Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Marlena by Julie Buntin

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Marlena by Julie Buntin. This book first caught my eye because I love books that explore friendships, and based on all of the glowing advance reviews, it sounds like Marlena is going to be a beautiful, powerful, and heartbreaking read. That’s a combination that I’m a sucker for, so I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on this book. It sounds like it has the potential to be one of the best debuts of 2017.


by Julie Buntin

Publication Date:  April 4, 2017

From Amazon:

An electric debut novel about love, addiction, and loss; the story of two girls and the feral year that will cost one her life, and define the other’s for decades

Everything about fifteen-year-old Cat’s new town in rural Michigan is lonely and off-kilter, until she meets her neighbor, the manic, beautiful, pill-popping Marlena. Cat, inexperienced and desperate for connection, is quickly lured into Marlena’s orbit by little more than an arched eyebrow and a shake of white-blond hair. As the two girls turn the untamed landscape of their desolate small town into a kind of playground, Cat catalogues a litany of firsts―first drink, first cigarette, first kiss―while Marlena’s habits harden and calcify. Within the year, Marlena is dead, drowned in six inches of icy water in the woods nearby. Now, decades later, when a ghost from that pivotal year surfaces unexpectedly, Cat must try to forgive herself and move on, even as the memory of Marlena keeps her tangled in the past.

Alive with an urgent, unshakable tenderness, Julie Buntin’s Marlena is an unforgettable look at the people who shape us beyond reason and the ways it might be possible to pull oneself back from the brink.

Advance Praise for Marlena:

“The gifted young writer Julie Buntin has written a novel of deep and exquisite intelligence, humor, and riveting sensitivity. A terrific debut.”–Lorrie Moore

“Julie Buntin captures that unique moment at the precipice of adulthood with emotional honesty and insight. She writes the kind of piercing, revelatory sentences you have to read to whomever is near, sentences you find yourself remembering years later.”–Jonathan Safran Foer

“Marlena is absolutely lacerating. The most accurate portrait I’ve read about angst, lust, boredom, and the blindness of youth. It isn’t merely a friendship chronicle, nor is it a profile of a doomed, beautiful girl. It’s the story of a haunting, about the ghosts that never release us and continue to define us. Julie Buntin’s command of her craft is so flawless you forget that it’s fiction. I binge-read Marlena – sick to my stomach, with equal parts fear and nostalgia- stunned that any of us made it out of our adolescence alive.” –Stephanie Danler, author of Sweetbitter

“The true magic of Julie Buntin is she writes stories that feel like your own. This gorgeous, assured debut captures the romance of young friendship, cutting deep with the finest touch.”–Julia Pierpont, author of Among the Ten Thousand Things

“Marlena slayed me. Gorgeously written, with a sense of place so perfect I didn’t even have to close my eyes to pretend I was there, this novel is rich and sensuous and beautifully conceived. Buntin writes about the all-consuming bond between teenage girls with urgency and suspense and despair. I loved every word.”–Anton DiSclafani, bestselling author of The After Party and The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls

“In Marlena, Julie Buntin revitalizes a classic story making it all her own with sensuous, vibrant prose and a narrator who feels deeply even as she feints certain painful truths about herself. In these pages I not only saw my own story, I came to understand it better. Many readers will too. This is a fierce and gorgeous debut.”Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of California

“Sensitive and smart and arrestingly beautiful, debut novelist Buntin’s tale of the friendship between two girls in the woods of Northern Michigan makes coming-of-age stories feel both urgent and new. . . .Buntin creates a world so subtle and nuanced and alive that it imprints like a memory. Devastating; as unforgettable as it is gorgeous.”–Kirkus, starred review

“A keenly observed study of teenage character. . .poignant and unforgettable”
–Publishers Weekly, starred review

“[A] vivid debut. . . .Buntin’s prose is emotional and immediate, and the interior lives she draws of young women and obsessive best friends are Ferrante-esque.” –Booklist, starred review

“I tore through this stunning debut. . . .maddening, complicated, beautiful, essential. . . .Buntin beautifully captures that time in our lives, when our reliance on our friends feels as profound as our need for water or air.”NYLON, 50 Books We Can’t Wait to Read in 2017

“A novel that’s as invigorating and devastating as an intense teenage crush, Marlena is about the people we encounter in life ― no matter how briefly ― who leave a permanent mark. Julie Buntin’s stellar debut has the emotional sophistication of only the very best coming-of-age novels, so it’s no wonder it comes with a glowing blurb from Who Will Run the Frog Hospital author Lorrie Moore.” -Vulture, 25 of the Most Exciting Book Releases for 2017

“A buzzy debut that melds psychological suspense with pure literary fiction, Marlena revolves around the death of the title character, who drowns in just a few inches of icy water as a teenager, and her friendship with the narrator, Cat. “Tell me what you can’t forget,” Cat begins, “and I’ll tell you who you are.” It’s Marlena, and what she did or didn’t do to save her friend, that Cat can never forget or escape ? a constantly expanding conundrum of responsibility, guilt, and self-loathing that novel explores” Huffington Post, 2017 Book Preview

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: My Top Ten Favorite Realistic Couples in Literature

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “All About Romance Tropes/Types — top ten favorite hate-to-love romances (from books or movies or tv), top ten favorite (or least favorite) instalove romances, favorite slow-burn romances, favorite starcrossed lovers, etc. etc. Can go so many ways with this one).”

Okay, so I actually groaned a little bit when I read this week’s topic since romance isn’t really my thing when it comes to reading. I don’t like love triangles, instalove, or basically any romantic situation that I see as a distraction from the main storyline of a book.

That said, what I do very much enjoy are realistic portrayals of relationships – the slow build from strangers to friends to lovers, or maybe even from hate at first sight to friendship to something more. I love witty banter, fights, going through tough times together and coming out stronger than ever, or maybe even a couple drifting apart and eventually finding their way back to each other. I even love reading just the evolution of an established relationship over time.  So yeah, realism is definitely my thing when it comes to romance.  So what I went with for this week’s special Valentine’s Day Top 10 edition are my Top Ten Favorite Realistic Couples in Literature.  I think each of my selections in some way embodies what I’ve just described in terms of a realistic relationship.  As you’ll see, Jane Austen’s novels figure prominently in my list as I consider her to be one of the masters of creating a realistic relationship.


* * * * *


from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

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from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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from the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

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from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

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from Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

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from Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

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from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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from Persuasion by Jane Austen

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from Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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from Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Question:  What literary couples do you find to be the most realistic?

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Fireblood by Elly Blake

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Fireblood by Elly Blake. Even though I had some issues with the first book in this series, Frostblood, I still have high expectations for Fireblood. I like that it sounds like Ruby will be further exploring that dark side we saw towards the end of the first book when she first encounters the Minax. I think that exploration of her own darker nature and all that entails will add that extra something to make Fireblood a real standout in YA Fantasy reads this year.


by Elly Blake

Publication Date:  September 12, 2017

From Amazon:

In this action-packed sequel to Frostblood, the future of Ruby’s world and a court ruled by the love of her life depends on the uncovered secrets of her past..

Against all odds, Ruby has defeated the villainous Frost King and melted his throne of ice. But the bloodthirsty Minax that was trapped inside is now haunting her kingdom and everyone she loves. The answers to its demise may lie to the south in Sudesia, the land of the Firebloods, and a country that holds the secrets to Ruby’s powers and past….

Despite warnings from her beloved Arcus, Ruby accompanies a roguish Fireblood named Kai to Sudesia, where she must master her control of fire in a series of trials to gain the trust of the suspicious Fireblood queen. Only then can she hope to access the knowledge that could defeat the rampaging Minax–which grows closer every moment. But as sparks fly in her moments alone with Kai, how can Ruby decide whom to trust? The fate of both kingdoms is now in her hands.

Praise for Frostblood, the first book in the series:

“Ruby’s a spitfire who faces her challenges with grit….”―Kirkus

“This strong debut for Blake succeeds in laying down intriguing framework for the books to come.”―Publishers Weekly

“This series opener is perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen and will delight those who love fantasy, adventure, and romance. A strong addition to any YA fantasy collection.”―School Library Journal

“With Arcus and Ruby happy at the end and a kingdom possibly restored, readers will have a contented if not surprised sigh.”―Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This enchanting and fast-paced debut lights up the page with magic, romance, and action, all of which is expertly interwoven throughout the text. Readers will be eagerly anticipating the next book in the series.”―Booklist

“With a fierce and vibrant world, richly-drawn characters, a steamy romance, and page-turning twists, Frostblood has all the elements of a great fantasy.”

Morgan Rhodes, New York Times bestselling author of the Fallen Kingdoms Series

“Compelling characters, a fascinating world, and an exhilarating story beautifully wrought in this must-read debut.”―Eve Silver, author of the Game series

“Fast-paced and brimming with magic and intrigue, Frostblood will keep you frozen in place until the last page and then leave you burning for more.”―Lori M. Lee, author of Gates of Thread and Stone

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday – Top 10 YA Reads That Would Make Excellent Musicals

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is “Top Ten Books I Wish Had (More/Less) X In Them (the original idea came from Andi who suggested top ten books I wish had more kissing which I thought could be fun but also realize it might not be everyone’s thing! Could also be top ten books I wish had more diversity in them or top ten books I wish had less violence in them or less romance focus in them or top ten books I wish had more dragons in them. IDK! Have some fun with this one!)”

I drew a serious blank on this topic no matter which way I tried to go. I gave up and sat down to watch the musical Grease for a while and then it hit me – what about great books that would be even more awesome if they were made into musicals?  I decided to focus on YA novels since that’s what I’ve been mostly reading lately, so here’s my list of 10 YA reads that I think would make excellent musicals. I can practically envision the costumes and hear the music just thinking about these titles!

Top 10 YA Reads That Would Make Excellent Musicals

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* * * * *

3. CINDER by Marissa Meyer

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4. FROSTBLOOD by J.K. by Elly Blake

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5. EVER THE HUNTED by Erin Summerill

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* * * * *

7. FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

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8. RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard

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9. ANNA & THE FRENCH KISS by Stephanie Perkins

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10. ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell

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Question:  What YA reads do you think would make excellent musicals?

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I am not at all familiar with this author, but Abraham Lincoln has always interested me as a historical figure so this book got my attention as soon as I read the synopsis.  I think it sounds fascinating and so unique, although I will admit I’m a little leery because it is on a lot of ‘Most Anticipated’ book lists already.  I had a bad run last year reading books that appeared on those kinds of lists, so fingers crossed that my experience will be much better in 2017!

Lincoln in the Bardo 

by George Saunders

Publication Date:  February 14, 2017

From Amazon:

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented.

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo
 is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

Praise for George Saunders

“No one writes more powerfully than George Saunders about the lost, the unlucky, the disenfranchised.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

“Saunders makes you feel as though you are reading fiction for the first time.”—Khaled Hosseini

“Few people cut as hard or deep as Saunders does.”—Junot Díaz

“George Saunders is a complete original. There is no one better, no one more essential to our national sense of self and sanity.”—Dave Eggers

“Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny.”—Zadie Smith

“There is no one like him. He is an original—but everyone knows that.”—Lorrie Moore

“George Saunders makes the all-but-impossible look effortless. We’re lucky to have him.”—Jonathan Franzen

“An astoundingly tuned voice—graceful, dark, authentic, and funny—telling just the kinds of stories we need to get us through these times.”—Thomas Pynchon

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

My Top Ten Favorite Book to Movie Adaptations

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a All about the Visuals: Top Ten Favorite Graphic Novels/Comics or Ten Comics on My TBR or Top Ten Favorite Picture Books.

This topic was challenging for me as I don’t read graphic novels, picture books, or comics.  Instead of skipping this week’s post altogether, I decided to go a bit rogue and do my favorite book to movie adaptations.  I don’t know if movies technically count as visuals in the way the prompt intended, but I’m going to pretend they do to suit my purpose.  🙂  Plus, all of these movies are amazing and everyone should watch them anyway! In some instances below, I even prefer the movie to the book and that’s saying something because it’s a rare thing for me to prefer a movie to a book. And I know number 10 is technically a miniseries and not a movie, but it’s just too glorious not to include.

My Top Ten Favorite Book to Movie Adaptations

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1. THE PRINCESS BRIDE by William Goldman

Image Source: princessbrideforever.com

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2. THE BFG by Roald Dahl

Image Credit: movieweb.com/

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Image Credit: thetimesco.uk

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Image Credit: mirror.co.uk

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Image Credit: hollywoodreporter.com

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6. THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker

Image Credit: screenshotworld.blogspot.com/

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7. DEAD POETS SOCIETY by N.H. Kleinbaum

Image Credit: creofire.com

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Image Credit: denofgeek.com

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9. HIDDEN FIGURES by Margot Lee Shetterly

Image Credit: cinemablend.com

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10. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen

Image Credit: frockflicks.com

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Question:  What are your favorite book to movie adaptations?

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is A Conjuring of Light by V E. Schwab.  I just finished reading the second book in this series last week and after that super intense cliffhanger ending, I’m just dying to get my hands on the final book. I’m sorry to see the series come to a conclusion but I just know with the incredible job V. E. Schwab has done with the first two books that this series finale is going to be one of my favorite 2017 reads!

A Conjuring of Light

by V. E. Schwab

Publication Date:  February 21, 2017

From Amazon:

The battle between four magical Londons comes to a head in this stunning finale to the New York Times bestselling Shades of Magic trilogy by rising star V. E. Schwab.

London’s fall and kingdoms rise while darkness sweeps the Maresh Empire—and the fraught balance of magic blossoms into dangerous territory while heroes and foes struggle alike. The direct sequel to A Gathering of Shadows, and the final book in the Shades of Magic epic fantasy series, A Conjuring of Light sees Schwab reach a thrilling culmination concerning the fate of beloved protagonists—and old enemies.

Praise for the Shades of Magic Series

“Fans of A Darker Shade of Magic will love its sequel, and fantasy fans who haven’t yet read the first book in this series should hurry to catch up.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Full of magic, intrigue, adventure, deception, a bit of piracy…this will engage both adult and young adult fantasy readers alike.”–Booklist

Praise for A Darker Shade of Magic
“Compulsively readable…her characters make the book.”–NPR

“[This has] all the hallmarks of a classic work of fantasy. Its plot is gripping. Its characters are memorable. [Its setting] is otherworldly yet believable. Schwab has given us a gem of a tale…This is a book to treasure.”–Deborah Harkness, New York Times bestselling author of The All Souls trilogy

“Inventive fantasy…One for Neil Gaiman fans.”―The Guardian

Feels like a priceless object, brought from another, better world of fantasy books. Schwab’s writing is engaging and vivid…kept me engrossed by its story every bit as much as I was fascinated by its complex, multilayered world. ―io9.com on A Darker Shade of Magic

London’s appeal for Schwab seems to be its changeability, the way it can shift shades, from familiar to recognizable to weird to utterly alien. But for her, even the familiar has seeds of horror in it, grime and gloom and the weight of the past…It’s a multiple split-screen adventure, with an engaging hero/heroine pair at its center. ―The Wall Street Journal on A Darker Shade of Magic

Compulsively readable…her characters make the book. Just as Kell has layers, Lila is a satisfyingly rich invention…the stakes feel higher because Schwab takes the time to make a world worth getting lost in. Darker Shade Of Magic resolves its plot thoroughly, but still feels like it could be the seed of a lengthy series. With so many worlds on the map, there’s plenty left to discover. ―NPR on A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic is as twisty-turny, dark, and gorgeous as the (multiple) Londons it winds through–I loved it! ―Steven Brust, author of the New York Times bestselling Vlad series

A Darker Shade of Magic is smart, funny and sexy … and Schwab keeps the excitement coming with roller-coaster plot twists that establish her as, perhaps, the natural successor to Diana Wynne Jones’s contemporary fantasy crown. ―The Independent (UK)

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Top 10 Literary Characters I Would Want to Have in my Squad

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is a FREEBIE so I decided to do a top ten list that I think about every time I come across a cool character while I’m reading:  If I were to choose 10 literary characters to be my best friends, who would I choose?

What qualities do I look for in best friends anyway?  I’d say these qualities are probably at the top of my list:  loyalty, intelligence – can be book smart or street smart, someone who has a sense of humor and a sense of adventure, and who is passionate about causes that are important to them, and who can also be a bit on the sassy side and give me a kick in the pants if I need it.   In my mind, the characters I’ve selected embody most – if not all – of those qualities and I’d be thrilled for any of them to be a member of my squad.

Ten Literary Characters I Would Want to Have in my Squad

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1. HERMIONE GRANGER from the Harry Potter series

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2. DELILAH BARD from the Shades of Magic series

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3. ELIZABETH BENNETT from Pride and Prejudice

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4. FARLEY from the Red Queen series

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5. MINNIE JACKSON from The Help

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6. STEPHANIE PLUM from the Stephanie Plum series

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7. ARYA STARK from A Song of Fire and Ice series

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8. REAGAN from Fangirl

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9. BEATRICE from Much Ado About Nothing

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10. JO MARCH from Little Women

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Question:  What literary characters would you want to have on your squad?

Waiting on Wednesday – Spotlight on Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is Rebels Like Us by Liz Reinhardt.  I’m intrigued by this book because although it sounds like on the surface it’s going to be a contemporary romance, it still tackles some very serious and relevant issues to give the story more weight.

Rebels Like Us

by Liz Reinhardt

Publication Date:  February 28, 2017

From Amazon:

“It’s not like I never thought about being mixed race. I guess it was just that, in Brooklyn, everyone was competing to be exotic or surprising. By comparison, I was boring, seriously. Really boring.”

Culture shock knocks city girl Agnes “Nes” Murphy-Pujols off-kilter when she’s transplanted mid–senior year from Brooklyn to a small Southern town after her mother’s relationship with a coworker self-destructs. On top of the move, Nes is nursing a broken heart and severe homesickness, so her plan is simple: keep her head down, graduate and get out. Too bad that flies out the window on day one, when she opens her smart mouth and pits herself against the school’s reigning belle and the principal.

Her rebellious streak attracts the attention of local golden boy Doyle Rahn, who teaches Nes the ropes at Ebenezer. As her friendship with Doyle sizzles into something more, Nes discovers the town she’s learning to like has an insidious undercurrent of racism. The color of her skin was never something she thought about in Brooklyn, but after a frightening traffic stop on an isolated road, Nes starts to see signs everywhere—including at her own high school where, she learns, they hold proms. Two of them. One black, one white.

Nes and Doyle band together with a ragtag team of classmates to plan an alternate prom. But when a lit cross is left burning in Nes’s yard, the alterna-prommers realize that bucking tradition comes at a price. Maybe, though, that makes taking a stand more important than anything.

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂

Ten Underrated Books Every Book Lover Should Read

top ten tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a fun weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Ten Underrated/Hidden Gem Books I’ve Read In The Past Year Or So (up to you if you want it to be those published in the past year or so or just ANY underrated book you’ve read recently).

I think nearly all of the books I read last year have ended up being extremely popular so I decided to tweak this week’s topic a bit to make it a better fit for me.  I chose to spotlight books that even though they probably have a fair number of reviews on Goodreads, they still live in the shadows of their more famous counterparts.  I’ve structured my list, therefore, as a kind of “If you like this book by this author, here’s another lesser known title you should take a look at because it’s just as fabulous.”

Ten Underrated Books Every Book Lover Should Read

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1. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

(If you liked The Great Gatsby, read this.)

Everyone has heard of, and most have read Fitzgerald’s most famous work The Great Gatsby, but Tender is the Night is actually my favorite of his works.  I remember not fully appreciating Gatsby the first time I read it as a sophomore in high school, but then I happened to pick up this book. I loved it so much that I ended up going back to Gatsby and giving it another go, falling in love with it the second time around.

Goodsreads Synopsis:
  Set on the French Riviera in the late 1920s, Tender Is the Night is the tragic romance of the young actress Rosemary Hoyt and the stylish American couple Dick and Nicole Diver. A brilliant young psychiatrist at the time of his marriage, Dick is both husband and doctor to Nicole, whose wealth goads him into a lifestyle not his own, and whose growing strength highlights Dick’s harrowing demise. A profound study of the romantic concept of character, Tender Is the Night is lyrical, expansive, and hauntingly evocative.  (Read more…)

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2. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

(If you liked Beloved, read this.)

As powerful of a read as Beloved is, it was reading this book in graduate school that took me from liking Toni Morrison’s writings to absolutely loving them.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Milkman Dead was born shortly after a neighborhood eccentric hurled himself off a rooftop in a vain attempt at flight. For the rest of his life he, too, will be trying to fly. With this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison transfigures the coming-of-age story as audaciously as Saul Bellow or Gabriel García Márquez. As she follows Milkman from his rustbelt city to the place of his family’s origins, Morrison introduces an entire cast of strivers and seeresses, liars and assassins, the inhabitants of a fully realized black world.  (Read more…)

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3. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

(If you loved The Handmaid’s Tale, read this.)

This read is every bit as enthralling as its more famous counterpart, The Handmaid’s Tale.

Goodreads Synopsis:   In Alias Grace, bestselling author Margaret Atwood has written her most captivating, disturbing, and ultimately satisfying work since The Handmaid’s Tale. She takes us back in time and into the life of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the nineteenth century.

Grace Marks has been convicted for her involvement in the vicious murders of her employer, Thomas Kinnear, and Nancy Montgomery, his housekeeper and mistress. Some believe Grace is innocent; others think her evil or insane. Now serving a life sentence, Grace claims to have no memory of the murders.

Dr. Simon Jordan, an up-and-coming expert in the burgeoning field of mental illness, is engaged by a group of reformers and spiritualists who seek a pardon for Grace. He listens to her story while bringing her closer and closer to the day she cannot remember. What will he find in attempting to unlock her memories? Is Grace a female fiend? A bloodthirsty femme fatale? Or is she the victim of circumstances?   (Read more…)

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4. Wild Seed by Octavia E. Butler

(If you loved Kindred, read this.)

A truly fascinating read. Can’t believe it has less than 10,000 reviews on Goodreads…

Goodreads Synopsis:  Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex or design. He fears no one until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss and savage anyone who threatens her. She fears no one until she meets Doro. Together they weave a pattern of destiny (from Africa to the New World) unimaginable to mortals.   (Read more…)

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5. The Invisible Circus by Jennifer Egan

(If you liked A Visit from the Goon Squad, read this.)

I actually enjoyed Egan’s debut novel much more than I liked the more famous A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Goodreads Synopsis: In Jennifer Egan’s highly acclaimed first novel, set in 1978, the political drama and familial tensions of the 1960s form a backdrop for the world of Phoebe O’Connor, age eighteen. Phoebe is obsessed with the memory and death of her sister Faith, a beautiful idealistic hippie who died in Italy in 1970. In order to find out the truth about Faith’s life and death, Phoebe retraces her steps from San Francisco across Europe, a quest which yields both complex and disturbing revelations about family, love, and Faith’s lost generation. This spellbinding novel introduced Egan’s remarkable ability to tie suspense with deeply insightful characters and the nuances of emotion. (Read more…)

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6. Arcadia by Lauren Groff

(If you liked Fates and Furies, read this.)

I couldn’t put Fates and Furies down, and my reading experience was exactly the same with her earlier work, Arcadia.  Just beautiful writing.

Goodreads Synopsis:  In the fields and forests of western New York State in the late 1960s, several dozen idealists set out to live off the land, founding what becomes a famous commune centered on the grounds of a decaying mansion called Arcadia House. Arcadia follows this lyrical, rollicking, tragic, and exquisite utopian dream from its hopeful start through its heyday and after. The story is told from the point of view of Bit, a fascinating character and the first child born in Arcadia.  (Read more…)

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7. Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

(If you like The Shining or honestly any of his dozens of bestsellers, read this.)

I’m not big into Stephen King, mainly because I’m a chicken and don’t enjoy reading horror stories.  This book is pretty fascinating though — a love story Stephen King-style.

Goodreads Synopsis:  Lisey Debusher Landon lost her husband, Scott, two years ago, after a twenty-five-year marriage of the most profound and sometimes frightening intimacy. Scott was an award-winning, bestselling novelist and a very complicated man. Early in their relationship, before they married, Lisey had to learn from him about books and blood and bools. Later, she understood that there was a place Scott went- a place that both terrified and healed him, that could eat him alive or give him the ideas he needed in order to live. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to go to Boo’ya Moon. What begins as a widow’s effort to sort through the papers of her celebrated husband becomes a nearly fatal journey into the darkness he inhabited. Perhaps King’s most personal and powerful novel, Lisey’s Story is about the wellsprings of creativity, the temptations of madness, and the secret language of love.  (Read more…)

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8. The Inheritors by William Golding

(If you liked Lord of the Flies, read this.)

If not for graduate school, I probably never would have read this book, but OMG, what a shocking and unexpected ride it is.

Goodsreads Synopsis:  When the spring came the people – what was left of them – moved back by the old paths from the sea. But this year strange things were happening, terrifying things that had never happened before. Inexplicable sounds and smells; new, unimaginable creatures half glimpsed through the leaves. What the people didn’t, and perhaps never would, know, was that the day of their people was already over.

From the author of Lord of the Flies, The Inheritors is a startling recreation of the lost world of the Neanderthals, and a frightening vision of the beginning of a new age.  (Read more…)

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9. Home Front by Kristin Hannah

(If you loved The Nightingale, read this.)

I devoured The Nightingale in about a day and now I’m finding that all of Kristin Hannah’s books are equally compelling.  Go try any of them – well, all of them really!

Goodreads Synopsis:  Like many couples, Michael and Jolene Zarkades have to face the pressures of everyday life–children, careers, bills, chores–even as their twelve-year marriage is falling apart. Then an unexpected deployment sends Jolene deep into harm’s way and leaves defense attorney Michael at home, unaccustomed to being a single parent to their two girls. As a mother, it agonizes Jolene to leave her family, but as a soldier she has always understood the true meaning of duty. In her letters home, she paints a rose-colored version of her life on the front lines, shielding her family from the truth. But war will change Jolene in ways that none of them could have foreseen. When tragedy strikes, Michael must face his darkest fear and fight a battle of his own–for everything that matters to his family.

At once a profoundly honest look at modern marriage and a dramatic exploration of the toll war takes on an ordinary American family, Home Front is a story of love, loss, heroism, honor, and ultimately, hope.  (Read more…)

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10. Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou

(If you loved I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, read this.)

I think everyone should read everything Maya Angelou has ever written.  She just had a way with words that I don’t think anyone else comes close to.

Goodreads Synopsis:  The story of Maya Angelou’s extraordinary life has been chronicled in her multiple bestselling autobiographies. But now, at last, the legendary author shares the deepest personal story of her life: her relationship with her mother.

For the first time, Angelou reveals the triumphs and struggles of being the daughter of Vivian Baxter, an indomitable spirit whose petite size belied her larger-than-life presence—a presence absent during much of Angelou’s early life. When her marriage began to crumble, Vivian famously sent three-year-old Maya and her older brother away from their California home to live with their grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas. The subsequent feelings of abandonment stayed with Angelou for years, but their reunion, a decade later, began a story that has never before been told. In Mom & Me & Mom, Angelou dramatizes her years reconciling with the mother she preferred to simply call “Lady,” revealing the profound moments that shifted the balance of love and respect between them.

Delving into one of her life’s most rich, rewarding, and fraught relationships, Mom & Me & Mom explores the healing and love that evolved between the two women over the course of their lives, the love that fostered Maya Angelou’s rise from immeasurable depths to reach impossible heights.  (Read more…)

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Question:  What do you consider to be some of the most underrated books out there?  Have you read any of these?