last page has been read. This was her last novel.

While this is not my favorite novel of hers, it was a joy to revisit for this fan.

This one may be a bit slow in parts, and does seem to meander a bit, but I think it’s well worth the time. It leaves me with a warm, cozy feeling.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~

~Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D.Vance~

I finally got around to reading Hillbilly Elegy. This is an interesting and eye-opening memoir. I’ve heard people compare Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance and White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History by Nancy Isenberg, liking one over the other, but I found each one of these books unique in its own right. Studying our culture has always been a special fascination to me, so these types of books are right up my alley.

Hillbilly Elegy is a memoir about an a Kentucky boy with few advantages who grew up and made it good. He managed to go to an elite college, graduate, and become financially successful. This book is an exposition of his roots and a narrative of his journey. It’s also an examination of what has happened to the American dream and why so many have failed to achieve it from the perspective of an insider. It’s very thought-provoking.

I found myself growing attached to the characters in this story. Moving, at times humorous, colorful, interesting.

I think it is a much-needed read for anyone who wants to understand class in America. I would pair this with the other book, White Trash. If you’re not a voracious reader like I am, I think either one is excellent. If you prefer memoir then Hillbilly Elegy may suit your taste, if you lean more towards a broader examination of the class structure and love history, you may prefer White Trash. In all honesty, I feel they both deserve a place on your shelf.

Get both if you can.

What’s the last memoir you read?

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☕ Book Break ☕ |Finding Hero by Diana L. Sharples

~Finding Hero by Diana L. Sharples~

Finding Hero is a young adult mystery, but rather than a straightforward whodunit, the characters each have their own story. I first read Diana Sharples’ work with her book, Running Lean, a story about a girl with an eating disorder. All of Diana Sharples’ characters in Finding Hero encounter problems other than simply solving a mystery. She writes a complex story.

Finding Hero is a multi layered tale involving teenage life, complicated family history, and a mystery from the past that could have severe consequences for Daniela and Devon. A storm wreaks havoc in their lives, not the least of which is uncovering a long buried body.

I like this new book. When I first downloaded it and saw all those little dots I thought it was on the long side, but as I was listening it did not seem long at all. It’s hard for a book to keep my interest when I listen to it on kindle, but Finding Hero did. I was hooked from the beginning.

I’ve been a sucker for Shakespeare since I first encountered The Bard, so when the book opens it with the character Daniella Cooper auditioning for a part in Much Ado About Nothing my antenna went up. If you’re not a Shakespeare fan the title is referring to a character in the play. You don’t have to be into Shakespeare to enjoy this book, by the way.

The only thing I did not like in this book was the behavior of some of the adult characters. I found myself getting angry at the failure of the grownups, but I understand that that was intentional. They just made me mad! However, simply having a child does not make one a mature adult. These characters reflect true people and the behaviors and obstacles encountered in real life. .
Finding Hero is a clean read. All of Diana Sharples books that I’ve read are, but this one is actually published by clean reads.

I received an advanced copy of this book and was asked for an honest review.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale~

~The Secret to Hummingbird Cake by Celeste Fletcher McHale~

“It wasn’t a person’s age that made death sad. It was the size of the absence it caused in the ones left behind.”

This book has all the feels. The story is set in the same part of the country as Steel Magnolias, which I feel should be required viewing for anyone who is breathing, and it has a little bit of the same flavor, with sassy southern women. The characters face adversity with a dash of humor and grace.

I loved the the authentic setting and characters. I was surprised it was categorized as Christian fiction. While there is mention of church and God and the main character, Carrigan, has many questions about God’s will, it doesn’t read like inspirational fiction. I would identify it more along the lines as southern fiction or women’s contemporary.

Friendship is an important theme in this novel, and Celeste Fletcher McHale paints a lovely picture of true and lasting friendship between three women. It makes one long for the faithfulness and resilience of lifelong friends. I found myself chuckling and crying as I read about these three women. .
We are given an epilogue at the end of the story, however I would love to see additional novels about these characters.

Beautifully written and completely enjoyable. I look forward to reading more by this author.

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Interview with YA Author Diana L. Sharples

Running Strong

Flannery Moore rides a dirt bike and can’t remember the last time she wore a dress. She’s also in love with her best friend, Tyler Dorset. While nothing else could make her do so, Flannery decides to change herself into the kind of girl she thinks Tyler would fall for. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, Flannery knows she has to make sacrifices. But will that include giving up on Tyler? Can “less than” ever really be enough?

Available June 29, 2018, through all major outlets.

 

 

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I fist encountered Diana Sharple’s work when I read her young adult novel, Running Lean. The book stuck in my mind. I would hand Running Lean to any young person to read and feel it is a good book to spark conversation about a serious issue many of our teens face. Running Lean is a Christian young adult novel told from the point of view of the boyfriend. Running Strong is the long awaited sequel.

Diana hit a few bumps in the road, but has been working triple time the last year. She has already had one book come out earlier this year, and four more are on the way.

She is an amazing woman. I appreciate her taking time out to come and talk with us.

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You tackled a tough issue in Running Lean. What was your inspiration?

Running Lean and Running Strong were both “born” at the same time. Years ago, I envisioned a series of books following a group of teenagers at a small, rural high school, and for one book I experimented with an ensemble cast, each member of which either modeling or strived toward the attributes described in the Beatitudes from Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. I modeled Stacey’s character and problem around “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Except that Stacey’s hunger and thirst was for an unrealistic standard of beauty which causes her to reject food and water. As I wrote, though, it became apparent that Stacey’s story could not be adequately handled in an ensemble situation. Her story needed to be in the spotlight. (Writing an ensemble piece turned out not to be my best idea, anyway!) Thus I took her, and her devoted boyfriend, Calvin (Blessed are the pure in heart…) and dove headfirst into the research necessary to write a realistic story about a girl suffering with anorexia. I needed to know all the hows and whys, and so that research was extensive, consuming, and often heartbreaking. After that, however, the other stories remained to be told! And out of that first ensemble cast came Tyler (Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness…), and his awkward relationship with one of his best friends. Running Strong has changed considerably since then, but I always envisioned Tyler as a musician hoping to break away from his small, small world, while that world refused to let him go.

 

Can you tell us a little bit about the next titles in the series?

Actually, most of the books I’ve been writing over the years were birthed in that initial series, although I’ve had to make some choices that divided them into different series. Running Strong is a stand-alone sequel to Running Lean, in which the two best friends sort out their awkward relationship and discover more about themselves in the process. (This was a subplot thread intentionally left dangling in Running Lean.) But I needed more than just the fluffy teen drama of a girl falling in love with her best friend. My personal battle with breast cancer gave me the deeper life aspects I needed to explore for the story. And so, the teen drama is interrupted by a parent’s diagnosis, which causes Flannery to realize the sacrifices that sometimes have to be made for love, and Tyler to realize that his small, small world is bigger than his own dreams.

Running Strong is scheduled for publication on June 29, 2018.

Because…Anonymous is the first book in a series of YA mysteries, which takes the bad-boy Romeo from Running Lean, Noah Dickerson, and gives him his own spotlight for growth. While Noah and his mother are in hiding from his alcoholic, abusive father, and Noah is trying to sort out how that negative influence has impacted his own life and personality, he finds himself caught up in a series of mysteries at school. And, of course, there’s always a female crush involved.

Because…Anonymous is available now, and the other two books are coming in the next few months.

And finally, Finding Hero is yet another story that came out of that ensemble cast, but I’ve had to make major changes the characters and the setting, so it is now the first book in its own series. Daniella is a diva forced to move from her artsy environment to a small Appalachian town after her mother inherits a large tract of land there. Devon is a Cherokee boy living in near poverty, whose mother used to work for Daniella’s grandfather. These two have almost nothing in common, but they’re forced together after human remains are found on the Cooper family property, and solving the mystery could send loved ones to jail.

Finding Hero will be available on September 11, 2018, from Clean Reads Publications.

You have several books coming out this year. Do you have a favorite character?

Oh dear, I really do love them all! But I’d have to say that the one character I connect with the most on a personal level—the one that I think is nearest to my own personality—is Flannery from Running Strong. She’s a tomboy, a biker chick, and a romantic dreamer rolled into one. Add red hair and green eyes… yep. You’ve got me in a nutshell. Except I don’t obsessively read cowboy romance novels.

What has been your most challenging project?

The research for Running Lean, as I mentioned above, was heartbreaking and terribly important. I think that book stands above all of my others for the significance of the issue. I believe that body image and self-esteem issues are at the heart of so many problems teenage girls face today. I feel that I barely scratched the surface of the problem of eating disorders, but when I receive an email or message from a young woman who says my book helped her in some way… that is my reward.

However, just from a writing standpoint, the Because… mysteries have proven to be a major challenge! I’ve had to adjust my ways of structuring a plot to accommodate all the subtle clues and miscues and red herrings. It’s a much more complicated method of plotting than I’ve done before!

On a personal level, having been through a battle with breast cancer and having that innate understanding of what Flannery’s mother and her family are going through, Running Strong is the novel that pushed me to dig deepest into myself.

But I think, in order to write compelling stories in any genre, the author has to get personal and find the character’s within herself. Revealing that bit of one’s heart is what connects the story with the reader’s heart.

 

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Thank you Diana!

 

Diana Sharples lives in north Georgia with her husband and daughter, and a house full of rescued pets. She wrote her first teen novel at the age of thirteen. Although she holds a degree in communication design/illustration from the Atlanta College of Art and has won awards for her science fiction and fantasy illustrations, she never lost her love for storytelling. Her debut novel, Running Lean, won several pre-publication awards and was released from Zondervan Books (a division of Harper Collins) in 2013. After a battle against breast cancer, she is resurrecting her career in 2018 with five new books being published. Diana is a motorcycle enthusiast and can be found riding her Harley around the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Visit her website for more news and samples of her artwork, www.dianasharples.com.

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☕ Book Break ☕ |~Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman~

~Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman~

Eleanor is socially awkward. She lives alone, spending her time working, drinking vodka on the weekends, and taking phone calls from Mummy. Raymond is the typical IT guy from the office, sloppy and unorganized. After work one day, they witness an old man, Sammy, as he collapses on the sidewalk and they work together to help him. The three become friends.
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
What a beautiful novel. Eleanor is wonderfully quirky, and the author so clearly draws this character that my sympathies were completely in Eleanor’s corner even when her behavior raised the ire of her coworkers. I adored Raymond, who is as clueless as Eleanor in his own way.

This book is entertaining, amusing at times, tragic, and completely worthy of any reader’s time. Eleanor has left little cracks in my heart, and at the same time restored hope. A must read.

Gail Honeyman had me from paragraph one all the way until the last word.❤
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
And did I hear this was going to be made into a movie? No way will it be as good as the book, but I’ll be watching, just in case.

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