Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Ramblings on A Sadness Within by Sara Fiorenzo

A few weeks ago I did a cover reveal for this book and I've been waiting until the book was officially released- and I could give it one more good read- before putting up a review. Well, the book is out and I've read it again and it was every bit as good as I remember. Check out my ramblings and then go check out the book, and Sara Fiorenzo for yourself!

A Sadness Within
By Sara Fiorenzo
Release Date: August 7th, 2014
Author Website

After losing her entire family in a few short years, Julia Cavallo finds herself disconnected and tired of everyone's sympathy. Unable to move on, she feels that she is simply broken. A gifted pianist, Julia uses music to express herself where words fail.

Will Bradley is destined for an eternal life thanks to a hopeless disease. Believing he is soulless and empty, he returns to his hometown where he happens upon Julia playing the piano. Pieces of himself that he thought were lost begin to resurface making him truly feel alive. 

Part fantasy and part science-fiction, A Sadness Within is about the restorative power of love and its ability to heal and shows that no matter what, it is never too late to change.

My Ramblings: 

The short review is that I love this book and everyone should give it a read. 

The long version is that I love when authors take a known quantity- in this case the idea of vampirism and flip it on its head. When you start the boom you have an idea in your head about what's about to happen. Vampire boy meets mortal girl and the fall in love. Danger ensues and then it's happily ever after.... But here, the authors takes that story and adds so much more. In fact, without giving too much away, even just assuming that we are dealing with vampires here is assuming too much. Not only do you a new twist, but you also get a whole new reason that those who need blood to survive exist. Personally I found it all kind of fascinating. 

Beyond that twist of storytelling, the author has created some wonderful characters. They've experienced some heavy losses in their lives and have hit a place where they are just kind of stuck. Which happens amidst tragedy, you simply stop moving forward, you get stuck in your sadness and sometimes you need an outside force to get you moving forward again. In that way A Sadness Within is more then just a love story. When Will and Julia meet, it's more about finding that spark, that jolt of something new and surprising that rattles your world just enough to break you out of your stupor. It's not simple, it can be messy and dangerous, but in this story both Will and Julia need to go through it in order realize that having a life that difficult can be worth it in he end. 

The other character that I love is Will's sister Celia- she's kind of the voice of reason throughout and provides some much needed honesty to everyone involved. Fiorenzo hints at Celia's past and her hopes for the future, and in giving Celia the last word in the book she left me really wanting more of Celia's story. So here's hoping that we get more of this series in the future! 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Ramblings on my Vacation Reads!

Every summer we head out on vacation and I always grab a stack of books to read in the car, on the plane, at night in the cabin or pretty much whenever there is a down moment. This year was no different. I managed to snag several books, in multiple genres and they were all great! So here's a look at what I read!

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater
There was no way this book was not going to be amazing. Stiefvater is one of my favorite authors of all time and her books never fail to be great. This one is no different. Focusing on the lives of two of the secondary players from The Wolves of Mercy Falls Series, we find some of our favorite characters making their way in LA and trying to figure out who and what they want to really be. I loved both Cole and Isabel in the Shiver series, so when I grabbed this one off the shelf I knew it was going to be my first read. I plowed through the whole thing on the plane ride and immediately handed it off to my sister in law and told her to read up. Hopefully we haven't seen the last of either Cole or Isabel.

More about Sinner:
Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved? (from

Maggie Stiefvater's Website

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
This one kind of surprised me. The cover caught my attention and the jacket summary sounded great, but I wasn't 100% sure what I was going to find when I started reading. This was a really well organized book- it's not a ground breaking story, but the way in which it's told is really powerful. You know from the get go that Alice was once popular and that in one night, with seemingly one decision her social standing plummeted. By using the perspective of several characters the author slowly unravels the story about what really happened and more importantly why each person has a reason to act the way they do. The reasons aren't always good, and sometimes the people who you are following are downright despicable, but at all times they seem real. Every time someone tells a lie, or starts a rumor, or calls someone a name... or offers a smile, a helping hand or a look at the truth, you get the sense that this is pretty much the way it works every day in schools and neighborhoods all over the place. It's at once really sad and kind of uplifting. As Alice's world falls apart, there are other, perhaps better things that are ready to happen, so long as she's willing to take another chance. I loved this one!

More about The Truth About Alice
Everyone has a lot to say about Alice Franklin, and it’s stopped mattering whether it’s true. The rumors started at a party when Alice supposedly had sex with two guys in one night. When school starts everyone almost forgets about Alice until one of those guys, super-popular Brandon, dies in a car wreck that was allegedly all Alice’s fault. Now the only friend she has is a boy who may be the only other person who knows the truth, but is too afraid to admit it. Told from the perspectives of popular girl Elaine, football star Josh, former outcast Kelsie, and shy genius Kurt, we see how everyone has a motive to bring – and keep – Alice down. (from

Jennifer Matheiu's Website

The Apostle by Brad Thor
This one I bought at the grocery store in Colter Bay- let's just say the selection wasn't exactly large. So this is not a book that I would normally pick up, but I figured why not and gave it a try. It was really good! Like I mentioned the story isn't normally my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the way that Thor laid it out. Centering around a kidnapping in Afghanistan we follow several threads that eventually come together to give us a complete picture of all the players and how their lives and their decisions intertwine. We see a president get taken down, how the Secret Service agents are often privy to information that weighs on their conscious, and how politics works in the middle east. I liked that right up tot he end I wasn't 100% sure how the story would tie up, and I was pleasantly surprised by the choices that Thor made. I'm really glad I stumbled across this one and seeing as this is actually the 8th book in a set- I'll be checking the others out as well!

More about The Apostle
Every politician has a secret. And when the daughter of a politically connected family is kidnapped abroad, America's new president will agree to anything, even a deadly and ill-advised rescue plan in order to keep his secret hidden. But when covert counter-terrorism operative Scot Harvath is assigned to infiltrate one of the world's most notorious prisons and free the man the kidnappers demand as ransom, he quickly learns that there is much more to the operation than anyone dares to admit. As the subterfuge is laid bare, Harvath must examine his own career of ruthlessly hunting down and killing terrorists and decide if he has what it takes to help one of the world's worst go free. (from

Brad Thor's Website

Game by Barry Lyga
Have you read I Hunt Killers? If you haven't, you should go do so, right now. I won't even be offended if you click off the page to do it and don't come back. It's that good. Just don't read it at night, or while you are alone. It's is one of the most terrifying books I've ever read. Amazing, but terrifying. Game is the second book in the series and I was really wondering how Lyga would be able to follow up on the story and make it still seem fresh. Part of the draw to I Hunt Killers was that you really weren't sure who was the killer, but now we know. We have a decent sense of who plays for which team and can sort of tell who the good guys are. I worried that Game wouldn't be able to keep up the suspense, and for part of the book, it didn't. But that really doesn't matter, because once the game really begins to be played the tension is drawn out and once again Lyga managed to scare the shit out of me. With Billy out there somewhere, and Jasper is trying to decide who he will be- will he join with the FBI to try and bring down another serial killer? Will he chase after Billy and try to end it once and for all? Will he attempt to live a normal life (if that's even possible)?

Game ends on an epic cliffhanger and I actually closed the book and reopened it a few times to make sure I wasn't missing something. I can not wait for book 3 to come out so I can see how it all ends!

More about Game:
Billy grinned. “Oh, New York,” he whispered. “We’re gonna have so much fun.”

I Hunt Killers introduced the world to Jazz, the son of history’s most infamous serial killer, Billy Dent.

In an effort to prove murder didn’t run in the family, Jazz teamed with the police in the small town of Lobo’s Nod to solve a deadly case. And now, when a determined New York City detective comes knocking on Jazz’s door asking for help, he can’t say no. The Hat-Dog Killer has the Big Apple–and its police force–running scared. So Jazz and his girlfriend, Connie, hop on a plane to the big city and get swept up in a killer’s murderous game (from

Barry Lyga's Website

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta
I grabbed this one from a very small store in Silver Gate, MT. The selection was extremely slim, in fact this was my only choice. Lucky for me it was an awesome one. The story is actually set in the area around Silver Gate and I love reading about places that I've been, so that was an instant draw. The story revolves around a boy named Jace who witnesses a brutal murder and is now being pursued by two hired killers. His family sends him to a remote wilderness camp for troubled teens, only the leader, Ethan and his wife Allison know that he is there, and they aren't even sure which boy it is, only that this will hopefully keep him safe. When the killers turn up and bodies start piling up Jace runs and must try to survive on his own. He faces killers, the wilderness and eventually a wildfire with minimal help from the camp leader and a fire tower ranger. There is ton's of action and suspense in this one and I really liked the twists and turns the story took as we raced towards the inevitable confrontation between good and evil.

More about Those Who Wish Me Dead
When 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he's plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind. (from

Michael Kortya's Website

Fire and Flood by Victoria Scott
This was my most pleasant surprise of the trip. I grabbed this one on a whim, and I loved it. It has a bit of a Hunger Games flavor to it- in that these people, old and young are plucked from their lives and thrown into a deadly game The Brimstone Bleed and for the bulk of the book we have no idea why. We don't know who runs the game or how it will end- we do know that the winner wins the cure for a disease for a loved one, in the case of the main character Tella, she could save her brother who is slowly dying at home. As the game plays out and Tella begins to make alliances and discover her enemies we also begin to learn about what exactly is going on behind the scenes and who might know more than they are letting on. I'm not going to give anything away on this one because I had so much fun unraveling story, so I'm not going to chance ruining for anyone else. Suffice it to say, go grab this one and then we can wait until the next book comes out in 2015!

More about Fire and Flood
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place? (from

Victoria Scott's Website


So those are all my vacation reads- they were all pretty awesome and I can't wait to read more from several of these authors! 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

My Ramblings on Rain Check by Gypsy Rae Choszer

Rain Check
By: Gypsy Rae Choszer
Release Date: May 28th 2014
Author Website

For Avery Montgomery, the devastation of losing her parents in a tragic accident has left her completely shattered. As she begins to pick up the pieces of her once perfect life, she uncovers a secret that will forever change her—she’s adopted!

In a search for answers, Avery ventures to Portland where she rents a room from Jonah, a quirky artist who quickly becomes her best friend. His house puts her in close proximity to the metaphysical shop run by her birth mother, the free-spirited Marianna Hutchins. Avery enters The Crystal Moon fully intending to confront Marianna, but instead she chickens out and inquires about a job. She's hired; yet remains leery about confessing her secret.

As Avery settles into town, she has an embarrassing encounter with Gabe, the incredibly attractive man who works a few doors down. Despite the awkward introduction, there is undeniable chemistry, but after a recent heartbreak all he’s looking for is friendship. 
Everyone deserves a second chance. Will Avery get hers with a new family? Will Gabe allow himself a second chance at love? Will they embrace their new relationships, or will they simply decide to take a rain check? (from Goodreads)

My Ramblings:
I've known Gypsy for several years and when I started reading this book I was a little worried. What if I didn't like it? Then what would I do? I should have known that I didn't have to worry. All the things that make Gypsy and awesome person come through in her writing and reading Rain Check felt like I was listening to Gypsy tell a story. She managed to take a story that could have taken a turn towards sadness and filled it with humor and hope. 

Avery is an awesome lead character. She's been hurt and left alone, but she's not falling victim to her circumstances. Instead she's going out and trying to create her own future by making some tough choices. Not always successfully, but always with a good attitude. Gabe comes across as a bit of an asshole for some of the book- when he's with Avery he's great, but then there's that other girl that just won't let him go, and you kind of want to reach into the book and smack him at least once since he isn't getting it all on his own. Even though Gabe is the love interest, as far as I'm concerned the leading man is Jonah, and he's fabulous. Everyone should have a Jonah as a best friend to remind you that you aren't alone and that the world can be made better with a few hours with the Winchester brothers and some snarky comments. 

These characters felt real to me. They weren't perfect and they weren't so tragic that it seemed their problems were insurmountable. They existed in the middle somewhere, taking their knocks and coming out of them scarred, but okay.  I felt like these characters could be my neighbors, or my friends, or me and that made reading the story really great. I can't wait to see what Gypsy does next! 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cover Reveal! A Sadness Within by Sara Fiorenzo

Today I get to share the cover of a book that I've had the pleasure of already reading, A Sadness Within by Sara Fiorenzo. I was lucky enough to beta read this book and I loved it on the first draft and I love it even more now that it's done! But before the reveal, first a little about the book...

After losing her entire family in a few short years, Julia Cavallo finds herself disconnected and tired of everyone's sympathy. Unable to move on, she feels that she is simply broken. A gifted pianist, Julia uses music to express herself where words fail.

Will Bradley is destined for an eternal life thanks to a hopeless disease. Believing he is soulless and empty, he returns to his hometown where he happens upon Julia playing the piano. Pieces of himself that he thought were lost begin to resurface making him truly feel alive. 

Part fantasy and part science-fiction, A Sadness Within is about the restorative power of love and its ability to heal and shows that no matter what, it is never too late to change. (

And now for the reveal...

Awesome right? To find out more about Sara and A Sadness Within check out the links below!

Goodreads (Book Page) 
Twitter - @sarafiorenzo

Sunday, March 30, 2014

My Ramblings on Go Big or Go Home by Will Hobbs

Go Big or Go Home
By: Will Hobbs
Release Date: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins
Author Website
A meteorite is hurtling toward the Black Hills of South Dakota...

During a wild week of extreme bicycling, fishing, and caving, Brady and Quinn battle their rivals, the notorious Carver boys, for possession of the meteorite. With each new day, Brady is discovering he's able to do strange and wonderful feats that shouldn't be possible. At the same time, he's developing some frightening symptoms. Could he be infected with long-dormant microbes from space? Is Fred a prize or a menace?
Brady Steele watches in awe as a fireball comes crashing through the roof of his house. Brady immediately calls up his cousin, Quinn. They both love all things extreme, and this is the most extreme thing ever!

Fred, as Brady names his space rock, turns out to be one of the rarest meteorites ever found. Professor Rip Ripley from the museum in Hill City wants to study a sliver of it in search of extraterrestrial bacteria. He's hoping to discover the first proof of life beyond Earth, a momentous breakthrough for the new science of astrobiology. (from

 My Ramblings:

Last week I hosted my first ever Book Fair at my school's library. Anyone who knows me will understand that spending 5 days with carts and carts of books is way too hard for me to resist, so right before I closed up shop I went on a little shopping spree. And by little I mean that I picked up 8 books... which really isn't that many! (right?)

At any rate, this book jumped out at me right away. First of all the cover is awesome, if you are an adrenaline junkie it definitely pulls you right in. Once I read the jacket and saw that it was set in the Black Hills I knew I was reading this one ASAP. In news that should surprise no one, I love the west. More specifically I love the area between the Black Hills and the Teton's and Yellowstone. I used to want to live out there, but I was afraid that if I lived there all the time it would lose it's magic. That the hills wouldn't seem so ancient, the mountains so exciting and the wildlife so wild if I was seeing them everyday, so I just visit. But my heart picks up a beat when I even think about being there, so anytime I can grab a book set in that area and live in it's pages for a bit, I'm all over it. So that's where this book found me, itching for a trip to my favorite spots, and it didn't disappoint! 

The book centers on Brady and his cousin Quinn as they embark on a pretty epic adventure. At the start Brady witnesses a meteor shower and what he finds in the his room afterwards is life changing. An actual meteor, named Fred has crashed  landed in his bed. From there on Brady and Quinn have to figure out what the deal is with this meteorite, how to deal with the side effects of having it (and possibly being infected by it!!) and how to get rid of it. I really enjoyed how Hobbs tied together the regular lives of these boys, riding bikes, fishing, dealing with the neighborhood bullies and the science end of it. You get a great feel for how meteorite's work and also the possibilities that come with coming in contact with a meteorite. 

I really liked how it all ended, and more excitingly for me, I've found a new author that I want to read more titles from. Hobbs is not a new author, and this book isn't even a new one, but I really love discovering books and authors that were off my radar. I can't wait to pick up more Hobbs titles for myself and to order some for the library!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Interview with Aurora Zahni, author of Ellie Stanton

Today I'm excited to be following up yesterday's review with an author interview with Aurora Zahni! The questions below come from both myself and a student at my middle school. This interview will be cross posted to our library blog. 

What inspired you to become a writer?
Ive always loved language and characters and writing is such a wonderful way to express yourself. When a person reads a story it becomes a shared human experience where they get to walk into someone elses world for a while. I wanted to be a part of that.

How do you choose a topic to write about?
I always pick a character and a journey first. Whatever themes I try to get across need to be told through their story. Ellies story is about awareness and acceptance, so the plot followed suit.

Do you have a favorite book and/or author?
Too many to name, but the biggest influences while writing Ellie were The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Are You There God Its Me, Margaret? By Judy Blume. And some people may notice a lot of similarities with the Wizard of Oz and Pee Wees Big Adventure as well.

Ellie seems like a little bit of a lost soul at points, do you see yourself at all in her?
Ha! Ellie is me. All of the unfounded confidence and confusion of my adolescence manifested into a better, braver version of me.

Did you have to do any research while writing Ellie Stanton?
Other than checking bus schedules and fares all I did is watch tons of TV shows and movies Ellie would love. Thats how I discovered that Kim Possible is the greatest cartoon ever.

Who is your favorite character in Ellie Stanton?
I love Ellies point of view and the way she processes things, but Hilary Palmer is my hero. She was so captivating to me that I had to run off and write her a novel of her own.

And one last one since this interview will be cross posted to my schools library website:
Do you have advice for students who want to be writers?
Read as much as possible. You can learn so much from stories that inspire passion in you. With practice and work you will become a better technical writer, but reading amazing books will teach you how to build a world and tell a story.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Ramblings on Ellie Stanton by Aurora Zhani

Ellie Stanton 
By: Aurora Zahni
Release Date: February 20th, 2014

An imperfect, unremarkable girl makes a hero's journey. Ellie Stanton needed to have a good day. The universe had something else in store. Getting caught shoplifting. Check. Dumping her lame boyfriend. Check. Expulsion from school. Check. Getting kicked out of her house and then stealing her mother's car while she's in a New Jersey turnpike rest stop Cinnabon? Check. The only sensible option is to run as fast as she can and never look back. Now Ellie is running going cross country to raise a little hell and maybe along the way learn everything she needs to know about life.

"Why, oh why do you have to turn everyu confrontation with an authority figure into World War Four?
"Wait, you want to know, essentially, why I can't deal?" Hillary nodded emphatically, and Ellie continued. "Oh, that's easy peezy. We can all thankMrs. Richards."
"Who the hell is Mrs. Richards? Hilary asked.
"My Kindergarden teacher, I will never forgive or forget that bitch."
"Why? What did she do?"
"I'm glad you asked. See, the first day of school, Mrs. Richard gave us a note to give to our parents, letting them know that they were responsible for their own kids snacks and drinks." A security guard and two Chickentown employees joined the audience. " So, Tammy, that's my mom's name for those of you who are new to the show here, she reads the first part of the notebut not the second. That would be the part which gives examples of what appropriate healthy snacks and drinks are recommended. The word 'healthy' was underlined and in bold print. You can see where this is going, right? She motioned toward Hilary, who smiled and nodded. "So, Mommy dearest stops off at the Quick Chek on the way to school and grabs me a Mountain Dew and Twinkies." There was a collective groan from the peanut gallery. Hilary used the pause in the story to take some orders before allowing Elli to go on. "Anyway, snakc time rolls around, I open my Lion King Lunch box and start digging in. Bitch Richards sees my Twinkies and comes flying at me like a hawk. She screams at me, throws away my twinkies and then walks me around the room pointing out examples of healthy snacks."
"You're kidding me" Hilary laughed, picturing little Ellie being tortured by this teacher.
"I would not kid you about snacks. It was like five fill minutes of 'See, Ellie, that's a banana. Banana's are an example of a healthy snack' Finally I snapped."
"What did you do?"
"I cried and smashed my lunch box against the chalk board. When Mrs. Richard said she was calling my mom, I called her a big green bitch." the entire congregation in the restaurant giggled at once. 
"Why is that so funny? What the hell does that even mean?"
"I dunno. She was standing next to a Statue of Liberty poster. It didn't make sense, but it was a very effective insult. That was the first class I was ever kicked out of, and I've been an pain in the collective ass of the world ever since." 

My Ramblings:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a bit slow at the beginning and I struggled to figure out who was who and what all the relationships were, but after a few chapters it really started to flow and I got into the adventure of what Ellie was doing. 

I think Ellie is incredibly easy to relate to, in that at some point everyone hates their parents and thinks about just getting in the car and making a run for it. Most of us just fume and think about doing it. Ellie grabs the keys and actually does it. That was kind of the moment in the book where I realized that this was going to get really good.   There are a lot of curse words in this book (as evidenced in the excerpt above) and that would give me pause in terms of who I would recommend this book to, however, I thought it was very realistic. I work in a middle school and the things I hear kids say fall right in line with Ellie and her vocabulary. Is it ideally the way we want kids to talk? No. Is it how they do talk? Yes. Heck, it's pretty much how I talked too when I was in school! 

Since this is a newer release I'm going to refrain from posting anything spoilery, but suffice it to say that this is a really good story about one girl who is taking her life in her own hands and having a huge adventure along the way. 

Stay tuned tomorrow for an interview with author Aurora Zahni!

Friday, February 28, 2014

My Ramblings on The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout

The Homesman by Glendon Swarthout
Author Website

Soon to be a major motion picture directed by Tommy Lee Jones, The Homesman is a devastating story of early pioneers in 1850s American West. It celebrates the ones we hear nothing of: the brave women whose hearts and minds were broken by a life of bitter hardship. A “homesman” must be found to escort a handful of them back East to a sanitarium. When none of the county’s men steps up, the job falls to Mary Bee Cuddy—ex-teacher, spinster, indomitable and resourceful. Brave as she is, Mary Bee knows she cannot succeed alone. The only companion she can find is the low-life claim jumper George Briggs. Thus begins a trek east, against the tide of colonization, against hardship, Indian attacks, ice storms, and loneliness—a timeless classic told in a series of tough, fast-paced adventures. (from

My Ramblings:
I grabbed this book at the airport on my way home from vacation. I liked the cover and I really liked the idea that this was going to be a movie coming out soon. I was also surprised when I saw the books that Swarthout had written, some have become great movies (like The Shootist) and I hadn't read any of his books.

This was a great book. I really enjoyed the characters and it was a story I hadn't really heard before. The book focuses on women who have come west with their husbands and families and for one reason or another have fallen onto hard times and gone insane. No longer able to take are of themselves or stay with their families they are shipped back east with a Homesman. In this case a woman, Mary Bee Cuddy, steps up and volunteers to bring the women east. She soon picks up a claim jumper named Briggs and essentially strong arms him into accompanying her.

What I liked about this book is that it covers a lot of ground without a lot extras, but the story keeps moving forward and stays interesting. In little vignettes we learn about all the trouble that can befall the people who settled the west. By looking at why the 4 women went crazy we see that the homesteaders dealt with weather, with wolves, with disease and with poverty. Out on the plains and prairie without neighbors and friends nearby, these women retreated into themselves. By meeting Cuddy and Briggs we see how a woman can survive alone (but only to an extent), how finding a husband was a necessity, how the war effected the men who served and those who stayed at home and how vigilante justice was commonplace. All of these things were woven into a story about a journey and how two people could cope with the seemingly impossible; transporting 4 insane women back east.

I really enjoyed this book and I'm really looking forward to the movie, which will star Tommy Lee Jones as Briggs and Hilary Swank as Cuddy. The rest of the cast is equally impressive with Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, James Spader, John Lithgow, Hailee Steinfeld and Meryl Streep rounding out the cast.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Ramblings on Returning to Shore by Corinne Demas

Returning to Shore 
By: Corinne Demas
Release Date: March 14th, 2014
Author Website

Her mother's third marriage is only hours old when all hope for Clare's fifteenth summer fades. Before she knows it, Clare is whisked away to some ancient cottage on a tiny marsh island on Cape Cod to spend the summer with her father - a man she hasn't seen since she was three. Clare's biological father barely talks, and when he does, he obsesses about endangered turtles. The first teenager Clare meets on the Cape confirms that her father is known as the town crazy person. But there's something undeniably magical about the marsh and the islanda connection to Clares past that runs deeper than memory. Even her father's beloved turtles hold unexpected surprises. As Clare's father begins to reveal more about himself and his own struggle, Clare's summer becomes less of an exile and more of a return home. (from goodreads)

My Ramblings:

I was very excited to get a chance to read and review this book. I read Everything I Was a while back and really enjoyed it, so I jumped at the chance to get my hands on this one as well. I had mixed thoughts on this one. I really, really loved it for approximately 99% of the story. The characters are great, the main character Clare is just the perfect mix of stubborn independence and wanting to still be a kid. I hearing her thoughts on her mom and new husband, as well as her first reactions to moving to a really tiny town in Cape Cod and her father, a man she hasn't seen in years.

I really liked some of the little turns that the story took. Since this book isn't out yet I hesitate to give anything away, but suffice it to say that everything Clare believe's about her father and why he left (and stayed away) is up for reconsideration. He's not the man Clare thought he was, and she finally as a chance to both get to know him and find a little bit of herself away from her mother.

Beyond being a coming of age story for Clare, we also get some local issues sprinkled in as we learn about the terrapins who nest on the beaches. Clare's father works tirelessly to save the terrapins and their habitat, which is being encroached on by the people who are building up the land attached to the beach. While living with her Father Clare is introduced to a whole different way of life, and finds herself caring about more then just herself.

And here's the 1% of the book that I didn't like. The ending was very abrupt. The writing was great and I was invested in Clare and her father and even in the terrapins, but then the story seemed to just end, and I'll admit I was disappointed. I wanted to know more. Did Clare end up staying with her father? Did Eleanor (the terrapin Clare saw and named) survive? Did her eggs hatch and make it back to the ocean? Did Clare find the inner strength to stand up to some of the rude kids in town? In essence, what happened next?? I found myself scrolling back and forth to make sure that I really was at the end of the book and that I didn't miss anything. I just wasn't ready to be done with this story yet. Which, on one hand isn't a horrible problem, you want readers to be attached and to want more. However, on the other hand, I don't like closing a book feeling disappointed.

Overall this book was great. I loved the story and the characters, but at the end of the day I wanted more resolution to the story lines. I'm kind of hoping that there is more to come about Clare and her father and their work with the terrapins! This was a lovely story about family and finding yourself, and I think many people will be able to see themselves in the pages of the book. So while I'm hoping for more, I am able to set this book down satisfied that Clare is okay and that she has many great adventures in front of her!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

My Ramblings on Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
Release Date: June 19th,  2012
Author Website
Book Website

When pale strangers enter fifteen-year-old Amari's village, her entire tribe welcomes them; for in her remote part of Africa, visitors are always a cause for celebration. But these strangers are not here to celebrate. They are here to capture the strongest, healthiest villagers and to murder the rest. They are slave traders. And in the time it takes a gun to fire, Amari's life as she knows it is destroyed, along with her family and village.

Beaten, branded, and dragged onto a slave ship, Amari is forced to witness horrors worse than any nightmare and endure humiliations she had never thought possible--including being sold to a plantation owner in the Carolinas who gives her to his sixteen-year-old son, Clay, as his birthday present.

Now, survival and escape are all Amari dreams about. As she struggles to hold on to her memories in the face of backbreaking plantation work and daily degradation at the hands of Clay, she finds friendship in unexpected places. Polly, an outspoken indentured white girl, proves not to be as hateful as she'd first seemed upon Amari's arrival, and the plantation owner's wife, despite her trappings of luxury and demons of her own, is kind to Amari.

But these small comforts can't relieve Amari's feelings of hopelessness and despair. With strength and dignity, Amari first learns to survive, then yearns to escape to a most unlikely destination. When the opportunity to escape presents itself, Amari and Polly decide to work together to find the thing they both want most--freedom.

Decorated with vibrant characters--Teenie, the tiny slave woman who cooks much more than food, her son Tidbit and his dog Hushpuppy who become victims of vicious cruelty, the mysterious and kindly Mrs. Derby, and many others--the complicated inter-relationships of those who live together on the plantation are explored with sometimes shocking developments.

Grand and sweeping in scope, detailed and penetrating, Copper Sun's unflinching and unforgettable look at the African slave trade and slavery in America will have the impact on young readers that Alex Haley's Roots had on the previous generation.
   (from Sharon Draper's Website)

My Ramblings:

This is another one of those books that I've been circling around for years. Literally. I remember picking it up when the Borders book store shut down at the mall. I grabbed about 25 books that day because they were all closeouts, and I lack the ability to pass up a book on sale. And Sharon Draper is an author I know of, and whose books I've read, so I knew that this would be good. Difficult to read, since I know that Draper doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of the world, but good nonetheless. I can't really say why it took me so long to actually read, but I'm really glad I finally did.

The summary above does an excellent job at giving you all you need to know about what you are getting into when you read this book. But beyond all those things, this is a story about hope and survival and how you can find the will to live even in the most dire of circumstances. What I most appreciated is that Copper Sun looks at an issue that, while we all know about, can sometimes feel distant and clinical. We all know what happened, we've read about it in books and learned about it in school, but at some point it can almost become just another part of history we learn about. What Copper Sun does is take the things we know, and let us know how they felt. It puts the reader in Amari's shoes as she loses her entire village, as she loses her own identity and becomes someones property to use as they want. It shows us how it felt to to not only be a slave, but what it felt to be an indentured servant and how the cruelty of the time was not limited in it's reach and devastation. It also shows us that in the midst of all the bad stuff, there were pockets of hope and people who were willing to help. Copper Sun gives a really detailed account of the time and it's a book that everyone should read. Especially middle schoolers, who I think would really relate to Amari and Polly and would be able to see what life for them may have been like.

Draper has a really great website as well, that has amazing information about her research, why she wrote the book, as well as a study guide and general questions and answers. Her research for this book is great, and as a history nerd, I can say that I really appreciate her attention to detail and the fact that she brings to light things that you don't necessarily learn about anywhere else. I was really interested in the Fort that the girls head to when they make their escape, and will admit to loosing several hours falling into a research back hole as I went looking for more.

All in all this was a fabulous book that I would recommend to everyone!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My Ramblings on Runner by Carl Deuker

Runner by Carl Deuker
Author Website

But the weather-beaten sailboat Chance Taylor and his father call home is thirty years old and hasn’t sailed in years. One step from both homelessness and hunger, Chance worries about things other kids his age never give a thought: Where will the money come for the electricity bill, grocery bill, and moorage fees? So when a new job falls his way, he jumps at the opportunity. He knows how much he will earn; what he doesn’t know is how much he will pay. (from goodreads)

My Ramblings:
I'm slowly workign my way through my TBR pile. In part because I'm trying to save money (why buy new books when you have at least 50 unread on the shelf??!) and in part because I know I picked these books up for a reason, and I want to know what it is. 

This one is pretty easy to get into. Chance is a bit of an outcast, his mother left, his father is a drunk who has issues keeping a job and their home is a 30 foot sailboat that hasn't sailed in forever. Chance and his father have no money and no prospects, so when Chance is approached with an offer that would solve all their problems it's easy to see why he says yes. Chance loves to run, and there are people who need things picked up and delivered and doing so would make Chance some quick money. So he says yes, and basically becomes a drug carrier and worse, he begins to pick up packages that aren't drugs, but are much, much worse. I'm not going to say what they are, you'll have to read the book to find out. 

For the most part this one moves along well, there were a few moments where I thought the foreshadowing was a little too obvious, like when the girl Chance likes keeps suggesting he research how easy it would be for people, drug smugglers in particular, but even illegal aliens and terrorists, to come in by way of the coast. However, keeping her interested in the issue as well as with what was up with Chance gave Chance an outlet that he needed when he was ready to get out of the game. 

The ending of the book moved a little too fast for me, but I liked how it ended. It was sad on several fronts, but at the same time you really were able to see how Chance was going to make it. He had made some incredibly stupid and dangerous mistakes and people were hurt, but he also made the right choice when it counted and was able to come out of it in a way that made you feel like in the end he would be alright. 

Overall this was a good, quick read that I think a lot of people would really enjoy. I think that it would draw in any reluctant readers (especially boys) and I plan on adding it to my library collection with my next book order. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

My Ramblings on And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard

And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard
Release Date: January 28th, 2014
Author Website
Book Provided by: NetGalley

When high school senior Paul Wagoner walks into his school library with a stolen gun, he threatens his girlfriend Emily Beam, then takes his own life. In the wake of the tragedy, an angry and guilt-ridden Emily is shipped off to boarding school in Amherst, Massachusetts, where she encounters a ghostly presence who shares her name. The spirit of Emily Dickinson and two quirky girls offer helping hands, but it is up to Emily to heal her own damaged self.

This inventive story, told in verse and in prose, paints the aftermath of tragedy as a landscape where there is good behind the bad, hope inside the despair, and springtime under the snow. (from NetGalley)

My Ramblings: 
This is an odd one for me. For the bulk of the book I really enjoyed it. I liked how Hubbard spun the story, alternating back and forth between Emily's life now, at boarding school, and the events that led up to her boyfriend Paul committing suicide in the school library a few month before. It was a great way to piece the story together, since you for more and more information about why Emily was the way she was and what secrets she was hiding.

The other story thread, which dealt with Emily Dickinson and how her poetry and presence helps Emily heal was also really interesting. As Emily begins to heal, she connects to Dickinson and also begins to write her own poetry. I loved that Hubbard included Emily's poetry in the pages, it was one more way to connect Emily's feelings with what she going through. Which was a lot, and none of it was something that should be easy to deal with, so having her find an outlet though poetry was wonderful.

Which brings me to some of the things I struggled with. Without giving too much away, her boyfriend committing suicide is only one bit of the puzzle. Emily is dealing with her role in leading him to that point, and the fall out of what happens after. The secondary characters, Paul, Emily's parents, her Aunt Cindy and even to a lesser extent her new room mate aren't fully formed, and there are some behaviors that are alluded too and thrown away that really could have been explored more.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

My Ramblings on Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams

Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams
Author Website

All it takes is eight seconds . . .

Cam O'Mara, grandson and younger brother of bull-riding champions, is not interested in partaking in the family sport. Cam is a skateboarder, and perfecting his tricks—frontside flips, 360s—means everything until his older brother, Ben, comes home from Iraq, paralyzed from a brain injury. What would make a skateboarder take a different kind of ride? And what would get him on a monstrosity of a bull named Ugly? If Cam can stay on for the requisite eight seconds, could the $15,000 prize bring hope and a future for his big brother?

My Ramblings:
Lately I've been trying to work my way through my TBR pile. I have books on there that I picked up at NCTE 3 years ago and that, for one reason or another, I just never picked up. This is one of those books. If you know me at all you would know that this book should have been picked up and read immediately. A book about bull riders? Totally up my alley.  Still, it sat, just waiting to be read for years. I finally picked it up this weekend and read the whole thing in one sitting. It is such a great book.

At the center of the story is Cam, a kid who is a bit of on outcast in his own family. he lives and works on his family ranch and he comes from a long line of championship bull riders, but riding bulls has never been Cam's thing. It was really his brother Ben who shone in the arena. Cam preferred to spend his time riding his skateboard. Until Cam's world falls apart. Ben is injured in Iraq and suddenly Cam's life is spiraling out of control. Ben can no longer take care of himself and he definitely can't ride bulls anymore. On a whim Cam decides to ride a bull and he discovers that he has some of that innate talent as well. He's hooked on riding not only for the adrenaline rush, but for how it makes him feel connected to his brother. So he takes on a challenge to ride the baddest bull around, Ugly. If he can do it he'll be able to show Ben that anything is possible, and also win enough money to get Ben back in game, this time as a breeder instead of a rider.

Watching Cam navigate the massive changes in his life is really interesting. You can see the struggle as he deals with being the one left behind. First when Ben goes to war and then again when everyone has to take care of Ben once he's home. Seeing him come into his own and help Ben find his way as well was great.

This is a great book, especially for kids who are dealing with family members who are deployed or who have returned and are injured. This is a very honest look at how life changes and how you can get through it. I'm very glad that I finally picked this one up!