Audrey’s Book Club

Hello Fellow Book Lovers!

I was so torn this week about whether I wanted to do my Book Club post about a specific book or do another Top 10 List (I was leaning towards my Top 10 Books for Preschoolers) and then I picked-up The Hoarders by Jean Stringham and I knew I had to share this book with you.

51baVnXEPPL[1] The Hoarders is the story of two young boys who do not have a stable home life. It is told from the viewpoint of Cheyenne, the older brother, as he explains all the details leading up to their current predicament. I loved how up close and personal the reader feels to Cheyenne and his family. I’m sure many of us remember being talked over as a child and it’s no different for Cheyenne; he experiences situations where adults are deciding his life without his input and often failing him as caretakers. What helps Cheyenne deal with these difficult situations with an amazing resiliency is that he is a great observer of adults. He learns to control what he can like keeping a hoard of food hidden in his backpack at all times. The story is often heart-breaking, but not only does it teach us as adults (or young adults) the importance of how our actions affect the young people in our lives, it teaches us about what is really important and how blessed many of us are. I hope you will pick this book up and give it a read.

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Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

Top Ten Middle Grade Books

(In no particular order)

I thought it would be fun to make a list of some of my favorite middle grade books. That’s right. Not only do I read YA, I read MG. And I love it. Truth is I believe that a good story is a good story, no matter how long it is or the age of the protagonist. Here are some of my favorites that I believe are stories worth reading no matter your age:

1. A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

2. Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

3. Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

4. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (See my post here)

5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

6. The Giver by Lois Lowry

7. The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

8. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (See Julie’s post here)

9. Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder

10. Blue Heron by Avi

Please let me know what you think or if there are any other MG books on your top ten list!

Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

Author Interview: Aaron Michael Ritchey

& Review of Long Live the Suicide King

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Long Live the Suicide King by Aaron Michael Ritchey (summary from Amazon.com):

Seventeen-year-old Jim JD Dillinger knows exactly how his miserable suburban life is going to play out. At least drugs added a little chaos to his life, but after almost losing his soul, JD knows he has to quit. Now clean, he figures he has another sixty years of plain old boring life followed by a nasty death. JD decides to pre-empt God by killing himself. However, once he decides to die, his life gets better, more interesting, and then downright strange. New friends. Possible romance. And donuts. Lots of donuts. Once the end is in sight, every minute becomes precious.

My thoughts:

First of all, I’m so excited to have had the opportunity to interview Aaron. We met a couple of years ago at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. Aaron had just released The Never Prayer, a YA paranormal romance with angels and demons and a girl who isn’t sure which is which, and I had just started writing a YA paranormal romance with angels and djinn (which I might actually finish someday). I thought The Never Prayer was well written and an emotionally compelling story (yes, I cried), so when Aaron released his new book I had to read it.

Ok, not going to lie – I cried during Long Live the Suicide King too. Aaron’s sophomore novel is filled with amazing side-kick characters, like Ingalora Blute and 1066, and I really loved how funny JD is, even in all his suicidal angst. It’s very well written and is an original story with a couple of unexpected twists. There is a lot of heart in this book, which is what keeps you going when it gets dark. As you may have guessed, there’s a lot of talk about suicide in the book. There’s some conversation these days about how we need diverse books especially in MG and YA (check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks) and hopefully that conversation will get bigger and bigger. And the diversity goes beyond gender, race, and religion, to sexual orientation, disabilities, and illnesses. Every book can’t be about mean girls and crushes. If you have ever had suicidal thoughts, a friend with suicidal thoughts, or lost a loved one to suicide (or yes to all three like me), this can be a difficult read. In the end, it’s the truths in the book that make it a fulfilling read.

So without further ado, my interview with Aaron:

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Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

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Just so you know, Anne has a great taste in books. Occasionally, she has great tastes in other things, but I’ll save that for another post. Anywho, a million years ago she gave me a stack of books that I’m just getting around to reading. I had to stop after reading Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor because it was so good I didn’t want to read anything that would distract me from how good this book is. It’s like jumping-up-and-down-while-hugging-the-book good.

Lips Touch: Three Times is a novella collection (Goblin Fruit, Spicy Little Curses Such as These, Hatchling) and features beautiful illustrations by Jim Di Bartolo for each story.

Summary from Amazon:

A National Book Award Finalist, now in paperback!

Everyone dreams of getting the kiss of a lifetime… but what if that kiss carried some unexpected consequences? A girl who’s always been in the shadows finds herself pursued by the unbelievably attractive new boy at school, who may or may not be the death of her. Another girl grows up mute because of a curse placed on her by a vindictive spirit, and later must decide whether to utter her first words to the boy she loves and risk killing everyone who hears her if the curse is real. And a third girl discovers that the real reason for her transient life with her mother has to do with belonging — literally belonging — to anther world entirely, full of dreaded creatures who can transform into animals, and whose queen keeps little girls as personal pets until they grow to child-bearing age.

From a writer of unparalleled imagination and emotional insight, three stories about the deliciousness of wanting and waiting for that moment when lips touch.

My Thoughts:

From the opening lines of Goblin Fruit, “There is a certain kind of girl the goblins crave. You could walk across a high school campus and point them out: not her, her,” I knew Laini Taylor was my brand of storyteller. The stories are original, the characters are real, and (you might have guessed this) there is kissing. There is something fun about the language and the pacing is perfection. My favorite is Spicy Little Curses Such as These because I love Anamique’s struggle. Is her curse real? Who should she believe? Anne’s favorite is Hatchling because “her writing is lush and her imagery is like watching a movie. Secondly, she takes Zoroastrianism and flips it into this unique and beautiful fantasy.” Totes.

If you haven’t read this, then you should. If you have read it, let me know what you thought. And if you have a friend who loans you the best books ever, give them a hug.

Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

images[1]For Book Club this month, I decided to reread a favorite from my childhood. It was a totally dangerous prospect. I mean, what if it I didn’t like it? If it was just a book I vaguely recalled liking the one time I read it a million years ago and it wasn’t so great, I could have brushed it off. However, I decided to be very brave and reread Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a book that I loved, loved, loved, and read many times as I was growing up (not to mention being slightly obsessed with the TV show Road to Avonlea). If it had been bad, I would have been devastated to my very core. Luckily, it was just as I remembered: perfect!

Anne of Green Gables is the story of Anne Shirley, an orphan who is sent to aging siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake. They had sent for a boy to help with the farm (it was written in 1908, so the viewpoints on orphans aren’t really pc). Charmed by her unchildlike speeches and abounding imagination, they decide to keep her and bring her up. This novel follows Anne from ages 11-16 (Montgomery wrote 7 other Anne novels that continue her story as she grows-up, marries, and has children). Anne manages to get into trouble a lot, but she is also always striving to do better.

What do I love about this book? So many things. The descriptive language is beautiful and really transports you to Avonlea and Price Edward Island. The Lake of Shining Waters, Lover’s Lane, Birch Path, and Haunted Wood are easy to imagine just as Anne perceived them. The stories were originally published weekly in a Sunday school paper, so the pacing is interesting (in that the chapters feel complete but you want to keep reading just to know what Anne thinks up next) and well done. Anne is a great character. She’s funny, mischievous, truthful. I wanted to be just like her (probably why I spent so many years with red hair). She loves reading and making up tales with her story club. Anne dreams big but accepts life’s challenges.

I want to say so many other things about the book, but it would spoil it. And I don’t want to spoil it. I want you to read it. I want you to give a copy to every little girl you know. This was a series children grew-up with before we were swept away by the wizarding world or into a dystopian disaster. A story Mark Twain called, “the sweetest creation of child life yet written.” And it is.

Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

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“With unreliable memories and scraps of photographs as his only clues, Conor Lyons follows in the tracks of his father, a rootless photographer, as he moved from war-torn Spain, to the barren plains of Mexico, where he met and married Conor’s mother, to the American West, and finally back to Ireland, where the marriage and the story reach their heartrending climax.  As the narratives of Conor’s quest and his parents’ lives twine and untwine, Collum McCann creates a mesmerizing evocation of the gulf between memory and imagination, love and loss, past and present.” ~ From amazon.com

I love this book. My dad gave it to me years ago and I can’t say how many times of I have read it. There are so many things I find intriguing about it. First of all, the language is amazing. I seriously started a list of good words (because I tend to over use words like “really” and “amazing” and have never once used “fulcrum” in anything ever). The writing is super descriptive and transports the reader back and forth across the globe as Conor remembers his parent’s stories and interweaves them with his own. Mr. McCann probably goes a bit overboard sometimes and you may need to download the dictionary.com app, but I think all the lovely words are part of the beauty of this book.

I also love the grittiness of the story. When I read it first as a young (and slightly sheltered) girl, I felt like I was reading something I shouldn’t be. It was a peek into a grown-up world I was just entering. As an adult, I notice the emotions of the characters a lot more and find the story even more captivating because of it. I appreciate the McCann isn’t afraid to take the story to dark places. And somehow, amid all the horrible and tragic bits of life, he manages to show the good things too. Truly beautiful.

Audrey’s Cimmerian Tales Book Club

200px-The_Russian_Concubine_(Kate_Furnivall_novel)_cover_art[1]“A sweeping epic and stunning debut, this novel brings to life the war-torn China of the 1920s. On opposite sides of a political and social divide, an exiled Russian girl and a Chinese Communist boy find love; a mother must face what she would rather forget; and an idealist realizes his greatest enemies might be his own kind…” ~ From the jacket copy of The Russian Concubine

I love novels that transport me to a new time and place I know almost nothing about. The Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall is one such book. Lydia Ivanova fled Russia with her mother, Valentina, during the Bolshevik Revolution and they now live in the International Settlement in Junchow, China. Without passports or prospects, Lydia and her mother struggle to survive. Set against the backdrop of a community on the cusp of its own revolution, in a city where cultures are colliding, Lydia meets and falls in love with Chang An Lo, a young Communist. They face dangers and from the Black Snake Triad, Chiang Kai-shek’s army, and the British government, as well as the censure of their peers. Can their love survive?

For me, this novel takes place in a unique moment in history and was not one I had read before. Ms. Furnivall does an amazing job sucking you into the setting of her story. She brings to life the sights, sounds, and smells seamlessly within the story. Because her mother lived as a White Russian refugee in China, I’m sure she had a personal connection to the story which lends a life and brilliancy to the tale. There is also a really good balance of adventure and romance. This book definitely earned a place on my bookshelf (along with the sequel A Girl From Junchow).

So in between Olympic events, give this book a read and let me know what you think!