☕ 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

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Positive Female Role Model

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Entertaining 

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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.

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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 ☕ | The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

I finally read this little book, and I’m glad I did!

It has all the hallmarks of the familiar cozy mysteries, but a unique voice. Precious Ramotswe is the owner of the only private detective agency in Botswana. 

What follows is a variety of cases, some easier to solve than others. I liked the narrative. I felt it had an easy-going style. Besides the various cases she takes on, we learn bits about Mma Ramotswe’s history throughout the story. I found it to be a quick read.

I thoroughly enjoyed this charming mystery. More, please.

 

Cute.

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Easy to read.

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Charming characters.

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Entertaining.

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☕ Book Break ☕ | The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld is a psychological thriller/mystery that deals with child abduction and abuse.

Naomi has a gift for finding lost children.

Three years have passed since a little girl disappeared and her desperate parents hire Naomi to find their child. The story is told from alternating points of view, Naomi as she investigates the disappearance, and the little girl, Madison.

This book was recommended to me as a novel that was deeply affecting. It is that. It’s dark and gripping without going into details. We know that horrible things are happening, but the descriptions were not over the top in my opinion. It was hard to read at times due to the subject matter. 

The story examines the cycle of abuse, and that was my least favorite part of the book, although the exploration of the physiological aspects of how Madison survived had me quite enthralled. Very evocative and emotional. All the ends of Madison’s, story/mystery tied up, but we are left with our main character’s issues, including the thing that drives her to investigate missing children. It’s labeled as a book one, so I assume a series is in the works. Beautiful, seamless writing and a haunting story.

Thanks to Sharon Peterson for recommending this book.

May Book Roundup

Book Round Up!

 

I decided to make one single post about my favorite reads of the month, rather than separate ones, since I read a series and, to be honest, I ran out of time!

I may read a few more this month, but I wanted to post about May’s kindle first reads selection in case anyone hasn’t picked theirs up yet. Am I the only one who lets the month slip by?

I began reading Cynthia Voight’s series of books labeled the Tillerman cycle. No less than three of my beta readers compared my writing to these books, so I thought I should check them out. The funny thing was, my readers weren’t all looking at the same manuscript.

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Homecoming

This is the first in the series. Four children are left to wait for their mother in the parking lot of a mall. When she doesn’t return, they decide to go in search of relatives. They walk across the country. I actually started this one at the end of last month, but put it here because it is part of the Tillerman series.

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Dicey’s Song

Newbery Winner. This book picks up where the first one left off. I would recommend this to any young readers, especially girls. I wish I’d known about this series when my daughter was younger. I recommend for all readers, especially girls in the age bracket of upper MG to YA.

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A Solitary Blue

Lovely book. Feels a little different than the first two. This is the story of Dicey’s love interest and his childhood.

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The Runner

Goes back in time to the children’s uncle and his high school days right before he goes to Viet Nam.

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Come A Stranger

Tells the story of Dicey’s friend, Mina and the prejudice she faces.

⭐️

I love the way the series show how lives are intertwined and connected. Each book is important and stands alone. Her writing style seems natural and unaffected, but powerful She doesn’t shy away from tough topics. The characters feel real.

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Sons from Afar

Dicey has two brothers and one sister. At the beginning of this book the children are a bit older and this one focuses on the two boys. The younger boy has never met his father. The book explores the differences between the two boys and the way they come to terms with the struggles of growing up without a father.

⭐️

Kindle First Reads

Valencia and Valentine

By Suzy Krause

I picked this one for my kindle first reads selection for May. This is an interesting book that has a character with some mental health issues. It is entertaining, funny, and poignant. I read it from cover to cover, if you can do such a thing with a Kindle book. It reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant, would you still at the top of my favorites list. There’s a bit of a mystery involved. The two stories meld together in the end. It’s a little sad and a little sweet. It’s a book that made me think, but mostly it made me feel.

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Tiger Eyes

By Judy Blume

Another one of my beta readers said that my story and style reminded her of this book. If only! Davey (a teen girl) is faced with a terrible tragedy and loss of her father when he is murdered while in his store. Davey, her mom, and Davey’s little brother travel across the country, ostensibly on a visit, but it turns into an extended stay.

This one had me crying. Beautifully done and heart rending. There were a few chuckles as well. I love this book. If you like emotional, touching, coming-of-age, I think you’ll like this book. This was made into a movie, but I haven’t seen it. Have you?

⭐️

Saint Anything

By Sarah Dessen

Sydney is one of the quiet girls. She doesn’t cause any trouble. That rule is filled by her charming brother, Peyton. When he gets behind the wheel under the influence, he runs over a boy on a bicycle, forever changing everyone’s lives. The boy ends up in a wheelchair and Peyton ends up in prison. Sydney decides to change high schools and meets a new set of friends. This is a novel of self-discovery and family relationships.

⭐️

The Nightingale

By Kristin Hannah

This was a re-read. If you haven’t read this book yet go get it!

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Little Women

I’m still rereading this one. You can never go wrong with Little Women.

⭐️

Did you see any favorites in this list?

What have you been reading lately?