Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
The setting of this story is a bookworm’s dream. Henry’s family has run a second-hand bookstore, the Howling Books, for over twenty years. Eighteen years old, he loves everything about the store. Besides the book-loving regulars and the monthly book clubs, the best part of the store is the Letter Library, a room where patrons can write notes in their favorite books. Sometimes even letters are left between pages.
Rachel and Henry were best friends for years. The day before she moved away, Rachel tucked a love letter in Henry’s favorite book in the Letter Library. But Henry never discovered the letter, and Rachel resigned herself to the fact that Henry was in love with Amy.
Years later, Rachel returns and works in the bookstore. Everyone sees a difference in Rachel. What they don’t know is that her younger brother, Cal, drowned in the ocean. She keeps the tragedy a secret as she renews her friendship with Henry.
Henry has been in love with Amy for years. She breaks up with him only to return when her latest relationship doesn’t work out. Henry finds his life falling apart. Once again, Amy dumps him, and his divorced parents are talking about selling the Howling Books.
As Henry and Rachel work together in the bookstore, Henry remembers what he liked about his best friend, Rachel, even as she continues to deal inwardly with the loss of her brother.
The Letter Library slowly reveals its secrets of love and loss. If you love books, bookstores, and relationships, you’ll like this story.
I love the setting—who wouldn’t like living above and working in a bookstore? The depiction of Henry’s obsession with a girl who uses him like a revolving door is believable, and the author sensitively portrays Rachel’s grief. I found the repetitive use of the F word distracting from an otherwise strong story. Be sure to see my bookstagram picture for Words In Deep Blue on Instagram: @lucindastein
Publishers Weekly guideline: Ages 14-up
Outrun the Moon
By Stacey Lee copyright 2016
Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong yearns to break free of the poverty in Chinatown. Clever and determined, she strikes a deal to attend St. Clare’s School for Girls in exchange for a business deal with the president of the board. This is quite a feat since only the wealthiest white girls attend the school.
The story takes the reader through the historic San Francisco earthquake that occurred in 1906. People were forced to flee their homes and businesses after the earthquake unsettled the foundations of buildings, which either crumpled instantly or were in danger of collapse at any moment. Fires overtook the city and food and water became scarce to nonexistent.
Outrun the Moon is Stacey Lee’s second historical novel for young adults, and the genre shines under Lee’s careful handling.
Aspects of the story that I liked:
- Mercy, the protagonist, is a strong female character that persists against the many odds that come against her. She’s smart, spunky, and determined.
- Tom, the handsome boy she likes. Mercy is unsure whether her strong character is too much for him. Would he ever consider her in his future? (You’ll like where this relationship leads.) He is intrigued with air travel and has his own hot air balloon.
- The author portrays how prejudice ran rampant at this point of history, but amazingly, in times of disaster people came together.
- The portrayal of the historic earthquake was well researched, and as in all good historical fiction, the reader “experiences” a part of history.
- Mercy is able to look beyond her own losses and help strangers in need.
- The culture of Chinatown is vividly described, and the reader easily slips into the shoes of Mercy Wong.
Enjoy this engaging story with its theme of a young woman overcoming overwhelming difficulties. Definitely add this to your diverse fiction TBR list!
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
Fourteen year old Faith is the “good girl,” the rock, the trustworthy daughter, and considered dull. At the turn of the 20th century, those traits fulfilled the expectations for a girl. The story begins with the family making a hasty departure from England to the island of Vane. Faith overhears a conversation and discovers her father, a minister and a renowned naturalist, has been accused of fraud. Faith doesn’t believe the rumor and doesn’t understand why anyone would attack his reputation.
Definitely cover love for this title! The latest cover for the book is one of the most unique and creative covers I’ve seen. I saw an earlier cover on Amazon, which wasn’t as appealing—perhaps why the publisher changed it.
Back to the story, Faith proves to be anything but dull, and when her father is found dead, hanging on a tree beneath a cliff, his death is called a suicide. Faith begins her journey to find out who murdered her father. Before his death, she had accompanied her father to a cave where he hid a plant. This tree thrives in darkness. She begins to suspect the unusual plant is the cause of the scandal—-and the murder.
The unusual tree bears fruit only when someone whispers a lie to it. In turn,
the fruit delivers a hidden truth.
This story is a mixture of historical fiction, magical realism, and mystery.
The author’s research into the time period reveals itself in every detail. It definitely portrays how women of this time period were viewed:
- Women didn’t need much education as their role was to run a household and raise children.
- Women were not as intelligent as men.
- A married woman must ask her husband for meager spending money.
- A woman had no control of the finances unless she became a widow.
The story kept my interest, and Faith is a well-developed main character. I enjoy magical realism, but I struggled with the concept of a plant comprehending lies. The author created a twist on the biblical Tree of Life, and perhaps it’s only me, but I had trouble with the story’s scenes involving the tree. The rest of the scenes kept me involved in the story. As I said before, the research for the time period is impeccable, and the protagonist is a strong character. Overall, I would rate the book as 3.5 to 4 stars. (I couldn’t decide!)
I love creating bookstagrams. Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein.
I was between books, and The Sun is Also a Star kept appearing on social media. I thought—why not?—until I come across a title that really appeals to me. Was I in for a surprise! This book definitely falls in the top ten YA books I’ve read in the past year.
Natasha is an undocumented immigrant, born in Jamaica, whose entire family is being deported. Natasha is chasing a slim chance of avoiding deportation by seeking a last minute lawyer.
Daniel is a U.S. citizen whose parents came from Korea. On Natasha’s last day in the country, she meets Daniel accidentally. What follows is a whirlwind romance in one day. In fact, the entire story is told in the span of twenty-four hours.
Natasha leans toward science and believes love is just the culmination of hormones and physical attraction. Daniel is a poet who believes in love at first sight. This story is about their attraction and the dilemma—-that their romance is fated to last only one day.
“I’ve always known him, and we’ve only just met.”
The story gives a glimpse into what it’s like to come from another culture. Daniel’s parents try to maintain their original customs but their children strive to assimilate into America. Of course, that’s a recipe for parent/child head butting.
In contrast, Natasha’s father arrived in the U.S. with the dream of becoming a famous actor—he was ready to dive into the culture. Unfortunately, he continues to seek his dream at a high cost to his family. Living only on Natasha’s mother’s salary, the family lives in a one-bedroom apartment where Natasha has to share the living room with her brother in lieu of a bedroom. Her father has become very distant to her. This situation explains Natasha’s pessimism about love.
Daniel’s family pressures him to become a doctor and eventually marry a Korean girl. He blindly follows along with their expectations until one day (the day of the story) he decides to let the universe dictate his life. A series of coincidences leads him to meet Natasha.
The format of this book is unusual—-
Natasha and Daniel have separate chapters with their first-person point of view. Several minor characters also have separate chapters but these are in omniscient point of view (a godlike perspective.) As a writer, I found that surprising, but as I continued with the story it became clear that this format fit the story perfectly. The theme of the book is coincidence and choices versus true love. Each minor character reveals how even slight contact with people can have an impact on our lives.
The author portrays seemingly fleeting brushes with strangers with significance and power.
We may never know the influence of a brief connection.
If you’ve ever known the kindness of a stranger when you’re in a difficult place, you can relate to this idea.
I want to avoid any spoilers, so let me say that many of the coincidences in this story are amazing! You won’t put this book down for long. I can’t begin to describe the many nuances to this story.
The ending? A struggle between a box of Kleenex and a jubilant party!
A must read. Love, love, love! 5 stars
Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein. I’m an avid reader and a writer. You might want to read my debut YA novel, Jadeite’s Journey, from Inkspell Publishing. Available now in print & e-book
The Kick Ass Girls of YA Blog Hop
Give Up or Get Tough:
Strong Female Protagonists
What makes a strong female protagonist?
Éowyn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Two Towers, is a shield maiden. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games transforms into a warrior to save her sister’s life. These are obvious examples of strong female characters.
But there other less dramatic examples of strong women.
Elizabeth Darcy dared to marry for love rather than economic convenience as was the tradition at the time. Alice from Alice in Wonderland exhibits strength through perseverance, bravery, and common sense after falling into a strange, new world. Boring traits, you say? Don’t forget that Alice overcomes the ruthless Queen of Hearts!
In my YA novel, Jadeite’s Journey, my protagonist is a bit of both types.
Although she lives in a future society, Jadeite is an ordinary teen girl. She’s not prepared for the attention of a cute boy from school—her first boyfriend. As their relationship continues, Mattie reveals himself to be an egotistical bully. Soon Jadeite feels more like his “property” than a girlfriend.
She hates this guy, absolutely hates him!
Life is perfect in 2616. Jadeite lives in an advanced society that has eliminated disease, war, and poverty. But after she discovers her father has been leading a double life, Jadeite realizes her “perfect” life is riddled with secrets and deception.
. . .her father’s frequent trips away from home. . .the Dark Ridge.
And was it possible—was her father a Ridge Runner?
When she breaks up with Mattie, she soon learns his father is a powerful government official. Mattie has Jadeite’s best friend institutionalized.
“Did they hurt you?” Jadeite asks.
“The shock treatments were horrible,” Electra said. “That’s why
I conform and pretend I’m completely reformed.”
Filled with obsessive jealousy, Mattie refuses to accept the end of their relationship. He also threatens Jadeite’s family.
She has a choice: give up and submit
to Mattie’s power, or get tough and do whatever needed to protect her family. Similar to Katniss risking her life to save her sister, Jadeite steps into an uncomfortable role—a dangerous one—in order to save her family.
I believe the best heroines are not characters without fears or weaknesses, but characters who rise above their limitations and tackle overwhelming problems.
New from Inkspell Publishing
Jadeite’s Journey is available in paperback & e-book on Amazon
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Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley
The beautiful cover (I have a real case of cover love!) drew me to this book.
Sixteen-year-old Aza suffers from a mysterious disease that doctors have been unable to diagnose. She’s thin, has trouble breathing, and knows her way inside and out of a hospital room. She says, “I think I wasn’t meant to be human.” Her only friend is Jason, a boy with OCD. They’ve known each other since they were five.
I quickly fell in love with quirky, obsessive Jason because he is a true and faithful friend to Aza. He will do anything for her.
Aza glimpses things in the sky, like trading ships and people descending on ropes. Only Jason believes what she sees is real. Aza sometimes hears disembodied voices calling her name that no one else hears.
When Aza is rushed by ambulance because of another medical emergency, Jason rides with her. She dies before they arrive at the hospital. At the cemetery he hears her voice from the sky. Thus begins his obsessive search into legends of people who navigate the skies in ships. Jason is a computer geek and manages to get into databases illegally. That’s how he tracks a storm that he connects to Aza’s travels in the skies above. You see, he believes she’s still alive.
Aza awakens in another world with a different body. This body is strong and healthy but her skin is blue. She learns that she was originally from the world of Magonia, a people in the sky who travel by trade ships. In this world, she has power. But Aza realizes she’s still in love with Jason. “Broken bonds are serious things.” She must find him again.
Magonia gives a realistic glimpse into the world of a teen with a serious, life-threatening disease. But it also sends the reader into a fantastical world of hybrid bird creatures and true adventure!
Magonia is a wonderful mix of fantasy, scifi, and dystopian. Read and enjoy!
Here’s a pic of Magonia I created. Follow me on Instagram at: lucindastein
I am made of my memories. . .
Nadia lives in a city surrounded by stone walls. Every twelve years, each person’s memories are lost, completely forgotten, except for what they write down. In the city of Canaan, your individual book is your identity, and you choose what to write down. . . and what to eliminate.
Nadia knows who hasn’t written the truth. She knows because she has never forgotten.
Nadia is a strong character, independent and courageous. She wants to protect her mother and sisters, even if her oldest sister doesn’t believe Nadia is part of their family. Along with a good-looking boy, Gray, she explores the world outside the city walls and begins to discover the secrets behind the Forgetting. They uncover the fact that the Head of Council of Canaan’s governing body knows the cause of the forgetting but does nothing to stop it.
I am made of my memories. . .
Consider how much of yourself is wrapped up in your memories—what you’ve done in the past, the people you’ve known and loved, and even those things you’re passionate about such as hobbies, sports, and other pursuits. Now consider if all that became a blank. Who would you be?
The topic of forgetting has impacted my life with my mother’s dementia. Most of her memories now come from her childhood, but memories of my sister and me seem to be lost. Although I’m still a familiar face to my mother, she never recalls anything about my childhood. She doesn’t remember my children. This has left me with a real sense of loss.
The Forgetting is a unique dystopian novel that will keep you riveted in your pursuit to discover what is causing the Forgetting. And the true history of Canaan is guaranteed to surprise you.
Follow me on Instagram at: lucindastein and see the picture I created for this book!
I loved this book by author, Catherine Ryan Hyde. In Take Me With You, a burned-out teacher, August Shroeder, spends his summer traveling across the country. This summer, he plans to spread the ashes of his deceased son. When August’s RV breaks down, the mechanic makes a strange offer: take my two young boys for the summer in exchange for the cost of repairs. Turns out, the mechanic, a single parent, has jail time to serve and no way to take care of his sons.
At first, August thinks no way–this is insane–but soon finds he can’t disappoint the young boys who have never been on a vacation in their entire life.
One of my favorite things to do is camp and sightsee, so August’s travels appealed to me. In fact, I’ve visited two of the destinations in the book, the fantastic natural formations in Bryce Canyon in Utah and the geysers in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. But it’s definitely the young boys who I fell in love with and it turns out, so does August. What I enjoyed in the story was how August gave the boys things they had never experienced—a male figure they could count on to keep his word and someone who cared about how they felt. Slowly, it’s revealed that their father has a drinking problem. Although he doesn’t physically abuse the boys, their father leaves them alone far too often to fend for themselves.
But what will happen at the close of the summer? This story promises to pull at your heartstrings. Come along on a vacation that promises much more than simple adventure!
Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein. Check out the pic I created for this book!
You'll fall in love with these boys! A burned-out teacher takes his annual summer RV trip. When his RV breaks down, the mechanic offers free repair if he'll take his two young boys for the summer while he goes to jail. #bookstagram #bookish #booklove #bookworm #booklover #booknerd #bookstagrammer #coverlove #beautifulbooks #heartbreaker
Check out my playlist for Jadeite’s Journey!
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams- How Jadeite feels when she first meets Mattie, a hot boy from school…
“She Sets the City on Fire” by Gavin DeGraw –When Mattie’s character begins to look questionable, and the perfect world of United Society slowly reveals its deadly flaws…
“Lyin’ Eyes” by the Eagles-Mattie turns into a bully.
“Beat it” by Michael Jackson-When Jadeite breaks up with Mattie…
“Hotel California” by the Eagles-Mattie’s father is a powerful government official. Mattie uses his father’s influence against Jadeite’s friends and family to force her to stay with him. She observes a frightening transformation and discovers deadly secrets hover in the halls of his family’s home.
“Stand by You” by Rachel Platen-Jadeite risks her life to save her younger brother.
“Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson-Danger deepens as Jadeite journeys over the Dark Ridge, and she must call upon her inner strength.
“Invincible” by Kelly Clarkson-After Jadeite’s father is arrested, she takes his place as an illegal Ridge Runner and risks her life to save her family.
Find Jadeite’s Journey on:
Leslye Walton’s magical realism novel promises to take you on a unique journey into the magical and the ordinary, an elixir of both.
How many of us can relate to this line in the story: Love makes us such fools? But the story moves on to show sometimes it’s a matter of opening our eyes.
The women in Ava Lavender’s family have been anything but lucky in love. It has affected everyone down to sixteen-year-old Ava who is born with the wings of a bird and her twin brother, Henry, who is mute. Because they are different, their mother keeps them sheltered at home away from the town’s critical eyes.
Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne, throws herself into her work at the bakery, believing love is something to be warded off.
Ava’s mother, Viviane remains heartbroken over her first love, ignoring the love that appears right before her.
Teenage Ava dreams about being a normal girl, not a creature with wings that makes people think she is everything from a freak to an angel. Then one day, Ava makes a friend who talks her into coming out to the reservoir, the place teens congregate at night. Her life will never be the same.
But it is Henry, who speaks only when it is of utmost importance, who warns the family of the tragedy to come. Will they listen before it’s too late?
Guideline only: School Library Journal rates this book Grade 9 and up.
Follow me on Instagram at lucindastein. Check out the picture I created for this book!