#PoetryMonth – Throwback #Review: Stop Pretending, by @SonyaSones

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Books of poetry aren’t always collections. They can come in other forms. One of my favorite forms of poetry in recent years is the verse novel. I’ve read a number of them and continue to discover them. To keep it simple, for those who haven’t heard me talk about them in the past, a verse novel is just what it sounds like: A novel written in verse. The same full arc of a novel is told, but instead of pages filled with words, sentences, ideas, etc (prose), the author uses the shorter, more exact form of poetry to tell the story.

Today, and maybe later in the month, I’d like to share a review of one of my favorite verse novels so far. I read this awhile back, but my opinions of it are still the same. It’s a book by Sonya Sones, called Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy. Sones have a number of other verse novels out, so be sure to take a look at all her work. I’ve read all but one so far and enjoyed them!

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Title: Stop PretendingStop Pretending
Author: Sonya Sones
Rating: 5/5 stars

“It happens just like that, in the blink of an eye. An older sister has a mental breakdown and has to be hospitalized. A younger sister is left behind to cope with a family torn apart by grief and friends who turn their backs on her. But worst of all is the loss of her big sister, her confidante, her best friend.

In the eloquent tradition of THE BELL JAR and I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN comes this haunting first book, inspired by the true story of the author’s life. It’s an intense and brutally honest story, told in a succession of powerful poems that take us back into the cyclone of the narrator’s emotions: grief, anger, guilt, resentment, horror, and ultimately, acceptance.” (description from Goodreads)

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Sonya Sones grew to be one of my (recent) favorite authors after I read What My Mother Doesn’t Know, and soon after, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know. I went out and bought all her books after I read those two. But what I didn’t expect is that Stop Pretending, Sones’ first book, is an even better book than those that came after it.

Sones’ free-verse novel, Stop Pretending, does two amazing things that I haven’t witnessed in other free-verse novels so far. A majority of this book’s poems can be read separately from the others. They stand alone as very powerful works of poetry and don’t need the support of the “larger story.” At the same time, they all mesh together into that “larger story” that is hard to step away from, even with it being an emotional read. It’s the combination of these two effects that makes Sones such a great novelist and poet, all in the same work.

Being that this is strongly influenced by the author’s life growing up, I feel that it helped her create the very real main character. The poems bring the reader deep into the mind of this teenager who doesn’t know how to deal with her sister’s hospitalization. This can only come from someone who’s dealt with similar issues in real life. It also allows a reader, and even society in general, to consider all sides of the situation. It’s not just the patient who needs therapy, or just someone to talk to in general. It’s all members of a family, no matter how much they try to hide it.

Sonya Sones’ first book is by far my favorite of hers so far. It’s no wonder her books have gotten the attention they have.

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You can grab a copy of this book from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

Sonya Sones is an American poet and author. She has written four young adult novels in verse, as well as a novel in verse for adults and a picture book.

You can find more about Sonya here:

Novels in Verse

I can’t remember if I’ve brought this to the blog in the past or not, so I’m going to assume it was just on Facebook and/or Twitter. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about VERSE NOVELS!

What’s a verse novel? Maybe you know them as “novels in verse”. There are a few terms to use, but they all boil down to one obvious thing: They are novels written in verse (poetry) instead of prose (what everything else is written in).

Why do I enjoy them so much? That should be somewhat obvious. I’m a poet. I enjoy poetry. And you also know I enjoy novels in general. Once I discovered the magic of joining the two forms, I was hooked.

I first read a verse novel back in grade school. It was Karen Hesse’s OUT OF THE DUST. I remember talking about the fact that it’s written in blank verse, but that fact dissolved in my memory shortly after. I remember enjoying the story, but that was all. That is, until I rediscovered the form a few years back in Sonya Sones’ writing. I found out about her book WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW. I read it. Enjoyed it. Got hooked. I’ve since read all of her books (except one, because I don’t want to be without more of Sones to read) and from there, branches out into other authors work.

I have to admit that I’ve stuck mostly to Young Adult verse novels. It’s not completely by choice, though, partly it is. There seems to be a larger amount of verse novels for YA readers out there, compared to those for “adult” readers. I also think it’s a marketing thing because I’ve discovered a few adult titles are marketed as being poetry, but lacking take about the story aspect. Probably a few reasons for this, but I won’t speculate here. But back to my mention of YA novels. I think most of my recent YA reading has actually been done with verse novels. YA is already a pretty accessible type of book for anyone to get into, but adding in the verse form makes it even more so. And not in a bad way. I think it makes them “easier” to read while opening the story up to having a deeper message, emotional response, etc. Verse forces the author to be limited in word choice (in most cases), and I feel this makes every word used count that much more. The books may be fast reads, but I feel that I’ve gotten more out of them at times than prose novels because of the lack of words and focus on what really needs to be said.

On a less critical, and more fun note, I also like when authors play with the visual form in their verse novels. One author who does this in many different ways in all her novels is Ellen Hopkins. Her text isn’t restricted to the left side of the page. It’ll jump to the right, middle, and everywhere in between. The text placement lends to the reading of the lines and what’s being conveyed. Some of the connection between text and text placement can go over my head, even, but I don’t think her books would be as powerful if they were all left-aligned. That works for other authors, and there’s nothing wrong with that either. But at times, poetry needs to push itself across a page, be different, and stand out.

I hope I’m not alone in my love of verse novels. I do know a few of my readers have experience with them. Maybe some of you haven’t explored that part of the book world yet. I’m here to help. I’d like to close this post out with a list of verse novels I’ve enjoyed. Some of them are as recent as this week…and I’m planning on grabbing a few more from the library soon. They’re addicting!

#NewRelease: Baking and Babies, by @TaraSivec

What’s this? Another Chocoholics book from Tara Sivec? Yes. That’s exactly what this is!

Baking & Babies, the third book in the Chocolate Lovers series‘ spin-off, Chocoholics, is out today! If you still haven’t checked out either series, you may be missing out on hours of laughs…if you can handle this humor. Admittedly, it’s not for everyone, but it is for many. Sivec doesn’t hold back…at all.

I’m currently reading this book and think it’s on par with the rest, but who knows, it may even surpass the previous books. We’ll have to see once I’m done and my review is written.

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Baking and Babies

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“I’m pregnant.”

Molly Gilmore had a good life before she uttered those two stupid words. While preparing to graduate from culinary school and building up the courage to make a move on her hot, sugar-cookie-smelling pastry instructor Marco, she can’t wait to finally have the GREAT life she’s always dreamed about, instead of just the good one she’s been living.

Always known as the quiet ninja, she fully intends to stay hidden in the shadows with her nut-job family, so they have no chance to embarrass her around the man she’s crushed on for two years. Unfortunately, her family has other plans. When they yank her straight out of her comfort zone, she finds herself starring in the craziest train wreck she’s ever witnessed.

Molly ultimately gets a more exciting life that doesn’t revolve around school, but she’s pretty sure the man of her dreams won’t be sticking around long after her family gets ahold of him. There aren’t too many guys who can handle smelling like pee, having the whole world know how he masturbates, and being forced to eat an entire bag of dicks.

Join the Chocolate Lovers and Chocoholics gang for one final story about love, baked goods, making poor life choices, and remembering how important family is—even if they drive you insane.

Mostly because it’s illegal to kill them.

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If you’d like to buy a copy of Baking & Babies, you can find it on:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

This is #3 in the Chocoholics series. if you haven’t want to start from the beginning, books 1 and 2 can be found on:

Love and Lists (Book 1)

Goodreads | My Review

Amazon | SmashwordsB&N | Kobo | iBooks

Passion and Ponies (Book 2)

Goodreads | My Review

Amazon | Smashwords |  B&N | Kobo | iBooks

Tattoos and Tatas (Book 2.5)

Goodreads | My Review

Amazon | Smashwords B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Image 7Tara Sivec is a USA Today best-selling author, wife, mother, chauffeur, maid, short-order cook, baby-sitter, and sarcasm expert. She lives in Ohio with her husband and two children and looks forward to the day when they all three of them become adults and move out.

After working in the brokerage business for fourteen years, Tara decided to pick up a pen and write instead of shoving it in her eye out of boredom. She is the author of the Playing with Fire series and the Chocolate Lovers series. Her novel Seduction and Snacks won first place in the Indie Romance Convention Reader’s Choice Awards 2013 for Best Indie First Book.

In her spare time, Tara loves to dream about all of the baking she’ll do and naps she’ll take when she ever gets spare time.

Tara also writes under the pen name T.E. Sivec.

Find out more:

Website | Twitter  | Facebook
Goodreads | Amazon | Smashwords

#Review: Trust the Focus, by @MeganErickson_

Trust the Focus

Title: Trust the Focus (In Focus #1)
Author: Megan Erickson
Rating: 5/5 stars

From the author of Make it Count comes the first novel in the In Focus series…

With his college graduation gown expertly pitched into the trash, Justin Akron is ready for the road trip he planned with his best friend Landry— and ready for one last summer of escape from his mother’s controlling grip. Climbing into the Winnebago his father left him, they set out across America in search of the sites his father had captured through the lens of his Nikon.

As an aspiring photographer, Justin can think of no better way to honor his father’s memory than to scatter his ashes at the sites he held sacred. And there’s no one Justin would rather share the experience with more than Landry.

But Justin knows he can’t escape forever. Eventually he’ll have to return home and join his mother’s Senate campaign. Nor can he escape the truth of who he is, and the fact that he’s in love with his out-and-proud travel companion.

Admitting what he wants could hurt his mother’s conservative political career. But with every click of his shutter and every sprinkle of ash, Justin can’t resist Landry’s pull. And when the truth comes into focus, neither is prepared for the secrets the other is hiding. (description from Goodreads)

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Having read Megan Erickson’s first book in her Bowler University series, Make it CountI had a strong feeling that I’d enjoy this book just as much as that one. What I didn’t predict was that Trust the Focus would blow that one out of the water. However, I’m not here to compare the two books, or series, more than that. It’s just more proof that Erickson’s a great writer.

Going into this book, I knew I was in for a new experience. Aside from some short works, this is my first novel featuring gay main characters. I’ve been wanting to expand my reading experience for some time, and now that I’ve read Trust the Focus, I’m glad I chose this as my first.

Erickson stepped up her writing in this book. The way she portrays Justin, the narrator, makes him seem so real. Landry, his best friend who’s traveling along on this cross-country road trip with him, is no different. I haven’t felt this in touch with characters in a long time. There wasn’t a time in this book that anything felt forced. Their actions, inner commentary, consequences, was all natural and helped in my enjoyment.

Aside from strong characters, and the even stronger and passionate romance throughout the book, the story itself was one I loved. A road trip is a great device to bring in a wide-range of settings, but can also lead to each scene being weak or feeling lacking detail.  I felt like in many of the stops on this road trip, I was there. I was with Justin while he took these pictures in places that were so important to him.

Overall, the tone of this story is what gripped me the most. It was the combination of the characters, story, and the conflict that arises from it all that had me turning page after page wanting more. But I fought the page turning urge, and savored this book. I didn’t want it to end and it’ll stay with me for some time as a favorite.
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Trust the Focus is available from:
Amazon | B&N | KoboiBooks

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Focus on Me (pre-order)

AmazonKoboiBooks

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About the Author:

Megan EricksonMegan worked as a journalist covering real-life dramas before she decided she liked writing her own endings better and switched to fiction.

She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids and two cats. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she’s probably listening to the characters in her head who won’t stop talking.

Find out more:

#NewRelease: Come, the Dark, by @InkMuse

You may remember my review back in March for book 2 of Rebecca Hamilton’s Forever Girl series. The first book, The Forever Girlwas one of the first books I reviewed here on A Life Among the Pages back in 2012, and today I get to announce the release of Come, the Dark; the book we’ve all been waiting for. It may have been a long wait for those who didn’t receive an ARC, but I can tell you that it was worth it.

Does that excite your reading mind? I hope you can handle some more excitement because today’s a day full of new releases. Megan Erickson’s book Make it Last and Tiffany King’s book Contradictions also release today! Don’t forget to check them out.

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Come, The Dark

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Rose desperately wants to escape the abuse of the father who impregnated her and the dark spirits that haunt her life. Being thrust from Georgia 1961 into the era of Salem’s infamous witch trials isn’t what she had in mind, and now her daughter is left hopelessly out of reach.

The only way to return to her daughter is by facing certain death to banish the dark spirits that plague Salem. If she doesn’t eliminate these dark spirits in time, they will destroy civilization and trap her in this strange new place, ages away from her daughter.

Even if she can complete the task in time to return home to save her daughter, there’s still one problem: she’s falling in love with a man who can’t return with her. Achieving her goals will force her to choose between the only man who has never betrayed her and a daughter she can’t quite remember but will never forget.

A heart-wrenching tale of a mother’s love for her daughter, this romantic paranormal fantasy underlines the depravity of both historical and modern society while capturing the essence of sacrifice and devotion.

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If you’d like to grab a copy of Come, The Dark, you can find it on:

Amazon

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Also available now:

The Forever Girl (book 1)

Amazon | B&N

Her Sweetest Downfall (a Forever Girl novella)

AmazonKobo | B&N | iBooks

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About the Author:

Rebecca Hamilton writes Paranormal Fantasy, Horror, and Literary Fiction. She lives in Florida with her husband and three kids, along with multiple writing personalities that range from morbid to literary. She enjoys dancing with her kids to television show theme songs and would love the beach if it weren’t for the sand. Having a child diagnosed with autism has inspired her to illuminate the world through the eyes of characters who see things differently.

 To learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, please visit AutisticAdvocacy.org.

Rebecca Hamilton is represented by the ever-more-amazing Rossano Trentin of TZLA.

Find out more:

#Review: Psyche in a Dress, by @francescablock

Psyche in a DressTitle: Psyche in a Dress
Author: Francesca Lia Block

Rating: 4/5 stars

“But this is what I could not give up: I could not give up myself Psyche has known Love–scented with jasmine and tasting of fresh oranges. Yet he is fleeting and fragile, lost to her too quickly. Punished by self-doubt, Psyche yearns to be transformed, like the beautiful and brutal figures in the myths her lover once spoke of. Attempting to uncover beauty in the darkness, she is challenged, tested, and changed by the gods and demons who tempt her. Her faith must be found again, for if she is to love, she must never look back.” (description from Goodreads)

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I wrote this review back in April and posted it on Goodreads. In reviewing my reading year of 2014 it seems that I didn’t post the review here on A Life Among the Pages. Today I’ll fix that by posting it now.

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I read Block’s Weetzie Bat a few years ago, and I think that helped prepare me for reading this book. Block has an interesting way with language that is beautiful to read, but can also lead to some minor confusion and rereading. It’s not a fault in the writing though. It helps it stand out and allows for the story to do interesting things.

Block takes well known myths and weaves them together into a set of modern day characters. It’s often hard to tell where the myth and the “real world” aspects of the story are because of the blending and language used. But there’s a beauty to how this story is told. I feel that I’ll need to go back and read it again some time down the road to full appreciate it, though. I wasn’t until about halfway through that I was able to find the flow through the verse, especially with it’s lack of punctuation.

I’d be very interested in reading some other poetry (non verse novel works), after reading this. I’ll have to go see if there’s any out there.

If you’re looking for something different, something that might not “click” right away but will make you think and pay attention, this might be a book to check out.

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You can grab a copy of this verse novel from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo | iBooks

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About the Author:

Francesca Lia Block was born in Los Angeles to a poet and a painter, their creativity an obvious influence on her writing. Another influence was her childhood love of Greek mythology and fairy tales.
She has lived in the city all her life, and still resides there with her daughter, Jasmine Angelina (about whom she wrote her book Guarding the Moon), her son Samuel Alexander, and her two dogs: a springer spaniel named Vincent Van Go Go Boots and a beagle mix named Thumper.

She left only to attend the University of California, Berkeley. She has often professed her love of Los Angeles, calling it a “Jasmine-scented, jacaranda-purple, neon sparked city,” which she has nicknamed in her books “Shangri-LA.”

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#Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by @gabriellezevin

The Storied Life of A.J. FikryTitle: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Rating: 5/5 stars

“On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving,The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.” (description from Goodreads)

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I wasn’t sure what I was going to get into when starting this book. A friend got me a copy of it after seeing that I’d read Silas Marner and said that I’d probably enjoy this one, too. I enjoyed Elliot’s classic novel, so there was no reason to not give The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry a chance from a recommendation like that.

Is this a modern day retelling of Silas Marner? Not exactly, and that’s what I think is one of the great things about Zevin’s book. There are shared elements to the basic character relationships, but it goes above and beyond them, creating a story all its own, with characters that worked their way into my heart and ideas about the books, as well as the book world, that many readers of all sorts can relate to.

Another thing I liked is that at the beginning of each chapter is a quick message from A.J. to Maya about a short story he wants her to read. Some I’ve read. Others I haven’t. I’ll be going back through to write them down and read myself. I’m always welcome to further reading while reading books. It’s just one of the ways to expand my reading list.

While a quick read, it tugs at various emotions, ideas about life, and opinions about books. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry won me over early on and toward the end I didn’t want to get to the last chapter, I wanted it to keep going. I can only hope that the next book by Zevin that I pick up will give me a similar feeling.

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You can grab a copy of this book from:

Amazon | B&N | Kobo

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About the Author:

Gabrielle Zevin has published six novels. Her debut, Margarettown, was a selection of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers program. The Hole We’re In was on Entertainment Weekly’s Must List and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice. Entertainment Weekly wrote, “Every day newspaper articles chronicle families battered by the recession, circling the drain in unemployment and debt or scraping by with minimum-wage jobs. But no novel has truly captured that struggle until now.” Publishers Weekly called the novel “a Corrections for our recessionary times.”

Of all her books, she is probably best known for the young adult novel Elsewhere. Elsewhere, an American Library Association Notable Children’s Book, was nominated for a Quill Award and received the Borders Original Voices Award. The book has been translated into over twenty languages. Of Elsewhere, the New York Times Book Review wrote, “Every so often a book comes along with a premise so fresh and arresting it seems to exist in a category all its own… Elsewhere, by Gabrielle Zevin, is such a book.”

She is the screenwriter of Conversations with Other Women (Helena Bonham Carter, Aaron Eckhart) for which she received an Independent Spirit Award Nomination. In 2009, she and director Hans Canosa adapted her novel Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac (ALA Best Books for Young Adults) into the Japanese film, Dareka ga Watashi ni Kiss wo Shita. She has also written for the New York Times Book Review and NPR’s All Things Considered. She began her writing career at age fourteen as a music critic for the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

Zevin is a graduate of Harvard University. After many years on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, she recently moved to Silver Lake, Los Angeles.

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