Book Recommendation Collab ft. Aditi

Aditi from One In A Million recently reached out and asked be interested in doing a bookish collab sometime. I said yes, and we decided to ask each other just a few questions to learn a bit about each other’s reading tastes, and then recommended the best books we could think of for the other person.

Aditi’s a smart, sweet, and well-read blogger. It was so much fun to get to know her better and recommend to her, and she did an amazing job with her recommendations. I’m excited to read the books she suggested! To see what I recommended for her, be sure to visit her wonderful blog.

This post includes the questions I answered to give Aditi some information about what I like to read, the books she recommended, and my reactions to her recommendations. In a few weeks, we’ll follow up with reviews of a few of the recommended books, so keep checking back. Enjoy the post!

Questions

What is your favorite book and why?

One of my very favorite books is You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins. Her characters and her world just come alive and are even more delightful every time I reread it. I love character-driven books, books that follow the lives of the characters and are drive by a character’s everyday struggles and victories. Mitali Perkins does an excellent job showing readers her characters’ hopes, dreams, failures, and flaws; their greatest joys and their greatest struggles. I also love the family dynamics in this book. It’s rare to find a YA book with a family that is intact and loves each other through the ups and downs, and I love that this books shows family as important and impactful.

I also love Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. I really love historical fiction. It’s amazing to read about what it was like to live a few hundred years ago and walk in the shoes of someone who lived long ago (fictional though that character might be) for a few hundred pages. And again, many historical fiction books are character-driven and have powerful, touching stories and emphasis on the setting.  

What is your favorite genre and why?

This is a difficult question because I’m not sure I can narrow down a favorite genre. I read from almost every genre. I read science fiction, urban fantasy, epic fantasy, historical fiction, general fiction, realistic fiction, non fiction… I don’t really care about the genre. I care more about if the book interests me. Did the author present the topic in a novel, interesting way that captures my attention? Do the characters seem alive? Does the world feel like something I can actually touch and feel and smell? This matters to me much more than the genre of the book. I will say that the genres I read the most are probably historical fiction and nonfiction.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Mitali Perkins, Ruta Sepetys, Kristy Cambron, Julie Yip-Williams, William Shakespeare, Ally Carter, Alexandre Dumas, Jason Reynolds… these are all authors I really enjoy. I don’t think I can pick one favorite author because there are some authors that write one book I like a lot and then another I don’t care for. I like authors that have a real connection to their characters and show that through their writing, that have an eloquent and almost poetic writing style, that understand how to show their story without telling it, and pace their stories well. There are so many different types of authors I like, but if an author meets that criteria they’re likely to go on my “Favorite Authors” list.

What is your favorite book series?

I like The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson very much. It’s a fantasy series with amazing characters, an intact and loving family, plenty of adventures, and a masterfully crafted world. Not once during the series did I get bored, and even though the world was completely fantastical, it felt like somewhere I recognized.

What type of book or book content do you avoid?

I generally avoid thrillers and horror fiction just because I don’t like them. I avoid romance fiction that is just romance fiction, but I can tolerate romantic suspense or historical romance.I prefer to avoid books with excessive language or sexual content. I also avoid books with witchcraft or magic as central theme, especially if the witchcraft or magic is treated as good or normal. However, I’m not opposed to magic in a book as a whole. Fantasy and fictional worlds with magical elements do not disturb me.

What are your favorite and least favorite tropes?

I love books with an unexpected or reluctant hero. I love journey or quest stories. I like letter formats. I like books where somebody goes undercover or uses a disguise. I love travel and road trip stories. I dislike parents who are conveniently gone, that notorious love triangle, main characters that are female but seem to think it’s wrong to do anything that might be considered “girly,” and overly dramatic friendships. I also mainly read books with female protagonists or strong female side, mostly because I can relate more to female characters in general.

Recommendations

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson

Because Grace enjoys William Shakespeare and Alexandre Dumas, I recommend to Grace The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson by Thomas H. Johnson or any of her poems, namely “Hope is the Thing with Feathers”.

I’ve read a few of Emily Dickinson’s poems and loved them! I’ll have to get that book.

Simon v. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon and the Homosapiens Agenda is a very popular book, so Grace might have already read it, but if she hasn’t read that or any of Becky Albertalli’s other books, I recommend them because she prefers books that aren’t just focused on romance and have sweet families.

I’ve heard of Becky Albertalli but haven’t read her yet. I will definitely look up her books! The family dynamics aspect definitely interests me.

Fablehaven, The Unwanteds, and The Land of Stories

Since Grace liked The Wingfeather Saga, she might also like the Fablehaven series by Brandon Mull, The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann, one of my favorite series, or The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer because they are all fantasy. These books all (coincidentally) have sibling pairs who work together, but also have parents that are conveniently absent. Despite this, she could enjoy these series if she hasn’t already read them.

Fablehaven has been on my to-read for a while now! This is the perfect time to finally get them from the library. I’ve also heard really good things about The Land of Stories, so that’s a good recommendation too!

Any book by Sharon Creech

Grace mentioned that she enjoys family dynamics and one of my favorite authors, Sharon Creech, writes beautiful short realistic fiction novels with understandable tween and teen characters that navigate family relationships and friendships changing. I think she might really enjoy Sharon Creech’s books although her writing style might be a bit strange for first time readers.

Of course, Grace has read many books, so she might have already read some of these books. If not, I recommend she starts with Walk Two Moons, being the most popular, followed by either Absolutely Normal Chaos, written in a diary style, or my personal favorite, Chasing Redbird, about a large family and a girl who takes a personal goal and persists despite her family not being the most attentive to her. I love how the family slowly, gradually changes throughout the book and Zinnia, the main character, realizes that her family is actually pretty great. Bloomability is also an amazing book that has lovable characters and an awe-striking setting.

I’ve also heard good things about Sharon Creech! My family read Ruby Holler by her as a read-aloud, and we liked it. Absolutely Normal Chaos sounds like a great book. The title alone would make me want to read it! And side note, but I just looked her up and Sharon Creech has the best covers. They’re all really beautiful!

Number the Stars

Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry, is also a historical fiction that shows a powerful friendship between two girls of different religions living in Nazi Denmark. It’s sweet and might appeal to Grace because she likes the historical fiction genre.

The Giver by Lois Lowry is one of my favorite series! I will definitely look up Number the Stars. I might have read it a while ago, but I love historical fiction, so I’ll have to reread if I have!

Any book by Lois Lowry

Anything by Pam Muñoz Ryan is really good and she writes a wide variety of novels including historical fiction and books about struggling to adjust in a multicultural family like You Bring The Distance Near. I particularly enjoy Echo, a historical fiction borderline-fantasy novel about the threads of fate weaving together three amazing people who’re in three different times in history. And a harmonica. It’s a seriously beautiful story which I think Grace will enjoy. Esperanza Rising, The Dreamer, and Becoming Naomi Leon are also really awesome stories.

I love Esperanza Rising but didn’t know Pam Ryan had more books! This is great! I will order some more of her stuff from the library.

Hope you enjoyed reading Aditi’s recommendations as much as I did! Hop on over to her blog to see what I recommended for her, and let us know if you’d like a few book recommendations for yourself!

What did you think of Aditi’s recommendations? What would you recommend for me? Would you like a few recommendations for yourself? We’d love to hear from you!

What Do You Think of First Person Narrators?

I’ve heard many opinions on in the book blogging community about how common it is for books, especially young adult books, to have a first person narrator.  Grab The Lapels had a wonderful post on why she was frustrated with YA novels, and made a fascinating point about just how too common a first-person narrator is in YA fiction and how much that can limit the perspective of a book. Her post made me began to consider the impact a first-person narrator has on a book.

I’ve had several different experiences with first person narrators. It seems they generally have one or more of several impacts on a book. They can be make a book feel personal, make a character that might be otherwise unlikable seem more relatable, exhaust a reader, or cripple a book that could have been impactful with a little more variety or perspective.

A first-person narrator can give us a look through their eyes at their life, and the battles they are fighting on a day-to-day basis. When an entire book is in first person, narrated by one character just speaking about themselves and their lives, we’ve only gotten one perspective when every character has a story.

First person narrative can give readers a very limited perspective on the story, and make it difficult to think about anything but just what one character is thinking. As a writer, I try to keep in mind that every character in my story has a story of their own, so to speak. When a writer forgets that all her characters have stories, the side characters can start to feel useless and bland.

First person narrators magnify events that involve them. The petty annoyances of life are made larger, and the life-changing things rock their world. Being able to display this much feeling and impact through an “I, me, my” narrator or character can seem impactful and enriching, or end up petty and exhausting.

In some books – and not necessarily just psychological thrillers- an unreliable first-person narrator undeniable enriches the story. When we must think about whether or not the narrator is telling the truth, it changes our perspective on the story and we think about the events and character more critically.

The Hank the Cowdog series by John Erickson is generally enjoyed by children, but the nuances of the character, humor, and emotion that is added to the book by an unreliable first-person narrator seem to have served to make the series interesting to all sorts of readers. It can be a powerful thing to have a flawed main character, and let readers see how a character’s life is filtered through their experiences, passions, thoughts, and opinions.

Veera Hiranandani has a wonderful first-person narrator in her book The Night Diary, which won the Newbery Medal this year. She was dealing with a topic that would be unfamiliar to many readers, and was also sensitive and filled with emotion. By filtering the events of her story through the eyes of a young girl, The Night Diary became a touching and impactful story rather than bleak, as it otherwise might have been

So when is a first-person narrator the right choice for a story? How can an author ensure that a reader sees past one character to her story as a whole? There’s not one right answer. In my opinion, she should certainly consider whether having one perspective is going to make her story powerful and character realistic, or if having multiple characters give their perspective is going to make it easier for characters to see her full story. First-person can be a wonderful asset to a story, but it’s good to have a chance to see the world through the eyes of several different people.

What do you think about first-person narrators? Do you love them? Hate them? Think there’s just too much of them? Do you think they improve a story or take away from it?

Why I Love “To Kill A Mockingbird”

Often, I’ll say I like a book because of the characters, or the plot, or the tone, or all three of the above. Sometimes, there is an extra special book that has more to it than characters, plot, and tone. To Kill A Mockingbird was a very influential book to me. It had characters, it had tone, and most importantly, it shows readers the importance of fighting for what is right.

Boo Radley and Judgment

Harper Lee’s book opens one hot, Southern summer.  A new boy, whose nickname is Dill, has moved to town. Scout and her older brother, Jem, spend the summer playing with Dill. The trio’s favorite game is to play “Boo Radley.”

Boo Radley  lives is the house across from Scout and Jem’s, and has never been seen by the townsfolk.  Scout, Jem, and Dill make up terrible stories about Boo.  They have a game of sneaking up as close as they dared go to the house, then running away.

Soon the children start finding gifts of gum and candy in a hollow tree, put there by Boo Radley for them.  Slowly, Scout realizes that perhaps Boo Radley is not a terrifying lunatic, but rather a nice old man.  This experience with Mr. Radley will influence Scout later in the book and in her life.

I love the lesson Scout learns here. She thinks she is stupid, but her father, Atticus Finch, tells her that “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”[1] She begins to understand this when she realizes that Boo Radley, the eccentric man that the children of the town fear greatly, is actually a shy, kind man.

Justice and Injustice

Soon the children at school start mocking Scout and Jem about their “nigger-loving” father.  They tell Scout and Jem that Atticus took on a case to defend a black man, and ridicule the two because of it.  Atticus informs the children that it is true; he did take on the case, and asks them to endure the taunts of their friends.

Scout and Jem want to know more about the case, so they sneak into the trial to witness something that will change their lives.  Tom Robinson has been accused of raping a white woman named Mayella.  

Atticus has a brilliant defense and Tom a believable story, while Mayella Ewell and her father have a farfetched story that doesn’t seem to be true.  Despite all appearances, the all-white jury convicts Tom of the offense, a capital offense in 20th century Alabama.  

This part of the book is one of my favorites because it is here that Atticus shows Scout and Jem how to fight for justice, even if they know they will lose. She asks Atticus why he would defend Tom when he knew he would lose.  Atticus tells Scout that true bravery is just that: fighting for the right thing even if it seems hopeless.

Finally, I love this book because Scout learns that the world is unfair and figures out how to deal with it.  Tom Robinson shouldn’t have been ruled guilty.  Boo Radley shouldn’t have had such a hard life or been ridiculed by her and the other children.  Bob Ewell, the father of the white woman that accused Tom, should not have carried a grudge against her father.  She learns that the world is unfair, and the only thing she can do about it is to love.


[1] Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (HarperPerennial, New York), p. 33.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read To Kill A Mockingbird? What did you think? Who was your favorite character?

Part Two: Books We Dis/like/agree On

This is Part Two of a collab post series with Sarah from Sarah’s Fantastical Bookshelves. Part One was books we both liked, sometimes for the same reasons and sometimes for different ones. Looking through our ‘read’ lists on Goodreads, it was a little bit shocking to see how similar our tastes in literature are, but there were still a few books we disagreed on. In Part Two, you get to read about the books we disliked and disagreed on.

The Selection

The Selection (The Selection, #1)

Sarah’s rating: 2 stars

Sarah’s opinion: I actually didn’t prefer the premise of this book. It was honestly just a bunch of ladies sabotaging each other and trying to get the attention of a prince. If I’m going to read a book in the romance genre, I want it to be about true love, and in this book, it seemed too fake and the dialogue was forced. Of course there was a love triangle (like any generic YA book), and the main character COULD NOT decide who she wanted to be with, which resulted in her confusion as to whom she truly loved (which is not true love folks). I will say that I loved the main character’s family. All of the scenes with her family made me feel warm and fuzzy. Part of me wishes the whole book could have just been about them.

Grace’s rating: 2 stars

Grace’s opinion: I can see why people would like it. It has an interesting dystopian setting, and the premise is fascinating- it reminds me of the Book of Esther, actually. It’s really dramatic.  

Because so many people were raving about it, and it didn’t sound bad, I picked it up and forced my way through it, then wished I hadn’t.

It’s a formulaic love triangle romance. The dialogue sounded stilted and unnatural to me. I felt lost while I read it because I didn’t know where or when I was exactly. I found the characters annoying, and the main character, America Singer, came of as sort of whiny and overdramatic. I give this book 2 stars.

Black Beauty

Black Beauty

Sarah’s rating: 3 stars (it would have been two but I’m feeling generous

Sarah’s opinion: I really liked that this book was written from the perspective of a horse as it went through its life. Honestly, he was a really lovable character, and there were some especially sad parts that made me want to hug him and buy him and UGH I need a horse now. I had a few issues with Black Beauty, like the fact that it was SO SAD. It was too sad for me to handle. I’m okay with sad books every once in a while, but just don’t do it through the poor innocent eyes of an animal. I couldn’t handle it. However, I can see why this book has been loved and appreciated for so long. It’s a lovely little story with an amazing main character.

Grace’s rating: 4 stars

Grace’s opinion: I thought this book was really cute. It was the story of a horse’s life, from birth to old age. It’s really a sort of old-fashioned book, but I was able to enjoy the story and the characters. This is one book where watching the movie before or after really brought the story to life, and didn’t just ruin your idea of the story.

Cinder

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)

Sarah’s rating: DNF

Sarah’s opinion: I love science fiction, fantasy, and ADORE Cinderella. So obviously, I thought I was going to love this book with my whole heart. Sadly, I found it to be sort of bland. I usually prefer books that are fast-paced, and a lot of people agree that this one starts out sort of slow. One thing I did like about the book was the characters. I thought they had good backgrounds and they were well-thought-out and creative. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the patience to get through this one, but maybe I’ll come back to it sometime in the future.

Grace’s rating: 4 stars

Grace’s opinion: I actually really liked this book. I didn’t expect to, after my experience with The Selection, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The setting is fascinating. It’s set in a dystopian New Asia, where technology is everywhere, there’s a sort of Cold War going on with the people on the moon, there’s spaceships, and a prince is about to have a big ball.

I loved the characters. Iko the android was so cute, and I didn’t find Cinder to be a cliched YA fairy tale heroine. The plot was fast-paced and interesting, although it started slowly, and the stakes were high.

Am I the only one who thinks the cover’s a little bit creepy?

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451

Sarah’s rating: 4 stars

Sarah’s opinion: As a reader, the description of this book truly scared me. Burning books?! This was a very scary glimpse into the future, with people constantly using technology, books not allowed, and super long billboards (read it to find out what I’m talking about). I think the ending was also a bit abrupt? I expected this book to be longer, or maybe get a bit more closure at the end? Possibly the author wanted to end it this way, to make his point. Hopefully this is not what the future holds in store for us, but I’m glad we have this book to prevent it from happening.

Grace’s rating: 3 stars

Grace’s opinion: The writing in this book was amazing. The tone perfectly matched the subject matter, and the structure of the book awed me. The author portrayed the characters as flawed, struggling people. The messages are relevant and chillingly reflect the world we live in today.

That said, I’m torn about this book. For me, it’s a hard book to read. Characters are an important element of a book for me as a reader, and I didn’t really like the characters in Fahrenheit 451, nor do I think I was supposed  to. Reading about characters so hopeless and self-centered is difficult.

Take, for example, Captain Beatty. He, at one point, loved books- and arguably, people. He studied them, cared about them, got to know them really well. He knows books and people well, and uses his knowledge of books and his knowledge of people to confuse and manipulate Guy Montag. And Mildred Montag is completely hopeless, and doesn’t even seem to remember her life. Guy himself has times of compassion, and times of reckless confusion and rage.

For those reasons, this was a hard book to read, but I still liked it. I thought the writing showed definite mastery and talent, for certain.

Let’s Chat!

What did you think of this collab? What are some books that disappointed you?

Review of Bridgers: A Parable

Bridgers: A Parable

Title: Bridgers: A Parable
Author: Angie Thompson
Publisher: Quiet Waters Press
Released: November 21, 2017

Summary

Peyton is a boy with a bright future. He attends church, says the right things, and is even reaching his dream of becoming a preacher.

Davonte comes from the wrong side of town. He’s not necessarily a bad kid, and just wants to be left alone, but in school and in town he can tell that people have some opinions about him.

Levi’s the pastor’s son. He knows what he is supposed to do, but he’s shy and nervous, and struggles to stay committed to his faith when pressures arise.

These boys all have the same choice to make, and only one of them steps past expectations and stigmas in order to truly help another in need. The choices they make will influence their entire community.

Review

This book blew me away. To be honest, I skimmed the description and picked it for the cover. It was as much and more than I was expecting. Angie’s characters are amazing, and it’s impossible not to relate to the characters and feel invested in them and their storyline.

Bridgers is based off the story of The Good Samaritan, and it’s one of the best retellings I’ve ever read. It is a powerful story in itself, and also makes the story it’s based on come to life in a new way.

When we hear the words “good Samaritan,” we think “nice person.” We don’t think about the stigmas and expectations that the real Samaritan had to be brave and caring enough to overcome. We don’t think about how caring for another person could have disrupted their life. Bridgers really shows what caring about other people enough to do something about it when they’re hurting might look like in a modern setting we recognize.

The writing style in this book was very unique, and I really enjoyed it. The POV switches are unusual in that it switches from third person for Peyton and Levi to first person for Davonte. I’d never seen that before, but I think it worked very well to distinguish the characters and their perspectives and also make the book very personal for one of them.

The dialogue was spot-on, and I love a book with good, natural dialogue. The book shows and doesn’t tell, which can be a very hard thing to do, even for well-established authors and writers.  

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Stellae Books. A positive review was not required. These are my honest thoughts and opinions.

Overall, Bridgers impressed me very much and is going on my list of favorites. I contacted the author and asked if she’d be interested in answering a few questions for a short interview which you can read here.

If You Like

If you like books such as Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, or You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins, you will probably enjoy Bridgers: A Parable. 

Let’s Chat!

Have you read many indie-published books? What are your thoughts on books with multiple points of view?

Author Interview with Angie Thompson

 About Angie: An avid reader and incurable story-spinner, Angie Thompson also enjoys volunteering in her church’s children’s program and starting (but not always finishing) various kinds of craft projects. She currently lives in central Virginia near most of her incredible family, including two parents, six brothers, one sister, and four sisters-in-law—plus two nieces, five nephews, and several assorted pets!

When did you decide to write Bridgers, and why?

I was inspired to write Bridgers in August 2017, not long after listening to an audio drama adaptation of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. I really wanted to explore what this story and these characters might look like in a modern day setting, especially because I think we’ve gotten away from just how uncomfortable the parable would have made Jesus’ original audience. To us, “good Samaritan” has come to mean a helpful stranger, and we tend to forget how much hatred, fear, and distrust was attached to that name in the Jewish culture. Obviously my modern parallels can’t be exact, but I found myself convicted while writing this about how often I tend to judge people by what they look like and where they come from, rather than taking a step farther to learn what’s in their hearts.

 What does your writing process look like?
In the early stages–a lot of imagining. A lot of running through different scenes and conversations in my head and trying to gauge whether there’s enough for a full-fledged story. In the later stages, a lot of forcing myself to stop talking in my head and get words down on paper! (Okay, on screen, since I do most of my writing on my computer, but that just sounds odd.) I don’t usually work with an outline, but I’m learning that I have to write the story in order, at least for the first draft. If I let myself write the parts I’m most excited about first, it becomes exponentially harder to go back and write the rest, so I’ve learned to use those favorite scenes as a sort of carrot. As in, “You want to write that scene? Get moving and write the things that lead up to it, then!”

What was the hardest part of writing Bridgers?

Finding and keeping the right balance with DaVonte’s character was probably my biggest challenge for this book. I wanted to make him a believable part of his environment without getting too deep into too many uncomfortable issues, which meant walking a fine line between what was going on around him and what he was actually involved in. Also, I had to be careful to keep his perspective on God within reasonable bounds for the little knowledge he had and not to make him act and think like someone who had been raised in a Christian home their whole life (aka, me).

Which of your characters is most like you? Do you write yourself into a book?

Of the characters in Bridgers, definitely Levi! I’m not *quite* that shy or fearful, but I definitely relate to him on a lot of levels. I also gravitate toward trying to work out my salvation in my own strength (or weakness), and Pastor Allison’s advice on that subject came directly from lessons God has been and is continuing to teach me.

As a rule, yes, I definitely write myself into books! Usually it’s not through a character who’s exactly like me (in age, family, status, etc.), but a lot of my thoughts, attitudes, and struggles end up playing into my characters’ lives. That said, I also love to write characters that are people I’m not but want to be or people I’d like to be friends with in real life.


 Favorite book? Has reading influenced your writing?

Ah, the favorite book question–the bane of a reader’s existence… 😉 I have so many favorites it’s ridiculously hard to pick! Growing up, I adored Louisa May Alcott and Five Little Peppers (still do), so I probably have to go with one of them.

And yes, I would say that my reading has definitely influenced my writing. I was a very advanced reader from an early age (I first read Little Women at age five), but my mom and I had a hard time finding newer books that were both interesting and appropriate for an advanced young reader. A big part of my goal as an author is to write the stories I wanted to read growing up–not necessarily geared toward children but free of the kind of inappropriate content that’s so rampant in modern fiction.


What advice would you give other writers considering indie publishing?

Well, I’m only a little more than a year in, so I don’t consider myself an expert by any means, but here’s my advice.

1) Do your research. There’s a gold mine of information out there, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. Research saved me a lot of mistakes upfront that I would otherwise have made!

2) Be patient. The publishing process (even indie publishing) takes longer than you think, but it’s worth it to take your time and get things right.

3) Go for it! Take your time and do your research, but don’t let yourself get bogged down with everyone’s opinions and advice. Get enough information that you feel comfortable with the direction you’re heading, then go do it!

Thanks so much, Angie, for your time! It’s exciting to feature you here!

Let’s Chat!

Were you an early reader? Do you like to write?

ARC Review: Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Within These Lines

Title: Within These Lines
Author: Stephanie Morrill
Publisher: Blink
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Rating: 4.5/5 stars

About The Author

Stephanie Morrill writes books about girls who are on an adventure to discover their unique place in the world. She is the author of several contemporary young adult series, as well as the 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and the WWII era romance, Within These Lines. To learn more, see my interview with her.

Summary

Evalina Cassano lives happily with her family in San Francisco until she falls in love with Taichi Hamasaki, the son of Japanese immigrants. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Taichi and his family are forced to move to the Manzanar internment camp.

Evalina feels she must help Taichi and speaks out more and more against the racism and Japanese internment at home and school.  When Japanese-Americans begin taking sides within the Manzanar camp, Taichi is caught in between and begins to doubt he and his family will stay safe and leave the camp alive. Evalina and Taichi must find a way to stand strong and make it back to each other.

Review

Evalina is an articulate, tenacious girl, much like Piper from the author’s last book. She is angry and confused at the injustice done to her friends and neighbors. She sees the people behind the politics, and is brave enough to speak about what she believes.

Taichi didn’t captivate me at first. For the first third or half of the book, he felt like a sort of bland character. However, later in the book, he really began to develop as a character. He cared about his family and about Evalina, and having his perspective made the book much more real and poignant.

I particularly appreciated the family relationships that were highlighted in this book. Taichi obviously cares very much about his family, and reading about his interactions with his sister was quite enjoyable. Evalina had a little bit more tension in her family relationships. She wasn’t sure if her Italian-American parents would approve of her relationship with Taichi, and tried to keep it a secret.

Stephanie Morrill did a wonderful job writing the point of view switches between Evalina and Taichi. Both had a unique voice and perspective, and tied together very well. I love reading books where the characters have different voices and unique backgrounds, but the overall tone and voice of the book is still regular.

The time period this book was set in, World War II, was a very turbulent and tense time. Within These Lines addresses difficult issues of injustice, racism, and internment camps in a sensitive yet honest way. 

Overall, this book had beautiful writing, well-developed characters, a wonderful ending, and deftly handles some difficult topics. I’m not going to give away spoilers, but I will say that towards the finish both Evalina and Taichi had a lot at stake, and the ending was satisfying but a little bit surprising. Within These Lines is written for young adult readers, but I think this book will also appeal to adult readers that enjoy historical fiction.

I received a complimentary copy of Within These Lines for review from Blink through Netgalley. This did not impact my review in any way and all opinions expressed are my own.

If You Like

I would recommend this book to fans of Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein, Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith, and Through the Barricades by Denise Deegan.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read The Lost Girl of Astor Street? Are you planning on reading Within These Lines? What are your thoughts on WWII fiction?

Author Interview with Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie Morrill Low Res

Stephanie Morrill writes books about girls who are on an adventure to discover their unique place in the world. She is the author of several contemporary young adult series, as well as the 1920s mystery, The Lost Girl of Astor Street, and the WWII era romance, Within These Lines. Since 2010, Stephanie has been encouraging the next generation of writers at her website, GoTeenWriters.com. She lives in the Kansas City area, where she loves plotting big and small adventures to enjoy with her husband and three children. You can connect with Stephanie and learn more about her books at StephanieMorrill.comInstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

 I’ve enjoyed Stephanie Morrill’s books since I discovered them a few years ago. She is one of the contributors to the Go Teen Writers site, which is devoted to helping young writers improve and meet their goals, and has helped me greatly in my own writing.

Her newest book, Within These Lines, is releasing in March. I received an ARC of it several weeks ago and will be posting a review on Monday.

I was delighted when she agreed to answer a few questions for a writing/reading/fun stuff interview. It’s great to have her here. Enjoy!

What inspired Within These Lines? How does the idea for a story come to you? 

I’m obsessed with podcasts, especially Stuff You Missed in History Class. They did a two-part episode on Executive Order 9066, which is the order Franklin D. Roosevelt signed that gave the US government permission to evacuate Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps.
I found these episodes fascinating, and because I’ve always written for teenagers the idea popped into my head, “What would’ve happened if there was a Caucasian teenage girl who was in love with a Japanese American teenage boy, and his family was taken away?” As I researched a little bit, I realized the story could be even more interesting if my Caucasian teenage girl was actually an Italian American teenage girl, since Italy was aligned with Germany and Japan, yet Japanese Americans were the only people group targeted as a whole with the incarceration.


What does your writing process look like? What’s the hardest part of writing a book for you? 


I’ve been writing stories all my life, but writing historical fiction is relatively new to me. Trying to find that balance of historical detail without crossing over into tedious is difficult, especially with a topic like the incarceration of the Japanese Americans where the history is so complex. I love the challenge, though!


How do you balance writing with blogging, family, and other life stuff?

 
I’ve learned a lot about setting boundaries and establishing priorities! My oldest is 11 now, but I received my first book contract when she was 6 months old, so my kids are used to thinking of me as a working mom. And while I wrote full time before I had kids, I wasn’t published until after so this is a balancing act I’ve been working on the whole time. I say no to a lot–play dates, lunch with friends, binge watching TV, volunteering at school–so that I can yes to what really matters to me: quality family time, writing fiction, and mentoring young writers on GoTeenWriters.com. 


One of your favorite books? Has reading influenced your writing?

 
Reading totally influences my writing! Stephen King says “If you don’t have time for reading, you don’t have time for writing,” and I 100% agree. A book I just read that earned its place as one of my all-time faves is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. It’s such a charming novel, and its like a love letter to books and the reading life in general. Fantastic!


Which of all your characters is most like you? Do you write yourself into stories?   

I try very hard to not write myself into my stories as a character, though there are pieces of me in all of them. Or sometimes there are pieces of what I hope I could be like, as in Evalina’s passion in Within These Lines. Probably the character who is most like me is Ellie Sweet from my contemporary YA novels. She’s an aspiring teen writer, just like I was, so a ton of my insecurities got dumped into that poor girl!

I hope you enjoyed learning more about Stephanie Morrill! Add Within These Lines to your TBR and watch for my review.

Review: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Title: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Author: Andrew Peterson

Summary

Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby have the secret of the lost legend and jewels of King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera. The wicked Fangs of Dang have crossed the Dark Sea of Darkness and taken over Anniera, and the children, along with their dog Nugget, must escape their pursuit and brave horned hounds, the Black Carriage, Glipwood Forest, Peet the Sock Man, and the terrible toothy cows.

Review

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness tells a well-paced story full of character and courage. It has enough character uniqueness and development to satisfy those who love character-driven stories, and an intriguing and fast-paced plot to satisfy those who read a book for the plot.

This story is filled with outlandish names, an unusual world, and funny footnotes that serve to both entertain and explain Anniera and its customs.  We are thrown right into the world of Anniera, which can be disorienting, but the quirky writing style and well-used description make the world feel real and important.

I appreciated that despite the light tone and fast-paced plot, the characters’ struggles feel important and real. Janner, Tink, and Leeli all have unique personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Their grandfather is a wise and quirky ex-pirate. Their mother is a loving, strong, and hard-working woman.

I also particularly liked the rich and authentic family relationships in this book. Often in teen and middle grade fiction, families are dysfunctional, not present, or treated as trivial and annoying. In On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, we see how even through their struggles and perils, the Igibys love each other and lean on each other.

This story has many layers. The fear and suffering of the people in Anniera. The struggle of good versus evil. The realization that you can’t judge a person by how they look.  The struggle to fight for what is right when most prefer to turn a blind eye on the injustice.

If You Like

If you liked the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, the Eragon series by Christopher Paolini, the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis, the Hobbit series by J. R. R. Tolkien, or the Green Ember series by S. D. Smith, you will probably enjoy this book.

Let’s Chat!

Have you read On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness? What did you think? Have you noticed that lack of healthy family relationships in teen and middle grade fiction?