A Sneak Peek and some really good books for your TBR Pile (With a Rant in Between)

Holly's cover revealed

Holly’s cover revealed

John Clark sharing the cover and an author picture of Holly Schindler (http://hollyschindler.com/) as part of her reveal for the forthcoming YA book Spark due next May. She also has a new contemporary and funny ebook out called Fifth Avenue Fidos. Here’s a teaser for that one:

“Mable Barker, a hilarious, good-natured sweetheart who is always the pal but never the girlfriend, endures nine horrendous months of bouncing between lackluster jobs in Manhattan (and suffering unrequited love) in her unsuccessful attempt to find her one true talent. So when she meets Innis, the ill-tempered Fifth Avenue Pekingese, she assumes her dog-walking days are numbered, too; soon, she’ll be heading back to Queens brokenhearted, tail tucked between her legs. But Innis belongs to the adorable yet painfully shy young veterinarian, Jason Mead, a man whose awkward ways around women have him dreaming not of finding love for himself but of playing canine matchmaker—breeding Westminster champions.”

I have this shirt on my Christmas list.

I have this shirt on my Christmas list.

You may remember Holly as the current cat herder for the blog I profiled last month YA Outside The Lines. Here’s a bit she sent me about Spark.

“When the right hearts come to the Avery Theater—at the right time—the magic will return. The Avery will come back from the dead.

Or so Quin’s great-grandmother predicted many years ago on Verona, Missouri’s most tragic night, when Nick and Emma, two star-crossed teenage lovers, died on the stage. It was the night that the Avery’s marquee lights went out forever.

It sounds like urban legend, but one that high school senior Quin is now starting to believe, especially when her best friend, Cass, and their classmate Dylan step onto the stage and sparks fly. It seems that magic can still unfold at the old Avery Theater and a happier ending can still be had—one that will align the stars and revive not only the decrepit theater, but also the decaying town. However, it hinges on one thing—that Quin gets the story right this time around.

Holly Schindler brings the magic of the theater to life in this tale of family ties, fate, love, and one girl’s quest to rewrite history.”


“In my hometown, the restoration of a former movie theater on the town square provided the genesis for my new YA novel, SPARK. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of seeing their name in blazing neon across a gigantic marquee? Let me invite you to dim the lights and draw back the velvet curtains—let your imagination run wild as you enter my fictional Avery Theater, where literally anything goes…”

—Holly Schindler

Can't wait for this one.

Can’t wait for this one.

Holly also has another book coming soon that I plan to read as soon as I can get my hands on it because it’s a sequel I never expected to see for a wonderful story she wrote back in 2011 called Playing Hurt. When I finished that one, I felt it was a crime not to find out what happened to athletes Chelsea and Clint. Apparently I wasn’t the only one as Play It Again is in the pipeline.

The picture below is approximately half of my current TBR pile and I just added another reviewing gig to those I already have, so I’m certifiably insane, but come by it honestly. Anyone who ever visited Mom at Sennebec Hill Farm knows how she sat on her couch in front of the picture window, wedged in by multiple stacks of books. I tend to read a book a day, sometimes as many as three. The ones that land in my piles seem to fall into four categories. 1: Sucked in immediately and the world morphs into what’s on the page, 2: It takes a chapter for the story monster to reach out and pull me under, 3: Somewhere between page 30 and 100, I pick up another book and maybe come back for another try later. If not, I catalog it and pass it on to Nick at the library, 4: By the end of page two, I’ve realized that it might win every award in the world, but there’s no way I’ll ever read it.

If the adage, 'he who dies with the most toys wins' includes books not read, then I'm in the running.

If the adage, ‘he who dies with the most toys wins’ includes books not read, then I’m in the running.

Category four reminds me of an evil phenomenon fostered by that segment of the educational system which insisted you must read classic literature or demons would devour your soul. I rebelled in eighth grade, in high school, in college and still refuse to read most books that are waved at me with the admonition “You have to read this!” Heck, I’m such a reading junkie, I’ve been known to re-read the classified ads in the Bangor Daily News while waiting for rice to cook, but my inner rebellious kid never let go of the aversion to ‘great literature’.

If it really is important to get kids to read and like doing so, is content so all-fired important? I know I’m editorializing here, but we just awarded a $1000 scholarship through the library to a graduating senior who is going to school in Vermont to study graphic arts and his portfolio is pretty impressive. When I first met Doug, he read little, if anything. I introduced him to Manga at the library and he was hooked almost immediately. Over the next several years, he went through our collection, then discovered interlibrary loan and branched out until he was reading pretty complex fiction and nonfiction. His initial interest happened to coincide with his love of drawing and that spark turned an average student into one who started taking advanced placement courses, as well as classes at the community college while still in high school. He graduated in the top ten at Nokomis and I have every reason to believe he’ll be a success in college. Would he have had a similar experience if he’d been forced to read classics? Maybe, but I’m of the opinion that there’s a magic book out there for every reluctant reader and one of the things we, as authors and librarians, can do is help as many kids as possible to find their magic.

Below are some recent books I’ve read that fit category one (with apologies to my friends on Goodreads who may have already seen these).

all we have

All We Have is Now by Lisa Schroeder, Point (July 28, 2015) , ISBN: 9780545802536

24 hours left before your world ends. What do you so? For Emerson and Vince who have been living on the street, it means choosing their way out before a giant asteroid hits Idaho and does the job for them. Most everyone in western North America who could escape did so, leaving cities like Portland, Oregon where they live, a ghost town. They’re on their way to jump off a bridge when they meet Carl who asks if they have a wish. Vince tells him that he’d really like to have some cash because living hand to mouth on the streets really stinks. When Carl hands over his wallet and asks them to grant someone else a last wish, it sets in motion an amazing series of events as they try to honor his wish and a few of their own. The journey takes them to new places both physical and mental in their effort to honor Carl’s request.

I wondered how this might compare to Tumble and Fall by Alexandra Coutts. Truthfully, they’re quite different. This is as much about friendship and hope as anything and what happens to Emerson and Vince in that 24 hour time frame is sweet and beautiful. I really like the circularity of the plot and how the author lets the teens’ feelings slowly leak out as they realize how much they care for one another and how much impact their actions have on the people they encounter.

Teens who like a love story with a few prickles, an apocalyptic tale with a twist and a book that will make them wonder exactly how they might spend their last day, will really enjoy this one. Another no-brainer selection for school and public libraries.

every last

Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone, Disney-Hyperion (June 16, 2015) ISBN: 9781484705278

We all obsess, it’s part of the human condition, but for Samantha McAllister, it’s an all-consuming condition. When she was eleven, she was diagnosed with Purely-Obsessional OCD, a condition that hits her with an endless stream of dark thoughts and worries she cannot shut off.

She’s hidden it well, primarily from her group of friends, the Crazy Eights. They’ve been besties since early grade school and are among the most popular sixteen year olds in her high school. It hasn’t been easy. Sam, as she would like to be called, has been on medication and seeing Sue, a psychiatrist, for five years, but still has moments when she can’t back away from really scary thoughts. She’s obsessed with number three-the odometer on her car must stop at it whenever she parks her car, she swims in lane three (she’s a really good swimmer and hopes to get a college scholarship), if she’s stressing, she scratches the back of her neck in intervals of three.

When she’s really upset by one of her friends, she hides out in the school theater where she meets Caroline. As they talk, Sam opens up, even telling her about her OCD and being in therapy. In return, Caroline tells her about dealing with depression and invites her to meet a secret group of teens who have a room under the theater called Poet’s Corner. A.J. The first person Sam meets when entering the room, is cold and distant, telling her they’ve met before, but not saying more. At first, Sam can’t make the connection, but it’s at the lunch table with the Crazy Eights when Kaitlyn, the de facto leader of the group, reminds her of what happened when they were in fifth grade with A.J.

This starts some serious soul searching on Sam’s part and she tries, with Caroline’s help, to write a poem that will reflect her remorse for what happened. It takes a while, but she’s forgiven and then the sparks begin between Sam and A.J. They’re really good for each other and she’s beginning to develop some self-confidence when she learns something so mind boggling it makes her question everything she thinks is real. The author does a stellar job of pulling readers from her melt down through to the conclusion. This is a superb story, full of emotion and a cast of characters, not all nice, but all very real.

The book is an excellent one for any type of library to ad, particularly ones where teens struggle with mental health issues.

summer after you

The Summer After You and Me by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski, Sourcebooks Fire, 2015. ISBN: 9781492619031

Almost everyone remembers watching the horrible damage inflicted when Hurricane Sandy marched up the eastern seaboard. Many of us had friends and relatives who were in or near enough to its path that we worried until we knew they were safe. In this book, Jennifer brings alive what it was like to experience Sandy both in the physical and emotional sense.

Lucy’s lived on the Jersey shore all her life along with her teacher parents and three minute older twin brother Liam. The twins were very close for a long time and were competitive in almost every activity, from academics, to chess, to surfing. Lucy is beginning to realize that they’re growing apart and she’s unsure where Liam’s hostility is coming from.

The family lived on the mainland with their gram until the house was rebuilt sufficiently to allow them to return. Unfortunately flood insurance payments didn’t cover everything, so the cottage the family has rented every summer to cover taxes is a wreck. So is Lucy, thanks to what happened with next door summer neighbor, Connor, who Lucy’s been attracted to for a long time It was the day Sandy was about to hit, and generated another, internal storm. She expected him to call her afterward as he promised, but never got any response. Several months later, her long time friendship with Andrew crossed the line to romance, but she still can’t stop replaying that day in the house by the ocean with Connor.

When he returns, it starts a chain of events that, for Lucy, is like a train wreck in progress. After a disaster at prom, it seems like everything and everyone is angry at her and she’s not sure how much of it she owns or should own. It takes a near tragedy on her part to shock everyone into starting the healing and getting-back-to-friends process.

This is Jen’s third book and I’ve really liked them all. This is a great book for young adults who have been through their own personal storm, or struggle with friendships with the opposite sex to read as they will find that relating to Lucy and her growing-up pains is an easy thing. Another good addition for both school and public libraries.

game of love and death

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. Arthur A. Levine Books (April 28, 2015) , ISBN: 9780545668347.

Aren’t we all sometimes pawns in the game of life? Love and Death have been playing the same game over and over since the time of Cleopatra. Each chooses an infant, one male, one female who will meet when they’re older and fall in love…maybe. If love persists, Love wins, if love falters, Death wins and claims her chosen as a victim.

It’s 1920 and the latest round is about to begin, this time in Seattle with two babies who couldn’t be further apart given the times. Love chooses first by appearing in the nursery where Henry Bishop, a Caucasian, lies in his crib. Love pricks his finger and lets baby Henry suckle on his blood, thus setting his part of the game in motion.

One night later in a much poorer neighborhood, Death pickes up a baby girl of African-American heritage named Flora Saudade. After carrying the child to the window where they watch snow falling, Death sheds one black tear which she captures on her fingertip, using it to write the word someday on the infant’s forehead. Thus is the game sealed.

While the rules of the game often seem arbitrary and stacked in Death’s favor, Love harbors little ill will toward his opponent (Love is male, Death, female). Both can assume whatever shape they choose, even appearing for extended periods as people familiar to their chosen players. In fact it is this very ability that factors into how both Flora and Henry interact when they meet seventeen years later.

By then, Flora’s parents have been dead a very long time, having perished when hit by a drunken police officer the night Death chose her. Henry is likewise an orphan. His mother and sister perished in an influenza outbreak and his father, terribly distraught by their loss, jumped to his death, leaving Henry to be taken in by his father’s best friend, the owner of the Seattle newspaper.

Flora has fallen in love with flying and has been taken under the wing of a French war hero who owns a fancy biplane that she maintains and flies whenever she’s allowed. Her other source of income comes from singing jazz in the club she and her uncle own, the only legacy left after her parents’ death. She’s an amazing singer, something Henry discovers when he convinces his best friend and son of his benefactor, Ethan, that they should check out the club. This isn’t the first time Henry has seen Flora. Ethan took him along when he went to do a feature on the plane and Flora was running a preflight check on it. Henry is also someone who has music in his blood as he plays the bass and loves to improvise.

While Death has never lost, there’s something about this match that worries her, so she pulls out all the stops, as if the fact that blacks and whites simply don’t mix in 1937 wasn’t sufficient to doom any sort of spark between Flora and Henry. The roadblocks thrown up in front of each lover, the direness of the times and all the gyrations both the players and their manipulators must go through by the end of the story will keep most readers enthralled. While the pace might be a bit slow for some, I loved this book, the characters and the sense of elegance it creates. Astute readers will also appreciate the relationship and insight Love and Dearth have with and about each other. Teens and adults who like an offbeat love story with some decidedly paranormal aspects will enjoy this book.

not after everything

Not After Everything by Michelle Levy, Dial, 2015. ISBN: 9780803741584

Oh, what evil we do to our children in the name of love. Tyler’s removed himself from everything he cared about except for his dog. It wasn’t that long ago when he was alive with optimism, had stellar grades in all AP classes, was star of the football team and had a hot girlfriend. All that went up in flames the day he came home from practice to get dry socks and Advil, only to find his mom had killed herself in the bathtub. She left no note, just incredible pain and guilt, plus an alcoholic and horrible abusive (both verbally and physically) husband and a broken son.

When the story opens, Tyler still has the girlfriend, but can’t engage emotionally any more, he’s quit the football team and, while his grades remain high, he’s lost interest in class as well as the scholarship awaiting him at Stanford.

His father, wallowing in perhaps the most virulent self-loathing ever written about, makes his life miserable and unpredictable whenever Ty’s home. Perhaps the only person he even comes close to relating to is Dave, the therapist assigned to him by social services after Mom’s suicide. Even then, Ty locks down most of what’s happening inside and outside. His father makes him pay for everything and when Ty loses it at Subway where he works, things look pretty bleak.

Then he stumbles upon Henry and his photography studio where he’s hired on the spot. Ty’s shocked when he realizes that the angry goth girl he saw at school a while before is also working there and that she and her mom live with Henry and it works really well. When he starts verbally sparring with her, he realizes she’s Jordyn, the girl who was his best friend when they were kids until her parents divorced.

Their edgy and uneven relationship, Henry’s understanding of why Ty’s a mess and the escalating violence at home, all come together in a series of crises that had me blow off everything I planned to do the day this book arrived so I could find out what happened next. Having grown up with a less traumatic version dad than Ty, I could visualize what was going on like I was crouching in the corner. I couldn’t stop flashing back to Laurie Halse Anderson’s The Impossible Knife of Memory time after time while reading this book, because it does for abuse and parental suicide what that does for PTSD. The ending, while logical, will probably break your heart. This is beautiful, violent, profane and an awesome story for teens. School and public libraries shouldn’t let the sex, profanity and violence be deal breakers when considering adding it to their collection.

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