Readers' Favorite

June 18, 2011

A sweet short story: The Gift of Joy

The Gift of Joy - Young Adult VersionThe Gift of Joy - Young Adult Version by Valerie Maarten
Published May 2011

Read June 2011

This is a sweet Christmas time story (though from the cover you wouldn't guess it). Joy is orphaned by domestic violence at the age of 6. Though her father never laid a hand on her, he isolated her and inflicted emotional injury that follow her into adulthood. Her one wish has been to have a protector, and not just any protector but the older boy across the street whom she watches from the window. Joy believes with all that she is that this one wish is what caused her world to come crashing down around her that fateful Christmas.

Gabe is the young man across the street and he lost his heart the day he hit the little girl across street with a snowball. Fear of the girl's father and the admonishments of his own parents to stay away from Joy has Gabe trying to forget the instant connection he felt with her. Now almost 20 years later, he is again home for Christmas and catches a glimpse of the girl next door. He can no longer deny what his heart has longed for.

The interactions between Gabe and Joy are enjoyable and sweet. Though I think I liked the chase a little more, it was satisfying when he caught her. I didn't read the the adult version so I am not sure what changes were made. I know a sex scene is cut. It obvious in the abrupt way the story jumps from foreplay to the afterglow. It made me feel like a page was missing. While I am happy not to have to read the sex details, I do believe there needed to be a smoother transition. Possibly there was more graphic violence in the adult version as there were a couple of times I felt there was reference made to something that happened, but it wasn't included.

There were a couple of plot holes that my realistic drama reading side wanted answers to. (How did she remain so isolated through school - at first I thought the tragedy had occurred when she was older, but when it was revealed it occurred when Joy is 6 this question kept nagging at me). Most of the time when I reminded myself it is a short story I could put the questions aside and enjoy the blossoming romance. Gabe is the shining knight that every girl wants, yet, he is totally a guy (clueless about the mind and heart of a woman).

I have always thought Young Adult as it refers to literature has been a bit of a misnomer. I remember when I first graduated from the children's section of my library. The next section was called Juvenile, but then we moved and we had access to a larger library. This is when the confusion started. I couldn't find the juvenile section. Turns out it was labeled Young Adult. But I wasn't an adult, I was in middle school. When I was in my 20s I was referred to as a young adult by society, but I no longer read in the young adult section.

This book brought up the questions of why we call it young adult fiction and what makes a story young adult. There is only passing references to sex and violence in The Gift of Joy. However, the main characters are in their early/mid-twenties. By society standards, they are young adults. Yet, I am not sure if this particular story would appeal to readers of young adult fiction (presumably middle and high school age kids).

Would it be better to refer to YA lit as juvenile literature? Does the age of the characters play a role in the classification or is it purely based on the plot? I would love to hear your thoughts, please leave a comment.

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June 16, 2011

Tips on Thursday - Labels

Tips on Thursdays is a weekly meme where bloggers can share tips and tricks on blogging.

Today's tip is on labels. Do you label your posts? If so, how do you decide on the labels? As you can see I do label my post, but I am not sure how effective my labels are; I'm always trying to improve them. I have mentioned that I have my blog set up to automatically send a tweet to my twitter account whenever I post a new blog. I also have it set to make my labels hashtags. Since changing to this setting I have become more selective maybe on which labels I use.

I have a couple other reasons for using labels. Though I review most genres of fiction, my preferences lean to particular genres. I always list a genre (or two) that a book fits into and this way when authors/publishers look at my blog label list they can quickly see which genres I read mostly in. I have my label list set to cloud so that the most popular labels are at the top and larger. A second reason I use labels is because I do not title my posts with the book title/author. I always include the author's name in my label. I debate if I should list just the last name or the full name (I'm playing with both right now). I think this helps my readers find post about authors they, too, are interested in.

Just as you should list your blog archive, your label list should be visible for your viewers. Like I mentioned in last week's post on review policies, label lists can help authors/publishers in determining if your blog is a good fit for their book. At the same time, it can help new readers to your blog discover some of your older posts.

Do you have a tip or trick that would help other book bloggers? Either leave it in the comment section or better, yet, blog about it and then link your post below.

June 15, 2011

Of Friends and Love: The Peach Keeper

The Peach Keeper: A NovelThe Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
audio book, narrated by Karen White
Published March 2011 by Books on Tape
ISBN 9780739368718
Listened June 2011

I think I'm a bit confused about the story, but at the same time it had a certain charm to it. It started of a little zany. It felt kind of like Nanny McPhee. The crazy things about the envelop, rain, and the declaration of secrets. But then that went away and it became a more normal story. 

I don't usually like southern lit and this story epitomized what I think it is that I don't like. There is something about the high society, clique that rubs me the wrong way. But it has to be something more, because I love The Great Gatsby and it has high society. So it is something about the southern genteel society. It is probably because I have had to experience it. As a yankee transplant in the south, well lets say I didn't always experience the southern hospitally.

But once we got further into the story and it became more about the budding friendship between Paxton and Willa and the navigating of love relationships with Sebastian and Colin I totally fell in love with the story. Add in the mystery of the bones beneath the peach tree and Agatha (little old women are hilarious) and it is just an adorable story. I was able to forget about the genteel society as Paxton and Willa became to understand the true meaning behind the women's club their grandmothers had started. It a very touching story with a few funny moments thanks to the confusion about which team Sebastian bats for.

As far as being an audio book. I had a some trouble following the story line at times and, well, I dozed off one evening while listening to it. I thought closing my eyes would help me focus on the story better, but the narrator's voice is very soothing. 

Do you like southern fiction? For those who listen to audio books, does the narrator influence your opinion of the story?

June 14, 2011

A Harry Potter-esque Ghost Story: Sebastian and the Afterlife

Sebastian and the AfterlifeSebastian and the Afterlifeby William j. Barry
paperback, 281 pages
Published February 2011 by The Writer's Coffee Shop
ISBN 9781612130187
Read June 2011

My friend wrote this book. He's kind of my neighbor, too, as he only lives 1.5 miles from me. His wife and I worked together for a while. He happened to be published by the publishing house I work part-time for. I'm also mentioned in the acknowledgements, which is very cool, but I tried not to let any of this influence my review.

Sebastian and the Afterlife is the first book in this fantasy series for young adults. As such there is a lot of setting up the world, which William's overactive imagination has conjured into being. What is this new world you ask? It is the realm between mortal life and the afterlife. It is were the ghosts of the recently deceased wander while completing that which keeps their souls from passing through the archway and into the peaceful afterlife.

It is an interesting concept and you often forget the characters are dead as they maintain many of their human qualities with a few new powers at their disposal. It had quite the feel of Harry Potter to the story - the group of young friends, trouble seeming to follow them, and of course the evil character that is out to take over the world (at least this realm). At the same time it had its own uniqueness - the friends are all ghosts, there are pirates, and the Grim Reaper is the protector and guider of the souls into the afterlife.

I remember having many discussions about what age group this story is appropriate for. William wondered if the topic of death would be too dark for younger children. Having read the story, I am pretty sure that 4th and 5th graders can handle it. It actually may help them not to be so afraid of death. In this story the Grim Reaper is not the scary, evil dude that so many other stories make him out to be. I was thinking about why we think the Grim Reaper is so scary. I think it has to do more with our fear of death than the Grim Reaper himself (ok, the dark cloak and sickle don't help his image either). But when viewing him more as a guider between the mortal realm and afterlife and seeing that the afterlife is not a scary place, lessens the fear of death. For an older kid (middle school/high school) reading this, it might help them see that they are not invincible or maybe cope a little if they have experienced the death of a close friend or family member. The death is not graphic and like I said you often forget the characters are ghost (until they float through a ceiling).

For a first book in the story it was amusing and engaging. As a more mature reader, I found some of the explanation a bit tedious, but then I had to remember the audience it was intended for and they might not be able to infer as much from the text as I could. There is no terrible cliffhanger at the end of the story, yet the ending is left open enough for more adventures with Sebastian and his band of ghostly friends to be told and I'm looking forward to what else William has in store for them.

June 13, 2011

I'm reading this week...

It's Monday! What are you reading is a weekly meme hosted by the Book Journey blog. I've been pretty good at finishing what I'm reading at the beginning of the week by the end of the week so here is what I'm reading.

In paperback:
This is my fiction read this week. I started it a couple of days ago and already have shed a few tears as well as many smiles. The main character is my age, so it is like reliving my childhood in so many ways.

Plain JanePlain Jane by Schledia Benefield

When Aralyn Liddell looks in the mirror, she sees a plain girl with drab brunette hair, pale skin tainted with freckles, and no lips! Standing next to her gorgeous sister with porcelain skin, deep-brown eyes, raven-black hair, and rosy, plump lips does not help matters either. With such a beautiful sister she is easily overlooked and soon realizes that she is nothing more than a Plain Jane. Prevailing through adolescence, she creates an arsenal of pretty dresses to camouflage her plainness, but the loom of the Fates seems to be spinning a dark future for the young poet! From

Vaccine-nation: Poisoning the Population, One Shot at a TimeVaccine-nation: Poisoning the Population, One Shot at a Time by Andreas Moritz
This continues to be my non-fiction read. I was under the weather this weekend so didn't do any reading in the pool, which is when I mostly read it.

On my Nook:

The Gift of Joy - Young Adult VersionThe Gift of Joy - Young Adult Version by Valerie Maarten
When Joy Tate was just a na├»ve, little girl that still believed in dreams and wishes, she had only one wish for Santa Claus. It was a selfish hope that caused her to lose the most important person in her life. Now all she wishes for is…THE GIFT OF REDEMPTION

Gabriel Hawthorne spent his entire childhood ignoring the sad, lonely girl from across the street, but could never fully keep her from his thoughts. But after reuniting with her, he’s impressed with the strong, fierce advocate she’s become. And when he’s with her, she gives him the greatest gift of all…
Listening to:

I did get my copy of The Peach Keeper. It was a lot shorter than I thought so I'm glad I only checked it out for 7 days instead of 14. The digital library doesn't seem to have a way to return a book early. I also was notified that Water for Elephants is available.

Water for Elephants: A NovelWater for Elephantsby Sara Gruen
Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival. From