All tagged Bloomsbury

One of the Year's Best: Where the Stars Still Shine by Trish Doller

“I can’t do this. I can’t sit here and pretend I’m a normal girl when my whole life has been so fucked up. Greg and Phoebe haven’t slept in the backseat of their car, or eaten all their meals from a vending machine because their mothers forgot to buy groceries. And the only monsters Tucker and Joe will ever have to contend with are the imaginary kind that are banished in the light. These people are so clean and I feel so—tainted.”

My copy of Trish Doller’s second novel, Where the Stars Still Shine, arrived last week and as I’m looking at it’s pretty, oh-so-shiny cover sitting on my desk, I’m still stuck when trying to talk about why it’s such a special book. 

When I read Trish’s debut novel, Something Like Normal, I had to plug my Kindle in to finish the last ten percent or so because my battery was dead and it was 2:00 a.m. and I just couldn't fathom stopping.

The exact same thing—right down to the dead Kindle battery—happened when I read her second novel, Where the Stars Still Shine. 

Like Something Like Normal, and perhaps even more so, Where the Stars Still Shine captures authentic emotion in a character-driven novel in a way that’s simply real

Read the rest --> 

Review: Also Known As by Robin Benway

...I had a shiny new plan.

And like most of my plans, it involved deviousness, blatant lying, and coffee.

I started with the coffee first.

About a month ago, I re-watched all five seasons of Alias (and, yes, I'm still mad about the suckitude of the final season) and found myself wishing that I could find books that fit the Alias-style mold: spying, action, romance and humor all wrapped into a quickly-paced, mysterious storyline.

Around the same time, I went to ALA's mid-winter exhibits and ended up in a conversation with one of the representatives from Bloomsbury about how I wished there were more young adult novels that were full of smart humor (I'd just finished reading and loving The Reece Malcolm LIst, which nails that). The rep then dug into her stash of review copies and handed me Robin Benway's Also Known As.

Strangely, not only had a never read Benway, I'd never even heard of her, despite that seemingly everyone on the internet adored Audrey, Wait!​

Clearly, the reading stars aligned, converging as Also Known As, a fun, fresh and absolutely charming novel.

Review: Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt

He said focus. The word focus. I hear angels singing. Everything goes dark except for a light that beams down on Sean. It is a God-given sign- like when people see the Virgin Mary in their grilled cheese, except this isn’t religious and I’m actually not a big fan of dairy. I stare at the back of his head. His HEAD. Something I see every day but never really see because it’s been there forever. Since the first day of third grade.

I crumple up my web. I don’t need it. Praise be, the Focus Gods have spoken.

I am going to write about Sean Griswold’s Head.

Review: Sean Griswold's Head by Lindsey Leavitt - on Clear Eyes, Full ShelvesAccording to her guidance counselor, fifteen-year-old Payton Gritas needs a focus object-an item to concentrate her emotions on. It’s supposed to be something inanimate, but Payton decides to use the thing she stares at during class: Sean Griswold’s head.

In the first few pages of Lindsey Leavitt’s Sean Griswolds Head, I found myself thinking this was too young and immature for me, but it wasn’t long before I was hooked into a story that has fold upon fold of serious and not-so-serious issues.

Payton, whose point of view the story is from, is a young high school girl who excels at everything she does. There’s nothing she doesn’t do or handle well until she stumbles upon her mother giving her father an injection which they clarify isn’t for recreational purposes—her father has MS. 

They just change. Their body changes. Their abilities - the things they do that make them who they are - leave, sometimes temporarily, sometimes forever. Every day they wake up with that big what if?

And nothing is scarier than a life filled with what ifs - living by day without predictability and control. Some people end up losing feeling. Some have uncontrollable spasms. Some can’t function. Some end up blind or in a wheelchair. Some end up bedridden and paralyzed.

It’s hard to know who “some people” will be.

Review: Small Town Sinners by Melissa Walker

Small Town Sinners by Melissa WalkerI have recently been reading through a number of young adult novels recommended to me by Sarah dealing with challenging, contemporary issues.

Among these have been Sara Zarr’s incredible Story of a Girl, Siobhan Vivian’s brilliant The List and Small Town Sinners, Melissa Walker’s difficult, yet sensitive 2011 release about a small town evangelical community.

Each of these has been quite moving in very different ways, and each has been equally memorable, addressing issues and making me think without being “problem novels.” I love seeing this level of innovation of depth from today’s YA writers. 

I grew up in a small town, taught in a small town and currently live in one. There are many wonderful aspects of this experience and just as many not-so-great ones. Small towns are sometimes tempting to stereotype but also defy classification. Melissa Walker skillfully captures the complexity of a small town, walking a line in which she peels back the layers of small town life and the influence of strong Evangelical fervor.

Small Town Sinners is told from the point-of-view of Lacey Anne Byer, the daughter of the children’s pastor for the House of Enlightenment, her town’s evangelical church, who says,

I’m just trying to figure out what truth really is for me.


{Early Review} Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

Something Like Normal by Trish Doller

But what has been done can’t be undone. My best friend is dead and I’m never going to be the same Travis Stephenson.

Trish Doller’s remarkable debut, Something Like Normal, is one of those rare books that I recommend to nearly everyone. It’s an important, timely novel—one that’s lingered with me in the months since I read it.  

Well before SLN was published (it’s out on June 19), I found myself on seemingly every social media site insisting the everyone—absolutely everyone—read this novel about 19 year-old Marine Travis Stephenson, who’s home on leave in Florida following a tour-of-duty in Afghanistan where his best friend, Charlie, dies before his eyes. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (a fact kept hidden from the Marines, as that would torpedo his military career), Travis finds himself feeling like and outsider in his own home and hometown. 

As we head toward the beach I notice the differences in the landscape of the city. New businesses that weren’t there last year. Old businesses that are gone. It’s like a whole chunk of time has just … disappeared. The songs on the radio are different. The faces on the celebrity tabloids at the airport newsstand were people I didn’t recognize. There’s even a new American fucking Idol.

Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Melissa Walker’s new novel had an uphill battle with me.

You see, it managed to remind me of The Worst Earworm Ever. During my sophomore year of Professional Nerding School (aka college at American University), Toni Braxton’s Un-Break My Heart was everywhere I turned. I’d hear it playing on MTV in the dorm lounge, on the radio in the cafeteria, blasting on “boomboxes” (yep, we still had those in the nineties)… everywhere.

Toni’s soulful crooning* drove me nuts for months on end. 

However, don’t let this book fool you like it did me. 

Unbreak My Heart is a charming, heartfelt read about friendship, family, first love and second chances. 

Contemporary Young Adult fiction is a sub-genre near and dear to my heart.

I think it goes all the way back to my 13-year old self’s undying love for Judy Blume’s incredible novel, Tiger Eyes (Goodreads, Amazon). (Seriously, it is her absolute best, despite that it’s not nearly as widely read as Forever et al.) So, I watch Kirkus reviews, Goodreads lists and blog posts like a hawk for buzz about my favorite contemporary YA authors and new and new-to-me authors and then tap my fingers while waiting, waiting, waiting for these new releases. The following are five contemporary YAs that I’m eagerly anticipating.

In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Sarah Ockler raved about this book on Twitter, and since Sarah is amazing, I immediate but it on my “omigod I must read ASAP” list. Then, I discovered that one of the characters was inspired by Tim Riggins. After picking myself up off the floor, this rocketed into another level. (A note: I love Tim Riggins, but I will maintain forever and always that Coach Eric Taylor/Kyle Chandler is hotter than Tim Riggins/Taylor Kitsch. I dare you to try to change my mind.) In Honor takes place in the aftermath of the main character’s brother’s death in Iraq and the subsequent road trip (sa-woon—I looooove road trip novels) she takes with her brother’s best friend. It’s got to be awesome, right?

Simon & Schuster, May 2012

{Preorder In Honor as an ebook or hardcover.}

{Add on Goodreads.}