#BannedBooksWeek & Still Life with Tornado Review

It was a slower week than normal for me this week.  I usually read a couple books but it was a crazy week and weekend with family activities so I decided it was okay to just read one book this time. This post is linked with  The Sunday PostStacking the Shelves, and Saturday Situation.


Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King 4.5 stars out of 5

This was a fabulous book!  My favorite thing about this book is how it was written.  Ms. King’s writing style is so poetic and lyrical.  It is a nice break from the norm. Sarah is sixteen years old and has decided to drop out of school because of “the incident”. Also,she hasn’t seen her brother for six years, her parents don’t speak, she follows around a homeless guy, is an artist looking for an original idea, and has started to see different versions of herself in public.  Sarah meets her 23 year old self on the bus and shortly after meets her 10 year old self.  Ten year old Sarah is the one who helps 16 year old Sarah unlock suppressed memories from their family trip to Mexico six years ago when her brother, Brian, left for good.  This story is told from both Sarah’s point of view and her mom’s point of view. Her mom, Helen, provides insight to the abuse she has had to endure from her husband that was hidden from Sarah until now.  When Sarah finds out, she feels that her whole life has been unoriginal and a lie.  This book is about abuse, anger, forgiveness, and looking at life as art whether it is original or not.  I highly recommend this book if you are wanting a different type of read that is original.  (The “original” comments will make sense once you read the book.)


I am still having fun posting bookstagram photos on Instagram. Here some of my latest ones or you can see them all HERE! Feel free to follow me on Instagram too.


Next week I plan to read Replica by Lauren Oliver. I got her ARC this spring in Chicago. I have never read any of her books so I am excited to get started on this one.



Holding Up the Universe and meeting Cheryl Strayed!

TELL ME TUESDAY is put on by La La in the Library. Check out her blog to see what she has been reading.

This week’s blog is also hooked up with Saturday Situation and Stacking the Shelves and The Sunday Post. Check out these awesome blogs too.


Holding Up the Universe

by Jennifer Niven 4 stars out of 5

Another great book by Jennifer Niven! Jack has face-blindness. This means he can’t recognize faces. For example, he doesn’t remember what his parents, brothers or girlfriend looks like. He relies on voices and certain characteristics.  This can be a challenge, especially when he accidentally kisses someone else’s girlfriend!  Only one person knows that Jack has this neurological disorder. That person is the new girl, Libby.  Libby, is very overweight and is bullied by many of the students at the high school her and Jack attend.  Libby and Jack form an unlikely friendship.  They encourage each other to deal with their “abnormalities”. But being in high school, that is easier said then done.  I liked that this book was told from two points of view. (Jack and Libby of course.) My favorite character in this book was definitely Libby.  Years before, after her mom suddenly dies, she retreats into her self and starts eating everything in sight.  Libby weighed over 600 pounds before she was rescued by a crane from her house and hospitalized.  She loses a lot of the weight but is still considered fat when she starts high school. Libby is now such a strong person.  Even though the comments she hears bothers her, she is fearless! At one point, she walks down the school hallway in a purple bikini!!! One of my favorite lines from Libby  is ” I know what you’re thinking, if you hate it [being fat] so much and it’s such a burden, just lose the weight…but I’m comfortable where I am. I may lose more weight. I may not.  But why should what I weigh impact other people? I mean, unless I’m sitting on them, who cares?” I love this! Ms. Niven, through these characters shows us how we need to accept one another, celebrate our differences, and love truly can be face-blind.

I met Cheryl Strayed author of Wild!!!!

Cheryl Strayed came to my town and spoke this week.  It was so fun and her talk was great.  She talked a bit about how Wild came about, her time on the set of the movie, and the impact her mom had on her life.  My favorite story she told, however, was about her kids hang gliding in the Alps.  Her son said that he was terrified to do it but didn’t want that to stop him from doing something amazing.  That is such great advice for life isn’t it? Here are some photos from that night.  I am not including the one of me with her because I look like a dufus!

I FINALLY finished the fourth Outlander book, Drums of Autumn


After reading 1010 pages, I finally finished it.  Again, I loved it! Each book consists of its own story so I don’t feel like I have to rush and read the next one to find out what happens even though I want to rush and read the next one because they are so good.  I believe Ms. Gabaldon is currently writing the 9th book so I am half way through the series right now.  I plan to start book 5 next week.  It is a bit shorter, only 975 pages.



What Light by Jay Asher 2 stars out of 5


I was very hopeful about this book.  I had loved Mr. Asher’s previous book, Thirteen Reason’s Why.  I had a very hard time getting into the story.  After about 100 pages I almost didn’t finish it but I kept hoping the story would get better.  The characters and the premise of the book were well developed but I just found it boring and not interesting.  It was also very predictable, which I think is the reason it was not interesting.  After about 150 pages, I gave up and skipped to the last 25 pages and read until the end.  There were no surprises and it ended like I though it would. So I skipped about 80 pages and the story still made sense.


Author Interview with Jo Knowles

TELL ME TUESDAY!!! TMT is put on by La La in the Library. Check out our blogs and tell us what you have been reading this week.  Here is what I have been reading.

The first book I read by Ms. Knowles was Read Between the Lines.  I have to admit that the cover cracked me up so yes I did choose a book to read based on its cover. It was a great read and I have been anxiously waiting for her next book. 


(“Read Between the Lines” is available in paperback October 11.  Click here to order.)

So with that said, I was excited to read her latest book, Still a Work in Progress. As before, the cover intrigued me. There was a cat wearing a sweater on the front and the spine of the book! And if you are wondering, yes the cat has an important role in this book but I am not going to give it away!


Here is the summary of Still a Work in Progress from the front flap of the book.  “Please stop standing on the toilet seats” is one of many requests found in the Suggestion Box at Noah’s small school.  Here, life seems pretty simple, especially for Noah’s two best friends.  Their biggest problems are avoiding girls and figuring out how to dance…but they both agree that Noah’s older sister, Emma, is perfect.  But Emma is far from perfect.  The family tiptoes around the issue, afraid that the Thing They Don’t Talk About could happen again. When it does, it’s clear nothing is going to be simple any time soon…”

I loved this book.  Ms. Knowles did such a great job capturing middle school and middle schoolers.  There were laugh out loud moments like Noah and his friends trying to learn how to slow dance, hiding in the bathroom to avoid girls, or cleaning out a locker that had a rotten tuna sandwich in it.  There were also heartbreaking moments. Noah’s sister, Emma, is battling an eating disorder and he feels guilty that he didn’t see it sooner so he could help her.  Noah is embarrassed by the attention at school and isolates himself from friends and teachers.  “I don’t want to walk in… and have everyone look at me and feel sorry for me or wonder how my family could have been so stupid not to see how sick Emma was.”  Noah finds solace in making his clay sculptures in art class and his only friend seems to be Curly, the school cat.

Since I am a huge fan of Ms. Knowles and I wanted to share her new book with you all, I asked if I could interview her and she graciously agreed.  

Jolene: How did Still a Work in Progress come about?

Ms. Knowles: It was inspired by the kids in my son’s middle school carpool, actually. Every week I couldn’t wait for school meeting day to find out what topic had been pulled from their own “complaint box” to discuss. They were so clever and funny that I started to write them down. Then I thought about how they would make great chapter headings, and started to think of the stories that might have inspired the suggestion/complaint in the first place. While many made it into the book, the heart and purpose of the story very quickly took over, but it was those initial discussions in the car that were the spark.

Jolene: I loved the chapter titles! I like knowing they are actual “complaint box” topics.

Jolene: What inspires you to write?

Ms. Knowles: I tend to see stories everywhere I look, and sometimes they just latch onto my heart and become so dear to me that I can’t stop thinking about them. It sometimes takes years for me to figure out how to write the story, but if it’s strong enough to take hold, eventually it finds its way into a book.

Jolene: I am so glad that this story took hold and made its way to a book.

Jolene: Do you listen or talk to your characters?

Ms. Knowles: No, I wouldn’t say I listen or talk to them. It’s more like I inhabit them. When I’m writing, I tell the story as if I am the character. I see what he or she sees, feels, etc. I wouldn’t say I am my character, but I’m inside somehow.

Jolene: What do you want your readers to get from your books?

Ms. Knowles: Most importantly, to think about how their perception of the characters change from start to finish, and how everyone has a personal story that explains why people behave a certain way. I hope, as with all stories, they inspire readers to try to understand others rather than judge them. I firmly believe that if more of us did this, it would go a long way to make the world a kinder place.

Jolene: I agree. I have learned so much about anxiety, depression, etc through characters in books.

Jolene: Did you always want to be an author?

Ms. Knowles: No, not at all. I have always been a bit of a wallflower so the idea of choosing a career that might put me in any sort of spotlight was not something I would have considered. I hoped to be a children’s librarian or an editor. It was in college that I first began to fall in love with writing. As a quiet person who never spoke in class, writing gave me a voice for the first time. Just as reading books as a teen made me feel less alone, sharing my own stories with others made me feel the same way. After reading my work publicly and connecting with others, I realized a tiny spotlight wasn’t necessarily so awful, especially when it meant making connections with people like me. In graduate school, I took a course on writing for children and it was the encouragement of my instructor who planted the seed of possibility, simply by telling me “You are a writer,” that set me on the path.

Jolene: I am so glad you chose to be a writer. Thank goodness for your instructor.

Jolene: What advice do you have for other writers?

Ms. Knowles: Write the stories of your heart, and try not to compare or measure your journey against others. Rather, embrace other writers and walk the path together.

Jolene: That is very good advice.

Jolene: How has having a published book changed your life?

Ms. Knowles: I’ve learned that my words can be just as powerful as anyone else’s. That sounds a bit heady to say, but what I mean is, you never know how your story might resonate with someone else. We read stories to feel less alone, and I think we tell stories for the same reason.

Jolene: What kind of books do you read?

Ms. Knowles: As many types as I can.  I love everything, honestly. You never know what might move or inspire or change you.

Jolene: That is so true! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to let us get to know you more.

About the AuthorAuthorPhoto.png

Jo Knowles is the author of Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons from a Dead Girl. Her newest book, Read Between The Lines, was called “masterfully woven” in a starred review by Kirkus. Some of her awards include two SCBWI Crystal Kite Awards, a New York Times Editor’s Choice and Notable Book, the PEN New England Children’s Book Discovery Award, an American Library Association Notable, Bank Street College’s Best Books for Children (Outstanding Merit), and YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults. Jo has a master’s degree in children’s literature and teaches writing for young adults in the MFA program at Southern New Hampshire University. She lives in Vermont with her husband and son.

To learn more about Jo, visit http://www.joknowles.com/Home.html or follow her on
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoKnowles

To order Still A Work in Progress you can order on  Amazon.com  Click Here!


The Sunday Post  is put on by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer, Stacking the Shelves is put on by Tynga’s Reviews, and Saturday Situation is put on by Candace’s Book Blog.  Check them out to read what we have been reading this week.

End of Summer reviews #VASRP wrap up

Tell Me Tuesday is put on weekly by the Uh-mazing La La in the Library . TMT is where we talk about what we have been reading so tell us!

Saturday Situation is put on by Candace’s Book Blog . stackingStacking the Shelves is put on by Tynga’s Reviews and Thesunday Sunday Post is put on by 
The Caffeinated Book Reviewer
 .  These are ALL amazing blogs that talk about our weekly reads.  Be sure to check out what we have been reading this week.

Back in June I signed up for Read Sleep Repeat and He Said Books or Me‘s Virtual Adult Summer Reading Program (VASRP) challenge.  I set a goal to read 17-24 books from June 1st through September 5th.  I am happy to say I read 24 books!!! This was such a fun challenge and I look forward to next summer’s challenge.


Exciting News!!! I will be doing another author interview with Jo Knowles.  She is the author of Read Between The Lines, Living With Jackie Chan, See You At Harry’s, Pearl, Jumping Off Swings, and Lessons From A Dead Girl. I will be talking with her about her latest book that came out last month, Still A Work In Progress.  Check out her author profile HERE on Goodreads.


Without further ado, reviews from this week.


A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness  5 stars out of 5

“Stories are wild creatures, the monster said.  When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” I saw the preview for this movie and of course had to read the book first.  There may be some spoilery type comments here so I caution you if you continue reading.  “You know that your truth, the one that you hide…is the thing you are most afraid of.”  This is what the old yew tree outside Conor O’Malley’s window tells him in his sleep.  Conor has been having a rough time lately; his mom is sick so his grandma comes to visit, his friend Lily told the whole school his mom has cancer, and he is being bullied at school by Harry and his lackeys.  Worst of all, he has the same nightmare every night.  This book is so beautifully written(and illustrated) and explores how we deal with grief, denial, and our fear of being invisible to the world.  The author captures how  accurately we sometimes deny our fear of the truths we don’t want to face.  This story convicted me  about how I tend to talk to people that are dealing with loved ones who are dying.  Sometimes, it is uncomfortable to talk about it so I error on not talking about it which I believe is worse for the person dealing with it.  I absolutely loved this book and can’t wait to see the movie in a few months.  Check out the trailer below.

Movie Trailer for A Monster Calls


Wrecked by Maria Padian 3.5 stars out of 5

This was my first NA book and I enjoyed it very much.  Even though some of the content can be hard to read, it is so important. The book is told from two points of view, Haley and Richard.  Jenny comes home from a party where she was raped.  Her roommate, Haley, tries to help her deal with the aftermath. Jordan brags to his roommate, Richard, about how he hooked up with Jenny.  Haley and Richard meet and instantly like each other not realizing they are both indirectly involved with the rape incident.  Throughout the book, Jenny struggles with reporting the crime.  It is heart breaking to read how devastated she is and how she feels no one believes her.  Things only get worse when she reports her attacker to the Dean.  Students start calling her names on social media and to her face.  I gave this book 3.5 stars because the story got a bit long and dull in the middle; too much legal jargon made it boring at times. I did like the flashbacks sprinkled throughout the book that tells the story of Jenny going to the party where she met Jordan.  There are not many books out there on sexual assault. I highly recommend this one.






#ARCAugust Wrap Up

Tell Me Tuesday is a weekly blog post put on by La La in the Library .  Read and click to see what we have been reading. Be sure to let us know what you have been reading this week. tmt

The Sunday PostStacking the Shelves ,and Saturday Situation are weekly blogs put on by The Caffeinated Reviewer, Tynga, and Candace.  It is where we discuss what we have been reading this week.  Check out our blogs.


Well September is here which means ARC August put on by Read.Sleep.Repeat is over.  I didn’t pledge to read a certain number of ARCs. Instead, I pledged to read as many as I could.  My final total was 9.  Not too shabby.  Here are the ARCs I read.

1. Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

2. Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor

3. War Dogs: Tales of Canine Heroism, History and Love by Rebecca Frankel

4. Substitute: Going to School With a Thousand Kids by Nicholson Baker

5. The Light Fantastic by Sarah Combs

6. Kids of Appetite by David Arnold

7. And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

8. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

9. Irena’s Children by Tilar Mazzeo

To know what I thought of ARCs 1-7, please look at past blog posts.  My review of ARCs 8 and 9 are below.


Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland 4.5 stars out of 5

Our Chemical Hearts was a fabulous debut novel! First, let me say that the cover is beautiful and I was curious to find out how it would relate to the story.  Don’t worry, it is related.  I loved so many different things about this book.  The characters are all so wonderful and different and REAL! I have encountered many of these characters in my real life. I appreciated that the characters weren’t cliches.  Henry, the main character, is funny, down to earth, and just a good guy.  He has an adult sister, Sadie, that was a delinquent in high school but also a genius so he has to prove himself to the teachers. Sadie was one of my favorite characters, delinquent turned neurosurgeon. Of course, she helps her brother break some rules throughout the story.  Grace, the other main character, starts her senior year at a new school, Henry’s high school.  Right away Henry is intrigued by Grace.  She shows up to school in boys clothing, hair not brushed, and walking with a cane.  Henry finds out that Grace has been going through an awful time and he is drawn to her.  They become friends. However, Henry wants more but is unsure of pursuing someone who is hurting so much. “She was grieving and broken and it would almost definitely end in one or both of us getting destroyed. But some things were worth fighting for, right?”  Grace seems interested but is afraid Henry is only falling for the Grace he wants her to be, the Grace before the tragedy.  Henry admits “I didn’t want Grace to be sick or broken or depressed. I wanted her to brush her hair and wash her clothes and to be whole and full and happy. So I pretended she was.”  The conversations with the characters were deep and authentic and fun.  Grace and Henry talked about oblivion and guilt and even Harry Potter. One of my favorite conversations was when Grace admits to Henry she has never read the books.  I enjoyed this because I have had to deal with this ridiculousness too! Haha.  But my absolute favorite part of the book was when Henry shows Grace his collection of Kintsukuroi bowls.  They are Japanese pottery that have been repaired with gold, which is stronger and prettier than glue. Henry says, “They do it because they believe that some things are more beautiful when they’ve been broken.” The metaphor here is so exquisite.  Things and people can be broken but put back together stronger than they were before. As I said at the beginning, this was a debut novel from Ms. Sutherland. I am excited to read more from her.



Irena’s Children (Young Reader’s Edition) by Tilar Mazzeo

4 stars out of 5


I have read lots of Holocaust books and it never ceases to amaze me the atrocities done by the Nazis to the Jews and those that tried to help them.  The story of Irena in Warsaw, Poland was one of selflessness and courage.  Irena and her group of friends helped smuggle 2500 Jewish children to safety during World War 2.  Parents were so desperate to save their children they would throw their babies over the ghetto wall not knowing if anyone caught them and took them to safety. Children would live in sewers to hide from the Nazis.  Irena would falsify papers and give Jewish children to Aryan families.  Then Irena and her helpers would have to find ways to smuggle the children to safety.  Sometimes “they arrived at the orphanage in burlap sacks slung over a workman’s shoulders, delivered to the back door as laundry or potatoes.” The children would even be hidden under piles of dirty rags or inside already occupied coffins. “The most inventive methods, though, involved simply leaving the ghetto with small children in sacks, suitcases, and toolboxes.”  Because Irena was participating in these dangerous activities, her life and the lives of her helpers were in danger too. There was constant threat of capture which would lead to torture and possible execution.  Unfortunately, this was the fate of some of the characters we learn about in the book.  Irena never thought of quitting.  Because of her bravery, generations of Jews survived.  “Of the roughly ONE MILLION Jewish children in Poland in 1939, about 5000 survived…about half of those were saved by Irena and her network.”  I liked having photos in the book even though they are haunting and sad to see.  This would have been a five star book but I felt there was a bit too much detail in the story at times.  I think young readers could get bored at some parts and not finish the book.  Overall, a great and important read.


I also read the adult version of this book. It was of course very similar. My only complaint is there were A LOT of details in this book that slowed the story down too much. I preferred the Young Reader’s Edition but if you love these type of non fiction books, then I recommend this one. It too was well written.