Apr 13, 2015

Seven Stones by Julia Lee

Moving to Scotland is when it all starts. Before, when Keilann had been living in Chicago, almost everything about her life had been normal. In the city, no one ever notices or cares that she is Ojibwe, and Keilann learns how to scrape by just enough with her grades to not attract anyone’s attention. Everything is going fine until her father takes a teaching job in Scotland. That’s when everything changes.

Rural Scotland is a wild, rugged land full of unsurpassed beauty—and a few secrets of its own. In the woods behind her new house, Keilann finds an ancient stone circle and a strange, silent girl who seems to have walked straight out of her nightmares. Though Keilann tries to deny it, a series of inexplicable coincidences makes her consider the impossible: perhaps her dreams are not mere illusions, but a window into Scotland’s violent past.

My Review:

I received a copy of Seven Stones from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

What a wonderful debut!

The author, Julia Lee, really astounds in this lush and complex story about family, culture, history, and friendship. It really does have a bit of everything for everyone. The story begins with the main character, Keilann, waking from a dream. Though the nature of the dream isn’t explained, Julia Lee does a wonderful job at building suspense. The story follows Keliann and her family from Chicago to Scotland. And like any teenager would be, Keliann is frazzled by her new surroundings. While I, the reader, was excited about Scotland, I really did feel for Keilann, especially when it became clear that this change wouldn’t be easy for her.

While her sister, Fiona, manages to fit in, Keilann attracts the attention of the school bully. I really liked the way some of the heavier issues were handled in Seven Stones. I loved that the author wasn’t afraid to tackle some of the issues a girl like Keilann would face. As someone who would rather blend in, Keilann certainly stands out more than ever at her new school. Being part Ojibwe suddenly becomes more of an issue than it was for her back home in Chicago. Though it was difficult for me to read about someone being bullied simply because of their race, I knew these issues Keilann faced would be a great stepping stone to who she’d be by the end of the novel. Julia Lee certainly doesn’t disappoint there. The character development is wonderful.

The family issues that Keilann and her family must tackle are poignant and realistic. Like any family, there are highs and lows. Keilann’s parents are a big part of their children’s lives, which we don’t usually see a lot of in today’s young adult literature. It was a nice change. Though not without their flaws, Keilann and her family are the kind who’d always be there for each other no matter what. We not only get to see Keilann’s growth but her family’s as well. The inclusion of Ojibwe culture was wonderful. It added just the right amount of mystic. I learned things that I never would have had I not read this book. Julia Lee was extremely thoughtful with this aspect of the story.

What really kept me turning the page was the strange nature of Keilann’s dreams, which got stranger after she moved to Scotland. I was blown away by how Julia Lee managed to weave the present and the past together. I enjoyed the mixing of both Scottish and Ojibwe lore. It was nicely done, so well done that I didn’t see any of it coming. All of these things, along with great writing and a nice dash of romance, make Seven Stones a spectacular read.

It is full of heart. You’d root for Keilann until the very end. 

You can purchase your copy now from Amazon or add it on Goodreads. Be sure to check out the author on her website, Twitter, and Facebook as well.

Mar 4, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Thing About Jellyfish

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I haven't done one of these posts in a while. There are so many upcoming books I'd like to read, so I figured it's time to start sharing them with you guys. 

This week I can't wait to read:

by Ali Benjamin 

After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory--even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy's achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe...and the potential for love and hope right next door.

Would you just look at that cover. It's stunning!

Feb 25, 2015

On A Bookish Date: Waiting for Unicorns

On A Bookish Date is a meme in which I share my love for books and cure my style cravings.

I recently had the pleasure of reading Waiting for Unicorns by Beth Hautala. I'd been eyeing it for a long time, so I picked it up as soon as I could. I'm so glad I did. Churchill, Manitoba really comes alive in this wonderful tale of family, friendship, and hope. I could see myself in twelve-year-old Talia. I, too, have always had a thing for making wishes, and the MC Talia McQueen keeps a whole jar of them, with hopes that one day they'll come true. I learned a little something while reading this book. In fact, it's probably my favorite line.
"Sometimes, we get so busy wishing for something big, we miss all the hundreds of smaller but still-important wishes coming true right under our noses." 
Isn't that line lovely. I'd like to thank Beth Hautala for writing such a wonderful and important tale. If you love beautiful writing, lush settings, and fully realized characters, I highly recommend Waiting for Unicorns. It'll make your heart ache in the best way.

If I was thirteen again, this is what I'd wear on a date with this beautiful book:

What are you waiting for? Go pick up your copy.

Feb 24, 2015

Five MG Titles for Your Wish List

Hey guys! I know. I know. I've haven't blogged as often as I said I would. It's not that I don't still enjoy it. I like this little space of mine. It's just that I haven't had much to say. In the mean time, I've been writing and I managed to finish another novel. Yay! I've also been reading, not as much as I would like, but I do love curling up with a good book.

Recently, I've added a ton of books to my to-read list. It's forever growing. In honor of the growing pile of books I'd love to read, here are five middle grade titles that have caught my eye.

Rules for Stealing Stars, by Corey Ann Haydu

Silly is used to feeling left out. Her three older sisters think she’s too little for most things—especially when it comes to dealing with their mother’s unpredictable moods and outbursts. But for Silly, that’s normal. She hardly remembers a time when Mom wasn’t drinking.

This summer, Silly is more alone than ever, and it feels like everyone around her is keeping secrets. Mom is sick all the time, Dad acts like everything’s fine when clearly it isn’t, and Silly’s sisters keep whispering and sneaking away to their rooms together, returning with signs that something mysterious is afoot, and giggling about jokes that Silly doesn’t understand.

When Silly is brought into her sisters’ world, the truth is more exciting than she ever imagined. The sisters have discovered a magical place that gives them what they truly need: an escape from the complications of their home life. But there are dark truths there, too. Silly hopes the magic will be the secret to saving their family, but she’s soon forced to wonder if it just might tear them apart.

Stonebird, by Mike Revell

When eleven-year-old Liam moves house to be closer to his grandma, he's thrown into an unfamiliar place, with a family that seems to be falling apart.

Liam doesn't remember what Grandma was like before she became ill with dementia. He only knows the witch-like old woman who snaps and snarls and eats her birthday cards. He desperately wants to make everything better, but he can't.

Escaping the house one evening, Liam discovers an old stone gargoyle in a rundown church, and his life changes in impossible ways.

The gargoyle is alive. It moves unseen in the night, acting out Liam's stories. And stories can be dangerous things . . .

But Liam's grandma's illness is getting worse, his mum isn't coping, and his sister is skipping school.

What if the gargoyle is the only thing that can save Liam's family?

Nooks & Crannies, by Jessica Lawson

Tabitha Crum is a girl with a big imagination and a love for mystery novels, though her parents think her only talent is being a nuisance. She doesn't have a friend in the world, except her pet mouse, Pemberley, with whom she shares her dingy attic bedroom.

Then, on the heels of a rather devastating announcement made by her mother and father, Tabitha receives a mysterious invitation to the country estate of the wealthy but reclusive Countess of Windermere, whose mansion is rumored to be haunted. There, she finds herself among five other children, none of them sure why they've been summoned. But soon, a very big secret will be revealed— a secret that will change their lives forever and put Tabitha’s investigative skills to the test.

The Sound of Life and Everything, by Krista Van Dolzer

Twelve-year-old Ella Mae Higbee is a sensible girl. She eats her vegetables and wants to be just like Sergeant Friday, her favorite character on Dragnet. So when her auntie Mildred starts spouting nonsense about a scientist who can bring her cousin back to life from blood on his dog tags, Ella Mae is skeptical—until he steps out of a bio-pod right before her eyes.

But the boy is not her cousin—he’s Japanese. And in California in the wake of World War II, the Japanese are still feared and despised. When her aunt refuses to take responsibility, Ella Mae and her Mama take him home instead. Determined to do what’s right by her new friend, Ella Mae teaches Takuma English and defends him from the reverend’s talk of H-E-double-toothpicks. But when his memories start to resurface, Ella Mae learns some shocking truths about her own family and more importantly, what it means to love.

Crenshaw, by Katherine Applegate

Martin and his sisters have fallen on hard times, and are living in their parents' car.

Crenshaw is a stray cat, also down on his luck.

One of them is imaginary. Both of them need all the help they can get to weather what life throws in front of them. Friends matter, whether real or imaginary.

In her first book since she won the Newbery, Katherine Applegate proves once again that she is one of the finest, most talented authors of children's literature in our generation.

Imaginary friends, memorable tales, and magic places! Yes, please. I'll be picking up these books as soon as they're available. Of course there are tons of other books coming out this year that sound amazing. 

Which ones are on your wish list?

Jan 7, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.

I'm currently reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. It's quite inspiring. I'm having a blast highlighting quotes to share later. Seriously, most of the book is highlighted in yellow. It's that good. I highly recommend it if you're looking for a good book on writing.

For the past few weeks I've had writer's block. I've tried to write but nothing feels right. I guess I just haven't found the right project yet. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird, says when you feel like you can't write it's because that project isn't one you're completely passionate about.

I'll have to take it bird by bird.

Schedules. Writing in the morning. Pinterest. I also read something the other day that I think might help, writing to music. You play the same piece every time you sit down to write. I'll definitely give it a try.

I put my MG up on Wattpad to read for free. I'm a little addicted to refreshing my profile, but it's been great so far, definitely encouraging.