Tag Archives: contemporary lit

A Little Encouragement

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Happy Friday, friends! The weekend is here and with it, here’s a little extra encouragement as you work on that best-seller. Nothing is quite as demotivating as pitching an idea to someone who replies, “Hey that’s cool! Your story sounds kind of like…reminds me of….etc.” Sometimes it can feel like everything’s already been said, that your story isn’t worth putting out there, but fight that little brain demon and keep at it!

Want to know a secret? Some of the most mind-blowing characters we see and think, “Wow, I could never create someone as devastatingly amazing at that,” aren’t quite as stand-alone as we think. For example, Batman was not the world’s first mysterious and shadowy crime detective to make a hobby of stalking police commissioners. Much of his character draws from the 1930’s radio drama, The Shadow. (Which is actually super fun to listen to if you like podcast-type stories. You can find episodes free online.) So yes, sometimes we do need to stand on the shoulders of the storyteller who have come before us. But by incorporating our own voices we are owning our traditions and remaking the myths that have been the foundation of narrative for centuries. You’ve got this!

Happy Writing!

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What to Read: Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares

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Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn


Summary

A whimsical girl looking for love, Lily leaves a notebook tucked among the shelves of her favorite bookstore; a notebook full of dares for anyone brave enough to accept them. Enter Dash. The pair begin trading anonymous challenges through the notebook, launching them into a comedic, whirlwind romance.

Overall Impressions

A perfect read for Christmas break. Set around Christmas, this funny and heartfelt novel is a part of my personal library. I’ve read it at least three times and it never fails to make me smile. The idea behind this story is beautiful. Beyond the plot, Lily’s enthusiasm is a lovely juxtaposition to Dash’s thoughtful cynicism, their voices clear and equally balanced between shifting viewpoints. I recommend Dash & Lily to anyone looking for a fun and relaxing read this holiday season.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Sunlight and Shadow

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Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey


Summary

When Mina was born to feuding parents, a deal was struck. She would live with her mother, queen of the night, until after her sixteenth birthday. But her father breaks the pact, setting in motion a dangerous series of events. To bring back her daughter, the queen enlists the help of a young determined prince armed with his wits and a magic flute. So begins Dokey’s masterful retelling of “The Magic Flute”.

Overall Impressions

A light read for fairytale lovers, this book is my version of comfort food. It has everything: humor, romance, an age-old prophecy. Not to mention the charming characters who adventure across each page with wit and tenacity. What’s not to love? Told in true yet original fairytale fashion, I was immediately drawn into Mina’s competing worlds, and after reading it once I was happy to return time and time again (I think the count is somewhere around five?). Sunlight and Shadow speaks to a storyteller heart.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon


Summary

When 15 year old Christopher Boone discovers his neighbor’s dog has been murdered, he decides to investigate. However, the investigation leads him to a secret within his own family. This life-changing discovery leaves Christopher unsure of who to trust, and so he embarks on a quest to find someone he can. To do so, he will have to venture into unfamiliar territory, relying solely on himself for the first time.

Overall Impressions

Incredibly sincere, Haddon’s explores the story of one determined boy and his family as they navigate life, loss, and autism. Told from Christopher’s point of view, I found the book insightful to the paradox of how complicated life can be, and how simple. Haddon’s poignant style made the book a fast-paced yet meaningful read. Warning: This is not a “feel good” book. But is it an incredibly compelling story, and I would recommend it for fans of adult realistic fiction.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Night Circus

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Summary

Raised among backstage curtains by her ruthless father, illusionist Celia is trained to compete in an age old rivalry. Her grooming leads her to Cirque de Rêves, a massive and fantastical undertaking like the world has never seen. As strategies unfold and terrible secrets are revealed, Celia and her opponent begin to realize they are competing for more than victory–they are competing for their lives.

Overall Impressions

Ladies and gentlemen, my favorite book, The Night Circus. Nothing prepared me for the absolute marvels inside the iron gates of Cirque de Rêves. Gorgeously written characters from all flocks of life capture the imagination, ignite the wonderment of childhood, and make a home in the heart. But amidst the magic are deeply human struggles. Hunger for power, unrequited love, and sacrifices for the sake of success. I smiled, I cried, and I fell in love with everything about Morgenstern’s magical circus world. Without question, I would recommend making The Night Circus your next read.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Fangirl

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


Summary

Cath, a fanfiction writer and long-time lover of the Simon Snow series, has just entered her freshman year of college. With her is charismatic twin sister, Wren. Wren is eager for new-new places, new people, new experiences. Cath prefers the familiar. But the world outside of Simon Snow is calling, and Cath’s not quite sure which world she’d rather belong in.

Also by Rainbow Rowell: Carry On

Overall Impressions

Yes. Just…yes. Fangirl captures the essence of what it means to be a nerdy, eight-year-old girl stepping into the big wide realm of college for the first time. I would know. That was me two years ago, all anxious heart and fandom T-shirts. I’ve gotten over the nerves, mostly. But somedays that’s still me, which is why Fangirl is so relevant for today’s budding adults. It reassures us that shedding old ideas of who we are doesn’t have to mean letting go of what’s important, and that we never have to go through it alone. Rowell has a deep understanding of the young adult mindset, and her style shines on every page. Every girl in transition, fan or otherwise, should grab a copy of Fangirl ASAP.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Enrique’s Journey

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Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario


Summary

At the tender age of five, Enrique and his sister are left behind when their mother travels from Honduras to the United States to seek better opportunities for her impoverished family. Enrique grows up aching to be reunited with his mother and to have an answer to the burning question: If she left, does she really love him?  Sonia Nazario details the brutal, dangerous journey of immigrant children desperately trying to reach their families in United States.

Overall Impressions

All stories challenge us, but nothing challenges a perspective like the stories of real people. Nazario puts faces to the controversial topic of immigration. She depicts the horrors some immigrants face as they struggle to break the cycle of poverty many are trying to escape. Others are children, too young to understand, looking to reunite their families. I found the book to be incredibly educational, inspirational, and relevant to today’s societal issues. I would recommend it to nonfiction readers and anyone eager to expand their understanding of immigration.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Dorothy Must Die

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Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige


 

Summary

When Amy Gumm lands in Oz with her pet rat Star, she immediately finds herself caught in the middle of a rebellion. Dorothy Gale, Oz’s hero turned tyrannical princess, has been draining the land’s magic. Now, in an attempt to stop Dorothy, the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked has enlisted Amy for a dangerous mission. In order to save Oz, Dorothy must die.

Overall Impressions

Oz has never looked so bizarre, and Amy Gumm does a wonderful job of articulating just how up-side-down it is under Dorothy’s rule. I love when stories question traditional characters, and this novel dramatically reimagines Dorothy as a ruthless, petty ruler set on a magical dictatorship. Many other creative, sometimes horrifying characters make up Dorothy’s guard along with the antiheroes of the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. Lovers of retold classics, fantasy, and YA adventures should consider adding Dorothy Must Die to their summer list. 

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: Six of Crows

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The Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


Summary

A suicide mission. A gang of young criminals. A fortune to be made. Kaz, mysterious criminal mastermind and member of the Dregs, is always twelve steps ahead. While his crew may not always see his end game, they trust him whole-heartedly. Kaz recruits Inej, Nina, Jesper, Wylan, and Matthias for a once in a lifetime job that will either end in riches beyond their wildest dreams (and revenge for unsettled scores) or death.

Overall Impressions

Leigh Bargudo slays, a true queen of fantasy writing. Her storytelling skills shine in The Six of Crows, a dark, unpredictable, and thrilling novel that leaves readers hungry for more. The story is bursting with dynamic characters, both lovable and loath-able. I usually lock onto a favorite character rather quickly, but in this case it was impossible for me to choose. Despite their brutal choices and sometimes questionable morals, their silver linings left me rooting for them until the end. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this amazing series.

For more by Leigh Bargudo, see What to Read: Shadow and Bone.

Happy Reading!

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What to Read: The Bitter Side of Sweet

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The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan


Summary

Amadou and his little brother Seydou have worked on a cacao farm for over two years, abused and unpaid in the cycle of modern-day slavery. They are not alone in their struggle for survival. There are other boys who work the farm, but none of them could have anticipated the arrival of Khaija, a fierce girl determined to escape from day one. Together, Amadou, Seydou, and Khaija may be able to accomplish what the brothers have never been to do alone–be free of the farm and find their way home.

Overall Impressions

Sullivan tackles a very real (and scarcely talked about) problem in today’s society with an enormous amount of heart and talent. The book is well-written, the characters are real enough to touch, and Sullivan’s passion for the rights of child laborers is inspiring. Amadou, Seydou, and Khaija represent the countless number of children forced to work in deplorable conditions, in this case within the chocolate industry. Theirs is a simultaneously heart-wrenching and uplifting story of family and friendship, as well as a look into the shocking world of modern-day slavery. The Bitter Side of a Sweet is a summer reading must.

For more, visit Tara Sullivan’s site: https://tarasullivanbooks.com/ 

Happy Reading!

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