Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Best Books of Summer 2017

I have not one, not two, but twenty-one bloggers here today who are just dying to share their summer favorites with you. Many of these books you'll recognize from all of the buzz this summer, but these bloggers want you to know that these are the books that you'll want in your reading stack.

And what I love about this list? It represents a range of genres and publishing dates, so not everything is new and there's something for every type of reader.

Let's get started, shall we?

Christine of Buckling Bookshelves Recommends: 

A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

This was my pick for my August YA-for-Grownups book club meeting. Whenever it’s my turn, I choose an unread book from my shelves, so I never know for sure if I’ll like it, let alone the rest of book club! This turned out to be a new favorite of mine and I now want to dive into Donnelly’s entire backlist. I tend to appreciate characters in books more than plot and I think this is a perfect example of that. There are plenty of plot threads happening, but the people are just so real – flawed, struggling, conflicted, and there are no easy answers. Whether or not you usually read YA, if you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this book – the writing is excellent and it deserves all the awards and accolades it has received!

Hollie of Reading on the Run Recommends:

 Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

To even begin to tell you how important this book is feels overwhelming. Roxane Gay has written one of the most powerful memoirs I’ve ever read. Her honest, and raw perspective of her body and the world that she lives in with it can be difficult to read, but it SHOULD be read by everyone. As a woman, and a mother, this book felt so important for me. Being inside a woman's head is sometimes full of negative thoughts, and Roxane's perspective is encouraging that we as women are not alone. Then, being a mother... this is where it really taught me to stop that negative "body" talk, and just embrace who and what our body is... exactly what we want our children to do. Please do me a favour (I'm Canadian), and read this book, then pass it on to a friend!!

You can also find Hollie on Instagram @readingontherun.

Lori of The Novel Endeavor Recommends: 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give is the fictional account of Starr, a teenage girl who witnesses the murder of her best friend at the hands of a police officer. I read this earlier this summer and it still lingers in my mind. I enjoyed it because it tells the story from a perspective that many of those in the majority white culture never get to hear. Not only was it helpful from an ideological stand point, but I also loved it for the writing and the story itself.

You can also find Lori on Instagram @thenovelendeavor

Carla from Happiest When Reading Recommends: 

The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs

Literally the only thing we are guaranteed in this life – is death. Through my mama’s passing, I have learned to cherish the time I have…now. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring – I could get a terminal diagnosis, I could die in a car accident, I could have a heart attack – but I do have right now. I am breathing – in and out, in and out – and I will honor that miracle for what it is by appreciating this moment. This book provided the perfect comfort to my heart that is endlessly searching for pieces of my mama while I navigate this world without her physical presence. Our loved ones may be gone physically, but through our love and memories, we keep them alive and present in our hearts.

You can also find Carla on Instagram @happiestwhenreading

Jackie of Jackie Reads Books Recommends:

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

I read a ton of books this summer, but The Good Daughter was the novel that really caught my attention. The Good Daughter is a thriller and it doesn't take that description lightly. This is gritty and will have you cringing. I don't recommend it for sensitive readers or people who may have triggers, but if you can read through some pretty terrible and graphic scenes (and if you're reading thrillers, I think you can!), then you will love this one! I have yet to hear a negative review from any reader. I recommend that you read this and get as obsessed as I still am!

You can also find Jackie on Instagram @jackiereadsbooks

Gabriella of The Novel Nook Recommends:

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

I read SO many amazing books this summer, and one of the thrillers I absolutely loved was Fierce Kingdom. The story focuses on a mother and son who get trapped in a zoo during a mass shooting, and once I started reading, I couldn't stop! The mother/child relationship was a central part of the story, and it reminded me of the close bond my mom and I share, so that's one of the reasons I loved this book so much. Also, I got to meet Gin Phillips during her book tour, which was a highlight of my summer! Witnessing her passion for books and hearing her talk about this incredible story reminded me how special and life-changing literature is and how lucky we are to live in a world where amazing storytellers exist. Fierce Kingdom was beautiful, tense, and thrilling, making it the perfect summer read!

You can also find Gabriella on Instagram @thenovelnook.

I loved this book. The writing pulled me in instantly and the story was so readable. The main character Grace Holland is a wife, mother, friend, and daughter. I related to all of her roles because I fill each one of those roles too. She is something to everyone but does not realize her own strength until a fire that burns her coastal town tests her resolve and ability to survive. I read this book in two days time because I could not put it down. Every time I picked up the story I got so lost in Shreve’s writing. This is not a happy go lucky book, and to be perfectly honest it is a very depressing read but it done so well and the writing is very strong that you want to keep reading.

You can also find Rachael on Instagram @readingbringsjoy

Lindsay of Bibbidi Bobbidi Bookworm Recommends:

The Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

I fell completely in love with Willow Havens, her mother Polly, and all the other characters in the eclectic mix provided by Kathy Hepinstall in The Book of Polly. From the very first chapter, we learn that Polly is not the average mother. Along with being very much older than her daughter’s classmates’ mothers, she has all the spunk and sass a reader could possibly hope for. From her feuds with the neighbors to her battle with the Bear (her term for cancer), it’s absolutely impossible not to be drawn completely into her story through Willow’s search for answers to the secrets her mother has kept locked away from her. When I read this book, I found myself clutching my side from laughter, gasping in surprise at some of Polly's actions, and wiping away the tears brought on by the pure heart of this book.

You can also find Lindsay on Instagram @bibbidibobbidibookworm.

Alexandra of Booked Up Blog Recommends:

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

If We Were Villains is one of those books that will make you want to stay up past your bedtime so you can finish reading it. (I know because I speak from experience.) This twisty and intriguing tale of loyalty, betrayal, friendship, and personality centers around Shakespeare and will leave you just as obsessed with his plays as his characters are. It is part homage to Shakespeare’s brilliance, part murder mystery, part coming of age, part confession. M. L. Rio uses Shakespeare’s plays as the basis of her novel, using their plots and character dynamics to build this tangled, yet intriguing tale of identity and belonging. It is one of those rare novels that made it to the "Page-Turners Club" and five star read status for me. Don't let the Bard scare you away from this one-I promise it's one that you can enjoy even if you aren't familiar (or even if you didn't enjoy) his works. I honestly could not stop talking about this book from the moment I picked it up until well after my book club discussion ended.

You can also find Alexandra on Instagram @bookedupblog.

Amber of Teachers Who Read Recommends:

Three Pennies by Melanie Crowder

I loved how deep this book was without being beyond the grasp of my ten-year-old fourth graders. Told from three perspectives: the main character named Marin, her adoptive mother and an owl, this book keeps the reader wondering, "Will Marin find her biological mothers? If she does find her, what will happen?" I cannot wait to use this book in my classroom this year!

You can also find Amber on Instagram @iowaamber.

Carol of Reading Ladies 

AND Lindsay of Literature with Lindsay Recommend:

Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Carol: This summer, my favorite read was Dreamland Burning for multiple reasons. If you love historical fiction, this is a great read for you. Given recent racial tensions in the news, Dreamland Burning is a timely read. In fact, Dreamland Burning would be a perfect companion read or flight pick to read alongside Jodi Picoult’s “Small Great Things.” In addition, Dreamland Burning is categorized as YA and lends itself to engaging and involving young people in important discussions about race. One of the most important reasons I loved Dreamland Burning is that Jennifer Latham’s transitions between two timelines and main characters is seamless. It flowed as one story in that I wasn’t distracted or disoriented by the changing perspectives or points of view. Throughout the story, I greatly admired and appreciated the author’s skill in creating smooth transitions. I must note that of the two story lines, I was more engaged with the past than the present. Once in a while a book (such as this one) will give me a book “hangover,” and readers who’ve experienced it will know what I mean! Dreamland Burning has everything I love about a 5 star read: captivating characters, unputdownable engagement, important and timely themes, substantial content, and beautiful writing. I highly recommend this for men and women, for older teens, and especially for thoughtful book club discussions.

You can find Carol on Instagram @readingladies_book_club

Lindsay: I loved the two perspectives of the main characters in this story. Since they were from different time periods it was exciting to see connections in their storylines. The ending had me on edge! Plus, I learned something new about an event in history that often gets overlooked.

You can find Lindsay on Instagram @litwithlindsay

Kayla of Read Voraciously Recommends:

The Bedlam Stacks by Natasha Pulley

The Bedlam Stacks is the perfect combination of adventure and folklore. Pulley writes with an impressive imagination and produces a tale brimming with heart, excitement and dedication that challenges our ideas of what is real.

You can also find Kayla on Instagram @readvoraciously.

Chelsea of Mama and Little Bookworm Recommends:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is what summer reads are meant to be (at least for me)! It was a fun story that kept me interested, made me want to stay up late to keep reading and had me wondering about so many hollywood marriages (does this really happen!?).

You can also find Chelsea on Instagram @mamaandlittlebookworm.

Jamie of Fashion & Fiction Recommends:

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Packed with magic, illusion and danger, (and a little bit of love) this whimsical, fairytale-like YA novel was one I could not put down this summer. Though completely outside of my usual wheelhouse, I was quickly caught up in the world of Caraval and had to keep reminding myself, "Remember, it's only a game..." Now I'm patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for its sequel.

You can find Jamie on Instagram @jamiesfashionandfiction

Kirsten of Beyond the Bookends Recommends:

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water is a story about hope, loss, survival and love. Two strangers are stranded on a deserted island without any chance of rescue. They must work together to survive and overcome obstacles thrown their way. The writing is mesmerizing, the story captivates the imagination, and the characters became friends. I laughed, I cried, I could not put it down.

Jackie of Beyond the Bookends Recommends:

Hum if You Don't Know the Words by Bianca Marais

Hum if You Don't Know the Words is a brutally honest and emotionally compelling story, unlike anything I have ever read. This book is set in apartheid South Africa and features the 1976 Soweto uprising in which thousands of black students marched in protest of the apartheid government. The themes in the story are so relevant in today's world and sadly showcases how history repeats itself.

You can find Kirsten & Jackie on Instagram @beyondthebookends

Book Club Sunday Recommends:

The Dry by Jane Harper

The Dry was our book club's unofficial selection for the summer because we could not stop talking about it! In addition to being a thoroughly engrossing, page-turning mystery (though more of a character-driven slow burn than a thrill ride), it also had such a clear and transporting sense of place. We could literally feel the hot misery of the Australian drought as though we were there ourselves! We can't wait for the next book in the series and might have to make it an official book club selection this time!

On Instagram @bookclubsunday

Marwa of Unapologetic Writer Recommends:

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

It was a completely special novel. Nothing like I've ever read before. The writing style was so compelling and as a historical fiction novel, I never felt like the story was dragging. There was always something new happening, and the characters were extremely exquisite and constantly developing and unfolding before my eyes. 5/5!

You can also find Marwa on Instagram @seeminglymarwa

Andrea of Born and Read in Chicago Recommends:

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I loved several new releases (that have received a lot of buzz) this summer. But, I thought it would be worthwhile to share my praise for this backlist gem. I have heard about this 'southern fiction' writer several times over the last year or so, but never picked up Sarah Addison Allen's books. I am far from Southern, and the covers didn't GRAB me. I finally gave Garden Spells a try for a light summer read and found it DELIGHTFUL. It's full of vivid and lovable characters - including a magical apple tree. Magic does play a part, but in a smart and engaging way. There are intense and provocative scenes that kept me turning the pages, as well as great humorous and romantic ones that made me laugh and smile wide. This would be a great pick for fans of Practical Magic or The Language of Flowers.

You can also find Andrea on Instagram @bornreadchicago.

Sara of Meaningful Madness Recommends:

I See You by Clare Mackintosh

This suspenseful thriller is centered around crime against women in the London subway. The book follows Zoe, the protagonist, after she sees a photograph of herself attached to a personals website called In her quest to uncover why her photo appears in this ad, she realizes that other women are victims of a similar fate, and that several of the women are the victims of assault. I loved this book for a summer read, because it was a suspenseful, page turner. The multiple perspectives with short interludes by the mastermind behind add to the anticipation of the resolution of Zoe's story. The audio version of this book is fantastic.

You can also find Sara on Instagram @meaningfulmadness


What was your favorite read from this summer?

(P.S. You can find all of these wonderful bookworms and their blogs over on the blogroll on the right hand column of Top Shelf Text. I highly suggest browsing their sites when you have some time to spare!)

Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: The Other Girl (Plus, Q&A with Erica Spindler!)

Note: Top Shelf Text received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

It appears that this has been the summer of really good thrillers and really good mysteries. The two often go hand in hand, but sometimes a new book comes along that's a perfect combination of both genres -- and Erica Spindler's The Other Girl is one of them. I read this book in a day and it was successful in keeping me up way past my bedtime and in giving me a good scare.

The Other Girl follows Officer Miranda Rader -- a veteran of a small-town Louisiana police force and former juvenile delinquent. Miranda has built a career as a trustworthy, intelligent police officer and excellent investigator. No one on the force, with the exception of the chief himself, knows of her less-than-perfect past, and that's the way the well-respected officer wants to keep it. But of course, when you're a character in a thriller, your secrets are bound to unravel. When Miranda and her partner are called to the scene of a grisly crime -- a local university professor murdered by an apparently vengeful lover -- Miranda finds herself with a chilling link to the victim. 

Like I said, I read this in a day because I just had to find out who the killer was -- as soon as Miranda discovered a piece of evidence linking herself to the crime, I was hooked. At under 300 pages, the investigation moves quickly (and so does the romantic element) so it was a perfect read for me to take along to the pool. While the characters weren't necessarily deep, they were well-crafted enough that I had empathy for some and disdain for others. The plot was enough for me to keep turning the pages, and I was so surprised by how the events of Miranda's past linked to the crime. 

I also liked that this was a book with a female detective -- I read a lot of mysteries and thrillers, but very few of the contemporary ones feature female detectives. While Miranda definitely wasn't a role model in her teens, her transformation into a professional made for a good redemption story and by the end of the story, I admired both her values and her actions. I'd recommend this to any fans of the genre, and in particular to those looking for a book that will have you tuned out to the world until turning the last page.

Bottom-Line Rating: 3/5

Title: The Other Girl
Author: Erica Spindler
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1250083656
Format: Hardcover
Source: St. Martin's Press


Q & A with Erica Spindler, Author of The Other Girl

Start by telling us a little about The Other Girl and what inspired the story?

In The Other Girl, the grisly murder of a popular college professor, forces Detective Miranda Rader to face the traumatic past she thought she’d buried. It leads her on a quest for justice that may cost her everything—even her life.

A real life event close to home inspired The Other Girl. I live in a family-oriented, bedroom community of New Orleans. One afternoon the news exploded with the account of an attempted abduction of a young girl walking home from her bus stop. The girl managed to escape and the perp got away. As you can imagine, the story was everywhere and on everyone’s lips for days. She’s interviewed, her parents are on TV.  But no arrests are made, and the case goes silent.  Until—the sheriff appears on TV and announces the girl made up the whole thing.  

I was shocked.  The girl’s identity is known—so now everyone thinks she’s a liar. All her friends, teachers, family, neighbors.  Everybody. What if she really was telling the truth?  How would that impact her life now—and in the future? Would she bury the past?  Would she long for justice?  And what if she wasn’t the only girl? What about justice for them?  These questions are at the heart of both this story and my main character, Miranda.

Can you give us a look into the character development process, more specifically how you developed protagonist Miranda Rader?

I started with the “What if no one believed you question” and built my character from there, by asking more questions, defining who she is at the time of the incident—and how do I make it believable no one backs her up.  Then I tackled all the ways that might have changed her life.  For example, I decided she would have felt powerless against the system, so she would choose to become part of it as an adult—and what’s more empowering than a badge and a gun?  This really is a psychologically driven thriller, and my end goal was justice and healing, so every decision I made had to pass the test: Will this take me a step closer to that goal.

How would you describe your writing process, including getting started, conducting research, and knowing when a work is complete?

Beginning always starts with what I call my “Dark Gift” moment. It a goosebumps reaction to something that happens to me personally, or in my personal sphere.  And it starts the worst-case-scenario, what-if snowball rolling. I usually brainstorm on paper a lot.  Jotting ideas, plot points, bits of dialogue, character characteristics, or whatever.  The good stuff keeps coming back, the other just falls away.  I do whatever research I need to start the book, then research as I go.  (I don’t love research.) I’ve recently discovered a screenwriting book titled Save The Cat by Blake Snyder and have started incorporating his notecard, three act process and have found it very helpful.

When I think I have enough of a direction, I open a document on the computer and begin.  There are days writing is the hardest job ever, and other days when it’s heaven on earth—and lots of days in between.  For me, I know it’s done when all the threads are tied up and I get this euphoric feeling of satisfaction—not for having finished, but for my characters. It their happy ending, after all.

 Tell us about your influences, from all-time favorite authors to most inspirational works. Additionally, are there any recent titles you’d recommend? 

 Down here in south Louisiana, we’re known for our gumbo.  It started with the cajuns, who would throw whatever they had in an abundance into the pot to make a rich, flavorful stew.  That’s the way I think of my influences—horror like Stephen King and Peter Straub; Glitz and Glamour like Judith Krantz and Sidney Sheldon; childhood influences like the Trixie Beldon and Nancy Drew mysteries; the Gothic Suspense from my teens years, like Phyllis Whitney and Mary Stewart; and the Contemporary Romance like Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown—they all come together in my stories to create this complex and, hopefully, tasty mix.

What would you say is the greatest writing tip you have for aspiring writers?

 How about three instead? Believe in yourself, learn from your mistakes, and keep your butt in the chair!

 When did you know being a writer was what you wanted to do? What was the moment like when you realized it was becoming a reality? Was the path to publication a linear one?

 I always thought I wanted to be a visual artist, which is what I’m trained for.  I’d completed my MFA and lined up a University teaching job for the fall.  Then I caught the writing bug.  A cashier dropped a free Nora Roberts novel into my shopping bag; I read it and was hooked.  Although a big reader all my life, I’d  never read romance. After a months-long reading frenzy, I decided I had to try to write one.  The minute I put pen to paper, I knew I had found my true calling. I never looked back.

As for a linear path to publication—if that includes rejections, rewrites, rejections, rewrites, yes it was linear.  My very first novel, rewritten several times, is still in a drawer. I’ve nicknamed it Fatally Flawed, because I made every mistake a beginning writer can make.  It’s my learning curve, I’m proud of that fact, and it will never to see the light of publication.  Promise! 

What would you say makes The Other Girl stand out amongst other popular thrillers from the last few years? 

 There have been so many awesome thrillers published in the last few years!  What I hope stands out about The Other Girl is it’s main character’s authentic journey as she relives past trauma and fights for justice.  I think readers will really like her and be rooting for her. 

 Do you have any creative rituals for when you sit down to write?

 Coffee.  More coffee. And chocolate.  Seriously dark chocolate.

 When you're writing a suspense novel such as The Other Girl, how do you go about mapping out the plot? Did you know the ending ahead of time, or did you let the story unfold as you wrote?

In writing circles, you’re either a plotter or a pantser (as in the seat of your pants). I’m actually a bit of both. Some things I know. How it begins, who the hero is—and who the villain is.  I also start out knowing what the hero desires—or thinks she desires.
I know the crime, or crimes, that make the plot move, and also what the hero has to learn from this journey.  Everything else is the magic that happens as I’m writing—the story and characters take on a life of their own and things happen that I never could have planned beforehand.
 Are there any pieces of you in any characters in The Other Girl?

 Yes, definitely.  In all my books, there’re are bits and pieces of me scattered about.  (Sounds like crime scene!) And my heroic characters are always colored with my world view.

What’s your favorite psychological thriller? 

One of my all time favorite novels is Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Another is Along Came a Spider by James Patterson, and The Shining by Stephen King. The list goes on!

Thank you to St. Martin's Press for my copy of this thriller and for allowing me to contribute questions to their Q&A! As a reminder, all opinions are my own.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Meet the Diverse Books Club Team!

Readers, today I am absolutely thrilled to introduce you to the full Diverse Books Club team. This group of bookworms volunteered to hit the ground running when I asked for help in launching this new venture, and I am so, so grateful for each and everyone one of them. We have a lot going on behind the scenes already, and we can't wait to officially launch the DBC on September 1st!

Allow me to introduce you to our DBC team!

Madeleine Riley, Lead Moderator

Hi, friends. I think you're familiar with my background already, but just in case you're new to both the DBC and Top Shelf Text, I thought I'd introduce myself too. I'm Madeleine, bookworm, cat lady, loyal New Englander, and imperfect human who could use a little more diversity in my reading life. I hold a B.A. in psychology and a Master's in Elementary Education, and during the day you can find me at school, where I get to hang out with some pretty exceptional second graders in my work as a special education teacher. I'm here to learn and grow, and I am indescribably grateful for these people you're meeting here. 
Spoiler alert: these are some great humans.

Jordan Calhoun, Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction Moderator

Jordan Calhoun is a writer in New York City. He holds a B.A. in Sociology and Criminal Justice, B.S. in Psychology with a minor in Japanese, and an M.P.A. in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy. His writing has been published in the Huffington Post, Vulture, AfroPunk, and more, but he is most often found as a writer and editor at Black Nerd Problems. Learn more at

Chelsey Feder, Adult Fiction/Non-Fiction Moderator

Chelsey Feder is a high school English teacher, bibliophile, and INFJ. Through teaching, she has discovered the power of literacy as a force for social change. Chelsey currently seeks her M.A. in English at Valdosta State University. Her hobbies include: cooking with no recipe, looking before leaping, and hardcore introverting. You can find Chelsey on Instagram @hereadsshereads.

Sara Voigt, Young Adult Moderator

After graduating from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, VA with a Masters in Business Administration and spending 8+ years in finance, marketing, and business, Sara switched careers and became a middle school English teacher where she found her true passion. She taught 8th grade English for several years and loved creating a community of readers within her classroom. Currently, she assists teachers in implementing instructional technology in their classrooms as an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (ITRT).

When she is not working, Sara is always looking for a mud run to join--the more obstacles the better. In addition, she loves spending time with her family and particularly enjoys family movie nights where there is an abundance of ice cream, candy, and snuggles. She is a complete bookworm, and reads every chance she gets. Her favorite books include To Kill a Mockingbird, The Outsiders, the Harry Potter series (She's a Gryffindor!), and most recently Castle of Water (swoon!). 

She can be found on Instagram @meaningfulmadness and on her blog

Cailee Dela Cruz, Young Adult Moderator

Cailee is a 22-year-old writer and student from Canada. She is an avid creative currently penning her first short film. When she isn’t reading, Cailee also spends her free time making music and singing. She loves reading stories from all genres, and is looking forward to exploring diversity in literature with you!

Lori Luhrman, Children's Literature Moderator

Lori is a wife, mom, adoption advocate, and book blogger who loves all bookish things (even the really nerdy ones - like tote bags - in fact, she especially likes tote bags). Unfortunately, her passion for reading wasn't fully realized until after she graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in Mathematics; she has since spent the last ten years making up for all that wasted time on math! Lori is an INTJ who follows the rules she likes and ignores the ones she doesn't. When she's not racing around after an almost three year-old you can find Lori blogging about books, motherhood, and adoption at The Novel Endeavor. You can also follow her on Instagram @thenovelendeavorlori.

Lorraine Magee, Children's Literature Moderator

Lorraine Magee is a teacher, education activist, literacy blogger and an avid reader! She teaches third grade in her hometown of Natick, Massachusetts - in the very classroom where she was a third grade student! Lorraine is currently pursuing an M.Ed. as a reading specialist at Lesley University. She volunteers extensively with She's the First, an organization that supports girls around the world who will be the first in their families to graduate from high school. Lorraine is passionate about issues facing children around the world, and she is thrilled to learn with the Diverse Books Club!

RuthAnn Deveney, Recommendations Moderator

RuthAnn Deveney (RA for short) will be serving as the Recommendations List Moderator, taming the many member recommendations of all types for easy access and selection. She has a background in technical writing, and the prospect of creating a system for organizing (and reporting fun stats on) this bookish information is a perfect nerdy challenge. RA works in learning and development in the finance industry, and she lives with her husband and their dog in the adorable small town of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. She is a lifelong reader and writer, and on Wednesday afternoons, you can find her volunteering at the local library. RA's favorite author is Madeleine L'Engle, and she tends to write book reviews that are way too involved at Goodreads. You can find RA on Twitter and Instagram at @DefinitelyRA.

Morgan Hoit, Author Research Moderator

Morgan is a 20-something reader who lives in New York City and works in the theater industry as the assistant to a Broadway producer.  She loves all things book related and began blogging about her books and her life three months ago, combining her affinity for reading with her obsession with NYC as @nycbookgirl.  When not reading, Morgan can be found spending time with her friends and family, watching a new play or musical, drinking coffee, or exploring the city.  Morgan is committed to promoting diversity in literature and on stage and is so happy to be a part of the DBC team!  

Alexandra Rodriguez, Related Resources Manager

Alexandra is an English teacher, lover of literature, chronic illness warrior, and book blogger.  She has taught with Teach for America in Tulsa and Indianapolis, leading her to gain a passion for diverse literature.  She volunteers extensively with Dysautonomia Support Network, a national non-profit geared toward awareness of dysautonomia and other invisible illnesses.  Alexandra is currently working on her Masters in English from Southern New Hampshire University.  She is passionate about using literature to show not only what makes us unique but to celebrate our commonalities as well.  She is excited to join the DBC team and to change all of those diverse books from her TBR to her read list.  

Gina Jadelis, Twitter Account Manager

Gina is currently in her senior year at Marist where she is studying Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in Fashion Merchandising. On campus, she is the president of the Emerging Leaders program, an Orientation Leader, and a member of Sigma Sigma Sigma. She was also a Head Coach at the Marist Insitute for Public Opinion during her sophomore and junior years. During her junior year at Marist, Gina studied abroad in Florence, Italy where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in Italian culture and travel to nine different countries in four months. Gina has a passion for reading biographies and non-fiction in order to learn and understand the world better, but she also loves a great novel that takes he away from reality. 


Like I said, this team is working so hard already to make the DBC happen before we officially open our forums on September 1st. You can read all the details on the DBC here and join our Goodreads group here. If you're on Instagram, follow us @diversebooksclub and if you're on Twitter, chat with us @diversebookclub.

Note: The opinions expressed by members of the DBC Team do not reflect the opinions of our various employers. This venture is a personal one, but also one that is close to our hearts.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: The History of Bees

Note: Top Shelf Text received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own!

Readers, let me just voice what everyone is thinking.

That cover.

This could potentially go down as my favorite cover of 2017. And it's even better in person, because it's textured too. Shoutout to Kelsey, who is the digital marketing manager at Touchstone, and who was totally unfazed when I told her I couldn't stop touching the cover of this book. (Hi Kelsey, and thanks for letting me be weird at you over the internet!) 

The History of Bees just came out earlier this week, so you can expect to see it popping up on shelves at your local library and bookstore soon. I can tell you the reason that it first caught my eye -- ever since I became a fan of Sherlock Holmes (at a very young age, I can assure you), I've been fascinated by beekeeping. My fascination mostly exists by proxy, because if Sherlock deems it worthy of study, then I'm interested. If you share my interest, then I highly recommend this novel. There are a few different elements of the book that I want to hit on in this review, but the first is the structure of the novel.

I read a lot of historical fiction, and most of my favorites are ones that have dual narratives, in which there's a past perspective and a present perspective that somehow tie together. The History of Bees takes that concept and pushes it further, with a third perspective representing the future.

Here's how it's laid out: 

The first narrative takes place in England in 1835. It's told from the perspective of William, a merchant and biologist who leaves his bed after a rather drawn out depressive spell when inspiration strikes. He invents a new type of beehive, one that he's sure will bring him notoriety in the biology world.

The second narrative takes place in 2007, on a bee farm in Ohio. The perspective featured is George, a stubborn beekeeper who fights to maintain his family's beekeeping traditions as modern farming threatens both his livelihood and the lives of his bees. George has a son whom he hopes will take over the farm, but his hopes falter when his son returns home from college with a different career path in mind.

The third perspective is that of a woman named Tao, who lives in China in  2098. At that time, the bees have been absent from the earth, and human pollinators work to fill the gap left at the agricultural level. Food is scarce and life is regimented, but Tao is content to work hard to provide a better life for her beloved son. That is, until her son is the victim of a mysterious accident and is taken away by the government. Tao grows suspicious of their motives and, desperate for answers, ventures into the dangerous, unregulated lands outside the city.

As I read, I found myself most interested in the present perspective. George's struggle to maintain tradition while he battled environmental decline and industrial farming was really interesting to me, and I found the relationships in his narrative to be the most fruitful in connecting me to the characters. The characters in the other two narratives weren't as well drawn but had great potential, had they been given more space to develop. In general, I felt that I could have read three totally separate novels featuring each of these narratives and enjoyed them all for separate reasons. Had that been the case, however, I would have missed out on the unique way that the three narratives tied together in the end (but I won't spoil that for you here). The book left me with a whole host of feelings -- a little bit of despair, some glimmers of hope, and alarm that the environmental issues featured in this book are real and present to our time. Even though I didn't completely connect with all of the main characters, I would still recommend this title even just for the experience of learning more about beekeeping. I found every bit of information fascinating, and every additional fact about the decline of bees devastating.

Recommended for fans of all genres, as this unique novels wraps dystopian, contemporary, and historical fiction all into one complex, interwoven story.

Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5

Title: The History of Bees
Author: Maja Lunde
Publisher: Touchstone Books, 2017
ISBN: 1501161377
Format: Paperback ARC
Source: Touchstone Books

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Dreamland Burning

Here's what I love about being in the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club: Anne is constantly introducing me to books that I would not have chosen for myself. That is to say, I really should venture into the young adult section of my library more often because we've read some gems this year that would not have otherwise made it onto my nightstand. Dreamland Burning is just another book to add to your reading list, but if you're like me and partial to historical fiction novels, you might want to bump it up to the top of that list. 

This novel plays out in much the same way that many of my favorite historical fiction reads do: two perspectives (one past, one present) and a mystery that leads the protagonist to explore past events. The modern day perspective in this novel follows Rowan Chase, a teenager living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When construction crews stumble upon human remains on the grounds of Rowan's house, she is compelled to learn about the history of the place she calls home. The past narrative follows Will Tillman, a teenager who lived in Tulsa one hundred years before Rowan. Will works at his fathers shop, and is a firsthand witness to the racial tension that suddenly overflows with the race riot of 1921. These characters are bound together by the instances of racism in their own lives, and both have to make hard decisions about what is easy and what is right.

I loved that this book explored a period of time that I had absolutely no background knowledge of, and I've heard the same from many other readers. The story weaves threads from the events in Tulsa in 1921 to the problems that our present-day society has with race, to show the reader both how society has changed and how we have an immense amount of work still to be done in protecting all of the vulnerable populations in our society. Not to mention, there was a great twist in this novel that had me thinking some pretty deep thoughts about the ways in which we construct dividing lines between ourselves and others. For that reason, I'd recommend this not only to young adult readers, but to readers of all ages.

Bottom-Line Rating: 4/5

Title: Dreamland Burning
Author: Jennifer Latham
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 2017
Price: $10 on Amazon
ISBN: 0316384933
Format: Hardcover
Source: Public Library