NOTE: I don't post to this blog super-duper often anymore, because I'm busy writing, well, books. (Read more about that here.) For more up-to-date, day-to-day ramblings, visit my Facebook page.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: IF YOU FIND ME by Emily Murdoch

Author: Emily Murdoch
Pub info: St. Martin's / Griffin, 2013; 256 pp
Genre / Audience: contemporary / YA
Caveats for Younger Readers: contains sexual abuse & harsh language

This book first grabbed my attention as the debut novel of a fellow Lucky 13 author. Somehow I missed reading it as an ARC, but when I saw it in the bookstore, I snapped it up. Universally well reviewed and shortlisted for all kinds of awards, it intrigued me.

Goodreads summary:
A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey’s younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency--until one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and two strangers arrive. Suddenly, the girls are taken from the woods and thrust into a bright and perplexing new world of high school, clothes, and boys.

Now, Carey must face the truth of why her mother abducted her ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won’t let her go--a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn’t spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.
Status: finished 8/27/14

My impressions:
First of all, let me say that I'm not typically drawn to issue books. If the book has a big hook, like "Comatose girl's family fights for the right to keep her alive," I tend to stay away. Why? Because these issues are tough to write about well without getting melodramatic and clicheed. Every once in awhile, an author nails it with unique characters who know how to tell their own story, not just the story grabbed from the latest headlines. R.J. Palacio pulled it off with Wonder. And Emily Murdoch does a fantastic job with If You Find Me. It's all due to Carey's first-person POV. Sure, Carey's a strong, gutsy young woman--she survived in the woods for weeks on end, caring for her sister--but she's also a musician, a lover of poetry, a girl who longs to be loved and still holds people at arm's length. I love the touches that make Carey so believable, the fierceness with which she guards her secrets. This story unfolds with clarity, heart, and marvelous storytelling. Frankly, I picked it up and thought, Do I really want to read this right now? I skimmed a couple of pages and was hooked. It's fantastic!

About Emily:
When she's not reading or writing, you'll find Emily caring for her horses, dogs, and family on a ranch in rural Arizona, where the desert's tranquil beauty and rich wildlife often enter into her poetry and writing. If You Find Me, shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize 2014, is a YALSA BFYA selection of 2014 and earned starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus, and School Library Journal. It was named a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice for June 2013 as well as garnering several other honors. Currently Emily is working on a second novel, Forget Me Knots, due out from Indigo in summer 2015.

Online:
You can read Emily's poetry as well as news and events at her website here. She's also on Twitter, here. If You Find Me has a reader's guide with discussion questions that you can access here.

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: September 1.  SIGN UP HERE TO RECEIVE A BRIEF EMAIL WHENEVER A NEW GIVEAWAY BEGINS.

To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

TBR 2014: Book No. 23



First of all, true confessions: If You Find Me (St. Martin's / Griffin, 2013) was written by Emily Murdoch, one of my Lucky 13 pals. But because this is my blog, not Goodreads, I don't have to worry about trashing Emily's ratings if I hate the book. But I don't mind telling you, with all the buzz and glowing reviews this novel has received, I seriously doubt that will be the case. I'm thinking it could turn out to be one of my favorite Lucky novels.
"Carey and Nessa’s story is memorable and deeply moving, and readers will find it very easy to fall in love with these girls.” – Publishers Weekly

“A compelling narrative that is both unflinching about life’s pain and hopeful about its possibilities.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
Feeling Lucky? Grab a copy of If You Find Me and read along!

That's right: I've committed to reading all the books on my TBR Shelf this year--and blogging them! Click here to read the reviews I've posted so far.

Review: OUT OF THE EASY by Ruta Sepetys




















Title: Out of the Easy
Author: Ruta Sepetys
Pub info: Philomel Books, 2013; 346 pp
Genre / Audience: historical noir / YA
Caveats for Younger Readers: nothing graphic, but it's about a whorehouse, okay?

How do you resist a book about a girl trying to make it out of the Quarter, where her mother works for the most celebrated whorehouse in New Orleans?

Goodreads summary:
It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer.

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test.

With characters as captivating as those in her internationally bestselling novel Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys skillfully creates a rich story of secrets, lies, and the haunting reminder that decisions can shape our destiny.

Status: finished 8/24/14

My impressions:
This is a novel full of atmosphere and brimming over with fun characters. 1950s New Orleans bursts into life under Sepetys's skillful pen, and I was full in, cheering for Josie the whole way. Add in her bookstore pal Patrick and hunky newcomer Jessie (I kept picturing Jude Law as he was in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and you've got a winning combo. Were there a few cliches? Well, sure--the hooker with a heart of gold (more than one, actually), the staunchly loyal and affable chauffeur (kind of a Driving Miss Daisy type), to name a couple. But even these folks were so likeable that I was fine with having seen them before. I love Josie's spunk and her dream to go to college, and what she'll do to get there. I had a great time reading Out of the Easy, and I'm excited now to read Between Shades of Gray as well.

About Ruta:
Ruta's debut novel, the YA historical Between Shades of Gray, earned her kudos across the board as well as placing her on the shortlist for several awards. She was born in Michigan (yay! My home state!) but now lives in Tennessee with her family. Currently, she's working on a third novel.

Online:
News about Ruta can be found on her website and Twitter feed.  She's also active on Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest. Watch a cool trailer of Out of the Easy here, and note that the book has its own website separate from Ruta's right here.
Click here to subscribe to Ruta's email list and get the goods on her latest appearances and exclusive content.

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: September 1.  SIGN UP HERE TO RECEIVE A BRIEF EMAIL WHENEVER A NEW GIVEAWAY BEGINS.

To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

TBR 2014: Book No. 22




I've been hanging on to this book for a while now. I realize I'm one of only three people on the planet who haven't read Ruta Sepetys's Between Shades of Gray, but before I read that, I'm diving into her latest novel, Out of the Easy (Philomel Books, 2013)--because I love New Orleans, and this sounds like a great, juicy story.
"A page-turner that noir romance fans will gobble up like popcorn shrimp."  --Booklist
“A haunting peek at the life of a teenage girl in 1950s New Orleans.”  --Entertainment Weekly
Grab your gumbo spoon and dig in!

That's right: I've committed to reading all the books on my TBR Shelf this year--and blogging them! Click here to read the reviews I've posted so far.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Review: ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

Author: Rainbow Rowell
Pub info: St. Martin's Press / Griffin, 2013; 325 pp
Genre / Audience: contemporary love story / YA
Caveats for Younger Readers: harsh sexual language; mild sexual scenes; drug use
So, I'm not a romance reader. When someone tells me a book falls into the romance genre, I run, not walk, to the nearest bathroom, where I struggle to retain my latest meal. But I'm also the first to admit that when a love story is well done--when it's not just a romance--the result can be extraordinary. (Gone With the Wind. Pride and Prejudice. The Fault in Our Stars. You get it.) So I picked up Eleanor & Park with just that expectation.

Goodreads summary:
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.
Status: finished 8/19

My impressions:
Let's just say I was not disappointed. Rainbow Rowell manages to tread that careful line of romance fiction without descending into a melodramatic, soppy love story. How does she do it? She creates extraordinary, unique, heart-wrenching characters. Eleanor's family is horrible to an almost Dickensian degree, but so real it makes you cry. Park is the only Asian boy in their high school, but his journey is a completely personal one. No one is a stereotype here, not even the mean girls who bully Eleanor, although those scenes are perhaps the weakest parts of a very strong book. The amazing thing here is Rowell's ability to show us our world through two very different lenses (the book alternates point of view between Eleanor and Park), and also gives us an utterly convincing tale of how they come together. Marvelous. Read it.

About Rainbow:
Rainbow Rowell is the author of another YA novel, Fangirl (St. Martin's, 2013), as well as Landline, written for adults (St. Martin's, 2014) and Attachments (Dutton, 2011). Currently she's working on yet another novel, and she recently signed a deal with First Second Books to write two graphic novels. I know. She's insane. She also lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

Online:
You can find Rainbow Rowell all over the place. She maintains a fun website and blog here, and she's also on Twitter.

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: September 1.  SIGN UP HERE TO RECEIVE A BRIEF EMAIL WHENEVER A NEW GIVEAWAY BEGINS.

To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

TBR 2014: Book No. 21


You don't have to remind me that I've fallen off my goal this summer. I get it. I know. I haven't stopped reading, but I've been a bit busy for posting. Still. We carry on.

Unless you don't follow young adult fiction, or you do but you prefer cave dwelling to bookstore browsing, you've heard of Rainbow Rowell, author of Eleanor & Park (St. Martin's Press, 2013). This book has been on my radar not because I swoon over teenage love stories but because everyone says it's just so good. We'll see if I agree.
“Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green (author of The Fault in Our Stars), The New York Times Book Review

“In her rare and surprising exploration of young misfit love, Rowell shows us the beauty in the broken.”—Stewart Lewis, author of You Have Seven Messages
 Are you in? Can you handle young love?

That's right: I've committed to reading all the books on my TBR Shelf this year--and blogging them! Click here to read the reviews I've posted so far.

Monday, August 4, 2014

August Giveaway

I know what you're going to say: What business have I, running a giveaway of the Month of Adventure books on my TBR Shelf when I haven't even finished reading the last one?

Yeah, well, it's summer. I've been on vacation. And sometimes fiction lures me away from nonfiction. But the giveaway must go on, so here's what we have on tap this month. Click on the titles to read my review of each (except for that last one):

WIND, SAND AND STARS
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
adult adventure / aviation / memoir

WILD: FROM LOST TO FOUND ON THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
by Cheryl Strayed
adult adventure / memoir

A YEAR IN THE WORLD: JOURNEYS OF A PASSIONATE TRAVELER
by Frances Mayes
adult travel essay / memoir
Don't be put off by the fact that I laid this book aside; I wanted to travel light on vacation, so I brought my Kindle instead of this book. I've read about a third of it, though, and can attest that Frances Mayes's lovely, evocative writing is as strong as ever, and her descriptions of Spain make me want to hop on a plane to Madrid.










GIVEAWAY RULES:
1. U.S. entrants only, please.
2. Be sure to note the book you want to win AND WHY.
3. Giveaway prizes will be brand-new books delivered to you via Amazon.com. They will be paperback editions unless the book is still available only in hardcover. 
4.  This giveaway ends at the end of the day MONDAY, AUGUST 11.
5. There's a new giveaway every month! CLICK HERE to receive a brief email every time a new giveaway is posted on the blog. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway