FAQ #1: Childhood Books

This month, I’m answering frequently asked questions.

Here’s the first:

What’s the one book that pops into your mind first when you think of books you read when you were young? What do you remember most about that book?

One book? No way. It has to be a three-way tie: Blue Willow, by Doris Gates, the story of a migrant girl who longs for a permanent home;  Cotton in My Sack, Lois Lenski, about migrant pickers in the cotton fields; and Strawberry Girl, also by Lois Lenski, wherein a family moves to Florida to start a strawberry farm

Blue Willow, Cotton in My Sack, Strawberry Girl

I remember these books to this day. They opened my eyes to another world: other times, other places, and other lives. I could see beyond the boundaries of my own experiences and relate to characters much different from me. Apparently my family, my neighborhood, my problems, were not the only way of life. At ten, that blew me away! And each book is a coming of age story concerned with the search for home, topics that I seem to write about over and over myself.

A list of fantasy books, part two

SeraphinaAs part of my list of favorite fantasy novels, I offer Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. A gifted musician, Seraphina is also part dragon. Intriguing story with great characters and the wonderful image of her silver scales. Beautifully written.

Here’s Rachel Hartman’s website, where you can learn more about this book and her newest, Shadow Scale.

So many books, so little time

I have been reading a lot lately since I don’t have a new book in the hopper and here are my favorites from the first half of this year.

Thanks to the generosity of the publishers, I read these first three in advanced readers copies:

Recommended books

Circling the Sun (adult), Paula McLain, Ballantine Books, July 28, 2015: an engrossing novel about Beryl Markham, aviator and lover of Denys Finch Hatton, who was the lover of Karen Blixen, who was Isak Dinesen. Fascinating.

The Hired Girl, Laura Amy Schlitz (MG), Candlewick,September 8, 2015: diary of a girl in 1911 who runs away to find a new, better life for herself. I got swept up in Joan’s search for adventure, meaning, and a promising future and finished the book in a day.

These Shallow Graves (YA), Jennifer Donnelly, Random House, October 27, 2015: mystery set in 19th century New York about love, lies, and dark secrets. How much is Jo Montfort willing to risk to find answers?

A Prince to Be Feared by Mary Lancaster, Amazon Digital, has been out since 2013 and how did I miss it until now? Vlad Dracula, Prince of Wallachia, the Lord Impaler, as a romantic hero? Yes! A Dracula story with plenty of love, war, revenge, and intrigue but no vampires? Yes! I climbed into the book and stayed there, alternately touched and frightened and angry, for days. I recommend it.

My favorite books of 2014

It’s award season and best of 2014 season, and so I am weighing in. Here are my favorite books of the past year. No money, no gold statue, just my sincere thanks for hours of reading joy.

five books

Nest. Middle-grade fiction by Esther Ehrlich. Set on Cape Cod in 1972, Chirp survives a difficult year through the healing power of family, the natural world, and her growing friendship with the irresistible Joey. Nest is real, touching, true, and wise.

All the Bright Places. YA fiction by Jennifer Niven. This beautifully written book allows us into the worlds of the smart, dark Violet and the boy who teaches her to live while he plans to die. A gorgeous book with fascinating characters.

Tiger Queens. Historical fiction by Stephanie Thornton. Lengthy, detailed saga of the women who supported Genghis Khan and strengthened his kingdom.  I was immersed in his world for days and loved it.

The Goblin Emperor. Fantasy by Katherine Addison. After a tragedy strikes, the half-goblin youngest son of an emperor has to learn whom to trust, how to rule, and how to survive, in a hurry. I loved the world building and Maia, the goblin emperor, who is much smarter and more lovable than he thinks he is.

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. Fiction by Christopher Scotton. A boy grows in courage, understanding, and forgiveness during a summer he spends in a small Kentucky coal town with his grieving mother and beloved grandfather. The end is riveting and life affirming but I hated to see the book end.

Thanks: readypaydayloan.com

My Bedside Table

Bedside TableI thought you might like to see what I’ve been reading (when I should be writing): 

Mrs. Hemingway (Naomi Wood, Penguin): Insightful fictional look at Ernest Hemingway’s four wives. There’s a lot to admire in the women but I still don’t get Hemingway’s appeal. 

The Bear (Claire Cameron, Little, Brown): Two children must find their way out of the wilderness after their parents are eaten (really!) by a bear. I can’t say I enjoyed it—so violent and tragic—but I can’t forget it either. Not for children or the faint of heart. 

Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Nancy Horan, Ballantine): Fanny Osborne meets and marries Robert Louis Stevenson. The novel follows the couple as they travel the world, Louis writing and Fanny nursing him. I found it engaging. 

The Invention of Wings (Sue Monk Kidd, Viking): 19th century abolitionist Sarah Grimke struggles against her upbringing, her family, and other abolitionists as she insists also on rights for women. It’s a lovely, moving book and I enjoyed it wholeheartedly. 

I lucked out—all four were excellent and worth reading. Watch for them. Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for advance reading copies.