Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fiction. Show all posts

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern

From the inside flap (because I can't write a more perfect blurb, and because this description--and that cover--is part of what made me fall in love at first sight):

Eleven years old.
The beginning of everything!
For Maggie Mayfield, turning eleven means she's one year closer to college. One year closer to voting. And one year closer to getting a tattoo.* It's time for her to pull up her bootstraps (the family motto) and think about more than after school snacks and why her older sisters are too hot for their own good. Because something mysterious is going on with her cool dude dad, whose legs have permanently fallen asleep, and Maggie is going to find out exactly what the problem is and fix it. After all, nothing's impossible when you're future president of the United States of America, fifth grade science fair champion, and a shareholder in Coca-Cola. Right?

*Not that she wants to get a tattoo. They're terrifying. But it's nice to know she's closer to getting one anyway.

I'm going to say it now (if you haven't figured it out already): The Meaning of Maggie is pure brilliance. So good, in fact, that I finished it, in its entirety, IN ONE DAY. It would have been in one afternoon, but as I approached the end, I knew there was a 110% chance that I was going to ugly cry, so I had to wait to finish it until after the kids were in bed.

The book opens with Maggie listening to the incessant beeping of a heart monitor from the atrociously uncomfortable confines of a hospital room chair. Why am I giving away the opener? Because this is what made me love this book so, SO much. I could immediately relate, having spent the majority of my eighth year in and out of hospital rooms while both my grandparents--my much beloved, one and only set of grandparents--battled cancer. As the story progressed, the connection only increased. Maggie's struggles were my own: trying to deal with normal life--and even have fun--in the midst of something BIG, the emotional ups and downs of being a kid surrounded by such grown-up happenings, the desire to know exactly what was going on, and the sick, sinking-stomach feeling that knowledge brought. In Maggie's mother I saw my own mom, working past the edge of exhaustion to take care of her parents while trying to shield me from all the stuff I saw anyway (because, like Maggie, I had a knack for observing and understanding things I wasn't supposed to). It felt like Maggie and I were soul sisters, despite the age difference. Though, technically speaking, she'd be my older soul sister, since I was only three in 1988.

Now lest you think it all sounds just a bit too melancholy, let me assure you, Megan Jean Sovern has created the perfect literary storm. While Maggie's story is full of emotional punch, her spunky personality and razor sharp wit bring constant humor to every page (I'm always a little jealous when eleven-year-olds are funnier than I am). Every character is fantastic, but Maggie quickly became one of my most favorite MCs ever. She navigates the waters of the unknown, annoying older sisters, and young love with the poise and optimism befitting a future president, with the perfect dash of endearing, giggle-inducing exuberance. The story is told in first person (my favorite!) so you get the full impact of Maggie's genius. And the usage of footnotes and emphatic ALL CAPS moments are the cherry on top of the proverbial word sundae (a passion for sweets is another trait Maggie and I share).

In conclusion, this debut novel has it all and delivers it in a most unputdownable fashion. Intelligent, charming, and poignant, it's the perfect summer read that will both tickle your funny bone and tug at your heartstrings.

PS: A portion of the proceeds of this book will be donated to the National MS Society. It's a win-win.

PPS: This book also has one of the best book trailers ever.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Stranger Things by Erin Healy

This last December, I had the honor of hosting best-selling author Erin Healy on my blog to promote her new book. I've been a long time fan of Erin's books, and I'm happy to say Stranger Things is yet another inspiring, thought provoking, and impactful novel.

Serena Diaz's life is suddenly torn apart after a troubled student accuses her of sexual misconduct. In an effort to escape the inevitable fallout, Serena retreats to the comfort of the woods, only to stumble into the middle of a criminal operation. And she almost pays for this discovery with her life, until a man she's never met steps in front of the bullet meant for her. Haunted by mysterious visions and the question of why a complete stranger would die for her, Serena's search for answers reveals an evil she never expected. Caught in a tangle of false accusations, Serena is forced to confront the darkness and step into a world of terrifying danger where she soon realizes her life isn't the only one at stake.

Among the fun stories and the easy reads, the classic novels and the favorite series, there are a handful of books on my bookshelf that have done more than just entertain me. They've impacted me in a big way and changed the way I look at the world around me. This is one of those books. In her latest novel, Erin not only weaves a captivating and suspenseful story, but she also tackles the very serious--and very real--topic of sex trafficking. In the midst of the beautiful writing and masterful storytelling I've come to love so much from Erin, the import of the truth behind the fiction began to haunt me. As I was caught up in the characters' stories--each with their own unique, powerful, and emotional layers--the realization that their stories are, in some places, closer to fact than fiction was heartbreaking. And then I came to the line that completely wrecked me:

"And then she thought she didn't really want to hear this story. She wanted the sordid tales that involved fourteen-year-old girls to stay at arm's length the way they did in the papers, or in her parents' safe house. She wanted them to remain trapped at a safe distance on digital screens, where she didn't have to look a victim in the eye and find she had no idea what to say."

Wow. Can we say "hard truth"? I saw myself in those lines, and the more I read, the more I wanted to do something to offer the hope woven into the pages of this story to the real-life women who so desperately need it. And that is what makes this book so amazingly wonderful--its power to defeat apathy and inspire change. If you're a fan of emotionally charged, well-written suspense, I hope you'll put this book at the top of your to-read list, then spread the message: We're in it to end it.

If, like me, stories like these--whether fiction or real life accounts of those exploited--have inspired you to take action, the End It website is a great place to start. There you'll find ways you can show your support and take a stand against modern-day slavery, and links to organizations that are leading the fight against human trafficking. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, Nebraska, where nothing exciting ever happens. Until the day the Green Wind shows up at her window with his flying Leopard and whisks her away to Fairyland. There she encounters all manner of things she could never have imagined, both marvelous and dangerous. When she takes on the task of retrieving a witch's stolen wooden spoon, it falls to September, a book-loving dragon, and an almost human boy named Saturday to vanquish a tyrannical Marquess and restore order to Fairyland. But this adventure won't just threaten September's life. She might just lose her heart as well.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is quite possibly the most fun I've ever had telling people what book I'm reading. How so many words manage to roll off the tongue so beautifully, I'll never understand. How can I properly convey how wonderful this book is? There's so much to love! Just reading the cast of characters on the opening page is enough to tell you the story is going to be magical. (Witches, Wyverns, Spriggans, Numerous Velocipes...Do tell!) Reading this book is like being transported to a modern version of Alice's Wonderland. I found myself constantly amazed by the imagination of the author and the vast and varied cast she created inside the enchanting world of Fairyland. The narrator is perfection, stepping in at just the right moments with all the wit and poetic speech that is to be expected from the teller of such a tale. The writing is fantastic, the kind of stuff you'll find yourself constantly wishing you could fit into a tweet, in order to share the brilliance with the rest of the world.

"Stories have a way of changing faces. They are unruly things, undisciplined, given to delinquency and the throwing of erasers. This is why we must close them up into thick, solid books, so they cannot get out and cause trouble."


"It is true that novelists are shameless and obey no decent law, and they are not to be trusted on any account, but some Mysteries even they must honor."

See what I mean? 

Most of all, I love that the author isn't afraid to mix humor with seriousness, the light hearted with a darker edge. I love the way that September, dear, brave girl, grows throughout the story. I came to many passages that, as I was reading them, seemed as if they were trying to teach me a very important lesson in some wonderful, mysterious way. The whole book is like that, wonderful and mysterious and enchanting. Including the ending of the second to last chapter that, just when I thought I had it all figured out, snuck up behind me and surprised me one last time before it disappeared and left me sitting there with my mouth hanging open.

If you're at all interested in traveling to a fantastic world filled with fairies, lovable dragons, terrible Marquesses with very fine hats, and a bathhouse where you can wash your courage clean, I don't think you'll find a better book for the job.

Then again, I am a novelist and not to be trusted. Perhaps you'll just have to make your own judgements.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman + The Dark by Lemony Snicket

Today's book reviews come as a two-for-one post! I read Fortunately, The Milk earlier this week, and then my son reminded me of the awesomeness of The Dark by picking it for bedtime last night and I had to share. Both of these would make great gifts for the kids on your Christmas list!

When Mom is away and Dad is put in charge, the inevitable happens: He forgets to buy the ever important milk. Off he goes to save breakfast--but this will be no ordinary trip to the corner store. Hilarity ensues as Dad returns to explain just why fetching the milk took "ages and ages".

Neil Gaiman's latest children's book, Fortunately, The Milk, is an absolutely brilliant work of utter nonsense. I loved everything about it. It's a very quick read--it took me about an hour (and that includes the inevitable interruptions that happen when you're trying to read with children about). I'm not going to tell you anything more because I don't want to spoil the fantastic surprise of reading it and finding something marvelous around every page. Just go out, get it for your kids for Christmas, read, and then wrap.


Laslzo is afraid of the dark and all the places it lives in his house. But when his trusty nightlight suddenly goes out, he discovers that the dark might be friendlier than he thought.

Lemony Snicket's foray into the picture book world comes with wonderful results. The Dark is a charming story with equally charming illustrations and an encouraging message for little ones who aren't too fond of nighttime. While the dark is mysterious, I love that it's never portrayed as overly frightening, and by the end it feels like you could even be friends with the dark (or at least mutually respecting acquaintances). Overall there's something very calming about the book and its simple but beautiful text, which makes it a perfect bedtime story. From a mom who has read A LOT of picture books--this one is a keeper.

What books are you planning on buying for your kids this Christmas? I bought my daughter (who is very into fashion design) Different Like Coco, a picture book biography of Coco Chanel. And for my son, something that combines his two great loves: Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary. Share your holiday purchases in the comments below!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Author Interview: Erin Healy

It's my pleasure to be hosting the lovely Erin Healy on the blog today! Erin is a best-selling author and award-winning fiction editor who has worked with talented novelists such as James Scott Bell, Frank Peretti, and Ted Dekker. She is the author of Kiss and Burn (co-authored with Ted Dekker), and several other novels, including her last book Afloat (click to read my review). Her latest supernatural thriller, Stranger Things, comes to stores on New Year’s Eve.

Library Journal says: “Serena Diaz’s teaching career came to an abrupt end when a student falsely accused her of sexual misconduct. Seeking solace in the woods, she discovers that a gang of sex traffickers has taken over a vacant house. Serena is almost captured by one of the criminals but is saved by an unknown man who has been shadowing her. He is shot, and Serena escapes with her life. But she is drawn to know more about this stranger who died for her. What follows is a suspenseful story of danger and pure evil. Whom can Serena trust in a world that seems intent on serving its own self-interests? VERDICT Healy (Afloat; coauthor with Ted Dekker, Burn and Kiss) has written an edgy, fast-paced spiritual thriller that will please Dekker fans.”

How was your idea for Stranger Things born?

Two years ago, during a Good Friday service, my pastor (Kelly Williams of Vanguard Church, Colorado Springs) asked the congregation: “If a complete stranger died while saving your life, wouldn’t you want to know everything you could about that person? Wouldn’t you want your life to honor that person’s death?” He challenged us to consider Jesus Christ in a new light—as a stranger, as a savior we might not know as well as we think we do. This idea has roots in Romans 5:8—“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Before I ever had the chance to know him, while he was a complete stranger to me, Christ died for me. The Message translation says “when [I was] of no use whatever to him.” Why would he do that? Have I investigated him thoroughly enough to connect my own life with his purposes? This is all background, though. Stranger Things isn’t an overtly Christian tale as my previous novels have been, but it’s a parable about these questions.

Stranger Things sounds like a pretty dark read. Why did you choose to write about sex trafficking?
Human trafficking (of which sex trafficking is a subcategory) is the world’s third-fastest growing illegal industry behind drugs and weapons. It is the most horrifying kind of modern captivity I can imagine, and my research proved that even my imagination fell short of reality. I picked it because it’s a real contemporary crisis, but also because it profoundly symbolizes the kind of bondage that Christ came to end (Isaiah 61:1-3). Freeing the captive, physically and spiritually, is a high calling for followers of Jesus who want to express their gratitude for his sacrifice and demonstrate his love through the continuation of his work.

What does all this have to do with the “thin places” that you’re always talking about?
The traditional (Celtic) definition of a thin place is a physical location in the world where the division between physical and spiritual realities falls away, a place where we can see the greater truth of our existence. In my stories I use the term “thin place” to define moments when a person experiences a sharpened spiritual awareness about what’s really going on in his or her life. Stranger Things  is the first novel in which I’ve combined both ideas. The thin place is a physical location, a burned-out house in a sparse terrain, where Serena discovers her purpose. “There are places in the world where you will encounter things so real that you will be surprised others don’t have an identical experience,” Serena’s father tells her. “But then you will realize that the clarity given to you is a gift from God. Perhaps this gift is just for you, maybe also it will touch the lives of others.”

Did anything surprise you while writing the novel?
I started with intentions to write about an Asian-based trafficking ring, but in the course of my research was distressed to learn just how close to home the problem lies. Though it’s impossible to get a precise count of how many people are victims of sex trafficking in the US, most estimates fall between 100,000 and 300,000 (mostly women and children). Since I learned this my own awareness has expanded, and I’m happy to see just how many efforts are already underway—not only in the US—to end this atrocity. The Polaris Project is a great place to begin learning about global human trafficking.

What do you hope readers will take away from Stranger Things?
I hope the novel is layered enough to meet each reader individually. Maybe some will be challenged to investigate Jesus Christ further. Maybe some will use their new awareness of trafficking to do something about it. (I’ve joined the prayer team of a local home for girls rescued from sexual slavery.) To date my favorite response to the book was from the person who found herself looking in a new way at the strangers who surrounded her. She felt unexpectedly protective and concerned, on heightened alert to ways in which she might be able to help them. In other words, ways in which she might be able to do what Christ did for her. So many opportunities! If we all moved through the world with eyes like that, what might change for the better? I love to think of all the possibilities.

Along with the provided interview, I had the privilege of asking Erin some additional questions of my own. One of the things I love about Erin is her desire to interact with her fans, which she does in such an easy going and warm way. Here's her reply to my questions:

You’ve worked as an editor for some very talented novelists. What inspired you to take up your pen as an author?
Though writing has always been a large part of whatever work (and a lot of play) is at hand, I started writing novels because Ted invited me to. (We co-authored Kiss and Burn before I wrote my solo books.) It wasn't that I'd never thought of it so much that the demands of career and family had prevented it. So to write publicly in the context of my established career was a fantastic opportunity.

Your books have had a great impact on my life, both as a reader and a writer. Can you share with us some ways your own life has been impacted through telling these stories?
That's wonderful! As for me, writing has made me a better editor. I think I'm kinder, more perceptive, and less frustrated to have my own creative outlet. I started writing in the same year of the national economic crisis, which was about the same time the publishing industry entered its own upheaval, so I've learned a lot about how to be patient, humble, and peaceful instead of anxious. I'm also learning (still very much in process) about how to be a better listener--to people and to God--and how to find my personal worth in God and not in the reception of my work.

What advice would you give to those of us who are chasing the dream of becoming a published author?
If you go into writing aiming to be successful, brace yourself for a real challenge. The percentage of hard-working, good writers who are successful from an economic, numeric, or literary point of view is excruciatingly small, though they do everything “right.”  If you go into writing because you have something to say and you believe God called you to say it, you’ll have to set aside empirical notions of “success,” because God’s definition of that word is largely hidden from us earthlings. He is the Master Creator of us creative types. We will always be His apprentices, and never the master. His opinion is the only one that ultimately counts. So you have to consider—when the rejections stack up, reviews are harsh, and you’ve only sold ten copies of your self-published work—if the ten people who bought those copies were exactly the people who needed to hear what you had to say. Maybe your book was for the person who borrowed it from the library and didn’t pay a cent. Maybe your book was just for you, to learn something about yourself in the process of writing it. Someday you’ll know. But probably not today.

Again, a huge thank you to Erin for allowing me to host her on my blog today! If you'd like to have a peek at Stranger Things, you can read the first two chapters here. Prepare to be hooked! And don't forget to fill out the form below to be entered to win one of ten copies. (A US shipping address is required and books will ship on January 1, 2014). You can enter each day through December 8th, and earn more chances to win by visiting other host blogs--you'll find those links here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For more from Erin Healy follow her on:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

What's On My Bookshelf

Today's post is part of a link-up happening over at Anne Bogel's blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I love Anne's blog. She's one of those bloggers who has the ability to make it seem like you're just having a chat over coffee. Her blog has such a great variety of posts on books, beauty and fashion, and just...LIFE.

This week Anne asked her readers to share their bookshelves. If you know me (or if you've ever taken a gander at my "No Place Like Home" Pinterest board), you know what a perfect prompt for a blog post this is for me. I believe a home without books is no home at all, and someday I pledge to have at least one wall of floor to ceiling shelves. So, without further adieu, a peek into my living room...



These guys get the highest shelf, partly to be out of reach of small, dirty fingers, but mostly because it's my favorite shelf. This one holds all my vintage books, including some of my favorite classics. (Alice in Wonderland has a bookmark in it because it's inspiration for the NaNoWriMo novel I'm working on this month.) The best ones have inscriptions on the first page. You can read the most darling inscription in this Instagram photo.


What it looks like when you have more books than shelves. Confession: There's a book on this shelf that I bought this summer and still haven't read. But this shelf also holds the series I've read and re-read the most times: The O'Malley Chronicles by Dee Henderson. I met my husband, who was a firefighter at the time, right after reading The Protector. Needless to say, it's my favorite of the series.


This shelf holds some of my favorite, most magical children's/YA books, plus (randomly, I know--I'm surprised the cross in genres doesn't drive me crazy...) Blue Like Jazz and Start--two of the books I most often, and most highly, recommend. My Flavia deLuce novels get special attention with their poison bottle companion. And the thing that really makes this shelf awesome? The manilla folder you can just make out in the shadows to the right. That's my children's book manuscript, in all its printed glory.


And lastly, the overflow stacks. My bookshelves have pretty much reached their max capacity, so several books have wandered to the half wall between the living room and kitchen. As you can see, they don't always stay between the bookends. This is where the currently-being-read books (and a few favorites) live along with the novels visiting from the library and the pile of Relevant magazines.


Okay, one more (then I promise I'm done). My kids have their own shelves in their room, filled to overflowing. (Plus there's a basket tucked in next to the bookshelves in the living room that holds another pile of picture books, chapter books, and easy readers borrowed from the library.) One of the biggest goals I have as a mom is to pass on my love of reading. Yesterday my daughter finished one book she'd already started and then went on to read an entire Ivy+Bean novel. Mission accomplished.

Thanks for checking out this little peek into my world! Want to see what other bookworms are reading? Visit the link up post at Modern Mrs. Darcy and browse their shelves!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

"There once was an old man and woman who loved each other very much and were content with their lot in life except for one great sadness - they had no children of their own."

As Mabel and Jack struggle to bring life to their new farm in the brutal Alaskan wilderness, one unrealized dream continues to haunt them. Mabel, crumbling under the weight of loneliness and despair, is ready to give up, until one night a brief moment of joy changes everything. As the first snow falls, she and Jack, filled with longing for what they have lost, construct a child from the snow. The next day, the child is gone, replaced by glimpses of a young girl running through the trees. Is it possible that this girl is their snow child, made with love and longing, and born of magic and mountain air? As their love for the little girl grows, so does the mystery that surrounds her. And the more they open their hearts, the more their lives are transformed.

After reading this novel, I wasn't surprised to learn it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. The Snow Child is a beautiful story of lost hope and second chances. It captures your heart from the very first page and holds it through trial, pain, hope, joy and every other emotion stirred by Ivey's graceful prose. While it seems the fantasy of a snow child might clash with the factual ruggedness of the 1920 Alaskan wilderness, the story is woven so brilliantly that it seems natural to believe in the impossible. I found myself gripped by the characters' emotions, empathizing with them, rooting for them, celebrating each victory in their journey. It's such a magical story, but at the heart of it is a realness, a rawness that paints a bigger picture of what it means to hold on to hope and to those you love, through even the most difficult of circumstances. And that is what makes The Snow Child a truly exceptional read.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

A young job seeker, an eccentric old man, and a bookstore with middle-of-the-night customers who don't pay for their books...this only scratches the surface of the genius work of fiction that is Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.

When Clay Jannon takes takes a job working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, he soon realizes there's more to be curious about than the store's odd hours. For example: the repeat customers who "check out" obscure volumes from the dark corners of the high shelves - volumes which Clay is not supposed to read. But curiosity is a strong force and soon Clay finds himself analyzing the customers - and even the store itself - dragging a handful of close friends along in an effort to discover if he has, in fact, stumbled upon some sort of cult, or at the very least an elaborate front for...something. But when Clay and his friends bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, he reveals a decades-old story with a mystery that will take them on an enthralling quest far outside the walls of the tiny bookstore.

It's always a happy day when I discover a book that genuinely thrills me with a fresh, can't-put-it-down story that makes me want to go right back to chapter one when I've finished. The perfect mix of brains and beauty in book form, Penumbra quickly skyrocketed into my top-ten list of favorites with its unique take on the conflict between tradition and technology in the world of books. Each chapter brought a new bit of awesomeness and my inner nerd gave many a fist pump at Sloan's inclusion of things like Industrial Light and Magic, Google, and the art of typography. The mystery of a secret literary society is wonderfully crafted and intricately woven alongside technical details of super cool things like code writing, super computers, and cardboard book scanners (which are all described in a perfectly fascinating, non-boring way, in case you were wondering). The story, characters and environment are so well written, that it's easy to imagine every word is real and true and possible (and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that much of it is). I gushed about this book to my husband, who read it as soon as I finished. His words when he closed the book on the final page: "That was amazing." I couldn't agree more. I loved everything about this book. And whether you're a proud e-book reader, or an avid defender of the paperback, I think you'll find a lot to love, too.

P.S. Once you've read the book, be sure to visit robinsloan.com to read the short story (and tweet) that started it all!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Typically I write my own little synopsis for my book reviews, but this time, the back-of-the-book blurb is just too good not to share:

Mo's summer is looking good.
But that's before the murder, 
the kidnapping, the car crash, 
and the hurricane.
Now she and her best friend 
are setting out to solve 
the mystery of their lives.

Good thing Mo's always been lucky.

Moses LoBeau is a rising sixth grader with a very interesting past and an even more interesting present. As a baby, she washed ashore in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, during a hurricane. Now she spends her time working at the cafe owned by her self-appointed adoptive parents, hanging out with her best friend Dave, and plotting against her sworn enemy, Anna Celeste--all while continuing her message-in-a-bottle search for her Upstream Mother. When the cafe's crankiest customer turns up dead and a city detective rolls into town, Mo's summer takes a turn for the exciting. Soon she and Dave are out to solve a mystery of epic proportions as the case suddenly puts everyone they love in danger.

A short and sweet summary of this book: Utterly delightful. I loved all of it...the colorful setting, the humorous dialogue, the intriguing murder-mystery...everything about it was just SO good. I positively gushed over it at my last writers group meeting--and I was only a few pages in. Eclectic and charming, devious and dastardly, the characters in this book are a cast like no other. This type of writing is exactly what I aspire to as an author. I giggled my way through the first chapter and continued to laugh out loud until the very last, heartwarming page. Cover to cover, Three Times Lucky is an incredibly fun read which has landed high on my list of favorite middle-grade novels.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Afloat by Erin Healy

All it takes is one look at my bookshelf to see I'm a big Erin Healy fan. And Erin's new novel, Afloat, is yet another wonderful example of why I love her books.

Vance Nolan and Danielle Clement are both obligated to Tony Dean for different reasons with the same root: Tony's wealth. With Tony's investment, Vance has created an architectural wonder--floating apartments which line the cove of a peaceful river. But when the peace is shattered by a sudden disaster during construction, Vance, Danielle, and Tony, along with a handful of builders, investors, and residents, are forced together in a struggle to survive. As a single mother, Danielle's first priority is protecting her son, and she soon finds herself conflicted between the opposing plans of Tony and Vance. When Danielle's son Simeon sees glowing blue lights shimmering beneath the surface of the water, the lights become their one link to hope as a powerful storm rages, the world goes black, and a murder occurs in their midst.

Erin has once again crafted an intricate tale of mystery, suspense, and the supernatural that captured my attention from the very start and held it through many a late night when I simply couldn't put it down. She skillfully lays the foundation, giving you just enough to keep you wondering how it will all tie together. But it isn't until the last piece is in place that you realize just how beautiful and complex the completed puzzle is. And she's outdone herself creating a unique, spine-tingling environment worthy of the big screen. Her characters possess real-life flaws and struggles and will quickly capture your heart (which for me means alternating moments of smiles and tears). Ultimately, it's the hope and redemption which is at the core of each of Erin's novels that leads to a truly fulfilling conclusion. I highly recommend Afloat to anyone looking for their next great read. It is a stunning work of fiction that will hold you captivated until the very last page.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Liberator by Richard Harland

NOTE: Liberator is the sequel to YA Steampunk novel, Worldshaker. If you haven't read Worldshaker this review may contain spoilers. I suggest you get a copy, read it, then come back.

From pampered future leader to revolution co-conspirator, Col Porpentine's life has drastically changed in just a few short months. Now the peace and equality he and Riff fought so hard for stands in jeopardy. An anti-Filthy saboteur has created violent tension between the Filthies and the Swanks. Add to that a battle for power in The Council and the juggernaut's dwindling coal supply, and the Liberator soon stands on the verge of a crisis. Col and Riff face their biggest challenge yet as they struggle against danger--from within and without--that threatens not only their hopes for a new society, but their hopes for a new life together.

Action. Adventure. Suspence. Romance. You'll find it all here. With each turn of the page comes a new danger. On the heels of each small victory comes an even bigger obstacle. And there was more than one surprise I never saw coming. Harland has created some amazing characters, each with their own strong and unique personality (loveable, hateable, and everything in between). It's this brilliant cast that makes Liberator (and previous novel Worldshaker) really shine in my opinion. Throw all these characters into an enthralling story where the action never stops, and you'd better be prepared to once more get caught up in the world of the Filthies and the Swanks, because I guarantee you're not going to want to put this book down.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

You've heard the saying "never judge a book by its cover." Well in the case of Warm Bodies it's more like never judge a book by its movie trailer.

Don't get me wrong, I love the look of the film. Seeing the trailer was what got me interested in the story in the first place, and when I found out it was adapted from a novel, I knew I had to read it. But when I picked up the book, I was expecting something humorous; something along the lines of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies--thoroughly enjoyable, but so over the top it becomes almost comical.

What I found was a heartwarming story of hope, love, and choosing life.

R is a zombie. He wishes he could put into words the eloquent thoughts in his head, wishes he could remember more of his name than just the first letter. He doesn't want to be dead, doesn't enjoy eating the living, but that's just the way it is.

Until the memories.

Not his memories, but those of Perry, the young man whose brain R has just consumed. And when R chooses to save the life of Perry's girlfriend Julie, he sets off a chain of events that shakes what's left of the worlds of both the Living and the Dead.

My first clue that I was in for a surprise came in the first chapter. R is introducing himself, explaining what life is like when you're the walking dead. In an incredibly feeling inner dialogue, R mourns the loss of his and his fellow zombies' names because, "I'd like to love them but I don't know who they are." As the story progressed, I continued to be amazed by how touching and heartfelt it was. Even the love story seemed to fade in the midst of R's quest to give himself--and the rest of the world--a second chance at life.

As he and Julie struggle to fight the hierarchy and provoke change, you discover an eerie resemblance between the world of the Dead and the world of the Living. As R describes the zombie world with words like, "...the abandoning of quests, the surrendering of desires, the settling in and settling down that is the inevitable fate of the Dead" he could just as well be describing the living, who have made staying alive their number one priority while forgetting what it really means to live.

So much about this book is impressive. The pages are filled with R's deep, reflective thoughts on life and hope, which are downright inspiring. The characters are complex and authentic. Marion manages to create a zombie that you find yourself immediately rooting for, and more than that, a zombie that's not just a shuffling, possessed, broken figure of rotting flesh, but an altered human, with lingering emotions, thoughts and desires. In the end, I think readers like myself will find that while this book has all the elements of a great zombie story, it ultimately becomes much more than that--a beautiful tale of fighting for a second chance at life.

One last note for those of you who like to be forewarned: There's plenty of blood and gore and several uses of the "f" word, so despite the pg-13 movie rating, this is adult fiction.



Friday, February 15, 2013

The Return of Flavia de Luce


Flavia is back! I've been eagerly awaiting the release of this book for months. Before I dig into book #5 in the Flavia de Luce novels, I wanted to share how I stumbled upon this brilliant series and give you a bit of a prelude to my soon-to-come review of Speaking from Among the Bones.

Flashback to the summer of 2009...

I step into a quaint little bookshop on 1st Avenue in Seattle. There on the table in front of me, front and center just inside the door, is a little green hardback book. I'm intrigued by the image on the cover--a black crow, lying claws up, with a red postage stamp impaled on its beak. I'm even more intrigued by the title: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. I turn it over and read the back. A story about an 11-year-old aspiring chemist named Flavia de Luce who has a passion for poisons and finds a dead body in the garden of her 1950's English home?

I was hooked and I hadn't even turned a page.

Thus began my love affair with Alan Bradley's beautifully crafted series.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to read.