Bad Apple

Bad Apple by Laura Ruby

247pages/paperback

5 Stars

 

The struggles of being a teen and the dark side of online Bad Appleslander make this a socially current topic. Tola Riley likes to draw. But sketching her teachers and leaving the drawings on their desk tends to land her in the principal’s office. Her unflattering portraits of the staff might have something to do with that.

Tola’s funny-looking art teacher wears t-shirts with crazy sayings. Skinny, floppy-haired Mr. Mymer is not your average instructor, making him her favorite teacher. He encourages her artwork and best of all, lets her escape the lunch room to come to the art room. But when rumors circulate that something inappropriate has transpired between the two, Tola is under a glaring spotlight and Mr. Mymer is suspended.

She tries to tell her mother and the principal that nothing happened, but no one believes her. Worse, an anonymous website spews horrible things about Tola. Students ridicule her at school, and even worse, Tola’s mother brings harsh accusations against Mymer at a school board meeting.

Tola Riley makes for a most interesting protagonist. The reader can’t help but like her. The presumption of guilt (rather than a presumption of innocence) amps up the conflict. The vicious assault from both adults and teens toward Tola and her teacher reflect the problem of rushing to judgment too quickly. Without giving away any spoilers, the truth ultimately comes out, and it’s nothing the reader will expect.

I highly recommend this novel.

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All the Crooked Saints

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

©2017

311 pages/hardcover

All the Crooked SaintsWhat I love about magic realism is how the realistic aspect of the story pulls you in and allows the arising magical qualities to become so much more believable. All the Crooked Saints takes place in 1962 in southeastern Colorado in the fictional town of Bicho Raro. Here the Soria family has the ability to perform miracles.

But there are phases of the miracle, and the first miracle is not the end of the journey. The person often gets stuck midway, (like we do in life). In limbo, the person retains strange characteristics, like the giant man who towers over buildings and a girl whose tears continually rain over her. The Soria saints are forbidden to help the “pilgrims” who must work through the rest of their miracles.

One of the best parts of the story: I love how the three Soria cousins, Beatriz, Daniel, and Joaquin, create a renegade radio station in the middle of the high desert, broadcasting their illegal signal in the dark of night. At first, the radio station serves Joaquin’s creative desire to be a DJ known as Diablo Diablo. But as time passes, the trio uses the radio to work their own miracles for the pilgrims living at Bicho Raro.

But it’s not only the pilgrims who confront darkness in their lives. Even the Sorias are faced with confronting their own darkness. This is a unique, magical story of three young people who break the taboo of helping others. In doing so, they experience the miracle of discovering themselves and where they fit in among the saints and pilgrims of Bicho Raro.

The author describes southeastern Colorado to the point the reader can feel the arid heat on his arms amid the floating scent of tangy sagebrush. Even more important—-in the skilled hands of Maggie Stiefvater, the characters spring to life, like flowers blooming in the high desert!

Highly recommend

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York

York by Laura Ruby

Walden Pond Press

476 pages (hardcover)

© 2017

York is Book One in Ruby’s The Shadow Cipher series. I ordered this title because I loved the author’s book, Bone Gap, a magical realism story. York will appeal to readers who like steampunk, mystery, magic, and history. The story starts out a little slow, but the mystery of the Old York Cipher lures the reader on.

The Morningstarr twins, architects of dazzling machines and buildings in New York, disappear and leave behind a puzzle which promises a treasure beyond all imagining. Despite tries by many people over the decades, the cipher remains unsolved. A note here: the imaginative machines and inventions would make a wonderful movie on the big screen!

Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment. When a real estate developer buys the building with destruction in mind, the young people decide to save their home by proving the cipher is real. This means they have to solve the mystery.

Written to appeal to younger and older readers alike, this story lacks the depth and literary beauty of Bone Gap. But then this is an entirely different book. Delighted with the fantastic world of York and curious about the cipher, I will definitely read Book Two when it comes out!

Bronte's Thunder by [Stein, Lucinda]

PhotoFunia-1535831772

Side note: If you enjoy magical realism stories, try Bronte’s Thunder!

 

A Sneak Peak at Bronte’s Thunder

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Author pic 2018I’m super excited to share this prequel to my new YA book, Bronte’s Thunder. Strange connections to thunderstorms have always surrounded sixteen-year-old Bronte Monroe. Her grandmother claimed she was born under the sign of Blue Lightning and has the gift of barter—mysterious exchanges that change fate.


Bronte’s Omen

   A whoosh and a tock.

   Silence.

   Whoosh. Tock. My eyes flutter open to everything white and foreign with strange, pungent odors spinning around me. A clear tube runs to my face and into my nose. If I wasn’t so weak, I’d scream.

   The ventilator pumps like a medieval monster. I’ve never been in a hospital before. The only good thing about my captivity—at last, I can breathe.

   A figure appears in the doorway to my room. Backlit from a window across the hall, the dark silhouette pauses for a moment. He approaches the bed with stealthy footsteps.

   Nick. Nick Ford.

   He’s come for revenge.

   My heart races, the organ threatening to burst from my chest. All he has to do is rip the tube from my nose or yank the ventilator’s electrical cord from the outlet. I’ll stop breathing.

   I’ll die like his brother.

   I bolt up in bed, hot sweat beading my forehead like condensation on my mother’s glass of whiskey. The walls of my bedroom reassure me I am no longer in the hospital. I’m no longer eight years old.

    Dishes clang from downstairs, the familiar sound of Aunt Flo preparing breakfast. The slate sky outside the window does nothing to brighten my spirits. I rub sleep from my eyes and stretch my legs. Throwing back the covers, I wiggle my toes. Hot-pink polish brightens each nail. Today is my first day of school as a junior.

    Sitting on the edge of my mattress, I picture Nick Ford sneaking into my hospital room all those years ago, the image as vivid as yesterday’s junior orientation.

   At eight, I believed he intended to kill me. An eye for an eye. At my bedside, Nick extended his arm, and I cowered, convinced he’d strike me. He brushed an errant strand of hair from my eye, his touch as light as butterfly wings, surprising for an eight-year-old boy.

   He tilted his head and studied me. “Are you okay?”

   I nodded, though a lingering fear shot into the pit of my stomach. We were in the same class in third grade, but we had never actually spoken. With my senses on high alert, I stared at him, his blue eyes captivating. Then he did something I couldn’t believe. He reached for my hand and gently held it. His voice came almost in a whisper, “My grandma had pneumonia once.”

   Marching footsteps approached. A woman stood in the doorway, her hair disheveled, her eyes red and swollen. In a low, almost menacing, tone, she said, “Get out of there this instant.”

   Nick obeyed his mother and followed her from the room. In the doorway, he glanced over his shoulder. I couldn’t tell if I saw pity or disdain in his eyes.

   At that moment I morphed into a leper like in the Bible story told in Sunday school, flesh decaying, someone everyone stayed clear of. Worse than that, Nick’s little brother had been killed that day by my mother.

   Aunt Flo’s shrill voice snatches me from my dark memories. “Bronte! Breakfast will be ready in five minutes.”

   “Be there in a moment.”

   For years Nick’s kindness in that hospital room baffled me. I finally gave up trying to understand it. Thunder Moon is a small town, and news travels fast. He must have heard I was admitted to the hospital. Yet how could he have been so caring when his little brother lay lifeless and cold?

A year after Johnny’s death, the Fords moved away. Grief probably drove them from Thunder Moon.

   In my attic bedroom, a low roll of thunder rumbles through the rafters and sends shivers down my back. Thunderstorms never did me any favors, at least none that didn’t leave me feeling guilty.

   Two hours later, I stride through the halls of Thunder Moon High, a disturbing sense of unbalance hanging over me. Am I unhinged from the dream that morning and the memories the nightmare brought back? Maybe the threatening clouds on my way to school triggered my mood.

   Girls’ chatter in the high school restroom pricks my attention.

   “New guy alert.” A girl giggles. “Nick Ford’s so hot.”

   I turn to stone behind the stall door.

   “Heard he’s trying out for the football team,” another said. “Hand me my lip gloss.”

   “I could drink that tall glass of water.”

   Riding a cloud of choking perfume, laughter fills the room.

   My stomach clenches. After all these years, I still can’t face Nick. Just the news that he moved back brings the horrible event to life. That was the day my mother disappeared.

   I remained behind to carry the shame of Johnny Ford’s death.

   My stomach turns sour. Maybe I can talk Aunt Flo into homeschooling me. Highly unlikely, my instincts warn.

   I hurry past the cliquish girls and escape into the hall. A hundred yards down the corridor, I turn a corner and run face to face into Nick Ford. His eyes widen. I almost don’t recognize the boy from the hospital room all those years ago, except for those smoky-blue eyes. How has that skinny little boy grown into such a good-looking guy? The girls were right. He is hot. On the other hand, he probably thinks I look as plain as an unbuttered pancake.

   I stand frozen. As I stare, the image of little Johnny Ford rises from all the nightmares I’ve had over the years. Johnny Ford, pale and dead, lips blue. The misty specter of Johnny haunting my dreams like in Dicken’s novel, his boney finger pointing at me, always pointing at me.

   Nick nods.

   I rush past him, lungs tight, membranes burning, once again unable to draw a breath. Farther down the hall, I gasp, air rushing in as I remember to breathe. Through the school’s cinderblock walls, a thunderclap sounds, the explosion a warning of things to come.

* * *

Follow BrontVector Rain Cloud Background.e’s story in the new YA novel, Bronte’s Thunder.

BUY NOW on Amazon

Bronte’s Thunder is Lucinda Stein’s second YA novel. Inkspell Publishing published her first YA book, Jadeite’s Journey. Lucinda is the award-winning author of several adult books.

An avid reader, Lucinda loves good coffee, great books, and anything vintage. She likes to camp with her husband, Rob, and her shelter-rescue dog, Opie. See her bookish bookstagrams on

Instagram!

 

 

 

The Hazel Wood

I’ll admit it—I do judge a book by its cover! (At least, initially.) Physically, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert is a definite beauty-contest contestant. From the gold and silver on the black cover to the beautiful end papers to the black and white illustrations at the beginning of each chapter, booklovers will appreciate this book.

Now let’s talk about the story! Alice Proserpine, 17, and her mother are always on the road. They move like some people hit coffee shops, often living with acquaintances for short periods of time. Alice’s grandmother is a famous, reclusive writer, but someone Alice has never met. Her mother avoids her at all costs.

 

The story really gets going when Alice’s mother is abducted by someone who claims to have come from the supernatural world of her grandmother’s stories. Alice and her friend, Ellery Finch, set out to find her mother and head to where her grandmother lives on an estate. They go to the very place her mother warned her against: Stay away from the Hazel Wood.

Alice discovers everything in her grandmother’s stories actually exists, and she encounters all kinds of strange people and creatures in the Hinterland. I thoroughly enjoyed this unique story but found the ending a let down. I’d love to hear what you think of the ending—drop me a note! (leave a comment)

Lucinda Stein, author of Jadeite’s JourneyJadeite's Journey final cover

She never knew a handsome face could hold so much darkness. . .

Then she meets Orion, who’s strong and genuine. But is it too late?

In a future world of secrets, romance can turn deadly!

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Daughter of Smoke & Bone

daughter of smoke BoneI just finished Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone, and I loved it. The subject of angels and demons in itself is fascinating, but Taylor brings her own vision of these creatures into a full-bodied story.

The book opens with a seemingly ordinary teen girl—despite her long peacock-blue hair—named Karou. Her wrists hold tattoos with the words true and story. An art student, her sketchbook is filled with strange, otherworldly creatures. Magic enters the picture when Karou handles a cheating boyfriend with some hilarious effects. No spoilers, you have to read it! Soon we learn Karou has another life when she enters a portal where the strange creatures of her sketchbook come to life. These creatures called chimaera contain parts of various animals. Some creatures have horns, some with human faces but animal legs and hooves. Some with wolf faces and claws, you get the idea. Humans would call them devils.

Brimstone, the creature that took her in as a child, has human arms and torso but the haunches of a lion and the clawed feet of a lizard or dragon. He has horns and the eyes of a crocodile. Strange indeed! Even stranger is the mystery of why Brimstone collects teeth.

Black handprints begin appearing on doorways across the world, and angel sighting are reported over the globe.

Karou has an encounter with a magnificent angel who asks her who is she? What is she? This is a question that has plagued Karou for years. She has never felt completely whole. Karou finds herself attracted to the angel, but little does she know that an otherworldly war is about to being and she will be caught in the middle!

Taylor artfully introduces the character of Karou, just an ordinary girl (or so we think), and slowly draws the reader into her spectacular world building. At 418 pages, the book keeps the reader intrigued to the end. 5 stars to the Daughter of Smoke & Bone!

Jadeite's Journey final coverFor another “otherworldly” story, you might enjoy, Jadeite’s Journey! Available at Amazon

YA Scavenger Hunt

YA_ScavengerHunt_WebBannerJadeite's Journey final coverWelcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! My name is Lucinda Stein and I’m your hostess for this leg of the tour.

 

On this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!
Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, a gold team, a green team, a purple team, and a pink team for a chance Team Pinkto win a whole different set of books!

 

 

 

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE

Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PINK team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 7th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

SCAVENGER HUNT POST

Today, I am hosting Jennifer M. Eaton on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! In her book, Fire in the Woods, her main character, Jess is:

 

USA Today Best Selling Author currently hovering near the human city of Philadelphia. Eater of chocolate, chaser of aliens, writer of words.

Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!

EXCLUSIVE CONTENT

I’m Jennifer M. Eaton the author of the Fire in the Woods series. Today I’d like to take a moment to send you into the mind of a girl willing to risk her life to save a boy from another planet. I originally wrote this as part of Jess’s character study. It has changed very little since I first wrote down these words, and they ended up being nearly the exact copy used for the Fire in the Woods Book trailer (Below if you want to take a look). Enjoy!

Only one more school year

Until I could live my dream

My dream

Not his

Everything was in place.

Plans were made

Until I found a boy in the woods

Now I am running for my life

Through the woods

With a boy I barely know

With the entire U.S. Army…

dogs…

helicopters…

and Dad chasing us

This is so not how I expected to spend the last week of summer vacation.

But if I don’t save him,

who will?

_____________________________________________________

Fire in the Woods Revised CoverSeventeen-year-old Jess’s dream is to graduate High School and get away from her dull military-brat existence. But racing for her life across New Jersey with a boy she hardly knows is not quite what she had in mind.

David is alone, injured, and lost in the woods. When a young girl stumbles across him, he places his trust, and his life, in her hands. Will she lead him to safety, or right into the hands of the men he is hiding from?

Young adult contemporary science fiction (Because you can’t get enough contemporary or science in your fiction)

Available wherever books are sold

Buy Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Kobo | Chapters Indigo! | iBooks | IndiBound | Google Play

About the Author

jennifer-eaton-portrait-1-img_4000 Jennifer M. Eaton hails from the eastern shore of the North American Continent on planet Earth. Yes, regrettably, she is human, but please don’t hold that against her.

While not traipsing through the galaxy looking for specimens for her space moth collection, she lives with her wonderfully supportive husband and three energetic offspring. (And a poodle who runs the spaceport when she’s not around.)

During infrequent excursions to her home planet of Earth, Jennifer enjoys long hikes in the woods, bicycling, swimming, snorkeling, and snuggling up by the fire with a great book; but great adventures are always a short shuttle ride away.

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Lucinda Stein, Jennifer M. Eaton, and many more!

To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 3. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the PINK team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT

 To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author!

Kristy Centeno

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22674815-fire-in-the-woods?ac=1

TWEET   #YASH

Thanks for entering the contest & good luck!

Lucinda Stein, author 

pink 2018

A Shine That Defies the Dark

A Shine That Defies the Dark by Jodi L. Gallegos

Book Review

“I didn’t go lookin’ for Remy Granger that night,” begins a tale that promises danger and romance. Set in the Louisiana bayou during the Depression, A Shine That Defies the Dark reveals the struggles of Ophelia Breaux and her widowed mother during this hard economic time.

Ophelia meets up with Remy Granger at a party one night. She finds herself attracted to him despite his family’s reputation for trouble. Ophelia warns herself to stay clear of Remy. But when she sees her mother compromising herself with Judge Trudeau just to pay the rent, Ophelia decides to join the notorious Granger gang. It’s the only way she can make enough money to free her mother from the judge’s control.

A Shine that Defies the Dark by [Gallegos, Jodi]Ophelia becomes entangled in the Granger’s bootlegging. The illegal business of moonshine brings big money. It also draws revenuers and prohibition agents, along with prison sentences—if the bootlegger survives a rain of bullets. Rival bootleggers also pose a deadly threat.

Along the journey, she discovers Remy is more intoxicating than the “shine” they’re running and falls madly in love. But will either of them live to fully experience that romance? Gallegos infuses the story with rich description of the Louisiana bayou, uncovers the secret world of the bootlegger, and pulls the reader into an exciting journey through history. This page-turning novel will keep you in suspense!


Interview with the Author

 

How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing, in some form or another, for as long as I can remember. I’ve always expressed myself best through the written word (anyone who has had an actual conversation with me can attest to that, lol!). I decided in 2001 that I’d like to pursue publication. From that point I focused on learning about the business of writing as well as the craft so that I’d have a better understanding of every aspect of what it means to become a writer.

What are your favorite genres to read? I read almost anything. My choices are based on how effectively the book description grabs my attention. That said, I do have a fondness for Young Adult (YA) and for psychological thrillers.

What advice do you have for beginning writers? 1) Take every opportunity to learn more about the business as well as your craft. 2) Start to establish your platform/online presence now. 3) Engage other writers/aspiring writers and build your “tribe”. It’s so important to have a group that can support and assist each other. 4) No matter how defeated you may feel, don’t give up. You’re a writer because you write, not because you’re published.

Links for Jodi’s Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook

Website: http://jodigallegos.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JodiLGallegos/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JodiGallegos_

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jodi_gallegos/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/thatjodig/

Turtles All The Way Dow

“At the time I first realized I might be fictional…”

What an intriguing first line to this novel. Much later in the story, the connection to this statement will be revealed.

I had heard this book was about a girl with OCD, which would be interesting in itself, but John Green weaves in so much more into this story.

Sixteen-year-old Aza struggles with thought spirals, compulsive thoughts that wind themselves deeper until she can’t think of anything else. When a 100,000 dollar reward is offered for the whereabouts of a fugitive billionaire, Aza and her hacking friend, Daisy, decide to investigate. In their favor, Aza was once friends with the billionaire’s son, Davis.

The reader gains insights into Aza’s problem and comes away with a new compassion for those who struggle with such disorders. We experience Aza’s world of OCD through her experiences.

But another storyline is just as compelling.

We glimpse the suffering of Davis and his younger brother. They live in a mansion with everything material wise they could ever desire. Not only have lost their dad, but they have never had a healthy relationship with their always distant father. As Davis says, “…he really disappeared a long time ago.”

One part of the story bothered me. Davis refers to booze, money, God, and fame as rotting people from the inside. In a real relationship with God comes strength, hope, and love. I didn’t like God being thrown in with the problems related to booze, money, and fame.

Aza and Davis find themselves attracted to each other. Aza’s compulsive thoughts affect their relationship and drive them apart at times. Davis, in his loneliness, remains compassionate, but is troubled with the thought that Aza may only be after the reward. He comes up with a solution to the problem in order to determine if Aza truly likes him.

When Aza reads Daisy’s online stories, she recognizes herself in one of the fictional characters. Aza realizes that her disorder makes her irritating to anyone she is in a relationship with. Her friendship with Daisy is tested.

Aza’s problems intensify, and she lands in the hospital. Without giving away any spoilers, I’ll just say her disorder leads her to some very strange actions.

Davis writes poetry online under an assumed name and also comments on other poets. His poetry is powerful.

John Green writes a moving, compassionate story in Turtles All The Way Down. Highly recommend!

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Bone Gap Revisited

Have you ever read a book and knew you wanted to read it again? Bone Gap by Laura Ruby was one of my favorite reads in 2017. The story introduced me to the genre, magic realism, and I was hooked. I had checked the book out from the library and knew I liked the story enough to buy a hardcover copy! The book arrived with a Printz gold medal and a National Book Award finalist seal. Perhaps I read the book too quickly the first time, maybe the story is so unique, but as I read it a second time, I appreciated the book even more. You’ll find Ruby’s writing as surprising, rich, and fascinating as her plot.

People call Finn: Spaceman, Sidetrack, Moonface, Loner. Everyone in Bone Gap knows Finn is odd. He’s different. Finn and his older brother, Sean, live alone after their mother left them to marry a man out of state. But when a stranger arrives in their barn one night, their lives change. Beautiful Roza doesn’t tell them why she’s on the run or who hurt her. They take her into their home, and their loneliness fades as Roza becomes part of their life. Sean falls in love with her.

But when a strange man kidnaps Roza at a county fair, Finn blames himself. He was the one who saw the stranger, but at the time, he thought Roza wanted to leave them, just like their mother did. Only when Roza looked back from the SUV, did Finn realize something was terribly wrong. Sean and Finn report her disappearance to the local law enforcement. But when Finn is unable to give physical details of the abductor, the townspeople wonder if Roza was truly kidnapped. Or worse, did Finn have something to do with her disappearance.

Finn not only lost Roza that day, he lost his brother. Heartbroken, Sean withdraws into his work and ignores his younger brother. Finn’s guilt and loneliness makes him miserable until he starts spending time with Petey, a girl most people in town consider homely.

That’s a brief summary of the story, but it’s the theme that makes this a great book. The theme is about people being “seen,” really seen for who they are inside.

Rosa has drawn attention from men her entire life. But they only see her outward beauty and want her for their own selfish desires. Her Polish grandmother told her, “There will be boys who tell you you’re beautiful, but only a few will see you.”

Petey knows how the people of Bone Gap talk about her. How can she be so homely when her mother is pretty? Only Finn really “sees” her.

Finn falls in love with Petey because she sees him for who he is, not the odd boy everyone else knows.

Sean falls in love with Roza but not just for her beauty. When he looks into her eyes, his gaze demands nothing, unlike the other men she’s known. It’s what’s inside her that draws him to her.

Hints of magic scatter through the beginning of the story. It emerges further as Roza describes her captivity. The reader soon learns this is no ordinary man who has kidnapped her. The stranger is otherworldly. Magic also surfaces when a black horse appears in Finn’s barn. He takes Petey for rides late at night, and they travel through forests that don’t exist in Bone Gap and fly over cliffs that are not part of the natural terrain.

You might wonder how the title of the book, Bone Gap, fits into the story. Hint:  gaps in the world, places to lose yourself, slip into, retreat to. I won’t give any spoilers, but know that the ending blossoms into a powerful culmination of the theme. Ruby proves to be a fantastic writer and storyteller! A must read for young adults and adults.

School Library Journal: Grades 10 and up

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