About Donna Jo Stone

I write YA and women's fiction. I currently have two blogs, one for books and writing, and another for homeschooling topics. I love to read, and review books from a variety of genres. Christ Follower. Spoonie. Autism Mom. Watercolor Enthusiast.

☕ Book Break ☕ | To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

To Best the Boys by Mary Weber

This light fantasy YA novel was a quick read for me. It caught my interest from the first line and kept it throughout the entire story. If I were to pick one book for a teen girl or a preteen girl who is a reluctant reader, this one might be it. The characters are, in my opinion, completely relatable to girls today. It felt a little less intense than Hunger Games or Maze Runner, but had similar elements. Positive messages about following your dreams and fighting for women’s rights to an education. Squeaky clean. 

It wasn’t what I was expecting from either the title or the cover. The main character enters a competition with boys, but there’s an equal focus on her home life and a dash of romance, which rounded the story out nicely for me. I was surprised at how much I liked this book. My feed was flooded with this book several months before it came out, but every time I checked to see if it was available it wasn’t out yet, so it got bumped to the bottom of my list. I’m glad I finally got to it. Recommended for all readers and reluctant readers. 

Positive Message

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Positive Female Role Model

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Entertaining 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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☕ Book Break ☕ |The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds #popsugarreadingchallenge

#popsugarreadingchallenge

A Book With Clothing on The Cover

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

Sixteen year old Matt wears a black suit every day, not because his mother dies, but for his job at the funeral home. That and his habit of sitting in on services. He’s looking for a way to deal with his grief, and encounters a girl who might just know the answer. He sure won’t find help from his dad, who seems to be trying to drown his sorrow in a bottle.

My heart broke a little bit with every page. 

The voice and sense of place drew me into his world. I would not hesitate to recommend this for anyone from pre-teens to adults. 

A true page turner. Happy-sad. A bit of romance. Realistic, coming of age.  A perfect book for teens about coming to terms with grief of any sort.

Go get it. Recommended for all.

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

All the Feels

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Relatable

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Storyline

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Engaging

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Well Written

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

☕ Book Break ☕ | The Girl He Used to Know by Tracey Garvis Graves

 

The Girl He Used to Know

 

I adore restoration of lost love stories. 

 

Overall I loved, loved, loved the characters and the story. I cried buckets. Every now and then I got stressed out for Annika and the situations she got herself into. 

  

The way the author showed how adults on the spectrum can continue to grow and learn new skills was definitely something I appreciate being addressed. Too often people assume that someone with a developmental disability or cognitive delays only has until the end of high school to acquire skills. There were pains taken to correctly define ASD without sounding like it was out of place. The writing was seamless, the story moving along and unfolding naturally.

 

The writer obviously did her research to accurately portray Annika, although I would love to see more books about people on the spectrum with less stereotypical autsitc characters. Not all autistics rock, flick their fingers, or crave solitude. 

 

Well worth the read. 

 

This may be on the top of my best books this year because of my interest in autistic characters and simply because it is an engaging, well plotted novel with emotional impact. I will check out other books by this author.

 

Things I LOVED

 

Characters

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Plot (some people felt it was a little cheesy at the end, but I liked it)

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Need for Kleenex for Weepy Moments

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

Satisfying Ending

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

General All Around Lovely Novel

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A little spicy. A few sex scenes, but not as steamy as The Kiss Quotient.

Gritty Contemporary Christian YA: Interview with Author Brian McBride

 

Haunted by the last question their mother ever asked them, the Greyson brothers struggle to cope with their grief and adjust to life after tragedy.

Semi-popular sixteen-year-old Liam spends his nights performing as the lead singer of his high school indie alternative/rock band, Liam and the Landmarks. But something happened to Liam four years ago at his friend’s house – a secret Liam will take to his grave. But in small towns like Summit, Colorado, secrets always seem to find their way out.

Twenty-four-year-old Ezra thought that he could cure his grief when he left Summit behind for a prestigious art school in Chicago, but things only got worse. Now a college dropout working at a gas station mini mart, he turns to alcohol, prescription painkillers, and meaningless one-night stands. But Ezra can’t run forever – life always catches up with you.

With abrasively honest dual-perspective narratives, Every Bright and Broken Thing illustrates the unbreakable bond between brothers and the power in coming home.

*******************

Bookstagrammer, blogger, and author Sunny Huck shared about Brian’s work on her Instagram and peaked my interest so I had to talk with him.

DJS: Your novels are contemporary and gritty. What drives you to write about the issues you do?

BM: Some of it is personal experience; a lot of the issues I write about are things that myself or others I know have faced. Depression, self-harm, mental illness, sexual abuse and assault, domestic violence, addiction, etc… 

But some of it is also that there’s a severe lack in the YA market – specifically the Christian YA market – of stories that deal with these things. I can’t name even five Christian YA Contemporary novels that could be comparable to, say, the stories John Green, Amber Smith, or Stephen Chbosky write. The Christian Fiction industry seems to think YA Fantasy novels are the only kind worth publishing. I disagree. I doubt I can fill this gap completely by myself, but maybe I can encourage other Christian authors of YA Contemporary to share their stories, too – THEN we’ll fill the gap!

DJS: What has been the most gratifying about writing realistic Christian fiction for young people?

BM: Hearing the stories of how my books have given people a new view of themselves, of the value of life, of faith and hope, and most importantly of Jesus. Hearing all those stories has been the highlight of this experience. 

DJS: Liam and Ezra go through some pretty harrowing times before they begin their healing journey in Every Bright and Broken Thing. Will you write any more of their story?

I don’t have any new stories simmering for Liam and Ezra right now. But I have a short story or novella I may or may not be planning to carry on Lincoln’s story. But anything is possible. If a good idea comes, I won’t say no to revisiting my boys in Summit. 

DJS: Every Bright and Broken Thing is the story of two brothers dealing with loss and how they react. In a few sentences, what would you say to those who want to support families going through grief?

BM: Hold onto them and don’t let go. I remember a time when I was far away from the Lord and was getting into some bad stuff, but my parents refused to let go. Some parents will kind of back off and say, “oh, well they’re adults now. They have to make their own choices.” But my parents weren’t about to let me go. They held on for months and months. I literally would not be alive today if it weren’t for the fierce, fighting kind of love my parents have for me.

In Every Bright, we see Mr. Greyson grapple with his own suffering and even come to realize how he allowed his grief to cause him to not hold onto his sons like he should. Mr. Greyson had to determine once again that he was going to hold onto his boys. In that, we see a father who was broken become strong again.

So, if you know someone who is suffering, hold on and don’t let go. Sometimes that means telling them the hard truth. Sometimes that just means listening and letting them cry on your shoulder. Whatever the case, hold on and don’t let go.

Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us today, Brian. Keep writing. I expect great things to come from your work.

A winner of the 2016 Wattys Award, Brian published the award-winning Young Adult Contemporary debut, Love and the Sea and Everything in Between, in 2018.
Born and raised in Oregon, Brian moved to the San Francisco Bay Area at 16-years-old. He’s been writing since he was thirteen-years-old and has been reading for longer. Brian is pursuing a degree in Social Work, which he hopes to use to help rescue children and families. Perhaps he’ll work to better the US’s foster care system? Or maybe he’ll join an organization that fights human trafficking? A fourth generation pastor, he is deeply passionate about the Church and is also pursuing his Minister’s License. It was this passion that compelled him to launch the Pioneer Mvmt, a social-media-based faith movement. Among other things, he is also passionate about iced tea, animals, adoption, and the arts.

#READWHATYOUOWN September Reading Challenge Pick~Rival by Lacy Yager

 

#READWHATYOUOWN September Reading Challenge

Here’s a super easy challenge hosted by @anovelfamily on Instagram this month. Dust those books off that you’ve been meaning to read. I am doing the two book challenge. You can follow @anovelfamily here.

If you are like me, you have stacks of unread books. I am choosing some from my kindle. I have more than I can count on there, and keep having to remove books to add new ones. It’s time I started reading!

I am planning to choose two books from the multitude languishing on my kindle.

I picked Rival by Lacey Yager based solely on the title. That cover, though! She looks fierce.

From the description on goodreads, it is about a teenage vampire chaser. I’m not sure how a vampire story got on my kindle, but I already put Rival on my IG story. I’m committed now. Let’s go.

Emily Santos is a fifth generation vampire fighter, a chaser. Brett Carson and Emily used to be friends. Both have secrets.

This is an entertaining, fast-paced novella. There were plenty of fight scenes, but they weren’t overly drawn out, so I found myself enjoying the story. It’s an action packed teen romance. Violence, swordplay, and blood, but no extreme gore. No profanity. A few kisses. A little humor. It is short, but didn’t feel rushed and the ending was satisfying. If you like action or martial arts with a little romance, this one might be for you.

I was surprised at how much I liked it.

Do you participate in reading challenges?

 

☕ Book Break ☕ | Cinder by Marissa Meyer #popsugarreadingchallenge

#popsugarreadingchallenge2019

A book you meant to read last year

That would be a looong list, but I’ll pick one.

Cinder is a book that’s been on my list forever. 

This is an  imaginative retelling of Cinderella with a futuristic setting in New Beijing. Cinder is a hated stepchild and is also a cyborg. Being cyborg is not a popular thing to be, so she doesn’t advertise the fact that she’s a social outcast. There’s a prince, a ball, and an evil queen. A deadly disease strikes Cinder’s stepsister, and Cinder would do anything to save her. There;s a mystery surrounding Cinder’s past, she can’t remember anything from her early childhood. 

Fast paced and easy to read.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

Eight #PITMAD Tips

Are you participating in #PITMAD on the 6th?

I’m on the fence this time. I’ve done #PITMAD twice and #REVPIT once.

My first time jumping into #PITMAD I pitched all three finished books and I had a hard time keeping up, but it was great fun and I met many new writers. The excitement of tweets flying everywhere kept me glued to my screen. 

You don’t have to be great at twitter to participate. I’m still terrible at twitter. Don’t let inexperience stop you if you want to pitch.

Tips for PITMAD

Write a great tweet. 

Polish it until it shines. It takes quite a bit of skill to reduce your manuscript into a tweet. I asked around in various groups for help with getting mine up to snuff. A tweet to pitch is not the same as an elevator pitch. It’s acceptable to use shortcuts, giving comps to movies, television, and books.

This is one I used.

GEM & DIXIE x Netflix’s ATYPICAL. Nina has a lot on her plate. A twin brother with autism, an almost-boyfriend, and a terminally ill mom who wants to give up cancer treatments. Nina refuses to let her go without a fight. #PITMAD #YA #CON #MH #DIS #ND

The stand alone book I’m querying now follows some of the same characters as in Nina’s story. It could be described as “A teenage ADAM x GEM & DIXIE” but since the movie ADAM may not be well known and isn’t a recent release, I didn’t use that reference. 

Time your tweets.

Space your tweets apart. You can schedule them if you like. I simply spaced mine.

Vary the wording in your tweets.

Twitter doesn’t like it if you post the same tweet, so you have to change it up.

Pin your latest tweet.

Pin your latest tweet to the top of your feed so it is easy to find.

Use appropriate hashtags.

This is how editors and agent find you. Different pitch parties may have different hashtags, so check the organizer’s site.

Connect with other writers.

This is one of the greatest benefits of a twitter party. Try to find a group of writers to support. You can share each others tweets for greater visibility and make new friends in the bargain.

Read all the rules.

Go to the Pitch Wars site (or whoever is organizing the twitter party you want to join) and follow all the rules.

Have fun! 

Tell me about your Twitter party experiences! Comment below.

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Share. Like. Comment below.

Good luck tweeting!