Friday Fifteen

So glad it’s Friday! Here are this week’s micro book reviews:

1. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Quiet and charming; I remember the vibe more than the plot details.

2. Kirsten Learns a Lesson (American Girls: Kirsten #2) by Janet Beeler Shaw
Not my favorite growing up, but looking back themes of language/communication were handled really nicely.

3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Read it for class and ended up devouring it like I was reading for fun.

4. Florence and Eric Take the Cake by Jocelyn Wild
Maybe if they were goats, not lambs, this hat/cake mix-up wouldn’t have been a problem.

5. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle
Last of the Time books, and the one I remember least.

Friday Fifteen

We made it to Friday! Time for some micro-book reviews.

1. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Kept thinking how this could easily have been published under literary fiction.

2. Aloft by Chang-rae Lee
Hard to relate to middle-aged Jerry when you’re a college student.

3. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Damnit, White, you win forever. Includes maybe my favorite line in all of literature.

4. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris
Maybe not as laugh-out-loud as Me Talk Pretty, but lots of good Sedaris-ness here.

5. A Fruit Is a Suitcase for Seeds by Jean Richards
Nice intro to plant science, and one of my favorite adorable titles.

Drum Roll Please…The Chance You Won’t Return ARC Giveaway Winner!

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on/tweeted about/shared the giveaway post! Reading all of your spring favorites made me feel:

I put all the entries into a random number generator/particle collider and the winner is…

Rachel Lynn Solomon!

Congratulations, Rachel! I really hope you enjoy The Chance You Won’t Return, and sending lots of good farewell-rain boots vibes your way. I’ll be in contact about mailing stuff.

Thanks again to everyone who entered. This was my first blog giveaway and it was a lot of fun! Look for others in the future, and happy (almost, really!) spring to all!

Links Galore

Lots of awesome links for the week:

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…Far From You by Tess Sharpe

I was so psyched to dive into Tess Sharpe’s Far From YouAt the Fourteenery retreat, I heard Tess read a little aloud and her writing blew me away. Add that to the fact that she’s weaved a compelling mystery and touching relationships, and Far From You is a must-read. A little more in depth as to why this should be on your pre-order list:

1. Mystery
I have major respect for anyone that can pull of a good mystery. Tess definitely delivers in that department–I spent a lot of the book thinking “Oh, I bet it’s this person…but what about this person?” (This was especially exciting after reading Gone Girl and figuring out the ‘twist’ on the first page.) When the reveal came at the end, it felt earned based on the clues Tess places throughout, but still dramatic and compelling.

2. Then and Now
Chapters alternate between Sophie’s life before Mina’s death and rehab and after returning home again. Not only does this enhance the mystery part of the novel, but it also lets us gradually see how Sophie’s relationships with Mina and Trev develop and how Sophie’s addiction to pain medication begins. Plus it totally kept me flipping pages–I’d finish a chapter and think “But what happens next?!”

3. Small Town Life
Tess totally creates the sense of small town life, and it never feels cliche or cloying. There’s major pressure on Sophie, since everyone knows about her addiction problems and since many people believe she’s to blame for Mina’s death. She can’t escape her baggage. But the small town atmosphere also means Sophie knows the people around her, and makes the murder feel that much more personal and intense.

4. Addiction
After a bad car accident, Sophie becomes addicted to pain medication. I can’t think of another YA novel that deals with this kind of addition, and it feels so genuine. I also love Sophie’s determination to stay off pills once she gets clean, even while dealing with the major emotional pain that comes along with trying to solve Mina’s murder.

5. The Ones You Love
Tess develops Sophie and Mina’s relationship in a touching, sad, beautiful way. They’re deeply devoted to each other and capable of causing each other great love and pain, which makes both their friendship and their relationship so genuine and heartbreaking. Similarly, Sophie’s friendship/relationship with Trev feels genuine and heartbreaking in its own way. In the hands of a lesser writer, these relationships could have come across as false or contrived, but Tess makes each one lovely and sad and true.

6. Family
Representations of family life in novels are a bit of a pet peeve of mine (in case you couldn’t tell) so I was really pleased to see that the Winters family is just as layered as any of the other characters in Sophie’s life. Her parents love her but are concerned about her and don’t really trust her–aka, they feel like real parents who have seen their daughter go through tough times. Also, Aunt Macy is pretty much the best and I want a spin-off about her.

7. Sophie
Sophie Winters of my new favorite protagonists. She’s dealing with the murder of her best friend, getting framed for said murder, getting clean, etc. and still manages to be super badass. While I was reading, I got a great Veronica Mars-ish vibe from FAR FROM YOU, but Sophie might actually be more kickass than Veronica. Guys, that is major praise from me.

8. Rachel
Obviously Mina is a huge presence in the book, but one character that stood out for me was Sophie’s friend Rachel. In a book that has a lot of (earned) intense emotional relationships, Rachel serves as a breath of fresh air. She’s smart and thoughtful and I always enjoyed her scenes.

9. The Last Line
Kill me with the feels, why don’t you Tess?

10. Tess Is Made of Awesome
Tess is the kind of person I’d meet and think “Oh, man, look at how awesome she looks. She’s going to be way too cool for me. No way could we be friends.” But then of course she’s open and wonderful and passionate and of course you’re friends. She cares deeply about others and wants to make the world a better place, and also runs around with her beautiful dogs and chops vegetables as stress relief. This is a writer you want in your life.

Far From You is out in less than a month, so put it on your to-read/pre-order list now!

Friday Fifteen

Hooray for Friday! Onto this week’s book reviews in fifteen words or under.

1. Lioness Rampant (Song of the Lioness, #4) by Tamora Pierce
A little slow to start, but lots of battle awesomeness at the end. All the feels.

2. Karen’s New Friend (Baby-Sitters Little Sister #36) by Ann M. Martin
Way to be disablist, Karen. Can’t remember if Addie showed up in future Karen books.

3. Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth
Can see why its “metafiction” stories were a big deal, but didn’t stay with me.

4. Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu
While shows like “Hoarders” sensationalize, Omololu looks at the families behind hoarding. Sensitively done.

5. Titanic: an Illustrated History by Donald Lynch
Lots of cool info and illustrations. Had this before the movie came out–history hipsters.

The Chance You Won’t Return ARC Giveaway!

It’s March, which means that when I’m ready for spring and flowers and greenery, the weather is usually more like:

But March also means that The Chance You Won’t Return hits shelves next month. Holy cow, guys, just one calendar page turn away!

And since my book’s going to be out in the world soon, this sounds like the perfect time to have an ARC giveaway! The details:

  • To enter, leave a comment on this post about why you’re excited for spring.
  • Extra points for tweets with the hashtag #TCYWRgiveaway
  • Extra points for sharing on Facebook (Make sure to tag me so I can see your share.)
  • US and Canada residents only. (Sorry, other international readers!)

The giveaway is open until Wednesday, March 12 at 11:59 pm EST. After that I’ll compile the entries into a random number generator/particle collider and post the winner on Friday, March 14. (Pi Day! That’s totally a reason to look forward to spring.)

Start commenting/tweeting/sharing and soon you could have a signed ARC of The Chance You Won’t Return in your hands!

Or, you know, paws.

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim

When E.K. Johnston, aka Kate, read a little of The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim aloud at the Fourteenery retreat, I couldn’t stop giggling and knew this was just the kind of book I needed in my life. Fortunately, reading the whole book gave me pretty much that same feeling, plus a lot more. Here are a few of my reasons why you should read The Story of Owen.

1. Here There Be Dragons
Seriously, you tell me you don’t want to read a book about dragons and I don’t trust your judgment in general. The dragons in The Story of Owen are intense and dangerous and therefore awesome. While a lot of series feature paranormal characters that have lost a major sense of threat, I love that Owen keeps them as majorly life-threatening giant beasts.

2. Revised History
Owen and Siobhan’s world is pretty similar to our own–cars, high school, hockey–but living among dragons means that the world has been a little different. The passages about world history (plus dragons) made me laugh and smile, and I love that Kate has thought about her characters’ world so thoroughly.

3. Musical Theory
As someone who’s totally not musical, I love getting to see characters who have that talent, and being inside musical Siobhan’s head was a real treat. Not only does she play multiple instruments, compose music, and enjoy pieces, but she also thinks of the world in terms of music. Getting to hear someone described as a “a tuba to the core” felt so right.

4. Humor
As I mentioned above, it’s hard to read The Story of Owen without laughing out loud. It reminded me of reading The Enchanted Forest Chronicles back in the day (the first book series I remember really making me laugh). Kate’s humor is delightfully wry and her characters make wonderful quips with still feeling grounded.

5. Friendship
I’ve heard a lot of people mention how they’d like a YA novel that focuses less on romance and more on friendship, and now I know I can hand them The Story of Owen. Siobhan and Owen’s friendship reminds me so much of my friendship with guys in high school, and characters like Emily and Sadie feel so genuine as well. This is a group I want to spend time with, and a group that reminds me of my own friends. (You know, if we fought dragons.)

6. Family
Similarly, The Story of Owen does a wonderful job depicting the intricacies and love of family. From Owen’s Aunts Lottie and Hannah to Siobhan’s parents to Owen’s mother and father, the adults populating the world feel real and thoughtful and loving, even if they don’t always make the best decisions. (Also, I really want a piece of Hannah’s smithy pizza.)

7. Last Battle
Oh my gosh, Siobhan in the last battle. In a book that has a lot to do with bravery, this scene killed me. I’m not going to leave anymore details here, but it’s so well written and captivating. The feels!

8. Oh, Canada
Growing up, my experiences with Canadians in children’s lit were pretty limited to the Anne of Green Gables series and Susan Cooper’s The Boggart. I’m glad to add The Story of Owen to the list. Canada’s a beautiful country and I loved getting to see a little more of it in book form (okay, Canada plus dragons).

9. Good Common Sense
One of my personal reading favorites is a set of characters with good common sense. The cast of The Story of Owen so delivers there. And now I kind of feel like it would be a good idea to keep a sword in the trunk of my car in case of dragon attacks.

10. Kate the Great
Kate’s the kind of person who can write a whole novel in her sleep (literally). Who will find out you’re terrified of giant spiders and tell you exactly when you should look away during The Desolation of Smaug and when it’s safe to look back. Who’s a dedicated bookseller/sharer of stories. Who’s a writer you’ll be hearing about long into the future.

Friday Fifteen

Happy Friday, everyone! It’s also the end of February, and I for one am ready to end the month and end winter. (Or at least to know that we’re that much closer to spring.)

1. The Stanislavski System: The Professional Training of an Actor by Sonia Moore
Didn’t make me an actor, but want to revisit with an eye to writing character.

2. Gallows Hill by Lois Duncan
Saw a TV movie loosely based on this; went into the book with skewed expectations.

3. A Kiss for Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik
Everybody’s kissing everybody. Hen puts a stop to that.

4. The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty
Feeling Sorry for Celia‘s a tough act to follow, but Moriarty always delivers fun.

5. Everyday Italian: 125 Simple and Delicious Recipes by Giada De Laurentiis
I kind of want to be Giada.