Favorite Book Feature Leftovers, Part 2

On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. Because I have way more than only twelve favorites though, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorite’s shelf. Click here to check out part 1. Here’s the rest of my favorite books:

The Giver and its companion books by Lois Lowry

I was first introduced to this series in the fifth grade when my teacher read Gathering Blue to my class. We were all amazed by the book, so she also read Messenger to us. But I didn’t end up reading the first book of this series, The Giver, until I was in college, and it is hands-down my favorite dystopian story.

Twelve by Nick McDonell

Twelve is definitely not a book most people would like, and most people have never heard of it. But I found this book in my library when I was sixteen years old and it blew me away with its power. And when I saw that the author of the book had only been seventeen when he wrote it, this book became a major source of inspiration to young-writer me.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

This book is on my favorites shelf mainly because of how innovative it is and how impressed I am by it as a writer. Spanning centuries, this book tells six different but connected stories. My favorite of these are of course the ones that take place in the future, but each of them are beautifully told.

1984 by George Orwell

This is the only classic on my shelf besides Fahrenheit 451, and I love it for many of the same reasons. Plus I had a pretty eccentric high school English teacher who covered the room from floor to ceiling with “Big Brother is Watching You” posters, so it was quite a memorable experience when I read the book for the first time.

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

This book is as beautiful as it is haunting. The Lovely Bones is narrated by Suzie Salmon, a girl who was brutally murdered but who watches the aftermath of her death from her new home in heaven. This book has been a huge source of inspiration for my writing.

Unwind and the rest of the Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman

Like with [Everlost, Neal Shusterman blows my mind with everything he writes. This series takes place in the future after the second civil war was fought over abortion. Now children cannot be aborted, but from ages 13-18 they can be “unwound,” a process which results in 100% of their body being donated, so they’re not technically dead. These books are eerie and exciting and wonderful.

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

This is one of the books that made it’s way straight to my favorites shelf after reading it for the first time. This book is about a girl who was raped, and it’s a beautiful story about healing. Check out my What I’m Reading post about it here.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

I found Olive Kitteridge used and free, and I never would’ve picked it up otherwise, but my little beaten-up copy is one of my favorite books. A novel in stories, Strout tells the story of Olive and her Maine town. This book is beautiful and sad and just perfect.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I’ve said before that I’m not a huge fan of big books. I have trouble focusing for a long time, and so it took me a long time to read The Book Thief, but this is one of those books that stays with you. Told from the perspective of Death, this novel takes you through Nazi Germany and the story of a young girl who fell in love with words. This story will also always hold a special place in my heart because I watched the movie version while waiting to meet my boyfriend on the night he ended up proposing to me.

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

Unlike The Book Thief, Zusak’s other novel is fast-paced, funny, and still deeply meaningful. I Am the Messenger is the story of Ed and his friends who live in Australia and are just trying to get by. But then Ed receives a playing card in the mail with addresses listed on it, and he realizes he’s been chosen to deliver something important.


I hope you’ve enjoyed all of my favorite book features! I’ve loved looking back at all the amazing books on my favorites shelf and telling you all about them. Check out the My Favorite Books page on my website to find links to all of my reviews, and let me know if we share any favorite books!

Favorite Book Feature Leftovers, Part 1

On the last Friday of each month of 2017 I featured one of my favorite books. But because I have way more than only twelve favorites, I thought I’d do a couple posts on the leftovers with short features about each of the books left on my favorites shelf.

Lexicon by Max Barry

This thrilling novel combines science fiction and linguistics, which fascinates me. I’ve only read this book once, but it’s a smart novel that sticks with you. If you’re interested in linguistics you would love this book.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

This eerie dystopian book is about books being banned in the future and being burned by firefighters. This book has had a huge influence on my writing, and it’s one of only a few of the classics that I enjoy. Fahrenheit 451 is also one of the stories that inspired my current work-in-progress.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

This is one of those books that I keep coming back to because of how heartbreaking and honest it is. Charlie’s story about growing up resonates in so many ways and makes me laugh and cry every time I read it. I also absolutely love the film version.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is an incredibly original story about people living in a virtual world to avoid how terrible the real world has become. The world-building in this book is so detailed and inspiring to me as a writer. I can’t wait to see the movie version when it comes out this year.

Becoming Myself by Stasi Eldredge

This book is the only work of nonfiction on my shelf, and it’s a beautiful book about becoming who God intends you to be. I read through this book with a women’s group at my church, and it was amazing to share our stories and work on becoming ourselves together.

It’s Not Going to Kill You, and Other Stories by Erin Flanagan

This story collection is by my favorite college professor. I got to interview her on this collection for my university’s literary journal, and it’s a great book. The best part of this collection is the common theme of looking at how big events affect the characters’ everyday lives, my favorite of which is “Feather the Nest,” a story about 9/11.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This was the only fantasy on my shelf until I recently added The Reader. I love fairy tales, and this is a fantastic adventure story. However, I do like the movie more than the book.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

This popular book about cancer and love is as beautiful as it is sad. I just love how honest this book is. Green doesn’t shy away from the difficult topics, and the result is an incredible story. Another great read is This Star Won’t Go Out: The Life and Words of Esther Grace Earl, which is a collection of work by and about the late Esther Earl, the girl to whom The Fault in Our Stars is dedicated.

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Running Out of Time was my first favorite novel. This is the book that made me want to write. It’s a fascinating story about a girl who lives in a small town in the 1840s. But when the kids of the town start getting sick with diphtheria, she is sent outside only to find that it’s 1996 (the year the book was published). My favorite part about this book is the mix of past and present.

How it Feels to Fly by Kathryn Holmes

Holmes’ second novel solidified her as one of my absolute favorite authors. This is a book about a dancer with body image issues, but it’s not your typical ballerina with an eating disorder story. Instead, Holmes tells a incredible story about anxiety and overcoming insecurity.


I have ten more books on my favorites shelf to tell you about, so look for part 2 soon!

Favorite Book Feature: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The last Friday of every month this year I’ve featured one of my favorite books and shared why I love it. In case you missed them, here’s the books I’ve featured:

January—A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher
February—If I Stay by Gayle Forman
March—The Distance Between Lost and Found by Kathryn Holmes
April—13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
May—Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
June—Everlost by Neal Shusterman
July—Legend by Marie Lu
August—Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
September—The Selection by Kiera Cass
October—Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
November—The Reader by Traci Chee

favorites shelf

For December, I chose to feature The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, a book I fell in love with in college and which had an influence on my novel Somewhere Only We Know.

The House on Mango Street is a short novel made up of vignettes (short scenes) about Esperanza Cordero, a young girl growing up in a poor neighborhood in Chicago. Esperanza has always wanted a house of her own where she could be free, but what she got was a small house on Mango Street. Despite her circumstances, Esperanza learns to write and hope for the future. The House on Mango Street is a beautiful story with poetic prose that features so many interesting characters and so much hope despite the pain in those character’s lives. Esperanza’s name even means “hope.”

The main reason I love this book is because of the language. It is incredible to read this book and see how Cisneros can take a page-long vignette and show you so much about a character. Cisneros’s language is spare and precise, and the lines feel like poems with how smooth they sound. One of my favorite paragraphs at the end of a vignette is this: “Marin, under the streetlight, dancing by herself, is singing the same song somewhere. I know. Is waiting for a car to stop, a star to fall, someone to change her life.” The fragments make the words seem like a song, and they are so beautiful.

This book will also hold a place in my heart like all of the books that influenced Somewhere Only We Know do. The House on Mango Street is one of the books Frankie reads in my novel. I included this book because I wanted Frankie to see how Esperanza was able to overcome her difficult situation and still find hope.


I hope you enjoyed reading my Favorite Book Features as much as I enjoyed rereading each of these great books! I plan on doing another post with short features on the books on my favorites shelf that I did not feature, so be looking out for that.

Favorite Book Feature: The Reader by Traci Chee

Sometimes I read a book for the first time and it instantly makes its way to my favorites shelf. That happened this month with The Reader by Traci Chee. I usually don’t read fantasy, but I picked up this book because I had read that it was about a world without a written language, so I thought it would help inspire me with my WIP. I came into this book expecting to get a few new ideas on how a world would function without a written language, but I was instantly blown away by this amazing, thrilling, and diverse story about magic, pirates, and a book that contains everything that’s happened and everything that will be.

Sefia has been on the run every since her father was brutally murdered. She survived in the wild with her aunt Nin, but after Nin is kidnapped, Sefia is on her own with the mysterious object her parents had her protect: a book. Sefia teaches herself to read and sets out to rescue her aunt, and along the way she befriends a mute boy, is helped by pirates, and discovers a magic she didn’t know existed.

This book instantly became one of my favorites for several reasons. First of all, I love how diverse The Reader is. The story is populated by people of every age and color, and men and women are complete equals in the fantasy world of Kelanna. I like that Chee doesn’t draw much attention to it—that’s just the way things are in Kelanna. It’s refreshing to read a story in which this is the norm.

I also love this book because of one of its main themes, which is how stories give life meaning. Several of the characters struggle with the idea of not being remembered. Captain Reed in particular worries that his life won’t mean anything if people don’t remember the stories of all the adventures he’s been on. He even tattoos his body with images of everything he’s done. By addressing this theme, Chee highlights just how important stories are.

But the main reason I love this book is because it’s clear that the author loves words. Her love and respect of language infuses every word of The Reader. Chee writes with such authority, and had me laughing, crying, and devouring the pages. Words have magic in the story, and I love this analogy. Stories are powerful, and it is fascinating to see how that works out in a fantasy setting.


Favorite Book Feature: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s only a few months and a few Favorite Book Features left for the year. October’s featured book is one that was a great source of inspiration for my novel Somewhere Only We Know: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Although most book lovers find it impossible to choose just one favorite book, if I had to, Speak would probably be the one.

Speak cover


Fourteen year old Melinda Sordino called the cops at the end-of-summer party, and as she starts her freshman year of high school no one will talk to her. Her old friends ignore her, and no one else comes near her except a self-centered new girl. But Melinda can’t get herself to talk about what happened the night of the party anyway. She tries so hard to forget it, even though it’s destroying her. Melinda spends the school year trying to draw trees for art class and make it through school without speaking. Because if she speaks, then she’ll have to speak the truth.

Speak is one of those books that stays with you for life. I wish I had heard of this amazing novel sooner, because Anderson is now one of my favorite authors. The best part of Speak is the book’s voice. It’s hard to define voice. Voice is the style something is written in, and when it is good it becomes a work of art. It’s something you know when you see it, and Speak has one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read. I think I like this book so much because I want to write like this. I want to create characters like Melinda who completely draw readers in to their stories. Melinda doesn’t speak much out loud, but in her head she is observant and witty. She has a story to tell, and readers get to hear it even if the people around her don’t.

I also love this book because of its connection to art. Melinda finds that she is able to use art to be able to express herself, even when she can’t find the words. I tried to do something like this in Somewhere Only We Know, but with writing. I love being creative and I make a lot of crafts, but I can’t draw. If I could I’m sure I would turn to art more, but instead I turn to words. And so the girls in my book turned to the written word to figure out other possibilities for their lives. In Speak, it is incredible to watch as Melinda attempts to draw trees and her teacher encourages her to dig deeper. I used a quote about this as the epigraph to my novel:

Speak Epigraph

I have a great respect for Anderson because she chose to write about such difficult topics like rape and depression. Most people don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge that they happen, and people like to censor books about those topics in order to “protect” children from them. In “A Comment About Censorship” which appears at the end of my copy of Speak, Anderson writes, “Censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the dark and makes them vulnerable… Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.” A writer friend of mine put it another way when she said we shouldn’t shelter our kids but insulate them.

Teens need books like Speak and Somewhere Only We Know because real teens are experiencing these issues. And I’m going to continue reading and writing books like these.


Favorite Book Feature: The Selection by Kiera Cass

I’ve really enjoyed rereading and featuring one of my favorite books the last Friday of each month this year. You can find the full list of my favorites here. September’s Favorite Book Feature is one of my absolute favorites by one of my absolute favorite authors—The Selection by Kiera Cass.

My blog’s very first post was about the amazing Selection Series and how getting to speak to Cass was what gave me the kick I needed to write my debut novel, Somewhere Only We Know. I had so much fun rereading The Selection this month and am excited to tell you why it’s one of my favorite books.

The Selection

America Singer does not want to join the Selection. She doesn’t want to leave home and her secret love, Aspen, even though he is caste below her in their dystopian society and it would be difficult for them to be together. But she is chosen to participate in the competition to win the prince’s hand in marriage and must leave everything she knows behind. Then, when she arrives at the palace along with the 34 other girls in the competition and meets Prince Maxon, America realizes that the life she had always imagined for herself may not compare to the new possible future available to her.

The Selection is the first book in the original trilogy of the Selection series. The series follows America’s journey as she leaves her home province behind, moves to the capital of Angeles, and enters a competition to become the future princess. These books are filled with sparkling gowns, decadent food, mysterious rebels, and plenty of swoon. When I first picked up the book I heard it described as The Hunger Games meets The Bachelor, and that is so true.

Reading The Selection is like getting a hug from your best friend. America is one of the most endearing narrators I’ve ever read, and her story captivates me from the very first page. This is my fifth time returning to this book, and I love it more every time. If the combination of a dystopian society with all of the glamour of princes and princesses weren’t enough, the book’s main theme makes this story truly shine.

America had always believed that she would marry Aspen. She dreamed of being his wife even if it meant enduring life in a lower caste and giving up her beloved music. It was all going to be worth it for him. But then when the circumstances change and she finds herself in the palace, she realizes Prince Maxon isn’t who she thought he was. They even become good friends, and eventually America sees another possibility for her life—one in which she could be the princess.

I love this idea of possibilities. I love watching America discover that the world is open to her and that maybe what she thought were the right choices weren’t right at all. The Selection is an amazing book about this discovery.

I’m about to go read the rest of the series again. And you should read them too. You won’t be disappointed.


Favorite Book Feature: Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

It’s the last Friday of the August, which means it’s time for another Favorite Book Feature! This year I’ve been featuring one of my favorite books on the last Friday of every month, telling you why it’s one of my favorites. You can find the full list of my favorite books here. August’s featured book is Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis.

McGinnis’s debut novel is an eerie dystopia set in Ohio after a water shortage and contamination left many without water. Lynn was taught how to survive by her mother, and together they have protected their pond from every threat: drought, water contamination, coyotes, and people looking for a drink. Out of desperation, Lynn’s mother taught her to survive—how to shoot a rifle, purify water, hunt, and protect the house—but not much more than that. Not how to live.

But when her mother dies in an accident and when smoke on the horizon means a new threat, Lynn must reach out to others for the first time in her life. As she develops relationships with her neighbors and takes in a young girl who’s mother can’t care for her, Lynn slowly learns how to really live, not just survive in a dangerous world.

The main reason I love this book is because of the lean language McGinnis uses. The book has spare language, which reflects the barrenness of the environment. The book is easy to read, and does a beautiful job conveying all of the danger, emotions, and romance of the story.

I think McGinnis does a fantastic job creating her characters. Each of them is unique, from rough Mother and sensitive Stebbs to devastated Neva and hopeful Lucy. And I loved watching all of the relationships change and grow over the course of the book. My favorite of these relationships was that between Lynn and Lucy, whom Lynn takes in after her mother can’t care for her anymore. Lynn starts off treating Lucy the way her mother treated her—with a cold distance and a focus on survival. But Lucy’s youth brings so much life and hope to the house, and Lucy helps Lynn grow.

I also love this book because of how it’s a post-apocalyptic survival story. I’ve really been into reading survival stories like this lately, and Not a Drop to Drink does not disappoint. This book is definitely one of the more plausible dystopian stories out there, and it’s interesting to watch how someone survives in that world. It makes you really think about what you would do in the same situation. And I’m glad that Lynn moves beyond just surviving and learns how to really live.

I can’t wait to read the companion novel, In a Handful of Dust, set a decade after Not a Drop to Drink and told from now-teenage Lucy’s perspective.

Not a Drop to Drink.jpeg