☕ Book Break ☕ | Cinder by Marissa Meyer #popsugarreadingchallenge

#popsugarreadingchallenge2019

A book you meant to read last year

That would be a looong list, but I’ll pick one.

Cinder is a book that’s been on my list forever. 

This is an  imaginative retelling of Cinderella with a futuristic setting in New Beijing. Cinder is a hated stepchild and is also a cyborg. Being cyborg is not a popular thing to be, so she doesn’t advertise the fact that she’s a social outcast. There’s a prince, a ball, and an evil queen. A deadly disease strikes Cinder’s stepsister, and Cinder would do anything to save her. There;s a mystery surrounding Cinder’s past, she can’t remember anything from her early childhood. 

Fast paced and easy to read.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

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Gritty Contemporary Christian YA: Interview with Author Brian McBride

 

Haunted by the last question their mother ever asked them, the Greyson brothers struggle to cope with their grief and adjust to life after tragedy.

Semi-popular sixteen-year-old Liam spends his nights performing as the lead singer of his high school indie alternative/rock band, Liam and the Landmarks. But something happened to Liam four years ago at his friend’s house – a secret Liam will take to his grave. But in small towns like Summit, Colorado, secrets always seem to find their way out.

Twenty-four-year-old Ezra thought that he could cure his grief when he left Summit behind for a prestigious art school in Chicago, but things only got worse. Now a college dropout working at a gas station mini mart, he turns to alcohol, prescription painkillers, and meaningless one-night stands. But Ezra can’t run forever – life always catches up with you.

With abrasively honest dual-perspective narratives, Every Bright and Broken Thing illustrates the unbreakable bond between brothers and the power in coming home.

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Bookstagrammer, blogger, and author Sunny Huck shared about Brian’s work on her Instagram and peaked my interest so I had to talk with him.

DJS: Your novels are contemporary and gritty. What drives you to write about the issues you do?

BM: Some of it is personal experience; a lot of the issues I write about are things that myself or others I know have faced. Depression, self-harm, mental illness, sexual abuse and assault, domestic violence, addiction, etc… 

But some of it is also that there’s a severe lack in the YA market – specifically the Christian YA market – of stories that deal with these things. I can’t name even five Christian YA Contemporary novels that could be comparable to, say, the stories John Green, Amber Smith, or Stephen Chbosky write. The Christian Fiction industry seems to think YA Fantasy novels are the only kind worth publishing. I disagree. I doubt I can fill this gap completely by myself, but maybe I can encourage other Christian authors of YA Contemporary to share their stories, too – THEN we’ll fill the gap!

DJS: What has been the most gratifying about writing realistic Christian fiction for young people?

BM: Hearing the stories of how my books have given people a new view of themselves, of the value of life, of faith and hope, and most importantly of Jesus. Hearing all those stories has been the highlight of this experience. 

DJS: Liam and Ezra go through some pretty harrowing times before they begin their healing journey in Every Bright and Broken Thing. Will you write any more of their story?

I don’t have any new stories simmering for Liam and Ezra right now. But I have a short story or novella I may or may not be planning to carry on Lincoln’s story. But anything is possible. If a good idea comes, I won’t say no to revisiting my boys in Summit. 

DJS: Every Bright and Broken Thing is the story of two brothers dealing with loss and how they react. In a few sentences, what would you say to those who want to support families going through grief?

BM: Hold onto them and don’t let go. I remember a time when I was far away from the Lord and was getting into some bad stuff, but my parents refused to let go. Some parents will kind of back off and say, “oh, well they’re adults now. They have to make their own choices.” But my parents weren’t about to let me go. They held on for months and months. I literally would not be alive today if it weren’t for the fierce, fighting kind of love my parents have for me.

In Every Bright, we see Mr. Greyson grapple with his own suffering and even come to realize how he allowed his grief to cause him to not hold onto his sons like he should. Mr. Greyson had to determine once again that he was going to hold onto his boys. In that, we see a father who was broken become strong again.

So, if you know someone who is suffering, hold on and don’t let go. Sometimes that means telling them the hard truth. Sometimes that just means listening and letting them cry on your shoulder. Whatever the case, hold on and don’t let go.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today, Brian. Keep writing. I expect great things to come from your work.

A winner of the 2016 Wattys Award, Brian published the award-winning Young Adult Contemporary debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, in 2018.
Born and raised in Oregon, Brian moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 16-years-old. He’s been writing since he was thirteen-years-old and has been reading for longer. Brian is pursuing a degree in Social Work, which he hopes to use to help rescue children and families. Perhaps he’ll work to better the US’s foster care system? Or maybe he’ll join an organization that fights human trafficking? A fourth generation pastor, he is deeply passionate about the Church and is also pursuing his Minister’s License. It was this passion that compelled him to launch the Pioneer Mvmt, a social-media-based faith movement. Among other things, he is also passionate about iced tea, animals, adoption, and the arts.
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Interview with Hope Bolinger ~YA Author and Literary Agent

This week I was super excited to talk with literary agent and author Hope Bolinger about her recent release, Blaze. 

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From the Back Cover of Blaze

If you can’t stand the heat, don’t walk into the fire.

Danny knew his sophomore year would be stressful . . . but he didn’t expect his school to burn down on the first day. 

To make matters worse (and they were about to get a lot worse), he — and his three best friends — receive an email in their inboxes from the principal of their rival, King’s Academy, offering full-rides to attend the town’s prestigious boarding school. Danny wants nothing to do with King’s Academy and says no. Of course his mother says yes. So off he goes to be bullied and picked on for not being part of the popular and rich “in crowd.” 

From day one at King’s, Danny encounters hazing, mocking insults from girls at the “popular and pretty” table, and cafeteria food that, for such a prestigious school, tastes as if it were purchased from a military surplus supply warehouse. If he survives, Danny will have to overcome his fears of failure, rejection, and loneliness—all while standing strong in his beliefs and walking into the fire.

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DJS: As I read your book, I often found myself chuckling at Danny’s wit. Was it difficult to write humor or did it come naturally? What experiences did you draw on to write humor into your story?

HB: I love humor. I actually started writing as a comedic playwright. If you know me at all, I crack jokes all the time, which does draw many eyerolls from my younger brother as is the tendency of most younger brothers. I think you just have to have a sense of humor to make it through this industry. Certain rejections are simply funny. It’s like publishers are just desperate to come up with a reason not to take on your book. I literally had a publisher say, “There’s nothing wrong with this book. It’s perfect. But we’re not going to publish it.” A lot of awful stuff happened right before I wrote Blaze, and I had two options: to wallow or to poke fun at the ridiculousness of it all. I think all those humorous situations just pent up and turned into Danny.

DJS: Blaze is set in a boarding school, King’s Academy.  What was it about the boarding school culture that drew you to write a story in this setting? 

HB: I wanted to create a modern-day Babylon, and in the original story of Daniel, they basically live in the King’s palace for their education. It just felt like a boarding school. I also wrote it in college, which is basically a boarding school for adults. I think I just had to release some frustrations about the lack of AC in our forty-five year old dorm when the campus kept building such nice things for all the visitors.

DJS: As a writer, it’s easy to become attached to our characters. Can you tell us about one of your characters who tugs on your heartstrings? If you could meet them face to face and tell them one thing, what would it be? 

HB: I love all four of the characters in Blaze. Rayah really tugs hard on my heartstrings because she went through something somewhat similar to me. Throughout the series, we witness the falling out of her parents and how the divorce affects her. Because she’s so shy and timid, she doesn’t often let on how much it affects her. If I could meet her, I’d tell her she’s far stronger, smarter, and more beautiful than she thinks.

DJS: Friendship is a theme in your novel. What advice about friendship do you have for your young readers?

HB: Friendship is so important. Keep your friends as close as possible, and be there for them during the tough times. Friends can help you through the most difficult times of life. If I didn’t have a body of wonderful friends surrounding me during my parents’ divorce, I don’t know what I would’ve done.

DJS: Great advice, Hope. We all need friends to lean on in tough times.

I enjoyed reading Blaze. Thank you so much for spending time with us. Wishing you the best of luck with your novel!

Guys, next month be sure to pop over to Almost an Author for more of my interview with Hope Bolinger when we talk about writing.

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a recent graduate of Taylor University’s professional writing program. More than 350 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer’s Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column “Hope’s Hacks,” tips and tricks to avoid writer’s block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young’s blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze,” (Illuminate YA) just released, and they contracted the sequel for 2020. Find out more about her here.

Facebook: @therosewoman Twitter: @hopebolinger

Instagram: @hopebolinger  Website: hopebolinger.com

 

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May Book Roundup

Book Round Up!

 

I decided to make one single post about my favorite reads of the month, rather than separate ones, since I read a series and, to be honest, I ran out of time!

I may read a few more this month, but I wanted to post about May’s kindle first reads selection in case anyone hasn’t picked theirs up yet. Am I the only one who lets the month slip by?

I began reading Cynthia Voight’s series of books labeled the Tillerman cycle. No less than three of my beta readers compared my writing to these books, so I thought I should check them out. The funny thing was, my readers weren’t all looking at the same manuscript.

⭐️

Homecoming

This is the first in the series. Four children are left to wait for their mother in the parking lot of a mall. When she doesn’t return, they decide to go in search of relatives. They walk across the country. I actually started this one at the end of last month, but put it here because it is part of the Tillerman series.

⭐️

Dicey’s Song

Newbery Winner. This book picks up where the first one left off. I would recommend this to any young readers, especially girls. I wish I’d known about this series when my daughter was younger. I recommend for all readers, especially girls in the age bracket of upper MG to YA.

⭐️

A Solitary Blue

Lovely book. Feels a little different than the first two. This is the story of Dicey’s love interest and his childhood.

⭐️

The Runner

Goes back in time to the children’s uncle and his high school days right before he goes to Viet Nam.

⭐️

Come A Stranger

Tells the story of Dicey’s friend, Mina and the prejudice she faces.

⭐️

I love the way the series show how lives are intertwined and connected. Each book is important and stands alone. Her writing style seems natural and unaffected, but powerful She doesn’t shy away from tough topics. The characters feel real.

⭐️

Sons from Afar

Dicey has two brothers and one sister. At the beginning of this book the children are a bit older and this one focuses on the two boys. The younger boy has never met his father. The book explores the differences between the two boys and the way they come to terms with the struggles of growing up without a father.

⭐️

Kindle First Reads

Valencia and Valentine

By Suzy Krause

I picked this one for my kindle first reads selection for May. This is an interesting book that has a character with some mental health issues. It is entertaining, funny, and poignant. I read it from cover to cover, if you can do such a thing with a Kindle book. It reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, would you still at the top of my favorites list. There’s a bit of a mystery involved. The two stories meld together in the end. It’s a little sad and a little sweet. It’s a book that made me think, but mostly it made me feel.

⭐️

Tiger Eyes

By Judy Blume

Another one of my beta readers said that my story and style reminded her of this book. If only! Davey (a teen girl) is faced with a terrible tragedy and loss of her father when he is murdered while in his store. Davey, her mom, and Davey’s little brother travel across the country, ostensibly on a visit, but it turns into an extended stay.

This one had me crying. Beautifully done and heart rending. There were a few chuckles as well. I love this book. If you like emotional, touching, coming-of-age, I think you’ll like this book. This was made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it. Have you?

⭐️

Saint Anything

By Sarah Dessen

Sydney is one of the quiet girls. She doesn’t cause any trouble. That rule is filled by her charming brother, Peyton. When he gets behind the wheel under the influence, he runs over a boy on a bicycle, forever changing everyone’s lives. The boy ends up in a wheelchair and Peyton ends up in prison. Sydney decides to change high schools and meets a new set of friends. This is a novel of self-discovery and family relationships.

⭐️

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

This was a re-read. If you haven’t read this book yet go get it!

⭐️

Little Women

I’m still rereading this one. You can never go wrong with Little Women.

⭐️

Did you see any favorites in this list?

What have you been reading lately?

 

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Why I Write

 

My life is divided into before and after. I’m in the after now.

Eight years ago, this coming April, my world turned upside down. Eight years ago, this coming April, I began the slow journey back. I hadn’t written a book then. Since that time, I have finished penning three.

When I got sick, my daughter became frightened. Who wouldn’t be? It was the summer before her freshman year of high school, and she spent her vacation taking care of her mother who needed assistance walking and bathing. It didn’t matter what I told her, or how many reassurances were held out, she was terrified. All the soft gentle words and reassurances never made it past her fear wrapped worry.

Sometimes you need a story.

I wrote her a book about a girl who was afraid her mother would die and leave her alone. In the book, the mother does die. The girl is not left alone, however. She has family and unlikely heroes to depend on. I wrote my daughter a book to make her laugh and cry, but most of all to help her see she was not alone and it wasn’t up to her to save the world. I think maybe it was both comforting and uncomfortable for her to discover how much I understood her.

She’s not a character in a book, and she is not this character. But young girls everywhere get angry with their mothers, at times think they’ve been abandoned, and generally feel treated unfairly by life. They’re often surprised when they discover their mothers were once girls and understand all of these deeply held, secret feelings.

Among the pages of this made up place filled with pretend people my daughter finally understood what I was trying to tell her. She wasn’t alone.

Sometimes you need a story.

A funny thing happened. Out of the story, two more grew. Each of these novels stand alone, and while they don’t lean on each other, they do rub shoulders, exploring the lives of the various characters in the same fictional small Texas town.

It’s quite a surprise to find at the end of these eight years I have three complete novels. I’d freelanced in my former writing life, and even written a novella, which resides in the dark recesses of my computer files, but I’d never attempted a novel length work.

As my health improved and my responsibilities shifted, I had more time to write books. With each novel, I learned better and went back, refining and polishing. I hunted down critique partners and entered contests. I was quite pleased with the feedback I got. Now I’m ready to start querying agents.

I’m telling you this tale because, as with all of my stories, I want to encourage and bring hope to the reader. Because sometimes you need a story.

Donna Jo Stone writes YA contemporary novels about tough issues but always ends the stories with a note of hope. She blogs at donnajostone.com.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 

~A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness~

Many things that are true feel like a cheat. Kingdoms get the princes they deserve, farmers’ daughters die for no reason, and sometimes witches merit saving. Quite often, actually. You’d be surprised.

Coner wakes one night to find a monster peering into his bedroom window, but it’s not as scary as the nightmare he has every time he goes to sleep.

I read this short book in one sitting. Everything else I was doing had to wait while I read this masterfully woven tale of fantasy and a crushing truth that is oh-so-hard to bear. It is a frightful and tender story of grief. Coner has to grapple with his monsters, real and imagined.  Patrick Ness captured Coner’s mixed up feelings and inner turmoil perfectly. This one is going to stick with me for a while. Sweet and sad. The story is fantasy, but the emotions are raw and real.

A story about coming to terms with grief unlike anything I’ve read before.

When I picked the physical book up, it was surprisingly heavy. The illustrations are dark and dramatic, and the story heartbreaking. I felt the combination was artistic and effective.

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Page Turning

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Setting

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Emotion Provoking

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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☕ Book Break ☕ | ~Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu~

~Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu~

Moxie Girls Fight Back is the motto of these high schoolers who are fed up with being groped, talked down to, marginalized, and assaulted while those in authority turn a blind eye.

There’s a contrast between Viv’s reality and her grandparents, and that showing quite well without disrespecting either generation. The same sensitivity is shown when talking about people with different political backgrounds and belief systems.

As I was reading this I relived incidents from my own junior high and high school days. I think this book is a call to action. It’s not enough to just make it through until you graduate because the problem is never going to go away. It is a pervasive attitude that is passed down and tolerated unless boys are taught better.  

This book is set in a realistic high school environment where there is language, assault, and stuff that kids encounter. I would hope that most administrations would not be as blatantly anti-female as the one depicted in this book, but it reads as if it could be true. This is a book with feminist characters, and a simplified definition of feminism.

There is a bit tossed in hinting about two girls in a relationship. This encompassed all of a few sentences and felt a little odd, but I can see it playing out in real life that way.

This is a book about empowering girls to insist on an education and the right to walk the halls without being groped or worse. It’s a book about girls demanding accountability from authority. It’s fresh and thought provoking.

Well written and relevant. LOVED Viv and the portrayal of her family. Splash of romance. Besides being a compelling and well told story, this is a thoughtful book that could be used as a starting point for good discussions.

I definitely see the need for this type of book. This issue is not going to go away and I think novels can open our eyes and help us understand the world better.

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☕ 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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☕ Book Break ☕ |~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

~What to Say Next by Julie Buxbaum~

 

“There’s a famous expression that if you’ve met one person with autism, then… you’ve met one person with autism.

So you met me.

Just me.

Not a diagnosis.”

 

 

David Drucker has what used to be known as Asperger’s although he does not claim the label.

 

David is at the bottom rung of the social ladder . Kit, on the other hand, is one of the popular crowd. When her father dies, she can’t bear to hang out in the lunchroom with her chatty  regular crew and decides to sit with David, who eats his lunch all by his lonesome at a table devoid of company. A friendship ensues which eventually leads to a romance.

 

David is sweet, socially naive, and blunt. He carries a notebook around with him that his older sister helped him start when he first began high school. It lists things to remind him of proper social behavior, and clues to help him identify people. David, like many on the spectrum, does not easily recognize people, not to mention being totally lost socially.

 

The idea of David’s notebook reminded me a bit of the nonfiction book “The Journal of Best Practices” compiled by a man on the spectrum as an assistive tool to help him be a good husband. I can so see this kind of notebook being a necessary part of an aspies life to help navigate all the intricacies of day to day interaction.

 

Kit has her own set of issues to deal with.

 

I liked this book. I felt the portrayal of David was realistic, and I liked his character. There is a little bit of stereotyping by David himself when he denies his autism, even though it’s obvious he’s on the spectrum. I LOVED the positive relationship David had with his big sister, and the fact that he had supportive parents.

 

Adding to the story was a bit of a mystery about the car accident, which Kit asks David to help her solve. The answer is surprising.

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Plot

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Realistic

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Heart Tugging

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

David does have to deal with some serious bullying, but I felt it was realistic, considering some of the stories I’ve heard.

 

 

 

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