Posts Tagged ‘YA novels’

This will not be a long post – just a share of the fabulous finds I collected at the county library’s huge annual book sale.

For a half hour’s drive and $24.00, I picked up the amazing selections you see here, hardbound and paperback. I do go with a list, and am happy to find anything on it, but don’t expect my top picks, especially from 2018. But I did bring home some selections from favorite authors – Lisa See, Alice Hoffman, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, E. Annie Proulx, and more. I also picked up a number of middle grade/YA novels including Jacqueline Woodson, Jerry Spinelli – and amazingly, the exact book by Linda Sue Park, A Long Walk to Water, that will help me in a drawing project for a client!

There are also authors I am not yet familiar with but had been hoping to find, and some I don’t know at all. There are a couple psychological thrillers, some historical fiction, science fiction, and mysteries – enough to keep me happily reading for quite some time.

In addition, I found something special for one of my doctors who is a huge reader; a hardbound replacement for a paperback version of a wonderful novel whose type is so small, it hurts my eyes —   a book I will read again; and a small volume in brand new condition that might be a little surprise for someone.

As I drove down the lovely backroads to the book sale, I couldn’t help but think that a good book and a warm and fuzzy friend to curl up with can get us through a lot of stuff in life – both good times and bad. And $24.00 isn’t much to pay to have one of those pleasures at my fingertips.

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Armed with nothing more than a mere paper list and 2 canvas bags, I prepared to do battle in the County Fairgrounds Grange Building, to find hidden treasure at the Annual Library Book Sale.


And find treasure I did!!

On my list were several broad categories … first I was looking for a particular chapter book series for my friend’s son, then books on model trains for another friend and particular cookbooks for another friend and myself. But then … I had a list of MG and YA novels and adult fiction strictly for my own reading pleasure. Some of these were Newbery winners or honor books that I’d been trying to find for awhile, others were books gathered from the 100 book bucket lists from an earlier post, some recommended by friends. What would I find?

Book Sale Books3 hours and a terribly aching neck later, I did quite well. Let’s take a closer look.

At left we have the known writers up top and books on my list below. The top 3 are among my favorite authors – Patricia Briggs, fabulous writer of urban fantasy and the Mercy Thompson series with Raven’s Strike, Alice Hoffman with  Incantation which in theme seems to be along the line of recently enjoyed The Dovekeepers, and Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Dreams which I’ve been wanting to read for some time, and found quite unexpectedly.

Another Jerry Spinelli MG classic, Milkweed, and Almost Home another MG by Joan Bauer of Hope Was Here, plus a healthy kitchen book by another fave of mine, Dr. Andrew Weil, and the only book of Nicholas Evans, of The Horse Whisperer fame, that I haven’t read, The Divide. Below them, books I’ve had on a list for awhile –  YA Schooled by Anisha Lakmani, and MG The Underneath by Kathi Appelt and Crispin, the Cross of Lead by Avi.

I also found the next book after The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls’ Half Broke Horses about her grandmother Smith whom we met in her memoir. I am so impressed by Walls’ writing that I was hoping to find this book and The Silver Star but am real happy about at least getting one of them. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr is another much-praised memoir, and Water for Elephants also has gotten rave reviews if I can get through what I hear is a fair amount of brutality to the elephants. They could lose me there; we shall see.

BookSale2014-Stack1-2And on to the lucky finds … I was looking for The Giver by Lois Lowry, but found instead Gathering Blue, perhaps dark, but intriguing, as may be the collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors. The Te of Piglet is a companion to the Tao of Pooh which I already own and love – a can’t miss for me.  Shanghai Girls by Lisa See seems to have the flavor of Memoir of A Geisha which was outstanding, and The Red Leather Diary is a book I remember reading about being excellent some time ago. A surprise and hopefully another treasure.

I was first introduced to The Whale Rider as a movie about the New Zealand Maori tribe, specifically Kahu, a girl who should receive this sacred honor by lineage but which is only bestowed upon boys and men. It was excellent and I was thrilled to stumble upon the book by Witi Ihimaera. I am trying a sci-fi book by C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet. I am not generally a sci-fi fan, but this sounded great. I also found The Hearts of Horses by Molly Gloss, The God of Animals by Aryn Kyle and Horses and the Mystical Path by three McCormicks, because what would my (reading) life be if not inclusive of animals? (And yes, 2 cookbooks are in that pile, too!)

Today I feel rich, very rich. I didn’t find a bunch of the books on my list, but am more than happy with what will keep me engrossed for quite some time. The ones I couldn’t find? They’re on a new list under a magnet on my fridge, and whenever I am so inspired, I can toddle on over and pick them up from my local library, where I’ll also sit and soak up picture books to feed the writer and illustrator within.

Oh, and not to mention I am waiting for my inter-library loan of Deborah Harkness’ second book The Shadow of Night. Sometimes it seems crazy that something so simple can bring such happiness, but such a good crazy!


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GirlReading-HelenaCavalheiro2Only because I’d decided to start reading a book I’ve had for a while on my “to-read” list by Sherman Alexie, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven, did I go on to check out his website and blog, and come across this list compiled by NPR, (National Public Radio.)

Alexie linked to the list because his terrific YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian was ranked #31. I do enjoy lists, and figured why not check it out. So what are teens reading? The list, a result of 75,220 votes in NPR’s Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll and compiled in August 2012, has ranked J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series number 1, followed by Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.

It’s a list of classics such as The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton, and more recent offerings by Laurie Halse Anderson, Lauren Oliver and John Green plus many other popular current authors. I’m surprised to see how many classics actually make it in the top portion of this list.

Want to see what NPR says are the Top 100 Teen Reads? Check it out here as well as the 235 other finalists. Descriptions of all books are also on the site. Have some summer reading time? You may want to start here!

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Have you ever experienced periods of time in which you wanted to read … well, everything in sight? Yet at the same time, you couldn’t find exactly the book you wanted to read? It’s a special and odd kind of frustration.


Here is but one bookshelf of books all waiting to be devoured … but I can’t make a choice. These are largely from the library’s annual book sale, but a couple are purchased or from a friend, and I really do want to read every single one, but I can’t choose.

BooksToBeRead2-2But wait – there’s more! Like one of those TV infomercials in which you can get twice as many items for the same price if you’ll just order NOW, there are more books waiting to be read! Some of these are middle grade, some YA and some adult … some from my friends’ book swap … and all are calling to me as well. (And we don’t want to know, there is another small group on top of another bookcase.) Plus I’m still in the middle of another fabulous book, Paradise by Toni Morrison. So what’s with the restlessness? Are you experiencing this, too?

I’m thinking it might be the holidays – schedules are completely off for work, rest, entertainment, visiting … and distractions, wonderful as they are … are at a yearly high. Sometimes we just have too many choices. But if fabulous books that cost me little or nothing are what I have too many of, well … it sure could be worse.

Things are settling back into some semblance of a routine and the evenings have become particularly chilly. Seems like the right time to cozy up with a hot cup of cocoa and open up a good book. That and the sound of so many fabulous authors calling my name is becoming deafening.

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YA NovelHow to Save A Life by Sara Zarr is aptly titled, though it’s not quite clear whose life (or lives) will ultimately be saved nor how until the tension starts building well into the book. I really liked this novel. The story is told in first person in alternating chapters by the two main characters, Jill and Mandy. The book designer was insightful enough to use a different font for each chapter and head it with the character’s name, which made it ever so easy to always know who was speaking. (Unlike an adult book which I am reading now with 2 characters alternating, but which does not help the reader with this very simple aid.)

Jill, a senior in high school, is trying to adjust to the sudden death of her father, with whom she was most closely identified. In addition to her future plans being unclear, Jill now has to adjust to her mother, Robin, having decided to adopt a baby. Mandy is a pregnant teenage girl from Omaha, who needs to get away from an abusive home situation and who has connected with Robin online to give her baby away. Additionally, there is a love interest or two for Jill, but plenty of conflicts for all of the characters.

One of the things that is so very impressive in How to Save A Life is the absolute consistency of voice of both Mandy and Jill, and I say kudos to Sara Zarr for pulling this off so amazingly. I found the story to move along at a slow and gentle pace for quite some time, gradually revealing Jill and Mandy’s situations, feelings and conflicts. It builds quite  seamlessly to the point that could change everything, and then the pace picks up rapidly.

Mandy and Jill are as different as day and night, as are their life circumstances, but Zarr never gave me any real reason to change my mind about how I felt about them, no matter how they behaved or what choices they made. Mandy and Jill’s choices were always understandable, always forgivable, no matter how seemingly selfish, unwise or uninformed. This is the mark of a great author, to create characters we genuinely care about and with whom we can identify.

I recommend How to Save A Life to anyone who enjoys a good read and wonderful character development. For those of us who are writing, how Sara Zarr has put it all together is enlightening, as well.

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Or maybe the question really should be, can one go overboard at this book sale?

I met my friend and her daughter in the library parking lot, eager to spend time together as well as pick up a few select books. I had a very short list as I still have quite a few books from last year, and figured I’d just be quasi-aimlessly browsing. Up the aisles, down the aisles, I wasn’t seeing much of interest at all. Then all of a sudden it was like something kicked in and books I wanted were everywhere! Alas, I checked out with two big canvas bags of books.

At a $1 for hardbound and large paperbacks, $.50 for smaller paperbacks, how bad could I feel?

What you don’t see here are the 3 Twilight books I have not yet read — that’s for whenever — a replacement of a truly fabulous book, White Oleander,  I’d lent someone and may never see again, and a copy of a book I’d lent a friend which she liked so much, (and returned), I thought she might like her own copy.

What else did I get? Some new (to me) titles by authors that I love – Second Nature and The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman, And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle, Smoke Jumper by Nicholas Evans and one excellent writer I haven’t read in ages – Pandora by Anne Rice. I also picked up a couple authors I really enjoy when I want a somewhat lighter read – Body Surfing by Anita Shreve, Skinny Dip by Carl Hiassen, and a couple books by authors I’ve read and was sufficiently impressed by to want to read more, Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan and The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood. Here’s hoping their second reads are as riveting as the first!

In addition, I bought one book recommended to me by my book sale buddy, The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, and two by a lovely woman I was chatting with about some of our favorites. We each took home books recommended by the other. What better place to start up a conversation than in aisles of books! She recommended The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller and A Million Little Pieces by James Frey.

I spotted a few interesting titles and authors I’m not familiar with and believe I will like  … I Am Morgan LeFay by Nancy Springer, Witches on the Road Tonight by Sheri Holman, I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass, The Last Templar by Michael Jecks and That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. (Turns out I actually have read a book by him before, and I’m glad I got this.)

The damages? Including the 5 books not pictured, a whopping $17.25!  Overboard? I think not.

I just don’t know what to read first.

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You might think I was a fundraiser for the Hunterdon County Library, (which I am not), but I can’t help but share this wonderful annual opportunity to purchase books at ridiculously low prices! The annual Hunterdon County Library Book Sale is an event not to be missed if you like to read. And that goes for all age groups, fiction and non-fiction.

The sale is held in the National Guard Armory on Rt. 12 in Flemington, New Jersey on Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22nd. In general, hard bound books are $2 and paperbacks, $1, and both are half-price on Sunday. How can you lose? Fiction is in the main armory with a special room for children’s books, and non-fiction in a separate building just across the parking lot. In that section are lots of cookbooks, biographies, history, self-help, etc.

The only problem I see in waiting til Sunday is that last year almost all the YA novels were already gone, certainly the most desirable ones. Bring cloth grocery bags or something to collect and carry your books in while you shop. There is a room where you can “park” what you’ve gathered while you continue to peruse the titles, no charge. But be aware, people come in and buy CARTONS of books – just in case you really want something special.

Parking is free and when the armory lot is full, you can park in the County Complex, (location of the main library), and jitneys run back and forth all day long. Here is all you need to know about the book sale.

Just a note – in 2010, there were 120,000 titles to choose from … I suggest you bring more than one bag.

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Or perhaps I should say what I’ve been reading, but haven’t been blogging about. It seems there are just times when blogging about books isn’t as compelling as reading them and moving on to the next one. Here’s my book list over the last few months from the most recent back …

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli – what a wonderful, extraordinarily well-written YA novel.  Truly this book deserves to be written about at great length, (and I’m sure has been elsewhere on the web), but as this being only the second of Jerry Spinelli’s books I’ve read, I must say how impressed I am. Told in the first person by a child who only knows his name to be stop thief, the tale takes place in 1939 during the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. How the lives of everyone changed as the Jackboots settled in the city, as Jews and others were herded into the newly-created ghetto and later forced onto trains, as people slowly starved, as smugglers were hung, and friends made and lost is what the author describes. Stop thief goes through many transformations during this time, including being given a history as a gypsy to try and protect him, and observes the horrors of the Nazi occupation. Yet somehow, these horrors became an integral part of everyday life in ways I cannot imagine, and the story is seamlessly told through the eyes of this child. Milkweed is so different from The Book Thief, and seemed so much more accessible to me, for lack of a better word. I highly recommend it.

Bunnicula, The Howliday Inn and The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe (and Deborah Howe in Bunnicula only) – I had expected more of Bunnicula, the vampire bunny, but in these three consecutive middle grade mysteries, each becomes better than the previous with funny dog and cat characters trying to solve them. The best of the three for me was The Howliday Inn, as it was the most complex and the humor was getting better, too.

Great Joy – Kate DiCamillo and illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline – I picked this picture book up for the magnificent illustrations, but was disappointed in the story. And I really do enjoy DiCamillo’s writing. Something was missing for me, but the illos were fabulous.

Criss Cross by Lynne Rae Perkins – this YA novel is a Newbery winner. For me, it wasn’t as absorbing as many of the other YA novels I’ve been reading, but it was a very true-to-life depiction of  that awkward time when kids grow into adolescents. It takes place in the 60’s, and shows the growth of several young boys and girls and their relationships. Not heavy on plot, but nice – and nicely drawn –  characters.

Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman – this was unexpected as I hadn’t realized it would be a graphic novel/picture book! For some reason I had expected a YA novel like The Graveyard Book (yet to be read). However, I loved the story and the fabulous illustrations by Dave McKean, who also did Coraline, and which really make this book come alive.

Black and Blue by Anna Quindlen – a story of an abused woman, who finally reaches out to get help to save her life, taking her son with her as well. This help takes place in being given another identity and being relocated in another part of the country by a little publicized agency who specializes in helping abused women. However, Fran Benedetto cannot escape her police officer husband forever as he wants his 10 year old son back, and somewhere, in an untold story behind hers, is searching for both of them. This book is hard to put down, and recounts, through her eyes, the “accidents” that she can no longer bear nor justify to others, and her new life which almost seems normal. The abuse is harrowing and painful to read at times, and her new life is always overshadowed for the reader with the anxiety of Bobby finding her. A good read.

Heaven Eyes by David Almond – a YA novel by one of my favorite authors. Almond’s characters and plots are so uniquely his own. There is a magic threading through all of his stories which happens to resonate with something in me every time without fail. Heaven Eyes is a child who is living with an elderly man who saved her from the muck outside a deserted industrial site. Three runaways from an orphanage up the river land on the edge of the brackish mud adjacent to where she lives, and their intertwining stories unfold slowly to reveal a deeply disturbed man and a child who’s been given a history not based in reality. The three orphans are well-drawn characters in their own right with their own history, and find drama and revelation in their encounter with Heaven Eyes and Grandpa. Ultimately, they  must decide to stay in an unreal environment or hope to return to the world from which they came, bringing Heaven Eyes and her spirituality with them. A Fantastic read, (and I’m truly not doing it justice here.)

No Small Thing by Natalie Ghent – a middle-grade novel about 3 children who acquire an unwanted pony during very rough times for their family. Their mother tries to keep it together after their father walked out on them, profoundly affecting them all. It is a story in part about the responsibilities of owning a pet, but also of the children’s relationships, caring for one another and managing their lives together. Some good spots, but for me, was just OK.

The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs – from the Alpha and Omega Series. Fabulous. The first Briggs novel I read was Moon Called, and this is a storyteller whose books I cannot put down!

During this time I am reading one or more metaphysical books on an ongoing basis, but that, for another time …

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