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An avid reader since the age of three, Heather proudly displays an "ENGMJR" license plate and Sparky the Sun Devil sticker on her car as some proof she graduated from Arizona State University with her B.A. in Literature. When she isn't reading or scouring used bookstores for vintage etiquette books, Heather can often be found watching hockey or baseball, or jotting in one of her many notebooks. A self-proclaimed book addict who will read just about anything (though young adult, literary fiction and memoirs are her favorites), Heather usually carries no less than two books on her person, just in case. Come find her at Changing Hands Phoenix, and she will gladly chat with you about all things book related.
This is one of those books that, in my opinion, straddles the line between young adult book and an adult one, especially as far as subject matter goes. The protagonist's father suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as an Iraq War veteran, and this book really studies what it's like when a child has to care for the parent instead of the other way around. Laurie Halse Anderson has a way of writing prose that isn't shy, and this book holds its own with Speak, her first (and arguably most powerful) novel. I'd definitely save this one as a recommendation for older teens who can handle mature content and language.
If I were to describe Falling Into Place, it's almost like a case study of someone struggling with depression. You get the glimpses of the highs and the lows, and perhaps a reasoning of why people lash out or put on a front when they feel they may be struggling and don't feel that they have an outlet to ask for help. While I couldn't entirely relate to Liz's actions, I could understand her reasoning, and as the book went on, I felt more and more like I could root for her to pull through. Told from a perspective that you may not expect, Zhang's way of weaving words together is something that will keep you reading, even if Liz is a character that may not always be one-hundred percent likeable.
I made the mistake of starting Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe while I was moving. Whenever I got a moment between boxing up my belongings and the car trips to my new place, I read this book, and cursed the time when I actually had to be responsible and put it down. When I did manage to finish among the chaos, I was happy, but I was also simultaneously upset that a book as well written and captivating as this one had to end. Aristotle and Dante's story is nothing short of enchanting and will hook you in and make you want to read until you finish. It's hard to truly articulate in a paragraph just how beautiful this book is, so don't let me do the talking, read it for yourself and find out what you're missing by not reading this book.
Do you love to read? Wait, who am I kidding--you're either reading this review while you're standing in Changing Hands, or you're on our website, perusing our staff recommendations for your next book. Make it this one. The casual book lover to the avid reader will appreciate this exploration of the phenomenon of what we picture in our heads while we read, even when we are only given the sparsest of details by the author. Peter Mendelsund is a graphic artist, and the images he uses throughout this book are nothing short of brilliant. If you're not in the market for a book for yourself, give this book as a gift for the person who's read everything else you could think of giving them. Coming from a person who always has a book on her person, I adored Mendelsund's clear appreciation for what can only be described as the art of reading.
Further Out Than You Thought is exquisite; there's no other way to put it. When I first started reading this novel, it was instantly clear that a poet fashioned the lyrical, yet unflinching prose that filled the pages. Set against the Los Angeles Riots of the early nineties, local author Michaela Carter weaves a tale of three people in their twenties searching for their place in the world, straddling the line between adolescence and adulthood. Carter's cast of characters are each brilliant in their own right. Gwen Griffin is a strong female protagonist, and Count Valiant quickly made his way onto my list of favorite characters. This is a fantastic debut, and after reading Further Out Than You Thought, I will be looking forward to more of Carter's work in the future
Jandy Nelson is arguably one of the better kept secrets of the young adult world and her second novel is an exceptional piece of work. The prose alone will keep you hooked from the first page. I wanted to finish it in a day, but gave myself time to read this novel over several days, just so I could savor the beautiful writing. Told from the alternating perspectives of twins Noah and Jude, each sibling tells their respective side of both their falling out and their family's disintegration from different time periods (Noah's viewpoint takes place in the past, Jude's the present), when eventually the two stories connect. This novel will break your heart and put it back together in a way you didn't expect. I'll Give You the Sun is a wonderful novel that is easily one of my favorite books of 2014.
I discovered this book on a "books to read after you've read The Fault in Our Stars" list, and while this book will inevitably continue to be compared to John Green's powerhouse, Zac and Mia is its own story, and a great one at that. We are first introduced to Zac, a seventeen year old who is battling leukemia. While stuck in the hospital, Zac meets Mia, a feisty fellow patient with an osteosarcoma tumor of her own. Much like Augustus and Hazel Grace, Zac and Mia are smart characters who aren't your average teenagers. Hailed as a novel that's "a lot about love (and a little about cancer)," Zac and Mia won several different awards when it was first published in Australia in 2013, including the Text Prize for Young Adult and Children’s Writing. If you're hesitant to read The Fault in Our Stars because of the hype, Zac and Mia is a great alternative. If you have read The Fault in Our Stars and are looking for your next read, don't miss this novel
Right off the bat, editor Chuck Palahniuk describes the term burnt tongue as "a way of saying something, but saying it wrong, twisting it to slow the reader. Forcing the reader to read close, maybe read twice..." This anthology is the perfect embodiment of that statement. By the second story, my stomach had knotted up so bad, it almost made me sick, yet there were passages I simply couldn't not read twice just because they had so much power. Throughout the rest of the collection, I constantly found myself both exclaiming some version of "holy sh*t!" and texting a friend (a fellow Palahniuk lover) to ask her why I put up with such misery. The answer is simple. The writing in these stories, however graphic, is still brilliant. The language and style reek with Palahniuk's style of blending the horrific with the humorous in that dark way that leaves you wondering why you're laughing while simultaneously feeling like you're about to be ill, and yet, every piece is distinctly each author's own. This anthology is one where the writing will stick with you, and have you mulling over what you read for days to come
First off, let me say...holy cow! I've been a fan of Gayle Forman ever since I discovered If I Stay (which, if you still haven't read, pick up a copy immediately). I never thought I would love one of her novels as much as I loved that one. I Was Here proved me wrong. This book grabbed a hold of me and wouldn't let me go. It's haunting and beautiful, and although it can get heavy at points, I Was Here is an exquisitely written story about friendship, redemption, and finding closure. When I wasn't able to read it, I wanted to. When I finished it, I immediately wanted to pick it up and read it again. This book is that good. Whether you're a Gayle Forman novice or aficionado, add this book to your must read list of 2015. You will not be disappointed.
Have you ever read a book that you connected with so well that you want to give it to all your family members and friends so they'll understand the thoughts in your head? For me, Hyperbole and a Half is that book. Brosh pulls directly from her award-winning blog and handles topics like depression and anxiety in a candid and hilarious way that had me laughing to the point that I had tears in my eyes. Loyal followers of Brosh's blog and those who have never encountered her work before can appreciate the hilarity woven throughout the pages of this book, especially the twenty-somethings who are still trying to find their place in the world.
I am constantly on the lookout for novels with a distinct voice, and the voice throughout Ariel Schrag's debut novel is just what I imagine the average teenage male's thought process to be. The voice is crude, graphic, and unfiltered in the way you'd expect from this kind of character, and this novel reads almost like the diary of a teenage boy, were he to write one. The subject matter can be a little touchy at times--for the majority of the novel, the main character Adam is a boy pretending to be a girl who has transitioned into being a boy--but overall, this is a great novel about first love and how important it is to be true to one's self.
On a New York night, Kitty Genovese was murdered just outside her apartment building while people in the surrounding buildings watched. For five decades since her murder, the infamous Kitty Genovese case has captured the attention of the American public, spurring what is known as the bystander effect. In his book, Kevin Cook examines this crime from perspectives such as Kitty's killer, Winston Moseley, to her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zielonko, to residents of the buildings near where the crime was committed. Cook also debunks several myths that have come to be commonly associated with the case. A fantastic overview of the murder, investigation, and trial, Kitty Genovese is an excellent read for both true crime enthusiasts and those new to the genre.
What happens when you find out the person you thought you knew was lying to you the whole time? When her girlfriend Swanee dies suddenly from cardiac arrest, Alix comes to discover that Swanee had another girlfriend and another life. I've always been a huge fan of Julie Anne Peters, and it's because her characters don't always fall into the typical tropes and pitfalls that come with not only young-adult fiction, but LGBT fiction specifically. Lies My Girlfriend Told Me is no different, and is well worth the read.
If you're looking for a extraordinarily written story collection containing diverse characters, look no further than Mundo Cruel. All nine stories are set in a community in Puerto Rico, and feature a wide examination of sexuality from two mothers gossiping about an acquaintance's son, to the out and proud men who aren't afraid to flaunt who they are, no matter what the consequences may be. These stories are intense, brash and brazen in the best way possible. Each was something to savor, yet when I finished the book, I wished I had more. Negron crams tons of unapologetic goodness into his stories, and Mundo Cruel is a well-deserving winner of the 2014 Lambda Literary Award in the fiction category. Do NOT miss out on this gem of a collection
Love Letters to the Dead was one of those books that I just couldn't put down. I read it in a matter of hours, and was overcome with such a wave of emotion at the end of it that I simply had to close my eyes and take a breath. Laurel is given an English assignment at the beginning of the school year to write a letter to a dead person. Her first letter is to Kurt Cobain, Laurel's recently deceased sister's favorite musician. The book continues with a series of letters to historical figures like Amelia Earhart and John Keats, along with more contemporary figures like River Phoenix, Amy Winehouse, and Janis Joplin. One of the more powerful books I've read lately, Love Letters to the Dead is a book that I would highly recommend it to fans looking for something similar to Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why
A few nights while on break at work, I read this over at First Draft, and some of the double takes I got were enough to make me snicker (which may have looked suspect, given the title of the book). This book also prompted the question "what are you reading?" from a customer when I was leaving the store with the book under my arm. Don't just read Perv for the hilarious, inevitable double takes and questions you'll get when reading out in public, however. Read it because of the things you'll learn that you might never have otherwise. Bering gives us a great, cerebral look at all things that make us "deviants," and the psychology behind the way our culture has come to shame certain sexual behaviors. Just what makes a "perv?" Read this book and find out. The answer may surprise you.
If you look at the author headshot, you might recognize Chris Colfer as "that one kid from Glee." Don't let that stop you from picking up this book, however. I'm usually one of those people that is hesitant to read books written by famous actors, but since I have been following Colfer throughout his career, I decided to overlook my usual reluctance. I am so glad I did. In this first installment of Colfer's series, we meet Alex and Conner Bailey, twins who have been transported into The Land of Stories, thanks to a magical storybook of fairy tales given to them by their grandmother. While Colfer uses the bones of well known fairy tales, he manages to give these stories a completely new and creative spin. Goldilocks is an outlaw on the run, Little Red Riding Hood has become completely self-absorbed while her grandmother runs her kingdom, and Jack (of beanstalk fame) is a recluse in love with a woman he may not ever be able to be with. In addition to the many fairy tales that Colfer has highlighted and reimagined, The Wishing Spell is laced with humor that will have both kids and adults laughing out loud, making it a book that everyone can enjoy!
In an ever changing world, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is one of those books that is so important to read. Kirstin Cronn-Mills tells the story of Gabe, a transgender teen who has recently revealed his "B-side" to the world. While that is an important focus of the novel, this book can also be considered a love letter to music and the way it makes an impact within our lives. Gabe and his mentor, John share a love of music that I could feel with each page of this book. Well deserving of the 2013 Stonewall Book Award that it received, Beautiful Music for Ugly Children is (and pardon my pun here) a beautiful read that should be on everyone's "to read" list
The Opposite of Loneliness is a posthumously published collection of fiction and non-fiction from young writer Marina Keegan. After her tragic death in a car accident just days after her graduation from Yale, Marina's family and friends compiled the works found in this book. There is wit and wisdom throughout all Marina's stories and essays, both fiction and non-fiction alike. The Opposite of Loneliness is a beautifully composed tribute to Marina and her writing alike, and it is truly a shame that the world will no longer see future works from this talented and gifted author
Can't and Won't was my first foray into Lydia Davis' work, but I dare say after reading this book, I'll be seeking out more of her work in the future. Although classified as fiction, many of these stories read so honestly that you'll think you're reading a memoir. A lot of these pieces are less than a page long, some even less than a paragraph. Don't be fooled, however. Davis' flash fiction packs big punches with gorgeous, concise language, and the longer stories that are interwoven throughout the book are just as, if not more satisfying
Nina LaCour's Everything Leads to You is a beautifully written story that centers around Emi, a recent high school graduate and budding set designer. She has been given a challenge by her brother to do something epic over the summer before she goes to college. Everything Leads to You paints a gorgeous picture of the film industry while interweaving both mystery and romance throughout. This was a book that I absolutely could not put down and would recommend it to anyone looking for a smart, fun, and engaging coming of age nove
Ever since Crank, I have been hooked on Ellen Hopkins' style of writing. It is so unique and unlike a majority of authors out there. Using her free form style of poetry, Hopkins weaves stories that deal with a multitude of issues facing both teens and adults and her latest teen novel, Rumble, is arguably one of her best. Following the story of self-proclaimed atheist Matthew Turner, Rumble explores issues surrounding what it means to have faith, or in Matthew's case, a lack of faith and is a great story for anyone who can relate to searching for what it means to be themselve
The striking cover of this book was what initially attracted me, but the stories were what made me stay. Elizabeth McCracken's latest collection is chock full of gorgeous, descriptive language that left me in awe. As someone especially interested in writing, I found myself picking out sentence after sentence that I wish that I had written myself. This is a collection that everyone from the casual reader to the short story enthusiast can enjoy. If you read one book of short stories this year, make it Thunderstruck
This is not normally a book I would find myself picking up, but after hearing all the buzz surrounding it, I decided to give Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant a chance. I am so glad that I did. This book takes a topic that as the title describes, might not be so pleasant and gives readers an insightful, humorous look into the issues that one may face when having to take care of their aging parents. The story is told through Roz Chast's simple, but effective, illustrations, making this memoir one that is not to be missed!