Guest Review: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

I let my father, Monty, also an avid reader, borrow an ARC and asked him to write up a guest review for the blog. Here’s what he thought about Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman.

9780393609097_a8601Definitely worth reading, informative and enjoyable – this is my summary of Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology due for publication on Feb 7, 2017 from W. W. Norton & Company.

From the initial chapter, ‘The Players’, through the closing about ‘Ragnarok’, Gaiman’s collection of stories of the Norse Gods held my interest – each one begging to read the next. I felt transported to another world filled with wonder and magic, much as I felt as a teen at my first reading of Hamilton’s Mythology, or when I was writing a high school term paper on Greek and Roman gods. I especially liked the descriptions of boisterous feasts in great halls, which spoke to my long term fascination with medieval castles.

The reader will enjoy accounts of Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya and others, as they encounter giants and dwarves, trick each other, travel to fantastic places, battle monsters, win magical weapons and treasures, and even compete in drinking contests. This easy read will take you back to the ancient world of northern tales and myths…..watch out for poison in your beer and ice in your beard!

-Review from Monty, Librarian Laura’s father. (Thanks, Dad!)

One last note – doesn’t this have the most beautiful book cover!?!

Historical Fiction Favorites

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I’ve always loved historical fiction, especially WWII-era fiction. I can’t get enough of it!

Below, in no particular order (because I love them all so dearly), is a list of some of my favorite historical fiction books.

WWII era Historical Fiction Favorites

  • The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult
  • Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
  • The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg
  • Letters to the Lost by Iona Gray
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
  • The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff
  • The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen
  • The Cherry Harvest by Lucy Sanna
  • Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
  • Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  • The Bronze Horseman by Paulina Simons
  • The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
  • Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
  • Mischling by Affinity Konar

Other Historical Fiction Favorites (not WWII era)

  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  • The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  • The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
  • Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
  • The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

 

Please let me know in the comments if you have any favorites that I have not mentioned.  I would love to add them to my TBR pile!

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Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

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Behind Her Eyes, published by Macmillan, will be released on January 31, 2017.

This story is full of unreliable narrators (who drink…a lot) and the story switches back and forth between them with each chapter. David Martin is young, handsome, and a highly successful psychiatrist. His wife, Adele, is strikingly beautiful with a tragedy-laden past, having lost her parents in a fire at the family estate prior to her marriage to David. Enter Louise, a divorced, single mother who spends her time working as a secretary and drinking wine. Louise becomes entangled with both David and Adele, but in secret (at least Louise believes it to be a secret) from each other. She first meets David in a bar one night, spends some time kissing and flirting with him, but didn’t realize he was married. The next time she sees him, it’s when he becomes her new boss. Awkward much? One day while dropping her young son, Adam, off at school, Louise literally runs into Adele. The “chance” meeting turns into a chat over coffee and the beginning of a gratifying friendship for Louise, who mostly kept to herself prior to meeting Adele.

As Louise spends more time with Adele, she starts to question some of the oddities of her marriage to David. Why does David call to check on Adele at certain times of the day, but not allow her to have a cell phone or any money. Why does Adele keep things hidden from David? And who is this man named Rob, which Adele mentions from her past. Though part of the story flashes back to the time after the fire when Adele is in a mental institution, readers are never given specifics about why she is there. Readers will get a sense that her relationship with Rob, whom she meets at the institution, will be a huge turning point in the plot and what happened to cause such a dark, secretive marriage situation.

This story is dark and even from the outset, there is a powerful mood that something is very, very wrong about Adele and David’s relationship. The ending does a total flip and nothing that happened in the story is as it seems, once the truth is revealed. Everything is explained in the final two chapters and readers will be gobsmacked. Personally, the ending of the book changed my entire attitude toward the story. Though I very much enjoyed reading it, it took a turn toward the twilight zone at the end that I wouldn’t normally enjoy. Sorry to be so vague, but this is not the kind of story I want to inadvertently spoil for any future readers.

Behind Her Eyes is certainly unique and like nothing I have ever read in the past. Perhaps for this reason alone, and despite the ending that wasn’t to my liking, I really loved the book!  Fans of Gone Girl-type psychological suspense and authors like Mary Kubica and/or Stephen King will enjoy this book immensely. It’s sure to be a bestseller with a movie to follow.

Giveaway – Freebie Friday

Who wants a chance to win a free book?!

Up for grabs this week is a new, hardcover copy of Between Worlds by Skip Brittenham. You can read a summary of the book here.

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To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post.

On Friday, January 20th, I will randomly select a winner from those who have left comments on this post. Winner will be notified by email.

Happy Freebie Friday and Good luck!

Author Interview with Liz Coley & Review of The Captain’s Kid

I’m thrilled to have author Liz Coley here for an interview. I met Liz at the Indiana state library conference after her YA novel, Pretty Girl-13 was chosen as the winner of the Eliot Rosewater Award. (More on the Eliot Rosewater Award here.)

Liz is a brilliant writer, but also very humble and down-to-earth. I must say I was so nervous to meet her, but it was awesome! She is a definite rock-star in my opinion. Pretty Girl-13, her first novel for young adults was suspenseful & excellent. Liz’s newest book, The Captain’s Kid, was released in October 2016. I’ll be interviewing her about the book, as well as including my review below. I hope you enjoy “meeting” Liz as much as I did! And, please, let me know what you think about The Captain’s Kid. You can purchase it from Amazon here.

About Liz Coley (from lizcoley.com)

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Liz Coley has been writing long and short fiction for teens and adults for more than ten years. Her short fiction has appeared in Cosmos Magazine and several speculative fiction anthologies: The Last Man, More Scary Kisses, Strange Worlds, Flights of Fiction, Winter’s Regret, and You Are Not Alone.

In 2013, psychological thriller Pretty Girl-13 was released by HarperCollins and HarperCollins UK in print, eBook, and audiobook editions. Foreign translations have been published in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Norwegian, Russian, Czech, Slovakian, and Traditional Chinese. German and Simplified Chinese are in the works.

Liz lives in Ohio, where she is surrounded by a fantastic community of writers, beaten regularly by better tennis players, uplifted by her choir, supported by her husband, teased by her teenaged daughter, cheered from afar by her two older sons, and adorned with hair by her cats Tiger, Pippin, and Merry.

Liz invites you to follow @LizColeyBooks on Twitter and Instagram, like Liz Coley Books on Facebook, and visit her website at lizcoley.com, where you can watch the Pretty Girl-13 book trailer, download editing tips, and read her confessional blog postings “Scenes from a Life.”

Author Interview with Liz Coley

Question 1. The Captain’s Kid is a much different genre than your previous novel, Pretty Girl-13. How did you decide to write science fiction? Have you always been a fan of sci-fi? 

I have always loved sci-fi, from the fifth grade when I read the age appropriate Wrinkle in Time and the age inappropriate Thuvia, Maid of Mars. My seventh/eighth grade English teacher was a huge sci-fi fan as well and even used sci-fi in curriculum, so I was in heaven in middle school. I actually got into the writing biz specifically to write sci-fi for tweenagers. I call Pretty Girl-13 “the book I accidentally wrote.” In fact, if you stare at it closely, you’ll see that a science fiction question was at the heart of the story: if you had the choice to remember or forget the worst things that had ever happened to you, what would you do? I tackled that from both the realistic therapy angle–reintegrating memories–and from the sci-fi angle–deactivating memories at the neuron level. Science fiction is still my favorite genre to read.

Question 2. Were any of characters in The Captain’s Kid modeled after real people you knew? If so, which ones? 

Brandon is somewhat a reflection of my oldest son Ian as he was at that age–precocious in math, physically uncoordinated in normal gravity, very hungry, addicted to video games, unable to keep clothes off the floor, and unaware of his leadership potential. The theme of vegetarianism was completely informed by my younger son Connor’s commitment to becoming a vegetarian around the age of 10. Everyone else hopped onto the page via my imagination.

Question 3. Are you working on any other novels at this time? 

I used to be disciplined and write one story at a time. Now I find myself with a variety of tales at the halfway point. There’s a thriller-mystery that I think of as a mashup of Rashomon, Oedipus Rex, and Breakfast Club called We Thought We Knew You. There’s a story about one of my favorite calming pastimes, Balancing Stones, about self-forgiveness and healing. There’s a lively romance that takes place in the bureaucratic upside-down high-rise that is Purgatory, tentatively called Living Down Under, and there’s a weird reincarnation mystery story I’m trying to wrap my head around. Also, I’m dabbling in playwriting.

Question 4. What age group do you feel The Captain’s Kid would appeal to most?

The Captain’s Kid seems to have two audiences. The obvious one, tween/teen boys and girls, ranges from a precocious 10-year old reader to a reluctant 16-year-old reader, with the sweet spot at about 7th-8th grade. Then there are the grown-ups who want a nostalgic read, a clean space adventure with teenage heroes, real life problems, and a first kiss.

Question 5. The acknowledgements mention that you wrote The Captain’s Kid for your two sons. That’s really cool! Did they help you brainstorm to come up with any of the characters or ideas in the novel?

The original version of The Captain’s Kid started as something I wrote in spiral notebooks while the boys were at Taekwondo and piano lessons. After I typed up each scene, I would read it to them in bed as part of our nightly 45 minutes or more of reading aloud. They were extremely helpful as far as their unedited natural reactions, whether laughing with or at me. Since I don’t work with outlines, they made me as anxious to know what was coming next as they were. As a vegetarian, Connor did take real exception to one part of the story and refused to listen for weeks! That little episode showd the impact of fiction on developing minds and codes of ethics.

Question 6. If you had to explain The Captain’s Kid in one sentence or less, what would it be? 

When thirteen-year-old Brandon Webb set out on his first interstellar voyage, he little suspects that the fate of a failing colony will come to depend on his courage, creativity, and compassion.

Question 7. Anything else you would like to say about the novel? 

I’ve met a lot of middle schoolers through school visits who still like being read to. Maybe they haven’t told their parents, but they’ve told me. So I recorded myself reading The Captain’s Kid as a YouTube serial–no fancy production values–just me being a mom and reading aloud, chapter by chapter. My dream is that kids who don’t enjoy reading because of reading challenges will find the series and take the opportunity to read along with me, the book in their hands and my voice in their ears. I branded the series “Undercover Reading,” and if nothing else you should check out the neat morphing logo I designed for it.

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About The Captain’s Kid (from lizcoley.com)

Whenever his parents went out on missions for the Space Survey Corps, Brandon Webb was left behind on Luna, left to dream of journeying between the stars, meeting aliens, defeating villains, saving the world. Now it’s his turn for adventure, permitted at last by the captain, his father, to join a year-long trip to a failing colonial planet on an emergency resupply run. Or so he’s told.

Brandon’s former dreams could turn to nightmares when the starship is sabotaged, the alien holds secrets about his past, the villain is on the right side, and the world isn’t ready to be saved.

Librarian Laura’s Review of The Captain’s Kid by Liz Coley

First, let me point out that I am not a reader of science fiction. However, I am so glad to have read The Captain’s Kid! I couldn’t put it down, mainly because the story line was so intriguing with just enough mystery to keep it moving along at a quick pace. Additionally, the main character, Brandon Webb, the “Captain’s kid,” was such a unique teenager. Smart as a whip, he still has the boyish clumsiness and goofiness that allow him to keep a positive attitude in perilous situations. With both parents working for the Space Survey Corps, Brandon grew up in an intellectually charged environment, which is clear by his genius in math and computer programming (or “hacking,” as some would refer to it). Brandon’s mother, missing and presumed dead, never returned from a space mission four years prior to Esperanza, a war-torn planet.

One day, Brandon’s father, Gordon, receives a call, and he’s back working for the SSC and planning a resupply mission to Esperanza. Having promised Brandon to never leave him behind, he must make good on his promise. So, Brandon is about to go on his first space mission, a “nube,” embarking on a year-long voyage on the starship named RELIABLE to Esperanza, the place his mother was last alive. He is nervous, but also very excited, having always dreamed of journeying in space.

When Brandon boards the ship and meets some of the other “space kids,” the trip becomes even more interesting for him. There’s Karthik, the son of RELIABLE’s head cook, who quickly becomes his best friend and confidant. And then there is Audrey, whom Brandon is instantly smitten over from the start. If only he can play it cool and not screw up his chances with her, being the klutz that he is. When Brandon becomes the main target of sabotage, however, he has to figure out who on the ship could be an enemy and why they are trying to put a stop to the mission and his life. As the RELIABLE gets closer to Esperanza, Brandon grows closer to Audrey, the danger aboard ship intensifies. Can Brandon and his friends figure out a way to save the mission, and themselves in time? You’ll have to read it and find out for yourselves. You won’t be sorry – it’s a great adventure with a neat ending. The book is well written, and very clean. Middle grade kids, young adults, and adults alike will enjoy this fast-paced space adventure.

Another really cool thing about this book is that Liz has a YouTube channel (LizColeyBooks) with a read-along serial of this book read by Liz herself as part of the Undercover Reading series. Anyone is welcome to subscribe and listen to Liz narrate this story and others.

Guest Review: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

I’m thrilled to have my friend and colleague, Cameron, who blogs at Cam Loves Books, here for a guest review post. Cam reviews YA books and her reviews are witty & fabulous!

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About Cam

Children’s and young adult book blogger. Library professional. Dog mom. English major. Intersectional feminist. Livin’ life one book at a time.

Cam’s Review of History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera  (release date 1/17/17)

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History is All You Left Me, Adam Silvera’s sophomore novel, cements him firmly in the ranks of my auto-buy, auto-love, absolute rock star, favorite young adult authors. His main characters, Griffin, Theo, and Jackson, all leap off the page as fully-formed, deeply grieving boys, mapping uncharted territories of love and friendship in ways I’ve yet to see explored in YA fiction. The book’s plot is new and intriguing, and its gorgeous execution left me speechless. I know it’s early, but I’m calling it now: this will be one of my favorite reads of 2017.

When Griffin’s ex-boyfriend, Theo, drowns while swimming in the ocean, Griffin is devastated. Griffin, who has OCD, thought that he and Theo were a perfect match, and that Theo might be the only person in the world who could understand and love him. He had always believed he and Theo would get back together, and imagining a future without him is something Griffin never thought he would have to do. His grief, guilt, and loneliness are threatening to consume him when Jackson, Theo’s boyfriend at the time of his death and the only other person who could understand what it’s like to lose him, offers to talk to him about their shared loss. As the surviving boys become closer and help each other heal, each must reveal secrets that could destroy their friendship, and potentially their memories of Theo, forever. With lovely writing and frank, complex examinations of grief and friendship, History is All You Left Me is a masterpiece from one of YA’s bravest new voices. 

Adam Silvera is an evil genius, and perhaps the greatest praise I can give his book is that I started crying in chapter three. It took me no time at all to understand the relationship dynamics between the characters and to care enough for each of them that it brought me to tears. And in a book that starts out with a bang – the death of a major character – it would have been easy for the action to fizzle, but Silvera managed to maintain a slight air of mystery throughout the entire story that leads to an even more shocking second act. I blame Adam Silvera for the worst book hangover of my life, because after reading his debut, More Happy Than Not, it took me five full weeks to be able to finish another book. So I knew I had to mentally prepare myself to read History. I knew it would make me cry, and I knew I would be faced with brutal realities packaged in gorgeous writing, which is an emotional one-two punch in itself. I definitely think you should come prepared to be knocked down, too: I think you should bring tissues, a fuzzy blanket, and your best waterproof mascara. However, I also think you should come prepared to be built back up, to think hard about friendship and healing, to learn something important about mental health, and to come out the other side a little more hopeful than you started out. 

Thanks again to Cam for this beautiful review. You can check out more of her reviews here.

Books Read in 2016

Here’s a look at what I’ve read over the past year. Reviews for most of these books can be found on this blog. What were some of your favorite reads of 2016? Please leave a comment to share!

Happy New Year!

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  1. Two if by Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard
  2. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  3. The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons
  4. Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica
  5. Leave Me by Gayle Forman
  6. Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

february

  1. Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf
  2. The Railwayman’s Wife by Ashley Hay
  3. Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse
  4. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
  5. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

march

  1. The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schneider
  2. The Assistants by Camille Perri
  3. First Comes Love by Emily Giffen
  4. Family Tree by Susan Wiggs
  5. I Let You Go by Clare MacIntosh

april

  1. Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand
  2. Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
  3. Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly
  4. Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

may

  1. At the Edge of Summer by Jessica Brockmole
  2. The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter
  3. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  4. Falling by Jane Green

june

  1. Truly, Maly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty
  2. The Love that Split the World by Emily Henry
  3. The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
  4. Shakespeare Saved My Life by Laura Bates
  5. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
  6. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley
  7. Everyone Brave is Forgotten by Chris Cleave

july

  1. Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
  2. The Memory Book by Lara Avery
  3. The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood
  4. The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
  5. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

august

  1. The Mothers by Britt Bennett
  2. My Seventh Grade Life in Tights by Brooks Benjamin
  3. Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
  4. The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

september

  1. Wait for Me by Caroline Leech
  2. Winter Storms by Elin Hilderbrand
  3. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  4. The Kommandant’s Girl by Pam Jenoff
  5. A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

october

  1. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
  2. What Light by Jay Asher
  3. The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

november

  1. The Heartbeats of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
  2. Pretty Girl-13 by Liz Coley
  3. Subject to Change by Karen Nesbitt

december

  1. The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan
  2. A Boy Named Christmas by Matt Haig
  3. The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion