A few weeks ago Beth Kephart had a problem. Even with Netgalley and ARC mailings and BEA her book was in danger of getting a smaller printing than originally had been thought due to the lack of buzz. All of us who had read You Are My Only, were in love with the novel. Beth has a knack for writing love and hope into painful situations and I am so grateful that Amy brought Beth to my attention with her The Heart is Not a Size.
We emailed every blogger we knew that might enjoy Beth’s latest release, letting them know it was on Netgalley and they could use it for WoW posts. Excitement grew as did reviews and postings.
Colleen Modor from Chasing Ray helped with her blog, Bookslut column and Kirkus. Thank you Colleen.
Beth herself set up a scavenger hunt for her guest posts. We had a plan and we executed it.
A few days ago, Beth posted this on her Facebook page:
You Are My Only has gone back on press for a second printing, eleven days before it is due out in stores. You want to know if bloggers have an impact? You want to know if your work is valued? Don’t ask anymore.
So this is me, saying thank you, to every blogger who helped, who posted a WoW, reviewed, tweeted, Facebooked their Mum and everything else you did.
Together we can make a huge difference.
If you’ve been following these blog posts, then you understand already that I don’t write my books in some preordained sequential fashion. I don’t outline a plot; I don’t consult the trends; I don’t go with the fashions. I write about what will not let me sleep, and over time, and through countless drafts, the separate aspects of my obsessions knit themselves into a story.
One of the things that was keeping me awake at night while I was working on this book was the stories I kept reading about urban explorers—those fascinating souls who explore abandoned buildings, often illegally, and create entire underworlds within them. For many years, a northeast Philadelphia asylum known to many as Byberry was a favorite haunting ground for these folks. This gigantic structure had been left to rot after being shut down in the 1990s, and the urban explorers (or “cavers” as they are sometimes known) had taken over—held rave parties there, ridden their motorcycles through connective tunnels, dug through the patient records and film reels and all the wild and disturbing “stuff” that had been so haphazardly left behind.
I was fascinated by this (and, truth be told, a little afraid). I kept studying web sites and archival footage, reading about Byberry both in its heyday and in its awful middle years and during its ignoble end. I would talk to people who had known people who had gone there. Talk to those who lived in the Byberry neighborhood (to which the so-called “Byberrians” would often escape). Read fragments from Byberry newsletters or social servant types. And wonder, What would it have been like to be committed against one’s will in an institution like Byberry?
An early version of this novel (the adult version) contained a social history of this place. To make You Are My Only work, I took most of that out. But I share with you here a fragment from some early writing that captures the Byberry that obsessed me:
They closed the asylum for good in 1990. They closed it because of what it had been, because of the names that had described it. Medieval pesthouse. Snake pit. Fire trap. Concentration camp. Sophie had heard them all. She had seen the photographs in the daily papers, had read the stories. About the boy in leather constraints—strapped, never not strapped, to a chair. About the old man frozen to death beneath the beech tree in winter. About the drowning of patients—successive, awful—in the river and the creek. About the drifters caught in the bald, blind spot of the too-wide boulevard into which they’d crossed, having wandered free of the place that was paid to protect them. There were instructions on asylum recreation, signs that read, Smoking Times: Two every two hours, one after every meal. There were reports: They lean through windows. There was proof, over and again, of the mildly unsettled being rendered irretrievably insane by virtue of maltreatment.
Cracks in the roofs, the glass, the tiles. Azalea bushes yanked out by their roots. Rolling hills gone to the wild tuft of weeds. Through the neighborhoods the dwindled patients had wandered. Into backyard barbecues they had walked. There was one, a romantic, who’d slipped the noose in spring and trundled through the streets, stripping tulips of their petals. She returned to the asylum with her cotton pockets full, singing the one song she remembered. There was just one song.
Everyone had stories. Everyone understood. The patients never disappeared. They vapored up, like ghosts. If you waited, passive, you could see them infiltrating. If you did nothing but fear you’d be subsumed. There was no one to call; there was nothing for it; there were no fences, no gates that could thwart, preclude, avert them. You were either the hunted or the hunter. Victim or assailant. Those who lived alone or with doubt, alone or with guilt, alone and self-recriminating were keenly vulnerable. They only had themselves with which to fight the figments.
Beth is hosting a scavenger hunt in preparation for her latest release which I loved so much. I hope you join. You can leave your thoughts here and I am sure Beth will read them.
From Hicklebee’s: Emmy Rane is married at nineteen, a mother by twenty. Trapped in a life with a husband she no longer loves, Baby is her only joy. Then one sunny day in September, Emmy takes a few fateful steps away from her baby and returns to find her missing. All that is left behind is a yellow sock.
Fourteen years later, Sophie, a homeschooled, reclusive teenage girl is forced to move frequently and abruptly from place to place, perpetually running from what her mother calls the “No Good.” One afternoon, Sophie breaks the rules, ventures out, and meets Joey and his two aunts. It is this loving family that gives Sophie the courage to look into her past. What she discovers changes her world forever. . . .
The riveting stories of Emmy and Sophie—alternating narratives of loss, imprisonment, and freedom regained—escalate with breathless suspense toward an unforgettable climax.
I just finished reading this book about twenty minutes ago. This is an odd time of day to write and publish a review, everyone has gone home for the day doing their own thing and maybe only a few will read this, and then the rest will come tomorrow. Once every so often a book resonates with you in a way that you really can’t explain. You want to shout it from the rooftops but what exactly would you say?
I am having the same trouble here. How do I tell in you a coherent way just how powerful this book is? Why you should read it when there are thousands of other books to choose from. How do I tell you that I cried tears; but they weren’t of despair and they weren’t borne of hope?
The story is shortish, 240 pages to be exact, like most Kephart books. I am in awe of how Beth can jam-pack such a small package with such power and meaning. The story is told from alternating points of view. Sophie who is fourteen, and Emmy whose baby was stolen.
Reading You Are My Only is like reading two diaries at the same time. The information is so provoking and so intimate you almost feel a bit shady for reading. Sophie tells you her hopes and dreams, she tells you the situation with her ‘Mother’. She tells you how she feels about the boy next door and his dog, though she isn’t allowed to play with him because she has to stay inside away from the No Good.
Emmy tells you about the day her baby was stolen and one yellow sock was left behind. The way her husband treated her after, how she almost died that same night looking for her but was rescued by a nice man named Arlen. Emmy tells you what happens when they say she is crazy and is locked up in a mental institution and about the friends she makes there; her ever present desire to find her baby.
The conclusion is bittersweet, and heartbreaking, and hopeful. It is everything I would have every wanted it to be. The side characters are amazingly fleshed out for such a short book and the prose so beautiful your teeth feel a twinge.
If you ever do one thing that I say (and you should do all the things I say) let it be reading this book. I promise you from the very bottom of my jaded heart that it will invoke feeling and oh, how I wish for you to feel this too.
You Are My Only publishes on October 25th. Please consider a online preorder from my local indie. They ship world wide.
From Goodreads: It is 1876, the year of the Centennial in Philadelphia. Katherine has lost her twin sister Anna in a tragic skating accident. One wickedly hot September day, Katherine sets out for the exhibition grounds to cut short the haunted life she no longer wants to live.
Filled with vivid detail that artfully brings the past to life, National Book Award nominee Beth Kepart’s DANGEROUS NEIGHBORS is a timeless and finely crafted novel about betrayal and guilt, hope and despair, love, loss, and new beginnings.
Beth Kephart is such a fantastic writer that I am always in awe of her prose and story telling ability, so much so that reviewing any piece of literature from Kepharts small but growing canon is always hard for me to accomplish. Kephart is astonishingly capable of making her characters come to life in such a way that putting down the book to do menial tasks such as walking the hound become impossible. Which is why August of 2010 will always be known to me as the month that I learned walking the dog while reading results in severe coordination disability, causing walking into a pole, nose bleeds, and incredible embarrassment to all who try. This life lesson is just one of the things Kephart has taught me while reading her books.
Why Teens Will Love It:
The teen scene is in such need of historical fiction and heart-wrenching tales, Kephart has supplied both in her Dangerous Neighbors. We learn so much about the bonds of sisterhood and America in her early stages of development from a East Coast perspective. There is a flash of young love and life lessons to be learned from picking up this fantastic novel.
Why Adults Will love It:
Kephart does not write down for the reader, her prose is sincere and the story line is engaging to those of all ages. Katherine and the other characters will speak to you and having you remembering your formative years in a very exciting way.
This story is not to be missed. I give it four stars instead of five only because of my selfish need for more, Dangerous Neighbors is such a short book. Pick a copy up at your local bookstore today!
FTC Disclosure: I picked this up at BEA and read it lovingly
Unsure what to buy that special or not so special person on your holiday list? Well of course my answer is buy them a book! Which book? The choices are so hard and there were so many fantastic titles out this year. Well never fear, we here at Bookalicio.us have created the perfect holiday gift guide that spans the ages of young to young at heart. I have buy now links with all of the books listed from Hicklebee’s which is an iconic indie bookstore. Support Hicklebee’s this holiday season and buy now!
It’s a Book by Lane Smith makes the list for the fantastical illustrations and the appeal for adults. The book follows a kind Monkey who loves to read and his tech savvy Jack-ass friend who can’t seem to understand what a book is for. You and your child will love this book!
The Llama Llama series continues with Holiday Drama which is all about Christmas. Llama gets a little overwhelmed by all the shopping and baking and true to Llama fashion has a complete melt down. This story is a great way to talk about the true meaning of the holidays and share some story time and a cup of chocolate with your little one.
Middle Grade Fiction
The Familiars is a fantastic story for your Middle Grader. We follow a starving alley cat named Aldwyn through a thoughtful plot as he finds his true place in the world. Plenty of life lesson is weaved into the tale and your child will enjoy riotous laughs and plot twists along the way.
Franny Flanders and her antics are a laugh a minute kind of book. Franny finds a box of spells and sets out to make her world a better place never thinking of the world at large. When all her spells take a wrong turn and things end up even worse than they were to begin with Franny has to turn to her new age Granny and Justin Timberlake for help. Okay so maybe Justin Timberlake doesn’t know magic but he is in the book!
Finnikin of the Rock is an epic fantasy full of fantastical writing and complex plot. As a child Finnikin has a dream that he will have to sacrifice a pound of flesh to save his kingdom, however when his country is invaded and it’s citizens are ousted Finnikin will have to sacrifice a lot more to bring glory back to his land and bring his people home. With the help of a young girl named Evangaline he sets out on his final journey that may or may not be his final sacrifice.
Young Adult Contemporary
Stolen is one of the absolute best books I have read this year. I have to thank Scholastic for sending me this book with a note saying that I would enjoy it. I most definitely did. Stolen is the story of a girl who has to come to grips with her kidnapping and try to find a way home and away from Ty who has stolen her away to the outback and there seems to be no escape in any direction Gemma looks. It is easier for the reader to be sympathetic towards Ty at times but the author always reminds you that his is a bit off. Stolen gave me Stockholm’s just from reading. It would be a fantastic gift for your teen.
Sea is a beautiful story perfect for the holiday season. We follow Sienna through a coming of age story that is heartfelt and beautifully written. Sienna’s mother has died in a plane crash and her psychologist father is doing the best he can raising her on his own. When he gets the chance to travel to Indonesia to help the children of Tsunami he decides to bring Sienna with him. Scared to fly Sienna overcomes her fear and travels to Asia. This is where Sea truly begins. She meets a boy who is marked by so much tragedy his sadness mirrors Sienna’s.
The Heart is Not a Size is another fantastic contemporary hit this year. Beth Kephart pulls at your heartstrings and brings tears to your eyes with this poignant tale of helping those who are not as fortunate as ourselves while discovering what we are truly about on the inside. Highly recommended for your young adult.
Tell Me a Secret is brilliant contemporary YA writing at it’s best. Cupala weaves a coming of age story with the mystery of murder and unplanned parenthood perfectly. I was unable to put this book down and read it within a span of five hours. I had real tears in my eyes when I finished this novel and I love the generous dose of life lessons. I cannot wait to see what this debut author has up her sleeve next.
Young Adult Paranormal
Nightshade is the epitome of Wolves this season. Calla knows what she needs to do, what she is supposed to do as the alpha of her pack but sometimes it seems that what her brain says and what her heart wants are two totally different things. Cremer creates a world of magic with her guardians and I am waiting with bated breath for the next in the series.
Rampant is everything I thought it wasn’t going to be. Killer unicorns?! I avoided this book for as long as possible but when it eyed me from a local library shelf I knew I had to pick it up. Rampant was an amazingly funny tale of a girl who didn’t believe in killer unicorns even though her mother told her a time may come when she had to do her duty and be a virginal killer of these mythical beasts. Peterfreund paints a tale of a reluctant hero and does it in a laugh out loud style.
Beautiful Creatures starts this New York Times best selling series with a bang. We are told the story from small southern town born and raised Ethan who learns that all towns have their secrets. He keeps having dreams of this girl he loves and is losing to a darkness but the problem is he hasn’t even met the girl yet. When Lena literally blows into town she brings a world of intrigue, danger, and beautiful caster powers with her. Beautiful Darkness is a continuation of this Southern Gothic and both are perfect for this cold season.
Young Adult Fantasy
Plain Kate was my absolute favorite read title this year. It has been so long since I read such a simplistic fantasy it reminded me of the old fashioned fairy tales I loved to read as a child. There is no epic love triangle, no one sparkles, and I loved every sweeping minute. Kate is an amazing gal and I loved her dearly. I do believe this book is suitable for Middle Graders as well and it was purchased by the same guy who thought Harry Potter would be a great story! Pick up Plain Kate for anyone on your list young or not so young and you will not be disappointed!
Poison Study is a great book to buy this holiday season! Yelena is an orphan living in a mildly dystopic environment. She is a prisoner on death row for murder when she is brought from the dungeon dirty and diseased and given a choice. Be hanged or become the poison tester for the man in power. He has some powerful enemies and the most recent food tester passed away. They never seem to last long. Yelena figures she has nothing to lose and she trains with Valek for her new job. Yelena learns a few tricks along the way and that she may very well have a lot to lose if her life is ended tasting the food of the man who imprisoned her.
The Turning is a very fun book for that animal lover on your list. Who knew that our domesticated house cats were having a turf war with the stray cats in the neighborhood and that young adult shifters who turn into cats led the armies into battle? Not, I. I was intrigued by the concept of this book and when the orange kitten showed up the real story began for the domestics. Add in a boy who loves being a cat so much he can hang with either group and has stayed in cat form so often he has disfigured his own body, another boy who hates being a cat and is just biding his time until the curse is over. The protagonist has some very tough choices.
The Iron King and The Iron Daughter are both fantastical reads for those Faerie lovers in your household. Meghan Chase’s brother has been replaced with an evil changeling and she is on a mission to get him back. She could care less for the Fey politics including the fact that the summer and winter courts are in danger because they exist only because man kind believes in them. Man believes in technology now too and a new race of Fey is born. The Iron Fey, we all know that summer and winter are allergic to iron in a deadly way. Meghan will have to get involved to save her brother. This series is sure to knock the proverbial red and green Christmas socks off your little guy or gal.
Young Adult Crossover for the Adult who loves YA
Clockwork Angel is a great gift idea for anyone on your list. Young or not so much, male or female. Cassandra Clare starts a new series set in her provocative world of angels and demons. We go back to Victorian England and see how the Shadow Hunters we know and loved from The Mortal Instruments Series got their beginnings and rules. An evil man skilled in the dark arts is create steam punk style automatons with real souls who have only one thing in mind. Kill the Shadow Hunters. Tessa has some tricks up her sleeve as well. She doesn’t quite know what she is but she hopes to find out. Is she demon, wizard or something even more horrible? Either way she can’t have the man she loves even if she survives the automaton attack.
Merlin’s Harp is a moving retelling of the Arthurian Legend. Beautiful prose and delightful new insight astounds the reader in this tale of Niv daughter to the Lady of the Lake on her life journey and bearing the cross her own mother had to carry. Niv and Merlin carry the weight of the fate of Britain on their shoulders and the old wizard has made quite a few mistakes that Niv will have to clean up.
The Prophecy of the Sisters starts us on an epic journey of good and evil that outshines Bray’s Gemma Doyle Series by light years. Alice and Lia are twins buthave never been exactly close. When they find out they have an epic destiny to complete they fall even farther apart as one chooses light while the other chooses dark. Guardian of the Gate continues this saga and is a thought provoking sequel. These are must-read-faster-I-can’t-put-it-down books and are highly recommended.
Meena Harper never knew what hit her when Mr. Right flies into town…. on bat wings. Insatiable is laugh out loud funny and Meena is a riot. It takes all the vampire lore and pokes the big fun stick at it and has a very interesting mystery plot as well. Meena is a television writer for a daytime soap and the producer wants it to ‘go vamp’ and star her hot pasty new boyfriend. Meena has grown up watching this show and writing for it is her dream come true. Can she solve all the mysteries and keep her show vamp free?
Syrie James reinstilled my love for the classic Dracula with her rendition of this classic. So many questions were left unanswered in Stoker’s tale and James has give us the gift of a female perspective. I enjoyed this look into Dracula’s tale immensely and I suggest it for any lover of the genre. You will fall in love with the danger and the man all over again.
Darkfever is a sexy dark tale of evil beautiful fae and the sister of a woman who got caught up in the middle and died. When Mac goes to Dublin to find out what happened to her sister she is drawn into the dark war herself. This series is absolutely addicting and I am waiting for the final installment to come in January. This is perfect for anyone who loves sexy paranormal reads.
A Reliable Wife is one of those books that everyone loves. I originally read it because I had promised to read a chick-lit book this year. I read the synopsis on the book jacket and thought this book would be tolerable for a genre that I generally do not like. Oh it was so much more than tolerable. The intrigue, the lies, the outright passion of the book knocked my proverbial socks off and I am still reeling from the ending of this dark contemporary read. Pick this up for any reader and I guarentee they will have a mind trip!
Sacred Hearts is the perfect read for the literary reader who loves history! Sarah Dunant’s books are always a masterpiece of the time period and her latest is no different. We follow a young novice who was forced into the nunnery by her family as many young Italian women were at the time. She wants to run away and live free and love but the convent is more restricting than a jail. Another nun uses the convent as a protection from the outside world and a place to practice the craft her father taught her, her love of medicine is almost ungodly but the nunnery is in need of a healer. These two women and their lives intertwine in a heartbreaking story perfect for any lover of historical fiction, literary, or love story.
I was introduced to Silent in the Grave by a local bookseller in Richmond. I had seen the book everywhere over the summer and decided to pick it up while I was in the shop. For someone who doesn’t really like mysteries the corset gripping action in this novel by Deanna Raybourn had me on edge. I have read through the rest of the series and each of the books is a fantastic gift idea for the lover of Victorian England, mysteries, and great romantic fiction without all of the dirty explicit stuff.
I have had and tried several of the e-readers on the market and I have to say I absolutely love my Nook. I didn’t buy the 3G version but instead went with plain old wifi. Buying books from B&N is super easy and there is always a great free selection available. I highly recommend this device over Amazon’s Kindle. That being said don’t fall for the new NOOKcolor scam. If I wanted to read with a backlight and kill my eyes I would buy an iPad.
From Think Geek: The LightWedge is an efficient book light with a streamlined design. A lighted, distortion-free acrylic lens extends across the book page and emits all the brightness directly onto the book page, reducing shadows and glare. Since the light is emitted directly onto the page, there’s no excess reflection to disturb others nearby.
The LightWedge is thin and lightweight and easily slips into a backpack, tote bag, or briefcase. Also, when not in use, it is useful as a convenient bookmark stored between a book’s pages. The bright LEDs that illuminate the LightWedge have two brightness levels and a lifetime warranty. The light can run for 40 hours on four AAA batteries. The LightWedge can rest on the left page and then simply be flipped over to read the right page