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One of my favorite places to be is in a book! I read a wide variety. Books are food for the mind and soul, and I cannot seem to restrict myself to one genre.

My novel writing, on the other hand, is focused on young adult contemporary and women’s contemporary. I like to share stories that leave the reader with a sense of hope.

Every week I blog about books I’m reading. I usually post on the first Monday of the month with an author interview, news from my bookish friends, or writing related updates.

About My Novel Writing

I tend to write about people who are facing tough times. I’ve written about grief, eating disorders, abandonment, and other difficult issues. There isn’t always a romantic element, but when there is the romances are sweet. Endings aren’t sugar coated, but I always strive to leave my readers with a sense of hope. No graphic language, sex, or violence, just plenty of heart tugging and laughing. This is general fiction with a slight to rich southern flavor, depending on the book. I have two books with a character on the autism spectrum. I am currently seeking representation while I continue to work on my craft.

I spend most of my writing time working on my novels, but I blog here and on my homeschool blog, Undaunted Homeschool.

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

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My Writing Journey~Sometimes You Need a Story

 

My life is divided into before and after. I’m in the after now.

Eight years ago, this coming April, my world turned upside down. Eight years ago, this coming April, I began the slow journey back. I hadn’t written a book then. Since that time, I have finished penning three.

When I got sick, my daughter became frightened. Who wouldn’t be? It was the summer before her freshman year of high school, and she spent her vacation taking care of her mother who needed assistance walking and bathing. It didn’t matter what I told her, or how many reassurances were held out, she was terrified. All the soft gentle words and reassurances never made it past her fear wrapped worry.

Sometimes you need a story.

I wrote her a book about a girl who was afraid her mother would die and leave her alone. In the book, the mother does die. The girl is not left alone, however. She has family and unlikely heroes to depend on. I wrote my daughter a book to make her laugh and cry, but most of all to help her see she was not alone and it wasn’t up to her to save the world. I think maybe it was both comforting and uncomfortable for her to discover how much I understood her.

She’s not a character in a book, and she is not this character. But young girls everywhere get angry with their mothers, at times think they’ve been abandoned, and generally feel treated unfairly by life. They’re often surprised when they discover their mothers were once girls and understand all of these deeply held, secret feelings.

Among the pages of this made up place filled with pretend people my daughter finally understood what I was trying to tell her. She wasn’t alone.

Sometimes you need a story.

A funny thing happened. Out of the story, two more grew. Each of these novels stand alone, and while they don’t lean on each other, they do rub shoulders, exploring the lives of the various characters in the same fictional small Texas town.

It’s quite a surprise to find at the end of these eight years I have three complete novels. I’d freelanced in my former writing life, and even written a novella, which resides in the dark recesses of my computer files, but I’d never attempted a novel length work.

As my health improved and my responsibilities shifted, I had more time to write books. With each novel, I learned better and went back, refining and polishing. I hunted down critique partners and entered contests. I was quite pleased with the feedback I got. Now I’m ready to start querying agents.

I’m telling you this tale because, as with all of my stories, I want to encourage and bring hope to the reader. Because sometimes you need a story.

Donna Jo Stone writes YA contemporary novels about tough issues but always ends the stories with a note of hope. She blogs at donnajostone.com.

☕ Book Break ☕ | ~Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler~

~Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler~

‘Beware against the sweet person, for sugar has no nutrition.’

Kate Battista  still lives at home, and runs her father’s house even though she is an adult. Besides dealing with her eccentric father, a scientist who spends his days in his  lab, she contends with her younger sister, Bunny. Despite her abrasive personality, her young charges at the daycare she works at love her. The parents and staff do not.

Dr. Battista cooks up a plan to wed Kate to his lab assistant, Pyotr. Pyotr must get married to stay in the country, and both men are agreeable to the plot. They neglect to consult Kate on the matter.

I love Shakespeare and Shakespeare adaptations. Anne Tyler has written a witty and well done retelling. Kate was multilayered and I felt myself liking her more and more as the story went on. Anne Tyler is a wonderfully skilled writer.

Having this familiar story reimagined in a modern day setting made me think about the attitudes towards women during the time of Shakespeare and today. The treatment of Kate in parts of the story sparked a lot of discussion around our house.

I’ve been involved in productions of The Taming of The Shrew and watched television adaptations, but, oddly, this is the first time I read a novel based on the story as far as I can remember. I plan to read more of these retellings in the Hogarth Shakespeare series.

There is some language in this book, and having it right at the start felt jarring to me. I kept reading because I read Anne Tyler before and liked her other work and because I like Shakespeare.

Humor

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storytelling

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Book Review| A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

 

I didn’t expect to be captured by this story, but I was. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman and translated by Henning Koch opens with Ove in a computer store, trying unsuccessfully to communicate with one of the employees. Having often been stymied by things tech, I could so relate to the quandary Ove had in the store.

A recent retiree,  Ove is the typical outspoken, inflexible grump, but we suspect from the get go he just might have reason to be. His life is severely structured by routine and he lives his days out following his own strict ideas of what is right. Patrolling the neighborhood, he keeps watch, always ready to enforce The Rules. A young family moves in next door and immediately upset Ove by running into his mailbox.

This character driven tale spins out beautifully, feeding us bits that make up Ove’s story as we need them. It is a poignant story about the human condition, of learning to love and be loved, of looking past the oft not-so-lovely exterior and seeing a fellow human. I was moved. Ove isn’t a man you would care to deal with, but we can’t help but love him, warts and all.

The novel jumps around in time, but is easy to follow. The story is sweet, funny, and sad all at the same time. I think this one may end up on my favorites list. It’s not often a book can make me laugh, cry, and think.

I listened to the audio book narrated by George Newbern and was well done. On a side note, a good narrator can ruin an otherwise good book, but this is a good narrator. The audiobooks I select books are greatly influenced by who is reading, and whether or not past books by an author were narrated well.

I will be checking out other books by Fredrik Backman.

I did not realize this novel had been made into a movie, and I plan to watch it sometime. I am big on reading the book first, and this is a good one. I can’t imagine a movie being as good as the novel. If you watched the movie or read the book, let me know what you thought.

Recommended. Some language and the content is serious at times.

Click here for a reading guide from Simon and Schuster for A Man Called Ove.

Here’s another reading guide from LitLovers.

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below. This book is full of wonderful quotes. Here’s a few.

 

 

“And time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead. And when time no longer lies ahead of one, other things have to be lived for. memories, perhaps.” 

 

What Is YA and Who Reads It?

I gave the short answer: “When the protagonist is a young person.”

That didn’t quite satisfy. After all, scads of books have a teen as a main character, and those aren’t always categorized as Young Adult. A conversation ensued about various popular books labeled as YA.

It’s not as straightforward as one would think.

I thought I’d ask some YA authors.

“Young Adult readers range from age 13 up. Many of my readers are adults who prefer the “clean” nature typically associated with YA. Stories may feature mature themes, but do so without resorting to graphic sex or violence.”

Felicia Bridges, author of the award winning International Mission Force series

While Young adult novels are written for people between 12 and 18 years of age, about half of YA readers are 18 and up. Within the genre the categories include most of those that are found in adult fiction, such as Mystery, Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Sci-Fi, and more.

The protagonist is young, usually 14 to 20 years of age. The themes are relevant to teens and their experience. I think what defines the genre is the age of the main character, although coming of age novels for the adult market may also have a young protagonist, so that isn’t the only criteria.

“YA novels give insight into the issues teens are facing and the steps they can take to battle them. Sometimes those issues aren’t one the reader has faced personally, but viewing the struggle through a character’s life tears down judgments. And the world really needs less judgment and more understanding.”

Sarah Tipton, author of Betrayal of the Band, 2018 Carol Award Winner

Teens have a different set of problems they are concerned with, and this comes across in young adult fiction. Friendship, self-discovery, identity, and first love are all things adults can relate to, but these are in the forefront of teens’ thoughts as they navigate the turbulent years preceding adulthood.

Young adults are often idealistic and full of hope, and that is reflected in much YA fiction. It is entertaining and has all the feels. Some brings attention to issues we should take a hard look at and can foster understanding.

Recently I followed a conversation in one of my Facebook readers groups and was surprised at how many people suffer from literary snobbery and will not so much as crack open a young adult book. I think they are missing out.

Do you have a favorite YA novel? Share it. I’m always adding to my TBR list.

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

~Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate~

Lisa Wingate delivers. This book wrecked my productivity. Once I started I had to finish it. The Tennessee Children’s Home Society was a real organization that removed and sometimes even kidnapped children from poor families and sold the children to wealthy families wanting to adopt.

Twelve year old Rill is the eldest of five, and the siblings are taken away against their will to a boarding house of horrors while waiting to be placed. Rill knows her parents would never give them away. The story alternates between 1939, Rill’s story, and present day when Avery narrates as she unravels the past mystery of deep family secrets.

I had heard about the Tennessee Children’s Home before, but I didn’t realize the extent of the abuse. I was holding my breath hoping for Rill to get away. This one may end up being my favorite Lisa Wingate novel. It is definitely on my list.

This book will make you hate Georgia Tann, the woman who ran the Tennessee Children’s Home Society. I don’t think I can read another story about her for a while.

☕ Book Break ☕ | A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

 

~A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness~

Many things that are true feel like a cheat. Kingdoms get the princes they deserve, farmers’ daughters die for no reason, and sometimes witches merit saving. Quite often, actually. You’d be surprised.

Coner wakes one night to find a monster peering into his bedroom window, but it’s not as scary as the nightmare he has every time he goes to sleep.

I read this short book in one sitting. Everything else I was doing had to wait while I read this masterfully woven tale of fantasy and a crushing truth that is oh-so-hard to bear. It is a frightful and tender story of grief. Coner has to grapple with his monsters, real and imagined.  Patrick Ness captured Coner’s mixed up feelings and inner turmoil perfectly. This one is going to stick with me for a while. Sweet and sad. The story is fantasy, but the emotions are raw and real.

A story about coming to terms with grief unlike anything I’ve read before.

When I picked the physical book up, it was surprisingly heavy. The illustrations are dark and dramatic, and the story heartbreaking. I felt the combination was artistic and effective.

 

Characters

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Page Turning

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Setting

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Emotion Provoking

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

☕ Book Break ☕ | Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

~Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington~

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful coming of age story.

Alice’s father has been deployed to Iraq and she misses him terribly. This story unveils all the emotions, following the lives and struggles of one family as they wait for their loved one to return.

This novel had some odd point of view shifts, but is so heart tugging I still recommend it. You are going to cry. I feel like crying just thinking about this book!