Lit Love Book Review: When We Collided

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

When We Collided on Amazon

A Lit Love Book Review brought to you by my love of books. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored, and I don't get any compensation from any of these links.

The Basics:

Emery Lord's beautifully authentic novel, When We Collided, follows the story of Vivi, a bipolar teen in love with everything around her, and Jonah, a grieving son caring for his family. Thrown into the colorful and chaotic world Vivi inhabits, Jonah learns to open his eyes and his heart to the love and the heartbreak of his own world. As they spend their summer together, Vivi slowly spins farther and farther from reality. In the end she learns just what she is willing to give up of herself and her world to stay in the real world.

Why you wouldn't think to pick it up:

Novels about characters with mental health can be heavy and depressing, but When We Collided is neither. It's a buyant depiction of the reality of mental health issues that we each may deal with in at least a small way.

Why you should pick it up:

Emery Lord's depiction of both Bipolar Disorder and medical depression are incredibly realistic. Her charaters are real, vivid, and completely endearing. The lessons and themes of the book are applicable to each of us as members of a broken humanity, not just those who have a title and diagnosis.

The great:

The glittering gem of the novel is the genuine and unique voices Lord gives to her characters. Vivi's enthusiasm for life and vibrant spirit are present in each page written from her viewpoint. I immediately fell in love with her as a character and wanted to be her best friend in real life. 

Jonah's character is equally real and possibly just as damaged, just in a more common way. I immediately connected to his devotion to his family and could see a little bit of myself in each step of his path through grief.

The not so great:

I honestly couldn't find any criticism for When We Collided. I often find that little things in a story can pop me out of my suspension of reality and keep me from really immersing in the story. But that was far from the case with this book. Do be aware that there are a few scenes of sexuality between the two characters, I appreciated that they were not explicit and that both the positive and negative effects of such a lifestyle were addressed in the book, which I find to be pretty rare.

A Snippet:

"I don't know if you've ever sprawled out in a wide-open field and stared up at the blue sky and felt the planet humming all around you, but that's what my days feel like here."

"Jonah looks at me like I'm absolutely off my rocker. Or maybe it's a look of amazement, like I'm a whole galaxy, glittering and vast and uncharted..."

The Verdict:

I picked this one up at the library, like I do all my books. I read a lot of books lately and only purchase books I want to keep and reread for years. But after checking it out twice in just a few months, it has officially earned a spot on my bookshelves. It definitely stands out in excellence, not just in YA fiction, but in all the books I've read for a long time.


Lit Love Book Review: Under A Painted Sky

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Under A Painted Sky via Penguin/Random House

Lit Love Book Review brought to you by my love of books. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored, and I don't get any compensation from any of these links.

The Basics:

Stacey Lee's YA Historical Fiction, Under a Painted Sky, follows the journey of Sammy and Andy, two runaway girls disguised as boys on the 1849 Oregon Trail. They fall into company with three cowboys who teach them how to navigate both the open plains and trusting relationships.
Why you wouldn't think to pick it up:

Confession time: I almost didn't check this one out because the blurb on the jacket didn't mention a romantic subplot. Though it did have a pretty great romance in it, the friendships in the book would have been worth it.

Why you should pick it up:

Under a Painted Sky is a great mix of adventure, romance, and thematic topics that are relevant to today's young adults. But the evolution of the friendships in the novel are the real shining jewels. 

The great:

As a big believer in love being rooted in friendship, I was really pleased at the way the relationships developed in Under a Painted Sky. The friendships develop slowly over the course of the journey as the characters learn to work together, serve each other, and save each other from the dangers that abound on the trail. The way Lee built the romance on kindness and sacrifice, as well as the way Sammy and West overcame their misunderstandings, made their relationship realistic and ultimately fulfilling.

The rest of the plot was well crafted, with a balance of external adventure and internal character development. It had the right dose of foreshadowing without being predictable. The prose was also well balanced. Her descriptions of the surroundings and the characters physical attributes were detailed enough to paint a vivid picture without being cumbersome or boring.

Another highlight of the book were the themes of equality threaded through the story. Racial and gender inequalities are treated in a way that is both historically accurate as well as modernly relevant. The theme of not judging others on their external attributes is taken deeper as the characters juggle the way they see themselves as flawed individuals.

The not so great:

There were only a couple of little historical things that seemed unrealistic that popped me out of the story and back into my analytical side. They were minor however, so I'm not going to tell you about them so you don't bug you too. Overall it seemed like a pretty realistic portrayal historically and in the characters' viewpoints and decisions.

There were also just a couple of scenes that were a tiny bit sappy. But again, the rest of the book was so realistic and the characters so authentic that as a reader I was willing to indulge in the sap. Also because I am totally a girl and love a little sappy sap every once in a while. Or more than just once in a while. Okay I like sap a bunch of the time. Truth.

The Verdict:

I'd recommend Under A Painted Sky to anyone, especially if it lies a little bit outside your book comfort zone. It is a beautiful portrayal of how people learn to love each other in all the different ways that we love; friends, lovers, and family that we are both born with and find along the way. A perfect summer read, especially in preparation for upcoming Americana month with Independance Day and Pioneer Day. Pick it up from your local library or independent book store today!


Lit Love Book Review: Lock and Key

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Lit Love Book Review brought to you by my love of books. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored, and I don't get any compensation from any of these links.

The Basics

Ruby is used to taking care of herself. After she is left by her mother, she is sent to live with her sister and brother-in-law. The big house and expensive private school are a total 180 from her previous life, which Ruby can't just leave behind. With the help of the cute boy next door, she learns how to accept help from others, what she can leave behind her from her old life, and what to grasp onto in her new life. 

Why you wouldn't think to pick it up:

Confession - I have this unfounded prejudice against authors that write a lot of books. I'm trying to over come it. I feel like writing a good novel will take a piece of you, and I once mistakenly believed that if you write a book a year you must not be sacrificing enough of yourself to make it a really good book. That is obviously not true. Good artists of every sort create art to fill their needs and passions, not just to manufacture a product. So that is why I avoided authors like Sarah Dessen, who is like the Nicholas Sparks of Young Adult Fiction. 

Why you should pick it up:

 It's a good light summer reading. The love story at the center is more of a slow burn, which I love. And Family is one of the main themes, which I also always love.

The great:

Dessen explores what it means to be a family through the lens of a broken girl from a broken family. It doesn't offer stereotypes or trite expressions. She shows how much easier it is to be lost than found.

She takes a realistic look at a lot of the themes she takes on in the story. Especially good are the way Ruby slowly becomes attached to her new family. There aren't any instant friendships or love interests. Instead each relationship develops through realistic acts of kindness and getting to know each other. I really enjoyed the way she depicted Ruby's feelings for Nate coming slowly, almost unnoticed as she spends more time with him and notices things about him that contradict her initial judgement of him.

Her characterization overall was better developed than most YA light romances. Her side characters all had a little depth to them and their story lives wove well into the overall story line. Though some time it seemed like every little detail was pointing to the same thing, making the thematic points really obvious.

The not so great:

Dessen tackles a lot of serious subject matter in Lock and Key, perhaps taking on too much. She doesn't fully develop the conflicts that she sets up, which can leave the reader a little unfulfilled with the simple solutions. She spends a lot of time setting up the conflict and unmet expectations between the sisters, but doesn't spend much time on the resolution. We also see Ruby take such a long time to learn to trust Nate and accept his help, but once she does it's as if she just flips a switch and suddenly has total trust and ease with him, which I feel isn't realistic to real life relationships. 

She also includes sex and drug use in the story line, and while I appreciate that neither is described in detail, she skims over the effects of such a lifestyle. They both seem to be thrown in to move the plot along, instead of being important to the characters and their choices. 

Another issue I have is the oversililoquizing (totally not a word, but I like it anyways). Ruby explains in her thoughts everything that the reader is supposed to realize about the characters motivations and foreshadowing the later resolutions. This leaves the reader with little to think about for themselves. I also don't know any one that realizes exactly why they are doing everything they are doing, especially when they are being irrational.

Also, she jumps around in the timeline so much that in one scene she will cover the three different days in random snippets and not in order. It gets a little confusing. I'm all for time jump, but it was used so much it diluted the story.

A Snippet:

She describes a moment where Ruby finds a post it note on the kitchen counter from her sister asking her brother in law to put dinner in the oven. She then notices that it is those simple things like having someone to come home to and have dinner with that are proof of a real life.

The Verdict:

It's a good book. It tackles some serious topics and has some great moments, but doesn't really do justice the themes she takes on. Better than most YA romances. A good summer read.


The Light of His Love

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Our Savior's love shines like the sun with perfect light,

I go to church alone. Not alone, I take my kiddos with me, but on the adult side it's just me.

As from above it breaks through clouds of strife.

One Sunday the three of us walked into church through the gym, leaving the sunny spring morning outside, stepping into darkness. None of the lights were on, and though there was a little light from the door we entered, the only other source of light was the open door near the chapel on the opposite end. The large empty space was filled with darkness. Our eyes that had been used to the bright exterior light couldn't process the tiny bits of light from the two open doors. The result was total darkness except for the light from the open door ahead.

My daughter immediately pulled back on my hand and said. "Mom, I can't see where I'm going." She stood there, frozen, not knowing where to step next.

Lighting our way, it leads us back into His sight,

I, of course, knew the space in front of us was just a giant empty gym, free of any obstacles. But to her, there could be anything lying in front of her; anything but a clear, safe path.

My reaction was to squeeze her hand and gently pull her forward, quickly pointing out the light from the door ahead. "Just look ahead to where we are going and don't worry about your feet."

Where we may stay to share eternal life.

In a rare moment of spiritual momness, I added that Jesus's love is like that. Sometimes we don't know what to do, but if we look for Him, He will show us where to go.

I'm pretty sure it went strait over her head, probably landing in a giant pile of  'Jesus loves you and I love you too'-s that have been piling up in a corner of her mind for the past five years.

The Spirit, voice of goodness, whispers to our hearts

But I don't think those words were for her. I think perhaps the Spirit was speaking just to me through my own mom advice.

A better choice than evil's anguished cries.

Just a few minutes later in sacrament meeting, we sung "Our Savior's Love" as our opening song. The immediate reflection of our light-in-the-darkness experience in Edward L. Hart's tender lyrics were an obvious message from a loving Father.

Loud may the sound of hope ring till all doubt departs,

This hymn is one of my favorites. The words are themselves beautiful, as is the melody. But it is the dissonance of the harmony that adds the depth and meaning to the poetic lyrics. Speaking simultaneously about sunshine and clouds, hope and doubt, it is the light in the darkness that inspires hope. The coexistence is the beautiful part.

And we are bound to Him by loving ties.

Our Father wants us to return to Him. That is true. But that isn't just that He wants us back. He wants us to return to Him better than when we left Him. If He lit the way for us all through our lives, not only would we not learn to look for the source of that light surrounding us, but we would never learn to discern the path for ourselves. We would grow in neither intelligence or faith.

Our Father, God of All Creation, hear us pray

Instead he puts us into an environment that requires us to seek, adapt, change, and progress. As our eyes adjust to the light of a seemingly hopeless situation, we learn to discern the small rays of light outlining our path; rays that we wouldn't notice otherwise. We see things differently and find things in our journey and in ourselves that we never saw in the bright light of sunny mornings.

In rev'rence awed by thy Son's sacrifice.

In the struggle to focus, to adjust to the limited light we have, we become grateful for the light that guides our way, the Savior that shows us the path through example. But we must be careful to keep our focus on Him. If we look around and focus too much on the steps of our path, we may begin to loose our way. We will say, "I need not look to the light. There is enough here for me to see by. I am doing well enough with out it." Or we may even find ourselves with our backs to the light, proclaiming, "There is no God and no Savior. There is light plenty here and I do not see any source of it other than it already being here." We would be denying the source of the very light we use to see by.

Praises we sing. We love thy law; we will obey.

Instead, I will look to the light of my Savior, Jesus Christ. I will turn away from the fear of not seeing the path ahead, the anxiety of not knowing where to go. I will look to the source of the light, while rejoicing in the darkness. I will sing His praises as I lean upon Him for my support.

Our heav'nly King, In thee our hearts rejoice.

I know we can find happiness and light in the darkness.


Monica Lynn


A Single Stone

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A Lit Love Book Review brought to you by my love of books. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored, and I don't get any compensation from any of these links.

The Basics

Jenna is one of the few chosen girls who slide through the cracks in the mountain to mine the life saving mineral that heats and lights their completely isolated village. Being willing to sacrifice everything for the survival of each member of her community after the loss of her own family, Jenna is dedicated to following all the rules to ensure the safety of her crew. But, when details remembered from the past start mixing with new information that doesn't fit into the narrative of their culture, Jenna begins a journey that will end up redefining her loss, the sacrifice of her family, and even the community she serves.

Why you wouldn't think to pick it up:

Mining? Not really interested in mining. Or minerals. But hey let's give it a try.

Why you definitely should pick it up:

Beautifully written, this engaging story explores how we see ourselves as individuals and how that may differ from our identity as a member of the community. It also explores the boundaries of what we are willing to sacrifice and what sacrifices we require of others.

The great:

Meg McKinlay's lyrical prose breathes life and color into the narrative. I found it poetic at the right times, giving emphasis to the details that matter to the story, while allowing the narrative to move along at the proper times as well. It also created the visual setting and added a bit of magic to the air surrounding the village and its inhabitants, helping to develop the characterization of both settings and characters.

I also enjoyed how the author revealed the mystery that is at the heart of the plot. McKinlay plants the reader into the story and setting immediately and reveals snippets of the main characters back story, the history of the village, and the details surrounding the mysterious circumstances of her parent's deaths in small increments. This allows the reader to process each bit of information at a place in the story when the tone of the current events can mimic or foreshadow the meaning of the past events. The reader can then put the pieces together and come up with multiple hypothesis that may or may not prove true, rather than having a linear progression toward one foreseeable ending.

The not so great:

Contemporary YA readers may be more used to sparse narrative that relies more on plot movements and dialogue to provide the meaning of a story. They may find the lyrical tone of A Single Stone to be a little slower than they are used to. But I personally find it gives the book its visually enchanting and magical characteristics.

A Snippet:

"That evening, she hurried to the Stores, her key clutched in one hand. Her heart pounded, a caged thing beating wildly in her chest."

The Verdict:

A great book combining lyrical prose, fully human characters, visual imagery, and thematic content that will resonate with readers long after they set it down.

A Single Stone
by Meg McKinlay
Published 2015


Helping Children Succeed

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

A Lit Love Book Review brought to you by my love of books. All opinions are my own, this post is not sponsored, and I don't get any compensation from any of these links.

The Basics

Journalist Paul Tough has spent years studying the challenges that children in poverty face in getting a successful and useful education. Following his previous book, How Children Succeed, that pinpoints the characteristics that are the keys to finding success through challenges in education, Tough offers practical examples of techniques and principles that have worked in programs across the nation and offers ideas on how to put those principles in practice in education in all areas of the US.

Why you wouldn't think to pick it up:

My kids, or the kids I know best, aren't in poverty. So why does this matter to me?

Why you definitely should pick it up:

Really Tough's book is an exploration on human nature; specifically how we overcome great obstacles and stacked odds to achieve success, and how we create environments in which others may find success as well.

And aren't we all developing humans? Won't we all face obstacles at multiple points in our lives that make finding success seem impossible? Don't we all want to believe that we can come out on top?

The great:

This quick read gives a depth of insight on how our children learn and how we can help them overcome obstacles to achieve success in educational pursuits.

Beyond the realms of parenting and childhood education it also gives great insight into human motivation and what drives us to give in or to continue pushing toward our goals.

The not so great:

Reading about classrooms and pedagogy can be dry, but the information and applications to my life on many levels kept me engaged. Plus it was short and to the point enough to devour in an afternoon or read a few minutes at a time over a week or so.

A Snippet:

The exploration of intrinsic vs extrinsic value or our goals helps explain why we lose interest in things that we used to love when they become tied to our income and why we are willing to do boring things if we believe they are of value.

The Verdict:

A great book for educators, parents, or anyone who is interested in what it takes to be successful.

So glad I picked this one up!


To Write is an Act of Love

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I am a writer.

It takes an act of courage to say (or type) those words. I can say I am a stitcher because I sew. I can declare myself to be a mother because I have two children. I can show that I am a designer by creating works of fashion and presenting them to the world to be seen, experienced, and judged.

To say I am a writer is quite different.

Almost every person in this world writes. Anyone can put words together to engage in one of the most common forms of communication. Yet, not everyone is a writer. The difference lies in whether a person writes to accomplish the daily acts of living, or if there is part of a person's identity that's tied to the magic of storytelling.

But to be a writer! To declare oneself to be such a thing, without a physical manifestation of written work authored by you solely! To claim the title without a published work to present to the world to read, judge, and experience! It is giant step into mystery.

I write because there is a song in my heart that needs to be honored. The only way to honor that part of me is to sing it, to create it, and put it in that space around me, to give that song to others. I do so to connect with others, to uplift and inspire them, to inspire myself. I write to find, create, and honor the beauty that this life holds for each of us. I write to hold the darkness at bay and fill my world with light; light that will show the way of happiness to my children and anyone else who crosses into my circle and hears my song. Writing is an act of love both for oneself and for those that will share the light created by story.

I write because it is a part of me.

I write because I am a writer.

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