Tuesday, August 12

What Have You Read Lately?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

As writers, we often spend so much time writing we forget to stop and enjoy the reading side of things. Summer is a great time to sit back and find some new books, and maybe even try a genre or author you've never read before. Expand your reading horizons a little!

I invite you to share your recent reads and even give a shout out to some of your favorite books if you'd like.

Here are some great books I've read recently:

Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away by Trisha Slay (young adult)


A coming-of-age nostalgia mystery reminiscent of Stephen King's The Body (Stand By Me for you movie buffs), set in a small town during the 1977 release of Star Wars. I admit, this is a book I probably would not have picked up if I hadn't heard the author speak about it at a conference. She totally hooked me on the premise and I bought it immediately after. Fantastic book, especially if you're a Star Wars fan or grew up during the original Star Wars explosion. Though it's peppered with Star Wars elements, it's not a sci fi "Star Wars" book, but a wonderful story about a girl who finds herself and her strength, and is empowered by a gal named Princess Leia.

The Blurb:
It's a terrible thing to live under a question mark.... When Erika's best friend, teen beauty queen Cassandra Abbott, disappears during the early hours of Memorial Day 1977, Erika isn't exactly surprised. After all, they've been plotting and planning Cassie's escape for months. But then Cassie's departure unleashes a whirlwind of questions, suspicions and accusations that Erika never expected. She's lying to the police. She's being bullied by older students. Worst of all, she's starting to doubt she ever REALLY knew Cassie Abbott at all. Under the weight of scrutiny and confusion, Erika struggles just to breathe...until a strange new movie transforms her summer with A New Hope.

For Erika, Star Wars changes EVERYTHING. So she volunteers to do chores for a local theater owner to gain unlimited access to a galaxy far, far away from her current reality. At the Bixby Theater-a beautiful but crumbling movie palace from a more civilized era-Erika discovers new friendships, feels the crush of first love and starts an exciting new romance with Super 8 film making...but she can't hide in a darkened movie theater forever. As the summer wears on, tensions escalate over the unsolved mystery surrounding Cassie's disappearance. Someone seems to think Erika knows too many of Cassie's secrets. Eventually, Erika must step out of the shadows and, armed only with her Super 8 camera and the lessons she's learned from Star Wars, fight to save herself and the theater that has become her second home.

A Bird On Water Street by Elizabeth O. Dulemba (middle grade)


Another coming of age tale, this one focuses on a boy in a town devastated by copper mining, who's torn between his love of nature and his wish to see it come back to his home, and the pressures of following in his family's mining footsteps. Based on a real town and real stories, this book is wonderfully researched and brought to life through the eyes of Jake, who just sees this as his home, not the dangerous environment it has become.

The Blurb:
When the birds return to Water Street, will anyone be left to hear them sing?
A Bird on Water Street is a coming of age story about Jack, a boy growing up in a Southern Appalachian town environmentally devastated by a century of poor copper-mining practices and pollution. Jack is opposed to the mine where so many of his relatives have died, but how can he tell that to his Dad who wants him to follow in the family trade? Jack just wants his dad safe and the land returned to its pre-mining glory with trees, birds, frogs, and nature--like he's learning about in school. After Jack's uncle is killed in a mining accident and the Company implements a massive layoff, the union organizes and the miners go on strike. It seems Jack's wish is coming true. But the cost may be the ruin of his home and everything he loves.

The Saint by Tiffany Reisz (adult)


I first read Tiffany's Original Sinners series because she was a friend and colleague and I wanted to be supportive and try a genre I had never read before. The story blew me away and I was utterly hooked. This newest book is just as good as the others, and it's the start of a new series that looks like it will cover the early days of the characters--Nora, Kingsley, and Soren--and how they all met. I eagerly await the next one.

The Blurb: Before she became Manhattan's most famous dominatrix, Nora Sutherlin was merely a girl called Eleanor…

Rebellious, green-eyed Eleanor never met a rule she didn't want to break. She's sick of her mother's zealotry and the confines of Catholic school, and declares she'll never go to church again. But her first glimpse of beautiful, magnetic Father Marcus Stearns—Søren to her and only her—and his lust-worthy Italian motorcycle is an epiphany. Eleanor is consumed—yet even she knows being in love with a priest can't be right.

But when one desperate mistake nearly costs Eleanor everything, it is Søren who steps in to save her. When she vows to repay him with complete obedience, a whole world opens before her as he reveals to her his deepest secrets that will change everything.

Danger can be managed—pain, welcomed. Everything is about to begin.

The Encyclopedia of Me by Karen Rivers (middle grade/young adult) 


This was on the "recommended reading" table at the same conference I discovered Not So Long Ago, and it had such an unusual structure (and great voice) I had to give it a try. Another wonderful coming of age story told alphabetically through a series of encyclopedia entries. Full of humor and truly touching moments of a young girl's life as she realizes certain truths and figures out how she fits into the world. Tink is a delightful character and I loved her.

The Blurb:
Tink Aaron-Martin has been grounded AGAIN after an adventure with her best friend Freddie Blue Anderson. To make the time pass, she decides to write an encyclopedia of her life from "Aa" (a kind of lava--okay, she cribbed that from the real encyclopedia) to "Zoo" (she's never been to one, but her brothers belong there).

As the alphabet unfolds, so does the story of Tink's summer: more adventures with Freddie Blue (and more experiences in being grounded); how her family was featured in a magazine about "Living with Autism," thanks to her older brother Seb--and what happened after Seb fell apart; her growing friendship, and maybe more, with Kai, a skateboarder who made her swoon (sort of). And her own sense that maybe she belongs not under "H" for "Hideous," or "I" for "Invisible," but "O" for "Okay."

So what have you read lately? Share!

18 comments:

  1. I finally read The Fault in Our Stars. I know. I know. I loved it! I've also been working on the Beautiful Creatures books. And I read Hysteria by Megan Miranda and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys recently. Between Shades of Gray (not to be confused with Shades of Gray) by R.S. was excellent! Thanks for your recommendations. Not So Long Ago...sounds great. I've definitely been doing more reading than writing this summer. Oh well. It's all good.

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    1. Loved Fault in Our Stars. That and Will Grayson are my two favorite Green novels. I haven't read the others you mentioned (adding to my check it out list now) but I've heard great things about Between Shades of Gray.

      Reading is good. It recharges the creative batteries.

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  2. I recently read Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy (The first book is Shadow and Bone.) They are lovely poetic books set in a fantasy Russian under the Tzars. I'm currently reading Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson, which is a fairy-tale retelling set in a fantasy version of India. And I'm re-reading Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, set in a fantasy version of Wales. Hmmm... sensing a theme here...

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    1. Definitely a theme :) I've been hearing good things about Bardugo's trilogy so I need to pick those up.

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  3. I loved A Bird on Water Street. Glad to see it getting mentions. Gary Paulsen's latest in his Liar, Liar series, Family Ties, is hysterical. Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson's Greek Gods is fantastic. The Secrets of Tree Taylor is a wonderful coming of age story. Wish You Weren't by Sherrie Petersen is terrific. I could go on... As you can see, I read a LOT of middle grade, but now and then I read an adult book. Michael Koryta's new book, Those Who Wish Me Dead is spectacular.

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    1. Bird has been getting fabulous reviews and accolades all over. I didn't realize I was on a MG kick until I made this list, but a lot of what I've read recently has been MG. More books to add to my check it out list!

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  4. I've been reading Tolkien's books. I've finished The Hobbit, and the LOTR, now I'm finishing that off with Simarillion.

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    1. I actually tried to use the Simarillion for a book report in high school. An oral book report. Not one of my smarter moves, lol. I bet it's interesting reading all of them in a row like that though. You probably pick up on more connections and whatnot

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  5. I also read The Fault In Our Stars and absolutely loved it. I'd been ignoring it because a) they've been displaying that book cover in ads everywhere, and b) I think the cover is one of the ugliest I've seen. Fortunately, someone I know recommended it and now I tell everyone they have to read it!

    On the lighter side, I just read Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. Like TFIOS, it also features a precocious teenager, but the similarity ends there. The storytelling is first person from the precocious teen's POV, along with e-mails, letters, faxes, and other documents. It satirizes life in Seattle, working for Microsoft, and the politics of private school.

    Indulging my sci-fi appetite, I read a fabulous trilogy about a female mercenary who signs up for what turns out to be the most hazardous (and mysterious) gig of her career. There's loads of action as well as romance aboard the Glorious Fool. The three books are Fortune's Pawn, Honor's Knight, and Heaven's Queen.

    On the fantasy front, I recently read The Line and The Source (Witching Savannah, books 1 and 2) by J.D. Horn. Some nice plot twists, there.

    Add a couple of Jack Reacher books to round things out, and it appears that I've been doing way more reading than writing...

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    1. Oooo that mercenary one sounds good. I was recently on a military sci fi kick so that'll fit right in (and might be something the hubby will like as well). Nice well-rounded list! Reacher is another series everyone raves about I need to try. Good reminders to pick these books up.

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  6. Fun topic! I recently read HOME FRONT by Kristin Hannah, and right now I'm reading LOW PRESSURE by Sandra Brown. I read a lot of YA so sometimes it's fun to read grown up books again :)

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    1. I recently went on a grown up kick myself over the winter. I think sometimes we get focused on our own genres and markets, that we forget to branch out and read different things from time to time. I know I do! Thank goodness for writer friends who get you to read different types of books (grin)

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  7. Not So Long Ago seems like one I'd love. I'm a Star Wars geek.

    I just read The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater and loved it.

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    1. You'd love it then. I am, too, and the little comments were so well done.

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  8. Based on the article, I bought and read Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away.
    First, thanks! I’d have never found it without your aticle, and Ms Slay would have lost that sale. I’m sitting down to write a review, and will start off with a reference to this blog post.
    For anyone interested, Four stars: Five for the story and three for the Kindle formatting.
    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Yay! Glad I could send a little love to this great book.

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  9. I decided to break out of my YA reads for a minute and dive in to a grown folks book. I just finished up Gone Girl today. I thought it started a little slow but I kept reading it because so many people seemed to like it, plus I wanted to finish it before the movie (starring Ben Affleck) hit theaters. It was great! I highly recommend it.

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    1. That's another one I keep hearing about. I'll have to add it to the list as well. (that list is growing, and growing after this post!) I didn't realize they were doing a movie. Very cool.

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