Christmas Suggestions for Readers and Others…

I do this every now and again, and 2020 is a good year to boost books you enjoyed. It’s been a bad year for releases, as far as in-person events go. Authors have suffered, and bookstores have suffered. Here’s a few book suggestions for those on your list (Or for yourself! We all deserve to pamper ourselves after the year we’ve had!)…these are books I read and loved this year.

Before the books, though, I’d like to highlight another kind of gift! Small businesses just starting out right now are the kind of thing we need! I know just the one to support. LET’S TALK ABOUT SIMCOE & CO.! From their simple but elegant branding, to their FRESH products, I love everything about them!Click on the logo image below to head over to their Facebook page:

Full Disclosure: This brand new company is my niece’s brainchild. They’ve just released their first product in time for Christmas. If you’re in the GTA area (or even if you’re not) check them out at the link in the logo above. They’re located in Port Perry, Ontario and they’re currently featuring SUGAR SCRUBS in various delectable scents.

Their products are cruelty free and vegan. Give their Facebook page a like so you can watch as things unfold!

BOOKS? BOOKS! Did someone say books?

I’m going to suggest 5 from the 25 I read so far this year. Honestly, though, all the books I read this year were awesome. For the ones I don’t highlight here, you can check them out on my Goodreads.

(CLICK ON COVERS TO VISIT AMAZON LINKS)

For travelers and wanderlusters–or those thinking of becoming one–I have just the book! No surprise I read a lot of Camino books. I just finished two more, and I’m about to highlight both of them! First is the travel memoir…

There’s Something Going On! Walking the Camino de Santiago – by Simon Donlevy.

If I say this felt like an audio-book without the audio, you might look at me kind of funny…but that’s exactly what it felt like. Simon Donlevy is a storyteller. I felt like the author was telling me the story of the 6 month sabbatical they took. This retelling of the sabbatical not only covers their travels on the Camino, but also the decisions and planning that went into taking the sabbatical and the trip to Spain. And it covers the after-Camino experience as well. I found it well told and quite enjoyable. Wasn’t fully what I was expecting. That’s what I love about Camino books…they’re always about more than just the Camino. They’re about decisions, plans, serendipity, the unexpected. If you have walked the Camino, you’ll enjoy this book for taking you back to the journey. If you haven’t, it’s a good primer for getting to know both the locations on the Camino and its magic.

Camino Maggie: Teen Rebel Series – by Joy Llewellyn

Truth be told, it feels almost risky telling you about this one! The synopsis is close to the synopsis of my most recent release. It follows four young teens (all girls) who walk the Camino de Santiago in order to avoid the punishment of their crimes. I just found out about this book in November and read it out of curiosity. I loved it! Maggie is a rich girl who breaks into her aunt’s store out of some sense of daring…not to mention to impress the boy who sort of put her up to it. She gets caught. Her Aunt Camille suggests (gives her no option, really) she accompanies her, her friend Andy, and a small group of delinquents to Spain for the experience. The four girls bond as they make their way across Spain. I think young adults would really enjoy this book…as well as any Camino enthusiasts.

Chasing the Sun (The Campfire Series Book One) – by Melanie Hooyenga

This is also a YA book. I’ve spent most of my reading year reading YA…both for pleasure and because it’s what I write. Teens would love this book…but as with all YA books, they’re not just for teens. Anyone on your list who enjoys a sweet love story will enjoy Chasing the Sun. Here’s my review from Goodreads…

Chasing the Sun was such a lovely falling-in-love story between two extremely vulnerable teens who were both a little reluctant to do so. Sage comes to the story having experienced an emotionally tumultuous relationship with a manipulative emotional abusive partner. Neb arrives having just lost his father suddenly in an extremely traumatic way. Together they navigate a path toward each other first through texts and then in person when they finally meet at a summertime school camping trip to view a total solar eclipse together. Both are tentative but excited. Sage wants to believe in love again, but doesn’t fully trust her own judgement. Neb is adjusting to a new city…and isn’t quite sure how to allow himself to feel joy while simultaneously mourning the loss of his father. When Sage and Neb do meet in person, sparks fly immediately. But are sparks enough? This story is filled with wonderfully cute falling in love moments. The eclipse almost becomes a character as the story winds down and the tension mounts and the moment of the eclipse nears. I loved everything about this story!

Now for a book with a one-two punch!

Surrender Your Sons – by Adam Sass

I absolutely loved this book and the power it gave to gay teens! I felt like I could conquer the world after reading this heartbreaking heartrending heartracing story! Get it for LGBTQIA+ readers on your list, whether or not they’re teens. We all carry wounds and trauma that will be both re-lit and assuaged by this book. It would also be an eye-opening read for straight readers. It’s a powerhouse. I honestly thought I reviewed this on Goodreads, as I have talked about it so much and so often that I misremembered actually leaving a review. I will have to rectify that. Just take my word for it, it’s an incredible book. Follow gay teens to a formidable island of oppression as their whisked off from their lives to a disgusting conversion camp. Watch as they try to take their fates into their own hands.

Last, but not least, a book from a pub-sib! From DUET BOOKS, the same Interlude Press imprint that published my latest, The Camino Club.

The Summer of Everything – by Julian Winters

I love Julian Winters books. Like their author, they just radiant light and joy. My Goodreads review below isn’t really enough. Winters’ books are always exceptional! This one was no less so. All readers would love this YA set in Santa Monica. Here’s the synopsis:

Adulting is hard. Just ask Wes Hudson. An avid comic book geek, Wes excels at two things: slacking off and pining after his best friend, Nico. Advice from his friends, ‘90s alt-rock songs, and online dating articles aren’t helping much with his secret crush. And his dream job at Once Upon a Page, the local indie bookstore, is threatened when a coffee shop franchise wants to buy the property. To top it off, his family won’t stop pestering him about picking a college major. When all three problems converge, Wes must face the one thing he’s been avoiding—adulthood.

And my review: Another amazing offering from the incomparable Julian Winters. Loved, loved, loved this story! Loved Wes and Nico and Ella and Coop and the rest of the group! This so so heartfelt! Bring tissues.

That’s 5 books and 1 fantastic small business that promises to have you savoring the aromas of Bergamot, Peppermint, Maple Syrup and more!

Happy 2020 Socially Distant Masked Christmas to you all!

 

 

 

 

Another Book Shout-Out: Cured – The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys

I’ve been reading a lot lately. As a slow reader, my TBR list is just an impossible mountain I’ll never ever be able to scale. Adding three books for every one I read has never helped my cause one bit. And every once in a while a book not only sneaks into the pile by serendipitous accident, but gets moved directly to the front of the line once it appears.

Recently, while doing a bit of research for a CURE heavy novel I was contemplating writing (a multi-generational love story that switches from past to present with a soft Cure background soundtrack throughout), I discovered that I had missed the fact that Lol Tolhurst (founding Cure member) wrote a memoir that included the time spent with the band.

cured
Click the book cover to go to AMAZON buy link.

I was SO glad to come across it–it was like finding the perfect gift for myself. It turns out it is one of my favourite memoirs I’ve ever read. It’s sharply honest, poignant and self-effacing. It takes the reader on a journey from the excitement of starting the band up in the late 70s to the painful separation Tolhurst experienced when eventually leaving the band. It’s a brutally honest memoir where the autobiographer is unafraid of skewering himself and taking blame and responsibility for his actions during an exciting, yet tumultuous and overwhelming time in his life.

If you’re a Cure fan in passing, or a lifelong one like myself…you owe it to yourself to pick up this memoir. Tolhurst tells a raw and honest story that is at times painful to read and at other times remarkably joyful…much like the music of The Cure itself, which he helped to give birth to.

To be honest, this memoir has an underlying song coursing throughout it like a freight train…a song that makes the book’s subtitle so fitting: The Tale of Two Imaginary Boys. This book is as much of a love song to boyhood friendship that endures as it is a tale of self-redemption and self-perseverance.

In the following touching passage, Tolhurst begins by saying The Cure began in 1972 when the boys first jammed together. But he then goes on to tell the reader how it really began on a rainy day way back in 1964:

“…But in my mind The Cure began much earlier than that, on a gloomy rainy day in 1964 with the mists swirling all around. It began the moment the school bus pulled up to the stop at the top of Hevers Avenue and the doors swung open with a hiss. Neither Robert nor I wanted to get on that bus. We didn’t want to leave our mums and go to a strange school in another town where we wouldn’t know a soul. I probably would have started crying if Robert hadn’t been there. I can hear my mother’s voice even now, gently urging me along. “Hold Robert’s hand now and look after each other.”

Robert took me by the hand and led me onto the bus. It was the first of many journeys together. If only in my imagination , we are still those boys.”

I think that passage is a wonderful and fitting example of the lyrical writing that fills this touching memoir. Through all the ups–and the many downs– that Tolhurst experienced through the decades that took him from that 1964 hand-holding moment to the present, the reader is gifted with a hard-hitting often lush and lovely retelling of life with and without one of the most beloved groups of our time.

I have loved The Cure since the moment I first heard their music sometime around 1979-1980. I no longer know when they came into my life, but I know it was close to their beginning. They entered when I needed them the most, and they have been a constant companion throughout. Their music has never ceased to lift me when I was down and comfort me when I didn’t want or need to be lifted. They have brought me endless joy. It’s not often one feels as though music itself has played a part in saving their life…but I feel this way about The Cure‘s music.

It was a magical experience to get this personal and poignant glimpse into the life behind the music. Tolhurst has written a beautiful memoir that is as much an homage to his good friend Robert and the incredible thing they created together, as it is an homage to his own strength, perseverance and redemption arc. He has poured himself into this retelling of an enchanted if at times rocky life.

This book is a must read.

Click the book cover above to visit Amazon

INDIEBOUND

BARNES & NOBLE

BOOK DEPOSITORY

Visit the artist’s site for updates. You can also pick up a signed copy of the memoir in the store there.

A Few Recent Reads & Recommendations!

Lock & WestLock & West by Alexander C. Eberhart

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lock & West FTW

This is but exactly the messy, chaotic, sweet gay teen romance I didn’t know I needed so badly. So tumultuous and endearing. Every emotion. All the feels.

View all my reviews

Love, Hate and Other FiltersLove, Hate and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Heartbreaking and Heart-bursting Story of Love and Hate We All NEED

Such a beautiful story. How can a story be so traumatic and traumatizing and yet still have a beautiful thread of love and hope weaved through it? I loved the love story in this book and we need the rest of the story that unfolded now more than ever. Just beautiful! Such a ride of emotions, too, with such a lovely denouement at the end of the ride. And the author’s note was such a lovely signature to end on. We need this book. We need the love and hope it exudes.

View all my reviews

The DisastersThe Disasters by M.K. England

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazing!

I loved this book! From the heart-stopping chapter cliffhangers to the brother relationship between Nax and Malik to the sweet relationship between Nax and Rion to the awesomeness of the heroines… Case, Zee and Asra! The Swift Kick team is Kick Ass! I forgot how exciting and fulfilling this genre could be. Great read!

View all my reviews

SadieSadie by Courtney Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was one of the hardest books I’ve read in a long time. I attempt to police myself on trigger stories, but my desire to read this one was stronger than my need for self-care at the time. As a survivor, I can definitely say this was TRUE. It was a roller-coaster of a story. I was beside Sadie every step of the way. The more I feared the reveals, the faster I read to discover them. Such a fast-paced exciting read. The word that comes to mind the most, for me, is AUTHENTIC. It’s very true to the survivor mindset. Great read.

View all my reviews

We Are The AntsWe Are The Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heartbreaking and Hopeful, Such a Fine Balance!

Took me long enough to get to this beautiful book. So glad I found it. I thoroughly enjoyed Henry’s story. Coming out of such a devastating story filled with hope and happiness feels almost like alchemy. Definitely my favorite read of 2018. Exquisite.

View all my reviews

Darius the Great Is Not OkayDarius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Darius is Actually Quite Amazing

I loved this story. I loved Darius and his fears and his inability to see his own strengths. I loved his friendship in Iran and his complicated relationship with his father. Yazd sounds beautiful and I want to visit now. Such a touching and subtle story. I’d recommend it to anyone.

View all my reviews

Matthew Quick, or Why I’m Allowed to Write for Adults & Young Adults!

When I first discovered Matthew Quick, I was at an interesting crossroads in my own writing journey. I had written a couple novels for adults and I was pondering writing for the young adult market. For some reason, I got it in my head that I couldn’t do both. One could either be an adult author OR a young adult author. I don’t know why I thought this, but I did. I’ve made it a point throughout my writing journey to always remind myself that THERE ARE NO RULES. There are guidelines, there is good advice and there is bad advice…but there are no steadfast rules. Writing is what you want it to be.

And yet, here I was…trying to make this decision. And while on the fence, I really sweated about it. I loved the darker issues I could explore writing contemporary adult novels, but I also loved the idea of exploring dark issues in a teenager setting…the coming of age in the high school environment novel. I was weighing the pros and cons of the two markets, because, as I said, I thought it had to be EITHER OR.

Enter Matthew Quick. No…I’m not going to be so bold as to call him my savior, or anything as nutty as that. I’m just gonna say that he reminded me of my own first rule of the Writer Club. The first rule of Writer Club is that there are no rules in Writer Club. He didn’t do this right away, mind you. At the time, I was mass-consuming YA novels…as part of my research in the market. Well, that’s what I was telling myself. Truth be told, I LOVE reading YA. But I was reading solely YA to get a feel for the landscape of the market. I was dissecting books for themes, formula, what-have-you.

I picked up BOY21 for several reasons. Because it seemed to have strong male and female ‘leads’. Because it was sportscentric. Because the blurb really caught my fancy. Sometimes, I’ll admit right here and now, I am sold by a cover. Or, at least, I am gripped by the cover and moved to learn more about a book. BOY21 had an awesome cover. Anyway, I picked it up and I read it. And I fell in love with it.

You know when you discover a novelist and then check out there other books and get excited because you get to spend more time with them? Well, immediately after I finished BOY21 I searched to find out what other Matthew Quick offerings there were on tap at the Kindle store.

HOLD THE PHONE!

The Silver Linings Playbook. Can it be? A contemporary ADULT novel?! Oh my God! He writes for adults AND young adults! YES!

Okay, so Matthew Quick may not be the first author in the history of authorship to do this. But he was the author I discovered doing it when I needed the permission to do it myself. When I needed to realize that it could actually be done. And not only was he writing for both markets, but it would seem he wrote quirky characters. I wrote quirky characters, too. I immediately purchased The Silver Linings Playbook. And I devoured it. And I thought it was a masterpiece!

Click on the book covers to read my reviews of these two Matthew Quick novels:

boy21

silver

I later went through Quick’s full catalogue and loved all his books. I eagerly await his forthcoming THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW! I have it pre-ordered. And on February 11th, when I wake up, it will have been magically delivered to my Kindle! I know what I’ll be reading that day!

Click on the book cover below to read the synopsis of Quick’s latest offering:

TGLORN-full-cover

Okay, so on the surface this post may seem like a commercial for Matthew Quick’s books. But I swear to you, the whole purpose of the post is to tell writers to keep reminding themselves of the fluidity of the rules they should live by. When you find yourself questioning whether or not you can do something, DO IT. Try it, anyway. Don’t listen to people who say do this, don’t do that. I was very close to saying goodbye to one of the markets in question, even though I loved both! It was through my discovery of Matthew Quick’s novels that I found the permission to carry on carrying on. Because I saw that he accomplished writing for both adults and young adults, I knew that I could take the same path. And I did. And I for one am extremely grateful for Matthew Quick.

But seriously, check out his books. You’ll love them! (-: